Ron’s Greatest Hits – Table of Contents
All articles are by Ron Brandstetter
1. “Call to Conservatives” Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, May 5, 1995.
2. “Fast Track To Nowhere” The Oregonian, Sept. 10, 1997.
3. “Speech to Portland Anti-War Rally, May 8, 1999″
4. “Corporate Crimes, Government Abuses, and the Case for Ralph Nader,” PDXS, October 11, 1996.
5. “Psychological and Social Imperialism,” from The Get-Ready Man, 1980.
6. “Does African Terror Have American Roots?” The Oregon Peace Worker, April 1999.
1. “Call to Conservatives” (Published in the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, a 100,000 circulation subsidiary of the New York Times, May 5, 1995, op-ed page, sec. B).
I remember being young and knowing, with self-righteous anger, that the government was the enemy. I grew up in the 60’s and ‘70’s so I got to work that anger out on the streets of Berkeley and Santa Cruz in the company of my peers.
I remember how thrilling it was to be in a mob with hundreds of others, battling the police forces of the enemy government. It was revolutionary in both the positive and negative senses of the word, and it marked us and touched us (even if many of us have worked hard to forget those times).
I haven’t completely lost all of that anger, especially when I study the evidence that our government, under either major party, quite deliberately supports violence and murder in Central America. But as I have grown older I have tried to broaden my understanding of the good/bad duality that lies at the heart of our government, and I have broadened my understanding of the opportunities open to us under this legal/constitutional structure, and I have changed my political strategies and tactics.
Now I am confronted with the young leader of Sonoma County’s self-styled Sons of Liberty Civilian Militia. He clearly hates his government and he seems to be in the process of being seduced by violence.
“Our strongest theory is that the federal government had something to do with this bombing and its sole intent was to sway public opinion against the citizens’ militias …” he is quoted as saying in the April 30 <em>Press Democrat</em>.
While he formally disavows lawbreaking, the bulk of his statements show that he and his organization reserve the threat of violence if future events do not proceed to their liking. Why else form armed groups and practice military maneuvers if not to prepare for violence?
We on the left have had some practice in disavowing our violent extremists. Over and over we’ve had to learn why our violent extremists were wrong, and why it was necessary to disavow them in public and private. I myself took painful lessons to learn why and how to disavow Lenin and Mao, the Weather Underground and the Symbionese Liberation Army – even though I was never close to any of them.
Now there’s another one, supposedly “on our side” who plants bombs to try to change people’s minds, the so-called Unabomber. I disavow him too, his arguments and his tactics. They‘re wrong. They hurt us more than they hurt the tree-killers. His tactics hurt society as a whole. No one should kill people to punctuate political arguments.
But for over 25 years, the right has had little practice in disavowing its violent extremists. May we please hear from Bob Dole on whether the United Nations is part of a vast conspiracy to take over the United States? May we please hear from Newt Gingrinch and Phil Gramm on whether American citizens should or should not take up assault weapons to prevent the government from placing rational limits, supported by 60% of the population, on assault weapons?
May we please hear from leading conservatives on whether the police power of this land – which is overwhelmingly in the hands of conservative white men – is planning to confiscate the guns of other conservative white men? Do leading conservatives really look with equanimity at the threat of violence that emanates from the so-called militias?
May I please hear from my elected Republican representatives, Congressman Frank Riggs and Supervisor Paul Kelley, on whether the existing military and police forces are sufficient to protect my family from foreign and domestic threats, or do we also need in Sonoma County a so-called Sons of Liberty Civilian Militia to protect us?
I don’t think the leaders of the conservative forces, nationally or locally, can disavow the so-called militia movement. They need their votes. They’ve spent too much time and energy whipping up this hatred of government, this climate of revolution.
I hope I’m wrong, because if the conservatives can’t disavow their violent extremists, a civil war may come to America’s future. I look at my 5-year-old son – one of nature’s soldiers – and I cry. He won’t survive.
In an era of sailing ships and muzzle-loaders, Patrick Henry could afford to fight a war against stupidity. He could afford to say, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Under today’s conditions, if it comes to fighting, too many innocents will die – including the ones I love. I don’t want a civil war.
Can the leaders of the right please demonstrate they don’t want a civil war, either? Or must we all have much death – and no liberty?
2. “Fast Track To Nowhere” (Published in The Oregonian, Sept. 10, 1997, page B9). (Transcription note: The Oregonian published this using “Nafta” as a word with an initial capital and lower-case letters, here I have restored the acronym NAFTA to all-capitals. Also, in the very last sentence, the variant spelling of “phony” did appear in the published version.)
Economics is not as exact a science as physics, but the basic principle of free trade is not in doubt: if all other things could be held equal, a freer trade regime should allow participating countries to produce more total goods and services than a high-tariff system.
Unfortunately for economics professors and students, the real world is constantly in flux. Social systems, political systems, business relationships and personal relationships are ever-changing; nothing can be held equal to what it was before.
