The Failure Of Neoliberalism: Right Wing Reactions and Left Wing Solutions

A study by Oxfam just came out this week which shows that the richest 8 people on Planet Earth have more wealth than the bottom 50% of human beings combined.

Think about that…

The report goes on to say:

“While one in nine people on the planet will go to bed hungry tonight, a small handful of billionaires have so much wealth they would need several lifetimes to spend it. The fact that a super-rich elite are able to prosper at the expense of the rest of us at home and overseas shows how warped our economy has become.”

This is what is often referred to as “neoliberalism”; basically globalized capitalism. This is the status quo, and all over the world people from all parts of the political spectrum are beginning to register their discontent with this system. Broadly speaking, there is a Right and a Left reaction to Neo-Liberalism.

The Reaction from the Right

The reaction to the globalized status quo from the right is, well, reactionary. In the face of the chaos and impotence of late stage capitalism, the right angrily recoils, not unlike a snake, into some mythologized past. In the United States, it has taken the form of the electoral victory of a rabid ethno-nationalist, equipped with the not-so-subtle slogan of ‘Make America Great Again’. For the right, the complexity and inequality produced by capitalism is hard to understand, and so they resort to what they have known (or think they have known) by trying to drag the world back to a “simpler time”; into some romanticized version of the past (which, incidentally, never actually existed). The right’s scapegoats, as they have always been, are the simple scapegoats of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. Trump ran on a campaign of white nationalism with virulence aimed at every minority imaginable. Brexiters similarly focused their ire at Muslims and immigrants when they voted to leave the E.U. All over Europe, from Greece to France to Germany, right wing movements are on the rise. This violent bigotry often takes the form of nationalism, a tried and true vehicle for the right.

This, of course, is the predictable response from reactionaries; but as usual, their hyper-simplistic, tribalistic narratives of bigotry and nationalism are viscerally appealing to large swaths of the population in any given country. While the left tries to appeal to the intellects  and sense of history of the people, the right has the advantage of merely having to appeal to their emotions; anger, hatred, confusion, and fear. It’s not pretty, but in times of economic uncertainty, its always been effective.

The Reaction from the Left

The reaction to the globalized status quo from the left is to critique the overarching socio-economic system that is driving the global engine: capitalism itself. We know that the only way to move beyond the stagnation and absurdity of the neoliberal established order is to revolutionize the global economy such that it is controlled by, and works in the name of, common people all over the globe.

Unlike the right’s offer of angry nativism and bigotry, the left offers a more nuanced approach to our problems: one rooted in history, economics, and science (notably environmental science and sociology). The only answer to cartoonish levels of inequality and exploitation (which are inherent features of capitalism) is a socialist economic system. The goal is to take the enormous material gains that capitalism has made possible and employ them for the betterment of all, instead of for the massive enrichment of a relative few.

The equality, sustainability, community control, fairness, internationalism, and cooperation of a global socialist economic system is the only way forward. As the old saying goes: “Socialism or Barbarism”. Although at first glance that statement may seem like a false dichotomy, its becoming increasingly clear that we have very few options on the table. The status quo is dysfunctional, unsustainable, radically unequal, and promotes all types of social neurosis (terrorism, mass shootings, and widespread cases of addiction, anxiety and depression in the population). The right offers solutions to precisely none of these problems… How can they? They do not even understand the problems themselves. Only the left has anything reasonable to say about a possible world after this one, and although there will be differences based on the country, the culture, and the context in which leftist solutions get implemented, the overarching values and principles of the left are undoubtedly progressive and represent our best only chance at improvement from this point forward.

In short, the sophisticated response to neoliberalism, to be sure, is the international and intersectional solidarity, the emphasis on economic and political equality, and the social and cultural progress pushed by the revolutionary left.

Conclusion

Capitalism is eating its own tail. It has served its historical purpose and is now becoming superfluous; but it will not exist the stage gracefully, it must be ushered off.

With the rise of hyper-automation and artificial intelligence, the contradictions of capitalism will only continue to become more stark. The values of capitalism (inequality, competition, infinite growth, etc.) are proving to be unsustainable, exploitative, and existentially dangerous. The rise of the right in the face of capitalism’s failures represents an even more dangerous possibility than neoliberal capitalism itself. Both of these approaches are poisonous.

