Politics and Literature in a Dystopian Age. The Iron Heel, We, and Collected Essays of George Orwell

Politics and Literature in a Dystopian Age. The Iron Heel, We, and Collected Essays of George Orwell

February 20, 2021

by Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

1. Jack London and the Iron Heelhttps://thesaker.is/politics-and-literature-in-a-dystopian-age-the-iron-heel-we-and-collected-essays-of-george-orwell/

The Iron Heel is a dystopian novel by the American writer Jack London, first published in 1908.

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It is considered to be one of the earliest examples of modern dystopian fiction. It was the fourth of London’s earlier output which included, People of the Abyss (which was in fact journalism rather than literature) and the two novels, Call of the Wild, and White Fang. London was a difficult author to place given his very eclectic political and social philosophy; this was best epitomized in his own estimation as: ‘I am a white man and then a Socialist.’ But perhaps aptly described by Orwell as being a ‘doubtfully reliable Socialist’.

Be that as it may London was an avowed opponent of the capitalist system as he knew it, and how it functioned in the United States. In his book London imagines a proletarian revolution breaking out in the USA. Unfortunately, the revolution was crushed by the ruthless ruling class who staged a counter-revolution. There then followed a long period during which the newly established order was ruled over by a small group of tyrants known as the Oligarchs (Does this sound familiar? FL). The Oligarchs were served by an internal Praetorian Guard known as the Mercenaries. An underground struggle against the dictatorship was precisely the kind of eventuality which London could imagine. He foresaw the now familiar methods of totalitarian regimes which have become commonplace in our own time. For example, the way in which suspected enemies of the regime were made to simply disappear. Hardly novel in our own age.

One of the main themes of the book, however, was London’s incisive view that capitalism was not necessarily going to collapse due to its ‘internal contradictions’ – this being the rather crude orthodox and determinist Marxist view. This was and still is an unfortunate theoretical hiatus that the left continually fails to appreciate – namely, that the ruling class is not just an economic force, it is also a political/ideological force. This implies that the possessive class would be able to form itself into some vast corporation and even to evolve into a form of perverted socialism or State Capitalism. This view of London’s was also to gain some traction in the work of the American social/political theorist, James Burnham, and his theory of The Managerial Revolution. Like many of the radicals of the post WW2 period Burnham was a Trotskyist activist, and like many of the same persuasion duly abandoned Marxism for the following reasons. His seminal work The Managerial Revolution (1941), theorized about the future of world capitalism based upon its development in the interwar period. Burnham weighed three possibilities: (1) that capitalism was a permanent form of social and economic organization and would continue indefinitely; (2) that it was temporary and destined by its nature to collapse and be replaced by socialism; (3) that it was currently being transformed into some non-socialist future form of society. Since capitalism had a more or less definite beginning in the 14th century, it could not be regarded as an immutable and permanent form. George Orwell was impressed (not in a good way) by this work and wrote a review of the book. But I digress.

Returning to Jack London, however, perhaps the key passage in the book is London’s penetrating insight into the mentality of the Oligarchs. It reads:

‘’They, as a class (writes the imaginary author of the book) believed that they alone maintained civilization. It was their belief that, if they ever weakened, the great beast would engulf them and everything of beauty and joy and wonder and good in its cavernous and slime-dripping maw. Without them, anarchy would reign, and humanity would drop backward into the primitive night out of which it had so painfully emerged … In short, they alone, by their unremitting toil and self-sacrifice, stood between a weak humanity and the all devouring beast: and they believed it, passionately believed it.

‘’I (London) cannot lay too much stress on this high ethical righteousness of the whole Oligarch class. This has been the strength of the whole Iron Heel, and too many of the comrades have been slow or loath to realize it. Many of them have ascribed the strength of the Iron Heel to a system of reward and punishment. This is a mistake. Heaven and Hell may be the prime factors of zeal in the religion of a fanatic; but for the great majority of the religious, heaven and hell are incidental to right and wrong. Love of the right, desire for the right, unhappiness than anything less than the right – in short, right conduct is the prime factor of religion. And so with the Oligarchy – the great driving force of the Oligarchs is the belief that they are doing right.’’

In this connexion I seem to recall that, Lloyd Blankfein who was an American investment banker at Goldman Sachs and who served as senior chairman seemed to articulate the same sentiments, i.e. that he was doing ‘God’s Work.’ And of course there was Hillary Clinton pouring her scorn on the basket of deplorables.

For these and many similar passages it can be seen that London’s understanding of the nature of the ruling class – that is the characteristics that a ruling class must have if it is to survive as a ruling class – went very deep. London understood in a way that the left could not was that the capitalist is a cynical scoundrel, without honour or courage and intent in filling his own pockets. Yes, he is all of these things … but more. He is part of a politically and ideologically organized force of true believers which presents a formidable barrier to the would-be revolutionists who tend to underestimate their trickery. The resolve and belief of the ruling elite is, to use an American expression, their ‘manifest destiny’, and was their right to rule both at home and abroad, by force if necessary. He also knew instinctively that the American Businessmen would fight when their possessions were menaced because in their place, he would have thought so himself.

This is where London’s core beliefs exhibited a strain of brutality and an unconquerable preference for the strong man against the weak man. He was an adventurer and man of action as few writers had even been, all of which made him something of a political maverick. Nonetheless much of his time was spent working and lecturing for the Socialist movement, and when he was already a successful and famous man, he would explore the worst effects of poverty in East London (the city) and compile a book: The People of the Abyss – published in 1902. London died at the relatively young age of 41 in 1916.

2. Yevgeny Zamyatin – We

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Yevgeny Zamyatin, who died in Paris in 1937, was a Russian novelist and critic who published a number of books both before and after the Revolution. ‘We’ -was written in about 1923, and though it is not about Russia and has no direct connection with contemporary politics, it is a fantasy dealing with the twenty-sixth century and it was refused publication on the ground that it was ideologically undesirable. The book is not particularly Russian, for once you remove the Russian language, and perhaps one or two minor characters the babushkas who act as guardians of the Ancient House and D503’s building, what is left is a sort of generalised human society. Part of Zamyatin’s point, surely, is that his nightmare states lacks the warm smell and taste of long human habitation and lack any of the recognisable attributes of nationhood. OneState, as it is called is not to be blamed on the Americans or the Bolsheviks or the Industrial Lords of Manchester or Liverpool. It is a fate toward which a thoughtless humanity is hurtling.

We are in the twenty-sixth century, in Zamyatin’s vision of it, the inhabitants of Utopia have so completely lost their individuality as to be known only by numbers. They live in glass houses (this was written before television was invented), which enables the political police, known as the “Guardians”, to supervise them more easily. They all wear identical uniforms, and a human being is commonly referred to either as “a number” or “a unif” (uniform). They live on synthetic food, and their usual recreation is to march in fours while the anthem of the Single State is played through loudspeakers. At stated intervals they are allowed for one hour (known as “the sex hour”) to lower the curtains round their glass apartments. There is, of course, no marriage, though sex life does not appear to be completely promiscuous. For purposes of love-making everyone has a sort of ration book of pink tickets, and the partner with whom he spends one of his allotted sex hours signs the counterfoil. The Single State is ruled over by a personage known as The Benefactor, who is annually re-elected by the entire population, the vote being always unanimous. The guiding principle of the State is that happiness and freedom are incompatible. In the Garden of Eden man was happy, but in his folly, he demanded freedom and was driven out into the wilderness. Now the Single State has restored his happiness by removing his freedom.

But in spite of the vigilance of the Guardians the small and fragile of many of the ancient instincts still survive. The chief character in the story is D503 who is a gifted engineer, but like most of his contemporaries cuts a poor conventional creature who thinks and talks as he is told. However in a moment of madness he falls in love (a criminal act) with a certain I-330 female. During their clandestine romance it emerges that I-330 is a member of an underground resistance movement and succeeds for a while in leading him into rebellion. Come the insurrectionary moment it appears that the enemies of the Benefactor a more numerous than was thought. Characteristics of this subversive movement, apart from overthrowing OneState, were the diabolical practises of smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol.

After D-503s rather weak-willed attempt at defiance he makes amends and is ultimately saved from the consequences of his own folly. For their part, the authorities announce that they have discovered the cause of the disturbances: it became known that human beings were suffering from a disease called ‘imagination’.

This came as a bolt from the blue for D503; to think that he might be suffering from an ‘imagination’. He resolved to talking to a colleague about the condition.

‘’Have you heard about the new operation they have supposed to have developed?’’ Said a colleague.

Yes, I know, but why to you bring that up … because if I were you, I’d go and see about having the operation done.’’

Worse was to follow. D503 was feeling rather unwell and was persuaded to take himself to the Medical Bureau. He was quizzed as to why he had come by the less than welcoming medical staff.

‘’What’s the matter?’’ Why are you standing there?’’

Turned upside down like an idiot, hanging by my feet and burning with shame, D503 said nothing.

S said: ‘’Follow me.’’

I went obediently, swinging useless arms that belonged to someone else. I couldn’t raise my eyes. The whole time I was walking in a wide world turned on its head … We stopped. There were steps in front of me. One step more, and I see figures in white coats, doctors, and the huge silence … There were two of them. One shortish with legs like mileposts, used his eyes as though they were horns to toss the patients. The other was extremely thin. Had lips like scissors and a nose like a blade.

‘’You’re really in bad shape, said scissor nose. It looks like you are developing a soul.’’

A soul? That strange, ancient, long-forgotten word. We sometimes used expressions like ‘soul-mate’, ‘body and soul,’ ‘soul-destroying’, and so on, but soul …

‘’That’s dangerous … extremely dangerous,’’ I murmured.

‘’Incurable,’’ the scissors snapped.

This little tete-a-tete gave rise to a tantrum in milepost.

‘’What’s been going on? A soul? Did you say, a soul? What the Hell! Next thing you know we’ll have cholera again. I told you so … We should operate on all of them, on the imagination. Extirpate the imagination. Surgery’s the only answer … nothing but surgery …’’

(In passing we might add that this is all very suggestive of the Corona pandemic and mass inoculation of the population as part of the Great Reset, transhumanism and so forth. FL)

D503 duly underwent his corrective surgery like a model citizen after which it was easy for him to do what he has known all along that he ought to do – that is to betray his confederates to the police. Additionally and with complete equanimity he watches his ex-lover I-330 tortured by means of compressed air under a glass bell. I-330 along with the captured subversives were, to use the usual Stalinist vernacular, duly ‘liquidated’. In this ideal state death by execution, torture, freedom of speech and assembly, and abject barbarism were common-practice.

The death Machine of the Benefactor is an updated version of the French guillotine. In Zamyatin’s Utopia executions are frequent. They are staged publicly, in the presence of the Benefactor. There are the usual triumphal odes recited by the official poets and before a selected audience consisting of everybody who is anybody. The guillotine-Mark6 of course, is not the old crude instrument, but the latest version of a much-improved model. This instrument functions to literally liquidate its victim, reducing him/her in an instant to a puff of smoke and a pool of clear water. The execution is in fact, nothing less than a human sacrifice, and the scene of pomp and circumstance describing it is given deliberately the colour of the sinister slave civilizations of the ancient world. It is the intuitive grasp of the irrational side of totalitarianism – human sacrifice, cruelty as an end in itself, the worship of a leader who is credited with divine attributes that makes Zamyatin’s book ahead of its time and a future world as described into a real possibility.

Such is nature of all totalitarian systems; the quest of perfecting an ideal society consistently fails simply because human nature is imperfect. This much may be true, but it does not follow that human imperfection is rigidly fixed and – mirabile dictu – human nature can be changed and that should be the objective. In the words of Martin Luther King: ‘’One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

3. The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell, Volumes 1 to 4 covering the period 1920-1950.

Note: I have left out Orwell’s novels and much of his journalism since these are well known, and decided to concentrate on his writings as contained in the 4 volumes put together from 1920 to 1950

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Eric Blair aka George Orwell (1) was born in Bengal in British India in 1903. His father was a minor customs official in the Indian Civil Service. When Orwell was four years old, his family returned to England, where they settled at Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, a village near London, England. Having won a scholarship he was educated at what was possibly the most prestigious boys school in the UK – Eton. It was customary for boys from Eton to ascend to the highest positions in the British colonial and business class. This was not Orwell’s choice, however. After leaving Eton he joined the Indian Imperial Police and spent the years 1922-27 as a sub-divisional officer in Burma. The five years of isolation in Burma must have been decisive for his approach to writing; at a formative age he was removed from the world of intellectual discussion and the literary reviews with the quick succession of opinions and ideas and given instead action and responsibility and the solitude in which to meditate on the justice to which his work made him a party. It was during this period that Orwell produced two of his early essays, namely ‘A Hanging’ and ‘Shooting an Elephant.’

1. A HANGING: 1931

‘’It was in Burma … A sodden morning of the Rains (Monsoon). A sickly light like yellow tinfoil, was slanting over the high walls into the jail-yard. We were waiting outside of the condemned cells, a row of sheds with double bars, like small animal cages … in some of them brown silent men were squatting at the inner bars with blankets draped around them. These were condemned men waiting to be hanged within the next week or two.’’

Thus the scene was set for the brutal reality of British imperial rule in India.

‘’One prisoner was brought out of his cell. He was a Hindu, a puny wisp of a man, with a shaven head and vague liquid eyes.’’

Orwell and the other warders wanted to get this sordid little business over as soon as possible. They set out for the gallows. It was about 40 yards away. Orwell noted during the last walk of the prisoner:

‘’I watched the bare brown back marching in front of me. He walked clumsily with his bound arms but quite steadily, with that bobbing gait of the Indian who never straightens his knees … And once, in spite of the men who gripped him by each shoulder, he stepped slightly aside to avoid a puddle on the path.’’

The enormity of what he was bound to do began to dawn on Orwell. Taking a man’s life is a profoundly serious business even if he is only – in pure racist terms – a coolie. In such a situation simply being there, in the middle of all this, one is emotionally temporarily suspended. It’s not really happening, it is happening somewhere else, not here for God’s sake!

‘’It is curious but until that moment I had never realized what it is to destroy a healthy conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness of cutting a life short when it is in full-tide … He and me were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone – one mind less, one world less.’’

After the grisly denouement had been completed a sense of relaxation overtook the hanging party.

‘’The jail Superintendent reached out with his stick and poked the bare body; it oscillated slightly …The moody look had gone out of his face quite suddenly. He glanced at his wrist-watch. ‘‘Eight minutes past eight. Well, that’s all for this morning, Thank God.’’

