Chris Hedges: Reclaiming the US

“At what point does a beleaguered population living near or below the poverty line rise up in protest?” From the author’s talk on April 4 at the Independent National Convention in Austin, Texas.

Piece of Mind – by Mr. Fish.

By Chris Hedges
Original to ScheerPost

The United States is undergoing the most vicious class war in its history. Social inequality has reached its most extreme levels of disparity in over 200 years, surpassing the rapacious greed of the era of the robber barons.

The legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, along with the media and universities, have been seized by a tiny cabal of billionaires and corporations who pass laws and legislation that consolidate their power and obscene wealth at the peoples’ expense.

Americans are sacrificial victims, whether on the left or the right, helpless before this modern incarnation of the Biblical idol Moloch.

In 1928, the top 1 percent held about 24 percent of the nation’s income, a percentage that steadily declined until 1973. By the early 1970s the oligarchy’s assault against workers was accelerated in response to the rise of popular mass movements in the 1960s.

The billionaire class and corporations poured billions into political parties, academia, think-tanks and the media. Critics of capitalism had difficulty finding a platform, including on public broadcasting.

Those who sang to the tune the billionaires played were lavished with grants, book deals, tenured professorships, awards and permanent megaphones in the commercial press. Wages stagnated. Income inequality grew to monstrous proportions. Tax rates for corporations and the rich were slashed until it culminated in a virtual tax boycott. 

Today, the top 10 percent of the richest people in the United States own almost 70 percent of the country’s total wealth. The top 1 percent control 32 percent of the wealth. The bottom 50 percent of the U.S. population hold 3 percent of all U.S. wealth. 

These ruling oligarchs have Americans, not to mention the natural world, in a death grip. They have mobilized the organs of state security, militarized the police, built the largest prison system in the world and deformed the courts to criminalize poverty.

Americans are the most spied upon, watched, photographed and monitored population in human history, and I covered the Stasi state in East Germany. When the corporate state watches you 24-hours a day you cannot use the word liberty. This is the relationship between a master and a slave.

“These ruling oligarchs have Americans, not to mention the natural world, in a death grip.”

The oligarchs have bought off intellectuals and artists to serve commercial interests.

The machinery of corporate dominance is carried out by the college-educated, those who rise to the top of academia — such as the economist Larry Summers who pushed the deregulation of Wall Street under President Bill Clinton, or the political scientist Samuel Huntington who warned that countries like the U.S. and U.K. were suffering from an “excess of democracy” — those who manage the financial firms and corporate superstructures, those who provide the jingles, advertising, brands and political propaganda in public relations firms, and those in the press who work as stenographers to power and those in the entertainment industry who fill our heads with fantasies.  

Creating Pariahs 

It is one of the great ironies that the corporate state needs the abilities of the educated, intellectuals and artists to maintain power, yet the moment any begin to think independently they are silenced.

The relentless assault on culture, journalism, education, the arts and critical thinking has left those who speak in the language of class warfare marginalized, frantic Cassandras who are viewed as slightly unhinged and depressingly apocalyptic. Those with the courage to shine a light into the inner workings of the machinery, such as Noam Chomsky, are turned into pariahs, or, like Julian Assange, relentlessly persecuted.

Culture is vital to democracy. It is radical and transformative. It expresses what lies deep within us. It gives words to our reality. It validates the facts of our lives. It makes us feel as well as see. It allows us to empathize with those who are different or oppressed. It reveals what is happening around us. It honors mystery.

“The precise role of the artist, then, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through the vast forest,” James Baldwin writes, “so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.”

“Ultimately, the artist and the revolutionary function as they function, and pay whatever dues they must pay behind it because they are both possessed by a vision, and they do not so much follow this vision as find themselves driven by it,” writes Baldwin.

Feb. 11, 2018: Michael Lindley, a veteran and peace activist, places crosses on the beach as a reminder of the lives lost in war. (Lorie Shaull, Flickr)

The central premise of mass culture is that capitalism is the unassailable engine of human progress, even as global capitalists have pumped nearly 37 percent more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere since the first Convention on Climate Change in 1992.

Speak of values and needs, speak of moral systems and meaning, defy the primacy of profit, especially if you only have the few minutes allotted to you on a cable television show to communicate back-and-forth in the usual thought-terminating cliches, and it sounds like gibberish to a conditioned public .

Capitalism, as Karl Marx understood, is a revolutionary force. It is endemically unstable. It exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse. That is its nature.

But those in society tasked with revealing this nature have been bought off or silenced. Truth is not derived from social values or ethics external to corporate culture. Social, familial and individual rights and needs, as well as the ability to focus on these rights and needs, are robbed from the population.

“Capitalism, as Karl Marx understood, is a revolutionary force. It is endemically unstable.”

There are their facts and there are our facts. Markets, economic growth, higher corporate profits and consolidations, austerity, technological innovation, deindustrialization and a climbing stock market are their facts. Janet Yellen’s need to orchestrate unemployment to bring down inflation is, for them, a vital fact. 

Our facts, the facts of those who are evicted, go to prison, are unemployed, are sick yet uninsured, the 12 million children who go to bed hungry, or live, like nearly 600,000 Americans, on the streets, are not part of the equation. 