As a civilization, we are in the middle of a dark tunnel, the neoliberal establishment’s apologists want us all to take a seat, hunker down, and stay where we are for as long as possible (while they ransack the world in the name of “progress”). The right, on the other hand, wants to grab us by the hair and drag us back the way we came; preferring the dull comfort of what we have known to the frightening uncertainty of moving forward. The left, in direct opposition to both, has made out a tiny pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel, and are urging us to move courageously towards it.

I do not know what direction we will ultimately go, but I know that now is not the time to throw your hands up and let the cards fall where they may; it is time to stand up and fight! We cannot hand this world over to the vampires and the fascists…

 

 

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Dear Americans, with regards to Cuba:

Did you know that the water in Flint Michigan is *still* poisoned? Did you know that 1 in 5 American children live in poverty? Did you know that America has more of its citizens in prison than any other country on Planet Earth, both in per capita terms and overall? Did you know that many of those prisoners are used as slave labor to make products for large corporations while only getting a few cents an hour? Have you read the 13th amendment? Did you know that this week in North Dakota the American government is initiating violence against peaceful protesters (i.e. its own citizens), injuring hundreds, and costing one woman her arm, just so a corporation can put an oil pipeline into the ground in the name of profits?

If I’ve never heard you be consistently outspoken about all of these things, then I definitely don’t want to hear your ass lecturing the world on Castro’s “human rights violations”. When did Castro have slavery? When did Castro have segregation? When did Cuba drop a nuke on 100,000 women and children? When did Cuba invade two countries, slaughtering over 100,000 civilians? When did Cuba under Castro commit genocide? When did Cuba prioritize profit over people In their healthcare system? When did Cuba lock up millions of people and subject them to slave labor?

How dare anyone who defends American Capitalism talk about human rights and morality. The moment you defend this rotten system, you lose all credibility.

Another thing: I’ve noticed a lot of Americans call Fidel Castro a dictator, as if we don’t live in a dictatorship ourselves. Do you really think that being able to pick between two rich people every four years means you are free? Do you really think that you have any more voice in your government than the average Cuban citizen has in theirs?

Cuba isn’t perfect, no place is. But, pound for pound, its better than America. Can you imagine what Cuba could do if it was as wealthy as the United States? Do you think that if Cuba had the wealth and resources that the US has, that any of its children would go to bed hungry or have to drink poisoned water for 3 years? And do you think Cuba itself would struggle economically if the largest economy *in the world* didn’t impose a brutal decades-long trade embargo on it?

But even with all the obstacles Cuba faces, 90% of Cubans own their own home. There is a 99.99% literacy rate. There is NO homelessness and NO hunger. Every Cuban citizen has access to a world renowned healthcare system.

There are no billboards or commercials or advertisements. And there is a beautiful, diverse array of cultural and artistic expression.

There is plenty of corruption in the government, and the Castro government is more authoritarian than I would prefer (although given the geopolitical context they must operate in, and the fact that the U.S. has never stopped trying to instigate sabotage and overthrow their government, perhaps this is defensible). There are plenty of leftists organizing in Cuba trying to create a better, less repressive form of political organization. But capitalism is not the answer. They don’t want homeless people and hungry people and fast food restaurants on every corner. They don’t want the wealth inequality, exploitation, and environmental nihilism that comes with capitalism. They want a socialist economy with a freer political system.

I hope they get it. But the positives of Cuban society are not given nearly enough credit in the US, because far too many people passively absorb bourgeois propaganda instead of putting in the work of studying other countries and reaching their own conclusions.

I, for one, applaud the achievements of Cuban socialism, and I hope that the Cuban people can continue to build on those achievements going forward.

Rest in Peace, Fidel.

 

Trump Is Not Our President

Fact: Only 25.5% of Americans voted for Trump. 25.6% voted for Hillary, about 2% voted third party, and over 46% didn’t even vote at all.

