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Guest Post: “On Intellectuals and Their Duties in the 21st Century”

The following is a guest post, originally published at What About Peace? by Devon DB:

On Intellectuals and Their Duties in the 21st Century

“It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies.”
~Noam Chomsky [1]

Intellectuals have always played a major role in society, from the philosophers of old such Plato and Aristotle who articulated thoughts about government, science, and biology to modern intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky and Cornel West who go about speaking truth to power and working toward informing and empowering average people. Yet, the role of the intellectual has changed over time and thus the time has arisen to reexamine and redefine the duties and responsibilities of the intellectual for this new century.

Before going into what the duties of intellectuals are, one must first define what an intellectual is. The tem intellectual can be defined as “a person who primarily uses intelligence in either a professional or an individual capacity.” [2] This application of intelligence can be for almost anything, but it is more popularly viewed as applying intelligence to social, economic, and political issues. Furthermore, the intellectual goes beyond focusing on newsworthy items and goes into the realm of theory, from thinking and formulating theory to articulating as to how that theory would potentially work in reality.

Currently, it seems that intellectuals are split into three camps: public, private, and dual intellectuals.

The public intellectual is usually a university professor who goes about researching, writing, and sharing their ideas in the public sphere via books, conferences, and being guests on radio and television shows. While this may seem to be a positive occurrence, much of this information remains in the realm of academia or academia-related areas with little of it becoming truly disseminated to the mainstream public. The books may be published and the conferences occur, but the only people who know about them are mainly people who are either in that field professionally or already have an interest in that area of study. Of the little information that does get disseminated on a mass scale, it is mainly done by well-known intellectuals such as Chris Hedges. Thus, there is currently a problem concerning public intellectuals where the information isn’t truly getting out to the people at large and because of this the majority of people are unaware of what new theories or discoveries are occurring and thus more vulnerable to misinformation and less likely to become active and involved in the current economic, social, or political situation.

The private intellectual is one who uses their intellect for the benefit of private groups, foundations, or individuals. One such example is Martin L. Leibowitz, the managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation. Leibowitz uses his intellect for the betterment of the Foundation by managing its assets and investments in order to make the most profit, thus allowing the Foundation to continue its work.

Dual intellectuals are members of the intelligentsia that have one foot in both worlds, occupying the space of a public intellectual and also being or having been a private intellectual. Arguably the most prominent dual intellectual in American politics today is Zbigniew Brzezinski. While he has been a professor at Harvard and Columbia and is currently employed by John H. Hopkins University, Brzezinski was also the co-founder of the Trilateral Commission, which concerns itself with increased cooperation among the United States, Europe, and Japan. Intellectuals such as these are arguably the most powerful as not only do they have the connections and power that comes from being in the private sector, but they also have major sway over the collective consciousness of a society. Dual intellectuals can make their ideas public, put them out into the mainstream society, and because they also have a background as a public intellectual, the public is much more willing to trust them as they see such people as experts.

There are further differences between intellectuals when one breaks them down into their relationship with the current political, economic, and social system. There are three types: loyalist, reformist, and radical.

Loyalist intellectuals are those who uphold and are in favor of perpetuating the current structures. Intellectuals such as these are often deeply embedded within the system and hold government posts or are in think tanks that are quite instrumental in forming policies, such as the Council on Foreign Relations and its relation with the US State Department. Once again, an example of a mainstream loyalist intellectual would be Zbigniew Brzezinski. He has a history of favoring the current global political and economic system, atop which the United States is perched, and wanting to preserve that system for as a long as possible. Intellectuals such as these are highly touted in their societies and may command great influence and respect among the society at large and are used by elites to formulate policies that continue the present state of affairs.

Reformist intellectuals support the overall system but would prefer to see certain reforms to the current system as to promote certain values of equality, justice, and human rights. University professors appear to make up a large percentage of reformist intellectuals. Reformist intellectuals are used by the elites to produce new generations of intellectuals that support the status quo and can be co-opted by elites to promote policies that are favorable to them.

Radical intellectuals find fault with the system and criticize it, often offering alternatives that would break down the current structure. Intellectuals of this type tend to be the most useful in terms of going beyond what is spoon-fed to the public by elite-owned media that ignore, distort, and in many cases outright lie about ongoing situations, both domestic and international, and getting to the heart of the matter by telling what the true reasons policies are chosen and exactly whose interests are served. Radical intellectuals are often among those few intellectuals that have a moral conscience and believe in wholly changing the system if not uprooting and replacing it entirely. While most radical intellectuals are in the fringes, some have gained mainstream attention such as Cornel West and Chris Hedges.

While there are three main sets of ideological stances in relation to the current societal structure, there is a subset of intellectuals in the radical circle: underground radicals. These are intellectuals that are radicals (sometimes even more so than the mainstream radicals), but have had little mainstream notoriety. There are many current-day examples of these intellectuals such as Andrew Gavin Marshall and Allison Kilkenny. Underground radicals often harbor views that are outside the mainstream political system and have no trust whatsoever within the political elite to change society for the better. Such intellectuals are greatly needed as they are often independent voices, not tied to any organization or entity that would censor them and thus they are more likely to be committed to the truth.

While there are different types of intellectuals, they all have the same types of duties.

The intellectual first and foremost has a duty to themselves to be honest in their research and work, honesty being objectivity and avoiding distortion of facts. Objectivity plays a major role as if one is going to espouse policy ideas that are contrary to the actual reality of the situation, no one is helped as the policy will be incorrect and potentially make a situation even worse. This is not to say that intellectuals cannot have any political or ideological leanings, but rather when conducting research or proposing policy, one should keep such things separate.

Empowering ordinary people should be the overall goal of the intellectual. On the local level, intellectuals should work with community organizations with the goal of addressing the problems of the community in a constructive manner. If it requires working with the state, so be it, but one must be aware that the problems that are in a town are best known and felt by those who reside within it, thus working with the local populace and local organizations should be at the center of any plan to quell problems within a community.

On the national level, the intellectual class should work much more to put its research and findings out to the general public, as this increase in information access may allow the general public to become aware of political theory and policy and will allow them to make more informed political decisions. The empowerment of people has a different role in the economic and sociological spheres. The economist should aid in the creation of policies that create economic wealth for the nation, but not at the expense of the many to the benefit of the few. Depending on the situation as well, the economist should also push for policies that would free the nation from dependence on external sources of income such as the IMF or the World Bank and rather support policies of internal economic development which will enrich the nation in the long-term. The sociologist should work to dispel myths and stereotypes of minority races/ethnicities and work to understand different cultures.

The intelligentsia must also combat old and outdated ideologies that hold people back. The current societal structure of the United States is such where it favors heterosexual gender-conforming upper-class white men. This system ostracizes and ignores those who do not fit into that narrow framework. Intellectually, the conversation is twisted and distorted with outright fabrications and myths continuing about Native Americans, blacks, and other minorities while white men are upheld as essentially the creators of modern society and other thinkers, activists, and the like that rebelled against the system are either ignored entirely or viciously distorted. Thus, it is up for the intellectuals to work with other organized groups to combat not only the historical distortions and omissions in the general historical narrative, but also the very system itself that favors one group of people over another.

The intellectual has a duty to the youth, specifically to the students in the classroom. Professors must go beyond the dull repetitiveness of the classroom, from having students memorize facts and figures, to doing serious critical analysis and having them apply the skills they are learning to current, real-world problems. Intellectuals should be willing and ready to go off the set curriculum and tell students about the true history of their area of study; they should willingly reveal such important and relevant information such as that the educational system itself comes from a drive by the elites for social control [3] that is still being used today. [4] Revealing the true nature of the study will allow students to be even more critical in their thinking of current problems in the field and will be more inclined to speak truth to power as they know the underpinnings of the current social structure and how it has and continues to effect the lives of ordinary people.

The intellectual need to allow themselves to be challenged by students and ordinary people. Currently, there is so much trust in the intellectual elite that any ordinary person who challenges them is dismissed as a fool and uninformed. Such thinking leads to the public trusting rather unscrupulous people such as dual loyalist intellectual Henry Kissinger, a wanted war criminal. [5] Allowing intellectuals to be challenged will create an opportunity that will allow people to be exposed to those who have differing opinions and alternative viewpoints. It can foster discussion among individuals and allow people to learn from one another and in this vain of expanding knowledge and being open-minded, intellectuals should welcome challenges and critiques of their work from alternative viewpoints.

Intellectuals should be willing to aid in peaceful revolutionary political activity that advocates the transformation of the current social, economic, and political structures as to break down oppression and work towards true freedom and equality for all peoples, no matter race, sex, gender identity, socio-economic background, sexual orientation or any other form of oppression that holds people back. Yet, they must be careful in involving themselves in revolutions as they must be conscious of what they are doing as to ensure that they do not lead the revolution. The revolution cannot be led by the intellectual class, they can only guide it. Only the people can lead the revolution. However, this is not simply on the national level. We are living in a globalized society where revolutions against established elites have occurred all over the world [6] and grass-roots organizations have sprung up all over the world and are working together. A global revolution is occurring and, just like the protest groups are organizing and working together (to differing extents and success to be sure), intellectuals from all over the world should organize and work to think, research, and articulate a new system in which the current institutions of power and control are abolished and new systems that do not seek to dominate and oppress come into being.

The intellectual class has the responsibility to stand up for the people and against the systems of oppression for in doing this not only do they free others, but they also free themselves and allow the creation of a new world in which all peoples can be truly free. It is either that or aiding in the continuation of a system that oppresses, exploits, and controls the very many for the benefit of the very few. That is the choice intellectuals face in today’s world. Let us hope they make the right decision.


