I am writing from the perspective of the United States, my home, and because of its global impact, the greatest obstacle to mitigation of the climate emergency.
It should now be clear that we have serious problems. Our government, taking orders from corporate leaders, is spying on us and expanding its capabilities to use force while neglecting the necessities of life for most or all of the global population.
We the people urgently need democracy to be able to respond to the climate emergency. First I will discuss relevant characteristics at the individual level, then historic deviations from democracy in the United States and finally the level of society.
Good People are Everywhere
In contrast to the demonizing of others by our economic/political/cultural system to indoctrinate us for competition and war, there are good people throughout the world. This has been my experience and nearly everyone who actually gets to know other people (see NATO Summit and Personal Transformations).
People Live in a Very Limited Perspective
The world is complex, deceptions are pervasive, people have limited time, and very few even desire to know more than needed to survive or excel within some limited scope. Even within my professional experience in engineering, few cared to look at or discuss the extended context of their work.
The consequence is that many otherwise very caring people, contribute their tiny part to systems of horrific consequences. I did for most of my life.
The other consequence is that people see a lot of good people in the organization, project or system, and assume that all is well. The image of good people can block awareness of a disastrous path (see Forced Toward Extinction by Those Defending Us).
I suspect that James Burnham (see We Have Been Deceived) and William F. Buckley at the National Review, orchestrating leaders and these movements, were working from a broader perspective. As an example, at the end of James Burnham’s book, “The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom”, he shares one of his personal dilemmas. To be most effective, the people in power must use the rigors of scientific methods, but this is potentially undermined if the President does not believe in science. On the other hand, the primary role of the President is to deceive the public with the myth of “democracy.” Burnham is justifiably concerned that if the President himself is not deceived, he will be less effective in projecting the myth to the public. Burnham reluctantly concludes that the President must be deceived and it is easier to maintain scientific methods within the deep state even if the President does not believe in science.
On the other hand, I believe that even with Presidents, Prime Ministers or CEO’s, very few are aware of the greater consequences of their actions. They climbed the ladder focusing on excelling within their role and if they have any empathy, they do not want to see the consequences of their actions.
I do not think that my grandfather or any of the others in the John Birch Society saw much beyond their anti-communist activities (see Deception on the Right – I’m a Son of a Birch).
Most of us do not see where we are being led.
People Only See What They Want to See
Our culture stresses knowledge and ridicules uncertainty. People tend to lock in early exposure and stop learning. They seek others re-affirming their views, filter out new information that is inconsistent and avoid sources of other perspectives (see Censorship Internalized).
Once locked in, their life grows around those perspectives. It may feel like their identity. Changing perspectives risks loosing friends, family, career and personal identity.
People Live with Inconsistencies
Even when conflicting information is not filtered, people rarely notice the inconsistency. They filter the existence of the inconsistency.
In the fifteenth-century, conveniently after Christopher Columbus “discovered” the Americas, the Pope ruled that non-Christians, such as the indigenous people of the Americas, only possessed “occupancy” rights and their lands could be taken by Christian nations that “discovered” lands without Christian owners. This papal bull is known as the “Doctrine of Christian Discovery” and is still the legal basis in U.S. court cases concerning ownership of land. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” We clearly fell far short of establishing religious freedom since there would be no United States land, no country without the extreme religious intolerance of denying land to all non-Christians. Most of us are not aware of these details but some lawyers and judges are aware and ignoring it.
Ever since 325 AD, when the Roman Emperor Constantine merged the Catholic religion with the Roman Empire, the extreme inconsistency of the teachings of Jesus and the empire of Rome have existed within the Roman Catholic Church. The extremes of love, compassion and sacrifice has co-existed for 1700 years along with power, greed, wars of conquest, regime change, sexual abuse, torture and assassinations.
These are just two of innumerable inconsistencies that people have been ignoring.
Historic Deviations from Democracy in the United States
In 1492 Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas. Spain and other European countries started displacing the indigenous peoples and taking colonies. Starting in this period, Monarchies of Europe were, in fits and starts, forming republics and gaining some degree of democracy. We know that up until 1776 we were a colony of Great Britain and did not have democracy. The US is a republic but we often call ourselves a democracy and claim to be spreading democracy throughout the world.