In principle, there’s no reason why a well-meaning president couldn’t negotiate trade treaties that would work to benefit the majority of Americans. But in the specific context of 1997, the proposal to give President Clinton and future presidents the authority to negotiate future NAFTA-style trade treaties on a “fast-track” basis – with the details of this proposal to be released only today and with a future Congress given no power to amend or stall the future treaties with countries that may range from Paraguay to Mongolia – represents a major shift of power within this country.
It is a shift of power away from ordinary workers and citizens and toward the elites who are able to bundle up 6- and 7- digit contributions to craven politicians. “Fast-track” is the payoff the special interests get from the completely legal corruption of the current campaign-finance system.
Fast-track may in time rebound to the economic benefit of a favored few, certainly among owners and managers of corporations, and the most fortunate workers. But the passage of fast-track would be a blow to the political power of the average citizen and worker, a lasting blockade in the paths of anyone who wants a turn towards reform and grass-roots political power here in America.
The political scandal is not that politicians and special interests are breaking the (lenient) letters of the laws against bribery and backscratching. The scandal here in America is what’s legal: the business interests such as tobacco, defense, petroleum, medicine, timber and others who finance a political class that is subservient to the corporate interests.
No, it’s not the principle of free trade that’s at stake in the fast-track fight, and it’s not the possibility of more jobs for some segments of managers and workers whose industries are already successful. What’s at stake in the fast-track fight is whether the special interests will continue to keep the mortgage they seem to have purchased over the future actions of congressmen and presidents.
I have no doubt that with goodwill and astute advisers, a hypothetical President Ross Perot or President Ralph Nader, backed by an alert public, could negotiate trade treaties that benefited the average American.
These trade treaties would not allow America’s health, safety and environmental laws to be overruled by cabals of faceless bureaucrats, as the existing World Trade Organization treaty allows.
These trade treaties would not threaten to overrun America’s highways with untrained foreign truck drivers piloting substandard foreign trucks, as the existing NAFTA treaty threatens.
These treaties would encourage the rest of the world to come up to our high standards in social policy and trade regulation, not encourage American companies to lower America’s standards to match the world’s worst dictatorships and kleptocracies, as our current political and economic leaders seem to encourage.
Depending on how the categories are counted, NAFTA may have produced a few more jobs than it destroyed. The real horror of NAFTA is that America is becoming a one-party state of legalized bribery and inertia, even as Mexico struggles toward democracy.
What guarantees can Clinton make that he won’t give away America’s health and safety laws in a future trade negotiation? He can’t make any, because the whole point is to pay off the corporate interests who paid to put him in office (and who support the Republicans even more).
The interest of the corporate elites require a fast-track for trade treaties that will help them lock up all the wealth worth owning on this earth. The interests of the average American require a fast-track for electoral reforms, accountability and openness, and an end to one-sided giveaways to special interests. That’s the reason to oppose this phoney free-trade scam.
3. “Speech to Portland Anti-War Rally, May 8, 1999″
(Transcription notes: I am using parentheses to add two categories of notes: audience reactions, and two places where I had prepared material which was not used in the actual speech. The reference to “End Corporate Dominance” refers to the second of two annual conferences, which was held later in May ‘99, organized by the Portland progressive community. For the second conference, I was privileged to work on the organizing committee, and to present a workshop on trends in geopolitics, and to co-present with 2 others a workshop on “avoiding burnout in political work.” Also, I purposely wrote the speech in run-on sentences, to match my normal speaking style, most commas in these long sentences should be taken as decent-sized pauses.)
Hello, my name is Ron Brandstetter, and I’m here to represent the Pacific Green Party. I’m glad to report that our Coordinating Committee has endorsed this rally (applause), just as we’ve endorsed other rallies around the state. We started during the Gulf War in 1991, which we also opposed, and now many of the Socialist party members have joined us, and we’re glad to have them. I am the official Multnomah County contact person now, and an authorized spokesman for the Party, but I want to emphasize, however, that my words today are entirely my own responsibility – so let’s get radical.
The reason we need to oppose this war is not in Serbia, not in Kosovo, not in Europe. The reason we need to oppose this war is right here at home, with a rotten government that has been lying to us about its wars for most of my lifetime (applause). A rotten government, with a bloated, gold-plated military establishment (applause), which supports several thousand families and their SUV’s right here in Portland at Boeing and other places … they might be our brothers, they might be our cousins or our sisters-in-law. Unfortunately for all of us in several aspects, the high-tech weaponry that has cost us all as taxpayers trillions of dollars over the years, is proving to be fairly fragile and rather overrated. But our rotten media establishment papers won’t tell us about that, and our rotten liberal Democratic politicians won’t make a stink about that – even though Harry Truman rose to the Presidency by making a stink about defense spending corruptions in World War II, and in World War I the same thing happened with Lloyd George and the Labour Party. (Prepared text not delivered: Things are so stupid and bad today, these wimpy politicians can’t even break from the war machine to advance their own careers.)