1: Noam Chomsky, “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” Noam Chomsky, February 23, 1967 (http://www.chomsky.info/articles/19670223.htm)
2: Wikipedia, Intellectual, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual
3: Andrew Gavin Marshall, “The Purpose of Education: Social Uplift or Social Control?” Andrew Gavin Marshall, April 8, 2012 (http://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/04/08/the-purpose-of-education-social-uplift-or-social-control/)
4: James F. Tracy, “The Technocratization of Public Education,” Global Research, June 14, 2012 (http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=31422)
5: Christopher Reilly, “Henry Kissinger, Wanted Man,” Counterpunch, April 28, 2002 (http://www.counterpunch.org/2002/04/28/henry-kissinger-wanted-man/)
6: Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Welcome to the World Revolution in the Global Age of Rage,” Andrew Gavin Marshall, July 30, 2012 (http://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/07/30/welcome-to-the-world-revolution-in-the-global-age-of-rage/)

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Organize, Imagine, and Act: How a Student Movement Can Become a Revolution

Organize, Imagine, and Act: How a Student Movement Can Become a Revolution

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

From the London student protests, 2010

And so it seems that the student strike in Quebec is slowing down and nearing an end, as the college – CEGEPs – in Quebec have voted to return to class, with roughly 10,000 students having voted to continue the strike, a far reduction from the 175,000 students that were on strike in late April and early May. The strike began in February of 2012 in opposition to a planned 75% increase in the cost of tuition. The students mobilized massive numbers, held mass protests, undertook picket lines at schools, expanded the issue into a wider social movement, and were consistently met with state violence in the form of riot police, pepper spray, tear gas, beatings with batons, being shot with rubber bullets, even being trampled by horses and driven into by police cars. The government enacted Bill 78, assaulting the rights to freely assemble and speak, and put a ‘pause’ on the school semester to end picket actions. Now that the school semester is starting back up again, and an election looms in the coming weeks, the students are being led away from the streets and into voting booths. The ‘Maple Spring’ has become the ‘Fall Election’.

Meanwhile, in Chile, where a student movement that began in May and June of 2011, mobilized against a highly privatized education system, is continuing with renewed energy. There had been ups and downs of actions and mobilizations within Chile over the past 15 months, but in mid-August of 2012, the resurgence was seen as students began occupying high schools, blocking streets, and undertaking mass protests. Students who took part in the occupations were threatened with having their scholarships removed. In over a year of protesting, the students have not seen any meaningful changes to their educational system, or even inclinations that those in power were listening to their demands with anything other than disdain and contempt. The students have long been met with state violence, from the oppressive apparatus of a former military dictatorship, fighting an educational system which was established near the end of the military dictatorship. Riot police would meet students with tear gas, water cannons, batons, mass arrests, and other forms of assault. Police have subsequently stormed the high schools and arrested over a hundred students participating in the occupations. This caused the university students to get more involved, and they occupied the Universidad de Chile, which had not been occupied since the beginning of the movement the previous year (often known as the Chilean Winter).

In Chile, as in Quebec, protests and marches and even the right to demonstrate are frequently declared to be illegal. In both Chile and Quebec, when protests erupted into violence (which is more often than not incited by the police themselves), these are called “riots,” and they are used in the media and public discourse to portray the movements as violent, extremist, trouble-makers, vandals, and criminals. This is designed to reduce public support for the protests (which was far more successful in Quebec than Chile), and to subsequently dismiss the demands of the students. There are, in fact, a wider variety of similarities and interesting comparisons between the Chilean Winter and the Maple Spring. Chilean students and academics have even expressed solidarity with the Quebec student movement.

We face an issue here. The student movements don’t seem to be getting anywhere substantial in terms of establishing some sort of meaningful change. This is not to say they have not achieved anything; quite the opposite, in fact. The student movements have been successful at mobilization large numbers of people, organizing protests and indeed, in politicizing a generation, which is their most sincere and important success to date. Students have suffered under propaganda campaigns, violent repression, legal intimidation, and, most of all, the determination of an elite who view any and every minor concession as the ultimate unthinkable sacrifice which would ruin all of society. In short, elites are more stubborn than students could ever seem to be, and they have the means to hold their position and tire the students out if they can’t simply scare them away or crush them down. So, while symbolic actions and political radicalization are necessary achievements, the will to continue taking actions and the hope to manifest radical ideas becomes worn down, demoralized, and sapped of its strength. This is incredibly challenging to revive if the circumstances and courses of action do not change.

So perhaps it is time for a new tactic. Instead of having radicalization follow mobilization, students could begin to have radicalization guide mobilization. For any social movement to advance, grow, and become something not simply demanding reforms, or demanding something from power, it needs to provide something to the students, to the communities, and the public at large; it needs to create. This is the difference between a reformist movement and a revolutionary movement. In this context, the word ‘revolutionary’ is not used to imply a usurping of state power and violent overthrow of authority, but rather  to transform on a radical scale our conception and participation in specific or all sectors of society. Thus, it is essential to provide new ideas for action, rather than discussing and debating the new terms of capitulation. It can make all the difference between a question of how little students will get from their demands, to a question of how much we can get from a new educational structure itself. A discussion of new ideas must replace – or coincide with – the articulation of ignored demands.

How is this possible? What might this look like?

For students, the fundamental issue is education. For the student movements, growth came from expanding the issue into a wider social one, and linking up with other organizations and causes. This expands the scope, and thus, the base of support for a student movement. However, established unions played a large role in guiding (or attempting to guide), fund, and organize in cooperation with student movements. While the cause of workers is an issue that must be engaged with, the established unions that have survived to this point, roughly thirty years into the global neoliberal era, have survived only because they function on a basis of cooperating with the established powers of society, the state and corporations. They are corporatist institutions.

Over one hundred years ago, unions were extremely radical, organized, massive, and revolutionary. The actions and ideas of radically organized labour were the impetus for 8-hour work days, weekends, pensions, job security, benefits, an end to child labour, and much more. Unions subsequently faced roughly a century of battering, violence, co-optation, and destruction. Those which remain are not radical, but only slightly reformist. I say ‘slightly’ because they do not mobilize to fight for new ideas or issues, but only to protect and preserve the reforms previously implemented as a result of radical labour agitation. Thus, union representative serve as a buffer for the blunt force of the state and organized capital and corporate interests which consistently seek to undermine and exploit labour. The major unions typically serve to soften the blow against workers as the elite bring down the hammer. Under this system, all rights, benefits, security and protections are slowly and inevitably worn down and thrown away. When the established unions provide funds and direction for the student movements, they tend to steer them away from radical or revolutionary paths, and promote a highly reformist direction, and which can only be undertaken through negotiation with and capitulation to the state and corporate interests. This gets us to where we are.

When it comes to engagement and interaction, solidarity, and cooperation with labour, it should, in fact, be the more radical – and radically organized – students who lead the unions back to a more radical direction, to take them back to their origins when they achieved successes instead of softened failures. If they refuse to follow a radical direction, then students should encourage and attempt to find means of supporting the organization of new labour organizations: provide assistance, direction, ideas and physical and moral support. Students could be mobilized into the streets for workers’ rights as well as educational rights.

The main point here is that for a movement to radicalize and become revolutionary, it must cooperate with, support, and be supported by other radical and revolutionary organizations and movements. If the more dominant force is reformist, established, and corporatist (by which I mean its functioning ideology is accepting of the state and corporate dominated society), then these organizations will attempt to co-opt, direct, and steer your movement into an area ‘safe’ for the elites, if not altogether undermined and eliminated. It is not necessarily done out of an insidious desire to destroy your student movements, but rather the result of an insidious ideology embedded within the very functions of their organizations. Thus, integration, mutual support, dependency and interaction with other social movements must take place at a radical and revolutionary level if you are to sustain that potential and desire within your own movement. It’s unfortunate, because it’s more difficult; but it’s true, all the same.

Therefore, what is required are radical ideas of organization: for the student associations and other associations they interact with to be more accountable, directly, to their constituents. Instead of elected delegates or representatives making all the decisions (which is how our governments function), the decisions must be made by the constituents, and the representatives merely carry them out and organize accordingly. The student associations in Quebec and elsewhere function more along these radical lines, while labour and other groups typically do not. If student associations do not function in this manner, that is the first issue which must be addressed: either demand the associations to change, or create new ones and thereby make the unrepresentative ones obsolete. Thus, for a student movement to become revolutionary, the first step is the radicalization of organization.

Now onto something more interesting: how to radicalize ideas and actions in education itself. This next step is about the radicalization of action. While the first step, in many instances – the radicalization of organization – had been achieved in several of the student movements, the actions themselves lacked radicalization. The actions were largely confined to mass demonstrations, picket lines, school occupations, and youth rebellion against state violence and repression. These are all important actions on their own: establishing solidarity, power in numbers, a public presence, a demonstration of will and power, the development of ‘self-esteem’ for a social movement. These are necessary, but if the actions do not evolve, the movement itself cannot evolve. Thus, what is required at this point is a discussion of new ideas of action. Typically, as is the case at the moment in Quebec, students are being told to stay out of the streets and go to the voting booth, where “real” change can be made. This is illusory and useless. Unless there is a radical party, the best that can be hoped for is to delay the inevitable assault on education, or perhaps achieve a minor concession, which would likely be more of an insult than incentive.

New ideas of action must come from the students themselves, and there are a number of initiatives that could be discussed and undertaken. Fundamentally, instead of demanding from power, create something new. If education is what you want, begin to do it yourselves. In the case of a school occupations, why should the students not simply begin to have discussions on issues, share knowledge, invite professors, academics, and others who are supportive of the movement to come talk and share their knowledge?

This does not need to only take place in occupied schools, though that would be quite symbolic, but could essentially take place in any public space. It would function as a type of grassroots educational system, designed to share and expand knowledge, not to prepare you for the workforce. Job opportunities are already vanishing everywhere for youth, and they will continue to do so as the economic crisis gets worse. These types of educational forums could potentially be designed to educate and share knowledge on issues of relevance to the student movements themselves: the history of education, protest and social movement history, political power, repression, the economic system – Capitalism, neoliberalism, etc. This could – and should – expand into much larger issues and areas of knowledge, including arts, the sciences, philosophy, etc. There are already people within society who have gained their knowledge through educational institutions, and thus, there are already people from whom to draw this knowledge from in a new forum, and in a new way.

To give an example, imagine a ‘class’ (or forum) on the history of social struggles. First, a physical space is required, so to set up in a park, public venue, rent a space, or occupy a space (such as a school lecture hall). The students should have previously discussed – likely through social media networks – which intellectuals and individuals they would like to invite to come speak to them about the issue. The invited speakers would share their knowledge on the history of social struggles, promote discussion, debate one another, and engage directly with the students. For every invited outside speaker, a student should be invited to speak also, to share their own knowledge and engage on an equal basis. The notion that students are there only to learn and not teach is an incorrect one, and it’s a misnomer that should be addressed and acted upon.

The public at large should also be accepted into these educational forums. The point should be to expand knowledge and discussion among the general population, not merely the students. But the students are the ones capable of providing this forum for the population at large. To add to this: such forums should be broadcast through social media, filmed and recorded, watched online both live and archived. Students could organize ‘subject collectives’, perhaps having a group of students organized along the lines of the larger student associations (through direct democracy), who would oversee the organization of each subject or issue: history of social movements, political economy, media studies, etc. Each ‘collective’ could establish its own website, where the wider community would be encouraged to engage, support, recommend speakers and issues and venues, watch archived or live-feed forums, debate in online forums, be notified of events and speakers, and be provided with educational material, reading sources, etc. The students could write papers which would then be posted publicly on such sites, to promote discussion and to actually use the knowledge instead of writing papers for a grade, which is a rather absurd notion. These sites could have news sections, providing relevant news and developments from around the world related to their issue. The collective itself – both within the community and online – then becomes a forum for the development and extension of knowledge to a much larger sector of society, locally and globally.