In fact the whole mood of the hanging party had changed. Several people laughed. At what no-one seemed certain. Assistant Superintendent Francis who was walking by the Superintendent was making a joke of the whole proceedings.

‘’You will scarcely credit, sir, that it took six wardens to dislodge him, three pulling at each leg. We reasoned with him. ’My dear fellow’ he said ’think of all the pain and trouble you are causing to us!’ But no, he would not listen! Ach! he was very troublesome.’’

Job job, job done, to use an English expression. Everyone was now very relaxed after this nauseating little episode.

‘’I found that I was laughing quite loudly. Everyone was laughing. Even the Superintendent in a tolerant way. ‘You’d better all come out and have a drink,’ he said quite genially. ‘I’ve got a bottle of whisky in the car. We could do with it … We all drank together … We all began laughing again … had a drink together, native, and European alike, quite amicably. The dead man was a hundred yards away.’’

2. SHOOTING AN ELEPHANT – 1936

In this second essay Shooting an Elephant he describes how one morning he was called out to deal with an elephant that had run amok and killed a man. He sends for a rifle to defend himself, but when he eventually catches up with the animal, its attack of must is over and it is quietly pulling up tufts of grass and eating them. Orwell knows that the elephant is much too valuable to be shot out of hand – it is like an expensive capital good – and is anyway by now harmless. But the situation is now beginning to get out of hand. A crowd had gathered.

‘’At that moment I glanced at the crowd that had followed me. It was an immense crowd, two thousand at least and growing every minute. It blocked the road for a large distance either side. I looked at a sea of yellow faces above the garish clothes – faces all happy and excited over this bit of fun, all certain that the elephant was going to be shot. They were watching me as they would watch a conjurer about to perform a trick. They did not like me but with my magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching. And suddenly I realised that I would have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me, and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me there with my rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the East. Here it was that I, the white man, with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd – seemingly the leader of the piece; but in reality, I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom he destroys. He becomes a hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For the condition of his rule he must spend his life in trying to ‘impress’ the ‘natives’. And so in every crisis he has got to do what the natives expect of him. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it.’’

It is generally agreed that both ‘A Hanging’ and ‘Shooting and Elephant’ are among the best essays that Orwell ever wrote, and they certainly provide the most classic examples of his method of progressing from the individual experience to the general conclusion. What is distinctive is his ability to record on the page the progress of a creative intelligence, producing ideas, not from the ideas of others, but from the experience of life itself.

3. MARRAKECH – 1939

‘’As the corpse went by the flies left the restaurant table in a cloud and rushed after it, but they came back a few minutes later.’’

Orwell had been exposed to third world poverty during his time in India, but this was of a different order. He had been advised by his doctor to leave the murk and fog of an English winter due to a bronchial condition and opt for sunnier climes in the searing heat of north Africa but along with the sunshine came the overpowering abject poverty.

‘’The little crowd of mourners – all men and boys, no women – threaded their way across the market-place between the piles of pomegranates and the taxis and the camels, wailing a short chant, over and over again … When the friends got to the burial-ground, they hacked an oblong hole about two feet deep, dumped the body in it and flung into it a little of the dried-up lumpy earth which is like broken brick. No gravestone, no identifying mark of any kind. The burial-ground is merely a huge mound of hummocky earth, like a derelict building lot. After a month or two no-one can be even certain where his own relatives are buried.’’

How quite different this was to Surrey and Hampshire or even the poverty of Jack London’s East End – People of the Abyss. The poverty was simply breath-taking, and Orwell did not hold back from offending the sensibilities of his readers.

‘’When you walk through a town like this – two hundred thousand inhabitants, of whom twenty thousand own literally nothing except the rags they stand up in – when you see how the people live, and still more how easily they die, it is always difficult to believe that you are walking among human beings … Do they even have names? Or are they a kind of undifferentiated brown stuff, about is individual as bees or coral insects. They rise out of the earth, they sweat and starve for a few years, and then they sink back into the nameless mounds of the graveyards and nobody notices they are gone.’’

In an interesting passage Orwell described what happened to him when he wandered into the Jewish ghetto in the city.

‘’When you go through the Jewish quarters you gather some idea of what the medieval ghettoes were probably like … I was just passing the coppersmiths booths when somebody noticed that I was lighting a cigarette. Instantly, from the dark holes all around, there was a frenzied rush of Jews, many of them old Grandfathers with flowing grey beards, all clamouring for a cigarette. Even a blind man somewhere at the back of one of the booths heard a rumour of cigarettes and came crawling out, groping the air with his hand. In less than a minute I had used up the whole packet. None of these people, I suppose, works less than twelve hours a day, and every one of them looks upon a cigarette as a more or less impossible luxury.’’

For anyone from the relative affluence of the developed world this would be a painful reading experience. Unfortunately, this is the real world – the global South – in which most people have to eke out a living. A little further on his travels Orwell came across a military column marching southward.

‘’As the storks flew northward the Negroes were marching southward. A long and dusty column of infantry, screw-gun batteries, and then more infantry, four or five thousand men in all winding up the road with a clumping of boots and a clatter of iron wheels … But there is one thought which every white man … thinks when he sees a black army marching past. How much longer can we go on kidding these people? How long before they turn their guns in the other direction?’’

Another author puts the situation more succinctly:

‘’The countries of the global South and the majority of their populations are victims of the capitalist/imperialist systems, whereas those of the North benefit from it. Both know this perfectly well, even though they very often either surrender to it (as in the South) or laud themselves for having it (in the North). A radical transformation of the system is not on the agenda of the North, whereas the South remains a region of tempests of repeated and potentially revolutionary revolts. Consequently the initiatives of the people of the South have, and will be, decisive in the transformation of the world – as is demonstrated by the history of the twentieth century.’’ (2)

NOT COUNTING ‘NIGGERS’ (SIC!) (3)

Clarence Streit was an American journalist who played a prominent role in the Atlanticist and world federalist movements and published a book (Union Now) which suggests that democratic nations starting with fifteen which he names, should voluntarily form themselves into a union, not a league nor an alliance, but a union similar to the United States, with a common government, common currency and complete internal free-trade. In the fullness of time other states could be admitted to the union ‘if and when they proved themselves worthy.’

Orwell comments:

‘’It is worth noticing at the outset that this scheme is not so visionary as it sounds. What is there about it that smells? For it does smell of course … Mr Streit has lumped together the huge British and French empires – in essence nothing but mechanisms for exploiting cheap coloured labour – under the heading of democracies. Here and there in the book, though not often, there are references to the ‘dependencies’ of the democratic states. ‘Dependencies’ means subject races. It is explained that they are going to go on being dependencies, that their resources are going to be pooled among the states of the Union, and that their coloured inhabitants will lack the right to vote in Union affairs … India for example is not yet ready for self-government and the status quo must continue.’’

This neatly coincides with the idea of earlier Fabians such as the playwright George Bernard Shaw who enunciated the view that ‘Good government is better than self-government’ (see Fabianism and the Empire) and even worse was the racist/eugenicist, H.G.Wells. He had written in 1902 that …’’those swarms of black and brown, and dirty white, and yellow who do not come into the new needs of efficiency were self-evidently otiose. The World is a World and not a charitable institution and I take it that they will have to go. The whole tenor and meaning of the World, as I see it, is that they will have to go.’’ (4)

How our latter day social and cultural engineers – Klaus Schwab for one – would fervently endorse those sentiments.

Orwell comments:

‘’Mr Streit is letting cats out of bags, but all phrases like ‘’Peace Bloc’’, ‘’Peace Front’’, etcetera contain some such implications; all imply a tightening up of the existing structure. The unspoken clause is always ‘not counting niggers’. For how can we take a ‘firm stand’ against Hitler if we are simultaneously weakening ourselves at home. In other words how can we fight Fascism’ except by bolstering up a far vaster injustice.

For of course it is vaster. What we always forget is that the overwhelming bulk of the British proletariat does not live in Britain but in Asia or Africa. It is not in Hitler’s power, for example, to make a penny an hour the normal industrial wage. It is perfectly normal in India, and we are at great pains to keep it so. One gets some idea of the real relationship between India and Britain when one reflects upon the annual per capita income in Britain is something over £80, and in India about £7. It is quite common for an Indian coolies leg to be thinner than an average Englishman’s arm. And there is nothing racial in this for well-fed members of the same races or of normal physique; it is due to simple starvation. This is the system we all live on and which we denounce when we see that there is no danger of its being altered. Of late, however, it has become the first duty of a good ‘anti-fascist’ to lie about it and keep it in being.’’

So ended the early period and development of Orwell’s undoubted literary talent and political insights together with his ideological convictions. He has been regarded as a towering figure, almost a patron saint of the left; and unlike many armchair revolutionaries, he was prepared to get down and dirty during his time serving in the POUM (Pardido Obrero Unificacion Marxista – Workers Party of Marxist Unity) militia during his time in Spain, where he nearly died of a neck-wound. He was also to experience extreme poverty in England and France during the great depression. Unfortunately, these combined events had a very deleterious effect on his health, and he died after suffering a lifelong battle against TB common among his earlier and famous contemporaries D.H.Lawrence and Anton Chekov.

However, there was an episode late in his life that caused some controversy on the left, this was his association with the Information Research Department (IRD). This was a secret Cold War propaganda department of the British Foreign Office, created to publish anti-communist propaganda, provide support and information to anti-communist politicians, academics, and writers, and to use weaponized disinformation and “fake news” to attack socialists and anti-colonial movements. Soon after its creation, the IRD broke away from focusing solely on Soviet matters and began to publish pro-colonial propaganda intended to suppress pro-independence revolutions in Asia, Africa, Ireland, and the Middle East. The IRD was heavily involved in the publishing of books, newspapers, leaflets, journals, and even created publishing houses to act as propaganda fronts, most notably Ampersand Limited. Operating for 29 years, the IRD was notable for being the longest-running covert government propaganda department in British history, the largest branch of the Foreign Office, and the first major anglophone propaganda offensive against the USSR since the end of World War II.

The IRD is most notable for being the government department to which George Orwell submitted his list of suspected communists (Orwell’s list), including many notable people such as Charlie ChaplinPaul Robeson, and Michael Redgrave. With the help of Orwell’s widow Sonia Orwell and his former publisher Fredric Warburg, the IRD gained the foreign rights to much of Orwell’s work and spent years distributing Animal Farm onto every continent, translating Orwell’s works into 20 different languages, funding the creation of an Animal Farm carton and working with the CIA to create the feature-length Animal Farm animated movie, the first of its kind in British history. Many historians have noted how Orwell’s literary reputation can largely be credited to joint propaganda operations between the IRD and CIA. The IRD heavily marketed Animal Farm for audiences in the middle east to sway Arab nationalism and independence activists from seeking Soviet aid, as it was believed by IRD agents that a story featuring pigs as the villains would appeal highly towards Muslim audiences. The IRD funded the activities of many authors including  Arthur KoestlerBertrand Russell, and Robert Conquest.

I suppose that the fact that this was a time of red scares and anti-communist witch-hunts that did much to poison the political atmosphere in the west. Even the putatively great humanist philosopher, Bertrand Russell advocated using the Atomic Bomb to destroy the Soviet Union in 1948. Readers should make up their own mind as to Orwell’s ‘conversion’ shortly before he died. But the idea of working with the CIA, and MI5 still rankles.

NOTES

(1) Eric Blair changed his name adopting George (After England’s patron saint Saint George) and ‘Orwell’ from the River Orwell in Suffolk

(2) Samir Amin – The Capitalist-Socialist Conflict & The North-South Conflict. – p.26 – From Capitalism to Civilization.

(3) The use of the pejorative term ‘niggers’ is somewhat unfortunate, but it should be read in the context of the essay and the meaning which is intended by Orwell.

(4) Anticipations – H.G.Wells – London 1918 – p.317

THE STORMTROOPS OF REGIME CHANGE AND COUNTER-REVOLUTION

South Front

Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson

The West is facing an unprecedented threat to its hegemony, as more agile, innovative, and cohesive non-Western powers are growing by leaps and bounds, to the point of making a transition to a global non-Western hegemony for the first time in history. During the last five centuries, the baton had passed from one European power to the next, and ultimately to the United States. Should the United States falter under the double weight of its global imperial overstretch and domestic oligarchy plundering even its own society, there will not be another Western state there to pick up where it left off. European Union, once touted as a likely successor or possible candidate for US-EU co-hegemony, is showing few signs of consolidating into a federation. Thus America’s decline would in all likelihood lead to the People’s Republic of China becoming the global hegemonic power.

Russia certainly has problems with oligarchy as well, but at least there the oligarchs are essentially treated as a “necessary evil” of capitalist economy and kept in check by the national security wing of the Russian state that is directly answerable to the President. Likewise China’s billionaires are kept at arms length from political power, lest they use In the West, on the other hand, the oligarchs run the show and the national security state is kept under close ideological surveillance to ensure that it will come to the defense of the oligarchy “against all enemies, foreign and domestic”. US service academies, which admit on the basis of recommendations by elected US officials, who themselves are creatures of special interests and Big Money, are an example of that ideological oversight. And ultimately the US political system’s apparent inability to reform itself, to make itself more fair and meritocratic, means that it’s bound to lose the great power competition to those who are simply marginally less corrupt.

But that simply won’t do, which means the more effective competitors have to be brought down by other means, up to and including open warfare for which the United States is actually preparing. The current US modernization programs appear to be intended to give the US the ability to wage offensive warfare even against nuclear weapons states by not later than 2030. In the meantime other tactics will be used, such as economic warfare, information warfare, and of course the use of various proxy forces.

Since in an oligarchy property of the elites becomes of paramount importance, right-wing militants have long been used as a means to suppress socialists and communists. Very often these right-wing paramilitaries operate jointly with the official law enforcement and security forces. Examples here include the SA stormtroopers operating as Hilfspolizei in support of German police forces combating left-wing parties in Weimar Germany, the autodefensas in Colombia, even the drug cartels whose own politics tend toward the reactionary end of the spectrum. We are seeing exactly the same process emerge in the United States, in the form of right-wing, white supremacist militias who are allowed to openly flaunt laws of the United States and are invariably, without exception, treated as allies by US police departments, though not at the federal level just yet. The situation is only marginally better in the EU, but even there right-wing militants are treated with kid gloves and, like their Islamist brethren, are allowed to travel to Ukraine and obtain combat training and experience in the Azov Regiment. Considering that, in the view of European leaders, “there is no alternative” to economic neoliberalism, there is little doubt Europe’s far right will be weaponized in support of the regime should pro-democracy protests in European countries rise above the level of the Yellow Vest ones we have seen so far.

