Jason Miller interviewed by Robert Turnbull
Robert Turnbull: I guess I’ll start with a rather mundane question. How are you?
Jason Miller: I just looked at some horrific photos of extremely sick and emaciated people who suffer from a drug-resistant strain of TB and AIDS, so I’m feeling blessed because I’m relatively healthy and able to employ my personal strengths to carry out my purpose on Earth.
RT: What is that you consider your purpose on Earth to be?
JM: It’s multi-faceted and complex, but if I distill it to its essence and put it succinctly, my primary purpose on Earth is to strive for two causes: animal liberation and socialism.
I realize that socialism is a loaded word, particularly in our benighted land here in the US. But as we talk you’ll get a better sense of what I mean when I talk about socialism, which I use as a bit of a catch-all term to describe a more logical and just way of interacting socially, politically and economically.
RT: What do you say to socialism’s critics who argue that it has failed each time it’s been tried and that it’s utopian in nature, and therefore impossible to implement?
JM: Capitalism has predominated for a couple hundred years, give or take. Obviously we don’t live in a black and white world, so the line blurs a bit between feudalism, mercantilism, and capitalism as one traces the arc of socioeconomic history. Even capitalism itself has passed through a number of phases and can be described in a number of ways, depending on one’s perspective—think of industrial capitalism, finance capitalism (that brought us the $700 billion ‘bailout’), relatively unfettered ‘free markets’ (that gave us the Robber Barons, child labor, slave wages, deadly consumer products, horrific working conditions, monopolies, trusts and the like—the ‘good old days’), a mixed economy (which means a heavy dose of capitalism slightly mitigated with just enough socialism to keep capitalism’s inevitable crises from collapsing the system and to keep the masses in check), monopoly capitalism (Microsoft and Wal-Mart), corporate capitalism and more. By both moral and practical standards, capitalism is an abject failure. Concentrating the wealth and power in the hands of a few while 35,000 people starve to death each day is unconscionable and attempted infinite growth on a finite planet is a recipe for disaster.
Socialism hasn’t had the ghost of a chance to take root, let alone flourish. Pitted against the militaristic, economic, and propagandistic might of capitalism, each attempt to tear down and rebuild socioeconomic and political structures along more egalitarian, rational, just and democratic lines has been destined to severe malformation or failure.
Capitalism’s apologists decry the fact that socialism’s proponents raise that argument repeatedly, yet there is no intellectually honest refutation. Time and again Father Capitalism has strangled Baby Socialism with its umbilical cord as it has emerged from the womb.
Despite a heroic effort by the Russians, the forces of American Capitalism saw to it that the flames of revolution against the bourgeoisie were extinguished by the strain of the Cold War on an economy 1/5 the size that of the US that was already stressed by a scramble to industrialize a largely agrarian society and by the loss of 25 million lives sacrificed to defeat Nazism in WWII.
Cuba is also illustrative of American capitalism’s stranglehold on power, though in some ways that small island neighboring us to the south is an ugly reminder to the ruling elite that even they are not omnipotent. Fidel and his fellow revolutionaries overthrew a US-backed dictator. Castro has since heroically defied the Capitalist Menace for decades—practicing heresy in the US power elite’s backyard! Yet isolation, containment, and the omnipresent potential of US military intervention have taken their toll on the Cuban experiment and severely retarded its capacity to achieve a fraction of socialism’s potentials.
And Hugo Chavez continues to hang tough in Venezuela, much to the chagrin of los Capitalistas.....
Socialism’s critics are myopic, ahistorical, fundamentally lacking in moral or intellectual capacity, and/or they derive enough benefit from capitalism that they fear that exercising intellectual honesty might derail their gravy train. And by the way, until I elected to eschew many of its benefits and consciously direct my blood, sweat and tears toward the pursuit of a better society rather than money and power, I was enthusiastically pursuing the ‘fruits of exploitation’ offered by our wicked socioeconomic structure. But I found it so morally reprehensible that I’m now delighted to defy ‘logic,’ ‘look a gift horse in the mouth,’ and bite the hand that fed me.
Growing up as a member of Lou Dobbs’s venerated "middle class,"
I had many advantages as a child and young adult that billions of people around the globe will never have. It wasn’t even a conscious decision initially, but I began rejecting those privileges and many aspects of "my world" once I hit age 19.
Though I was mostly apolitical, I went through about a six year period in which "immature anarchist" would have described me with a fair degree of accuracy. Walking away from a full scholarship at the university I had attended for three years, leaving a failing marriage, drifting from one low-paying and dangerous blue collar job to another, experiencing temporary homelessness, suffering severe burns in an industrial accident, filing bankruptcy, experimenting with drugs, struggling with alcohol dependency, and having a number of skirmishes with relatives, landlords, employers, and the law—I was rejecting the "American Way" with nearly every fiber of my being, but without conscious intent. I was enraged and defiant, but I didn’t really know why.