This is where the actions become even more important. For a social movement to survive and expand into a revolutionary movement, it must not isolate itself, and must engage and interact directly with the wider population. The best way to do this, and one which has the added necessary effect of increasing the movement’s support among the population, is to provide a service or need. In the case of a student movement: that need is education. Merely ‘opening up’ forums to the public may not be enough. Students or ‘subject collectives’ could individually organize smaller meetings and discussions, in neighbourhoods and venues all over the city, region, or country, where students themselves speak with and to the public on issues in which they have been getting their education.

In Quebec, where students have been consistently framed by the media and elites as “entitled brats,” this tactic would be a means to share our so-called ‘entitlements’ with the wider population, and at no cost to them. Thus, as students gain knowledge, they share knowledge with others. For example, a couple history students could hold a small forum at a cafe or in a small public location which they had promoted within the neighbourhood and on social media for people to freely come to listen and engage in a discussion about a particular history topic. Of course, knowledge in such circumstances should not simply be abstract or obtuse, but relevant to those who are engaging with it. So if the discussion is on a ‘history of social movements,’ students should share knowledge on this, but make it relevant to the current social movement, to the social conditions of the wider population, and ask questions and engage with others in the venue: to promote discussion and debate. Thus, instead of the public viewing students as ‘entitled’, they may come to view students as ‘empowering.’

This type of tactic would especially have to be employed within poor communities, and oppressed communities, where students would have to be willing to listen and learn more than they would be inclined to speak and teach. This is because many student movements, simply by their position as being students, generally come from a more privileged sector of society than the really poor, minority, immigrant, or otherwise oppressed communities. These sectors largely remain in the sidelines of the student movements themselves. This must change, and for a very fundamental reason: there is a great deal to learn from these communities. Oppressed peoples have experienced and known for a much longer period of time what the majority of students are only just starting to learn and experience: the true nature and interest of power, the violent and oppressive state apparatus, the underbelly of the economic system, the reality of social existence for a great many people. In short, it would be a means through which to educate the students on deeper issues of social strife, by listening and speaking directly to and with those who exist within oppressed social spheres.

But there cannot be any taking without giving. So while oppressed communities may perhaps be willing to share their own knowledge with students and engage in discussion and debate, the students must provide something back to these communities. There is a very simple way to get this started: ask them what they need most in their communities. For example, if one community cited the cost and quality of food as a central issue, students could then leave the first meeting with the community with the intent to organize and plan around this issue. The students could hold their own discussions, meetings, debates, and share ideas on how to help resolve this specific issue within that specific community, and then propose various ideas to those community leaders. The ideas would be subject to critique, dismissal, support, etc, to go back to the drawing board with new suggestions or to get to work, putting action to the ideas.

So with the issue of food, for example, students could perhaps organize around the idea of establishing a community food garden, proposing it to the community, and, if approved and critiqued, they could find an area of land, get the support and materials they need, and work with members of that community to plant and establish such a garden, to help move toward some form of food sustainability, provided either free or cheap to those within that area. Potentially, there could be a student educational association which specialized in sharing knowledge about nutrition, horticulture, etc., and they could be brought in to share their knowledge, help in the endeavour, or even make it a staple feature of their functioning: to go to different communities to help establish food sustainability.

These are, of course, just ideas of actions, there is no reason to follow this specific outline. This is meant to merely promote the discussion of this concept: the actions, organizations, and objectives which would result from a radicalization of action are likely to be far more varied, interesting, and effective than these mere suggestions. However, I used these examples of actions and ideas to show how a student movement protesting against something (such as a tuition increase), can become a revolutionary movement for something.

These actions are revolutionary because they force people to question and reconsider their conceptions of education, its manifestation, its purpose, its institutionalization, philosophy, etc. The actions themselves engage directly with people, drawing from and providing to the population as a whole. This increases support among the population, but also greatly strengthens the ideas and actions of the students themselves. At such a conceivable point, it could not be called a ‘student movement,’ but could only be identified as a much wider social movement, which would help radicalize the wider society itself, which would in turn provide new ideas and actions to the students; solidarity in both words and actions.

These actions are revolutionary because they attempt to maneuver around power structures instead of expending all of their energy on directly battling the power structure itself. By going around the power structure – around the state, the schools, the corporations, etc. – the students would create a parallel educational structure within society, making the existing one increasingly obsolete. As this is done, the bargaining power of the state and other structures is reduced, because the students no longer rely exclusively upon them for an education. The state would most certainly attempt to repress such a movement, or perhaps even to offer much larger incentives, concessions, or even meet the previous demands of students in order to get them back in the schools and within an educational system that power controls. The state is well-established to deal with direct confrontations: that’s what police, armies, guns, badges and lawyers are for. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’re demanding, or where you are demanding it, the state can simply tear gas you, scare you, disperse you, and wait you out. But to move around the power structure, and to create and establish something new, not under the control or direction of established institutions of power, the power structures become very nervous and insecure.

It would be foolish to think that the power structures would not respond with more state violence than they have up until present, they most certainly would. The primary difference, however, would be that the public support for the movement would have conceivably exploded, and in the case of increased violence, it would explode in anger and opposition to the state. In short, while the state would be likely to increase its tactics of intimidation and violence, the public response would likely be far more powerful than anything we have seen thus far. We saw an example of this in Quebec, when the government passed the repressive Bill 78 and a much larger segment of the population was mobilized in opposition to the government. However, this has now largely faded, and again, it’s about the difference between mobilizing against something and mobilizing for something. It’s the difference between opposition and proposition, demand and action.

The fundamental idea which I am arguing is that for a student movement to become a revolutionary movement, it must transform its demands of education into actions for education. If the issue is education, the answer is education. The inability of the student movements to have their demands met reveals a deeply-ingrained flaw in our society: that an institution does not reflect or respond to the demands of its supposed constituents. This fact makes that institution illegitimate. This flaw further manifests itself across the entire society. If the government itself, which is supposedly ‘representative’ of the people, does not reflect the intentions and interests of the population, then it is illegitimate. Most institutions do not even have a means for their constituents to have a say in who runs the institutions themselves. Some, such as governments or unions, may have elections in which people can choose candidates, but then all the other decisions are taken out of their hands. Other institutions, such as schools, corporations, banks, media, etc., do not even have a means for constituents to select leadership, let alone direction and action. University boards are populated with bankers, former government officials, corporate executives, foundation officials, and other established elites. Therefore, universities are geared toward meeting elite interests under their direction. This is flawed and wrong. Though, because most institutions function in this way across wider society, it tends to go unnoticed and is simply accepted as “the way it is.”

Students must now ask: Does it have to be this way? What other way could it be? What should change? How could that change? What is the intent of education? These questions lead to other, larger questions about the society as a whole, and, as a result, they make necessary the wider radicalization, organization, and revolution of society itself. It is a rather large idea, but I think it is also a logical one. As the economic and social circumstances for most people continue to deteriorate in the near future – and perhaps rapidly so as the global economic crisis accelerates – such ideas and actions will become all the more necessary and will generate much more support.

Since the beginning of the global economic crisis in 2007 and 2008, the world has seen a rapid acceleration of resistance movements, protests, and revolutionary struggles. The world is rumbling awake from a long lost slumber of consumption and consent as the situation of crisis reveals deep flaws in the structures, ideology, and actions of power. We are witnessing the rapid proliferation of global resistance movements, but it requires much more for them to become global revolutionary movements. It has only begun, but it requires new ideas and actions to move forward. It would potentially be very challenging to begin such actions now, but in the very least, student movements should begin to advance the discussion, to debate the direction, and to incite new ideas. These are, after all, the skills that an education is supposed to provide us with.

Perhaps it is time to put our education to use.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer living in Montreal, Canada. His website (www.andrewgavinmarshall.com) features a number of articles and essays focusing on an analysis of power and resistance in the political, social, and economic realms. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, and is currently writing a book on the global economic crisis and resistance movements emerging around the world. To help this book come to completion, please consider donating through the website or on Indiegogo.

A Revolution in Thinking: What is the People’s Book Project?

A Revolution in Thinking: What is the People’s Book Project?

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

“I am… a Revolutionary.” – Fred Hampton

Since September of 2011, I have been asking people – readers, activists, and others – to support my endeavour to write a comprehensive, critical examination of the individuals, institutions, and ideas of power, domination, and control in our society – both historically and presently. I have called this process ‘The People’s Book Project.’ The support I have asked for is in the form of financial donations, which have come from people around the world: Canada, the United States, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands Antilles, Taiwan, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, Sweden, Malaysia, and Norway.

According to the site statistics, the website for The People’s Book Project has reached people in the following countries: the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, Switzerland, Germany, France, India, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Philippines, Finland, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Thailand, Hungary, Greece, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Suriname, Taiwan, Spain, Romania, Italy, Turkey, Austria, Slovakia, South Africa, Qatar, Slovenia, Poland, Russia, Puerto Rico, Estonia, Pakistan, Singapore, Chile, Nigeria, Egypt, Argentina, Czech Republic, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Peru, Uganda, Ukraine, Dominican Republic, Lithuania, Japan, Serbia, Bahamas, Jamaica, Bosnia, Fiji, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Trinidad and Tobago, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Nepal, Georgia, Israel, Benin, Luxembourg, Panama, Kuwait, Latvia, Iceland, Azerbaijan, Cote d’Ivoire, Jordan, Venezuela, Zambia, Bahrain, Aruba, Colombia, Morocco, Zimbabwe, Barbados, Armenia, Tunisia and Ecuador, among others.

The Facebook page for The People’s Book Project has support from people all around the world: the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, United Kingdom, Sweden, Philippines, Australia, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Portugal, Mexico, Indonesia, Netherlands, Ireland, France, Chile, Estonia, Italy, and Brazil. According to the Facebook stats for the page, 57.7% of those who the page reaches are between the ages of 18 and 34. Many of those who cannot financially support the Project have done so in other ways: re-posting my articles through social media, posting them on blogs, translating them, and spreading the word through other means. Both financially and fundamentally, all of this support has been of immense importance, and both are of equal necessity.

Why is this support necessary?