But that is only the defensive aspect of weaponizing right-wing nationalists. It keeps the ruling classes secure against threats from below, but does not contribute anything to the struggle against China, Russia, other “emerging threats” to Western hegemony.

Thus whereas extremists are the stormtroopers of counter-revolution waiting in the wings in case there is an actual threat of revolution or even substantial reform in countries of the West, in non-Western countries they are used as the spearhead of regime change. These extremists come in two flavors. The first prong is Islamic extremism, and so far to the extent that Western governments cultivate such individuals (as seems to be the case in Europe), it’s done exclusively for foreign consumption, as it were. For the most part, Western intelligence services displayed remarkable equanimity as French, Belgian, even German islamists traveled back and forth between their home countries and various MENA war zones. Invariably in cases of “blowback” in the form of terror incidents, the perpetrators were described as “known to the security services”. CIA’s investment in Al Qaeda in the 1980s, in particular, did result in fair amount of “blowback” in the form of 9/11, but even that has not dissuaded Western powers from promoting this type of proxy fighter.

The second prong are the ethnic nationalists of Russia and other CIS states. Before Ukraine, not having a war on which to sharpen their claws, they adopted the guise of “soccer hooligans” and, courtesy of UEFA, quickly developed international links. There is little known on Western services’ efforts to utilize these contacts, but it is evident Western countries actually keep track of their “hooligans” in order to occasionally prevent them from international travel if there is danger of excessive violence. Kiev’s ‘hooligans” were in force on the Maidan and formed the lion’s share of Parubiy’s “Maidan security force”. There is also a lot of overlap between these “hooligans” and various right-wing organizations like Right Sector, Azov, C14, and others. But in order to be fully effective, these right-wing militants must be mobilized by someone with big money, usually an oligarch disaffected with the system who enjoys the secret blessing of the US and EU.

In Kiev that scenario worked to perfection. Yes, there were right-wing nationalists, and yes, there were disaffected oligarchs willing to bankroll their organizations and mobilize them to achieve their purposes, which was beforehand blessed by Western powers that be. In Hong-Kong this approach faltered, apparently largely because Beijing was able to reach a behind-the-scenes agreement with the island enclave’s oligarchy which then abandoned its militants to their own devices. Consequently that uprising has all but flared out. In Belarus neither of these conditions were satisfactorily met. The country does not really have oligarchs capable of raising a de-facto army of street-fighters, and the street-fighters themselves are none too numerous. While there is evidence Ukrainian entities participated in grooming Belarusian shock troops, including in the trenches of the Donbass, in the end their numbers and/or enthusiasm was not what the Western curators of Belarus’ coup anticipated. After a few nights of violence, that segment of the protest movement vanished out of sight due to effective Belarusian counter-intelligence efforts. Atlantic Council practically disclosed a state secret when it bemoaned the absence of “robust young men” capable of going toe-to-toe with the security forces. It is evident Lukashenko’s survival took them by surprise, and it is probable someone over-promised their ability to deliver said “robust young men” onto Minsk streets.

Could this work in Russia? Probably not, due to both Russia’s own preparations and the West characteristically shooting itself in the foot. Preparations include formations like Rosgvardia which are meant to combat the low-to-middle intensity scenarios like the Maidan. But the Western economic warfare against Russia, the freezing of assets of Russian firms and individuals, have encountered a consolidation of the Russian oligarchs around the country’s political center. The West overplayed its hand there: expecting a quick, Maidan-like resolution in Moscow, it sent a signal it does not respect Russian individuals’ property rights, and which oligarch wants to have their property rights disrespected?

The tragic irony of it all is that while the strategy of destabilization using the disaffected oligarch—young extremist combination has been progressively less effective with coming years, as governments worldwide have drawn appropriate lessons from colour revolutions and are determined not to be undone in a similar manner. Is United States experiencing a genuine, home-grown, grass-roots pro-democracy movement that is not bank-rolled by oligarchs or spearheaded by racial extremists? To be sure, elements in the Democratic Party think it can be used as a “get out the vote” device against Donald Trump, but on the other hand there is mounting evidence it is having an opposite effect. America’s middle bourgeois, being easily frightened and anxious to protect what little property it still has, just might decide Trump’s the guy to keep them safe going forward. But even, or perhaps especially, if Biden is elected one should expect more use of various paramilitaries to maintain order. Unfortunately America’s internal instability will mean even more erratic and reckless international behavior.

While They (Dis)Count Votes

NOVEMBER 09, 2020

While They (Dis)Count Votes

(Note: as a rule, I don’t do reposts, but when I read Andrei’s piece, I decided to make an exception. The Saker)

Source

by Andrei Martyanov posted by permission on the Saker blog

Truth is, it doesn’t matter who wins in the United States’ circus, aka presidential elections, because, as I am on the record for a long time,  the final result will be within the same realm of outcomes ranging from utter collapse and wide-spread violence to simply protracted, and accelerating, decline and slow dissolution into the Orwellian reality. Acquaintance of mine sent me today some essay, which already circulates in Russian media-sphere, called: A Message to Russian Expats Living in the US. It contains passages such as this:

Colleagues, I want to address you.Face it: the America you came to is dying. A great civilization is getting its last, euthanasia shot. Do not count on the fact that “the Republicans control the Senate, they will not allow anything to be done”. They will allow. And if the election was stolen from Trump now, then stealing two Senate seats in Georgia with Biden as president-elect is clearly an achievable task. You have invested years of work, tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars, and endured serial stress in order to gain a foothold in a new place. This is worthy of respect. Admitting that the best thing you can do for yourself (and more importantly, for your children) is to leave again is very, very painful. However, what is now whispering in your head, that “it’s not so bad”, and that “America will return”, is still your sunk cost fallacy, not rationale.

And, of course, goes into the race relations with statements like this:

Your children will be on their knees, and will write letters of apology for being white, like how American nuclear scientists from Sandia Labs write letters of apology to blacks.

If those children have been brought up in the modern American “cultural” tradition, especially on the campuses of modern American universities studying useless pseudo-scientific BS in “humanities”, absolutely–those children will kneel and prostrate themselves, which would indicate that they are not really Russian children, brought up without any Russian cultural input and in this sense they are one step away from Eurowussies, who surrendered their countries to the hordes of barbarians without putting up a fight. In fact, there is very little difference between urban population in Western Europe and in the US, the larger the American city is, the more emasculated its white male population. Luckily, even despite the fact of GOP being a bunch of unprincipled cowards, even my uber-liberal acquaintances stated that people who elected (yet, again) a flaming “socialist” bat-shit crazy  Kshama Sawant, who makes even retarded Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan look reasonable, totally deserved what is coming to them. Same goes to people of Portland, or, for that matter, the whole state of California–a first American state qualifying for the genuine third world shithole.

So, while this pathos-driven essay (or manifesto) to Russian Americans is cute, truth is–the decline of America on the institutional level has been predicted long time ago, and I just want, yet again, to remind you my 6-year old conclusion which led me to writing my books:

I observed for decades now a consistent pattern of the wrong assessments, loony strategies and deliberate misrepresentation (lies?) of facts coming from the top of US establishment, which since 1991 lives in the make-believe world built by the triumphalists. It is difficult to explain to the average Joe that Baseball World Series, or Superbowl “World Champions” have no relation to the World and are purely internal American affairs. That there is a huge wide world outside  and that it lives and moves not in accordance to the American narrative. Explaining to American “elite” the fact that US didn’t “win” the WW II, that “winning” the Cold War came about because Soviet people simply decided to end it, that Wall Street “economy” has no relation to real economy and that real wars produce misery and destruction on a scale which is incomprehensible for the “populace” of the Washington D.C. “strategists”, it is not just difficult–it is next to impossible. So, the events must run the course. But it is already clear that by failing to achieve any sensible political objectives in Ukraine and in Russia, and, by this, starting a massive global re-alignment, the United States sustained a defeat. What will be the consequences of this defeat? I hate to speculate, I just know that they are already big and that the moment of facing the reality is coming.

In fact, I was on this topic since roughly 2007-08 when it became, after Putin’s famous Munich speech, and Russia disposing of the Georgia’s Army in less than 5 days in August 2008, patently clear that the whole thing was basically the house of cards ranging from economy to military, to social issues. Now we all saw how institutions collapse. I voted for Trump in the state (Washington) where his chances to win are as remote as for me to become Chinese, but the main reason we voted was to reject this:

That bill requires every public school to offer wide-ranging sex ed to all students in grades 6-12 by the 2021-22 school year, and to students as young as kindergarten by the 2022-23 school year. Sex ed must be provided no less than six times: once to students between kindergarten and third grade, once to students between fourth and fifth grade, twice to students between sixth and eighth grade, and twice to students between ninth and 12th grade. The curriculum offered to students must be age-appropriate. Young students will focus on what the bill calls “social-emotional learning.” But as students get older, the sex ed will include information about sexually transmitted diseases, health care resources, communication skills, and the “development of meaningful relationships and avoidance of exploitative relationships,” as the bill puts it.

The bill passed. Here is how it passed:

As you can see, Seattle (King County) is a hot bed for sexual perverts and pedophiles who think that sexually “educating” a kindergarten child is admissible. So is a Jefferson County, known for an extreme concentration of former hippies and alternatively gifted, primarily on the other plane, people around Port Townsend. As you can see rural Washington, especially Eastern Washington, a state and region’s granary rejected this insanity. This is also, where real America survives, the country of deplorables.  It is also the America which is is heavily armed and we do not know what will be the responses in coming months but America which I and my family came to has been gone for at least 15 years and my task was to document how nation was committing suicide using prescriptions of the American oligarchy which played its hand really well offering majority of America a faux-choice between shitty and down right disastrous. Remarkably, the only thing Trump got right was decoupling from China, but for NYC real estate shyster it was execution of the plan which sucked pretty badly and I am sure they are smiling in Bejing expecting the charade with vote-counting be over soon and then welcome Democratic Administration which would pursue same set of policies of financing Chinese economy through negative trade balance. Recall this:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wants China to continue investing in the United States because the two countries’ financial futures are closely tied together. “I certainly do think that the Chinese government and central bank are making a smart decision by continuing to invest in Treasury bonds,” she said during an interview Sunday with the popular talk show “One on One.” “It’s a safe investment. The United States has a well-deserved financial reputation.” To boost the economy, the U.S has to incur more debt, she said, shortly before departing for Washington. “It would not be in China’s interest if we were unable to get our economy moving,” Clinton said. “So by continuing to support American Treasury instruments, the Chinese are recognizing our interconnection. We are truly going to rise or fall together. We are in the same boat and, thankfully, we are rowing in the same direction.

This is really important, because this is exactly what (if they push it through) the Biden, I mean Harris, I mean HRC’s, administration will pursue again, while increasing the pitch of anti-Russian hysteria and making sure Euro cucks are in line. Well, Democratic foreign policy “establishment” is an exhibit A of highly illiterate and unprofessional people, so the whole thing will be a big mess with Russia. Not that Trump’s Admin was any better, with the lunatics of the scale of Pompeo or Billingslea–it is just a whole process of American “elites” being increasingly dumb.  So, no matter who comes to “power” in the US it changes only the mode of decline, it doesn’t change a fact that nothing could be done about it within utterly corrupt and dysfunctional framework of America’s political discourse and a real data (not some garbage of US economic “statistics” or polls) speaks volumes about America’s shrinking real economy and sociopaths, if not outright psychopaths, constituting America’s ruling class, no matter party affiliation. In the end, look at the title of my upcoming book–it says it all. I warned everyone years ago:

This process is relatively non-violent for now, but the attack on American Europeanism, due to sometimes justified historic grievances and present inequalities, only grows in intensity. The new race- and gender-based agenda and grievances culture has slowly but surely displaced an old left whose main focus were jobs and wages for the majority of working Americans, be they white, black or any other race or gender. The old left is gone today, being supplanted with what Steve Sailer calls the “Democrats’ coalition of fringes”—a combination of interest groups, also known as social justice warriors, associated with the Democratic Party and vying for resources and influence in shaping the future of the United States. It is a profoundly depressing outcome for anyone who came to appreciate and treasure the best that American culture offered in the past—most of it European in origin. But the so-called establishment conservatives in the US are in no position to be critical—they were the ones who conflated American patriotism, often justified, with a culturally and economically debilitating militarism. They were also the ones who continue to push ahead with a destructive neo-liberal globalist economic agenda. And the ones who controlled American corporations and off-shored them, depleting American manufacturing, and thereby unions and jobs. … Against such a background, it is difficult to see how this trust and mutual respect can be restored. US elites have simply stopped producing any truly competent people; the US stopped producing real statesmen, not just politicians, even earlier. When experts fail, as they failed America, not least due to many of them not being real experts at all, actors, comedians, sportsmen, conspiracy theorists and demagogues from the mass-media take their place.

So, there is nothing truly unexpected with what happens to the United States now, since the silhouettes of America’s future were seen by many who had their heads out of their own asses for years. America is a radically divided country which failed to coalesce into genuine nation and that was a recipe for disaster from the get go. Today it is a territory populated with a variety of people who have nothing in common culturally, economically or metaphysically and American “elites” demonstrated this fully. The America as we knew it is no more and many understand that. When enough people will grasp this fact, then there could be some small chance on rearranging whatever will be left in the United States into some form of a functional state. I don’t hold my breath, though. I am a simple man, I just want to get to my beloved Cascades and further, into Rockies, stopping in the small towns in Idaho, Montana or Eastern Washington, sipping on my coffee at some diner, and contemplating the beauty of the nature and of people, who are a disappearing breed still found in the rural America, over my chicken fried steak. Life doesn’t stop, it never does and it will continue on even after we are all gone. We just need to make sure that no life-ending event occurs, thus making possible for a generation of normal people to emerge at some point of time in the future. Last question: do I believe that there were illegal votes and bulletins’ dumping? Absolutely, but it doesn’t matter since in four years Trump did nothing, except tweeting and parading himself in media, to save his (and ours) country. So, good riddance, let democrats now finish off whatever is left of it. Believe me, they will wreck it big time and GOP will help them.

