The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.
In his seminal work The Populist Moment, Lawrence Goodwyn outlines what it takes to build a genuine grassroots movement for democracy. The Populist movement began shortly after the Civil War, when farmers realized that they were doomed to enslavement by the corporate powers that arose in the aftermath of the war unless they united to use their collective power to defend their interests. After being rebuffed by the overlords of America and the merchants who defended the system for their own gain, they realized that the movement could only gain steam by creating a new political consciousness through educating Americans about how they had been systematically brainwashed into believing that the feudal system that had developed was democratic.
Lacking modern means of communication, Populist leaders began to organize at the local level, empowering lecturers to represent the movement at the local, state and national level. They created an alternative media of newspapers and periodicals to spread their message. Eventually they succeeded at awakening a vast swath of America to the fact that true democracy starts at the grassroots level. It cannot be entrusted to elected representatives beholden to corporate interests who choose who the People get to vote for. The vote only matters when people are willing to abandon the notion that either of the corporate parties represent them and work to elect their own champions. The system cannot be overthrown. It must be changed from within by a People who have learned to question a system that has no resemblance to what they have been taught to believe it is.
Despite stunning success in recruiting farmers tired of being abused for the benefit of the economic elite of their day, creating a cooperative economy proved a daunting task for Populists. Their first goal was to establish a cooperative to sell goods to farmers at a fair rate of interest and to help them sell their products at market rate without extortionate middle men were resisted by the moneyed class. They were stymied when those who controlled the limited money supply refused to accept their collateral for credit necessary to establish their venture. This was when the prevailing political consciousness began to awaken to the degree to which America was in the grip of the bankers and the industries they increasingly controlled. The banksters of the day wielded that power through their control of the supply of both money and credit, just as they do now. This power was more complete than today because under the gold standard, the amount of money available was limited by the amount of gold held by the economic elite.
Today, most spokesmen for change on both the left and right content themselves with complaining about the problems millions of people elsewhere around the world are fighting. There are many more effective ways they could help promote efforts to effectively organize to form a united movement for peace, environmental and economic justice. Fortunately, there are some who are putting more of their efforts into solutions than complaining.
Adam Klugman directed publicity for the Mad As Hell Doctors national tour for single payer in 2009. In 2010, he became the host of Mad as Hell in America. It was perhaps the most radical show on the now-defunct Portland radio station KPOJ, which fell victim to the conservative scheme to take control of the corporate media. The difference between Klugman's approach and that of more well-known media figures was that when a caller complained about a problem, he demanded that they propose a solution. While most ideas this offered were unrealistic, they did help focus listeners on how to prioritize and strategize for a real democratic revolution.
Most liberal spokespersons lack the vision to offer the truly radical ideas that became part of the Populist manifesto in the late 1880s. Populists realized that they could not escape economic bondage until the government controlled both banks and railroads, the industries that at that time extorted most of what little cash was available to farmers. They proposed that the government nationalize the banks and the railroads and take back the power to create fiat money that would provide the means for a growing population to prosper as America grew.
In the modern era, one of the chief economic spokesmen for the left proposed just this in the wake of the collapse of the American and world economies by the banksters. In little-remembered articles in Rolling Stone and his New York Times column, Paul Krugman called for nationalizing banks. Of course, just as he stopped advocating for single payer when the Democrats made it clear they would not challenge the interests of the Wall Street-controlled medical insurance industry, he retreated to a position supporting Democratic half-measures. There is little doubt that he feared stepping too far from the corporate line might further marginalize his limited influence on economic policy discussions.
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