Political duality of the week: Electoral politics crushes anti-establishment networks of Ron Paul & Wisconsin uprising reframed as #WIrecall. What now, lolcats?
Government is the Entertainment Division of the military-industrial complex.
-- attributed to Frank Zappa
The ugly realities of modern electoral politics in America hit home this week with two body blows to self-styled anti-authoritarian political networks: The Ron Paul movement finally hit the brick wall as Rand Paul (R-KY Coal Mines) endorsed Mitt Romney (R-Rich Mormon Mafia) -- utterly shocking & depressing tons of semi-libertarian Republicans along with the entire conservative side of the "Truther" and/or "Liberty" movements.
Days earlier, the Wisconsin recall election against Gov. Scott Walker (R-Petulance) turned in uglier-than-expected numbers as likely thousands of Wisconsinites were stripped of their Constitutional right to vote through ridiculous new regulations -- and of course a bunch of shady electronic voting machines run from a company in a suburban St. Cloud strip mall. Fox News flacks and nasty Gloria Borger/Sarah Palin types cackled that the unruly, rebellious hordes had been licked for good. Now, the Paulistas and the rebellious Cheesehead hordes must ask: what's next?!
Perhaps these movements never had too much in common, though you could find some overlapping supporters. Probably the biggest difference is the Liberty types are pretty darn hostile to mainstream unions while the #OccupyCapitol (which the Dems transmuted into #WIrecall) clearly ended up with unions as its main hub. But they shared a hostility to the party hierarchies, business as usual, and to some extent the elite financial/War Machine domestic & international complexes, which has triggered the financial/austerity crisis by sucking out trillions of dollars.
The anarchist strain in Wisconsin, buttressed mainly by the IWW, complemented the non-interventionist libertarian one that's been rolling since about 2007 -- it showed that the new politics that people are actively hunting for is certainly not statist or socialist in the traditional sense.
UPDATE 5:30PM June 10: I got a response of sorts to the piece sent over twitter by @superbranch which is helpful for illustrating a number of details especially Democratic Party machinations: http://pastebin.com/vKh3tfh6 - Thanks!! I only had a view from a distance for most of this affair, so it's good stuff.
UPDATE 6:10PM June 10: Someone suggested that all anarchists are by definition socialists, though I think of socialism as a statist set of philosophies. In older times some labeled this "state socialism" vs. "libertarian socialism." See an Anarchist FAQ, example Kropotkin: "[s]o long as Socialism was understood in its wide, generic, and true sense -- as an effort to abolish the exploitation of Labour by Capital -- the Anarchists were marching hand-in-hands with the Socialists of that time", etc. & also see Black Flame blog. Also Article IV of the General Bylaws of the IWW Constitution specifically forbids "Political Alliances." "To the end of promoting industrial unity and of securing necessary discipline within the organisation, the IWW refuses all alliances, direct or indirect, with any political parties or anti-political sects, and disclaims responsibility for any individual opinion or act which may be at variance with the purposes herein expressed." Thus while I would say they are still anarcho-syndicalist, they are not formally set up as 'anarchist' per se. I feel I over-generalized in how I characterized the IWW, so sorry about that! (see also The League of Peace and Freedom for an org from that era)
UPDATE June 11: I mentioned prominent libertarian Lew Rockwell & forgot about his purported role in that whole Ron Paul "racist newsletter" narrative -- Rockwell is seen by many as the main ghostwriter in the 1980s newsletters. That stuff was creepy. More info here, here, here, here, here, etc. His newsletter compadre Murray Rothbard wrote "Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature" in 1973 which I think illustrates the not-cool-at-all aspect of these guys that led to the ugly views in those newsletters.
On the Wisconsin Side: Turning A Broad Popular Uprising Into An AFSCME Bargaining Rights Boxing Match
I've never seen such a staggering level of oppositional political energy squandered in this country like I did at the Capitol rally one clear day last spring. That night, as laborites fumed at the Labor Temple meeting hosted by the IWW and drifted downstairs to commence drinking, I collected Wobbly swag and later driving around Madison speculated with friends what could happen if people occupied dozens of sites like they had the Capitol. Or maybe an image of the future arrived early in my mind. Either way, real-world radicalism receded yet again once more into dull, conventional latency. [cartoon by Toles]
Perhaps the greatest achievement of the Republicans (which the Dems of course walked right into) was to narrow down and reframe the scope of the opposition from broad, radical revulsion at burning down virtually all aspects of governance in Wisconsin to a small, deeply mainstream, sore-loser election shitfit over government union bargaining rights.