Reflections on the colour revolution in the USA.

Reflections on the colour revolution in the USA.

November 08, 2020

by Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

The American ruling class as represented by its own nomenklatura have been guilty of the sins of the French Bourbons in a different age: ‘’They have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing.’’ (1)

I can hardly remember a US Presidential campaign/election carried out with virtually zero intelligent inputs and policies. It was as if it started at zero but then actually descended deep into minus territory. It was also clear from the outset that the same nomenklatura (or MICIMATT (2) – if you prefer) was solidly arrayed against Trump since the 2016 election when Trump defied all the media hype and had the temerity to win. From that day onwards a slow ‘colour revolution’ – i,e, putsches which had been successfully carried out by the US in various ‘naughty’ countries around the world – was operationalised and deployed against Trump. So for the entirety of his presence in the White House the sitting US President was the object of an unceasing campaign of character assassination, his loyalty to the US besmirched, his lack of education ridiculed, his manner boorish and clumsy, all of which shortcomings may have been to an extent justified, but he was never allowed to respond to a bogus narrative almost totally controlled by the MICIMATT complex.

THE AMERICAN CLASS SYSTEM

America and its advocates have always argued that America does not share the same class relationships, rigid social-hierarchies and history of class-struggles as has been the case in Europe. But even a cursory reading of American labour history will soon divest the reader of any such notion. Class struggles in the US have in fact been particularly vicious with the ruling elites being unrepentantly ruthless. For the established ruling elites Trump was an outsider, a voice of the hoi-polloi and decidedly not to the taste of the elite coalitions and ideologues of the F Scott Fitzgerald and Ayn Rand social/political strata. This has always been the case pretty much everywhere. To be sure, Trump was a semi-educated parvenu and many of his supporters may have also been somewhat deficient in this respect. But here’s the point. The worldview of the rich and famous was a perception of the world as they have and continued to experience it. In this respect being determines consciousness. This is the permanent social-political hierarchy that always and everywhere has existed from time immemorial but there are none so blind as those who refuse to see. Class struggle has been a continuous leitmotif throughout the ages and refusing this historical phenomenon doesn’t make it less so.

THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY

Contrary to the media-hype the US has never been either exceptional or indispensable. During the late twentieth-century and early twenty-first America had developed into an imperialistic hegemon, simultaneously repressing its own people and making war on and intimidating other nations. Indeed it has been at war for 95% of its existence. All of this is a matter of record but it is taboo in the US itself and in most of its vassals. The US is run by a ruthless coalition of oligarchs, not as it is claimed by the masses. But the rule of the oligarchs is anchored in the second tier of America’s class structure. In short in the emergence of a middle-ranking elite of professional and managerial types – ‘an outer party’ in Orwellian terms which is the crucial ideological basis for the ascendency of the oligarch ‘inner party’ – this two-tier structure constituted the greatest negation of US democracy.

This new cognitive elite was made up of what Robert Reich called “symbolic analysts” — lawyers, academics, journalists, systems analysts, brokers, bankers, etc. (Less complimentary referred to as ‘Bullshit Jobs’ by the recently demised David Graebner.) These professionals trafficked in information and manipulated words and numbers for a living. They lived in an abstract world in which information and expertise were the most valuable commodities.

Since the market for these assets is international, the privileged class is more concerned with the global system than with regional, national, or local communities. In fact, members of the new elite tend to be estranged from their communities and their fellow citizens. These social/political/cultural experiences then transmute and harden into ideological belief systems which, in behavioural terms at least, take on a life of their own. These professional groups send their children to private schools, insure themselves against medical emergencies … and hire private security guards to protect themselves against the mounting violence against them.

“In effect, they have removed themselves from the common life and contact with everyday ordinary Americans.” (3)

The privileged classes, which, according to the late Christopher Lasch’s expansive definition, now make up roughly a fifth, or quarter of the population, and are heavily invested in the notion of social mobility. The new meritocracy has made professional advancement and the freedom to make money “the overriding goal of social policy.” Lasch charged that the fixation on opportunity and the “democratization of competence” betrayed rather than exemplified the American dream. “The reign of specialized expertise,” he wrote, “is the antithesis of democracy as it was understood by those who saw this country as the ‘last, best hope on earth’”(4).

Citizenship was grounded not in equal access to economic competition but in shared participation in a common life and a common political dialogue. The aim was not to hold out the promise of escape from the “labouring classes,” Lasch contended, but to ground the values and institutions of democracy in the inventiveness, industry, self-reliance, and self-respect of working people.

Unfortunately Lasch’s observations may well have been correct but with the passage of time his prescriptions are actually becoming less pervasive than he contended since the publication of his book in 1995. The American ruling stratum have if anything gutted the United States of the (albeit limited) idealism of the 1945-63 period and a genuine commitment to a democratic polity but instead are committed to a ruthless, winner-take-all, greed-is-good, economic, and social barbarism. Herewith an interesting insight from one of F Scott Fitzgerald’s characters – Amory Blaine – in one of the earlier novels.

‘’I detest poor people’’, thought Amory suddenly. ‘’I hate them for being poor. Poverty may have been beautiful once, but its rotten now. It is the ugliest thing in the world. It is essentially better to be corrupt and rich than it is to be innocent and poor.’’ He seemed to see again a figure whose significance had once impressed him – a well-dressed young man gazing from a club window on Fifth Avenue and saying something to his companion with a look of profound disgust. Probably thought Amory, what he said was: ‘’My God! Aren’t people horrible!’’(5) Such has been and is a fortiori the view of their fellow countrymen by America’s haute bourgeoisie.

THE GREAT COUNTER-REFORMATION

At this juncture the US Presidential election has been a moment (important and significant in its own right) but situated in much broader global developments. As previously mentioned, (vide supra) the transient mini-enlightenment of the 1945-63 period, has given way, after the 1970s interregnum, into what can only be described as the great Counter-Reformation, a global process known as neo-liberalism or globalization or both. This Counter-Reformation was incubated in university departments, independent think tanks, political parties, Corporation Board Rooms, Global institutions such as the IMF, BIS, OECD, World Bank, WTO, financial books, journalists writing for broadsheet publications – The Economist, Financial Times, and Wall Street Journal – and various papers being added to the output. What they were saying was essentially BS, but unfortunately, they were able to dominate the narrative, since they owned the means whereby to do so.

At one time those ideologies which had offered people of the world the hope of making their own histories and ideologies which offered hope have declined and collapsed at an increasing rate in Western societies. This collapse is also the collapse of the Enlightenment, that reason and freedom would prevail as the paramount forces in human history. Alas this is no longer the case; since the 1980s at least the forces of darkness have been on an ever increasing and accelerating rampage which shows no signs of letting up. Leading the process has been the United States with Europe in tow. Globalization, Neo Liberalism is the new orthodoxy which all must obey.

This historical process has brought these trends to a head and been conspicuously evidenced in microcosm by the 2020 US Presidential election. All the forces of darkness were quite blatantly coming into the open conspiring to get their man elected, by all and any means possible. This was essential for their more ambitious project of world domination. This ruthless undertaking consists of a plan for the US to become world hegemon sitting atop of its empire. The Europeans have already thrown in the towel and the rest of the world will soon be brought to heel – for their own good of course – and the world will be set fair for peace and prosperity. Yeah, right!

If the US and its allies (read vassals) think that it can impose their hegemonic ambitions upon the rest of the world, then they are in for a rather rude awakening.

This is because the world is no longer living in the economic and political golden age from 1945-71. The centre of global wealth-creation derives from the unusual coalition which has shifted from West to East, more specifically from the United States to China, whilst the distribution of power within international institutions still reflects the very different world of 1945. This incongruity is bound to foment tension.

‘’Some anticipate a Thucydides moment. In his History of the Peloponnesian War 2500 years ago Thucydides wrote that ‘What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear that this caused in Sparta’ today we seem to be on the same path as the old and new powers clash… Just as Sparta could not expect always to be on top, so America and the West should not always expect to be the dominant powers.’’ (6)

In short this means that the West will have difficulties in imposing its 1945 geo-political and trade agenda on the rest of the world. The current international configuration as inherited almost unchanged from the end of the Second World War no longer corresponds to the economic and increasingly political realities. The rise of Asia has decidedly flipped the location of production and new wealth generation. This has been an irreversible moment.

BRETTON WOODS – DECLINE AND FALL

The twilight of America and the American century began as a measurable decline and by the end of the 20th century this had become unstoppable. Firstly, there was the financialization and hollowing out of the productive sector of its economy and, secondly, with its wars of choice and endless military adventurism both of which tendencies are gradually bankrupting the country. The facts are irrefutable. The Presidential contest of 2020 was the conjunctural moment in this process; everything changed when the veils of obfuscation were torn away and the corruption and decadence of the old order – the blob – were fully revealed. America’s ruling elites have become irreversibly transformed into a lumpen, parasitic, aristocratic class, ruling by manipulation, wealth and power. It has been noted that,

‘’Nothing is more wretchedly corrupt than an aristocracy which retains its wealth when it has lost its productive power and which still enjoys a vast amount of leisure after it is reduced to mere vulgar pastimes. The energetic passions and great conceptions that animated it heretofore leave it then, and nothing remains to it but a host of petty consuming vices, which cling about it like worms upon a carcass.’’ (7)

The Epstein affair anyone? Enough said.

NOTES

(1) The quote is attributed to Talleyrand in speaking about the restored Bourbon dynasty after the abdication of Napoleon, and subsequently used against the French socialists and others. It comes close to Einstein’s definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results, though the Talleyrand quote gives us a reason for their repeating mistakes of the past over and over

(2) MICIMATT – Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank complex

(3) Christopher Lasch – The Revolt of the Elites –published in 1995

(4) Lasch – Op.cit.

(5) F Scott-Fitzgerald – This Side of Paradise – published 1920

(6) Phillip Mullan – Beyond Confrontation – published 2020 – p.xxv

(7) Alexis de Tocqueville – Democracy in America – Volume 2, p.220

Merchants of Death: Multibillion-dollar Bailout for Arms Industry Amid Rising COVID-19 Toll

By Bill Van Auken

Global Research, April 23, 2020

World Socialist Web Site

“I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea,” US President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday in a startling threat that could trigger a catastrophic war throughout the Middle East and beyond.

The threat to launch a war 7,000 miles from US shores in the midst of coronavirus pandemic, whose death toll in the US is rapidly approaching 50,000, comes on the heels of Trump’s Monday night tweet announcing a suspension of all immigration into the United States, a transparent attempt to scapegoat immigrants for the ravages of the pandemic and the layoffs of tens of millions of workers.

There is in both of these actions an expression of desperation and a flailing about in the face of a national and global crisis for which the US ruling class has no viable solution. It is a crude attempt to change the subject and divert public attention from the catastrophic consequences of the criminal indifference of the government and the ruling oligarchy it represents to the lives and well-being of the vast majority of the population.

Pentagon officials reported Wednesday that they had received no prior notification of Trump’s tweet, much less any orders for a change in the rules of engagement in the Persian Gulf.

Nonetheless, the brutal and fascistic rhetoric of Trump reflects a drive to war by US imperialism that has not been tempered, but rather intensified, by the global pandemic.

Even as Trump issued his tweet, US warships were sailing toward a confrontation with China in the South China Sea. At the same time, the Pentagon was announcing a shift in its deployment of long-range, nuclear capable B-52 bombers to make their presence less predictable to Beijing and Moscow and thereby ratchet up tensions.

In recent days, the US has sharply escalated its air strikes against the impoverished African nation of Somalia, even as the coronavirus pandemic threatens to ravage its population. Escalating war threats continue against Venezuela, and the Pentagon continues to provide support for the near-genocidal Saudi-led war against the people of Yemen.

Nowhere does this war drive find more naked expression than in the massive government bailout that is being organized for the US arms industry. With tens of millions of workers unemployed, many facing hunger, and a drive by both the Trump administration and state governors to force a premature return to work, billions upon billions of dollars are being lavished upon military contractors to sustain their guaranteed profits and the obscene fortunes generated for their major shareholders.

The Pentagon’s top weapons procurer, Undersecretary of Defense Ellen Lord, told a press conference Monday that some $3 billion has already been funneled to the arms makers in the form of early payments for existing contracts, in addition to billions more approved by Congress in the first CARES Act, which pumped trillions of dollars into the financial markets. She indicated that much more will be doled out once Congress passes another stimulus package.

Asked by a reporter how much would be need to insure Washington’s Merchants of Death from any losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, she replied, “We’re talking billions and billions on that one.” Lord added that the first priority for this aid program was the “modernization process of the nuclear triad.”

These industries are hardly the picture of the deserving poor. The fact that massive financial resources that are desperately needed to save lives and rescue millions of workers from poverty are instead being poured into their pockets is a crime.

In a conference call this week to inform Lockheed Martin shareholders of first-quarter earnings, the company’s CEO, Marilyn Hewson, boasted that the corporation’s “portfolio is broad and expanding” and its “cash generation” strong. She said the company looked forward to “supporting our warfighters’ needs.”

Indeed, Lockheed Martin pulled in $2.3 billion in cash during the single quarter and expects to top $7.6 billion—coronavirus effects notwithstanding—over the year. It has a $144 billion backlog in orders, an all-time high.

Asked whether she had any qualms about political fallout over completing a $1 billion stock buyback in the midst of the crisis, she replied, “We’re very different, I think, than those who have experienced a very significant impact to their demands.” Hewson announced that the company had set aside a grand total of $10 million for COVID-19-related relief and assistance.

The “very different” character of these companies was also noted in a financial column published in the New York Times for the benefit of its well-heeled readers, titled “Opportunity in the Military-Industrial Complex.”

Pointing to the projected $741 billion Pentagon budget for the coming year, the Times counsels: “That combination of federal dollars and corporate heft may represent an opportunity for investors who don’t mind profiting from warfare. A modest bet on a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund that buys military contractors and aerospace companies may help buffer the deep recession brought on by the coronavirus.”

In short, one can reap substantial wealth from—and amid—mass death.

One of the principal concerns expressed by Undersecretary of Defense Lord as she spelled out plans for the multibillion-dollar bailout of the arms industry was the disruption of supply chains, particularly those originating in the maquiladora sweatshops just across the US border in Mexico. She also mentioned problems in India.

