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America’s False Consciousness

By Charles Sullivan

America’s False Consciousness

An essay authored by Patrick Martin, and published at the World Socialist Web Site on October 13, 2010, revealed some interesting findings regarding the approval ratings of Democratic and Republican members of Congress. Martin’s piece was titled Demagogy and Duplicity: The Democrats in the 2010 Elections. He cites data from a Zogby International Poll of independent voters which found that “only 13% gave a favorable rating to congressional Democrats and only 5% to Congressional Republicans.” Considering that the U.S. is the most conservative developed nation on earth, these are astonishing revelations.

Poll after poll indicates that voters have lost faith in the Democratic and Republican Parties, whose respective approval ratings have fallen to historical lows. The Zogby findings indicate a repudiation of right-wing politics by those who are not wed to either of the major political parties.

No one associates liberalism with the Republicans; however, it is equally clear that the Democrats do not have a functioning left-wing either. The electoral choices are between right-wing candidates in the Democrat and Republican parties, despite the offerings of political parties and organizations operating outside of the mainstream. As a result, all of the contests are between pro-corporate candidates who occupy the extreme right of the political spectrum. The only message that reaches the public ear is that of the ruling class. Thus the continuity of results is assured.

The paradox is that while independent working class people have overwhelmingly rejected right-wing policies, the country nevertheless continues to lurch further to the right. This happens when people mistake people like Obama for a liberal or a Socialist. Conservative and liberal working class people should be philosophically and ethically opposed to any political party that undermines their social and economic interests.

Almost inexplicably, conservatives continue to identify themselves with Republicans and liberals with Democrats. Traditional conservatives and traditional liberals, while still in existence, are politically extinct. Neither conservatives nor liberals are organized into a viable political force. They are fighting one another while the super-rich are looting the public treasure and privatizing the public domain. Traditional conservatives and traditional liberals were replaced by neoconservatives and neoliberals, which are entirely different animals. We behave as if the terms ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ and the parties they were traditionally associated with continue to exist and function the way they did in the past.

Liberalism no longer finds articulation in the Democratic Party. Cynthia McKinney may have been the last truly liberal Democrat. McKinney, like the liberal wing of the party itself, was abandoned when the party sold out its liberal base to pursue corporate bribes in order to compete with the Republicans. As a result, the left continues to ineffectually grope for political expression.

The trouble is that the people do not comprehend who or what the real enemy is. Let me clarify it for them: The enemy is the ruling class, its social, financial, and political institutions, and the capitalist system that spawned them. Its enemy is the corporate state and the commercial media in its various forms of expression.

It is irrational, if not delusional, for working class people to support candidates and polices to which they are philosophically opposed. And yet that is what they are doing. As recent polls make clear, neither conservatives nor progressives want to have their social security benefits cut. They do not want to see their retirement benefits reduced, or their Medicare and Medicaid payments slashed. The unemployed do not want their unemployment checks cut or eliminated, as some Republican members of Congress advocate. Workers do not want the retirement age raised. They do not want to see college tuition priced out of reach to all but the wealthy.

The working class consists of liberals and conservatives. It encompasses the devoted followers of Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh. However, Beck, Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and all of the other right-wing crackpots support such policies, as do most Democrats, including President Obama. Why would any working class person, Democrat or Republican, support any of these charlatans?

Why would they support a social and economic system that exploits and subjugates them? Clearly they do not understand that system or the alternatives that are available to it.

The answer is that Americans are too indoctrinated to see clearly. The majority exists in a media-induced state of false consciousness. To them, up is down and down is up. Brown is white and white is brown. The people are confused and disoriented. They are misled and lied to. They are looking for quick and easy fixes to complex problems that were long in the making. For the reasons outlined above, voting cannot cure what ails America. The game is fixed. The appearance of choice is an illusion, an utter hoax.

Political and media demagogues portray liberals (progressives & Socialists), which continue to be miscast as democrats, as the enemy of the working class. Working people do not comprehend that the benefits they are fighting to preserve were the result of progressive policies, many of them stemming from Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Conservatives, neoconservatives, and neoliberals have always opposed these policies and have fought to end them since the day of their inception. Let us not forget that FDR was accused by one of his adversaries of being “a traitor to his class.”

It would be a mistake, however, to confuse FDR for a genuine progressive. Certainly he was no socialist. It was his Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins, a Democratic Socialist, not FDR, who was the principal architect of The New Deal. It should be noted, too, that The New Deal excluded most blacks. It was essentially affirmative action for whites. Spooked by the social unrest engendered by The Great Depression, FDR, an avowed capitalist, perceived these policies as the only way to save capitalism from the socialist threat of his time. Roosevelt was correct in his assessment. It would have been better for the nation in the long run if FDR did not enact The New Deal. If he had not, it is likely that massive social upheaval would have ensued, and Socialism may well have supplanted capitalism as the dominant paradigm.

Before any of my readers point out the failure of Soviet Socialism, particularly under the murderous Stalin regime, let me state that this was not Socialism as Marx, Engels, and Trotsky envisioned it; it was state capitalism.

Similarly, if President Obama did not bail out America’s financial institutions with public funds, global capitalism would have collapsed. Predicated upon greed and exploitation, these institutions should have been allowed to fail, bringing down the global capitalist economy. If Adam Smith’s much ballyhooed, ‘invisible hand of the market’ actually existed, the world today would look very different than it did a few short years ago. We might actually be in recovery. Now we are waiting for the next onslaught.

History demonstrates that free (deregulated) markets, the Holy Grail of Milton Friedman’s capitalism, do not actually exist. They never have. Free market capitalism is an ideological myth that is reified in our culture. Markets are always manipulated by elites for the sole benefit of elites. Otherwise the global economy would have fallen like a row of dominoes two years ago. What we witnessed was Socialism (public funds) propping up capitalism (privately owned financial institutions). All of the benefit, to the tune of $13.8 trillion, went to the financial institutions and to the elite. Working people were rewarded with government-imposed austerity. This has occurred not only in the U.S. but elsewhere in the world.

The international financial aristocracy is laying the foundation for global governance. The public domain is being privatized. The poor are no longer part of the social and political discourse.

As a result of these policies, there is social turmoil in every capitalist nation on earth, except the U.S. Compared to the rest of the world, Americans are comatose, which is the result of so many people being informed by Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and other wealthy demagogues working the airwaves on behalf of the ruling class. Most Americans are informed by ideology, not by facts.

This is what Friedrich Nietzsche meant by conviction. Reality pales before the shadow of belief and false hope. Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” comes to mind. Fantasy becomes the norm. Capitalism would not long endure in the presence of collective true consciousness. It exists by deceit.

Charles Sullivan is a naturalist and free-lance writer residing in the hinterlands of geopolitical West Virginia.

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