But having said how bad things are today, and they are, I do want to say how I’ve heard a bunch of people on KBOO this week (applause), saying “this is just like Vietnam,” but I was around then, and from the point of view of the movement, things are a lot better now. Back then I lived in the flat suburbs on the wrong side of LA, and LA was considered very conservative and retired military, and there was absolutely nothing happening, maybe in some West LA enclave of Quakers and Communists but not out where we lived, and it came down to three high-school kids in December 1965, a year and four months after the war started and we were reading about demonstrations in Berkeley or New York or some other impossible place, and we said “well why don’t we have a demonstration right here in Whittier California,” that’s right, Nixon’s home town, and we were two sophomores and a junior in high school … and we did it!
We didn’t know anything, to publicize it we put little fliers in between records because there were only two record stores in town (laughter) and anybody who was possibly hip enough to demonstrate against the war in Whittier California in 1965 would go there, and we got some adult to get a parade permit from the city, and 75 people showed up on a grey Saturday and marched, less blue sky than I see today, and we were so stoked to figure out that like 4 of these people were undercover cops trying to suss us out and provoke us (laughter), and we stayed cool, and we did it! Three high-school kids organized the first demonstration against the war on that side of LA, representing millions of people and a year and months into war.
So here we are today in Portland, representing a couple of million people, and we’re only like six weeks into the war and this is like the 3rd or 4th demonstration already, and I see a couple of hundred people here today (applause), and we’ve got a great coalition of all sorts of people, Quakers and feminists and labor and all sorts of sharp intelligent adults, don’t get me wrong, I want to encourage our high-school students to do everything they can (applause), but it’s great to have the adults involved. This is basically the same coalition that is supporting and focusing on ENDING CORPORATE DOMINANCE, and that’s going to be a powerful focus for us, and a real powerful tool to bring about some real change in this country (applause), if we can just organize all the well-meaning people. So from the point of view of the movement, THINGS ARE A LOT BETTER NOW than they were in the time of Vietnam.
But things are still rotten. I’m pushing 50 now, and I can still remember I hadn’t even had my first day in high school when Lyndon Johnson broke into the TV to tell us how our brave sailors had been attacked in that Gulf and we had to go to war in Vietnam. And now it’s 35 years after that, and I’ve spent like 27 of those years trying to be a good historian, and while I haven’t approached this problem with my full historical intelligence, it seems that part or most or all of what Lyndon told us that day were blatant stinking LIES (applause), and nobody even knows or cares, except we do all know on some level, and that’s why 50% of the people don’t vote because they’re disgusted, even though their votes for peace could turn things around (applause). If we could organize all the people who are disgusted with the lies to vote for peace, that would create the revolution we need, right here (applause).
And there are plenty of lies, plenty of lies and lots of apparent corruption right here in the so-called land of the free and the home of the brave, plenty of lies right here to justify our protest against this rotten war (applause). Which branch of government is most corrupt? Think about it, which branch of government, executive, legislative or judicial is most corrupt, that’s a really tough question (laughter). Besides the lies about the war in Vietnam, and just to take the lies about wars and not the lies about everything else, there were lies about the wars in the Middle East, there were lies about civil wars in Chile and Indonesia, there were lies about civil wars right here at home where Black Panthers and others were killed and imprisoned with the direct complicity of our Federal Bureau of Investigation. There were lies about wars in Cambodia and Chad and Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ve supported a lot of murderers, a lot of little ethnic civil wars, just like Slobodan Milosevic, a lot of killings over the years have been paid for by our tax dollars. Perhaps the most cynical and disgusting case has been the case of Angola, where for twenty-five years, twenty-five lousy years, we have paid the CIA to keep a stupid rotten civil war going in Angola, at this point it’s totally genocidal to both sides, it has both ideological and ethnic complications, it’s killing Africans and keeping them stupid and poor so our multinational corporations can support BOTH sides, the oil companies support one side and the diamond companies support the other side and our government is officially trying to make peace but the CIA lets the rebels get rearmed again, and it does seem to be some sort of CIA game of military hegemony, and the mainstream papers never mention it truthfully. It’s because of lies and corruption like this that we can’t support this war (applause).
As a historian, my preliminary judgment is that the Clintonians stumbled into this war, they are fools rather than butchers in this particular case – even though they are butchers (applause), supporting wars in Mexico and Colombia and Sudan and Indonesia and god knows where else, almost anywhere ethnic and class tensions may rage. Madeline, the daughter of World War II, is obsessed with Munich and she drew a line in the sand and dared a bully to step over it, without quite realizing how much shit she’d stepped into (laughter). Now I’m no friend of Serbian nationalism, anyone who gets into history soon runs into Serbian nationalism, and it’s pretty much macho and revengeful and bloody and doesn’t seem to help anybody in the region. However the wise person might refrain from getting into feuds with people who EXPECT their feuds to last for generations and centuries. Milosevic is almost certainly a medium-sized monster, but Milosevic is not the reason we are opposing this war – the lies of Clinton and Bush and Reagan and Carter and Ford and Nixon and Lyndon Johnson, and yes, even the lies of John Kennedy and the corruption and the non-democracy they represent right here at home are why we are against this rotten war! (applause).