The People’s Book Project relies upon grassroots support from people around the world in order to remain independent, focused, active, advancing, critical, dedicated, and driven. The avenues for truly independent research and writing is lacking; free to discover itself and its own truths instead of being directed by the purse strings and for the purpose of institutions – whether think tanks, foundations, universities, government, industry, or otherwise. My research and writing is outside the oversight, control, direction, funding and suppression of any institution. It is precisely that which makes this Project have both a great deal of potential, and a great deal of problems. The potential, because the research can take – as it should – its own course to discover knowledge and truth: it is not directed, but instead, it directs me. The sheer volume of research and writing that has already been undertaken presents a great opportunity for a wider audience to receive important knowledge which may inform their ideas and actions: it is knowledge designed not to conform, but to inform; not to indoctrinate, but to liberate; not to overpower, but to empower. Because these are my intentions, and because I ask for support from people – individuals like you – to aid in these efforts, I think it’s only fair if I elaborate on the process of The People’s Book Project, and on my role in it.

What is The People’s Book Project?

I have elaborated on this central question for a great deal of time in many places and forms. Whenever I am asked – “What is the book about?” – I let out a sigh, and think to reply, “What isn’t it about?” I think this, because the more research I do, the more I write, the more I come across, the more stories, individuals, institutions, and ideas I feel the need to discuss and examine and explain; to understand and illuminate the interactions, exchanges, relationships and reactions of these ‘new’ ideas to the ones I have already been spending so much time researching and writing about. As a result, it seems the Project continually gets larger, the scope grows wider, the subject matter swells and expands, the ideas change and evolve. It is precisely because of this last point – that the ideas change and evolve – which pushes the process further: why wouldn’t we want our ideas to change and evolve? It is for this reason that the scope expands and develops, the time it takes to write and research grows, and the efforts increase, and with that, so does the need for support.

Since I have asked for – and received – a great deal of support, and since I will continue to need that support in the future, it is important for me to explain not only an idea of a ‘finished product’ – a series of books – which is being supported, but also the process of getting to that finished product. I also must acknowledge that it is me individually who is being supported in this situation, and therefore it is perhaps appropriate if I explain a little bit about myself and what I am doing. This Project is almost the entire means through which I support myself, I have no other job – (other than a weekly podcast at BoilingFrogsPost) – and I come from a family who are very much among the rapidly-vanishing middle class of Canada. I have just this past January returned to school after more than three years out of school to continue a Bachelors degree, but I am only taking one class in order to dedicate most of my time and efforts to the book. Currently, the students in my province of Québec are on strike, protesting a doubling of tuition fees, which I would certainly not be able to afford.

I have hesitated to write myself into the narrative of the process of the book’s evolution, instead focusing on the subject matter itself. But as the people – you and others – are supporting not only a product, but a process, and a person, it is important that I elaborate on the process and my part in it. In short, to truly explain an end product, one must also examine the process and persons involved.

What is the Process of the People’s Book Project?

I have approached the research and writing of The People’s Book Project in a way unfamiliar to those who have undertaken the task of writing a book on a specific subject. When I began writing this book, the scope of it was comparatively small and narrow, the length was supposed to be short and confined, and the subject was based upon a foregone conclusion. It was to be the product of an institution, not an idea; it was directed and defined as to what it should be and what it should not be. For myself at the time, I was struggling to keep it within the confines of what it was “supposed” to be, for the more research I did, the more I discovered and learned, the more the book – and its ideas – evolved and changed with me. As a result, I could not find it within myself to be moved to – or be proud of – producing a book which began with a preordained conclusion, that the research was simply meant to conform to an idea which was already decided upon. If I were to do that, I would write a book in which I could not agree with nor support its conclusions, nor could I promote it or pretend that it speaks to some great truths when it does not stand up to the scrutiny of my own truths. For this reason, I decided to change my situation and leave my job to pursue my passion. I left behind all that I had written, and started anew, letting the process dictate the product.

Frequently, I find myself even trying to restrict the content and flow and direction of the book. A writer and researcher must, after all, make choices: choices about what to research, what to write, how to write it, why to write it, what to leave out, why to leave it out, etc. Without choices, nothing would get finished (or started, for that matter), and the results would speak for the lack of choices. In spite of my own choices on what subjects I will pursue, what angles I will examine, what I will leave out, what direction I want to go, and even what conclusions I have in mind, I all too often find myself facing this ever-present, persistent, and pervasive power which seems to suggest to me that the only choice I truly have at the moment, is to decide to let the process take on a life of its own.

How does this work?

I will give you a recent example. I have set about – and received a great deal of support – to write a series of chapters on a radical history of race and poverty, specifically focusing on the United States. I wrote a “brief” 20-page essay on the subject, covering its broad focus and ideas, thinking that my efforts would be emphasized on elaborating on the concepts already mentioned in what I wrote, that it would be about filling in the details, connecting the missing dots, and better explaining the circumstances and situations. I often don’t write and research a subject in its exact sequence of events; rather, I approach a subject by focusing in on one aspect, one event, one individual, idea, or institution which has caught my interest and fascination. I use that specific point of interest to act as inspiration; in fact, I cannot help but allow it to inspire. In seeking to learn all that I can about the particular individual, institution, or idea, I must examine its relationship, interaction, and interdependence with other individuals, institutions, and ideas of that particular time, and from there I must go into its history: where did these individuals, institutions, and ideas come from? From there, I follow the path as to where they went: what were the repercussions, results, reactions to and of these individuals, institutions, and ideas, and where do they exist (or not) today? And then of course, the big question: Why?

So for my current subject – a radical history of race and poverty – my point of entry at present into the subject was brought about as a result of the recent anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. I have researched and read about King and his assassination, and how the King we idolize today is not the King who died in 1968. When MLK Day passes, the media, commentators, images, and sounds we hear are about the MLK that existed up until 1965, with the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the “I Have a Dream” speech, and the non-violence of the “Civil Rights Movement.” In the last years of his life, however, King became increasingly revolutionary: he was speaking out against the Vietnam War, the American empire, poverty and economic exploitation, and was even organizing a major national poor people’s campaign to end poverty in the United States. The King up until 1965 was a reformer. The King thereafter was a revolutionary. This is why, when today we “remember” King, we purposely neglect the memory of the man who he was – and was becoming – when he was murdered. By doing so, we are able to forget the issues he was talking about, and how they are even more relevant today than they were in the time in which he spoke, and we can congratulate ourselves on “giving freedom” to black people in the United States. With a black president, many have declared a “post-racial” America. The discourse of race and poverty, discrimination, racism, segregation and exploitation is no longer seen as valid or useful. Naturally, this is wrong.

However, another thing happened to me as I began reading about King and his anti-poverty campaign: I was exposed to new ideas, individuals, and institutions. Specifically, I have been exposed to the ‘Black Power’ movement, organizations like the Black Panthers, individuals like Stokely Carmichael, Huey Newton, Angela Davis, Fred Hampton, and others. I began reading about these individuals, listening to their speeches, researching their ideas, learning about their organizations and actions and objectives and then suddenly, it happened, the process took on a life of its own. I have been utterly and completely inspired by the ideas, individuals, and actions of the Black Power movement. I realized that the revolutionary Martin Luther King that I so admire in the last years of his life, was not the only person speaking about such profound issues related to race, exploitation, history, and empire. What King was talking about in the last year of his life, a younger generation of black leaders had been talking about and acting on for years.

Suddenly, I had to know as much as I possibly could about Black Power, about the individuals involved, and about the ideas and their emergence, evolution, and relevance for today. When people typically hear the words ‘Black Power’ or ‘Black Panthers’ today, there are pre-programmed images and ideas which come into mind (especially if, like myself, you have lived most of your life in a predominantly white community and society): you see the images of leather-jacket and beret-wearing black men with sunglasses and guns, you think of violence and reactionary ideas, and even the concept of “reverse racism” – racism by blacks against whites. Like most things, the pre-packaged conceptions are a far cry from reality.

Black Power was not about hatred of whites, it was about empowerment of black people. The Black Power leaders – like Stokely Carmichael – understood that “integration” into white society would not liberate black people, because the solution was not one of repealing segregationist laws and then suddenly the scourge of racism would be erased from society and history. Black Power leaders and ideas were grounded in a significant historical understanding: they understood that racism was institutionalized in society, in all of its institutions and structures of power, not merely in the specific segregation laws of the South. Thus, what was needed in order to eradicate racism was to remake the institutions and ideas of society, not to simply step into the corridors of power (as Obama has) and proclaim a “post-racial” America. Black Power was not about dealing with the symptoms of racism (such as segregation, voting rights), but rather, in addressing the root causes of racism: found in the socio-political and economic system itself.

Racism was born out of class struggle, economic exploitation, imperialism, and poverty. It has remained a central feature of these issues right to the present day. The Black Power movement sought to challenge the root causes of racism. To do so, it was argued, black people themselves had to organize, mobilize and create their own source of power in society, they had to empower their own community and create their own institutions and articulate their own ideas – not against white people – but for black people. The understanding was that since integration would not solve the root causes of the problem at hand (institutionalized racism, as Stokely Carmichael wrote and spoke about), it was not a solution. Instead, black communities had to build their own power base in creating a new society with a new vision, free of racism (thus, those who equate Black Power with “white racism” do not understand Black Power). With its own power, vision, and objectives, Black Power would not have to conform or submit to the institutionalized power structure which already existed in society, and which had repressed black people for over four hundred years.

The Black Power movement was not about destruction or violence, it was about creation and protection. The Black Panther Party became a prominent symbol of Black Power. It was founded as the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, and its initial objective and the ideas behind arming themselves were not based upon an aggressive idea, or one which aimed to “overthrow” the government (as was the media and government portrayal of the Black Panthers at the time, and up until present). Rather, why they armed themselves was for self-defense of the ghettoes. The black ghetto communities in the United States were subjected to incredible amounts of police brutality, murdering black residents, and even white terrorism. The Panthers emerged, acting lawfully and legally in California (where gun laws stated that people could be armed, so long as they did not point their gun at anyone in public), and would act to protect the ghetto residents against the police and other forms of violence. When police would come into the ghetto, the Panthers would make their presence known and would observe the actions and conduct of the police to ensure that no violence was committed against black residents. Black communities were not protected by white people or the state, they were oppressed and attacked by white people and the state. In such a circumstance, one cannot condemn the actions and objectives of black residents to organize and seek to defend themselves.

