"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.
Sunday, August 02, 2009
What is to be Done? Part 1
The following is the first part of an essay which seeks to probe the empire for weaknesses arising from the economic crisis in order to identify a way forward for leftists. In the first part, I sketch out the current situation.
The current economic “crisis” is a crisis only for the poor and the middle class, which is scheduled for extinction. This “crisis” represents the consolidation of the economic power of the wealthy by a vast transfer of wealth from public to private hands. But this massive grab of economic power could end by destroying the class that believes itself to be making its domination permanent, and therein lies the opportunity to be explored later in this essay.
The most vocal portions of the “left” in the United States fail to see the holistic nature of the globalist strategy of capital. The anti-war movement seems to believe that one man, Barack Obama, can make a decision that will lead to the withdrawal of troops from the Middle East. The reason this is not possible is because the conquest of major portions of the Middle East is key to the control of Central Asian energy supplies, which is itself part of a much larger plan for global market control. Obama has fully accepted this plan or he would not be President today. His job is both to pursue the strategy and to damp down criticism, a job he has been doing quite effectively. Obama, far from representing a reversal of the drive toward neocolonialism, has refined but also intensified that strategy.
The truth that is so difficult to face is that the empire, by its nature, demands total control. We name this entity as “empire” precisely for that reason. The driving engine of its current moves in the Middle East is not simply to obtain oil. No doubt, the U.S. will obtain the oil, but it could have done this by many other means than military conquest.
The military element serves several purposes. In order to successfully camouflage these moves toward domination, enemies must be manufactured. It is now becoming clear that one of the primary purposes of the Iraq occupation was to give the intelligence agencies a chance to manufacture enemies in order to justify our conquest of the Middle East. Massive random round ups, accompanied by lengthy incarceration and torture, have turned a generation of Iraqis against the U.S. The same process is now being pursued in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where drone attacks have displaced millions of Pakistanis. These attacks ensure a sufficient level of hatred for the U.S. that we will be able to justify military interventions for decades to come. There will be no withdrawal from Iraq.
The point is that their tactics cannot be understood in isolation or explained by simplistic short term gains. The ruling elite thinks in much larger terms and the left must match their globalized aims with a global understanding of its own. Note carefully that we are not making statements about the morality of individual members of that class, which vary widely. We are making statements about the logic of imperial control which always tends toward gaining control of all aspects of society in order to ensure an undistorted flow of property accumulation into the coffers at the center of power.
The role of the media in this strategy is to imbue the world population with a fatalistic acceptance of the inevitability of the current system. News shows are designed to trivialize the consequences of imperial control by framing such events as having no more significance than a pop star’s latest hair style. A serious message is interwoven between the trivialities, but the trivialities make the serious message of fear easier to ingest.
One of the major factors lying behind the weakness of current resistance movements is the rejection of totalizing ideologies by the academic mainstream, the post-modernist trend that finds its media reflection in the trivializing framing noted above. Clearly the ideology of empire is a totalizing ideology, a scientifically elaborated set of strategic initiatives centered on the accumulation of capital which regards the welfare of the majority as of no consequence to its calculations. Human beings are merely human capital to be used or disposed of as necessary for the maximization of accumulation. The resistance to this ideology must have a concept of the total system and its tactics must be a reflection of this understanding. The inability to make scientifically valid propositions that potentially form a system of ordered truths make resistance to the real global power impossible because it prevents the emergence of a unified front with broad agreement on principles. Perhaps this is the primary purpose of encouraging academic trends such as post-modernism, especially when they accord so well with neoliberal economics. Such movements dissolve the potential power of the resistance at its foundation. To face a totalizing class enemy with ideologies that are localized and identity-based is to disarm oneself by default.
So the beginning is to banish the illusion that the empire can gradually evolve into something less brutal, less intrinsically inhuman. Its fundamental nature is control which must spread from one node of human activity to the next until its steel-laced spider web forbids any chink of light.
Yet in creating this web of night the empire destroys the very engine of life that it depends on in order to survive. Human capital can be kept in peak operating condition only through the fuel of hope. Once hope is removed and we are told that the current world situation is the “end of history”, that reason and humanity have nothing further to offer than the endless asymptote of capital accumulation until the ruling elite disappear into a black hole of their own infinite wealth, then the motor that drives the whole machine starts to grind loudly. This is the despair and its companion cynicism that currently grips most of those who inhabit the outer circles of the neoliberal hell. And this is the basis of real hope.