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Why I Am a Socialist

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Posted on Dec 29, 2008
AP photo / Craig Ruttle

By Chris Hedges

The corporate forces that are looting the Treasury and have plunged us into a depression will not be contained by the two main political parties. The Democratic and Republican parties have become little more than squalid clubs of privilege and wealth, whores to money and corporate interests, hostage to a massive arms industry, and so adept at deception and self-delusion they no longer know truth from lies. We will either find our way out of this mess by embracing an uncompromising democratic socialism—one that will insist on massive government relief and work programs, the nationalization of electricity and gas companies, a universal, not-for-profit government health care program, the outlawing of hedge funds, a radical reduction of our bloated military budget and an end to imperial wars—or we will continue to be fleeced and impoverished by our bankrupt elite and shackled and chained by our surveillance state.

The free market and globalization, promised as the route to worldwide prosperity, have been exposed as a con game. But this does not mean our corporate masters will disappear. Totalitarianism, as George Orwell pointed out, is not so much an age of faith as an age of schizophrenia. “A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial,” Orwell wrote, “that is when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud.” Force and fraud are all they have left. They will use both.

There is a political shift in Europe toward an open confrontation with the corporate state. Germany has seen a surge of support for Die Linke (The Left), a political grouping formed 18 months ago. It is co-led by the veteran socialist “Red” Oskar Lafontaine, who has built his career on attacking big business. Two-thirds of Germans in public opinion polls say they agree with all or some of Die Linke’s platform. The Socialist Party of the Netherlands is on the verge of overtaking the Labor Party as the main opposition party on the left. Greece, beset with street protests and violence by disaffected youths, has seen the rapid rise of the Coalition of the Radical Left. In Spain and Norway socialists are in power. Resurgence is not universal, especially in France and Britain, but the shifts toward socialism are significant.

Corporations have intruded into every facet of life. We eat corporate food. We buy corporate clothes. We drive corporate cars. We buy our vehicular fuel and our heating oil from corporations. We borrow from corporate banks. We invest our retirement savings with corporations. We are entertained, informed and branded by corporations. We work for corporations. The creation of a mercenary army, the privatization of public utilities and our disgusting for-profit health care system are all legacies of the corporate state. These corporations have no loyalty to America or the American worker. They are not tied to nation states. They are vampires.

“By now the [commercial] revolution has deprived the mass of consumers of any independent access to the staples of life: clothing, shelter, food, even water,” Wendell Berry wrote in “The Unsettling of America.” “Air remains the only necessity that the average user can still get for himself, and the revolution had imposed a heavy tax on that by way of pollution. Commercial conquest is far more thorough and final than military defeat.” 

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The corporation is designed to make money without regard to human life, the social good or impact on the environment. Corporate laws impose a legal duty on corporate executives to make as much money as possible for shareholders, although many have moved on to fleece shareholders as well. In the 2003 documentary film “The Corporation” the management guru Peter Drucker says: “If you find an executive who wants to take on social responsibilities, fire him. Fast.”

A corporation that attempts to engage in social responsibility, that tries to pay workers a decent wage with benefits, that invests its profits to protect the environment and limit pollution, that gives consumers fair deals, can be sued by shareholders. Robert Monks, the investment manager, says in the film: “The corporation is an externalizing machine, in the same way that a shark is a killing machine. There isn’t any question of malevolence or of will. The enterprise has within it, and the shark has within it, those characteristics that enable it to do that for which it was designed.” Ray Anderson, the CEO of Interface Corp., the world’s largest commercial carpet manufacturer, calls the corporation a “present day instrument of destruction” because of its compulsion to “externalize any cost that an unwary or uncaring public will allow it to externalize.”

“The notion that we can take and take and take and take, waste and waste, without consequences, is driving the biosphere to destruction,” Anderson says. 

In short, the film, based on Joel Bakan’s book “The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power,” asserts that the corporation exhibits many of the traits found in people clinically defined as psychopaths.