Thousands of Mexican workers have struck and protested against the deadly conditions inside these plants, conditions that are being prepared for workers throughout the planet as back-to-work orders are shoved through. At a plant in Ciudad Juárez owned by Michigan-based Lear Corporation, 16 workers have died from COIVD-19, while area hospitals are overflowing with victims of the virus.

The Pentagon and US Ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau have intervened with the Mexican government, demanding that the maquiladoraworkers be forced back into the plants as “essential” to US imperialism’s war machine, just like their counterparts in the US. Lockheed relies on low-paid Mexican workers in Chihuahua, Mexico to produce electrical wiring for the US military’s Black Hawk and S-92 helicopters and F-16 fighter jets, while Boeing gets parts from a plant run by PCC Aerostructures in Monterrey. General Electric, Honeywell and other military contractors also profit off the labor of Mexican workers across the border.

Transmitting the dictates of the Pentagon in the language of contempt for human life that characterizes all of the policies of the Trump administration and the US ruling class, Ambassador Landau launched a Twitter campaign demanding that Mexican workers go back into the maquiladoras for the greater good of US imperialism. He enjoys the full collaboration of Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, promoted by the pseudo-left as a “progressive” and even “socialist,” who has prepared the country’s National Guard for deployment against strikers.

Warning that workers’ jobs are tied to supply chains linking them to US arms manufacturers, Ambassador Landau said, “if we do not coordinate our response, these chains can evaporate.”

He added, “There are risks everywhere, but we don’t all stay at home for fear we are going to get in a car accident. The destruction of the economy is also a health threat.”

These are the same reactionary, antiscientific and misanthropic arguments being made in the US and internationally in an attempt to force workers back into the factories and workplaces with the certainty that many will fall sick and die.

Workers in the arms industry in the US, like their counterparts in Mexico, have also struck and protested over being forced to work as part of the “critical infrastructure” of US imperialism. Workers at the Bath Iron Works in Maine and the BAE Systems shipyard in Norfolk, Virginia, both run by General Dynamics, have struck over the failure of the employers to provide them with protection against infection and death. Similarly, workers at the GE Aviation plant in Lynn, Massachusetts, which produces engines for US Marine helicopters, picketed the plant over the lack of protective measures or any guarantee for workers who fall victim to COVID-19.

This resistance of the working class across national boundaries is directly opposed to the rabid nationalism and reaction that characterizes the response of the ruling classes, not only in the US, but in Europe and internationally, to the intensification of the capitalist crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. To defend their profit interests, they will condemn millions to sickness and death, even as they prepare for world war and fascist dictatorship. The only alternative is for the international working class to put an end to the profit system and rebuild society on socialist foundations.

*

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Featured image: B-52s lined up at Andersen Air Force Base (Source: WSWS)The original source of this article is World Socialist Web SiteCopyright © Bill Van AukenWorld Socialist Web Site, 2020

America’s rigged democracy: The oligarch takeover of America’s political system

America’s rigged democracy: The oligarch takeover of America’s political system

April 15, 2020

by Jon Hellevig for The Saker blog

The coronavirus and related financial crisis ravaging America have revealed the country to be the dysfunctional, borderline failed state that it is. America’s dysfunction is broad in scope but almost entirely traceable to one common origin: the oligarch takeover of the economymediahealthcare and political system. I have already reported on the first three of these , and here I will dissect what’s so fundamentally wrong with the political system.

Here are the links to above referenced reports:

Extreme concentration of ownership in the United States

The Oligarch Takeover of US Media

The Oligarch Takeover of US Pharma and Healthcare

Prior to having its attention diverted by the virus, the rest of the world looked on in disbelief as the circus-like US presidential primaries traipsed from state to state. Looking at the cast, one must wonder if this is really the best America has to offer. There was practically nothing of substance separating the candidates, with the sole exception of much-needed healthcare reform, a step advanced by a couple of candidates who were promptly branded by both parties as “socialists.” Meanwhile, emerging from the pack was none other than Joe Biden, a corporate stooge if there ever was one, whose history of corruption has been swept under the rug but whose dementia is becoming increasingly hard to conceal.

Nonplussed? You should be, because this is not democracy. It essentially amounts to a scripted talent show aimed at creating the impression that the American people have a democratic choice. The endless campaigning – often in disarmingly charming milieus such as rural Iowa diners – and numerous “debates” underscore the illusion of choice. But it is in fact the lack of real choice that necessitates such ostentatious pageantry.

In reality, the Democratic and Republican parties share almost identical positions on all major political questions. Neither challenges America’s hegemonic foreign policy and the war machine that imposes it; neither takes meaningful action to rein in the unrestrained oligarch crony capitalism or address the rigged financial markets; and both completely reject reforming the out-of-control healthcare system (with the exception of the few “socialists,” who are also smeared as “Russian assets”). The latest example of how in lockstep both parties march is the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, in essence just another corporate bailout. But such close alignment on the issues of true importance should come as no surprise: this “duopoly” is in fact owned lock, stock and barrel by the financial oligarchs.

In lieu of discussing the issues of true substance, the overseers of this duopoly have imposed over the public discourse an agenda that creates the appearance of an acrimonious political divide but conveniently skirts addressing the inner workings of the system. Heading up this faux agenda are climate change and the culture war, both of which encompass a myriad of sub-issues that serve to distract Americans from the insidious corporate takeover. Much as a mime pretends to be trapped in a phone booth, the two parties feign contention over these issues in what amounts to carefully staged political theater.

That America is not a real democracy but an oligarchy masquerading as one becomes even more clear when one lifts the hood on the election system, which I do in this report by providing comprehensive evidence that the system has been rigged in such a way as to institutionalize the two-party monopoly and reinforce the financial elite’s grip over it.

The three lynchpins of this ironclad grip are (1) the corrupting power of money, which has been institutionalized through campaign finance laws that have been manipulated by the Supreme Court; (2) the ballot access laws, which refer to the pre-screening rules that determine which parties and candidates can be officially registered to stand for election; and (3) the enormous bias of the oligarch-owned, propaganda-spewing media.

I will not address the media bias in this report – it should be self-evident to anyone who has followed American politics in recent years. It is sufficient to recall the blatantly partisan media attacks against Donald Trump over the last four years, which were based on statements ripped from context and exaggerated, interviews with sham experts, distorted facts, and entirely fabricated stories, not least of which was the giant hoax and nauseatingly fact-free Russiagate narrative. More recently, we have seen how the same media hyenas gave similar treatment to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders but a free pass to the establishment’s Joe Biden. It is important to realize how the ownership of American media has been totally concentrated in the hands of the oligarchy, which I documented in the above-referenced report, The Oligarch Takeover of US Media. Such an extreme concentration of media ownership makes it easy to control the narrative and wage a totalitarian information war on opponents, both domestic and foreign.

In in this report, I will concentrate on the two other major distortions: campaign finance and ballot access, after which I will briefly list the other factors that have combined to totally discredit what used to be a democratic process.

  1. “Money is Speech” – When money talks people listen

The republic was not exactly set up as a true democracy to start with. In the beginning, voting was restricted to property-owning white men. Only late in the 19th century and after one of the bloodiest civil wars in world history, did all men get the right of vote (in theory, but not fully to this day, as we shall see). Women got the right only in 1920. Contrary to the claims of actor Morgan Freeman in a 2017 propaganda video, American history “for 241 years of democracy” has certainly not been “a shining example to the world.” (Note 1).

Early efforts to push back against the robber barons who corrupted the political system with their wealth started with the Tillman Act of 1907, which – although ultimately unsuccessful – aimed to prohibit corporations and interstate banks from making direct financial contributions to federal candidates. Campaign finance restrictions that at least had the appearance of being effective were not enacted until 1971, when, in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Congress passed the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). However, the oligarchs soon mounted a counterattack to have key provisions of the law nullified on supposed constitutional grounds. This reached the Supreme Court, an institution whose pliability in the face of corporate interests belies its fastidiously independent veneer. In Buckley v. Valeo (1976), the Court did uphold limits on individual contributions but, crucially, removed the caps on how much a campaign could spend and also the cap on so-called “independent expenditures,” which is money spent by ostensibly third-party corporations formally in favor of a particular candidate or against an opponent. The fig leaf is that these independent expenditures are made to look as if they are not in any way coordinated with the candidate or the candidate’s committee or party, although in reality of course they always are.

In Buckley v. Valeo, the Court invented the absurd theory that money equals speech, and therefore a limitation on how much money could be used for these independent expenditures was supposedly an unconstitutional infringement of First Amendment protections of free speech. (More about this absurdity below).

In 2010, a new concentrated attack on campaign finance restrictions emerged when the oligarchy’s pocket courts further proceeded to remove the remaining obstacles for the super-rich to buy American elections. In Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court struck down, again on extremely dubious free speech grounds, the rules that had prohibited corporations from funding election campaigns under the flimsy condition that the money be officially structured as uncoordinated independent expenditures. Only two months later, in Speechnow.org v. FEC, the Federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (the Deep State court par excellence) ruled that contributions to groups that only make independent expenditures could not be limited, either in size or source.

The super-rich have always dominated the funding of political campaigns – either directly with their money, or through the media they own, or by their shadowy non-profits – but these rulings finally obliterated a century of campaign finance laws and opened the spigots for unlimited political corruption by oligarch special interests, thus removing essentially all barriers to controlling every aspect of the electoral system. These decisions also led to the rise of the notorious Super PACs, the giant slush funds that can raise unlimited amounts of corporate funding – money that is often used on either abusive mudslinging ads aimed at opponents or for whitewashing the preferred candidates. But, of course, there is absolutely no coordination with the candidates themselves. (Trust us).

For more details on US campaign finance laws, please see the Appendix to this report.

Congress is the 5% serving the 0.1%

The number one precondition for American electoral success is either being rich yourself or being financed by the super-rich and their corporations. Usually both prerequisites need to be in place, especially for the higher offices. In no other country in the world does money play such an outsized role in politics.

Practically all US presidents have been millionaires in present day value and most of them multimillionaires. (Note 2). Interestingly, though, while Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were not millionaires when taking office, they miraculously became so after leaving the White House. This came through windfall profits from book deals and speeches to Wall Street bankers. The same happened with Hillary Clinton. (Note 3). Obama even rather quite shamelessly booked those millions while still in office. This stream of easy money is tantamount to payment for services rendered for being a loyal servant to the Deep State (the same Deep State that installed him in the first place). It also shows future inhabitants of top positions that obedience is quite lucrative. (Note 4.)

If we look at the current members of Congress – the 100 senators and 450 members of the House – 200 are millionaires and that does not even include the value of their primary residences. Including that asset would put the figure at close to 500, or a whopping 90%. (Note 5). And that is even before considering the assets formally held by spouses, in trusts or offshore. The net worth of the average congressman is at least five times the US median. (Note 6). Interestingly, most appear to mysteriously get richer while actually serving in Congress. Moreover, the wealth increase tends to be disproportionate to what could be accumulated based on their salaries. In brief, Congress is the 5% serving the 0.1%.

During the 2015-16 election cycle, presidential candidates spent $1.5 billion, congressional candidates $1.6 billion, political parties $1.6 billion, and political action committees (PACs) raised and spent $4 billion. The “independent expenditures” of Super PACs amounted to $1.6 billion. (Note 7).

Clearly, had President Trump not been a billionaire he would never have had a shot at the presidency. This time around, Mike Bloomberg, the world’s tenth richest man and the consummate corporate insider, made a stunningly explicit bid to buy the Democratic nomination, spending over half a billion dollars on campaign ads in only a couple of months. Even before facing a single voter, Bloomberg, a preposterous choice to lead the Democrats, was given credibility as a serious candidate and was able to avail himself of a large platform from which to spread his message. That Bloomberg, with his billions and his establishment-approved policies, still managed to fail so spectacularly was a news item in and of itself, causing a lot of head-scratching among the pundits. He is the exception that proves the rule. (Note 8).

C:\Users\Йон\Documents\Billionaires supporting.jpeg

Practically all of the top Democrat candidates – except Bernie Sanders – were heavily funded by billionaires, as shown in the infographic below.

For candidates who don’t happen to already be fantastically wealthy, campaign financing from big donor corporations and the top 1% is decisive. This is why congressmen tend to spend about 40% of their time soliciting campaign contributions, as former congressional staffer Mike Lofgren revealed in his bestselling book, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government. (Note 9). Lofgren says outright that in “practice, the American political system allows only two political parties, which are wholly dependent on corporations and wealthy individuals to fund the most expensive campaigns in the world.” (Note 10).

The Democratic Party is a corporation by its own admission

Emblematic of the scam that US elections are was the Democratic Party’s admission to being a corporation.

In a trial against the DNC for the alleged rigging of the 2016 primaries in favor of Hillary Clinton and against Bernie Sanders, the DNC’s attorneys asserted that the party has every right to favor one candidate or another, notwithstanding party rules that state otherwise, because the party is a private corporation and is therefore free to change its rules as it sees fit. Unsurprisingly, the court accepted this claim. (Note 11).

In actually democratic countries, meanwhile, parties are obligated to adhere to fair and transparent statutory legal procedures in their operations. (Besides, even a corporation would have a fiduciary duty to follow the rules it has proclaimed).

  1. Ballot access restrictions

That money has corrupted the system should hardly come as a surprise, but what is less apparent at first glance is how political competition is obstructed by a massive bulwark of byzantine regulations – the ballot access laws – that are designed to protect the deeply ensconced two-party duopoly.

The dominance of the two parties has not come about as a result of voters’ sympathies as expressed in natural democratic competition, but rather through devious manipulation of laws for the aim of securing monopolies for the establishment parties. Each state has enacted its own laws for determining the procedures for parties and candidates to be officially registered to run for office. Rather than attempting to level the playing field, these laws guarantee automatic ballot access to the monopoly parties while barring the door to rivals who could potentially threaten the absolute power of the oligarchs that these parties represent.

While the Democratic and Republican parties get on the ballot automatically, challengers must attempt to file separately in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Ballot access laws are determined by each state separately, and different rules apply for presidential, congressional, state and local elections. Presidential candidates from non-monopoly parties have to petition for ballot access in each state. This means navigating absurdly cumbersome procedures in each state separately and, among other things, having to collect some 1.5 million signatures nationwide. Furthermore, the rules and timing are different in every state, making it very difficult to overcome each state’s barrage of obstacles while meeting all of the deadlines.