When we say “Trump is not our president”, we are not just making a statement about our values, we are making a statement about statistical and mathematical reality. The majority of Americans did NOT vote for Trump. His opponent (although horrible in her own unique ways) got more votes than him, and nearly half of Americans were so disgusted or uninterested in the election that they didn’t even want to vote for either candidate.

25% of any society taking over all three branches of the government is not democracy nor is it a representative republic. It is not a “victory for the majority”. Its an electoral coup…

So no, Trump is not my president. No, I will not “unite behind him”. I do not respect or recognize the legitimacy of the United States government, and nobody in that government represents me or my views. I am coerced into accepting this government only via the fact that the State has a monopoly on force and can put me in a cage if I try to act on my non-recognition of the legitimacy of them and their laws. Period.

How The Two-Party System Suppresses Democracy

The two party system in American electoral politics acts an explicit suppressant to democracy and representative republicanism. There are, without a doubt, other corrupting influences in American politics; “big money” being chief among them. But in this essay, I want to briefly explore some of the main ways in which the two major political parties in the U.S. act as barriers to the very things they claim to be manifestations of: democracy and equal representation.

 

Delegates (and Super-Delegates)

The current 2016 primary season is showcasing for the American citizenry just how much control the parties have over the entire primary process. The delegate system itself is coming under broad suspicion from folks all over the political spectrum. This is largely because this election cycle both parties have an “outsider” candidate that they have to deal with. Usually all of the candidates running in both parties are official and long-standing members of those parties (usually consisting of governors, congressmen/women, and senators). This means that the parties do not have to be so obvious in displaying their total control over how the primaries unfold. For example, in the 2008 Democratic primary, both Hillary and Obama were legitimate members of the Democratic Party, and so when Obama started picking up steam, and it was clear he could win, many of the superdelegates (who are just party insiders) had no problem switching from Clinton over to Obama.  This year, though, Bernie Sanders is running; he has been a registered independent for years, and only ran as a Democrat this year out of political necessity (an issue I will address later in this essay). To the DNC (Democratic National Committee) Sanders, unlike Obama, is not “one of them”, and he is annoyingly standing in the way of their chosen candidate, Hillary Clinton.  In this context, it becomes clear what their superdelegate system is designed to do: to act as a defender of the Democratic Party’s interests against any populist or grassroots candidates that may arise. This is why we get such absurd results, like the recent Wyoming caucus, where Sanders won 55.7% of the vote compared to Hillary’s 44.3%, and yet still walked away with less delegates. Sanders only got out of Wyoming with 7 delegates while Hillary left with 7 pledged delegates and 4 superdelegates, bringing her Wyoming delegate count to a grand total of 11. Sanders won the popular vote by a wide margin, yet the Democratic Party machinery made damn sure their preferred candidate won anyways.

This is clearly antithetical to any coherent notion of representing the popular will of the people, and its an insult to the intelligence of the American voter.

Election Structure and the Third Party Blockade

The primary process is largely conducted at the state level by the Democratic and Republican parties of each state. They have a lot of room to make their own rules surrounding their delegate systems, dates of elections, brokered conventions, and the voting process as a whole.  However, the voting infrastructure is funded by the American taxpayers. In effect, citizens fund the primary process, but private parties own and manage the process. And since those two parties do not represent the entire swath of political sentiment in the population, we are effectively subsidizing political parties that don’t adequately represent the will of the majority of Americans. And since the primary process is the sole mechanism that gives us our two general election candidates, the fact that we have no say in these party rules means that our final two choices are not the result of real democratic procedures, but rather the result of two narrow organizations putting forth whoever they want.  To add insult to injury, and further solidify their duopolistic grip on our political system, they work together to create policies that make it nearly impossible for third parties to gain traction and compete in any meaningful way. All over the nation, the Democratic and Republican parties have created ways of preventing third party challenges to the duopoly.  One way in which they do that is to restrict ballot acces

“Nationally, ballot access laws are the major challenge to third party candidacies. While the Democratic and Republican parties usually easily obtain ballot access in all fifty states in every election, third parties often fail to meet criteria for ballot access, such as registration fees. Or, in many states, they do not meet petition requirements in which a certain number of voters must sign a petition for a third party or independent candidate to gain ballot access.”