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G.Anderson's avatar

By G.Anderson, December 29, 2008 at 9:22 am Link to this comment

I don’t believe for a moment that we have a free market in this country. Corporate elites have prevented that from happening, way back to the time of Nixon.

In spite of everything that has been sacrificed by the people of this country in the name of free market capitalism, we are all witnessing its decline and fall.

As Marx pointed out, competition between capitalists would ultimately cause an economic contraction, as unemployed workers could no longer afford to be consumers.

Countries in which this happens almost always turn to facism, in a last ditch effort to forestall collpase.

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By Expat Scientist, December 29, 2008 at 9:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks Chris.  I couldn’t agree more.  I’m an American living in a Democratic Socialist country, one that Americans are taught to reflexively believe is inferior because of its socialized medicine and strong labor unions.  Let me tell you, the people here are happier, healthier, more prosperous and much better educated than people in the United States.  When you reduce the burden of survival to a humane level by providing people health care, a living wage and retirement, people thrive.  The only regret I have is that I stayed in America as long as I did.  Good luck.

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By felicity, December 29, 2008 at 9:03 am Link to this comment

Corporations are legal fictions - nothing more than bundles of contractual agreements.  At this point, however, they have taken on the status of their earlier counterparts, divine-right monarchs.  In the West at least we’ve overthrown them either peacefully or violently and it’s time that we did the same, one way or another, to our parasitic mega-corporations.

The Gilded Age mentality has been around a while.  In 1897, Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, vetoed a bill passed by Congress to provide financial aid to the poor explaining himself with “The lesson should be constantly enforced that though the people support the government the government should not support the people.” 

It’s safe to speculate that the same sentiment continues to exist today, which until eradicated will continue to relegate social, economic and political justice to the hinterland of merely a nice idea.

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By Bboy57, December 29, 2008 at 8:49 am Link to this comment

For all you pro-Baraak, anti-Paul people, it’s just gonna be more of the same from a different angle. 
Baraak is such an insider with the bailout backing, the Israeli lobby and beholden to corporate payouts to his campaign that there can’t REALLY be any real change. Not in this administration. It’s the same corrupted path that you expose the system as being. So is it more the system or the ******** running it?! Or the not even so dumbed down public not caring one way or the other!

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By Dave Schwab, December 29, 2008 at 8:09 am Link to this comment

“We Must Infiltrate and manipulate through participation, Just like the Religious ‘Right’ did to the Republican party.”

Do you know how the Religious Right took over the Republican Party? Voting is only half of it. The other half was not voting. When Republican candidates didn’t adhere to the Religious Right’s line, the volunteers and voters stayed home. That’s how they got the Republican Party to take them seriously.

Democrats, alas, have no grasp of this strategy. The Democratic leadership knows that liberals, terrified of the Republicans, will always support them no matter what. If people start to catch on, as they did with Hillary, just find a corporatist centrist with a better sales pitch and less skeletons in the closet.

Most major changes in American history came from outside the two-party system. That’s why the best way for progressives to make an impact is by supporting the Green Party (and instant runoff voting so you can vote your conscience freely). Doesn’t mean you have to run for president - just support Green candidates in local and state races, and I guarantee you that the Republicrats will listen up real fast. Already we’re seeing politicians from Obama on down trying to repackage their platforms in terms taken directly from the Green platform.

Socialist, capitalist, conservative, progressive, whoever - if you want real solutions, check out the Green Party.

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By Han, December 29, 2008 at 8:03 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@prgill

Socialism does not deny a free market, they european socialistic democracies allowed whatever was not damaging to others and regulated what was. Same with the US laws until the `liberating’ started under Reagan and people were allowed to damage others.
Socialism isn’t about having no opportunity to achieve anything, it’s about not allowing one entity to profit on another. Exactly what any sane man would want. It’s about being social.