As a party, the Dems just didn't want -- and probably couldn't understand -- an independent network pushing back, outside their control, a decentralized resistance to the Shock Doctrine. There was a real broad and sturdy community commencing in opposition, and the Dems demanded ideological buy-in, then splintered it into a thousand pieces and cast it to the wind. They couldn't recognize the dignity of people that didn't like either party -- people for whom a Recall and Milwaukee's Mayor Barrett didn't answer their questions.
The Democrats & the motivated Wisconsinites couldn't solve the problem of the pointless election industry. in order to fix anything at all, electoral politics needs to be a consequence of organizing for a better society, not the ultimate goal of organizing in perpetual 2-year cycles. In today's system, we have all our available cash thrown at short-lived election industry organizations that produce almost nothing of lasting value -- but they do make broadcasters richer.
How much more vast and worthy a fight it seemed last year. I was there on "Go Home Day," the day the state Democrats basically told everyone to go home and organize to recall the governor. While successful recalls of some GOP state senators did save the north country from a really bad mining project that would have destroyed an Indian tribe and much else besides, (the deciding GOP senator flipped) - and apparently the Wisconsin Senate did flip to Dem control in another recall around Racine as well, the national media, and the Star Tribune, are quite happy to buy the simple GOP narrative.
While Walker's goose still looked pretty well-and-cooked by early 2012, the Democratic Party of course knew how to biff an opportunity better than anyone. At the infamous Go Home Day, those rally-goers would have done damn near anything. If the senators had called for them to do cool actions around the state every two weeks - not just rallies but actual badass shit - everyone would have gone for it. Instead, the solution was conventional election industry operations and endless, destructive primaries.
It's fitting at least the Senate flipped after all the efforts, since the shockingly illegal abuses of power really came through that body, including violating the state's open meeting law to rail through their union-busting bill. It was classic political overreach that came with Shock Doctrine, slashing corporate taxes, trying to privatize the entire U of Wi system into the "Badger Partnership," (since of course it's one of the few old Germanic-style institutions not entirely oriented to corporatism today), Voter ID to block students and minorities from voting, etc. These sudden, broader conflicts added up to an incredibly attractive, unprecedentedly broad & open class war-type super-conflict across the state, which managed to radicalize thousands of heretofore-discreet firefighters and even police officers to protest in the streets & sleep in the Capitol!
The Democratic Party masters in Washington DC must have been appalled by this uprising. It conflicted horribly with their usual approach of throwing a couple bones to organized labor while screwing over them, the students and rank-and-file Dem activist types as much as possible, as they have year after year, to the benefit of the national security and financial industries.
Chris Cillizza put it in the Fix, probably with great accuracy, that the national Dems did not want to see a recall election: "There was considerable internal discussion and disagreement between Washington and Wisconsin Democrats (and organized labor) about whether to push for a recall election this summer or wait until 2014 for a chance to unseat Walker. (Washington Democrats broadly favored the latter option, Wisconsin Democrats and labor the former)."
More to the point they did not want to see an independent populism rising in this country without Dem political hacks steering it away from their big contributors, such as the Wall Street criminals that have been fleecing the rest of the party base for years. This same dynamic played out again when the federal government through Homeland Security and the FBI, and Democratic mayors coordinated to dismantle the Occupy encampments in late 2011, then the Feds turned to setting up informant based-stings into 2012 in order to psyop the media away from the message that our institutions and politicians have grossly failed us. These stings were synthesized for Mayday and the Chicago NATO Summit, it was no accident.
Now, at least, the problem of post-Citizens United elections financed mainly by the likes of the Koch brothers, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, and corporate treasuries have been laid bare. At the bottom of the tens of millions of dollars pumped into the state by many anonymous entities, Wisconsinites were paid $50 a pop to post yard signs, $20 to attend events, etc., and now at least the people know this is the core truth of modern electoral politics. According to one person I talked to, even Walker campaign workers were depressed by the massive constant cash flow. They knew it was an arrival at a new low. He who has the gold, rules. But who will carry the truth out of cheese country?
And as always, national and local media walk away from shady election practices -- irregularities are nothing but sour grapes and jags in the already agreed-upon narrative everyone's sticking with, kid. Only weirdos like BradBlog care about the hundreds of complaints -- of citizens being stripped of the one available gesture which underpins the entire legitimacy of the system. Maybe those people, lacking a voice in their own governance, will take things to a more direct level. At this point, why shouldn't they rebel against the apparatus? Freedom's just another word for no votes left to lose....