Our facts do not attract advertisers. Our facts do not fit with the Disneyfied world the media and advertisers are paid to create. Our facts are an impediment to increased profits. 

Living the Dream 

One strives towards a dream. One lives within an illusion. And the illusion that people are fed is that there is never an impediment which can’t be overcome. That if we just dig deep enough within ourselves, if we find our inner strength, if we grasp as self-help gurus tell us that we are truly exceptional, if we believe that Jesus can perform miracles, if we focus on happiness, we can have everything we desire.

And when we fail, as most fail in a post-industrial United States to fulfill this illusion, we are told we didn’t try hard enough.

Vigil for George Floyd in Minneapolis, May 30, 2020. (Fibonacci Blue, Flickr)

Sigmund Freud wrote that societies, along with individuals, are driven by two primary instincts. One is the instinct for life — Eros, the quest to love, nurture, protect and preserve. The second is the death instinct.

The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence. It seeks the dissolution of all living things, including ourselves. One of these two forces, Freud writes, is always ascendant.

Societies in decline are seduced by the death instinct, as Freud observes in Civilization and Its Discontents, written during the rise of European fascism and World War II. The death instinct sees destruction as creation.

The satisfaction of the death instinct, Freud writes, “is accompanied by an extraordinarily high degree of narcissistic enjoyment, owing to its presenting the ego with a fulfillment of the latter’s old wishes for omnipotence.”

A population beset by despair, a sense of dethronement and powerlessness, is intoxicated by an orgy of annihilation, which soon morphs into self-annihilation. It has no interest in nurturing a world that has betrayed them.

It seeks to eradicate this world and replace it with a mythical one. It retreats into self-adulation fed by self-delusion and historical amnesia.

U.S. President Joe Biden taking a group selfie after a speech on March 28 at the Wolfspeed semiconductor manufacturing facility in Durham, North Carolina. (White House/Adam Schultz)

The danger of illusion is that it allows you to remain in a state of infantilism. As the gap opens between the illusion of who Americans think they are and the reality of the inequality, the violence, the foreclosures, the bankruptcies that are caused by the inability to pay medical bills and ultimately the collapse of empire, people are unprepared emotionally, psychologically and intellectually for what confronts them.

When the wolf is at the door, when our house is foreclosed, when unemployment insurance runs out, one reacts as a child reacts. There is a search for a demagogue or a savior who promises protection, moral renewal, vengeance and new glory.

“The danger of illusion is that it allows you to remain in a state of infantilism.”

This is the deformed world the corporate masters have created. It is one that Americans must confront and dismantle. It requires the pitting of power against power.

It requires the dismantling of the illusions used to disempower us, to adhere to values based on the sanctity of life, rather than the fact of profit.

It requires the crossing of cultural and political divides that the ruling class has erected and the building of new political and social coalitions.

The Empty Politics of Diversity

Dec. 1, 2009: President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. (White House, Pete Souza)

The politics of diversity have become advertising gimmicks, brands. Former U.S. President Barack Obama did nothing to blunt social inequality and imperial folly. Identity politics and diversity busy liberals and the educated with a boutique activism at the expense of addressing systemic injustices or the scourge of permanent war.

The haves scold the have-nots for their bad manners, racism, linguistic insensitivity and garishness, while ignoring the root causes of their economic distress or the suicidal despair gripping much of the country.

Did the lives of Native Americans improve because of the legislation mandating assimilation and the revoking of tribal land titles pushed through by Charles Curtis, the first Native American vice president?

“Identity politics and diversity busy liberals and the educated with a boutique activism at the expense of addressing systemic injustices or the scourge of permanent war.”

Are we better off with Clarence Thomas, who opposes affirmative action, on the Supreme Court? Or Victoria Nuland, a war hawk, in the State Department?

Is the U.S. perpetuation of permanent war more palatable because Lloyd Austin, an African-American, is the secretary of defense? Is the military more humane because it accepts transgender soldiers?

Is social inequality, and the surveillance state that controls it, ameliorated because Sundar Pichai, who was born in India, is the CEO of Google and Alphabet? Has the weapons industry improved because Kathy J. Warden, a woman, is the CEO of Northop Grumman? And another woman, Phebe Novakovic, is the CEO of General Dynamics?

Are working families better off with Janet Yellen, who promotes increasing unemployment and “job insecurity” to lower inflation, as secretary of the treasury? Is the movie industry enhanced when a female director, Kathryn Bigelow, makes “Zero Dark Thirty,” agitprop for the C.I.A.? 

Richard Rorty in his last book Achieving Our Country saw where we Americans are headed. He writes:

“[M]embers of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. A scenario like that of Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here may then be played out. For once a strongman takes office, nobody can predict what will happen. In 1932, most of the predictions made about what would happen if Hindenburg named Hitler’s chancellor were wildly overoptimistic.

One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. The words [slur for an African-American that begins with “n”] and [slur for a Jewish person that begins with “k”] will once again be heard in the workplace. All the sadism which the academic Left has tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.”

The public has been siloed into antagonistic tribes. Catering to these antagonistic tribes is the business model of the media, whether Fox News or MSNBC.

