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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/22/14

Pitchforks against Plutocracy: Needed Radicalism for the Mainstream

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What follows is a list of 16 sample talking points for presenting a prospective Pitchforks against Plutocracy movement to the mainstream U.S. public. It attempts to solve a tricky problem: we need radical change, but it must be packaged in a fairly "white bread" wrapper for popular appeal. These talking points aren't the popular appeal itself, but suggestions for making that tricky appeal--in effect, "radicalizing the mainstream."

Democracy Not Plutocracy
Democracy Not Plutocracy
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Any constructive criticisms or useful additions from readers will be deeply appreciated. Here goes:

(1) For us, the pitchfork is a symbol of aggrieved, pugnacious populism and peaceful, productive labor--the kind needed, say, to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. It's NOT a symbol of violence. Barack Obama handed us our symbol when he told elite bankers, "My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks." In a sense, WE'RE the pitchforks he's (indefensibly) shielding them from.

(2) We're a feisty, fighting movement, but a resolutely peaceful one. Anyone committing acts of violence is NOT a part of this movement.

(3) Like our nation's most visionary founder, Thomas Paine, we believe in democracy and common sense--two things desperately lacking in U.S. government and society today.

(4) We are against plutocracy as a SYSTEM, NOT against rich people themselves. In fact, we'd really welcome some rich allies to our movement. That said, we view as ENEMIES all rich people who support the present system of vast, unjust inequality and crony capitalism. We see nothing wrong with becoming reasonably rich in a democracy, and everything wrong with becoming INSANELY rich in a system of plutocratic domination.

(5) Money must NEVER be allowed to buy government. In fact, the idea of checks and balances suggests the rich should have LESS political power, not more, because their wealth already gives them enormous social power and media control. But clearly, law must defend reasonable wealth society grants as an incentive to those whose productive efforts specially benefit the common good; government may tax heavily by current standards, but it's NOT about expropriation.

(6) Corporations are NOT people. The very idea--whatever a pro-plutocracy Supreme Court ruled--is INSANE, and is incompatible with functional, let alone decent, human societies.

(7) Vast inequalities of wealth are incompatible with democracy. Concentration of wealth in few hands provably allows purchase of government and media in ways that menace everyone's well-being. And people without education, safe communities, freedom from constant economic anxiety, reliable news reporting, and reasonable leisure CANNOT function as democratic citizens. Wealth must be produced and distributed in ways that ensure a decent minimum of these goods for ALL members of a society.

(8) We are neither pro- nor anti-capitalism. Our movement has room for people to disagree about the merits of capitalism itself. But unless we rein in the wildly dysfunctional version of global CRONY capitalism we have--and REGAIN CONTROL OF OUR GOVERNMENT AND MEDIA--all arguments about what's the best system are airy theorizing, a pure waste of breath.

(9) While our movement has room for disagreements about the merits of capitalism, as a POPULIST movement, we must avoid sounding anti-capitalist when addressing the mainstream. This is especially true if the idea of overthrowing capitalism is accompanied by any suggestion of violence. Perhaps John Lennon put it best: "If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow."

(10) While we're neutral on the theoretical merits of capitalism, we agree with Naomi Klein that the wildly inegalitarian, wildly wasteful and destructive version we have needs a RADICAL overhaul. Most of its evils--useless production and consumption, grinding poverty and economic anxiety, endless war, a two-tiered system of justice, foot-dragging on our climate emergency--can be traced to the root evil of PLUTOCRACY, which our movement is devoted to fighting.

(11) We seek global peace, economic justice, democratic say over governance, a free, adversarial press, transparent government, equal treatment under law, and aggressive climate change action. Our yardstick for judging politicians and parties is how much they further these goals. Simply being "the lesser of two evils" decidedly does NOT cut it. Nor, however, does being unelectable, which does NOTHING to further our goals.

(12) If we support any politicians, we also PRESSURE them. Given the extreme imbalance of power in our society--just consider the billions of dollars plutocratic interests spend on campaigns and lobbying--we CANNOT expect results simply by electing people. Seeing the RADICAL difference between our goals and current policy, we consider ourselves a type of "permanent revolution," always in place to pressure the people we elect.

(13) In the face of political emergency--lack of democratic government when the world needs it most--our chief weapon is ELECTORAL BLACKMAIL. Seeing the "Warren wing" of the Democratic Party--which IS facing the root issue of plutocracy--as our best way forward, we DEMAND that this wing fight to take over the Democratic Party. We associate independent Bernie Sanders with the Warren wing, feeling he'd be a Democrat if the party lived up to its name. If the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate is not Warren or someone from the Warren wing, we plan to vote Green.

(14) In addition to electoral blackmail--the weapon that makes us unique--we strongly embrace primary elections as a way to advance our goals. We plan to support primary candidates either from our movement or rigorously vetted by it. We'll also selectively, strategically launch or join in peaceful protest, bird-dogging of candidates, and civil disobedience as needed.

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Patrick Walker is co-founder of Revolt Against Plutocracy (RAP) and the Bernie or Bust movement it spawned. Before that, he cut his activist teeth with the anti-fracking and Occupy Scranton PA movements. No longer with RAP, he wields his pen (more...)

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