Response to the Powell Memo: A Progressive Blueprint — Part 2
What follows is Part 2 of a direct rebuttal to the original Powell Memo, frequently using Powell’s own words, which instead offers a progressive plan to take back the country from the ravages the corporate oligarchy has committed on the American people and restore the freedoms and protections to which we are entitled. Part 1 can be read here.
The Apathy of the People
Paraphrasing Edmund Burke, John F. Kennedy once said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Unfortunately, most good American men and women have done nothing for the past 40 years, allowing the US to be hijacked by corporations and the wealthy for their insatiable quest for empire. It’s not entirely their fault.
The US capitalist system is set up as it is exactly in order to prevent a popular uprising. Keep the people chained to their low-paying or miserable jobs by ensuring there is effectively no safety net if they quit or are fired — it keeps the people submissive. Give them just enough money to keep from starving, but be sure they do not make enough to be able to influence the political system. Provide them with copious amounts of food filled with unhealthy sugars and oils because it keeps them fed cheaply while ensuring the profits of big agriculture. Label anyone a terrorist who does not agree with the government’s removal of our constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech and assembly and ensure they can be sent to prison indefinitely without charge, trial, or access to a lawyer.
What has been the response of the people to this massive assault upon their fundamental rights to economic justice, racial justice, affordable education, health care, and decent quality of life overall? The painfully sad truth is that the people, including so-called “progressives,” often have responded — if at all — by appeasement, ineptitude, and ignoring the problem. There are, of course, many exceptions to this sweeping generalization but the net effect of such response that has been made is scarcely visible.
Most are under the impression that slavery ended over 150 years ago. Yet, what else can we call a system in which a person is compelled to provide someone else with their labor, most of the profits of which they will never see, in order to keep a roof over their heads and to ensure they and their family do not starve? The average American is quite literally a wage slave, working for the profits of those who have never lifted a finger to earn them. Yet, they either do not see the chains by which they are trapped or choose to look the other way because it’s the only way for them to survive. At what point does the condition of the average American get so bad that they will actually band together to do something about it?
In all fairness, it must be recognized that the average citizen has not been trained or equipped to conduct guerrilla warfare with those who defend the corporate oligarchic system, no matter how much they want to see change. The people have been indoctrinated from early childhood to be effective cogs in the wheel of the corporate state — to not question or think critically for themselves as to whether the system as it stands actually benefits either themselves or the majority of the people. Their role is to act as slaves to capitalism, with constant fear of job loss held over their heads to keep them in line. The most effective form of protest — the general strike — is denied them due to this very real fear.
The general strike has been shown to be incredibly effective in other countries in which there is already an established safety net and worker protections that make it difficult to terminate someone’s employment. In these countries (France, for example), the people get out in the streets and bring the nation to a halt until the government provides for their needs. Because unions are strong, their jobs are secure, and their health care and pension are not dependent upon an employer. Americans are not so lucky.
The traditional role of the corporate oligarchy has been to manage, to produce, to sell, to exploit the worker to the greatest extent possible under the law. By ensuring that they make profits, improve the standard of living of their wealthy shareholders while undermining that of the poor and middle class, destroy communities, dole out a pittance to charitable organizations, dominate educational boards to ensure the people are sufficiently undereducated so as to comply with the capitalist’s orders, and generally be greedy citizens, they reinforce the tenets of neoliberalism. They have performed these tasks very well indeed.
But the people have shown little stomach for hard-nosed confrontation with this corporate cabal, and little skill in effective intellectual and philosophical debate. Most outside observers of the American scene will agree that the American people are “plainly in trouble”; the response to the wide range of atrocities committed against them by big business and government has been ineffective, and has included appeasement; the time has come — indeed, it is long overdue — for the wisdom, ingenuity and resources of the American people to be marshaled against those who would destroy them.
It will take a collective shift in thought to tip the balance toward change. Democratic socialism as a possible tool for change has made huge strides since the Sanders campaign. Americans, indoctrinated from the cradle into believing socialism is an evil akin to communism, need to be shown examples of how successful democratic socialism works in other developed countries to ensure the safety and prosperity of their citizens.
Responsibility of Progressives
What specifically should be done? The first essential — a prerequisite to any effective action — is for progressives to confront this problem as a primary responsibility of effective organization and proper framing of the message: Use the common wealth for the common good to create prosperity for all and to foster community.
The overriding first need is for progressives to recognize that the ultimate issue may be survival — survival of the people under the current oppressive capitalist system as we fight for change, and all that this means for the strength and prosperity of America and the freedom of our people.
The day is long past when simple protest could enact significant change. The corporate oligarchs running the country take no notice. If everyday Americans are to survive, the Progressive movement must be equally concerned with taking down and replacing the system itself. This involves far more than an increase in petitions and protest marches. These are essentially ineffective with a government system set up to silence the will of the people through gerrymandering, election fraud, a two-party system, and a Congress beholden only to the corporations who pay for their election.
A significant first step by progressive groups could well be the designation of a coalition of leaders from each group whose responsibility is to rally the people and educate them as to their rights, while at the same time developing an alternate system that benefits the people in place of the current capitalist system that only benefits the top 1%. A coalition of leaders, akin to that of a parliamentary system, would be far more difficult for the oligarchs and others to remove with a single bullet, which has been so effectively achieved in the past. It is also a system far more representative of an ethnically and ideologically diverse population such as the United States, and is better suited to governance by multiple parties.
For this to be accomplished; however, the current leaders and membership of Progressive organizations need to leave their egos at the door for the greater good of the movement. The progressive movement currently remains too splintered to be effective. Whatever our personal views on how to go about removing the oligarchy, we must keep in mind that all of us are striving for the same goals. The right-wing would enjoy nothing more than to see a progressive movement divided by infighting. A progressive coalition needs to come to a consensus on basic core values and goals they will strive to enact, and leave the issues they disagree about on the table to be discussed at a later date, once we have achieved our basic objectives. Too much time and energy is wasted on issues that, although important, are not necessarily equal to the immediate needs of the people.
Possible Role of a Progressive Coalition
Independent and uncoordinated activity by individual progressives, as important as they are, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in developing a clear vision for a prosperous future for all Americans by developing a unified strategy involving organization, careful long-range planning and implementation, consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, a scale of non-corporate financing available only through joint effort, and seizing political power available only through the united action of both national and local organizations.
Moreover, there is the quite understandable reluctance on the part of any one person to get too far out in front and to make themselves too visible a target. The political duopoly, and the DNC in particular, managed to eliminate Bernie Sanders during the 2016 primaries, effectively derailing the progressive movement in favor of installing a puppet for the military industrial complex. We need to focus on issues and values, not personalities.
The role of a Progressive coalition is therefore vital, and all national progressive organizations should join in the effort. The Progressive Independent Party (PIP) is one such organization endeavoring to bring all these groups together. PIP is dedicated to uniting all parts of the progressive movement to study and analyze possible courses of action and activities, weighing the risks against probable effectiveness and the feasibility of each, working from both a top-down and bottom-up manner. Considerations of cost, the plan for financial and other support without corporate donations, enlisting progressive leaders and activists, and similar issues will all require the most thoughtful consideration, to be discussed at periodic summits.
We have been shown that allowing for politics as usual will never provide the American people with the benefits and protections to which they are justly entitled. We must create a new government that invests our collective resources for the public purpose — ensuring every American has a good paying job, health care, healthy food, clean air and water, and a free, quality education.