In those states where a third party is unable to overcome the filing hurdles, voters are denied the opportunity to vote against the oligarchy. And of course a vicious cycle takes hold: because it is practically impossible to get on the ballot in all states, third-party candidates who are not on the ballet everywhere are seen as lacking national appeal, making them less attractive to voters (and, of course, this reinforces the difficulty of getting on the ballot in the future). Voters are loath to “waste their votes” on candidates who are deemed not to have a winning chance, an impression solidified by the lack of media coverage for such candidates.

Most states also apply rules requiring that a party meet a certain vote threshold in a recent election in order to keep its ballot status for the next election. For example, in Alabama a party needs to garner 20% in a state-wide election to retain ballot access. Such thresholds are set so high that they form an automatic party liquidation guillotine: few third parties ever make it on to the ballet and almost none make it regularly. This means that no momentum is ever achieved and the process of reforming the party and relaunching attempts to make the ballot must be done every few years. For would-be third-party activists it’s a hopeless proposition.

Such arbitrary restrictions and onerous obstacles toward even standing for election is practically unheard of anywhere else. Such a system doesn’t exist anywhere in the free world and may be bewildering for those accustomed to thinking of America as a beacon of democracy. The restrictiveness of America’s “democracy” is more appropriately compared to any number of “third-world” countries in which either only one party is allowed (such as North Korea) or where opposition parties exist but are cast to the far periphery of the political system. America certainly falls squarely in this category, but its innovation is to scrupulously maintain the façade of democratic processes, which essentially amount to carefully staged sparring, mostly over irrelevant issues, for the sake of maintaining the illusion of political plurality.

The restrictive ballot access laws also greatly diminish democratic competition in state legislative elections. In 2012, about one-third of all state House and Senate candidates ran unopposed – quite similar to how it was back in the USSR. (Note 12).

Examples of how the oligarch-owned monopoly parties are favored

The ballot access laws vary enormously from state to state, both in terms of the nature and severity of the requirements. North Carolina, with a population of about 9.8 million, requires almost 90,000 signatures. (Note 13). Oklahoma requires a petition signed by voters equal to 5% of the vote cast in the previous election. An independent presidential candidate, or the presidential candidate of a non-qualified party, may get on the ballot with a petition representing 3% of the last presidential vote. To remain qualified for the next election, a party must garner at least 2% of the total vote in the gubernatorial election.

In Nebraska, the rigged rules fast-track parties that received at least 5% of the vote in a statewide race. Nevada has doubled down on the election rigging by demanding that a party achieve 10% in the preceding general election for Congress.

Another example of egregious hurdles is Maryland’s requirement that an independent candidate collect four times as many signatures as a major-party candidate. In Florida, an independent presidential candidate needs 110,000 signatures, while Texas requires independent candidates to collect signatures equaling 1% of the previous presidential vote.

Georgia gives automatic ballot access to a political party whose candidate received at least 20% of the votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election or whose candidate in the last presidential election received at least 20%.

Kentucky uses a three-tiered system for ballot access based on the results of the previous presidential election. Only parties whose candidate for president achieved at least 20% of the popular vote are considered “political parties,” whereas those getting between 2% and 20% get the status of “political organization,” and those with less than 2% of the vote are deemed a “political group.” These classifications then determine the hurdles that must be overcome to get onto the next ballot. Clearly, parties that can’t even be classified as parties struggle to make headway.

Pennsylvania extends the “political party” status to a party that manages at least 2% in the most recent election, but after a two-year grace period a party must meet the outrageous threshold of having voter enrollment of no less than 15% of the state’s total party enrollment.

Et cetera and so on and so forth. Some states have been more innovative than others in putting in place a system that suppresses democratic choice.

Follow the links below for a closer look at all of the restrictive ballot access rules:

Only billionaires can attempt to overcome the hurdles – and even then often in vain

Only a well-established national movement – or a billionaire – could put together an organization that could even theoretically overcome the filing hurdles in all 50 states. This system of obstruction of the democratic process has worked precisely as intended: with the sole exception of billionaire Ross Perot, there has not been a single viable candidate outside of the monopoly parties.

In the 2016 election, while the Democratic and Republican parties were automatically on the ballot in all 50 states, the only other party that managed to get ballot access in all states was the Libertarian Party. The Green Party, which is a viable and increasingly popular alternative in many other countries, was left off the ballot in six states. The Constitution Party made it on to the ballot in just 24 states.

The billionaire Ross Perot ran in 1992 as an independent and in 1996 representing the Reform Party, which was set up specifically for his campaign. However, because the party had difficulty navigating the restrictive ballot laws, he was forced to run as an independent in some states. In 1992, he received 18.9% of the popular vote, making him the most successful third-party presidential candidate in terms of the popular vote since Theodore Roosevelt in the 1912 election.

You can collect all the signatures you want, but it won’t help

It was estimated that in the 2016 election an independent candidate would have needed to collect a staggering 880,000 valid signatures to meet the thresholds in all states combined. (Note 14). But because the monopoly parties regularly challenge the legitimacy of the signatures that are collected, opposition parties must collect double that amount to stay above the thresholds. This is because there is a very real and proven risk that as many as half of the signatures can be declared invalid on absurd technicalities that are concocted following legal harassment by the monopoly parties. For example, signing “Bill” instead of “William” or leaving out a middle initial are among the many pretenses for signatures being disqualified. (Note 15).

Not only must candidates collect a prohibitive amount of signatures, but whoever ventures to do so should also be ready for a protracted legal battle to defend against endless litigation instigated by an army of attorneys that the monopoly parties can summon in order to obstruct third parties and independents in their efforts to register. The establishment lawyers, aided by corrupt state officials, go to great lengths to challenge the accuracy of candidate filings and often reject the authenticity of signatures on whatever flimsy or fabricated grounds they can find. (Note 16).

A case in point is the outrageous treatment that independent candidate Ralph Nader was subjected to in his 2004 presidential bid. (Note 17). After Nader’s campaign had managed to gather and file the needed signatures in all 50 states, the Democratic Party and its stooges mounted a campaign to challenge all of Nader’s filings. They ended up filing 29 complaints in 19 states against Nader’s campaign with the aim to get Nader stricken from the ballot. And, sure enough, they succeeded in taking him off the ballot in Pennsylvania, Oregon, Missouri, Virginia, Ohio and several other states. Pennsylvania’s measures aimed at keeping independent candidates out included, in addition to the punitively high number of required signatures, a prohibition on people from out-of-state collecting signatures on behalf of a candidate and the requirement that every signature sheet be separately notarized. In Pennsylvania, a lawyer for the Democratic Party successfully invalidated – for ridiculous reasons – the authenticity of over 30,000 of Nader’s signatures. (Note 18). For Pennsylvania Democrats it was not enough, though, to simply take Nader off the ballot, they also proceeded to present him with a large bill for lawyers’ fees as a punishment for having had the audacity to encroach on the duopoly’s turf. Nader then became the first candidate in American history to be penalized, with a legal bill totaling $81,102, just for the crime of attempting to run for public office. (Note 19).

This later unfolded into a giant corruption scandal, which ultimately put members of both duopoly parties behind bars. It emerged that the Democratic Party had illegally enlisted an army of state officials to participate in the concentrated attack on Nader’s campaign. Not only were they working at taxpayers’ expense, but they even received about $2.3 million in government bonuses for their subversive activities. But, remarkably, even as it was proved that Nader’s petitions were challenged via illegal means, his $81,000 bill for the legal fees of his inquisitors stood. And no lessons were gleaned from the affair. Two years after Nader’s failed bid, Pennsylvania’s Green Party tried to run Carl Romanelli for US Senate against Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Rick Santorum. Romanelli managed to collect more than 100,000 signatures (more than the formally required 67,000), but he too ended up being challenged and knocked off the ballot. And, again, the Democratic Party’s legal fees were billed to Romanelli as the losing party. Since then in Pennsylvania numerous other independent candidates have been equally destroyed through various means.

With the path to the presidency littered with the bones of brutally snuffed out third-party bids, both Democrat-cum-Republican Donald Trump and Democrat-cum-Republican-then-independent-and-Democrat again Michael Bloomberg understood that working within one of the two parties – and using their massive financial resources – was a far more promising strategy than mounting a quixotic third-party bid. But the flip-flopping history of party affiliation of those billionaire tycoons clearly shows how the two parties are essentially interchangeable electioneering tools for the elite and that neither party is overly concerned with ideology or convictions.

The Constitution is not to blame

The morass of elections laws is often defended on the premise that it should be the prerogative of the individual states to set their own laws even for federal elections. However, Article I, Section 4 of the United States Constitution says that, while election laws are primarily set by state legislatures, Congress has the power to alter them as it sees fit. And indeed, Congress has done so by enacting uniform nationwide campaign spending laws – those very laws that were undermined by the Supreme Court’s nationwide rulings. In 1967, Congress also passed a law that mandated single-member districts across the country, which demonstrates that the Constitution and federal structure of the United States are not actually obstacles to conducting democratic reform of the ballot access laws, if only there were the will to democratize the country.

Richard Winger, in his article “How Ballot Access Laws Affect the U.S. Party System,” demonstrated that the Supreme Court has been a conniving partner in letting states tighten their ballot access laws with practically no limits. Although the Court has from time to time made a token gesture some excesses in the ballot restrictions, such instances have never managed to set a precedent for curbing undemocratic practice. Winger writes that the Court’s ballot access decisions, taken together, have actually had the effect of increasing the severity of the laws, rather than ameliorating them. (Note 20).

Winger’s article also gives a lucid account of the history of these restrictive rules and how the screws have been gradually tightened.

There is nothing good in the supposed stability that a two-party system brings

Winger writes: “In a normal two-party system, there are still significant third parties. In the United States, there were significant third parties before 1930, but there have not been any since then. The reason there are no longer any significant third parties is because the ballot access laws have become severe.” (Note 21).

Apologists for the US two-party system argue that governments are typically more stable in two-party systems, because viewpoints on the fringes of societal discourse are supposedly neutralized. Wikipedia, for example, hilariously writes: “First-past-the-post minimizes the influence of third parties and thus arguably keeps out extremists.” (Note 22).

However, a US-style managed two-party system protected by rigged laws and court rulings provides as much stability as the USSR one-party system did, all while destroying political competition and depriving the system of the flexibility and mechanisms to adapt to new realities. A two-party system lacks any safety valves to let steam out, meaning the problems just pile up until the pressure is such that the whole system implodes. This has now happened with the US economy, a circumstance for which the rigid two-party system deserves heavy blame. The economic catastrophe in the US is in plain sight for anyone to see, same with the US healthcare debacle, but it is the rotten political monopoly of the corporate elite that has so steadfastly prevented the real issues from being addressed.

What is interesting – and underscores the undemocratic nature of the system – is that surveys consistently show that independents easily outnumber both Democrats and Republicans and that voters overwhelmingly would want to have another choice. (Note 23). In fact, 43% of Americans identify as politically independent. (Note 24).

More problems have piled up to destroy US democracy

In addition to the three main issues discussed above, I will briefly list a number of additional problems that contribute to the huge democracy deficiency in the United States.

(4) The US does not have a proportional voting system, which would force the monopoly parties to be alert to the real needs of society and which would guarantee political representation for competing ideas. Instead, plurality voting is practiced, which means there is a system of single-member districts where the winner takes all even if it does not achieve a majority of votes (first past the pole). In some states, the system is modified with a runoff between the two candidates who got most votes in the first round. A truly democratic system would require a proportional distribution of seats based on party totals.

Some of the election systems are truly absurd. A good example is California’s so-called “top-two” primary system, in which all candidates from all parties must participate in a primary, while the top two vote-getters – even if from the same party – move on to the general election. That really shows that the sham two-party system is, in reality, a one-party system.

(5) The problem with the single-member voting districts has been exacerbated by the practice of gerrymandering, which refers to the system of manipulatively redrawing the boundaries of electoral constituencies. This is done to establish an unfair advantage for one of the monopoly parties or for certain favored candidates within a party. In either case, the effect is to diminish competition.

(6) Large parts of the electorate have been disenfranchised, that is, unconstitutionally deprived of their right to vote. Every state except Maine and Vermont prevents inmates from voting while in prison for a felony. Once released from prison, voter eligibility varies widely by state. A few states – mostly Southern states with large black populations – permanently deny the right to vote to all ex-convicts. That is nothing short of an extra-judiciary punishment, which is designed to prevent the poor and most oppressed sectors of US society from participating in the electoral process.

Over the last half century, the number of disenfranchised individuals has increased dramatically along with the rise in the inmate populations, from an estimated 1.17 million in 1976 to 6.1 million today. (Note 25). Nationally, 13% of the African-American population (an even higher percentage in some states) are now denied the right to vote because of felony convictions. (Note 26).

How capricious the system is can be seen from a case in Alabama, where a man was blocked from voting because he owed the state $4. (Note 27).

(7) Another absurd feature of the American election system is voter registration. In order to retain the right to vote, American voters must register in advance. In a true democracy, it is the obligation of the government to ensure that all citizens have easy and equal access to voting. It is the government’s duty to put in place a system for registering voters and not mandate that voters undergo cumbersome procedures. In democratic countries – like Russia – a voter is automatically enrolled based on residence. It is the obligation of the government to ensure that all citizens are entered in electoral rolls. Usually, this is done through the requirement that each individual provide his or her address to the authorities. But the US voter registration system is a totally arbitrary process that is frequently used to prevent – again – the poor and oppressed from voting. But sometimes the arbitrariness of this works the other way: voter registration laws are sometimes made so lax that non-citizen immigrants can unconstitutionally vote. This is the case, for example, in California, which does not require proof of citizenship for voter registration.

It gets more absurd from the point of view of a democracy when we consider that, when registering a voter, a party affiliation – Democrat, Republican or independent – must be indicated. The inability to conceal one’s political preferences means that there is no voting secrecy in the US. And this is public data for anybody to see, for example, a potential employer.

Altogether, there are 31 states (plus the District of Columbia) that indicate a party when registering voters. In aggregate, 40% of all voters in party registration states are Democrats, 29% are Republicans, and 28% are independents. Nationally, the Democratic advantage in the party registration states approaches 12 million. (Note 28).

(8) After voter registration, there is the problem of voter identification at the poll station. For example, California has no law requiring that voters present photo identification, although sometimes it ends up being required anyway. But when voters do need to identify themselves they can provide any one of the following as proof: a California identification number, the last four digits of their social security number, a copy of a recent utility bill, a sample ballot booklet sent from the county election office, a student ID or a driver’s license. Of course, a passport can also be presented, but why bother when a utility bill is enough.