Madeline stumbled into this war … (microphone goes dead, event organizer says I have gone over time limit … crowd calls for me to continue speaking.) Thank you, thank you, just one more minute. Madeline stumbled into this war because Bill just can’t get it up over foreign policy (laughter), and she made a threat and then she had to pull out the guns to keep her promise to back up her threat. When they promise us liberty and democracy here at home, they don’t bomb anybody to keep that promise (applause). When they promise they won’t let the corporations buy all the politicians and rip us off massively with the help of the so-called law, they don’t bomb anybody to keep that promise (applause). (Prepared text not delivered: When they promise us they won’t let all the jobs go away to Mexico and Indonesia and that workers here have the right to organize and fight for a forty hour week, they don’t bomb anybody to keep that promise. That’s how bad it’s gotten here at home, we’ve lost the forty hour week, and Clinton says nothing, and Gore says nothing, and Wyden says nothing, and Blumenauer says nothing, so we don’t even notice, we’ve lost what our grandfathers fought so hard for, we’ve lost the forty hour week! That’s why we’re opposing this war!)
We do have just a few freedoms left, and we have to treasure them. I went down to the library yesterday, and I went to antiwar.com, and they linked me to the official NATO website, and I printed out this copy of the official NATO treaty from the official NATO website (waving papers), and it clearly says they’ll only go to war when they’re attacked, and with the consent of the United Nations. There’s been no attack, there’s been no consent by the United Nations, but the Clinton Administration goes merrily along IN TOTAL VIOLATION OF THE OFFICIAL NATO TREATY ITSELF. Who do we sue? We can’t sue anybody, because the corrupt judges will throw it out. They are violating the NATO treaty to wage this war, and we need to sue somebody! (applause). If there’re any radical lawyers here today, we need to organize a nationwide class action lawsuit (applause) because they are violating the NATO treaty to run this war and it’s trampling our rights as citizens. And if the corrupt judges throw it out, as they will, then we either take it to the United Nations as a human rights violation … or we start the process of talking back to these courts and this legal system that is bought and sold for the benefit of the politicians and the rich, and that’s why we’re opposing this war! (applause).
So that’s the opinion of one member of the Pacific Green Party, come join us and help turn this thing around (applause).
4. “Corporate Crimes, Government Abuses, and the Case for Ralph Nader” PDXS (a Portland OR alternative newspaper, now defunct), Oct. 11, 1996, pp. 3, 5. (Transcription note: a few small typos in the printed edition are corrected here, other non-standard usages such as the plural of Gypsy remain as they appeared in the original). (Correction note: in our eagerness at that time to find material disfavoring Clinton, my source and I were deceived by false stories made up by Republican party activists. I do think it is likely that crimes were committed in connection with CIA flights to Central America, but it is highly unlikely that such criminals would have wanted to involve the Governor of Arkansas just because he was the titular head of the Arkansas National Guard).
In accepting his Presidential nomination, Bob Dole said “I mean to attack the root cause of crime – [long pause] – criminals.” But if he really meant that, he’d have to attack his own best friends: governments and corporations.
Throughout modern history, the worst murders and robberies have been committed by governments and their close allies, the economically dominant corporations. While it’s easy to imagine either Bob Dole or Bill Clinton enthusiastically jailing black muggers or white tokers, both major Presidential candidates have shown their willingness to perpetrate and/or tolerate the crimes of governments and corporations.
Governmental Crime: Oppression, Repression and Dispossesion
In this bloody 20th Century, the largest massacres and robberies have all been carried out by governments, usually as deliberate acts of policy. Nazi Germany’s Holocaust of Jews, Poles, Russians, Gypsys and liberals, the Soviet Union’s GULAG of political opponents of all types (and bewildered innocents needed to fill up the quotas of victims), and Communist China’s un-named but effective system of death, prison and labor camps are the three biggest governmental murders of our Century, each pulling in uncounted tens of millions of victims. But the list of murderous dictatorial regimes contains hundreds of names, and the more democratic governments have hands that are only relatively less bloody.
In recent decades our American government has taken some pains to avoid direct responsibility for the murders committed by our allies and clients; there is always a local bully willing to ride into power on the blood of his opponents and neighbors. In the second half of the 20th Century, in an economically advanced and relatively open nation like ours, there is always a modicum of information on, and resistance to, the great national crimes; in the 1960’s and 70’s, resistance to racial segregation and the Vietnam War was strong enough to force significant legal and social change in the society as a whole, sometimes winning outright political and cultural victories. (The existence of an active “alternative” and outlaw press industry in America and Europe, allowing you to read this, is significant in itself and better for us than if it didn’t exist.)
Five stories must rank as the great governmental crimes, so far, of the USA in the 1980’s and 90’s:
• The political-legal wars of the rich against the poor at home under Reagan, Bush and Clinton.