The Black Panther Party was not only about self-defense; in fact, that was a rather small aspect of what they did. What we don’t hear about is the fact that the Black Panthers – and their leaders – were revolutionary philosophers and intellectuals, who put action to words, gave inspiration to people (whether black or white or otherwise), and empowered their communities: they organized and made self-sufficient a free breakfast program for black children in the community, free healthcare for residents, free education and literacy. J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the FBI, declared the “free breakfast” program to be the greatest internal threat to the United States at the time. Why? Because it was empowering a community of people to become self-sufficient, to not depend upon the existing power structures, but to create their own, based in the people and population itself. This, indeed, was dangerous for the existing power structures.

As a result, the FBI and the federal government undertook a war against black America. Through the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) and other existing avenues, they infiltrated black organizations (as well as anti-war groups and other organizations) and sought to destroy the movement from inside. The COINTELPRO operation was used not only against Martin Luther King (and resulted in his murder), but against the Black Panther Party, and resulted in the assassination of many of its leaders. One such leader was Fred Hampton, a 21-year old man who was a revolutionary philosopher and activist. Not only did he help create the free breakfast program and other community programs in his branch of the Party in Chicago, but he even negotiated a peace settlement between street gangs and brought them within the movement, he (and the Party) worked with white activists and movements in northern cities and in the poor rural south. Black Power saw as essential the empowerment of all people, everywhere, white or black, articulating the fact that the black community would empower itself to create a society free of racism, but that this required white people to seek to empower their own communities to challenge and eradicate the causes of racism within white America. The Black Panthers worked with, traveled to, and inspired and were inspired by revolutionary movements all over the world, from the Caribbean and Latin America, to Africa and Southeast Asia. They spoke out against imperialism and exploitation not only nationally, but globally. Fred Hampton was one of the most profound thinkers, speakers, and actors within this movement. He was a young, vibrant, energetic speaker and activist, garnering the respect of activists all over the nation. In 1969, at the age of 21, he was assassinated by the Chicago Police Department and the FBI, shot to death at 4 a.m. as he was sleeping in bed with his wife, eight-and-a-half months pregnant at the time. She survived, and two weeks later, she gave birth to Fred Hampton, Jr.

Why are these names, ideas and activities not better known today? Not only is Black Power important for black people to understand and learn about, but for all people. The reason for this is simple: Black Power was truly, at its core, about People Power. The movement inspired and often worked with other communities struggling for their own liberation against repression, such as the American Indian Movement (which was also subsequently destroyed by the FBI), and it lent rhetorical and ideological support to women’s liberation and gay liberation movements that emerged. Huey Newton, one of the founders of the Black Panther Party, later wrote and spoke out on the need to support and promote radical women’s and gay liberation movements. Black Power elaborated and acted on ideas which had potential for the liberation of all people. Perhaps the most important principle of the movement was this: that when confronted with oppressive, dominating, and exploitative institutions and systems of power, the pathway toward liberation is not to join – or integrate – with that power, but to actively create something new, at the grassroots, organically developing out of the communities. The relevance these ideas have to the present circumstances of the world is shocking, and no less important to rejuvenate.

My newfound interest in Black Power has inspired me to such a degree that it is evolving my ideas of society and humanity as a whole. This is the profound importance of new ideas: that they lend to the evolution of our own, already-held ideas, that they may further inform the knowledge we already hold and articulate. Many of the ideas of Black Power already conform to ideas which I already held, such as the notion of empowering people and creating a new system instead of integrating within the existing system, the negation of the idea of “usurping” power (or overtaking the government or other existing institutions), and instead, creating a new form of power: vested in the people. However, this does not mean that the ideas of Black Power simply confirm or reaffirm ideas I already held, but instead, further inform them, lead to their evolution and understanding and aid in their articulation, presenting a view and lens through which to see a path of action. Programs like breakfast for children, education, and free health clinics, run by and for local communities, are ideas that need a desperate resurgence. As the current economic crisis descends deeper into a depression, and poverty and exploitation increase, such ideas and actions are essential to human survival as a whole. They bring hope and heart to issues largely void of both.

While a great deal more people than ever before are aware and increasingly becoming aware of such important issues as imperialism, domination, and exploitation, there is a tendency to pursue the path of integrating these individuals and ideas into the existing power structures. The growth of knowledge is leading to mass movements articulating a single philosophy (dogmatic and rigid in their interpretation and understanding), and seeking to put into power one or a few individuals who articulate that philosophy. Thus, the quest for change and articulation of hope become about a single individual, a single idea, and rests upon the premise of integrating such individuals and ideas into the existing power structures. What the history and philosophy of Black Power teaches us is that what is needed is not integration, not usurpation of power, but creativity and creation: not to take power, but to empower.

As such, the history of Black Power is the history of People Power; black history is human history. While it is incredibly important for the black community to learn and remember this history, it is no less important for all peoples – regardless of race, religion, culture or creed – to learn this history. If you claim to articulate a philosophy of change, which can and should work for the benefit of all people in all places, one must not simply learn their own specific cultural history, but the history of all peoples and cultures. An understanding of black history is best delivered by the black thinkers, actors, and ideas which make up that history. Modern black history – both in the world and in the United States itself – is a history of a particularly brutal, oppressive, exploitative, and ruthless social, political, and economic system. If our objective is to truly understand the system in which we live, articulate its strengths and weaknesses, and plan for a solution to change these circumstances, if we do not understand and address the history of what that system did to its most oppressed, most exploited, and most dominated populations (whether black, Native, indigenous, disabled, etc.), we cannot – and DO NOT – properly understand the nature of the system in which we live. Thus, how can we even pretend to have “the solution” if we do not properly understand the problems?

Stokely Carmichael articulated the concept of “internal colonialism,” which was a description for the ways in which the United States government treated the black population of the United States. Many people criticized this term at the time, thinking it to be exaggerated and inflammatory. Carmichael commented that it was an absurd negation of logic to think that what the United States did to others around the world would not be done at home, and he used an example of suggesting that this was the equivalent of saying that the Mafia runs crooked casinos in Peru, but honest ones at home. Thus, just as black history is human history, Black Power is People Power. As such, understanding this history is of vital importance in understanding how to change history as we live today. To allow such profound, important, and philosophical leaders and actors of this history – like Carmichael and Hampton – to rise up and again speak their words and have them heard, will make the murder of 21-year old Fred Hampton and the dozens and hundreds of others have more meaning, will give his words new purpose, will give his ideas new understandings, and will bring the fallen new life as they again, even decades after their deaths, empower the people of the world. To not revive these ideas is to let them die with the individuals, to not bring meaning to their lives and actions, to let them be forgotten to history. This is why when today we hear about “Civil Rights,” these ideas and individuals are not remembered. This is why the movement is referred to as “Civil Rights,” because it implies a specific objective of reform, when, in reality, the “Civil Rights” struggle was but a single phase in a long and evolving history of Black Liberation, which today can and must empower the long and evolving history of human liberation. As Fred Hampton once said, “I am… a Revolutionary.”

So this brings me back to The People’s Book Project, and the process in which it exists and evolves. My exposure to the ideas of Black Power has not even surpassed two weeks of research, but already it is changing, evolving, informing, and adding to the ideas and issues of the book itself. Already, I can see that this area is so important, that to not write about it is to commit a great injustice, that it is already altering the conclusions of the book which I thought I had in stone. Again, the process takes on a life of its own. This is important because it allows me to grow and evolve my thoughts and ideas as I do the research, instead of supporting and regurgitating only that which confirms to my pre-conceived ideas and notions. As I do this, I am able to expose these ideas to others, and to hopefully inform their ideas and actions. This process is long, detailed, and challenging, no less so because of my own living situation in which I find myself having to write it. But that does not matter. What matters is what the process and the book mean, not only to me, but what they could potentially mean to others.

I would like to quote Stokely Carmichael quoting George Bernard Shaw, “All criticism is autobiography… you dig?” My critique – my book – is as much what I think as it is who I am. Both what I think and who I am are in a constant state of evolution and development, and thus, so is the critique itself. The People’s Book Project, as such, is as much a process of development as it is an objective of creating a finished product. I set out to write a book which may help in the cause of liberation for all people in all places. The process of writing this book, then, must be a liberating process; it must not be confined by rigid structures and direction, but must be permitted to find its own free expression, to discover its own path and direction, and to be the change it seeks, as Mohondas Gandhi suggested. The fact that this process is funded by people from around the world, providing what little dollars and cents they may, spreading the word and ideas as they can, is also evidence that the process is being the change it seeks. The patron of this book is not a think tank, a university, a foundation or a government grant. The patron is the people, the community – globally speaking. This is why it is the People’s Book Project, not my Book Project. As much as I am (for obvious reasons) the most influential single person in this project, I would not be able to do what I am doing if it were not for the support of others, everywhere. As much as I am the most involved in this project, despite all my efforts, I cannot control or direct the process more than it controls and directs me. That process is facilitated only by the support from people.

As a result of this process, I have come to accept that this book is not my product, but rather that I am just as much a product of the book. As the process of the project changes me, I change the product of the project. As the people support the process, they allow both of these changes to take place. The end result will be that when the project – which will certainly be a series of books – is finished, it will be all the more important, informed, and purposeful. Thus, the product of this process will be far more beneficial to the people and purpose for which it is being undertaken: to provide knowledge to inform action in the cause of liberation. If I do not seek to produce the best possible piece of work I can and have ever produced, what would be the point? This is why I abandoned what was supposed to be a 200 page book on “Global Governance” and embarked on the journey of a project which has thus far, resulted in an 800-plus page book on people and power.

Now, I have friends and family who are in editing and publishing and writers and researchers, and they hear – “800 pages” – and they think and say, “What the hell are you doing? Edit, condense, concise, cut down” – and of course, they do it out of love, and I need to hear such suggestions and informed opinions. This is important. As I previously mentioned, writers must make choices, and it would appear that at the moment, I have not made many choices save to say that I have chosen to let the process overtake me and the Project. Now I have explained why I made this choice, that it directed me more than I directed it, and what this means in terms of a finished product, in terms of the purpose of the Project. This does not mean, however, that I will not make choices in the future. This Project will not be never-ending and eternal (though it often feels like it, as I am sure it does to ardent supporters who perhaps desire a finished product in the near future). The process has taken on a life of its own, that is true, and it has its place: it is important and essential to the finished product. But when I am left with what I can only assume will be a book far beyond 1,000 pages, when I have made the choices not to go further (as indeed, I cannot cover everything), but to cover what I think as to be most important (as the process itself dictates what is so), then I will make choices in editing: what are the common threads, ideas, institutions and individuals, what are the major events, the major actions and subjects, what must be within and what can be left out, what order should this story be told in, what structure for the chapters, how can it be broken up, how many books should result, and what are the conclusions that I am left with at the end of this current process? For it is when I reach the end of this current process, that I will understand the ideas and information within the research and writing, and thus, it is then that I will truly develop the thesis, and at which point I can truly tell the story as it can and must be told. The editing process is one all to itself. And when I get there, I will do what needs to be done to ensure that the book and books are readable, presentable, approachable, and purposeful.