Not only are these competing demographics fed what they want to hear, but the opposing tribe is demonized, with the scalding rhetoric widening the chasms within the public. This delights the oligarchs.

If we are to wrest power back from corporations and the billionaire class who have carried out this coup d’état in slow motion, as well as prevent the rise of neofascism, we must build a left-right coalition free from the moral absolutism of woke zealots.

We must organize to use the one weapon workers possess that can cripple and destroy the billionaire class’s economic and political power. The strike.

The oligarchs have spent decades abolishing or domesticating unions, turning the few unions that remain, into obsequious junior partners in the capitalist system.

Only 10.1 percent of the workforce is unionized. As of January 2022, private-sector unionization stood at its lowest point since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935.

And yet, 71 percent of U.S. workers say they would like to belong to a union, the highest in nearly six decades, and up from 48 percent in 2009, according to a Gallup poll conducted last summer.

Attacks on Workers’ Power

Protesters in Philadelphia join nationwide demonstrations in support of Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, on March 20, 2021. (Joe Piette, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

A series of anti-labor laws, including the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act and so called Right-to-Work laws, which outlaw union shops, were crafted to weaken workers bargaining power and stymie the ability to strike.

When the Taft-Hartley Act was passed, about a third of the workforce was unionized, peaking in 1954 at 34.8 percent. The Act is a frontal assault on unions. It prohibits jurisdictional strikes, wildcat strikes, solidarity or political strikes and secondary boycotts, whereby unions strike against employers who continue to do business with a firm that is undergoing a strike. It forbids secondary or common situs picketing and closed shops.

Companies are permitted under the Act to require employees to attend anti-union propaganda meetings, which Amazon does with its workers.

The federal government is empowered to obtain strikebreaking injunctions and impose a deal on workers if an impending or current strike imperils “national health or safety,” as the Biden administration did with the freight railway workers. The right to strike in the U.S. barely exists.

The strike is the only weapon workers have to hold power in check. Third parties can run candidates to challenge the duopoly, but they are useless appendages unless they have the power of organized labor behind them.

As history has repeatedly proven, organized labor, allied with a political party dedicated to its interests, is the only way people can protect themselves from the oligarchs.

June 1934: Open battle between striking Teamsters armed with pipes and the police in the streets of Minneapolis. (Wikimedia Commons)

Nick French, in an article in Jacobindraws on the work of the sociologist Walter Korpi, who examined the rise of the Swedish welfare state in his book The Democratic Class Struggle. Korpi detailed how Swedish workers,

“built a strong and well-organized trade union movement, organized along industrial lines and united by a central trade union federation…. which worked closely with the Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Sweden (SAP).”

The battle to build the welfare state required organizing — 76 percent of workers were unionized — waves of strikes, militant labor activity and political pressure from the SAP.

“Measured in terms of the number of working days per worker,” Korpi writes, “from the turn of the century up to the early 1930s, Sweden had the highest level of strikes and lockouts among the Western nations.”

From 1900 to 1913, “there were 1,286 days of idleness due to strikes and lockouts per thousand workers in Sweden. From 1919–38, there were 1,448. By comparison, in the United States last year, according to National Bureau of Economic Research data, there were fewer than 3.7 days of idleness per thousand workers due to work stoppages.”

At what point does a beleaguered population living near or below the poverty line rise up in protest?

At what point will it engage in sustained civil resistance to break the stranglehold of the power elite?

At what point will people be willing to accept the risk of arrest, prison or worse? 

This, if history is any guide, is unknown. But that the tinder is there is now undeniable, even to the ruling class. As the American philosopher Richard Rorty warned, if these divisions are allowed to expand, the risk rises of allowing Christian fascists to snuff out what is left of an anemic republic.

But if Americans organize around common concerns, including the death sentence handed to billions of the global population by the fossil fuel industry, the focus can be diverted from the demonized other to the real enemy — the corporate masters. 

“As history has repeatedly proven, organized labor, allied with a political party dedicated to its interests, is the only way people can protect themselves from the oligarchs.”

France is giving us a powerful lesson in how to pit popular power against a ruling elite.

The attempt by French President Emmanuel Macron to unilaterally raise the age for retirement has triggered massive strikes and protests across France, including in Paris, Lyon, Marseille and Bordeaux. Some 3.5 million workers were out in France last week during their ninth rolling strike.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempt to gut judicial oversight was put on hold when the country’s largest trade union umbrella group organized strikes shutting down transportation, universities, restaurants and retailers.

Americans’ own history of militant labor activity, especially in the 1930s, resulted in a series of measures that protected working men and women across the U.S., including Social Security, the eight-hour work day and the end to child labor. 

The United States had the bloodiest labor wars of any industrialized nation — rivaled only by the eradication of organized labor by fascist regimes in Europe.

Hundreds of U.S. workers were killed. Thousands were wounded. Tens of thousands were blacklisted. Radical union organizers such as Joe Hill were executed on trumped-up murder charges, imprisoned like Eugene V. Debs, or driven, like “Big Bill” Haywood, into exile.

Militant unions were outlawed. During the Palmer Raids carried out on the second anniversary of the Russian Revolution, on Nov. 17, 1919, more than 10,000 alleged communists, socialists and anarchists were arrested. Many were held for long periods without trial.

