The US Corporate Elite Is Killing Democracy and the Planet

Common Dreams – By John Lawrence – July 16, 2022

Noam Chomsky’s opening remarks to the World Social Forum, April 29, 2022:

For 20 years, the motto of the world social forum has been another world is possible… As we meet today that question is overshadowed by another one. Is this world possible? And the answer is “no.” This world is not possible. This world is hurdling to self-annihilation. And only the creation of another world can reverse this course. Luckily, another world is still possible, though the chances of achieving it are diminishing at an ominous rate.

The fate of humanity is at a crossroads. Humanity is confronted with two imminent existential crises: climate catastrophe and nuclear war. The corporate capitalist system is producing an assault on the earth’s ecology, perpetual war, ever-widening inequality, an attack on democracy, and a rise in fascism. If humanity does not address these crises NOW, human civilization is unlikely to survive for future generations.

Capitalism is complex and produces a multitude of oppressions. There are thousands of liberatory organizations working on important issues. But we cannot assume these projects are going to organically coalesce into a whole capable of taking power from greed-driven corporate capitalists. In the face of these existential crises, our time for “organizing the organized” is short.

The fundamental question facing humanity is: “how can ordinary working people organize on the mass scale necessary to contest for power with the corporate capitalist elite and force the change needed to save the future?”

Corporate Capitalism, The Existential Threats, and the Common-Sense Solutions Not Taken… Yet

Global corporate capitalism led by the hegemonic state, the United States, is a fundamentally immoral and irrational system. In capitalism, both states and corporations are designed to maximize short-term power and profits for the super-wealthy corporate elite. The ideology assumes the benefits will trickle down to working people. In practice, capitalism prioritizes short-term profits for the wealthy over the well-being of the people and even the survival of the human species. In all realms of society, corporate capitalism is unable to take common-sense actions to prevent predictable crises when doing so undermines short-term power and profits (e.g., fortifying the sea wall in New Orleans to prevent flooding when hurricanes hit, regulating factory meat production to prevent the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, organizing a strong global public health system to prevent pandemics, outlawing automatic and semiautomatic guns to prevent massacres, eliminating debt-driven speculation that has repeatedly crashed the global economy, using diplomacy to prevent foreseeable wars). Likewise, the apocalyptic threats of climate catastrophe and nuclear war are worsening, and capitalism is not taking the bold action necessary to stop humanity’s march towards species self-annihilation.

Global warming is destroying the capacity of the earth to support humans and other life. Distinguished climate scientist James Hansen recently summarized the science from an expert report he had prepared for the court case Juliana v. United States, in which a group of young plaintiffs sued the government for not protecting their right to a livable future. Man-made greenhouse gasses, mostly CO2, are trapping heat in the earth’s atmosphere at an accelerating rate. A 2022 report by United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that humanity must take swift action. To limit global temperature rise to 2°C (3.6°F), global greenhouse emissions must start declining before 2025. The longer humanity delays decisive action, the greater the risk that progressive climate warming will become irreversible. There are almost daily reports of dramatic changes in the earth’s environment indicating that the climate catastrophe is accelerating now.

The possibility of an omnicide nuclear war has also been increasing. There are currently nine countries with nuclear weapons. The launch of one nuclear weapon can trigger a series of retaliations resulting in a global nuclear holocaust. Over the last 70 years, there have been multiple close calls, in which the decision of one person averted nuclear war. With both Democratic and Republican support, the United States has committed to modernizing its nuclear weapons arsenal triggering a new global nuclear arms race. At the start of 2022 before the Ukraine War, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which maintains the “Doomsday Clock,” warned, “the Clock remains the closest it has ever been to civilization-ending apocalypse because the world remains stuck in an extremely dangerous moment.” Moreover, the current proxy war between the United States and Russia greatly increases the likelihood of the accidental or purposeful use of nuclear weapons. A nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia would end human civilization. Undoubtedly, the doomsday clock will tick closer to “midnight” in 2023.

The good news is humanity can prevent these crises and in doing so create a more democratic, loving, caring, and sustainable society. IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee reported “We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a livable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming.”

