Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Social beans, social consciousness and the immiseration of the poor sucker American people

"It is not consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness." Karl Marx

“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” HL Menken

A) The inexorable, desperate, insatiable drive for profits by the world capitalist class, and the consequent relentless pauperization of the working class (oh, in the USA we don't have a working class, just substitute “middle class”- same thing) : True

B) The growing awareness, organization and preparation of that class to resist and rise up and expropriate the expropriators: False

Marx has been proven right about the trajectory of capitalism; but wrong on the subjective factor: social being does not determine social consciousness.

Regarding A) what we see now is a tour de force of unleashed finance capital burrowing its blood-sucking snout into anything that smells of money. The standard of living of workers in the “advanced capitalist countries” has to be driven ever-downward. It's happening before our very eyes at breakneck speed. What Marx saw as the inevitable end stage of world capitalism from his vantage point in the late 19th century is coming to pass.

Economists, politicians and the media can no longer crow about the triumph of Western democratic capitalism and the vanquishing of communism and Marxist ideology. From the economic boom brought about by spending for WW II in the 1940s to the mid 1970s the standard of living went up and life seemed good for workers in the USA and Europe. Then it stalled and began a downward trend. At first the powers that be refused to notice...Reagan's sleight of hand and the “supply side” ruled the roost in the 1980s. In the 1990s the internet bubble gave an illusion of growth and the more recent housing bubble dulled the senses of everyone until 2008. Now that drop in the standard of living and income among most people in the US (and Europe) is evident.

What was hailed as the ending of the boom and bust cycle of capitalism between Eisenhower and LBJ, and the subsequent “end of ideology” proclaimed in Daniel Bell's supposed landmark book of the same name wasn't the inauguration of a new era; it was just a temporary interlude of peace and prosperity (but it was a little short on the “peace” side). Now we're back to the law of the jungle and pillage by the robber barons that are the normal feature of full bore “free market” capitalism.

Not only have the 1960s been repealed, and the New Deal been mainly rolled back, we are seeing the progressive era reforms of the late 19th and early 20th century being attacked: Pure Food and Drug Act repeal anyone? Do we need more rat shit in our processed food? How about Republican Teddy Roosevelt's conservationism and trust busting? TR was a commie traitor.

We can see that everything that corporations touch turns to shit. Privatized jails; privatized military forces; privatized “health” care; for profit “universities” that suck up government grant money, pay executives millions in compensation and leave the poor suckers that they recruited as students out in the cold with no degree worth anything and mountains of debt; and it's worse in poorer countries: subsidized farm products from the US are dumped into Mexico, Haiti, etc and drive farmers out of business to starve....the great free market.

In some places people pushed to the limit and beyond will fight back. They know they are being screwed and who is doing the screwing.

But not in the good old USA.

What Marx called “false consciousness” reigns supreme. He recognized that ideology (part of the cultural superstructure of society) can delude the exploited masses. Religion, mindless patriotism, racism...can cloud the minds of the masses and divert them from understanding their class position; that there is a ruling class that they will never, ever belong to; that they have to unite with their fellow workers regardless of race or sex to fight for their basic economic rights; they have to overthrow the system that represses them. But this, Marx though, would be temporary and the people would come to see that they had been fooled and free their minds of capitalist ideology. They had to. Their oppression and degradation would be so bad that it would wake them up! such luck.

We Americans are blessed with exceptionalism, every one can rise up and be rich, we believe; of course there's a lot of evidence to the contrary and we all are being pushed down...but it's not pleasant to believe it, so we don't.

The ruling class has been successful in stupidizing and dummying down the people. They are putty in the hands of the info-tainment and religion industries. People whose lives have been destroyed by rampant corporate capitalism are standing up support to the ones that have kicked their ass up and down the block. They vote for them. They get angry about....uhhhh...Muslims! And ….uhhh unbalanced government budgets...and our troops who are uhhh...somewhere...Afghanistan, and Wyoming and Iceland, whatever.

When people are too self-involved, smug, racist, stupid, ignorant, to know what their best interests are and embrace a fantasy dreamland as a response to their being actually oppressed like everyone else in the world....then what can you do? I'm too old for all of this. That's why I'm indulging in a cynical rant.

PS- in my better moods I can recognize there have been some changes in consciousness: about Palestine and Israel among some people when they are exposed to the truth; Occupy Wall Street and the popularization of the 1% vs the 99%; and that polling shows that most people favor taxing the rich and don't want more wars...BUT, these developments don't lead to much action and the counter-story is still being swallowed by enough people to make any real changes iffy.

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