Thousands of foreign-born emigrés, such as Emma GoldmanAlexander Berkman and Mollie Steimer were arrested, imprisoned and ultimately deported. Socialist publications, such as Appeal to Reason and The Masses, were shut down. 

The Great Railway Strike of 1922 saw company gun thugs open fire, killing strikers. Pennsylvania Railroad president, Samuel Rea, alone hired over 16,000 gunmen to break the strike of nearly 20,000 employees at the company’s shops in Altoona, Pennsylvania, the largest in the world.

The railroads mounted a massive press campaign to demonize the strikers. They hired thousands of scabs, many of whom were African-American workers who were barred by union management from membership. The Supreme Court upheld “yellow dog” contracts that forbade workers from unionizing.

The establishment press, along with the Democratic Party, were full partners in the demonization and defanging of labor. The same year also saw unprecedented railway strikes in Germany and India.

To prevent railroad strikes, which disrupted nationwide commerce in 1877, 1894 and 1922 the federal government passed The Railway Labor Act in 1926 — union members call  it “The Railway Anti-Labor Act” — setting out numerous requirements, including the appointment of a Presidential Emergency Board before a strike could be called.

Biden set up a Presidential Emergency Board in July of last year. One month later, freight railway workers were forced to accept a contract that excluded any paid sick leave. 

Today’s oligarchs are as vicious and tight-fisted as those of the past. They will fight with everything at their disposal to crush the aspirations of workers and the demand for democratic reforms. It will not be a quick or an easy battle.

But if Americans focus on the oppressor, rather than demonizing those who are also oppressed, if they do the hard work of building mass movements to keep the powerful in check, if they accept that civil disobedience has a cost, including jail time, if they are willing to use the most powerful weapon we have – the strike – Americans can reclaim their country.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for 15 years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East bureau chief and Balkan bureau chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor and NPR.  He is the host of show “The Chris Hedges Report.”

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43 comments for “Chris Hedges: Reclaiming the US

  1. April 7, 2023 at 21:14

    First, we need a lot more pawns on that board. I think we will have to end the banking system monopoly on the creation of money which they issue as interest bearing debt for profit. And the massively accumulate it for power. We need the elected government to create the money as a debt-free permanently circulating asset, like Lincoln’s Greenbacks, so the people can prosper and they can govern.

  2. Doug
    April 7, 2023 at 07:39

    Nothing will change until we the people open our own bank

    • J Anthony
      April 7, 2023 at 17:25

      Absolutely, among other publicly-owned and ran things…

  3. D.H.Fabian
    April 7, 2023 at 00:06

    What’s left to say? Years of work went into pitting us against each other, middle class vs. poor, workers vs. those left jobless, 27 years into the Democrats’ war on the poor. We’ve talked about this throughout (or at least, raised the issue.) Did anyone hear?

    • J Anthony
      April 7, 2023 at 17:26

      Only we, the Lonely Choir…

  4. Michael Fagnant
    April 6, 2023 at 17:36

    Hi Chris, France just shut down Black Rock with their railroad workers in Paris. They and others are showing how change can happen. The problem with Americans is the many alternate realities they choose to live it. These alternatives are for them a way not to face and deal with the truth. Living the lies, they think, is easier until they can’t escape the truth. Then it is too late for them and too late for us. Then comes the end of Capitalism that is the root cause of the end of everything while people continue to defend Capitalism as they perish.

  5. Eric Foor
    April 6, 2023 at 15:33

    Another well organized…and well written article from Chris Hedges…but there’s a fundamental component that has not been factored into the equation. The contest over who is entitled to what cannot be discussed or resolved without asking the primal question: What is the “common purpose” of our lives?

    OK,OK…I’m sure you’re thinking “What the WHAT???”….well, here’s the deal.

    It appears to me that all forms of life share a common purpose. “Life” is a process that consumes and degrades excessive material order that has accumulated on our planet. In nature, order “attracts” order…order grows…to a point. Eventually material order (the elements) will grow top heavy. The most massive elements degrade spontaneously. At some point “a new process of erosion” has evolved to facilitate the degradation of the “left over” order. That “new process” is what we term life. We are a specific form of order that consume and degrade certain forms of order stored on the Earth. Humans (as are all lifeforms) are energized by the sun. We are self propelled platforms supporting individual organs… all working towards a common goal….to erode the vast quantities of resources on our planet. Life has something in common with the action of both fire and freezing. Life is a process of biological erosion.

    If the erosion of order is our common purpose a good question is: how do we achieve our purpose as a collection of individuals all vying to consume a vast BUT LIMITED accumulation of resources?

    That is where we must confront our personal perspective from our own lives. We must consume…but we want to live…without being consumed. Our desire to live (as long as possible) is what’s front and center to all of us from birth. Our “common purpose” has been delegated to a supportive role in the grand play of “Our Lives”. We have all experienced wondrous emotions that defy description. We are not all the same. How could our common purpose be as simple as eating and breathing?

    I not sure. I think I’m right…but I’m open to suggestions.

