by Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action-L.A.
You might think it’s a good thing, a sign of the times, that an avowed socialist is making a credible run for the presidency and drawing big crowds and thousands of small donations wherever he goes. And indeed it is a testament to the fact that, 25 years after the end of “Cold War I” and the “Red Menace,” the idea of socialism is quite popular with young people, for whom capitalism appears as organized greed, theft and planetary destruction.
But dig a little deeper. Ask yourself why this system spends hundreds of millions of dollars on selling presidential candidates to you (and hundreds of millions more on the rest of the “ticket,” governors, Senators, legislators)? This is a gigantic propaganda spectacle designed to maintain the fraying consent of the governed at all costs to a charade of democracy, where millions cannot vote because they are imprisoned, or undocumented, or too young, and millions more have turned off and tuned out.
The rulers face a huge contradiction. They can only continue their rule by conceding formal democracy, but the evidence of everyone’s senses is that democracy has been hollowed out by corporate power expressed through NAFTA, the TPP, and the military and surveillance systems that enforce them. The upsurge of struggles around the world is beginning to percolate inside the “Homeland,” the internal, domestic front of the empire.
And so as the Old Mole of desire for social control of production and wealth begins to make itself felt in the body politic, the system turns to its tried and true methods, a one-two punch, also known as the carrot and the stick or coercion and cooptation.
On the one hand, the system tries to convey that resistance is futile, that disruptive dissidence in the streets will be met with massive retaliation, targeted repression, and an escalation of the very tactics and practices being protested. This is the “iron fist” that greets #BlackLivesMatter protesters and their allies — brutal arrests, selective prosecution and no let up in the number of police killings with impunity.
On the other hand, the system wears a velvet glove belying the steel beneath. This is the effort to inoculate the population against a spreading “virus” of dissent and desire for a different and better world, that shivers the timbers of the glorified pirates who run this system for their own benefit. The system always performs this ideological “vaccination,” by substituting a “killed virus” for the infectious agents of dissidence, resistance and self-determined solidarity. Just as the system pulled a “bait and switch,” swapping bourgeois feminism for women’s liberation, diverting gay liberation into gay rights, substituting “gangsta rap” for hip-hop, promoting “pork-chop” nationalism to undermine revolutionary efforts at decolonization, so now we find bourgeois forms of socialism, accepting of the empire, gaining political currency.
This should be a signal to us that the system is more aware of its own vulnerabilities and contradictions than we. Now is not the time for polite half-measures; haven’t Obama’s betrayals on Guantanamo, war, single payer, NSA surveillance, drones, “clean” coal and Arctic drilling taught us anything? We need to break with illusions, break our identification with the oppressors and exploiters. It’s time to withdraw the consent of the governed; time to become ungovernable. We can’t afford to settle for “too little, too late.” Resist to exist!