• Military-CIA complicity in the Central American massacres.
• Military-CIA complicity in creating the Iraqs, Panamas and Somalias we then went to war against.
• Military-CIA complicity in the blatantly hypocritical drug smuggling that helped bring American cities down to Third World standards while financing American clients overseas.
• The cynical use of street crime in the mass media to whip up a repressive atmosphere and curtail Constitutional liberties in this nation.
Both Clinton and Dole have proved themselves deeply complicit in these and other governmental crimes of corruption at home and murder abroad. Dole has supported every American act of imperialism for over three decades (and Kemp came publicly to the aid of Salvadoran and Mozambiquan death-squad leaders in the ‘80’s, even as other big players were distancing themselves from the blood-letting). Pacifica Radio and others reported years ago on the Clinton connection to the CIA-complicit Central American cocaine-smuggling operations of the 1980’s, through the Mena airport in Arkansas; for whatever reason, Clinton has shown himself totally incapable of resisting the devious old pigs in the Defense-CIA establishment, even when they publicly subvert his policies in Haiti.
Both Clinton and Dole have been active in the (quite legal) sale of access to their attention to the big corporate campaign donors; this would be a sixth great governmental crime. America’s imperial game of supporting both the corrupt conservative Arab oil sheikhs and militarist “welfare-queen” Israelis while pumping the oil dry in the Middle East would be a seventh, and America’s imperial games sucking up to corrupt, dictatorial regimes in Asia that take our jobs make number eight. Neither federal nor local “justice” agencies, under either Republicans or Democrats, can prosecute governmental crime, which counts as a ninth great governmental crime against the American people. Surely we could all go on counting governmental crimes large and small, from our own personal experiences.
Corporate Crimes and Abuses
Perhaps the worst corporate crime on-going in America today is that the large corporations have so much influence over our governmental and political processes that their influence-buying of politicians and the preferential treatment they receive from all branches of government is perfectly legal. To be a large corporation is to be immortal, to control the infrastructure of an industry or industries, to have many physical and intangible assets, have large communities of dependents who will support the causes and politicians you select, and of course to have cadres of lawyers and publicists on call, proactively repelling any challenges from the law, the media or the radicals.
No one has to “bribe” anyone to produce a government of the major corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations. That’s how the system works! A quarter of the population – half of the electorate – follows their conservative media sources in actively supporting more corporate influence over government and more repressive legislation against rebellious subcultures.
The only surprise is that it wasn’t always this way. Until the last decades of the 1800’s, state corporation laws and the corporate charters they granted were restrictive. Corporate charters were limited to five, 10 or 40 years, and a closely-defined set of activities; corporations could be dissolved by the state either for cause, or at will. If a corporation wanted to engage in a new line business, they had to get a charter amendment through the state legislature.
But the Supreme Court steadily advanced the privileges of corporations from the early 1800’s, culminating in the 1886 decision in which corporations were held to be “artificial persons” with the protection of the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment – a new legal theory. Only then in the 1890’s did New Jersey, Delaware and other states compete to offer corporation charters on big business’s terms, allowing them freedom to buy and sell assets without limits.
This led directly to the era of the huge Trusts which monopolized all the major industries (and whose successor corporations still rule many industries). Today, there is a modicum of competition among the major conglomerates (even though their products and practices are nearly identical) but the result is essentially the same as the 1890’s: a small corporate class owns everything worth owning, the majority runs to enslave themselves in return for middle class pride and comfort, while the misfits, the minorities, the rebels and the failures are allowed to grunge in their underclass ghettos (as long as they don’t block the traffic).
Today, a trip to the library reveals a handful of books and articles on specific, adjudicated cases of corporate crime, while the shelves teem with thousands of news articles and earnest studies deploring street crime, and hundreds of lurid volumes detailing all the notorious street and bedroom crimes of the last few decades. The looting of America’s savings and loans in the 1980’s, largely performed by socially- and politically-conservative white men in suits, has great significance for our society and institutions: but far more people will rush to buy re-hashed books on the exploits of a Manson, a Dahmer or a Simpson.
Nevertheless, the S & L scandal remains symbolic of corporate crime in America. It cost society far more than all street crimes but gets far less publicity; it is deeply involved with government policy and regulatory decisions; and the few perpetrators who are arrested tried get treatment and sentences that are amazingly mild compared to blacks arrested for drug crimes.
Clinton is being raked over the coals for his connection to the failed Madison Guaranty S & L and he probably deserves it, but Bush’s children were essentially absolved for their S & L involvement (and the Doles are also connected to the S & L mess).