    Unrestrained capitalism will consume our resources as fast as possible. Is that good? We are multiplying at a exponential rate. How can that continue? A tiny fraction of us attains enormous wealth. Monopoly always ends the same way. One winner…everyone else…losers. As a Human I think I’m entitled to my common purpose but that possibility (for everyone) does not seem significant. Our supply of non renewable resources is limited. They have been bought up…they are being hoarded. We are ruled by invisible masters that are fearful of losing their possessions.We fear foreign religions, foreign races, foreign economic systems, loss of freedoms…fear, fear, fear….that is what the media feeds us…when we are not distracted by sports…or the sport of politics.

    A paradigm shift is needed. Let’s get our purpose right this time.

  6. James White
    April 6, 2023 at 14:58

    The notion that ‘all hope lies within the proles,’ was evaluated in Orwell’s 1984. If you have read the book, you know how that all ends. Strikes and protest marches are vastly overrated as instruments of social change. Our only, actual hope lies in having enough people who are bright enough to see through the lies and psychological operations. At least 40% of the U.S. population has become demoralized. That is the only way that a turd in the punch bowl like the serial loser Joe Biden can get ‘elected’ President. The ‘electorate’ starts out with 40% being brainwashed and demoralized. Opposing the Psy-Ops requires a zero tolerance policy for the constant lies. There is of course, a high price to pay for speaking the truth. Expect your friends and family to desert you. Obsequium parit amicos, veritas parit odium.

    • D.H.Fabian
      April 7, 2023 at 00:15

      The “demoralized” aren’t the brainwashed. The poor most clearly see through the lies. That’s why they’re demoralized. Remember Occupy? It started out as an extraordinary People’s movement but was effectively redefined (by media and pols) as a movement 9f middle class workers alone. That was the end of anything resembling a People’s movement.

      • James White
        April 7, 2023 at 09:22

        Demoralization is the term that KGB-defector Yuri Besmenov used to describe the condition of people who had been brainwashed by totalitarian state propaganda, through psychological operations. At that time, he was referring to Marxist brainwashed Americans. Nowadays, the U.S. government itself is run by people who intentionally deceive the public to obtain their power objectives. Governments have always done their best to manage public perceptions. But never before have perception and reality been so malleable. ‘Occupy’ accomplished nothing. Save possibly for making it appear chic to pitch a tent and ‘occupy’ the city square. That has become popular now in cities run by Democrats. The idea that the poor will rise up and demand justice has always been a Marxist fairly tale. Poor people have far too many of their own personal problems to spend much time fixing society. All progress depends rather on people like you who have a brain that can think independently of the Psy-Ops augmented reality that the majority of people exist in. The great French and Russian ‘people’s movements’ mainly resulted in the reign of terror and the gulag, respectively. In both cases, change had to come. In each case the aftermath proved worse than the situation that had existed before the revolution occurred. It is not entirely futile to make efforts to improve government and society. As the adversary is more formidable than ever, it will take ever more creative measures to achieve meaningful changes. This forum, for example is on the right track.

  7. Drew Hunkins
    April 6, 2023 at 14:44

    Occupy BlackRock!

    Thank you French!

    • JonnyJames
      April 8, 2023 at 14:53

      Yeah, and the “Anglo-Saxons” (US, UK) accuse the French of being cowards. It looks like the Anglos are the ignorant cowards. At least a majority of the French population realize what’s going on. The US/UK majority are largely clueless, tilting at windmills and twiddling their thumbs. The Freak Show has them in a hypnotic transe.

  8. Valerie
    April 6, 2023 at 12:49

    “However, I take exception to this ‘right-left coalition’ nonsense. That does not make for a principled stance against the ravages of capitalism. War. Staggering inequality. Biosphere destruction——–> the externalities of capitalism at the root of our many crises.”

    Left-right coalition blah blah shumtzoid. CAPITALISM at the root. What comes next? It’s way past time to deal with climate breakdown. H2O is our biggest threat. I have plants flowering which should not flower till June/July. I have swifts and swallows too early. I have dry flower pots within a day of watering. We have a drought situation. None so blind as those who cannot see.

    • Lenny Sandroff
      April 6, 2023 at 15:16

      Birds in cages think flying is insane.

    • D.H.Fabian
      April 7, 2023 at 00:27

      Correct. There is no left/right coalition. These are opposing ideologies. The people on the left clearly see the consequences of our deregulated capitalism – our long-growing poverty crisis. Democrats and liberals don’t see it.

      • James Meeks
        April 7, 2023 at 11:54

        What is happening in America is a result of the creation by British intelligence and their patsy Truman’s creation of the CIA. Their mission was to infiltrate every level of the American government and run various social control experiments,such as COINTELPRO and MK-ULTRA, while using media and Hollywood to undermine American culture while using the American military as the foot soldiers spreading globalism across the planet on behalf of the Anglophile Alliance by introducing the Five Eyes global spy program. Henry C Carey, Lincoln’s economic policy advisor, explains the difference between the American system of Lincoln and the British system of Globalism in these excerpts from his book “the Harmony of Interest”: Henry C. Carey: The American System Vs. The British System –

  9. Steven
    April 6, 2023 at 11:44

    If you would just substitute anti-authorianism for anti-capitalism then you would be on the right track. If all you want to do is substitute your version of authoritarianism in place of the current version of authoritarianism then nothing good will be accomplished. Union membership should always be voluntary, and not compulsory as most progressives seem to want. That’s where the problem lies. Reject authoritarianism in all of its forms.

