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by Robin Mathews, Vancouver BC (Mar. 10, 2014)
A number of people began to wake up to The Modern World in the nineteenth century. Two key things were becoming evident to them. The first was that private corporations - so entangled with government they were fast becoming indistinguishable – were claiming ownership of more and more of The Commons.
People think of The Commons as shared land surface. But it’s much more than that. It’s the natural resource wealth of the nation (which is one of the reasons for present “globalization”, or “government by corporations” – deny the nation has any real power, and grab everything it’s got). The Commons is even more than natural resource wealth. It’s the whole structure – natural and human - in which a national community resides, which is why in parliamentary countries we have a “House of Commons”. That is a law-making institution ideally representing the whole population and its environment, and ideally serving their best interests, with a sense of responsibility for the future.
No wonder the present neo-fascist goons in our House of Commons work full-time to destroy its power and relevance. And, sorry to say, no wonder the Opposition parties refuse to name and face what is really going on – since they have become, it seems, a willing part of ”globalization” democracy-wrecking.
The second thing some people in the nineteenth century began to see was that the taste, the ideas, the values that a population has – the truths it lives by - are laid on it by whoever has dominant power in society. Only when life becomes unbearable does the population awaken.
[The fight to end the twelve-plus hour day and brutal child labour (earning a pittance) was a major decades-long conflict in the nineteenth century. They were practices laid on, as ‘natural’, and ‘reasonable’ by those who had power, believing they owned the lives of others as one owns cattle.] The ‘truth about life’ handed to the population comes from the people in power who can own almost all ‘communication’ – such things as the press, the media, political structures, law, the courts, and the education system. The ‘truth about life’ imposed on the general population since at least the Industrial Revolution makes the people in power safe, pampered, rich, admired, honoured, protected, and confident.
It also makes them brutal, unforgiving, oppressive, dishonest, and driven by greed.
For those not among the people in power it’s a very different story. So said the concerned people in the nineteenth century. They were seeing what was, and is, plain to all who care to look. While those people were speaking and writing and acting, the so-called technological world was becoming evident. It was a world which, increasingly, could produce wealth, could reduce the most exhausting kinds of labour, and could provide reasonably for the well-being of everyone alive.
Instead, wealth was being seized by a few. Invention was permitted to be “owned” and kept among the rich. Vast amounts of natural resources could be “owned” privately. And members of the larger population were treated as if they were animals, beasts of burden, or something less.
The understanding of all that was not suddenly seen by economists only. Many people began to look around them and see – horror. The recognition happened among the English Romantic Poets (1797 onwards). John Ruskin, art historian and social critic, as well as William Morris, poet and (famous) wall-paper designer wrote famously about it … passing insight on to people like our own fine “Victorian poet”, Archibald Lampman in Ottawa (1861-1899).
The “awakening” took place sharply in the nineteenth century in England because England was not only becoming “the workshop of the world” but also the laboratory in which the Black Hand of the Industrial-Financial Capitalist Revolution was showing itself in full view. It was turning countless numbers of people into 12-plus hours a day robots, little children into skeletal mill-hands, housing projects into storage places for the walking dead, and the earth a place to ravage and loot and despoil … and more.
Early in the 1840s two men met in Paris. One was the wealthy son of a capitalist weaving manufacturer and the other was a philosopher/journalist without financial means. They became determined to explain the newly-shaping world – why it existed, where it came from, how it operated, what explained the monstrous oppression everywhere, and how the future would unfold. Both moved to England – the centre of all that was worst – and both lived out their lives there, working and writing. One was called Karl Marx, the other Friedrich Engels.
That was a time of the expansion of British power (imperialism), the construction of railways and of grand English homes on the gardened estates of the rich and powerful. They were becoming unbelievably rich from more-or-less owning the “free and democratic” parliament, from exploitation of the weak, and from having unimpeded control of “the common wealth”.
“Revolutionaries” appeared. They are always people who say “the truth about life” laid on us by the people in power is self-serving, manufactured, brain-washing fantasy produced to keep the One Per Cent safe, rich, pampered, admired, honoured, protected, and strong. And to keep the others … quiet, stupid, and oppressed.
The present “revolutionaries” tell us the One Per Cent is not only taking over more and more of “The Commons” (including, in Canada, now, The House of Commons), but – in order to get its message implanted – it buys, takes over, and possesses almost all the means of communication (public and secret): what we call ‘the Mainstream Press and Media”, educational structures, the courts, political parties, so-called “government” secret services: CSIS, CSEC, and, even, finally, ‘the forces of order’ in the country.
As early as 1887, George Bernard Shaw (playwright), William Morris (artist, craftsman, and poet), the famous feminist and theosophist, Annie Besant, Cunningham Graham MP, and thousands of others marched toward Trafalgar Square in London, seeking – in brief – action on widespread unemployment, repressive wages, and, in Ireland, “coercion laws” to jail without trial and to outlaw public assembly. And much more.
The police were ready. They killed, maimed, and jailed, making of the peaceful occasion what has come to be known as “Bloody Sunday”. The answer of the rich and powerful was obviously: “if we can beat you into submission … we will.” Shaw and Morris were amazed to see the brutality of the police, to see the political parties in Opposition sit on their hands, and the Mainstream Opposition press support the violent repression of the peaceful demonstration.
In 1867 Karl Marx had published the first volume of “Capital”. It circulated and was examined by reformers and the oppressed. It combined with experiences like Bloody Sunday, 1887, to initiate the history we know that followed.