The books will not be the beginning and end of human history, far from it; they will not be the most comprehensive examination of our modern world (though I certainly am aiming to make them as much, at least for myself as for others), but rather, I see them as a stepping stone, out of which others will critique the books, their ideas, and their suggestions, and through which such critique, the ideas within them will become more informed, more evolved, strengthened and empowered. I will no doubt write future books and research elaborating on the evolution of the ideas within. In such a scenario, the process is, for me, my very life; but don’t worry, this book will not take my entire life. It is simply what I must do at present, to provide for myself and others, a foundation upon which to stand and create something new. It is not to be a rigid dogma, a concise and complete compendium of all knowledge, no single source could ever hope to (or should) be such a thing. It is simply meant to inspire, to inspire with knowledge, to inspire others to add to and critique that knowledge, to evolve and make it stronger, to inspire action and ideas, to inspire and empower people, regardless of race or place. For this to happen, however, I will need to finish the book and get it out to others. Otherwise the process and the product are nothing more than a selfish and insulated personal journey without any other higher purpose. Thus, when the time comes, I know I will have both the instinct and the impetus to know when to make the choice to stop, to say, this is the story I need to tell.

It was upon researching about Black Power these past few weeks that I have come to truly embrace all that I have written about here, that I have come to be inspired to move forward, but that I have also become determined to allow the process to direct the person (me) in creating the product (the book). For if I had stood rigid and controlling over the subject and direction of the book, and decided, without investigation and understanding, what I would and would not include, I would not have allowed myself to research the issue of Black Power, and as a result, I would not have understood the absolute importance of this movement to human history and its evolution into hope for the future of humanity. If I had taken power over the process, instead of allowing the process to have power over me, the end product would be all the more pointless for what it hopes to achieve. At this point, I cannot imagine producing a finished product which does not include the relevancy of Black Power to the past and present.

So I want to extend my appreciation, with the utmost sincerity, to those who have supported this process both financially and otherwise, because none of this would be possible without you, it would not be where it is if it were not for your support, and it will not get anywhere without your future support. So to my patrons, I felt the need to inform you as to the process of this Project, so that you may better understand what it is you are supporting, how you are supporting it, where that support is going and what it is producing. In every sense of the word, then, this is the People’s Book Project, because it would not be possible without the support of the people.

And how many books can say that?

Thank you all, now and forever.


Andrew Gavin Marshall

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Of Prophets, Power, and the Purpose of Intellectuals: Class War and the College Crisis, Part 3

Of Prophets, Power, and the Purpose of Intellectuals: Class War and the College Crisis, Part 3

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Walter Lippmann

Part 1: The “Crisis of Democracy” and the Attack on Education

Part 2: The Purpose of Education: Social Uplift or Social Control?

Part 4: Student Strikes, Debt Domination, and Class War in Canada

Part 5: Canada’s Economic Collapse and Social Crisis

Part 6: The Québec Student Strike: From ‘Maple Spring’ to Summer Rebellion?

Intellectual history is written by intellectuals and educational history is written by educators; thus, it would be inevitable that the flaws and failures of each are buried beneath, while the advances and accomplishments are exaggerated or over-estimated. There is, however, a seemingly consistent dichotomy which has evolved and persisted throughout intellectual and educational history: on the one hand, you have the much larger element – both in terms of the general purpose of education and in the general activities and ideas of intellectuals – who support and strengthen institutionalized power structures; on the other hand – much more a break from the ‘traditional’ impetus and activities of education and intellectuals – you have the smaller element, the off-shoots and oddities, which empowers the masses against institutionalized power, and with the intellectuals who speak out, articulate, mobilize, and justify the empowering of the people against that of the dominant structures of society. Therein lies the dichotomy: one form of education is for social control and domination, the other is for social uplift and rejuvenation; one type of intellectual is a programmatic priest for the proselytization of power, the other is an energetic and empowering enemy of entrenched elites.

A Eulogy for Education: Situating the Social Sciences as Structures of Social Control

Whether public or private, the key issue at hand is that of the utility – or purpose – of higher education. Conventional wisdom inflates the classical liberal concept of higher education as a social good, one which may be funded by the state in order to promote the general well-being of society, as inherently cultural institutions designed to raise the intellectual, spiritual, moral, and philosophical standards of society. A more critical history of education tends to downplay the “social good” theory in place of a “social control” theory of education, and specifically, of the social sciences. In this conception, education was designed to produce professional ‘technicians’ who would – using the techniques of science, rationality, and reason – study social problems with a desire to find and recommend specific policies and programs to ameliorate those problems – to promote reforms to the social system – in order to maintain “order.” Order, in this case, is understood as maintaining the social hierarchy. We understand “social order” as the security of the “social hierarchy” precisely because ‘disorder’ is understood as the opposite of this: a threat to the prevailing social hierarchy and institutional structure of society. Order is maintained through manufacturing ideologies, implementing policies, and undertaking programs of social engineering all with a desire to establish ‘social control.’

For this to be undertaken, it was essential for the social sciences to be separated into distinct spheres: Sociology, Political Science, Economics, and Psychology, for example. This superficial separation established each discipline as one for “expertise” and “professionalism,” whereby those who were trained to understand and partake in politics would study political science, achieving degrees in their “specialty” which would make them socially acknowledged “experts” in their fields. Academic journals reinforce these divisions, focusing primarily on a particular and specific discipline, providing a forum for academics and intellectuals to discuss, debate, and disseminate ideas related to the study and understanding of that discipline and its related topics. The effect, however, is that each discipline remained isolated from other forms of knowledge and, more importantly, that knowledge remained isolated from the general public, whom it was supposed to inform and empower (in theory).

Logic, of course, will tell you that in the real world, politics, economics, sociology and psychology all interact and become intertwined, intersected and interdependent. To add to that, of course, we have other technological, scientific, spiritual, cultural, environmental and historic factors that all merge to create what we broadly call “society.” If our aim is, as it should be, to understand society – to identify its problems and work to resolve them – we therefore would logically need a broader understanding of the social world, which would necessarily require a far more comprehensive, expansive, and multi-disciplinary historical examination of our world and its interacting forms of knowledge. It can be argued, however, that this is too demanding upon the academic and thus, unreasonable and unlikely. Therefore, it is argued, producing “experts” in specific areas would allow for a simultaneous understanding of these various spheres of society, and to effect change in each sector independent of one another. This raises an important question: is an “expert” in Political Science capable of understanding the political world? If they do not take into account economic, social, cultural, scientific, technological and other historical facets of the social world which all interact with the political realm, how can they logically understand the political realm outside of those interactions? In short, the political world does not operate within a vacuum and outside of interactions with other social phenomena, so the claim that they are “professionals” on understanding the social world as a whole, let alone “experts” in the political world, is dubious at best.The fallacy of this concept to produce useful knowledge was eventually acknowledged and educational managers (such as the major foundations) began to support ‘inter-disciplinary’ research to promote at least a more comprehensive understanding than previously existed.

Despite this inherently elitist self-serving conception of social control, the focus – purpose and utility – of education (and specifically the social sciences) on the study and amelioration of social problems inevitably gave rise to ideas, actors, and movements which saw beyond the rigid confines of the educational and knowledge-production system itself, reaching beyond the disciplines and into a more historically-based understanding. These broader understandings typically emerged from historians and philosophers, who must – as stipulated by their very disciplinary focus – acknowledge a multiplicity of factors, spheres, ideas, actors and areas of relevance to any given time and place of human social reality. History, by its very nature, is interdisciplinary: the historian must always acknowledge economic, social, political, and other cultural phenomena in each circumstance being studied.

As an example of these biases and disciplinary obscurities, let’s take a brief look at Political Science. In Political Science, when studying International Relations, you generally study two major theories of international politics: Liberalism, the idea that peace and prosperity between states grows as economic activity increases between them, and that of Realism/Mercantilism, whereby states are viewed as self-interested and the international arena as anarchic, and thus, nation states simply act to serve their own interests (and should). Both theories, of course, serve power. Unless studying the very specific focus of Global Political Economy (and specifically from a critical perspective), Political Science students are not exposed to or confronted with information or ideas which discuss the roles of financial and economic institutions and actors (banks, corporations, etc.) in determining foreign or public policy. Such perspectives are not studied, but simply assumed to be the product of “interested ideology” as opposed to “disinterested knowledge.” Critical theories are rarely acknowledged, let alone studied, and the general use of the word “ideology” is seen as negative, in that, it is not a legitimate focus for discussion or analysis. I personally know of a political science professor who taught a class on ‘Nationalism’ in which a student wrote an essay on ‘class.’ The professor informed the student that she couldn’t discuss “class” because it was “ideology,” and therefore, not disinterested knowledge. Of course, the fact that he was teaching a course on ‘nationalism,’ which itself, is an ideology, did not even come into consideration.

The difference in ideology then, is that the word is used to deride and dismiss theories and ideas which challenge, critique, or oppose power, hierarchy, and the status quo. Those ideas, theories, philosophies and perspectives which support power, hierarchy, and the status quo, are not presented as “ideology,” but as “disinterested knowledge,” as a fact, not in need of proof, but of an assumed nature. They are simply accepted, and are therefore, not ideology. This is also widely reflected in the differences of the academic journals, between those which are establishment and elitist, and those which are critical and allow for more dissent. An example is Foreign Affairs, the premier foreign policy journal, run by the Council on Foreign Relations, the most influential think tank in the United States. In this journal, the articles and essays, written by various “experts” and active, former, or prospective policy-makers and those who hold seats of power, contain largely little or no citations whatsoever. All the ‘facts’ and ideas stated within the articles do not need citations or references because they are ideas which support the status quo, and therefore, they simply reflect the ‘perceived’ realities of society. Now take a journal like Third World Quarterly, which tends to focus on the effects of foreign policy upon the ‘Third World’ nations of the Global South, often highly critical, allowing for major dissenting scholars to have an outlet for their research and ideas. These journal articles are typically and necessarily flooded with citations, sources and references. This is because ideas and facts which challenge the prevailing perception of social reality – the status quo – are treated far more critically and scrutinized to a significant degree.