  10. Bill
    April 6, 2023 at 11:29

    You explain the crisis very well but there are no concrete steps there. You rail against all our politicians so even when some do the right thing, such as Biden’s support for the unions or his wanting to give money to families with children, there is no recognition for it. He has to work with what he has and he has had a conservative congress that never wants to go as far as he’s been willing to go. People keep giving the republicans and a few democrats enough power to stop almost everything. As long as appeals to people’s hatred and fear work, there won’t be much change.

    The people have to educate themselves and vote for politicians who will represent what they need, not their hatreds. Every time a state is taken over by republicans, they immediately start passing laws to ensure their elections. They run on hate. I live in Connecticut and it is a pretty well run state under Lamont but he has limitations because of budgets. Only the federal government can supply the money resources the states need.

    Stephanie Kelton and Randall Wray write about MMT which explains how a fiat system works. They explain that we can provide the resources that are needed but the overwhelming majority still believe the government is run like a household. The republicans are trying to hold the debt ceiling hostage to enforce austerity. Biden is fighting them but the far left will criticize them equally. My one criticism of the far left is that they don’t deal with the reality of our situation and the education level of our public.

    • J Anthony
      April 7, 2023 at 18:34

      I’m also in Connecticut and mostly agree with you. Particularly that so few people really understand how the monetary-system works; the false-notion that the government is run like the average household is still pervasive. Which is even more astonishing in light of the fact that when the military or a failing bank or corporation needs money, there it is, but when it comes to tangible things the country actually needs, all we hear is “we can’t afford it”, or some other bs excuse for why it can’t be done. You’d think it would dawn on people that something is amiss.

  11. onno37
    April 6, 2023 at 11:27

    The American people are TOO DUMB & TOO BRAINWASHED to realize that the US EMPIRE is down the drain after living so long ABOVE their MEANS. First it were the large US GAS GUZZLERS now it’s Washington their ALLEGED FIGHT for their FREEDOM & keeping up the largest armed forces on this planet to control this planet & keep up their DOMINANCE which has gone ANYHOW since Russia/China & the FREE WORLD has taken over. At the beginning of the 20th century it was the ‘Great Britain’that went under, NOW at the beginning of the 21st century it will be USA that will loose its Worldwide DOMINANCE both as an economic & military POWER. The people of this planet want to live in PEACE without a nation with 800 military bases spread all over this PLANET. The days of ‘Brzezinski’s; The Grand Chessboard – American Primary & its Geostrategic Imperatives- ARE OVER!! TODAY Russia/China are in control on this Planet!! And incontrast to USA this ALL HAPPENS peacefully WITHOUT WARS & MURDERING political leaders & civilians!!

    • Kiwiantz62
      April 6, 2023 at 17:04

      Great comments, ono37, you get to the crux of the issue? Chris can pontificate all he wants but it won’t make a shred of difference, change is coming to America but it’s being forced on them by Russia, China & the World outside of the West? It will never come from the American people, despite their guns & so called Freedoms! The US people, as you correctly say, are brainwashed into dumbness & stupefied into inaction & incapable of doing anything, unlike the French & their US Govt knows it! So America will have its inevitable collapse forced upon it from external forces & good riddance!

  12. John
    April 6, 2023 at 09:36

    Americans are too poor, too lazy, and too stupid to take back control of their government. They will be waiting for someone else to save them until they die. Generation X was the last generation that could have taken back control of our government, generations born after are utter slaves and mostly unaware of their servile place in society.

    • Robert Sinuhe
      April 6, 2023 at 11:40

      Dear John: Generation X has already drunk to kool-aid. Perhaps Generation Y?

    • Dfnslblty
      April 6, 2023 at 12:58

      >> Americans are too poor, too lazy, and too stupid to take back control of their government.<<
      And look at their roots.
      Economic inequality requires and sustains Poverty, Sloth & Ignorance.
      $$$ will not tolerate healthy, happy Citizens who are not wage slaves.
      $$$ will not permit active, thoughtful Citizens.
      $$$ will not agree to critical, intelligent Citizens.
      Singing in the rain — no t the movie! — keeps us as zombies.

    • J Anthony
      April 7, 2023 at 18:37

      Generational warfare won’t help. There are good and bad in every generation.

  13. Packard
    April 6, 2023 at 08:41

    Judging by the recent national election results, and also upon Tuesday’s Chicago mayoral election returns, I would suppose that the bottom 50% are more or less satisfied with the existing status quo.

    What the bottom dwellers have right now may not be especially likable or even functional, but it is the devil that they know. The status quo of Joe Biden, the NYTs, Antony Blinken, the Washington Post, MSNBC/FOX/CNN, AOC, Mitch McConnell, Merrick Garland, mostly peaceful violent crime in our cities, Bill Cassidy, Hank (Is Guam tipping over?) Johnson, Janet Yellen, Ilhan Omar, and Lindsay Graham remains a tolerable way of life.

    So, everyone should get used to it. It will be with us for awhile longer.