(9) Interference in politics and elections by law enforcement and intelligence agencies under the control of the US Deep State. Even with practically all aspects of the electoral system totally rigged in favor of the two monopoly parties, the establishment has lately been having problems with ensuring the desired election outcomes and therefore has resorted to openly employing their administrative resources in the State Department, law enforcement (DOJ, FBI) and intelligence agencies (CIA and the other 16 sisters) to interfere in elections. Most blatantly this has occurred in connection with the events subsumed under the Russiagate witch hunt. While cynically levying false accusations at Russia for meddling in the US elections, these agencies were actually engaged in this mendacious – not to mention treasonous – activity themselves. (Note 29).

(10) Finally, in winding up this discussion of the distortions in the American political system, I would be remiss if I did not mention a particularly lurid piece of American Kabuki theater – the public debates among the candidates. Whereas in more democratic countries debates are usually open to all candidates who meet a reasonable minimum threshold in America the show is reserved exclusively for duopoly candidates. The debates themselves are mostly platforms for empty clichés, prepared one-line zingers and vacuous rallying cries about the greatness of the country. The show is carefully managed in such a way as to keep meaningful issues from being addressed, thus preventing any challenge to the agenda of the establishment.

When televised presidential election debates started in 1976, the organizer was the nonpartisan League of Women Voters. However, the LWV withdrew in 1988 in protest of the major-party candidates attempts to dictate nearly every aspect of how the debates were conducted. (Note 30). In the statement announcing its withdrawal, the LWV prophetically stated that “the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter.” This allowed the duopoly to seize full control of the debates through a vehicle called the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which since its inception has been headed by former chairs of the national committees of the two major parties. In order to exclude third-party candidates, a rule was instituted that to qualify for a debate candidates must garner at least 15% in opinion polls and must be on the ballot in a certain number of states, which in itself is extremely hard, as we saw above.

Ross Perot is the only third-party candidate to have crashed the party of CPD-organized debates, having found his way onto the stage during his 1992 presidential run. The CPD itself was against Perot’s inclusion, but both major party candidates, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, were convinced that Perot would do more damage to the other one and therefore wanted him included. As it turned out, it was Bush who miscalculated with that gamble. (Note 31).

At a 2000 presidential debate, meanwhile, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader was not even allowed to sit in the audience – much less participate – even though he had a ticket to be a spectator.

Typically for America, the CPD presidential debates are also a great platform for corporate sponsors, who display their advertisement during the show. Tobacco giant Phillip Morris was a major sponsor in 1992 and 1996, while Anheuser-Busch sponsored presidential debates in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012.

The way the Democratic Party has been rigging its primary debates – in an already familiar pattern – provides further insight into how the debate shenanigans work. In this recent primary season, the DNC actually changed the rules in order to exclude the undesired Tulsi Gabbard, who had committed the mortal sin of expressing views that questioned establishment orthodoxy. (Note 32). This came after the DNC earlier changed a different set of qualification rules so as to let Michael Bloomberg, who was not even on the ballot in the first primary states, buy his way onto the debate stage. (Note 33).Jon Hellevig

Some international comparison

The extreme disparity of the burdens placed on new parties versus the old established parties in the US has no parallel in any other democratic nation in the world. (Note 34). A research project conducted jointly by Harvard University and the University of Sydney ranked the United States worst in the West for fair elections. (Note 35).

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) – which is about the only international organization allowed to monitor US elections – has frequently criticized the US for its restrictive ballot access laws and other serious shortcomings. (Note 36).

Concluding remarks – RIP democracy

I have earlier written an essay on how I view the essence of democracy, which appeared as Book II “On Democratic Competition” in my philosophy book All is Art http://www.hellevig.net/allisart.pdf (Note 37). I regard true democracy as a function of societal competition, or more precisely, the competition for regulating power relations in society.

It thus follows that democratic competition must be fair and conducted on equal terms for all participants, that is, all citizens. Democratic competition is the cumulative result of complex interrelations in all spheres of social life, and it is largely the overall condition of a society that fosters or hinders such competition. The quality of a democracy – whether it is an authentic one or it is badly compromised – is a function of all these conditions in their infinite variances.

For it to be fair and conducted on equal terms, this competition must be free from monopolistic forces that prevent all members of society from participating on equal terms. As we saw from the analysis of what counts as the democratic system in the US, all of the major components affecting the democratic processes have been consolidated in the hands of the plutocracy. The oligarchs have essentially privatized the political system and are able to exert disproportionate and usually decisive influence on outcomes that should be open-ended. Having bought the state legislatures, the oligarchs have enacted self-serving ballot access laws. With their money, they totally control all election-related avenues for mass communication, including the televised debates. They own the media, which denies 99% of the population a platform for their opinions and effectively filters out all alternate views.

Freedom of speech should be seen not only as a right to voice one’s opinions in the local bar but as entailing equal access to the means of communication, i.e. the media. Of course, this is not the case, which means there is not a level playing field for democratic competition – and this means no real democracy. The oligarch takeover of the US media has meant that huge censorship and propaganda machines have replaced what should be open and free discourse. The absence of true competition in the media has meant that not just is there no real freedom of speech but that the media has issued to itself a license to lie with impunity while sanctimoniously proclaiming the existence of a free press.

Elections should be considered only as the culmination of democratic competition when all other necessary conditions in a society are in place. But where such conditions for a democratic choice are absent, it can actually be more harmful for democracy (the sovereign power of the people) to carry on voting at the polls in what amounts to sham elections. To do is to perpetuate the system and implicitly provide one’s consent to the falsehood. What the US political elite is trying to sell us is that democracy means nothing more than periodically conducting elections between nearly identical oligarch-owned parties. In other words, we are to believe that as long as the form remains the substance can be cast aside. But if measured by that standard, even the USSR was democratic – once in a while people were dutifully summoned to the polls to confirm the absolute power of the monopolist.

As I have defined democracy, it must be seen and analyzed as a social practice, a phenomenon brought about by people’s interactions in all their myriad forms. This understanding of democracy as a social practice has not been properly appreciated. Scholars have tended to define democracy through formal and legalistic criteria, such as the existence of certain institutions and certain formal supposed legal safeguards of those systems (a system of courts, periodic elections, etc.). But as long as scholars do not move beyond those concepts to analyze what the institutions actually stand for, they fail to detect – or fail to admit – the obvious deficiencies of democracy in countries in which these formal criteria are met but where the democratic processes have seriously eroded. This is particularly pertinent in countries – such as the US – where much effort has been expended to maintain the illusion of democracy. My aim has been to bring about the understanding needed tackle this question by looking at the constituent phenomena of the social practice of democracy.

Today, precious little real democracy remains in the countries that boast of being democratic. The concept of “democracy” has been totally detached from the actual reality and is being maintained as a ritual symbol. Now utterly devoid of content, the word is incanted as a charm to instill the feeling among American and European regime subjects that they belong to a good and virtuous society and that they are empowered to influence the course of that society.

The indoctrinated classes speak of liberal democracy (by which they mean Western democracy), which they imagine to be a representative government put in power by free and pluralistic elections. The fantasy extends to a belief that the system is based on a separation of powers among a legislature, executive and judiciary. Of course, this is no longer the case: these branches operate in unison and the plutocracy presides over them all. Other incantations include the “rule of law”, “open society”, “Western values”, “human rights” and “market economy.” All of these are hollow shells of ideas that in our day and time mostly serve the purpose of virtue-signaling. The reality is that Western societies have turned into full-fledged repressive surveillance and propaganda states, in which any features of an open society were long ago eradicated. There is absolutely no market economy, but rather a totally monopolized crony capitalist system in which, as we are seeing now, corporate interests are bailed out at the first sign of trouble.

Scholars claim that liberal democracy supposedly is based on the principles of classical liberalism. Nothing could be further from the truth. But, their most pathetic theory is the so-called “democratic peace theory.” This fantasy posits that these “liberal democracies” are hesitant to engage in armed conflict with other democracies. Several factors have been promoted as justifying the democratic peace theory, one more hilarious than the other:

  • Democratic leaders are forced to accept culpability for war losses to a voting public;
  • Publicly accountable statespeople are inclined to establish diplomatic institutions for resolving international tensions;
  • Democracies are not inclined to view countries with adjacent policy and governing doctrine as hostile;
  • Democracies tend to possess greater public wealth than other states, and therefore eschew war to preserve infrastructure and resources.

(List derived from Wikipedia).

Let’s imagine that to be true, then what explains that these Western countries have been ready and raring to incessantly wage wars of aggression against the rest of the world, the countries they define as not belonging to the club of democracies? Moreover, these Western “liberal democracies” do not go to war with each other, because they are all essentially occupied subjects of the United States.

In my book, I describe the conditions for an ideal, true democracy. But that does not mean that I think that such a democracy is possible; on the contrary, nothing of the sort can ever actually exist. Any open society will be attacked by oligarchs, who will try to subjugate it under their rule – and most often they succeed. This is true both domestically in their own countries and abroad. The US-based oligarchs and their helpers in Europe have over the last century assaulted every single nation on the planet. No country should ever leave itself vulnerable to such aggression. Each should devise a sovereign system of governance that is fair and based on real justice (social, economic, and moral) without playing the fool’s game of so-called Western “liberal democracy.” China has set a good example of this.

NOTES COME AFTER APPENDIX

APPENDIX

CAMPPAIGN FINANCE LAWS, SMOKE AND MIRRORS

The US is obsessed with campaign finance regulations, which are structured so that if anything is restricted by one rule, it is allowed by another. There’s a Russian adage that perfectly describes the essence of the US campaign finance laws: “If it is forbidden, but you very much want it, then go ahead.”

Below is a summary of the campaign finance laws governing federal elections.

Candidates are free to use their personal funds for campaign purposes without any limits, but accepting campaign contributions from others is restricted – unless you use any number of the gaping loopholes available to circumvent the restrictions. An individual person can contribute only $2,000 directly to a candidate, per election. But whereas donations to individual candidates are limited to that relatively small amount, the backdoor is wide open. Individuals can donate as much as $777,600 per year to party committees, while if a spouse is included, a family contribution can reach $1,555,200 per year. These limits are reported as they stand after having been generously increased tenfold in 2014 in a drive to allow ever larger sway over the elections for the super-rich. According to oligarch shills, this enormous money would not be fatal for democracy, because it is “only allowed to go to special accounts earmarked for specific purposes, such as party headquarters maintenance, recount preparations and presidential conventions” and that the “money cannot legally be used for other purposes.” (Note 38).

One of the backdoors designed for circumventing campaign finance restrictions is for a lobbyist to assist a congressman in amassing campaign finance by arranging fundraisers, assembling PACs, and seeking donations from other clients. Yet more effective than gathering hard money (direct contributions to a candidate) is to work with soft money campaign finance. Soft money is the real hardcore of campaign finance. Soft money exploits the loophole in federal campaign finance and spending laws that exempts contributions made for general party-building rather than – ostensibly – for a specific candidate. This is a form of political money laundering, because the state party committees send the soft money up to the national party headquarters, which then can spend the money at its discretion without restrictions. (Note 39).

In addition to contributions given directly to candidates (candidate committees) and parties, individuals can contribute to a variety of political action committees (PAC). The limit for individual contributions to these are $5,000. Connected PACs can be set up by corporations, non-profits, labor unions, trade groups, or health organizations. These PACs are allowed to accept contributions only from managers and shareholders or members in the case of unions and non-profit organizations. The sponsor of a Connected PAC may absorb all the administrative costs of operating the PAC and its fundraising activities. A slightly other form is the Non-Connected PAC, which must bear its own administrative costs. PACs can give $5,000 to a candidate committee per election (primary, general or special). They can also give up to $15,000 annually to any national party committee, and $5,000 annually to any other PAC.

Another vehicle designed to circumvent the original campaign finance restrictions is something called a Leadership PAC. These are PACs set up by elected officials and parties that make “independent expenditures.” If the expenditure is supposedly not coordinated with the candidate, there is no limit to how much can be spent on that candidate’s campaign. Leadership PACs are non-connected PACs, meaning they can accept donations from individuals and other PACs – so there’s another backdoor wide open. A leadership PAC sponsored by an elected official cannot use funds to support that official’s own campaign, but no worries, it may fund travel, administrative expenses, consultants, polling, and “other non-campaign expenses,” as they call them.

Move one level up on the ladder of campaign finance schemes and you encounter the “independent expenditure committees,” commonly known as Super PACs. These are campaign finance vehicles that masquerade as third-party groups allowed to advocate for or against any candidate or issues, “as long as there is no coordination, consultation or request by any campaign or candidate.” That’s a fig leaf, if ever there was one. Everybody knows that coordinating is exactly what they do.

Tired of dabbling in a few thousand dollars, the heavy hitters have embraced these Super PACs. These represent the ultimate invention in free-for-all campaign finance, as they can raise unlimited amounts of funds, with the additional beauty that corporations, too, may invest as much as they want. While traditional PACs can donate directly to a candidate’s campaign fund, the Super PACs are not allowed to make direct contributions to candidates or parties and must ostensibly limit themselves to political spending independently of the campaigns. They are allowed to pay for ads supporting their favorite candidate and discrediting the opponents as long as they “act independently” and “do not coordinate” with the official campaign of the candidate they support. So according to the legal legend, Super PACs are independent from candidates, but obviously the reality is that their directors have close personal connections to the candidate and the campaign they support. (Note 40).

Super PACs are the ultimate dens of the political spin doctors, where nasty and abusive mudslinging ads attacking the opponents of the candidates that they are whitewashing are devised.

In addition to hard and soft money, the American campaign corruption menu includes dark money. Dark money refers to political spending by nonprofit organizations (referred to as 501(c) organizations). These are allowed to raise unlimited amounts from corporations and individuals, and to spend these unlimited amounts any way they wish. They call it dark money because that’s exactly what it is: the identity of the donors and of the campaigns, candidates and other possible recipients of the money, as well as the amounts raised and spent, are exempt from disclosure requirements. The flooding of elections with dark money was made possible by the US Supreme Court’s decision in Buckley v. Valeo. (More on this below).