Huge “Marxist” parties appeared. Huge countries declared themselves ruled by Marxist ideas. Others countries forced major reform. Across the world, Capitalist forces (under a hundred names) fought Reform forces (under a hundred names). Still, now, across the world, Capitalist forces (and their economic imperialist brothers) go on fighting any reform-driven government that is based, even partly, on what are called (sometimes wrongly) “Marxist ideas”. Those are any ideas that get to the roots of social inequality.
Those with reform ideas frequently claim that capitalist activity must be destroyed or severely disciplined and that “the people” must govern visibly and must own or significantly share ownership of resources and the means of production in the economy.
Since the “Bloody Sunday” of 1887, times have changed … somewhat. But only somewhat because the power structure has remained the same and The One Per Cent has grown even stronger - and the ownership of communication has not changed significantly. We still need to Wake Up To The Modern World.
In the eighty years after Bloody Sunday real action and pressure by the population as well as political organization of strength (and the power of the Eastern Bloc “socialist” countries) forced The One Per Cent to realize it couldn’t stay in power if it continued to attempt massive repression of the population in the so-called advanced, civilized, democratic countries of the West. And so a period of relative comfort has been slowly experienced in those countries.
“Offshore” peoples have gone on being treated like beasts … or worse. The plundering and pollution of the earth has increased.
And slowly … slowly … slowly The One Per Cent set about winning the battle against “socialist’ regimes, helping in the fall of the Soviet Empire and its U.S.-led gangster-style reconstruction.
Buying and coercing European governments, The One Per Cent has erased anything like a democratic European Union, placing neo-liberal bankers in place and neo-liberal European Commissioners into power.
Fighting against the democratic moves south of the United States, The One Per Cent completely erased the possibility of socialist reforms in Chile (1973) by staging a coup, murdering all Left leadership, supporting a 17 year dictatorship, and creating a neo-liberal constitution which still rules (now) “democratic”(?) Chile. Around 1990, David Rockefeller is reported to have said: “We who run the transnational corporations are now in the driver’s seat of the global economic engine and are setting government policies….” [Ralph Surette, COMER, Jan 14 20]. The One Per Cent has just manipulated and seen Mexican Oil production (a wholly a nationalized activity since 1938) opened to private foreign investment and ownership (aided by the present Mexican president, Enrique Pena Nieto).
The One Per Cent is striking back – successfully and more powerfully than anytime in the last seventy years, deciding it has power enough now to set about the dismantling of any real democratic structures in formerly “Western, civilized, democratic” states, stripping populations of long-term employment, social security, and making all living for the non-One Per Cent precarious, a matter of uncertainty and risk. The One Per Cent make the idiot claim that “corporations are the makers of employment” and so all must bow to the corporations ... that grow fatter and fatter on profits and refuse to spend into the economy to create employment or take any responsibility for the well-being of society.
We are not back, yet, to the conditions (in Canada) that sparked Bloody Sunday on November 13, 1887 around Trafalgar Square in London. But we are moving in that direction with what is, now, worse looting and plundering and poisoning of the planet than ever before in history. And the present Conservative government in Canada makes clear it is in the hands of The One Per Cent, not in the hands of the people of Canada. That is why it is doing all it can to prevent a fair and just federal election in 2015. It wants no democratic interference with its destruction of democracy in Canada.
Has all hope been lost?
The opposite. The One Per Cent and its Stephen Harper-like front-men really want the death of democracy, really want to own all the wealth in the world, really are driven by naked greed. They will stop at nothing. And so it is they who build the real opposition. It is they who create the terms for their own overthrow. It is they who – getting the bit between their teeth – are happy to brutalize the population on the road to even greater greed and wealth. That is why there is talk of new political parties in many countries of the West (Canada included).
That is why the very tough job of building Opposition outside the present party structure is achingly beginning to happen – the Occupy Movement was only a highly publicized example. Idle No More was a Canadian beginning. “But,” you will say, “they have gone nowhere.” They have planted seeds … that are sprouting in many different places.
The Barack Obama who supported the rape of Libya, the devastation of Syria, and helps engineer the on-going attempt to destroy the Venezuelan ‘people’s’ government, and who has retained the symbol of real U.S. brutality – Guantanamo Bay Prison – turned away the attempt by The One Per Cent to move on Syria and from there against Iran. He was losing the Democratic vote among the people. Times are tough in the USA and the supporters of the Democratic Party are really hurting.
The superficial obvious is now being spoken in the USA. Robert Reich (Globe and Mail, Mar 5 14, A11) reminds readers that when all the money is hoarded by The One Per Cent (as he says has been going on for 30 years), purchasing power disappears for the ordinary people, and so do jobs, as the economy flattens out. The rich are blindly greedy, happy, and contemptuous of the rest of the population. When the population says there is no bread, they answer with Marie Antoinette before the French Revolution: “Let them eat cake”. Marie Antoinette kept her head in order to make that answer, but she lost it shortly after, by guillotine.
Robert Reich is not, of course, saying the system which places the rich where they are, owning most of the wealth and almost all means of communication and dictating the shape of society has to be replaced. It wouldn’t be loyal in the U.S.A. to say that! But both he and Barack Obama, without knowing it, are helping to build the real opposition, the terms of their own overthrow. They are pointing gently at the gigantic injustice, and beginning to explain it, a little, saying The One Per Cent is impoverishing the population.
Others are explaining it much more clearly. The fight is on, visibly. More and more people are waking up to The Modern World. Maybe The Modern World is in its death-throes. Maybe a new world is about to be born. Maybe The One Per Cent will win … again.
Whatever … the fight is on. Don’t just ‘stay tuned’ – get into the fight.
Robin Mathews, Vancouver, March 10, 2014
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