|A Rouge Forum Broadside
Who Won The Election? The Rich.
But What is Winning?
The rich won another round on November 5. But it was a hollow victory. As the many faces of capital prepared to invade the world with what may be the most massive oil grab in history, they could look out from their victorious podiums and see, immediately in front of them, a cheering throng of office-seekers, bribers, and fellow opportunists. Beyond that small delirious crowd, though, is a sullen mass of people who did not vote, or who only voted recognizing that what they may once have considered to be their own government is now the government of the bosses, where voters choose who will oppress them least. Those people are giving hints that sullenness, over time, may turn into action.
The winning candidates had done all they could to blur the differences between themselves and their loyal me-too opponents. They sought to discourage some voters, activate others. But, at bottom, neither Tweedle nor Dumb had an honest project of finding a path from authoritarianism, perpetual war, and inequality to a society propelled by forces that would allow people to genuinely care about one another--or even to notice tyranny today.
This was spectacle. "Me! Me! Me! He is no damn good and here is the proof! " What kind of consciousness is loosed on the land from this? Surely it is a long stretch from the Jeffersonian idea of the tree of liberty needing the regular fertilizer of the blood of tyrants, much more in tune with Engels' notion that a high level of voting participation is a measure of the infancy of a heartfelt working class movement that could serve the majority of the people-or a test of how thoroughly people are fooled. Most adults in the U.S. do not vote, perhaps acknowledging that if voting mattered, they would not be allowed to do it-as they cannot at the most decisive site in their lives: work. Voters and abstainers, however, are not organizing action on the job that could lead to social change, change that could not be easily eradicated by the movement of a governor's pen--distinct from any ballot box reform.
Bill Simon and Gray Davis, the two Enron racketeers who ran for governor of California, spent $98 million dollars ($68 for Davis, $30 for Simon), or about $3.25 per citizen, to produce an election in which about 40% of the registered voters actually participated (about 65% of Californians register, ignoring what is projected to be a population of 3 million workers who cannot register). Better they should have doled out the $3.25 to each, and not wasted the television space. Notably, a lot of Davis money came from clear quid-pro-quos: give me $1 million, Mr Prison Guard, and I will guarantee that the booming prison industry remains in public hands, and viable. Give me $1 million, Ms Teacher, and I will be sure your union has the right to force you to pay dues.
There is a class of these electoral parasites now. Mitt Romney, inheritor of the Mormon wealth of his father, once president of the failed AMC motor company and governor of Michigan. Jeb, of Bush. Elizabeth of Dole. Rockefeller. Mark Pryor, son of a former senator. Some, like Rockefeller, were born to the ruling class, but most a now form a decidedly inferior under-class, small-time mullahs for wealth, inheriting connections and the willingness to lie about everything. Some, though, may be quite sincere. Jeb Bush's first words, in acknowledging his victory, were, "I thank Almighty God for bringing this win to me," which he managed to say without drooling, nor calling for some snakes to handle.
This group has their promoters, media commentators like the smooth voices of NPR, shocked, simply shocked, that so few people join in the balloting fun. Many of them, too, were born to their positions. Cokie Roberts dad was a U.S. senator, slightly besmirched when he was found dancing drunk and naked with a stripper in a Capital Hill fountain one evening.
Dancing on the heads of the politicos is the ruling class, not necessarily conspiring but surely marrying one another, attending the same private schools; sometimes at odds, but always aware of their interests as a class, always despising the majority, the workers. Above these apparently powerful rulers is the system that is as fickle to them as it is to anyone who seeks to marry it, capital, relentlessly on the hunt for more ruthless and profitable forms of exploitation and social control. This system requires ever cheaper labor, more exploitable raw materials, free markets (and unfree people), and war. The evidence of its deadly movement is now overwhelming. Now it has nothing to offer its personifications but racism, war, and death--and some cute trinkets: My SUV is bigger than yours.
The night the results were announced (after a long wait caused by the mysterious disappearance of key exit polling firms), Harvey Pitt, the gangster head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, overseer of that rigged gamble, the Stock Exchange, resigned. He was caught covering up the fact that his pal and appointee, William Webster, former boss of the FBI, was involved in an Enron-type scheme.
The grinding of the economy was well at work as the electoral spectacle developed. GM and Ford bond ratings were dropped to B levels, indicative of the crisis of overproduction in auto. Massive layoffs sent unemployment to official levels near 6% . The airlines demanded, and won, big concessions from their unions who seem to be unfamiliar with the history of concessions: they are like giving blood to sharks, they only want more. The airlines, and other industries like insurance companies, then demanded federal bailouts, to the tune of nearly $1 billion, while they continued to lay off employees. Microsoft's monopoly was let stand by the courts, which earlier had a habit of breaking big monopolies like Standard Oil and ATT. Alan Greenspan, panicked, lowered interest rates .5%.
War industries boomed. The US admitted that its secret armies, often led by private corporations, not even the CIA, were engaged on every continent, to the tune of $100 million, or more than twice the federal education budget. Hellbound drones, assassins, set out to wreak murder on those suspected of crossing the imperial line. In Yemen where six men were killed to achieve the certain death of one, suspected of involvement with the US Cole bombing. Israeli leaders, assassins extra ordinaire, cheered.
The day following the election, California Governor Gray Davis, supported by the teachers' unions, announced that it may be necessary to close entire state universities.
Resistance grew as well. The dockworkers struck in the face of a federal injunction. Teachers and students resisted the Big Tests, and in some instances, as in Mira Mesa, California, shut down their schools in opposition to a system of learning that only creates indifference to learning.
Some teachers taught their kids how to cheat the Big Tests, in response to a system that the New York Times produces a 60% rate of cheating among college students. The teachers pointed at ETS and said, "You are the cheats." Professors at San Diego State and other California universities rejected the governors demands and said they would not implement curricula designed by ETS, rigged to promote ignorance and segregation. A fledgling antiwar movement drew at least 200,000 people to demonstrations in DC and San Francisco.
School workers and students, whose jobs cannot be outsourced as the economy crushes down, are in a pivotal place in North American society. Elites will need schools to produce unthinking human drones ready to fight and die in Exxon/Haliburton's Oil War. The market will need to pay school workers less and less, and force them to work more and more, as the war eats up available surpluses. The task of any educator is to connect reason with power. For some, the project is to make that connection in order to leave things a little better, to help fashion the mass change of consciousness and the huge struggle that is going to be needed in order to create a world where people can actually care about each other. This will not be achieved by voting, but by building on the job struggles, rooted in profound friendships.
Resistance is inevitable, as people must struggle on every job to be more free, more creative, less oppressed, and their bosses are impelled to make them work faster, in more meaningless ways, under more surveillance to be sure that the work force is never in control. Resistance is not transformation.
Winning is overcoming a social system that now openly announces that it has only war and death to offer those who serve it. Winning is finding ways to use those elements of this system that can unite us and feed us, systems of production, technology, global interaction, communication, and abundance, to share, each according to their commitment to each according to their need.
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