The Dems have a decent shot at keeping the state politically divided, even with the GOP's advantageous redistricting, which for example will add conservative exurban Chicagoans to the Racine district that flipped D last week. The national GOP and the state press probably won't admit it, but the enthusiasm for scorched-earth politics has long worn off and glorious gridlock will return.
I saw on Twitter speculation about a General Strike for Milwaukee -- and a lot of activists apparently haven't enjoyed their tenure working in electoral politics with the Democrats. We could see more direct action - and with a relatively militant street protest in Milwaukee along with an Quebec sympathy march by Occupy Chicago getting beaten down by CPD last week, more radical politics along Lake Michigan is probably in the cards. People signed those recalls for a reason and they're going to want to do something different, to keep organizing against the tidal force of big money.
Et Tu, Rand Paul! Truthers & Liberty Movements lose their vanguard & screech to a halt?
A decidedly different arc of the spectrum finally got the letdown they've been staving off for months this week, and now they too need to put their pieces back together and move along. Antiwar.com's Justin Raimondo had Rand pegged way back in September 2010: he was playing footsie with the neocons but the Paul network people didn't want to believe it. (and mapped the wind-down in February) Today they're reeling -- it seals what they've avoided facing for a couple months, that the GOP nomination is finally out of reach. Here's the man enthusiastically endorsing Mittens:
Seriously, he looks more depressed than anyone I've ever seen touting Republicans on Fox News. But I think the back conversation is also illustrative: Rand Paul has always been clear that Kentucky coal mines are awesome and SOPA was evil & worth opposing. This is the awesome package you get with the Liberty movement.
Via Mike Adams: Linguistic analysis of Rand Paul's endorsement of Romney contradicts his words: Rand Paul is disgusted with him! I kind of had to sigh at this whole piece, which is too bad because usually Adams is peppy and kind of fun in how he sticks it to the FDA deathfood industrial complex:
It is the system itself that is broken, corrupt and defunct. This is the very point of Lew Rockwell, who explained in a recent interview with RT that the government itself is always the problem, and that no government can rescue the People from the problems of government: http://www.prisonplanet.com/lew-rockwell-ron-paul-and-rand-paul-are-d...
[.....]Personally, I completely agree with Alex in saying there is no compromise allowed. No doing deals with the devil. If we support liberty, we must deny our support for those who oppose it. We must never allow ourselves to become part of the very system that is destroying our economy, our liberties and our future. It is widely acknowledged now -- even on the political left -- that Obama is a traitor to America, but there is no indication that Romney wouldn't be even worse. He's practically a white version of Obama, with much the same platform: Government-run socialized medicine, high taxes, War on Drugs, secret military prisons, banker bailouts, gun confiscation and so on. Having Romney runs things in Washington will produce no better results than we've already seen over the last four years. It may even be worse, if you can imagine that.
[.....] I am not yet denouncing Sen. Rand Paul, as I still hope there is a double agent aspect to his actions and that somehow he will emerge as a defender of liberty. In my view, his track record has at least earned our patience in observing this situation a little longer. However, if Rand Paul continues down this path without explanation, it is all but clear he will destroy his political career and lose virtually his entire support base -- the very people who put him in the U.S. Senate in the first place.
As with all lovers of liberty, my patience is running out, and I'm beginning to think Lew Rockwell was right all along:All government is inherently evil and destructive, and that we are all foolish to think government can ever be changed through elections.
[bold emphasis his] I'm not exactly an enthusiastic statist, but this isn't really the nation's most productive perspective. Lew Rockwell is probably best described as a hard-core Libertarian, maybe even a Voluntaryist and/or "Market Anarchist" (see the Center for a Stateless Society) which is a set of views most Anarchists vehemently disagree with. Capitalism without the collection of memes and buildings we call a government would really suck even more than it does now. If we can envision a way to somehow finally move out of capitalism and leave capitalism's main organizer, the government, behind with it, that would be a little more balanced.
But this perspective isn't coming out of left field altogether - there's in a reason that Voluntaryist type thinking is more attractive than ever on the American Right and capital-A Anarchism is way more popular than a year ago, mostly thanks to the Occupy Wall Street project that blew up way beyond anyone's expectations.