While the partisan Republican special prosecutor in the Whitewater case seems eager to indict either Bill or Hillary Clinton before Election Day, another corporate crime case currently coming to fruition should be almost as embarrassing to Dole as Whitewater is to Clinton: the price-fixing case against agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland (or ADM). The officers of this corporation are regularly atop the list of corporate givers to both major parties; ADM chairman and Chief Executive Dwayne Andreas has been particularly closely associated with Bob Dole, letting him fly often on the corporate jet and selling the Doles their exclusive Florida condo (at a price that drew accusations of favoritism). In return Bob Dole has been an ardent supporter of a piece of corporate welfare that has benefited ADM with hundreds of millions annually, government subsidies of up to 54 cents per gallon for ethanol mixed with gasoline in motor fuels.
The price-fixing case has been under investigation for over a year (and has been strongly denied by ADM), but in August ‘96 three Asian trading companies pleaded guilty to price-fixing for lysine (it makes industrial chickens grow faster and bigger), and the Department of Justice is running grand juries investigating ADM for price-fixing and anti-trust violations for lysine, high-fructose corn syrup and other commodities. On September 27th, according to the New York Times, ADM “hastily” negotiated settlements (accepting the plaintiff’s offers!) in civil lawsuits brought by commodity buyers and stockholders in connection with the alleged price-fixing; the criminal investigation continues. The Times reports that the Justice Department may allow ADM to finalize the civil settlements, which could take years, before bringing any indictments, a move which would save ADM dozens of millions in potential lawsuit damages (try asking for similar treatment the next time you’re picked up for substance or sex-related problems). Whether or not ADM is ever found guilty in this multi-million dollar crime case, it is certain that Bob Dole will not be “attacking” his good friends at ADM or any “criminals” convicted in this case.
In the meantime, consumers and taxpayers continue to be victimized by everything from phony investment schemes to Medicare fraud to short-weight and past-date abuses in supermarkets, with total losses estimated in tens of billions of dollars per year – far more than is stolen with guns or knives. The corporate criminals may not make the 11 o’clock news by spraying bullets from a passing car, but their actions are at least as injurious to society.
Many of the worst abuses of our corporate culture, being completely legal, go unnoticed in the press. Why, for example, should the grant of a broadcasting license decades ago become a permanent license to make money with public assets? The airwaves theoretically belong to the people, and the broadcast licenses are theoretically subject to review and revocation, but when was the last time the FCC ever pulled a license from a big corporation?
The sleaze and consumer manipulation – not to mention the sex and violence – have increased on the airwaves since TV was invented, but without a political will the government seems powerless against the corporations which effectively “own” our public airwaves. The mass media are so corrupted and clueless that Rupert Murdoch – whose resources to build a vast media conglomerate were built by selling large photos of women’s breasts every day in British newspapers, and whose Fox TV network regularly sells images of sex and fast living – can be taken seriously when he makes solemn statements on the need for more conservative values in American life.
We won’t even get into the tobacco industry here, or the defense industries or the marketing-on-children’s-TV industries, or the telecommunications companies massive buying of influence supervise their own “reform.” All these corrupt and abusive industry situations can continue because of the difficulty of communicating the details of the abuses to the lazy mass-media consumer. The information is out there, if you want it, but for most people the next channel click, the next pack of cigarettes will always be more compelling than studying the details of our enslavement.
What We Can Do About It
What we can do to change this state where we are subject to governmental and corporate crimes is simple. We can do all the work necessary for a revolution – even if we take the path of using what freedoms remain to us to gain power legally. In any case, all the work of successful revolution will have to be done if we are to change this state of corporate and governmental crime. It will be the most difficult thing we ever do.
We will have to understand what we are fighting for, and be determined to make the sacrifices necessary to the desperate struggle which will have to be waged against formidable opponents. We will have to form coalitions with those who share our interests (but perhaps not our particular opinions), at least enough to overcome the coalitions of the corporate and governmental criminals. We will have to use all the old methods of organizing political action and invent and use new ones too. We will even have to overcome our fear of the words “politics” and “economics,” and begin to understand that these are just fancy words to describe how we create our own realities through our mundane choices in every moment of our lives.
Such a revolution will not be easy. It would be much easier to die the death-of-a-million-tiny-cuts that subjection to the corporate state entails, that’s why we’ve traveled so far on the deathward path in the last fifteen years or so. It’s always easier to give up.
But I think we’re better than that. And furthermore, there is a small network of environmental, peace and social justice activists who have created the basis for a positive revolution, by patiently organizing for the last several years. They have founded “Green” political parties (the Pacific party here in Oregon) and begun to build the necessary coalitions. Their parties are democratic internally (and filled with skeptical, anti-authoritarian personalities); if more feminists or gays come to join, these parties will go in a feminist or gay direction, but if more libertarians and hemp-heads come in, they will go in that direction. Most of these activists are aware of, and intellectually and emotionally ready to make, the sacrifices that will be necessary to have a democratic revolution come true.
To deal with the 1996 Presidential campaign, these people have nominated well-known consumer activist Ralph Nader to run for President. He has accepted and is actively campaigning, but on the condition that this is a low-money campaign which is primarily carried on by the force of local citizen/activists. Neither Mr. Nader nor his supporters want him to become “a politician” in the conventional sense of the term.