Through popular struggles the people have made some very important gains in democracy and formed international organizations, like the United Nations, that have created declarations of human rights. Our aspirations and image of democracy has grown significantly, but at the birth of our nation, the right to vote was very limited, Senators were selected by governors, we were killing the indigenous peoples to take land, and enslaving people of Africa to work for the colonizing people from Europe. To what extent is actual democracy still lagging behind our image?
The 1896 United State presidential election, more than any in American History, was class conflict. Republic candidate William McKinley became the first in US history to receive large campaign donations from wealthy capitalists. McKinley supported their demands to continue expansion of US empire beyond this continent and to protect the gold standard. William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic candidate stood for the path of democracy versus yet another empire and also coining silver money to open the monetary supply to the general public. They blamed the limited gold for economic hardship. This was the first election where big money played a decisive role, giving the election to McKinley (read more).
In 1898 the US had spread across the entire continent and was on the verge of taking foreign lands. There were intense debates. We were to choose between being an example of democracy for the world or another empire, the first empire with the extreme hypocrisy of claiming that people should be free and govern themselves. In a brief 55 days during the summer of 1898, the United States took control over five distant lands with a total of 11 million inhabitants: Guam, Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. Never in history has a nation leaped so suddenly to overseas empire (read more).
By the 1920’s Major General Smedley Butler, US Marines, was a legend but when the Marine Corp send him on a recruiting tour, he said that serving as a marine commander had made him “a high-class muscle man for big business” and “a gangster for capitalism (read more).” He later wrote a book “WAR is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives (read more).”
Our government took extreme action to get the United States into WWI. It sponsored 75,000 speakers, who gave 750,000 four-minute speeches in five thousand American cities and towns. Very few enlisted so Congress voted for a draft and declared war. Subsequently Congress created a law, the Espionage Act, which had a clause that provided penalties up to twenty years in prison for “Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall wilfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty in the military or naval forces of the United States, or shall wilfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the U.S. . . .” About nine hundred people went to prison under the Espionage Act. The Department of Justice sponsored an American Protective League, which by June of 1917 had units in six hundred cities and towns, a membership of nearly 100,000. The League claimed to have found 3 million cases of disloyalty (read more).
After the wealthy made extraordinary profits (read more) by deceiving and coercing the general public into fighting, suffering and dying in WWI (read more), their financial speculation crashed the stock market, taking us into the Great Depression of the United States. These difficult economic times, of their own making, were tragic for the general public but a boon for them, accumulating assets from people struggling just to eat. These wealthy used government police and military to put down unrest of the starving (read more).
In a Michigan Supreme Court decision of 1919, Dodge v. Ford Motor Company, the court upheld a lower court decision that “A business corporation is organized and carried on primarily for the profit of the stockholders.” It is often cited as affirming the principle of “shareholder primacy” in corporate America. In other words, a corporation, by law can not reduce its profits to stockholders for any other consideration, for example survival of the human race (read more).
Except for the contiguous land of North America and roughly a decade starting in 1898 when the United States took open control of distant lands, acquiring territories (read United States Empire Crossed the Oceans in 1898), the United States has used covert and overt actions to overthrow governments that serve their citizens and not the business interests of the United States, while retaining the appearance of independent nations (read War Is A Racket, by Major General Smedley Butler, 1935). This is the meaning of “national interest”. The leaders of countries independent of our corporate interests, serving their citizens, are “dictators” of “socialist” or “communist” countries. The countries that serve the US corporations are “democracies” or “moderate” monarchies, totally independent of extreme brutality to their citizens to enforce this suffering. The labels that the US applies only depend on whether their government serves the US corporations (read more).
In the United States and other so-called “Western democracies” the real power lies with the people who control the economy, the people at the top of corporations and with accumulated wealth. Our free market, capitalist economy is not democratic but the people at the top of this economic hierarchy have the power and, except for minor issues that do not affect them, the governments serve their interests. With money they can deceive, manipulate and buy elections or buy the candidate after elected (read more).
Politics is from the Ancient Greek word Πολιτικά, romanized Politiká or Polis, meaning “affairs of the cities.” As used here, politics is all exercise of power in interactions between individuals, that affect the daily lives of individuals. I am intentionally attempting to avoid the use of the words government and state because they imply a hierarchical political system with centralized power, structurally in opposition to democracy.