The solution to the climate catastrophe is a government-led third industrial revolution that quickly transitions the oil, gas, and coal-powered economy to a solar and wind-powered economy. The principal technological challenges to implementing a global Green New Deal (GND) are (1) building the solar and wind energy generation capacity to power society, (2) creating a digital energy grid for managing intermittent energy across the system, (3) upgrading buildings, transportation, and other infrastructure to support and be compatible with the new green energy system, and (4) dismantle the old oil, gas and coal industries while safeguarding a just transition for workers in those industries. The GND is potentially the basis for a high-wage full-employment economy empowering workers for decades to come. Many authors have described the possible nuts-and-bolts implementation of the GND.

The solution to preventing a nuclear war omnicide is developing international peace agreements and institutions for implementing the agreements based on the concept of common security, “the idea that nations and populations can only feel safe when their counterparts feel safe.” The ultimate goal is nuclear disarmament. International peace groups have recently released a Common Security 2022 Report which details many common-sense steps that can be taken to achieve common security. During the Cold War, pressure from the international peace movement pushed the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to negotiate a series of nuclear arms control treaties that reduced the risk of nuclear war. Part of the context of the build-up to the current war in Ukraine was the U.S. unilaterally withdrawing from several of these nuclear arms control treaties. Possibly, the war in Ukraine could have been averted if the U.S. and E.U. would have been willing to reach a negotiated settlement that took into consideration Russia’s security concerns.

The Attack on Democracy and the Politics of Inaction

Despite the available common-sense solutions, politicians and corporate elites are not taking the necessary steps to avert catastrophe. The United States, the dominant nation-state in the world system, is leading humanity down a path of self-destruction. The two-party political system in the U.S. is controlled by a very rich corporate capitalist ruling class. The ruling class, in particular factions associated with the fossil fuel, military, and financial industries, oppose addressing the climate and nuclear war crises because it would undermine their wealth and power and possibly the dominant position of the U.S. in the global capitalist system.

At this historical moment, the Republican Party’s top concern is its own perceived existential threat. The demographics of the U.S. are changing. Republican strongholds such as Georgia and Texas are hitting the tipping point in which Whites are no longer the majority. The Republicans fear that their coalition of the rich, White Christian nationalists, and White populists is not large enough to maintain their power democratically. Consequently, they are committed to dismantling democracy and institutionalizing a form of minority rule. The January 6, 2021 coup attempt was just the most dramatic manifestation of a party-wide commitment to ending democracy in the U.S.

As described by voting rights reporter Ari Berman in Mother Jones, since 2020, the Republicans have been implementing a “slow coup.” Emboldened by the ultra conservative supreme court which declared political gerrymandering legal, in Republican-controlled states, the Republicans are creating the legal foundations for a “New Jim Crow” minority rule with four primary strategies: allowing the rich and corporations to spend unlimited money in elections literally buying politicians, extreme gerrymandering, voter suppression laws making it more difficult for people of color and other disenfranchised groups to vote and ensuring that election counts are under the administration of Republican-appointed election officials. With a rigged electoral system and control over the Supreme Court for at least the next several decades, Republicans are emboldened to remake the U.S. in their image. The repeal of Roe v. Wade is just a step towards their goal to dismantle human and civil rights. A series of supreme court rulings over the last decade has been building the legal foundation for authoritarian rule in the U.S.

This moment demands the formation of a United Progressive Front (UPF), a unified coalition of progressive civic, human rights, and labor groups, independent of the Democratic Party to launch a Campaign to Save the Future. Both the Republicans and the Democratic Party are pushing the world towards self-annihilation. Only a movement organized in a mass democratic institution committed to representing the interests of the super-majority multicultural multiracial working class can inspire the hope, participation, discipline, and solidarity necessary to force system change now.

The great challenge the “Left” must take on is to develop a mass unifying social change strategy in the context of the sclerotic two-party system designed to preserve capitalist power and prevent social change. Historically, the U.S. Left has failed this task. It is this generation’s historical mission to try again… and succeed. As Marx wrote, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”

The 2022 and 2024 elections are incredibly important. Without a massive Democrat turnout to stop the Republicans in 2022 and 2024, the Republicans will further rig elections and solidify their domination of government for at least a generation. With Republicans in power, humanity has little hope of stopping the climate catastrophe. In early primaries, Republicans are turning out at a higher rate than Democrats.

The UPF will need to democratically decide on clear demands, a media campaign, a get-out-the-vote campaign, and a street-mobilization strategy. Clear demands will put pressure on both the Democratic and Republican parties. For example, the UPF can have mass rallies demanding that the government and FED maintain a full-employment economy and fight inflation by stopping monopoly price gouging.

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Posted by Teri Perticone

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