What Must Be Done: When corporatism and Leninism have both failed – part one

For a future (worth living) to be possible

With the clear and accelerating hyper-concentration of power in the world, primarily via the hyper-concentration of corporate economic and financial power, which now threatens to swallow any last vestiges of democracy, freedom and human rights, we clearly need a united grassroots citizen’s movement to restore and protect the basics: democracy, fundamental human rights, and freedom. If we fail to create such a united popular force, we will see the full emergence of a global corporate feudalism – a phenomenon which is already well underway.

Serious thought and action must be directed toward creating a broad-based citizens’ coalition to defend democracy, and to create the possibility, and the actuality, of a more peaceful, just, sustainable and democratic world. In order to accomplish this, some form of federation of citizen’s movements is needed. We do not necessarily have to join or form a particular political party, nor are party politics the central issue. What is required is a citizen’s movement, broad enough, empowered enough, bold enough, and sufficiently united across its diversity, to create the kind of popular pressure and initiative that makes change happen. The great accomplishments of our collective human history have come about in this way: leadership from below. We should not expect it to be any different today.

If we look to history, who led the changes in society brought about by the civil rights movement? People like Rosa Parks, the students who started the lunch counter sit-ins, the ordinary citizens who launched the Montgomery bus boycott, and the millions of ordinary people who stood up, spoke out and created the people’s movement that led to great changes.

Who led the movement for universal suffrage? The right to vote, first by non-property owners, then by women, was not gained by a decree from on high, but by the struggles of ordinary men and women working together to create change.

Who brought down the Vietnam war fiasco? Not JFK, who launched the bombing on South East Asia, not LBJ, who stepped it up, not Nixon or Kissinger, who took the aerial bombardment to literally genocidal levels, not the corporate elite who backed, armed, and heavily profited from the venture, and not the political “leadership” of the major parties. It was the grassroots, again. It took 14 years then, before a grassroots coalition could be built strongly enough to bring the war to an end. And should there be any doubt as to how the war ended, take the statements from then National Security adviser to the U.S. government, chief intellectual-in-residence to the political power elite of the United States, Henry Kissinger. He made it clear to his boss in the White house that in order to win the war in Vietnam, more troops would have to be sent, but if more troops were sent from America, stability could not be assured at home. The crisis at home, the crisis of legitimacy brought on by this gruesome war, the crisis precipitated by a great and powerful citizen’s movement that demanded an end to this unjust and horrific war, was at a level by the mid-70’s that the war in Vietnam became unsustainable. The citizen’s movement ended the war, as Kissinger himself admitted directly.

In European and North American history, who led and ultimately succeeded in the efforts to bring about a work week that is 40 hours, and not 80 or more, as it had been? Who led and ultimately succeeded in raising wages, first above starvation levels, then above meager subsistence levels, to a point where a decent life is possible – despite the roll-backs of the last twenty years? Who led and ultimately succeeded in ending the worst workplace safety dangers – something most people take entirely for granted? Who led and ultimately succeeded in the drive for social programs to benefit the old, the poor, the ill or injured? Who led and ultimately succeeded in giving the people of the Western world the standard of living we now have? Not the unalterable laws of capitalism – the barons of capital opposed all of these initiatives. Not the political elite – the political elite opposed all of these initiatives, until the public demand for them was so powerful it could not be opposed any longer, and the political elite took credit for a concession they had fought for years, if not decades or centuries. It was primarily the labour movement, along with other popular movements, that won the people of the Western world these gains.

Who broke the back of the biggest empire the world had ever seen – the British Empire – the empire that controlled two-thirds of the globe c. 1940? Not another military superpower. Not America, the now self-proclaimed global super-cop, judge, jury and executioner, exporter of “democracy” through the barrel of a gun. Not Superman, the Lone Ranger, extraterrestrials or some other fantasy rescuer. It was one little Indian of great stature, Mahatma Gandhi, and more importantly, millions of ordinary heroes.

Who initiated, led, and brought considerable gains for the earth and humanity with the environmental movement? Again, not the political or corporate elite, who fought these initiatives tooth and claw the whole way, only to take credit for every concession that they yielded to popular pressure. To be fair, there have been and are business people and politicians who have sought and contributed to positive developments in society and in environmental protection – of course – but the initiative and the pressure, the drive and the creative force has always come, almost without exception, from below – from the people themselves. It is no different now.

The question that confronts us now is, will “the world’s other superpower” – as the business press, as well as the UN Secretary General has called the world’s citizenry – come together in sufficient unity to oppose the destruction of democracy and the earth? Is it going to be a bang, a whimper, or a shout of joy and determination that ends, not the world, but the world as it was – out of balance, out of harmony, out of time? If it is not a global citizen’s movement that is decisive in this question, then arguably it will be either a bang or a whimper. We cannot afford to let this happen. It must be a collective shout of joy, a determined and powerful “no” to violence, destruction, and the prey of the few upon the many – an emphatic “yes” to the future of life on earth. We must rally unity amid diversity now.

J. Todd Ring

March 2007

Part Two: What Must Be Done: When corporatism and Leninism have both failed

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