Your freedom to move your fist, ends at my nose. In the United States, the wealthy, through think tanks, have distorted the libertarian ideology toward removal of all regulation of corporations (see Deception on the Right – I’m a Son of a Birch). They are told they are defending freedom but unlimited freedom gives a few the power to take everything. They will knock your head clean off. Unrestricted freedom for some is lost freedom for others. Unrestricted freedom becomes theft, exploitation, assault and murder. Freedom has no meaning if only applied to one side of an interaction between people. If everyone is not considered, it is not freedom.
The United States Constitution, Article IV, Section 4 says “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government” The Constitution does not use the work republic at the federal level but does specify a government consistent with a republic. Public discussion leading to the Constitution used the word republic. The pledge of allegiance uses the work republic. One political party is called Republican. The United States is nearly universally called a republic.
What is a republic? A republic (Latin: res publica, meaning “public affair”) is a form of government in which the country is considered a “public matter”, not the private concern or property of the rulers.
But in practice, nearly all of the actually planning and justification of laws and actions are private, involving the interests of a privileged few seeking financial gains. It is not uncommon for private organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to actually draft the law. All of our wars were planned in secret meetings and then debated in Congress and sold to the public with totally different justifications.
If we actually lived in a republic, there would be no need for whistleblowers. More significantly, they would be rewarded by our government, not aggressively and illegally tortured and destroyed. Our leader’s war on whistleblowers clearly shows that we do not live in a republic.
I have seen an alternate definition, that all governments except monarchies are republics, but that definition ignores the root meaning of the word and appears contrived to imply false value to governments no better than Monarchies. There is value in knowing whether a government is public with deliberations that impact the public or is secretive. That is a useful definition of republic and consistent with the root meaning of the word. This is a critical distinction because democracy is not possible if the actual deliberations and rationale are secret.
People in the United States generally call us a democracy and a shining example and defender of democracy in the world. When some point out the deficiency of democracy, others are quick to point out that the United States Constitution does not declare us a democracy, only a republic. In fact the framers of this country privately feared an excess of democracy because the general public is too ignorant to realize the importance of their privileges. Much of this was also published anonymously in the Federalist Papers.
The framers and subsequent elite have very effectively restricted democracy in the United States. In looking closely, there are few, if any, examples where the government sacrificed the interests of privilege for the general benefit of the public. Wars and healthcare are grotesque examples going against public interest. The failure to even acknowledge the climate emergency, and being the only country to exit the United Nations climate agreements, should remove all doubt.
President Franklin D Roosevelt and his “New Deal” is often held up as an example of our government serving the people. I agree with historians who present a more nuanced interpretation. He did not abandon his privileged roots, he actually served them and saved capitalism from itself. His predecessor, attacking the WWI veterans during a depression was more than society would accept (see Reward the WWI Veterans with Starvation). Unlike nearly everyone else, he could see the bigger picture and avoided a revolution. Today our leaders are quickly undoing all that he did to save capitalism. Even before considering the climate emergency, there are signs that the United States empire is close to collapse. The elite are grabbing all they can before the collapse.
The United States often criticized the Soviet Union and China for having a one-party government. But what we have with the Republican and Democratic Parties are more accurately viewed as two factions of one corporate party. And, unlike all other so called “democracies”, they have effectively blocked all other parties so the corporations only need to buy one or two of them. We do not have any political party that serves the general public. If you still have doubt, look at what Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party did to Bernie in 2016 and is now doing in 2020. The Democratic Party is pulling out all of the stops to block Bernie and if that fails, they are working toward electing Trump. Michael Bloomberg with possibly Hillary as a running mate, actually entered the race to block Bernie, even knowing they will likely loose against Trump (see Deception on the Left). Let that sink in. The bitter polarization of Republicans versus Democrats is irrelevant compared to blocking a moderate like Bernie, who starts to threaten their corporate sponsors.
Democracy is only one form of a republic. A republic is visible to the “public” but is not necessarily open to control by the public. A republic however, is a requisite for democracy. Democracy is not possible without public visibility of the workings of government. With the secrecy of our government, we do not even have the prerequisites for democracy even before money takes control.
Communism and Socialism
Nearly all of my life, I blindly followed the anti-communist rhetoric and had been exposed to nothing on the left (see Deception on the Right – I’m a Son of a Birch). In 2011, after recognizing we were being deceived (read more), I gave priority to looking everywhere my culture told me not to look.