Or by implementing cynical and arbitrary debate rules to hide third party candidates from the public:

“Debates in many state and federal elections exclude Independent and third party candidates, and the Supreme Court has upheld such tactics in several cases. The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) is a private company.  In 2000 revised debate access rules made it even harder for third party candidates to gain access by stipulating that, besides being on enough state ballots to win an Electoral College majority, debate participants must clear 15% in pre-debate opinion polls.”

Pat Buchanan, who finished in fourth place in the 2000 presidential race and won four states when he ran in the Republican primary in 1992, told CBS News that the system as it now stands amounts to a “monopoly” maintained by the major parties: “It’s an instrument of the two political parties to ensure that the presidency is passed back and forth between them,” he said. “The very fact that this duopoly can keep you out of the debates means you don’t play in the Super Bowl.”

In these ways, among others, the two parties all but guarantee their continued dominance. But this dominance is not just the dominance of two different political parties, it’s the dominance of the banks and corporations who own the two parties.

One Big Corporate Party with Two Flanks

Both major political parties are completely bought and paid for by the U.S. capitalist class; those who own the vast majority of wealth and resources in this country. They fund both sides of the races between Democrats and Republicans, and therefore have vastly disproportionate say over policy decisions in both parties. This means that the parties who dictate our small candidate selection every election cycle act in the interest of the richest and most powerful people in our society and are structurally prevented from acting in the genuine interests of the American people as a whole. The only thing that can pose a challenge to the total domination of big money in American politics is millions of highly organized American citizens. But the demands of work and family, the risk of being met with state violence, the confusion about the root causes of our issues perpetuated by the corporate media, etc., conspire to naturally decrease the likelihood of mobilized mass movements that can effectively fight back. All of this means that political and economic power remain in the hands of the ruling class, who then use that power and wealth to turn our government into a shield that protects them from us.

In turn, most American citizens uncritically accept the two parties as indicative of the two main currents of thought in our society, and then orient themselves to one party or the other.  Once they identify with one party or the other, they defend their parties as true representatives of their values and beliefs, which in turn, reinforces the stronghold of the two party system. So the system, as all good ones do, reinforces and maintains the power dynamics that empower it while giving off the illusion that it’s all natural and unforced.

Restricting the Sphere of Acceptable Opinion

The Democratic and Republican Parties represent a very limited spectrum of political thought, and via their dominance, ensure that the American people mostly stay within that limited spectrum.  In America, what are called “liberal” and “conservative” are merely two slightly divergent manifestations of the political philosophy of Liberalism.  The former is slightly more concerned about “equality” while the latter is slightly more concerned about “liberty”. But both uphold Capitalism, fully equipped with a large State Apparatus, as the preferred politico-economic system; and both support the Imperialism needed to protect and maintain global capitalism and American hegemony. Views that fall outside of that narrow range are relegated to the margins of society, and given no airtime on major media and popular culture outlets. More to the point, any views that challenge the fundamental economic assumptions of Capitalism are not only marginalized, but mocked if and when they do come to the fore. These are ways in which Capitalism defends its hegemony over social, cultural, and intellectual life. The two political parties are merely the political flanks of Capitalism; giving us the illusion of democratic control while maintaining total domination over all aspects of our political and economic (and thus our social) lives.

Conclusion

The American system is in desperate need of dramatic revolutionary changes. The longer we wait to begin implementing the necessary changes, the more drastic and perhaps even violent the inevitable upheaval will be when it finally arrives. By making small reforms immediately and moving up to larger changes methodically, we can decrease the chances of dangerously disruptive sudden upheavals, and move more smoothly into the future. One place we can, and should, begin our project of changing the system is overhauling the two party system; getting rid of the legal and procedural obstacles to other parties entering the political landscape, thus allowing a more robust dialogue to take place, and getting corporate money out of politics. By implementing these practical changes, we can make our political systems more responsive to the needs of the people, and only in a context where our political system is sincerely working for us (as opposed to the rich ruling elite) can we hope to make the larger necessary changes towards a sustainable, egalitarian, democratic, and yes, socialist future.