To support the Nader campaign does not mean to give up your own judgement, or to abandon your attachment to your favorite culture-figures or alternative ideologies you may have. It only means a recognition that casting a relatively big Nader vote on November 5 is your best way to punch Clinton and Dole and their corporate state in the snout.
My own particular day job takes me across the country, selling at retail. I’ve met the American public and I’ve counted the freaks and the straights and studied the numbers. I do believe that if all the flavors and strands of cultural and political rebellion could ever pull together, we could get 50 percent of the vote on the West Coast and 25 percent or more nationwide, we could rock and shock the corporate state and change our futures for the better.
The start has been made. If you will register and vote for Nader for President on November 5, and make sure the Green activists have your address on November 6, there are people ready to begin the long, difficult struggle to strangle the corporate state. If you really hate governments and corporations as much as you say you do, you’ll join us.
5. Psychological and Social Imperialism, excerpted from my book
The Get-Ready Man, (my) Artichoke Press (as differentiated from the twelve other Artichoke Presses & similar names in America in 1980), San Francisco, 1980, pp. 38-40.
… To understand the reasons for the strength of traditional beliefs, you might try a … perspective in which traditionalism is a tremendous economic improvement over an earlier, less-organized situation in which every family and every generation was forced to re-invent such necessities as knives and hammers, food preparation techniques and hunting methods. Enforcing a minimal level of tested agricultural techniques by means of the festivals of the Gods and Goddesses, undoubtedly grows more grain than just leaving every person to his own whims and pre-occupations.
The social and cultural dictatorships of traditional societies can be seen as a problem in politics. Who gets status, rank and honor in this culture? Those who best fit the traditional categories and rules which describe all situations and regulate all human behavior. When traditional cultural dictatorship is working efficiently, each member of the group accepts for himself the rules laid down by previous generations.
Those who sell ideologies and philosophies with the goal of reforming society, would have us believe that the great societies of the past were formed by Get-Ready Men spreading a vision, just like themselves. Did one or two ancient geniuses in each traditional society think up all those rules and myths? I doubt it. I think it’s much more likely that the discussion about the proper way to organize society has been going on continuously and daily in human society, since the year 20 Million B.C., or as far back as you want to push it. I can image the very first mammals, a couple of little shrews that considered themselves deformed reptiles, chittering and pecking at each other in argument about which rock to hide under and when and where and how to go bug-hunting.
It’s impossible, however, to say whether psychological imperialism or social imperialism came first. Did the individual impose his belief systems on the group, or did the group impose their belief systems on the individuals? Was civilization built by courageous individuals going beyond the conservatism of the group, or by wise and accommodating groups that learned to channel the anarchic desires of the individual into group survival? Or do we need a perspective from which the eternal strife of individuals and groups forcing their ideas on each other, is as natural a function of the human animal as eating and breathing?
Personal and psychological imperialisms do work hand-in-hand with social and cultural dictatorships, and both are everywhere in human relations. They can be as little as the gossip of the neighbors, or the friend who tells you the same story 4 or 5 times; or they can be as much as a Hitler, a Stalin, a Mao, forging their organizations and forcing their ideas on an entire continent, making the whole world bend to meet the self-centered visions of one powerful man who has captured the powers of a great nation. No religion or science, no culture or no art could exist without personal and social imperialisms. The crucial difference between billions of imperialisms in human history, is what conclusions are taught by the system of beliefs, which behaviors are rewarded by the leaders and teachers, and how forcefully the ideas are imposed on outsiders.
Why do people act this way? Why is everyone trying (consciously or subconsciously) to push their ideas on others? Psychological imperialism goes very deep in the human animal, and may be at the core of what being a person is all about. It may be that to have a human personality, you have to communicate your personality to others, a communication that always involves elements of psychological imperialism. A modified Freudian view, that psychological imperialism stems from the child’s neurotic reaction to the necessary imposition of the parents upon the child, is certainly possible. But psychological imperialism may also have roots in the physical workings of the brain, or the normal expansiveness of divine creations in a spiritual Universe. Whatever accounts for it, the imposition of one’s personality on other humans and the environment as a whole, is a very stubborn trait of the human being; most likely there are multiple causes and we’ll never know for sure.
6. “Does African Terror Have American Roots?” from the Oregon Peace Worker, Salem Oregon, Oregon Peaceworks, April 1999, p. 14.
(historical note 12 years later: the “African World War” mentioned at the end was a big bloody problem for several years, until treaties including a UN peacekeeping mission were implemented after 2003. With over 5 million associated deaths estimated, it is considered the bloodiest war since World War II. Weak governments and armed separatist/rebel militias continue to plague Central Africa, at the expense of the civilian populations.)
They were, perhaps, just like you and me. A woman and a man, Oregonians, lovers, professionals, liked and respected by their friends. They wanted a vacation … “eco-tourism,” it’s called, viewing wild gorillas in Uganda. Instead, in March of 1999, they found terror, kidnapped and cruelly murdered by Rwandan Hutus, desperate fighters in a losing cause.