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Purple Girl's avatar

By Purple Girl, December 29, 2008 at 7:45 am Link to this comment

This socio economic downfall did not happen overnight, It took the majority of the 20th century to accomplish, so tearing it down will be a lengthy objective.
I was a Kucinich voter before he was run out.
Nadar has done NOTHING in the last 40 yrs except screw up elections handing them to the Repugs.
As for McKinney..who? This was not an election for the Unknown candidate.
There was NO way any of these Folks would have won, but would have taken enough votes to assure a McCain presidency (Cheney’s 8th Term).
What Obama has done is create his own Frankenstien..Grassroots organizational capabilities.
I’m now part of 2 Local Politcal groups- Dems & progressives- Groups I was Unaware of until the Obama campaign.Attending meetings, getting E-Mail alerts, particpating in the Obama Website forum, Attended politcal News Conferences, Went to the MI Dem Caucus. I knocked on doors and phone banked for his candidacy.All as a Volunteer.And isn’t that at the heart of Socialism? Being Engaged.
Throwing Sticks and Stones like Nadar at the Organized Crime synicate will not solve the problem..We Must Infiltrate and manipulate through participation, Just like the Religious ‘Right’ did to the Republican party. Because socialistic ideals ARE Moral Values too.
so for all my fellow Lefties standing on the side lines Bitching, We could use a hand. We finally shot down the Clinton’s/DLC ‘Third Way’ (Corporationism).Did You miss Teddy whipping the ‘Torch’ past HillyBilly’s heads at the DNCC?
I see a number of suspecious faces in Obama’s nominees (most notably Hillary), but I figure we need to know Where all the Bodies are buried and who better to point them out, explain how they got there and Know who to hold accountable…I consider them the ‘Sammy the Bulls’of the Politcal and Corp mafia.
This could really be the ‘Shock Doctrine’ for the progressives.
Americans are pissed about being lied to, Outraged about two reckless & costly Wars, Irrate about Usury practices, Livid about Hoarding of essential resources and finally cognizant of what Trickle Down really means.

Carpe Diem!

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By writerman, December 29, 2008 at 7:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Choosing between the lesser of twin evils isn’t really a choice at all, one is still only allowed to choose between one form of evil and another.

Right now, as the American people face up to being betrayed yet again, to being duped and robbed, it’s important to forget about democracy and elections and concentrate on how Power is distributed in society, not votes or which party is in power or which candiate is the best liar. All that really matters is Power, here and now, in dull old everyday life, day after day, week after week.

Now all that matters is Power.

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By prgill, December 29, 2008 at 7:03 am Link to this comment

Chris Hedges, I do not approve or endorse your polarizing rhetoric.

While I agree that “corporate forces” are looting the treasury, and would further agree that these forces will not likely be “contained by the existing political parties”, I do not agree that “free markets and globalization” are mere con games.

Globalization and free markets have permitted the economic enfranchisement of an extraordinary number of men, women and children. The problem is that with improved conditions come increasing expectations for which only local markets can answer. The surplus they produce should at a minimum be saleable on free markets.

There is no doubt that a deep political shift is underway in Europe as it is in America. Only I do not think the shift is toward socialism. Rather, I believe the shift is toward a fragmenting polity, towards a new tribalism.

Only local authority and responsibility have relevance when you can do nothing about systematic greed and a military-industrial state which employs a standing army of 1 million. If you want to avoid “corporate food, corporate clothes and corporate lifestyles”, promote local options. Buy locally grown foods, locally made clothes. 

We Americans are ideally situated to practice and indeed, to invent this new politics. Only we need a vision. Not the tired old vision of socialized means of production.

Puhlease…!

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By holaraphi, December 29, 2008 at 6:27 am Link to this comment

I voted for Brian Moore, the Socialist Party’s presidential candidate.  I didn’t vote for the “lesser of two evils,” as they were/are indeed evil to me…and so are the corporate-controlled system they represent.

I proudly cast my ballot for the person whom I wanted to be in the White House.  Period.

Hopefully, the voters will wake up and realize that they keep voting for people who are screwing them over, time and time again.

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