Dark money syndicates are distinct from Super PACs. Both can raise and spend unlimited sums of money, but super PACs must disclose their donors, while dark money syndicates don’t have to do that and must not (ostensibly) have politics as their primary purpose. This is no problem for the US oligarchs, as they simply set up both types of entities to get the best of both worlds. This way corporations and individuals can donate as much as they want to the nonprofit, which isn’t required to publicly disclose funders. The nonprofit could then donate as much as it wanted to the Super-PAC, which lists the nonprofit’s donation but not the original contributors.” (Note 41).

Money is speech. Really?

The Super PACs were in essence generated by two highly questionable judicial decisions. In January 2010, the Supreme Court established in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that the government may not prohibit corporations from making independent expenditures for political purposes. Only two months later, in Speechnow.org v. FEC, the Federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that contributions to groups that only make independent expenditures could not be limited in either size or source.

The super-rich have always been dominate in funding political campaigns – directly with their money, through the media they own and by their shadowy nonprofits – but these decisions finally obliterated a century of campaign finance laws and opened the spigots for unlimited political corruption by oligarch special interests in order to give them absolute dominance and free rein for total political propaganda.

The Supreme Court’s extraordinary maneuver to further rig the campaign finance laws in favor of the super-rich was based on two questionable legal theories that took root in the mid-1970s. One held that money is speech and the other that corporations are people. (Note 42). These fabricated legal principles were needed in order to create the framework for the politically motivated claim that a restriction on the amount of money that the super-rich can use for buying elections supposedly meant an infringement on First Amendment protected freedom of speech. Then, because free speech, like any other human right, can only belong to people, the court declared that corporations are people. In the case that established these doctrines, Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the majority opinion, defended this juridical fraud by arguing that that limits on using corporate funds for campaigns were supposedly a “classic example of censorship.”

The perverted “money is speech” doctrine first appeared in a 1976 decision, Buckley v. Valeo, which invalidated some campaign-finance reforms that had come out of the Watergate drama. (Note 43). The Supreme Court then concluded that most limits on campaign expenditures, and some limits on donations, are unconstitutional because money is in itself speech and the “quantity of expression”– the amounts of money – can’t be limited. (sic! – or should we say sick!) What the Supreme Court did is to declare that corporations should have a First Amendment right to spend limitless amounts to meddle in US elections.

Obviously, the legal construction of a corporation means that it has some features of a person, mainly the right to register the title for assets and enter into agreements – which is why they are called legal persons – but the extension of corporate personhood to protection of free speech is an extraordinary invention.

The US Supreme Court, the guarantor of oligarch rule

Obviously, these court decisions are totally politically motivated and aimed at securing the super-rich’s overwhelming control over the US government. The US Supreme Court is not an independent arbiter of justice but rather a club of servants for the elite few. The appointment of a Supreme Court judge is an entirely political process. A candidate is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Considering that the presidents and the senators all are totally dependent on oligarch finance, oligarch media and of all the structures of the oligarch Deep State, the Supreme Court justices unsurprisingly serve the same interests. Considering that the Constitution does not set any qualification criteria for Supreme Court judges, better independent judicial protection would be achieved if the judges were appointed by lottery among all serving US judges.

This political process of appointment of judges essentially nullifies the constitutional principle of separation of powers, which holds that the three branches of government – executive, legislative, judicial – are kept independent from each other. With the politicized court the constitutionally intended checks and balances between the branches of power have essentially been wiped out.

These campaign finance shenanigans are part of an endless stream of rulings that show that the Supreme Court is following a political agenda favoring the already rich rather than administering justice. As David Kairys wrote: “At its core, this line of cases is about dominance of the political and electoral system by wealthy people and corporations and about legitimizing a political and electoral system that is unrepresentative, money-driven, corrupt, outmoded, and dysfunctional. Wealthy people and corporate managers shouldn’t dominate politics or have more and better speech rights than the rest of us. That seems like an obvious truth. And yet the Supreme Court’s recent decisions move us away from it.” (Note 44). All Court decisions in these matters (and not only these) have been heavily biased towards enabling the richest one percent to buy outsized influence of the US government. (Note 45). It is obvious beyond any doubt that the money-is-speech theory is nothing but a rhetorical device used exclusively to solidify this trend and to provide First Amendment protection for all money that wealthy people and businesses want to spend on election interference. (Note 46).

The oligarch shill Roger Pilon, in a speech to the libertarian stink tank Cato Institute, said that “the Court has said that regulations of political contributions and expenditures will be upheld only if they achieve a compelling governmental interest by the least restrictive means.” (Note 47). See, compelling governmental interest is the question. With “governmental interest,” we must mean the interest of the government as a custodian of the people, that is, the people’s interest. Then the question really is what more compelling reason could there possibly be to restrict this falsely advertised “free speech” than guaranteeing an equal value to everyone’s vote. Government precisely has a compelling interest in fostering equal participation in the election processes and stopping the corrosion of democratic ideals that results when election costs spiral out of control and only the super-wealthy have influence.(Note 48).

The Supreme Court has been extremely choosy in implementing its newfound love for free speech

It is also clear that the Supreme Court has been extremely choosy in implementing its free speech policy. When it comes to forms of speech other than the dollars drowning the voices of the people, the government and the corrupted courts have had no qualms about passing laws and judicial resolutions that run roughshod over free speech. (Note 49).

More generally, the Court has not employed its free speech theories uniformly, but only when they suit their agenda. (Note 50). In the last few decades, the Supreme Court has limited speech rights for demonstrators, students, and whistleblowers. It has restricted speech at shopping malls and transit terminals. Taken as a whole the establishment’s pocket court’s First Amendment jurisprudence has enlarged the speech rights available to wealthy people and corporations and restricted the speech rights available to people of ordinary means and to dissenters. (Note 51).

The Court has in particular developed as so-called “secondary effects” doctrine, according to which the government is allowed to restrict speech if other purposes justify it. (Note 52). Thus, if the Court in reality believed its fabricated money-is-speech theory, then it would have good reason to conclude that this money-speech may legally be restricted in order to uphold the democratic principle of equal participation in elections, for which purpose it is necessary to restrict the ability of the super-rich to buy the elections wholesale. (Note 53).

It is also telling that when the Court struck down campaign finance limits by reference to this money-is-speech doctrine, it did not go all the way. What it did was to allow unlimited election campaign finance for corporations. That’s free speech, the Court opined. But at the same time, it upheld other restrictions on campaign finance. In particular, it reasoned that the restrictions on the amounts individuals could contribute to campaigns and other direct contributions (as opposed to the fictitious “independent expenditures”) were justified to avoid corruption. So, miraculously there was no problem with the same free speech principles in restricting the freedom of money-speech of the actual humans for whose protection the First Amendment was actually enacted. Essentially, corporations were given unlimited free speech protections that were denied to actual people. This just goes to show how politically expedient the court rulings are and how flimsy and inconsistent the arguments in support of them are. There is no justice, only rules that the powers that be put in place based on their judgments of how far they can go in a given situation.

NOTES:

1. Morgan Freeman Joins Propaganda War Effort https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/09/24/morgan-freeman-joins-propaganda-war-effort/

2. The Net Worth Of The American Presidents: Washington To Obama https://247wallst.com/banking-finance/2010/05/17/the-net-worth-of-the-american-presidents-washington-to-obama/5/

3. Lofgren, Mike. The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government (2016), p. 71.

4. Bill Clinton says he left the White House $16 million in debt https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/04/the-clintons-erased-16-million-in-debt-and-accumulated-45-million.html

The Obamas reportedly just bought a $12 million home on Martha’s Vineyard. They’re worth 30 times more than when they entered the White House in 2008 — here’s how they spend their millions https://www.businessinsider.com/barack-obama-michelle-obama-net-worth-2018-7

Lofgren, Mike. The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government (2016), p. 78.

5. Ranking the Net Worth of the 115th https://www.rollcall.com/wealth-of-congress/

6. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Net Worth Is Higher Than You Think https://www.financialsamurai.com/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-net-worth-is-higher-than-you-think/

7. Statistical summary of 24-month campaign activity of the 2015-2016 election cycle https://www.fec.gov/updates/statistical-summary-24-month-campaign-activity-2015-2016-election-cycle/

8. Ad spending barrels past $1 billion mark as Mike Bloomberg overwhelms airwaves https://edition.cnn.com/2020/02/28/politics/2020-ad-spending-1-billion/index.html

9. Lofgren, Mike. The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government (2016), p. 67.

10. Ditto, p. 65.

11. DNC to Court: We Are a Private Corporation With No Obligation to Follow Our Rules https://ivn.us/posts/dnc-to-court-we-are-a-private-corporation-with-no-obligation-to-follow-our-rules

12. Santos, Rita. Gerrymandering and Voting Districts (At Issue) (2018).

13. Ditto.

14. The New Poll Tax: Ballot Access Laws Foil Independent Candidates https://www.opednews.com/articles/The-New-Poll-Tax-Ballot-A-by-Peter-Gemma-Election_Independent_Independent-Party_Independent-Voters-160901-723.html

15. Bennett, James T. Stifling Political Competition: How Government Has Rigged the System to Benefit Demopublicans and Exclude Third Parties (Studies in Public Choice) (2008).

The New Poll Tax: Ballot Access Laws Foil Independent Candidates https://www.constitutionparty.com/the-new-poll-tax-ballot-access-laws-foil-independent-candidates/

16. The Real Reason You Can’t Vote for an Independent Candidate https://time.com/4436805/lawrence-lessig-randy-barnett/

17. The Sneaky Silencing of Third-Party Politicians https://psmag.com/news/how-states-are-blocking-a-third-party-run#.8g9r7b4l6

18. The Real Reason You Can’t Vote for an Independent Candidate https://time.com/4436805/lawrence-lessig-randy-barnett/

19. The Sneaky Silencing of Third-Party Politicians https://psmag.com/news/how-states-are-blocking-a-third-party-run#.8g9r7b4l6

20. How Ballot Access Laws Affect the U.S. Party System https://journals.shareok.org/arp/article/view/550

21. Ditto.

22. Wikipedia: Single-member district

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-member_district

23. The Real Reason You Can’t Vote for an Independent Candidate https://time.com/4436805/lawrence-lessig-randy-barnett/

24. The Sneaky Silencing of Third-Party Politicians https://psmag.com/news/how-states-are-blocking-a-third-party-run#.8g9r7b4l6

25. 6 Million Lost Voters: State-Level Estimates of Felony Disenfranchisement, 2016 https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/6-million-lost-voters-state-level-estimates-felony-disenfranchisement-2016/

26. Fix Our Broken System

https://www.gp.org/fix_our_broken_system

27. Alabama blocked a man from voting because he owed $4 https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/feb/27/alabama-voting-rights-alfonzo-tucker?fbclid=IwAR2Mqjc_KvnNkKuoRLuSpoq5w4Tle7nyLfdX_W5OuTg4jhsr0qYPkDJhJoU

28. Registering by Party: Where the Democrats and Republicans Are Ahead https://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/political_commentary/commentary_by_rhodes_cook/registering_by_party_where_the_democrats_and_republicans_are_ahead

29. Tulsi Gabbard: Presidential Candidates Must Also Condemn Election Interference by US Intelligence Agencies https://www.anti-empire.com/tulsi-gabbard-presidential-candidates-must-also-condemn-election-interference-by-us-intelligence-agencies/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily+Headlines

30. Fix Our Broken System https://www.gp.org/fix_our_broken_system

31. How Third Parties Are Kept Out Of Presidential Debates https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-the-hell-how-third-p_b_11277474

32. DNC Scrambles to Change Debate Threshold After Gabbard Qualifies https://consortiumnews.com/2020/03/05/dnc-scrambles-to-change-debate-threshold-after-gabbard-qualifies/?fbclid=IwAR0ozgCxmPsSlaNSomQUZQ4XHZ-lCVQ5ehqGPjORzsN3KI1VI7crjs9VDGM

33. Michael Bloomberg is the only candidate to give money to the DNC. They just changed their rules to let him onto the debate stage https://www.insider.com/dnc-debate-qualification-rules-bloomberg-donation-2020-2

34. Santos, Rita. Gerrymandering and Voting Districts (At Issue) (2018).

35. Land of the Free? Harvard Study Ranks America Worst in the West for Fair Electionhttps://www.globalresearch.ca/land-of-the-free-harvard-study-ranks-america-worst-in-the-west-for-fair-elections/5555383?fbclid=IwAR15nyqQ6XyqHSyM5dAujkU9HJI4BO8M41Xw11htkrOEwqcf7IP9JaPSApc

36. U.S. Elections Are Neither Free Nor Fair. States Need to Open Their Doors to More Observers https://theintercept.com/2018/11/05/u-s-elections-are-neither-free-nor-fair-states-need-to-open-their-doors-to-more-observers/

37. Hellevig, Jon. All is Art. On Social Practices and Interpretation of Feelings. On Democratic Competition. (2007).

38. GOP donors use Cromnibus changes to stuff party committees’ 2016 coffers; Dem donors MIA. https://www.opensecrets.org/

39. Soft Money Is Back — And Both Parties Are Cashing In https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/08/04/soft-money-is-backand-both-parties-are-cashing-in-215456

40. How Super PACS Shape U.S. Elections with Advertisements That Portray Candidates in Ways Publicly Identified Campaign Ads Often Avoid https://scholars.org/contribution/how-super-pacs-shape-us-elections-advertisements-portray-candidates-ways-publicly

41. Super-PACs and Dark Money: ProPublica’s Guide to the New World of Campaign Finance https://v2-www.propublica.org/article/super-pacs-propublicas-guide-to-the-new-world-of-campaign-finance

42. Money Isn’t Speech and Corporations Aren’t People https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2010/01/the-misguided-theories-behind-citizens-united-v-fec.html

43. Ditto.

44. Ditto.

45. Overturning the “Money Is Speech” Doctrine https://democracyisforpeople.org/page.cfm?id=19

46. Ditto.

47. The First Amendment and Restrictions on Political Speech

https://www.cato.org/publications/congressional-testimony/first-amendment-restrictions-political-speech

48. Overturning the “Money Is Speech” Doctrine https://democracyisforpeople.org/page.cfm?id=19

49. Money Isn’t Speech and Corporations Aren’t People https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2010/01/the-misguided-theories-behind-citizens-united-v-fec.html

50. Ditto.

51. Ditto.

52. Secondary Effects Doctrine https://uscivilliberties.org/themes/4457-secondary-effects-doctrine.html

53. Money Isn’t Speech and Corporations Aren’t People https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2010/01/the-misguided-theories-behind-citizens-united-v-fec.html

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