    The fault dear Brutus is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.

    Cassius (Julius Caesar)

    • Valerie
      April 6, 2023 at 14:51

      Sub specie aeternitatis.

    • Lenny Sandroff
      April 6, 2023 at 15:22

      Bertolt Brecht hxxps://

      “NOWADAYS, anyone who wishes to combat lies and ignorance and to write the truth must overcome at least five difficulties.
      He must have:

      1. the courage to write the truth when truth is everywhere opposed;
      2. the keenness to recognize it, although it is everywhere concealed;
      3. the skill to manipulate it as a weapon;
      4. the judgment to select those in whose hands it will be effective; and
      5. the cunning to spread the truth among such persons.
      These are formidable problems for writers living under Fascism, but they exist also for those writers who have fled or been exiled; they exist even for writers working in countries where civil liberty prevails.”

      Bertolt Brecht (1935). Writing the truth: Five difficulties. Translation by Richard Winston, for the magazine ‘Twice a Year’. Collected in William Wasserstrom, ed., Civil Liberties and the Arts: Selections from Twice a Year, 1938-48. Syracuse University Press, 1964

      This is what Chris does to the displeasure of many.

      “The psycho-social dimensions of fascism become quite complex, but they can be simplified by thinking of them as part of a collective bargaining process carried on between all the elites of the particular state with the regime acting as arbitrator. 

      The regime’s interests are subject to those of the ruling class.

      Labor is a partner in this arrangement. 

      At the head of any labor organization in the fascist state, there is an elite which is tied to the interests of the regime—and consequently tied also to the economic status quo.

      The trappings of this pseudo mass society are empty, cheap, spectacular leisure sports; parades where strangers meet, shout each other down and often trample each other to death on the way home; mass consumption of worthless super-suds or aspirin; ritualistic, ultra-nationalistic events on days to glorify the idiots who died at war or other days to deify those who sent them out to die.
      A mass society that is actually a mass jungle.

      At its core, fascism is capitalistic and capitalism is international.

      Beneath its nationalist ideological trappings, fascism is always ultimately an international movement.”

      -George L. Jackson—Blood In My Eye; Classes At War


  14. DMCP
    April 6, 2023 at 04:43

    Under the present conditions, the chances for a great revival of organized labor are slim to none. The chances for election of a demagogic tyrant, however, are very good. Trump was the first demagogue president in America, and he paved the way for others to follow. Democracy in America is a dead letter; we live now in a Corporatocracy. David Korten wrote the book on this, ask what would happen ‘When Corporations Rule the World’. Now we are seeing it. It will end, sooner or later, as capitalism falls on its own contradictions. But it will not end well.

  15. Bill Todd
    April 6, 2023 at 03:05

    “At what point does a beleaguered population living near or below the poverty line rise up in protest?”

    The current experience in the U.S. would seem to answer that question with “The point where that beleaguered population can no longer be sufficiently distracted by the various forms of bread and circuses provided to them to remain docile.” Our masters have become extremely proficient at doing this and manipulating us to be largely unaware of it by controlling the traditional venues which would educate us better.

    It’s somewhat difficult to avoid the conclusion that if we’re not sufficiently disturbed by our plight to demand better then it may be what we deserve. Perhaps we have become sufficiently domesticated by our government’s gradually burgeoning level of corruption that using more radical means to eliminate it seems too extreme and/or risky. It doesn’t require an actual revolution, just sufficient resolve to stand against it in sufficient numbers no matter how personally inconvenient that may be. It doesn’t require brilliance to understand it: President Eisenhower (hardly a raving radical) warned us in his farewell address against the rising power of the Military Industrial Complex which has over the ensuing six decades risen to dominate our country’s focus (along with other major industries) while short-changing all else.

    One thing it probably will require is wide-spread consciousness of the universality of the overall problem sufficient to get past the special (‘hot-button’) issues into which our society has so successfully been divided by our masters. Bernie Sanders had considerable success with that approach until establishment political and media forces herded the sheep back into their pens. Sheep are not likely to get what we need done.

    • Blessthebeasts
      April 6, 2023 at 10:17

      Bernie Sanders himself herded his followers back into their pens. Twice.

      • Valerie
        April 6, 2023 at 12:08

        The funniest comment in a long while. LOL And they went like lambs to tbe slaughter.

      • Bill Todd
        April 6, 2023 at 12:35

        Wrong. Bernie did what he had very publicly promised to do (support whoever the eventual nominee was) in order to be able to campaign as a Democrat (rather than as an independent): a strategy with which Ralph Nader agreed (arguably the living man best acquainted with the futility of third-party efforts), not that Bernie wasn’t himself acquainted with it as well.

        By the way, you seem to be ignoring Bernie’s direct observation that his supporters make their own decisions about whom to support in the general election and that any nominee would have to earn such support. People who would have liked to see Bernie follow a different course during the general election simply weren’t paying attention to him (which,, as he noted, was entirely up to them). When it came to choosing between Hillary/Biden and Trump, his own choice (which he made clear during the general election campaigns) was not surprising at all.


        • Blessthebeasts
          April 6, 2023 at 15:22

          Oh please. Bernie is s loudmouth phony. He made a deal with the devil long ago. No integrity whatsoever.

