Marx Was Right!
He was right in his diagnosis of the ills of capitalism and his prognosis for nations clinging slavishly to it; he was right about the international exploitation of workers; he was right about wars for markets and resources; right about growing inequality between the rich and the rest; about the destruction of the natural world, decay of the human mind and on and on. More to the point of this particular article, he was right that the wealthy in society create the form of government that most suits their interests and conform it as needed to serve their wealth and power. Sadly and uncomfortably, Marx was right that capitalists, his bourgeoisie, saw the representative form of government as the best way to control society. They were confident their money would buy representatives to do their bidding, even if against the pubic interest. Hard to argue against that result today, isn't it?
I decided to write on this particular subject after pondering Dick Cheney's recent claim that he is subject neither to laws governing the executive branch (as President of the Senate and therefore legislative) nor to laws governing private citizens or the legislative branch (as a member of the executive branch). Of course the Bush administration has been flouting and breaking and refusing to execute our nation's laws all along. But Cheney's naked and brash written assertion that he is tethered to no law strikes me as telegraphic and intentionally provocative. Traditionally, the only person not subject to his polity's laws is the King.
We all know there is no way Rove and Cheney and David Addison (Cheney's chief of staff) would ever accidentally let something of this magnitude slip out. No, they are sending a message, and no one instructs us better on the recipient, than, you guessed it, Karl Marx. You see, Marx believed the wealthy created the form of government they believed they could best control. That is a major reason monarchies held sway for so long, says Marx. It was much easier for the rich to control one monarch than all the people.
But after the American and especially the bloody French revolutions, the bourgeoisie became concerned that monarchs would fear the masses more than they respected and feared the wealthy, and enact popular programs that harmed the wealthy. So, the wealthy created representative government. They believed they could effectively select representatives beholden to them and then ensure those representatives enacted and implemented policies benefiting mainly the wealthy. All the while, the foolish masses, now full of enlightenment ideas, would believe the illusion that they controlled their government and would continue to try in vain to change it through the rigged processes rather than rise up and crush it.
But how does this answer the question of who Cheney is signaling with his over-the-top monarchial language and actions? Cheney is, of course, signaling the wealthy that the Bush administration intends to expand its move toward authoritarian government even further. But wait again, did not Marx assert that the wealthy prefer representative government, and if so, then why is Cheney signaling his intent to weaken or even replace that form? Remember that Marx said the wealthy create the form of government that best suits their needs and that they can best control. While those criteria may have indeed pointed to representative government in Marx's time, the wealthy got a taste of empowered representative government that truly worked for the people in the Mid-Twentieth Century and they did not like it one bit.
Obviously I am referring to the New Deal and later the Civil Rights movement, welfare and real progressive taxation; but also to the strongly liberal and even socialist reforms voted in by the people in Europe and Latin America in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies; and the popularly driven nationalization of natural resources in the middle east and elsewhere. These movements may have greatly improved their societies, but they mostly made the rich less rich. So the rich decided to get rid of representative government. This was done literally and quickly in many Third World nations through military and covert actions. (Ironically, Latin America is experiencing a new populism that may restore sovereignty of the people along quasi-socialist lines; further proof that Marx was right--less capitalism, more popular control). But in the United States, change would have to come slowly, for there was a time when we may very well have risen up, or at least voted en masse, to quash a putative monarchy.
So, the wealthy took their time. But slowly and surprisingly effectively we have been completely docilized and anesthetized; seduced to adopt the pale values of the rich; terrified into imagining demons and believing only tyrants can save us from them. Our communities have become effectively isolated and lavishly gated; our law enforcement thoroughly armed, aggressively confrontational and almost proudly violent; our government has made itself so wholly unresponsive to the needs of ordinary people and so seemingly irrelevant to most of them that they don't really think it matters much, surely don't think they can do anything to change it, and are convinced they will be killed, imprisoned or allowed to starve if they did. These are the modern tools of the bourgeoisie, and they are wielded with astonishing mastery.
Now, earlier I said Cheney's brazen claim to be above the law was also a provocation. A provocation to test, I believe, both the remaining viability of representative government and of the peoples' fortitude to stand up and fight for it. The Democratic Congress's reaction will tell us a lot about whether we will long keep a republic. According to Marx, most of them are also lackeys of the bourgeoisie. This is painfully obvious in their refusal to stand strongly against the President on the Iraq war (a war for resources and money at bottom) despite strong public desire for them to do so. But their plutocratic leanings also appear in their collapses in the face of bankruptcy restriction, tax cuts on the wealthiest individuals and corporations and appointments of business owned and beholden judges and agency heads and their refusal to push for strong labor, taxation, environmental, economic fairness, pubic aid, educational, and universal health care reforms that most of the people support, but that would take money from the rich.
If the Congress does not respond to Cheney vigorously, and I mean with explicit and credible movements toward impeachment, rather than Rahm Emanuel's cutesy little side step about cutting Cheney's executive-branch funding, we will know Congress is complicit, even if subconsciously, in the coming autocracy. And Cheney and the plutocrats will know as well.
But Cheney may also be testing we the people. Are we, as I contend Cheney and his ilk believe, too soft, comfortable, domesticated and fearful to object with anything like sufficient will, strength and unity to stop their coup d'etat? Cheney will know soon enough. Will we stand against guns, tanks, tear gas, deprivation of food and utilities?
As scary as what I am about to say really is, I do not think Cheney and the small cadre of super rich, would-be plutocrats who want to run this country as their own actually believe the people will rise up if they declare, or actually run, an authoritarian government. As the Revered One, Molly Ivins, said, a bully only asks one question: will you kick his ass; not can you or should you, but will you? Cheney and gang do not think we will and that's all they need to know. So they just might be making their big move, and Cheney may be announcing it openly.
Well, I strayed a little far from the Marx was right theme, but the bottom line is that Cheney and Bush are seeking autocratic rule not because they are power hungry megalomaniacs, but because that is what their bourgeois benefactors want because that is what they believe will make then richer and that is all they care about. Will we stop them or not?