Twice I attended annual, national socialism conferences. Here I found people and books full of analysis and struggles for real democracy, liberty and justice.
Before going further, it is critical to understand that the Soviet Union and China never became communist or socialist countries. Communism and socialism are about gaining democracy in the economy. They are all about giving people local control over their lives. Sadly, Carl Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, and a few others on the left, felt that the masses of people were still too ignorant and a vanguard of elite must first take power until the masses were sufficiently educated. So although the people in Russia and China fought for their liberty, an elite co-opted their struggle, establishing authoritarian, central governments. Some characterize the Soviet Union and China as state capitalism, even fascist, the opposite extreme to communism.
IMPORTANT: Although there is much to learn from socialist books and organizations, I would not be a member and suggest extreme caution. Although words emphasized that is was grassroots, power to the people, that was not what I observed. It was rigorously controlled from the top. New people were groomed and approved before given voice. In one lecture, whenever Bakunin was mentioned, an anarchist communist critical of concentrated power, all of the socialist members booed. They had clearly been conditioned. The seeds of vanguard co-option have been preserved.
The United States government, serving the wealthy, seized on this opportunity to label these authoritarian states as examples of communism, and greatly exaggerated the suffering, to create propaganda demonizing communism and socialism.
Why did the United States government launch anti-communism and the “Cold War?” The Soviet Union and China not only represented barriers and competition to U.S. global domination, but even more important, they needed to keep people from learning the lesson of communism. Western democracies were facades of democracy in government, while the elite retained and grew their monopolistic control of the economy, blocking any significant democracy. People in the United States must not learn this.
The U.S. and its allies then continued overt and covert operations to destroy any outbreak of more democratic governments throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and South America. It was not only a need for exclusive access to critical minerals, resources, cheap labor and markets for U.S. products, it was essential to destroy any examples that would expose the myth of Western “democracy”, the foundation for their privilege.
In the nineteenth-century, people like Carl Marx, tried to understand how there could be so much inequality and suffering, particularly from the government of the United States, a so called “democracy.” In these “democracies” many were starving and young were dying in factories and wars while a few were gaining obscene wealth. Democracy was not delivering as promised. More alarming, the United States, the shining example of “democracy” had just used military force to seize control of five distant lands in a brief 55 days (see United States Empire Crossed the Oceans in 1898).
They noted that although there were some democratic aspects of government, the economy had no democratic aspects. The capitalistic economic system is all out competition. It is called free-market, but those getting ahead invest their money in crafting laws, evading equal justice, absorbing competitors and employing military and police at home and globally. It is not free as in egalitarian, it is free as in no holds barred. For a short overview, watch David Harvey’s Crisis of Capitalism.
Slavery is horrific, but tragically for many, the capitalist wage market could also mean suffering and death. A slave had no protection from abuse from their owners, but they were viewed as valuable property and would be fed and housed. As labor, competing in a capitalism economy, they often had more protection from personal attack, but the owners of the factories and fields did not care whether or not they passed on enough for employees and their families to live. They often attacked workers with private security, paramilitary, government police and even military if they attempted to organize for collective bargaining.
My grandfather and most of the anti-communist activists were most motivated first by fear of that the communists openly spoke of taking over all governments and second that they were going to steal land from owners and give it to the general population. Both are true but highly distorted. Many communists/socialists, like Trotsky, forcefully argued that the movement must be international. They needed to spread democracy, anti-war and a culture of cooperation and peace throughout the world. The United States was the primary example of why this was necessary because the United States was repeatedly seizing control or overthrowing governments that took steps toward democracy, actually serving their own population and not giving priority to the foreign investors. The communists needed to have democracy in the United States to make it possibly anywhere in the world. The socialist Eugene Debs was imprisoned for speaking out against entering WWI (read more). The rulers in the United States could not have anyone speaking against their wars of profit. Their state of privilege would not survive this international communist plot to spread peace, democracy, cooperation and sharing. Tell everyone they are better off dead than red. Terrorize them. Get my grandfather to dream of killing communists and nearly strangle my grandmother in this dream.