While there's an escapist quality to libertarianism and anarchism, everyone wants to escape for a reason. There's a tangible sense - backed up with countless examples - that these structures held over us through violence, coercion and endless ranks of nasty little helpers - are utterly indifferent if not outright hostile to our chances of survival, let alone defending our dwindling freedoms. Shocked anyone would feel that way? Without much effort, we can feel a prison state closing in around us, seemingly poisoning everything from our pores to our skies to our souls.
Embitterment with the corporatist two-party system and its agenda of perpetual resource wars under loathsome, almost occult, entities like the IMF and NATO, along with a collapse in the standard of living for tens if not hundreds of millions of Americans, has brought plenty of anger towards government institutions that seem to exist solely to protect corrupt corporate cartels at the expense of smaller players (see the Gibson guitar drama, or FDA's love affair with big pharma), along with running protection for a rapacious and insane financial industry which has defrauded the American people of countless trillions of dollars in assets & hard-won dollars.
But the people feeling most burned this week outside of Wisconsin might be the Truthers who believed in Ron Paul. No one's done more to tie the people who refused to buy the government narrative on the Sept 11 2011 terrorist attacks to the Ron Paul network than Texas radio host Alex Jones.
While I certainly don't agree with plenty of Jones' views -- and I told him a month ago when I had the chance that it was important for all of us to avoid being conveyor belts for fear -- many people who criticize him are partly doing so simply because the national scene of Terror Narrative skeptics aka "Truthers" is so weak and divided that he's by default That Main Guy, so it must be his fault the available views are so politically narrow & funneled into a certain electoral machine that has now failed to Deliver the Goods.
It's not Ron Paul's fault or Alex Jones' fault that the rest of DC is basically composed of feckless war chickenhawks who are totally hostile to resisting false flags, the war on drugs and other scams of the military-industrial-intelligence-congressional complex. We all know modern COINTELPRO keeps the political discussion locked in a certain box. But was Alex Jones "duped" by Ron Paul? Check this out...
Here's just a classic recent moment worth watching between Jones and the closest thing he has to a mainstream left counterpart, the bookish conspiracy wonk Webster Tarpley. In this video, Alex Jones' years-long campaign to advocate Ron Paul's election shop finally comes to a sputtering end as Tarpley points out a lot of deliciously salient yet in retrospect quite obvious political points from the campaign. For great lulz he says Paul & Romney represent the amiable merger of southern Scottish Rite Freemasonry (a la Secret Sun) and the crypto-Freemasonic beliefs of Mormonism.
Tarpley, who has a quasi-FDR style political outlook has done a lot of nice pieces and books [Synthetic Terror PDF] over the years, and as a former associate of Lyndon LaRouche (also FDR-like in a weird way) he never saw a Anglo-Dutch conspiracy he didn't like to flush out.
Tarpley points out that Ron Paul declined to really attack Romney at all in the GOP debates, generally firing on Romney's leading opponents and also deflecting their anger. With Romney's cousin Huntsman as the opposite left/centrist flank, the good doctor was able to absorb basically all the anti-establishment votes against Romney. When Jones is holding the mic, you can just hear Tarpley saying that Paul ran interference for Romney and Jones ran interference for Paul. OUCH.
Obviously I felt it was beneficial to the country to have Paul challenging the warmongers and exposing their bloodthirsty insanity, the disturbingly unvarnished Id in some of those crowds, and it would have been better to have a Paul vs Obama campaign to force the war & big brother state issues to the fore. But this was never really in the cards, even if Paul would have been a better general election candidate for the GOP than Romney (which he probably would have been).
This, after all, is American electoral politics. Frank Zappa characterized it as the entertainment wing of the military-industrial complex and of course he was right. The intelligence structures are never going to let anyone advance into office who would undo the National Security Act of 1947 and the cultish secret state it initiated to be undone.
They are perfectly happy to keep everything managed under two-party dialectics with tons of corporate money swaying all the big issues. Since we don't have a parliamentary system anywhere in this country, with party lists that would permit minority viewpoints a legislative voice, every interesting electoral project, from Howard Dean or Ralph Nader to Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, become exercises in futility, white knights to rally the less-brainwashed masses & follow off to electoral oblivion with great fanfare. And if things get too close, a few Nixonian dirty tricks and buffer overflows in the voting machines can clean it up in no time.
Hell, if Lyndon Johnson wouldn't even expose Richard Nixon's treasonous blocking of the Paris peace conference on Vietnam, what chance does this more lame and greasy generation of politicians have?