          • Bill Todd
            April 7, 2023 at 14:09

            You’re obviously entitled to whatever delusions you care to hold: just don’t try to justify them with your own version of what constitutes fact when there are decades of well-established fact to correct them. So by all means feel free to join those blowhards who are convinced that Bernie didn’t act as they feel they would have in his shoes to become (and/or remain) irrelevant to the political process which he is still adept at manipulating for the benefit of those who need help.

            • Chris Cosmos
              April 7, 2023 at 19:30

              Bernie was and is a politician who must deal with the real political situation, i.e., we live in a post-Constitutional system where the movement of power has obviously moved us to a stable oligarchy which, in my view, is immune to change. Sanders believed that Democrats offer the best chance for a slightly better deal for the poor and middle class so he gave up and joined the club (that your aren’t in). I think he was wrong–the Democratic Party is too systemically corrupt to do anything other than increase the income and power of even more than the Republican Party. We have to remember today’s Democratic Party caters to Wall Street, the City of London, Big Pharma, and the Military Industrial Complex as well as a number of highly toxic “woke” policies that seem to exist to divide and conquer–the reality is that Sanders has given up on his old ideas in exchange for being an influencer in the DP. I get it and it was his only option after 2016 (I believe he was probably physically threatened because I know the reality of power in Washington).

              Anyway, elections are fairly pointless as as George Carlin realized way before I did.

            • Bill Todd
              April 8, 2023 at 01:58

              Some decent insight there, Chris Cosmos (for some reason there’s no ‘Reply’ option in your post), but I don’t think you understand what Bernie has been doing for the past 8 years. He used both of his presidential campaigns to promote decidedly progressive programs which had languished ignored in our standard political dialogues and demonstrated significant public support for them beyond the occasional opinion poll, inspired a surge of progressive primary candidates to challenge the Democratic establishment and keep such policies in the public eye, did so while managing to remain sufficiently popular in national politics that the party could not simply ignore him without risking significant loss of his supporters, and has continued pushing progressive policies out to his support base via email contact. During his previous 24 years in Congress he operated much more on the margins to win modest battles on subjects where he could build often bi-partisan coalitions on issues where major party donors were relatively uninterested or simply present alternative views without excessively alienating the colleagues he so often needed to work with.

              So while for the past 8 years Bernie has become much more of a fixture within the Democratic party than previously, I doubt that it’s as much because he feels (though perhaps he once did) that the party establishment ‘offers the best chance for a slightly better deal’ but because he feels (I think correctly) that the party MEMBERSHIP offers the best chance for generating real support for a significantly better deal as long as he remains able to communicate with it by not being dismissed as an outsider (which has kept all left-of-center parties from building such support at the polls).

  16. Rudy Haugeneder
    April 6, 2023 at 01:26

    Hedges is mostly correct. But he can’t convince most people and thus things are going to get worse across America, including Canada, unless the biggest unions that represent public servants of all stripes join the fight. Unfortunately, they won’t because civil servants generally really don’t get a shit about anybody other than themselves with their cushy and well paid jobs and benefits and great retirement benefits, and are therefore they are just as bad as the worst oligarchs.

    • John
      April 6, 2023 at 08:07

      You nailed it. In Alberta, the Unions are the allies of the elite. The elite do not in any way fear them, as the Unions and the NDP (Traditional Party of the Working Class) are completely on board with the way things are. Grant Notley must wonder at the party his daughter leads.

  17. disillusionist
    April 6, 2023 at 00:03

    Looking for the audio of your speech Chris.

  18. firstpersoninfinite
    April 5, 2023 at 23:47

    I’m forwarding this article to a number of people because, as usual, Chris Hedges lays it on the line. He does so with facts and discernable trends in our collective history, not with theory and whataboutisms. It’s quite clear now that anyone who claims the mantle of social justice without first putting themselves on the line for economic justice is just cashing in on an already corrupt system. I don’t care who you are or what your beef is, if you don’t strike for economic justice all the way down the line then your declared support for social justice is a pick-up line in a slaughter house. Chris Hedges earned his bona fides. It’s time the rest of us put down the remote and turn off social media and gain our own. By the way, the chair of poetry at many major universities is also the chair of social justice. The chair of poetry and economic justice? No one’s funding that with all the billions in their endowments.

  19. shmutzoid
    April 5, 2023 at 23:34

    A fine piece from Hedges that portrays conditions in the US with insight and passion.

    However, I take exception to this ‘right-left coalition’ nonsense. That does not make for a principled stance against the ravages of capitalism. War. Staggering inequality. Biosphere destruction——–> the externalities of capitalism at the root of our many crises.
    Any principled anti-war stance must be bound up with an anti-capitalist outlook. In this regard, a so-called ‘left-right coalition’ is

    Also, Hedges’ turning to the unions for leadership is off the mark. The big trade unions have devolved into extensions of management. Union bosses make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for ramming thru sellout contracts and tamping down worker expectations.
    Workers must organize at the shop floor level, bypassing the union apparatus. Rank and file committees! Direct action!

  20. Juan Luchador
    April 5, 2023 at 21:52

    Wow – Thank you Chris Hedges, CN, and SP.

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