Concerning land redistribution, we need to look deeper. Land ownership, like all wealth, accumulates in fewer and fewer people. This is the game of monopoly. Much of this accumulation was through violence or at minimum, unfair advantage of those already wealthy. One means is through bank loans, subsequent manipulation of market value of land or homes, bank foreclosures when the value drops below the debt, and then passing it on at substantially reduced cost. So most of the land was originally accumulated through violence and injustice. But totally aside from how it was accumulated, is it right for any person to have far more land than they need while many others die from lack of access? Also, one person owning vast land and able to purchase more, does not take care of it. They exploit the land. In contrast, when land belongs to the community, they understand that they must take care of it because it is their life and the lives of their families. Would we be facing this climate emergency and possible extinction if people still shared access to land where they live and cared for it? What is private property? Private property is a relatively recent creation in the minds of humans. While giving a right to one person it is excluding everyone else in the world. We are facing extinction and must think a little deeper.
Anarchists, like communists and socialists are demonized because they teach a valuable lesson. Their disdain for authority and occasional use of bombs has provided effective propaganda to use against them.
There is much diversity within anarchism but the core principle is that hierarchy of authority, with its police and military, nearly always serves the leaders and opposes the people, even in so called “democracies.” There are some exceptions where authority is justified, like a parent keeping a child from getting hit by traffic in the street. But exceptions are few. Society must challenge all structures of power of people over others, and if benefits can not be proven, their authority is not valid.
Many in agreement with this anarchist principle, like Noam Chomsky, Murray Bookchin, and myself, also insist that while challenging a hierarchy of power, it must be within a local assembly of power. We are all strongly opposed to the American libertarian perversion of anarchy that is every person for themselves.
Examples of Democracy
Before the rise of cities and states, decisions concerning our lives were made within our small communities. This was most of human history. They may have had chiefs but they were ultimately responsible to the community. The community could and did replace a chief who was not serving their needs. This changed as societies grew and created military and police that protected the leader, no matter how bad they were for people.
Tragically, in recent history we have very few examples of democracy. The people enjoying the privilege of dominating others quickly destroyed any outbreaks of democracy. Real democracy is a threat to their way of life. People who have suffered for so long will be inspired by examples of others having some control over their lives. It could spread rapidly and so was brutally extinguished before it could spread. You may feel that I am exaggerating or a communist but when our Western democracies are taking us to extinction, IT IS TIME TO LOOK DEEPER.
We can learn from the following examples:
- During the Spanish Civil War, 1936 to 1939, in some areas the farmers gained control of land and factory workers gained control of factories. The pressure for this change had been building for a century but more rapidly between the overthrow of the Monarch and formation of the Spanish Republic in 1931 and General Franco returning from Africa to crush this outbreak of democracy in 1936, ultimately crushing it in 1939 and ruling as a dictator. Although the United States was officially neutral, behind the scenes the government and corporations supported Franco. Texaco provided oil. Everyone should take note that this outbreak of democracy was attacked by nearly all governments, of all ideologies, from the US and UK through Germany and Italy to the Soviet Union.
- There is a more recent and amazing example with the Kurds in Northern Syria, what they call Rojava. As the United States worked on regime change in Syria, the Kurds seized the opportunity and created this democratic society in the middle of the conflict. The United States allied with them to fight the Islamic State. A couple months ago, after they defeated IS in many areas, President Trump gave Turkey the green light to massacre them.
- The day after President Bill Clinton signed NAFTA, indigenous in Southern Mexico, the Zapatista Movement, revolted, briefly with arms but then non-violently. They created structures of direct democracy within the Mexican State.
At the most basic level, our “free market”/capitalist economic system is competition. Winning is the objective. On the football field, a player that is nice and does not go all out will be cut from the team. In a competition within a corporation to become CEO, between corporations, and between nations, if you do not go all out, you will loose or be cut. You must be as competitive as your competition. You must go all out and push the limits to gain advantage. You can not stop short of adverse impact from society. The only limits are from society. Our “free market” uses the military, police and covert operations. They assassinate, torture and murder millions to win. You know it was like this when the United States gained independence. Why would you think this has changed?
Democratizing the economy is essential for political democracy, which is essential to respond to the climate emergency. At minimum, the intentional barriers to democracy within the U.S government, like the Senate and electoral college should also be eliminated. We should also work toward direct democracy, moving more decision making to the local, face-to-face level. Federation and local adaption of global standards and larger scale projects can extend this to a global level.
Our government’s lack of plans for our survival of the climate emergency is not an anomaly, it is just the most extreme symptom of a system of all-out competition.