In the GOP process this year, the anti-Paul people made sure to lock out & dirty-trick as many Paulistas as they could, leading to memorably weird chaos at normally-staid GOP conventions across America. The Romney 'network' is about an inch deep (apart from Bain operatives making trouble China & stuff), while seemingly endless weird networks of lolcats affiliated with the Ron Paul campaign.
In the 2008 cycle, it was insightfully put that the Paul campaign was very deliberately a narrative void or a cipher, so that the Truther groups could happily write themselves into the narrative and identify with it, along with IT nerds, the post-Perot types, and at the darker end, much more creepy prejudiced nativist types & etc. (and this varied heavily state-to-state, with Michigan less creepy than Arizona, etc.).
Unfortunately, because the Truther movement just didn't have a good broad nature in the political spectrum (well it does, but it doesn't operate that way), working with the anti-militarist Paul campaign to recruit and hang onto all those rebelliously-minded people effectively diverted them from possibly amplifying other efforts. He'd talk about false flags and ideals of liberty, but did Paul ever make it clear people needed to get out of their political comfort zone to take on adversaries we all share?
The ideological buy-in needed to become a true believer in electoral politics made rivals of people that could have and should have been allies -- in their own best interests. For example, it drove a wedge between Ron Paul fans who became Rand Paul fans, who liked his deregulatory push on coal mines, against the mountaintop removal activists. That wedge is perhaps the tragedy -- could it be undone?
What if everyone had instead agitated -- in a non-partisan style -- at their state legislatures against the corrupt operations of the federal government, the false flags, the constant stings and setups targeting both left and right, not to mention Muslims? What if they'd done direct actions together in the field against minions of the police state? There was a real biffed opportunity to build a good, multi-level resistance network outside of the traps and pitfalls of electoral politics.
Hopefully the remainders of the 2012 Paul network can pick themselves up and pivot more to more broad social issues, as well as the Big Brother system which is rapidly expanding -- if they can get a handle on how the Federal Reserve, while a keystone, is in many ways just the trade association or front-plate for the politically engaged big banks (with an infinite money printer).
The Big Brother system isn't exclusively government-based either, despite what Lew Rockwell and Mike Adams believe. It's really getting implemented by less than 25 military-industrial contractors with about 300 below that, and another several hundred below them. I can only expect these people to redouble their scrutiny and fierce public resistance, sending many would-be technocratic control freaks running for cover. The gains they made in the formal GOP system will add more wrinkles to what looked like an easy rollout for the prison state.
The Big Brother complex is capitalist, not in the sense of a 'free market' but in the sense it's commidifying everything about human freedom. It arrives through statism, but with dollar signs. It's the tender mercies of the GEO Group letting 'juvies' get sexually assaulted in hellish Mississippi private prisons. It's having foot locators on everyone. Ex by Matt Stoller: Profit-Driven Surveillance and the Spectrum of Freedom: “We will offer electronic monitoring services in every state.”
So now, between Wisconsin and the Truthers and the Ron Paul cats, here we sit, at the long dark teatime of the soul, as Douglas Adams put it. All our shared problems mount and continue to deteriorate -- the usual foibles of humanity, greed, idolatry, the search for white knights to preserve that which never existed in the first place, the hunt for strange new threats from within and without -- all of these are still with us. Ancient Greek historians would chuckle that twenty-some centuries later, we fall for the same damn tricks every time.
Perhaps as they say there is nothing new in the universe, but I've seen a lot of synchronicity. I've seen a lot more pieces fall into place and weirdly line up than I think my traditional atheist mundane-universe perspective could explain. After all, today's militant Dawkins type atheists can't explain too well why evil -- and its handmaiden, war -- impose such a powerful force of their own. Nor can they explain what summons people to such resistance, or on occasion such luck and grace.
Even when dealt those staggering blows -- even when your political projects seemingly turn to dust overnight yet again -- besides the fond memories of fighting the good fight with your comrades, you made new friends, you built new skills, you showed the novices a thing or two. You didn't live on your knees, you threatened the despicable & illegitimate flows of authority. From time to time, you really wigged them out. And yes, you won a victory, two, or three, and inspired a few more.
The challenge, of course, is for all these people to reach outside their comfort zone, to abandon the elections-first perspective and turn to the more difficult project of politics in real time, not the deferred imaginary future image produced by the operatives of election industry, the illusionary catharsis they pitch as tomorrow's ballot box.
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