Following the major news networks’ projections of Scott Walker’s victory in the Wisconsin recall vote Tuesday, the dominant reaction among anti-Walker activists was apocalyptic. “If out-of-state corporate interests can outspend us ten-to-one, and that’s enough to beat all this grassroots organizing and public outrage, then democracy is dead.”
Well, no. Technically, it’s just more dirt on top of the grave. Frankly, I’m surprised at the popular reaction to the vote. What did they expect? The state has always been an “executive committee of the ruling class.” Citizens United may have stripped the mask off the system and exposed it in its full vulgarity, but the political system has been rigged in the interests of the big money players since there was a political system. To quote Charles Johnson:
“If you put all your hope for social change in legal reform … then … you will find yourself outmaneuvered at every turn by those who have the deepest pockets and the best media access and the tightest connections. There is no hope for turning this system against them; because, after all, the system was made for them and the system was made by them. Reformist political campaigns inevitably turn out to suck a lot of time and money into the politics — with just about none of the reform coming out on the other end.”
Trying to change the system by voting for political candidates, or by “getting a seat at the table” to influence legislation, is like trying to beat the house in Vegas playing by house rules. The system can only be “reformed,” if you follow its own prescribed rules, in a manner consistent with the logic of the system. Recently MPAA chief Chris Dodd defended the SOPA digital copyright bill, with a straight face, saying “all the stakeholders had been at the table.” All the stakeholders — Disney, the RIAA and MPAA, Microsoft, Pfizer, Monsanto. You know … everyone except you and me.
We need to fight by our own rules rather than theirs. Asymmetric warfare is called that because it’s war between adversaries who are badly mismatched in resources. Fighting a conventional war against a superpower, or fighting corporate interests for control of their political process, is like a 90 lb. weakling trying to knock out the Hulk by pasting him one on the jaw. Asymmetric warfare is playing by our own rules, attacking the weak point of the enemy in ways forbidden by their preferred set of rules. It’s like the 90 lb. weakling beating the Hulk by moving faster and landing the first blow — and making that first blow a good hard kick in the groin.
The beauty of the age we live in is that the wealth and resources of the ruling class are becoming increasingly worthless. The new decentralized, distributed, and cheap technologies for production and comfortable subsistence nullify the propertied classes’ advantage in resources. Their wealth has historically depended on state enforcement of their control over scarce land and capital, so they could charge us rents in return for access to the means of livelihood and production. Their wealth depends on our need for them. Now that we have the means to produce a decent quality of life with hardly any land or capital, we don’t need them any more.
As they find it harder and harder to compete with progressively cheaper and more efficient technologies in the hands of ordinary people, they lean increasingly on a state that’s bankrupting itself trying to prop them up. So we can beat them simply by withdrawing from their system and building our own.
The plutocracy depends on the state for its wealth. We don’t. All we have to do to destroy them is walk away. So they’d like nothing better than to distract us from building the kind of society and economy we want for ourselves and abandoning theirs to rot, and instead waste our effort and money fighting for control of their system on their terms.
Let them have the Wisconsin state government, and every other government. It’s always been theirs anyway. And now it will die along with them.