Strategies of Deception
To get a preview of Obama’s strategies for winning a second term, we just need to read the liberal press. They are giving lip-service praise to the current protests while trying to steer them in a direction that serves the Democratic Party. Seeking to restore the fading illusion that the Democrats work in the interests of the 99 percent, they imply that if Obama is given a second term, his true nature will emerge and he’ll crack down on the greed and corruption of the one percent and lead the country in a progressive direction. They conveniently ignore that he’s done the opposite during his three years in office.
They also try to scare us into voting for him by claiming a Republican president would be much worse. In fact the differences between Republicans and Democrats are mostly a matter of image and style. Their military policies are equally aggressive, and their economic policies differ only in nuances. But the Democrats put a friendly face on their administration of capital. Their rhetoric is sprinkled with populist slogans as they’re bailing out banksters and dropping bombs.
The more blatant style of a Republican president might actually be better now because it would generate more opposition at home and abroad. This opposition needs to build into militant resistance before it will produce real change. To prevent this sort of uprising was one of the reasons the corporate elite backed Obama. And until recently he’s succeeded in quieting dissent. With masterful PR legerdemain, he put the antiwar movement to sleep while continuing to fight the wars. Under a Republican president we could revive the spirit of revolt and mobilize the people of the world against the empire. It’s going to take that kind of international struggle to overthrow this colossus.
Another strategy of deception is to claim that the good old days of middle-class prosperity can be brought back. Both major parties say their policies will restore high employment at good wages. But those times are gone. Those were the conditions in the prior, Keynesian phase of capitalism, when the main market for products was the home country. Wage increases were tolerated then because they stimulated consumption. Now the market is global, and corporations face severe competition from emerging industrial powers such as China and India, which have far lower labor costs. To compete with their prices, U.S. and European corporations must slash wages and benefits. If they are to maintain long-term dominance, they must also extend their hold on essential resources. Control over Mideast oil and a pipeline through Afghanistan aren’t just things they’d like to have. They need them to hold on to their power in the present consolidation phase of capitalism, when the less effective predators are eliminated and wealth concentrates in fewer and fewer giant corporations. The system demands they impoverish their workers and kill millions of people. Capitalism is inherently aggressive and predatory, and this intensifies in its later stages. Reforms can’t change its basic nature.
In addition to pushing reformism, the liberal media portray the economic crisis as being a problem of distribution. The 99 percent have too little, the one percent have too much, so the one percent should be taxed and regulated so the rest of us get a fair share. This sounds good, and it has elected a string of Democrats who talk about it while loyally serving the interests of the one percent.
The core problem is not distribution but ownership. If forced to, the one percent will accept higher taxation and regulation, as long as they maintain ownership. With the economic power in their hands, they can reverse the taxes and regulations later, as we have seen.
The only fair share is an equal share for everyone. To achieve that we must take the means of production—the natural resources, factories, banks, and major corporations—away from the one percent and use them for the benefit of us all.
The 99 percent doesn’t need a bigger piece of the pie. We need to own the pie. We planted the seeds for the pie, tilled and harvested them, ground the flour, cut the sugar cane, churned the butter, bake the pie, delivered it to the store, rang up the sale, and made the owners rich. It’s our pie! But we’re going to have to take it back.
We’re not going to do that through liberal regulations and reforms that leave ownership in the hands of the one percent. And we’re also not going to do it through a dictatorship such as the Soviet Union or China. Those societies had no tradition of democracy, so they kept their authoritarian character. We however can build a democratic, decentralized form of socialism.
The first step towards that is to free ourselves from the strategies of deception with which the oligarchs try to shape our minds. The second is to join with others in active struggle. Just being angry isn’t enough; to succeed we must be organized and militant. Socialist Viewpoint is a fine resource for both these steps.
William T. Hathaway is an adjunct professor of American studies at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. His latest book, Radical Peace: People Refusing War, presents the experiences of war resisters, deserters, and peace activists in the U.S.A, Europe, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Chapters are posted on a page of the publisher’s website at http://media.trineday.com/radicalpeace. He is also the author of Summer Snow, the story of an American warrior in Central Asia who falls in love with a Sufi Muslim and learns from her an alternative to the military mentality. Chapters are available at www.peacewriter.org.