A Drop in an Ocean of Terror
America calls this terror, as indeed it is. America vows to punish terror against its citizens, everywhere in the world. From an African perspective, however, this attack, these murders, are merely a drop in an ocean of terror. From an African perspective, America has been all too willing to support the gunmen of terror – as long as the guns are pointed in the “right” direction.
From an African perspective, the late 1990’s are not a time of warm hopes and cool technology, but a time of increasing fear, increasing poverty. While we in the U.S. fear the terror of an ever-more-powerful state, Africans are experiencing the terrors of ever-weaker national government, in two forms: “Kleptocracy,” government by theft, bribery and favoritism (Nigeria, Congo/Zaire), or the multifactional civil war of armed gangs (Somalia, Sierra Leone, Liberia).
America and its favored clients have been instrumental in advancing both kinds of weak-government terror in Africa. African terror – terror that has claimed uncounted thousands of lives and now spreads across thousands of miles of central Africa – has American roots.
Of course, America seldom, if ever, acts directly in sponsoring terror. There are always willing henchmen, plausible cover stories. How America acts through its African clients to spread terror is best shown by our most notorious African henchman, Mobutu of the Congo (known as Zaire under his rule, from 1965 to 1997).
Ugly Underbelly of a Success Story
It was in the early 1960’s, just after Congo’s turbulent struggle for independence from Belgium, that America first betrayed our ideals of liberty and democracy to support Mobutu (the popular leader, Lumumba, might have listened to Communists, and anyhow was conveniently murdered).
So Mobutu rose to command Congo/Zaire, with American support. He gave himself and his geography African names in place of their European names, dressed in African robes and raised the hopes of many well-intentioned friends of Africa.
But while our newspapers carried that part of the story, the most important development was ignored. Mobutu and his clique were the fathers of “kleptocracy” in Africa, and their bribes, confiscations and inflationary currencies were creating a new type of political economy in which people became increasingly poorer.
This “development” never affected the Western corporations. They continued to end up with the diamonds and metals and other produce of Zaire throughout Mobutu’s reign. This “development” didn’t bother either Republican or Democratic administrations in Washington, where Mobutu was a staunch ally in the Cold War. He offered a handy staging ground for shipping arms and spy equipment to our favorites in the Angolan civil war or the Chadian civil war. America never worried too much about terror then, as long as it was directed against the “wrong” Angolans, or the “wrong” Namibians, or Chadians, or Ethiopians, etc. Until about 1985, we may even have discreetly supported terror against Nelson Mandela and South African blacks fighting our white South African friends.
Mobutu’s army was trained by America, France, Israel and China among many others, but remained best at a simple maneuver: the roadside shakedown of passing civilians. By the mid-90’s, state breakdown on the Mobutu model or the gang-war model had taken hold in Somalia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and others, while America continued to use its military and intelligence “assets” to support favored fighters in the vicious ethnic/ideological civil wars that had raged for decades on both sides of Zaire, in Angola and Sudan.
When American client Mobutu fell in 1997, another American client was deeply involved: Musaveni of Uganda, who in some versions was the “mastermind” behind the Kabila revolution which overthrew Mobutu in 1997. Certainly Musaveni is consistently identified in the world press as the guiding force of the rebellion against Kabila which started in August 1998 and now continues. The same press reports name the USA as Musaveni’s most important international supporter.
When I began looking at Uganda more closely in the wake of the recent murders, I thought the Rwandan Hutus were mistaken in linking the U.S. to the defeat of their not-very-attractive cause. After reviewing the press files, I better understand their logic, whatever the actual situation may be.
Continental War Brewing?
The Congolese Civil war of 1998-9 represents a dangerous escalation: for the first time, two coalitions of African forces battle directly with main-line forces over another territory. On one side, Angola, Zimbabwe, and Chad support the “legitimate” Kabila government (which continues the economic policies of Mobutu); on the other side, Uganda and Rwanda find allies perhaps among Katangese or other separatist Congolese groups, or among the UNITA forces in Angola which continue their bloody war – and perhaps in the U.S.?
Both sides in the “First World War of Africa” terrorize civilian populations; the Kabila government was the first to call for genocide, inciting reprisals against ethnic tutsis when the rebellion broke out. Both sides seem to have “kleptocratic” motives as well, with elite actors said to be gaining valuable concessions in areas they control. Zimbabwe, once a favorite of Western radicals, seems particularly twisted into “Mobutism.” The regime persists in prosecuting the war despite poverty riots at home, where the chant is “No go Congo!”
This terror must be protested. Where is the spirit of 1985-6, when it seemed that in South Africa and around the world, an apparently hopeless struggle against apartheit was rekindled by the spontaneous rededication of thousands of activists, in their own way, leading to victory in less than a decade? The terror of anti-civilian civil war and kleptocracy in Africa in 1999 seems to be killing, maiming, starving and terrorizing more Africans than apartheit did at its peak.
Where is the outrage against this current terrorizing of the African people?