Critical scholars put their entire reputation and career on the line in taking on controversial topics, and thus, they must provide extensive evidence and citations for all their assertions. Thus, a scholar who contends that – “the United States is an imperial nation which undermines democracy and the self-determination of people around the world” – must provide extensive, detailed, elaborate and concise references and citations. Even then, the scholar is likely to be either ignored or attacked with rhetoric proclaiming them to be “ideologically biased” or worse. On the other hand, a scholar who contends that the United States is a democratic peace-loving nation which benevolently seeks to spread democracy and freedom around the world requires no supporting evidence, citations, or references, simply because it serves power, supports the status quo, and regurgitates the ideas emerging from the institutions of power themselves (such as the State and media), and therefore, no major institutions will challenge the assertions nor subject them to scrutiny. For example, there are entire books written criticizing Noam Chomsky and subjecting his research and writing to extensive scrutiny, pointing out miniscule mistakes in his citations, presenting them as deliberate methods of manipulation. On the other hand, prominent scholars who refer to America as a “benevolent empire” or as the “protector of democracy” around the world are rarely challenged, let alone scrutinized. If scrutiny occurs, it is from the critical scholars, writing in more critically-inclined journals, and thus, their research tends to be disseminated only to each other and stays confined within that small social group. On the other hand, scholars who support power are invited on television, quoted in newspapers, work with think tanks in formulating policy, take part in international conferences, and are invited into the corridors of power in order to implement policy.

Serving power obviously allows for a scholar to rise through the social hierarchy with relative ease. For those scholars who challenge power and the status quo, while entry into positions of power and influence are generally denied, there is still a necessity for toleration among the powerful. The major foundations (Rockefeller Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, Ford Foundation, etc.) often fund critical scholars and journals, not out of a desire to promote or support their ideas, but in order to keep critical scholars  “professionalized,” to keep them as institutionalized academics. If there were no forums, journals, conferences or venues for the discussion, dissemination and debate of critical scholars and ideas, they would have to turn to other avenues for the dissemination of ideas and knowledge, which generally leads to the public sphere, of community involvement, activism, or populist politics. With foundations providing funding for critical scholars, journals, and conferences, the academics remain dependent upon the institutional structure of academia, and their ideas do not reach the wider public, and thus, their critiques are ineffective and do not promote change or understanding within the general population. Thus, such a program of financing provides a “release valve” for intellectual dissent, to keep critical or radical scholars institutionalized and prevent them from becoming mobilized and activist-oriented.

Still, in spite of all the deleterious factors for the pursuit of genuine knowledge with the purpose of empowerment through (instead of power over); the fact that the focus was on ‘social problems’ led inevitably to the generation of activist-oriented intellectuals, for those who could transcend the confines of narrow structures of knowledge. It is not to say that when these intellectuals surfaced, so too did the social movements, but rather that as social movements emerged, progressed, and developed, activist-oriented intellectuals took note, and began providing a philosophical and intellectual basis for the movement to exist and move forward. In short, it was a confluence of different circumstances both within the academic institutions and in the wider society – national and global – which led to the origins of these intellectual leaders, critics, activists, and philosophers. These are the individuals that the Trilateral Commission referred to in its report on the “Crisis of Democracy” as “value-oriented intellectuals.”

Dissident Value-Oriented Intellectuals versus Technocratic Policy-Oriented Intellectuals

In the early 20th century, as the concepts and ideas of “public opinion” and “mass democracy” emerged, the dominant political and social theorists of the era took to a debate on redefining democracy. It was an era of social unrest, radical political ideologies and activists, labour unrest and rebellion, extreme poverty, war, and middle-class insecurity (sound familiar?). Central to this discussion on redefining democracy were the books and ideas of Walter Lippmann. With the concept of the “scientific management” of society by social scientists standing firm in the background, society’s problems were viewed as “technical problems” (as in, not structural or institutional) intended to be resolved through rational professionals and experts. Just as with Frederick Taylor’s conception of “scientific management” of the factory, the application of this concept to society would require, in Lippmann’s words, “systematic intelligence and information control,” which would become “the normal accompaniment of action.” With such control, Lippmann asserted, “persuasion… become[s] a self-conscious art and a regular organ of popular government,” and the “manufacture of consent improve[s] enormously in technique, because it is now based on analysis rather than rule of thumb.”[1] Thus, for elites to maintain social control in the tumultuous new age of the 20th century, they must “manufacture consent” of the people to support the existing power structures.

In 1922, Lippmann wrote his profoundly influential book, Public Opinion, in which he expressed his thoughts on the inability of citizens – or the public – to guide democracy or society for themselves. The “intellectuality of mankind,” Lippmann argued, was exaggerated and false. Instead, he defined the public as “an amalgam of stereotypes, prejudices and inferences, a creature of habits and associations, moved by impulses of fear and greed and imitation, exalted by tags and labels.”[2] Lippmann suggested that for the effective “manufacture of consent,” what was needed were “intelligence bureaus” or “observatories,” employing the social scientific techniques of “disinterested” information to be provided to journalists, governments, and businesses regarding the complex issues of modern society.[3] These essentially came to be known and widely employed as think tanks, the most famous of which is the Council on Foreign Relations, founded in 1921 and to which Lippmann later belonged as a member.

In 1925, Lippmann wrote another immensely important work entitled, The Phantom Public, in which he expanded upon his conceptions of the public and democracy. In his concept of democratic society, Lippmann wrote that, “A false ideal of democracy can lead only to disillusionment and to meddlesome tyranny,” and to prevent this from taking place, “the public must be put in its place… so that each of us may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd.”[4] Defining the public as a “bewildered herd,” Lippmann went on to conceive of ‘public opinion’ not as “the voice of God, nor the voice of society, but the voice of the interested spectators of action.” Thus, “the opinions of the spectators must be essentially different from those of the actors.” This new conception of society, managed by actors and not the “bewildered herd” of “spectators” would be constructed so as to subject the managers of society, wrote Lippmann, “to the least possible interference from ignorant and meddlesome outsiders.”[5] In case there was any confusion, the “bewildered herd” of “spectators” made up of “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders” is the public, is we, the people.

Lippmann was not an idle intellectual whose ideas are anachronisms of history, he was perhaps the most influential political theorist of his day, advising presidents while still in his 20s, Woodrow Wilson invited him to organize his war-time propaganda ministry, the Committee on Public Information (which was actually Lippmann’s idea to create), and his ideas held enormous resonance and received immense support from elite institutions and individuals. The influence of Lippmann’s ideas can be seen in the political machinery of the party system, the media, academia, think tanks, the construction of the consumer society, the activities of philanthropic foundations and a variety of other avenues and activities.

Several decades later, in the midst of another major social crisis in the 1960s, elite intellectuals again engaged in a discussion on the direction of society, social engineering, social control, and the role of “intellectuals” in society.

McGeorge Bundy, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (and later the Trilateral Commission), was the U.S. National Security Adviser, responsible for organizing foreign policy under Kennedy and Johnson (largely responsible for the Vietnam War), and in 1966, he went to become President of the Ford Foundation. In 1967, Bundy wrote an article for Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations which McGeorge’s brother William Bundy (a former CIA analyst and State Department staffer in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations) would be editor of from 1972-1984, after declining the offer from David Rockefeller to be the Council president. McGeorge wrote in his 1967 article that:

The end of 1966 finds the United States with more hard business before it than at any time since 1962. We are embattled in Viet Nam; we are in the middle of a true social revolution at home; and we have undiminished involvement with continents and countries that still refuse to match our simpler pictures of them.[6]

Bundy lamented the idea that, “American democracy has no enduring taste for imperialism,” because despite all of the “nation’s interests overseas, the boys always want to come home.” Bundy then went on to explain the benefits of questioning particular policies the United States pursues, but not to question the entire premise of America’s foreign policy in general (namely, that of imperialism). Instead, Bundy acknowledged that most of the dissent and argument on the Vietnam War was in terms of “tactics, not fundamentals,” though, he acknowledged, “[t]here are wild men in the wings,” referring to those intellectuals who question the basis and fundamentals of foreign policy itself.[7] Such “wild men in the wings” and “value-oriented intellectuals” present such a monumental threat to established elite interests. As the Trilateral Commission’s report noted in 1975:

At the present time, a significant challenge comes from the intellectuals and related groups who assert their disgust with the corruption, materialism, and inefficiency of democracy and with the subservience of democratic government to “monopoly capitalism.” The development of an “adversary culture” among intellectuals has affected students, scholars, and the media. Intellectuals are, as [Political Economist Joseph] Schumpeter put it, “people who wield the power of the spoken and the written word, and one of the touches that distinguish them from other people who do the same is the absence of direct responsibility for practical affairs.” In some measure, the advanced industrial societies have spawned a stratum of value-oriented intellectuals who often devote themselves to the derogation of leadership, the challenging of authority, and the unmasking and delegitimation of established institutions, their behavior contrasting with that of the also increasing numbers of technocratic and policy-oriented intellectuals.[8]

The Trilateral Commission report later expanded upon the concept of the role of the intellectual in society. It stated that in the cultural history of Western Europe, “intellectuals are romantic figures who naturally get a position of prominence through a sort of aristocratic exaltation.” However, in periods of “fast changes,” they often come to lead and join “the fight against the old aristocratic tradition.” This, the Trilateral Commission contended, represented an “internal upsetting of the traditional intellectual roles.” This was identified as a “crisis of identity” in which, “[i]t has become a battle between those persons who play the audience, even if it is a protest type, and those who contribute to the process of decision-making.” Claiming that protest-oriented intellectuals are among “the audience” reinforces Lippmann’s assertion some decades earlier that the public are mere “spectators,” not capable of nor desired to engage meaningfully in politics. For the Trilateral Commission, the rise of “value-oriented intellectuals” was the result of the “intellectualization” of the “post-industrial society” in which their particular fields (namely, the humanities) became less useful in “application” and “practical use,” and thus, society “tends to displace traditional value-oriented intellectual disciplines to the benefit of action-oriented ones, that is, those disciplines that can play a direct role in policy-making.”[9] This would of course include the authors of the Trilateral Commission report itself, namely Samuel Huntington, who went on to work on the National Security Council under Zbigniew Brzezinski (co-founder of the Trilateral Commission) in the Jimmy Carter administration.

French philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte had long discussed the role of radical intellectuals in society and social movements. Following the major youth and student protests and movements of 1968, Sarte felt that the first duty of the radical intellectual is to “suppress himself as intellectual” and put his skills “directly at the service of the masses.” In a 1971 interview, Sarte was asked the question, “What should the radical intellectual do?” Sarte responded:

Today it is sheer bad faith, hence counterrevolutionary, for the intellectual to dwell in his own problems, instead of realizing that he is an intellectual because of the masses and through them; therefore, that he owes his knowledge to them and must be with them and in them: he must be dedicated to work for their problems, not his own.[10]

Thus, radical intellectuals should be creating revolutionary newspapers directed toward the masses, creating “a language that explains the necessary political realities in a way that everyone can understand.” Sarte was then asked, “Are you saying… that the responsibility of the intellectual is not intellectual?” He replied:

Yes, it is in action. It is to put his status at the service of the oppressed directly… the intellectual who does not put his body as well as his mind on the line against the system is fundamentally supporting the system and should be judged accordingly.[11]

As such, it is the responsibility of the radical intellectual to not lead, but follow and support the movements and struggles of the masses. For Sarte, the intellectual’s “privileged status is over.” Thus, “only activism will justify the intellectual.”[12] This is, in fact, a direct counter – or parallel – to the concept of the policy-oriented or technocratic intellectual, who directly partakes in the decision-making process. Just as the “technocratic intellectual” who partakes in the decisions of the institutions of power is “policy-oriented,” the radical intellectual directly partakes in the process of resistance (though not necessarily the decision-making process), and is also “action-oriented.”

In 1967, famed linguist Noam Chomsky wrote an essay in which he voiced his political opposition to the Vietnam War, entitled, “The Responsibility of Intellectuals.” In the article, which provoked widespread discussion and debate, Chomsky wrote:

With respect to the responsibility of intellectuals, there are still other, equally disturbing questions. Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions. In the Western world, at least, they have the power that comes from political liberty, from access to information and freedom if expression. For a privileged minority, Western democracy provides the leisure, the facilities, and the training to seek the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology and class interest, through which the events of current history are presented to us.[13]

As Chomsky explained, “If it is the responsibility of the intellectual to insist upon the truth, it is also his duty to see events in their historical perspective.”[14] This is, of course, in counter to the “technical experts” of social science, seeking to remedy “technical problems” of society in a “responsible” manner. In this sense, “responsibility” has a dual use: it is used by elites to denote those intellectuals who are “responsible” to the elite, and it is also used by dissenters to denote a “responsibility” to the truth and the people. Thus, the use of the word – whether one describes dissenters as “responsible” or “irresponsible” – tends to express more about those who use the term rather than those for whom they are applying the term.

This is, it must be acknowledged, not a new phenomenon. It is found throughout human history, though often called different things in different times and places. It can be found among the ancient philosophers and, indeed, the prophets of the Biblical era. As Noam Chomsky has elsewhere explained, “The history of intellectuals is written by intellectuals, so not surprisingly, they are portrayed as defenders of right and justice, upholding the highest values and confronting power and evil with admirable courage and integrity. The record reveals a rather different picture.” Chomsky further wrote:

A large part of the Bible is devoted to people who condemned the crimes of state and immoral practices. They are called “prophets,” a dubious translation of an obscure word. In contemporary terms, they were “dissident intellectuals.” There is no need to review how they were treated: miserably, the norm for dissidents.

There were also intellectuals who were greatly respected in the era of the prophets: the flatterers at the court. The Gospels warn of “false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruits ye shall know them.”[15]

In his book, Sage, Priest, and Prophet: Religious and Intellectual Leadership in Ancient Israel, Joseph Blenkinsopp explained the use of the term ‘prophet’ in both historical and contemporary context. In the contemporary context, it is generally associated with “prediction, emotional preaching, [and] social protest,” though the Hebrew term for it (nabi), has been so widely and differently used to describe various individuals, including its usage to describe many who functioned in “sanctuaries and royal courts,” in which case, they would be individuals who serve power. On the other hand, for those that challenged the power structures, Blenkinsopp argued that they were essentially “dissident intellectuals.”[16]

Again, this drew a distinction in ancient times with the word ‘prophet’ to that we hold today with the word ‘intellectual’: denoting both those who serve and challenge power. Blenkinsopp explained that the prophets who were “dissident intellectuals” in the Biblical era “collaborated at some level of conscious intent in the emergence of a coherent vision of a moral universe over against current assumptions cherished and propagated by the contemporary state apparatus, including its priestly and prophetic representatives.” In other words, they challenged the institutions of power which existed during that era. These dissident intellectuals – much like those of the modern era – “often play a socially destabilizing role in taking an independent, critical, or innovative line over against commonly accepted assumptions of a dominant ideology.” In fact, stipulated Blenkinsopp, “radical change rarely, if ever, comes about without the cooperation or intervention of an intellectual elite.”[17]

Blenkinsopp described an era in which these prophets emerged in protest “at the accumulation of wealth and the luxurious lifestyle enjoyed by the few at the expense of the many.” The prophet – or dissident intellectual – Amos had lashed “out at those who store of the (fruits of) violence and robbery,” and who “live at ease in houses, the walls and furniture of which are inlaid with ivory.” Amos and another dissident intellectual, Isaiah, had “nothing but scorn for the idle rich and depict.” Blenkinsopp wrote:

The concentration of power and resources in the hands of the few, in this instance the political and hierocratic establishment and its clientele, is always liable to generate protest, especially if it is accompanied by the impoverishment of the many. A few decades after Amos, Hesiod claimed divine inspiration in denouncing unjust rulers.[18]

Thus, whether Hesiod, Hosea, Micah, or Isaiah, “all four belonged to the very small minority of the population that was literate and educated, and it was from that socially privileged position that their protest was launched.” These dissidents, however, were of a very small minority. For literally hundreds of years, the ‘prophets’ (intellectuals) of the era were “almost exclusively supportive” of power, “and there is no breath of challenge to the political or social status quo.” It was “in Israel and, to a lesser extent, Greece [where] a tradition of dissent and social protest develop[ed].” How were these dissident intellectual ‘prophets’ of the era treated? The established powers attempted to silence Amos and Micah, Hosea was ridiculed as “a fool,” and Isaiah was driven into “retirement” after an attempt to intervene in foreign policy matters.[19] So, while we claim them as prophets today, in their time they were treated as pariahs.

So whether in Biblical Israel, nearly 800 years before the arrival of Christ, or in the 1975 Trilateral Commission report, “dissident intellectuals” are to be feared and reviled by established powers, and it is clear that these powers will always attempt and actively take measures to minimize, ostracize, repress or eliminate such forms of dissent.

Thus, we have come to see the corporatization of our universities and the marginalization of dissident intellectuals in the neoliberal era. As Bronwyn Davies et. al. wrote in the European Journal of Education, few radical intellectuals of the 1960s and 70s “imagined how dangerous their work with students might seem to be to those in government or to the global leaders of big business and industry.” This was, of course, addressed by the Trilateral Commission, which above all represents the interests of the financial, corporate, political, and intellectual elite. This elite felt that “they must establish a new order to make the world more predictable, and they saw those radical intellectuals – both academics and journalists – as contributing to the dangerous disorder.”[20]

The Trilateral Commission was founded by two individuals: one a representative of high finance (David Rockefeller, Chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank), and the other a representative of the intellectual elite (Zbigniew Brzezinski, professor of political science, member of the Council on Foreign Relations, foreign policy official). Brzezinski wrote a book in 1970, Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era, in which he laid out the problems of the technological and electronic era (hence, “tehcnetronic”) and elaborated on strategies to resolve them: politically, economically, and socially, including the formation of a “community of developed nations” to jointly work together in managing the world for their own benefit. Rockefeller, who was also a top official at the Council on Foreign Relations and also attended meetings of the Bilderberg group with Brzezinski (another exclusively elitist international think tank linking Western Europe and North America), took note of the book and its arguments, and recruited Brzezinski to help put together this “community,” and in 1973, the Trilateral Commission was formed. Brzezinski, in terms of intellectual influence, is perhaps as close to a Walter Lippmann for the globalized era as one could get. For decades, he has been a major foreign policy official with significant influence, sitting on the boards of major elite think tanks that produce policy plans which are implemented in the government, acting in an advisory capacity to almost every president since Jimmy Carter, and in terms of his still close relationship with the ruling financial oligarchy (namely, the Rockefellers).

In his book, Brzezinski discussed the need for “programmatic engineering” to manage and change American culture, of which he emphasized the roles played by education and the mass media over the alternative avenues of churches and traditional customs.[21] The manufacturing of culture, posited Brzezinski, was an American ‘obligation’:

Change in educational procedures and philosophy should also be accompanied by parallel changes in the broader national processes by which values are generated and disseminated. Given America’s role as a world disseminator of new values and techniques, this is both a national and a global obligation. Yet no other country has permitted its mass culture, taste, daily amusement, and, most important, the indirect education of its children to be almost exclusively the domain of private business and advertising, or permitted both standards of taste and the intellectual content of culture to be defined largely by a small group of entrepreneurs located in one metropolitan center.[22]

Brzezinski also discussed one of the more relevant and indeed, concerning facets of the Technological Revolution. Of course, writing of this as a ‘concern’ is in terms of Brzezinski writing from the perspective of an elite academic and strategic thinker, and thus, representing the elite class and their overall concerns. Namely, Brzezinski wrote on the prospects of a revolution against this process and the power structures involved, explaining that these groups are likely to emerge in both the developing world and industrialized world in opposition to the process of ‘modernization,’ which Brzezinski refers to as the advancement of the ‘Technetronic Revolution.’ In the Global South (the “Third World”), the revolutionary class is likely to emerge from the educated classes who are deprived of social opportunities fitting with their intellectual expectations. In the industrialized West, however, this “revolutionary intelligentsia” is most likely to emerge from the “middle-class intellectual equivalents” of the revolutionary class in the developing world. Thus, it would emerge among the educated middle-classes of the West, who are deprived of opportunities attuned to their education, thus creating a ‘crisis of expectations.’ Brzezinski wrote that the Technetronic Revolution had created a “social anachronism,” in which these groups may hold onto anti-industrial values and could possibly, even in the more modern countries, effectively block the modernization of their societies, “insisting that it be postponed until after an ideological revolution has taken place.” Brzezinski explained:

In this sense the technetronic revolution could partially become a self-limiting phenomenon: disseminated by mass communications, it creates its own antithesis through the impact of mass communications on some sectors of the intelligentsia.[23]

Brzezinski’s answer to these profound and potentially revolutionary circumstances was to employ more social engineering, more social control, more integration and coordination among global powers; essentially, to strengthen power structures at the expense of all others. Brzezinski wrote that there was a “mounting national recognition that the future can and must be planned; that unless there is a modicum of deliberate choice, change will result in chaos.”[24] He elaborated:

Technological developments make it certain that modern society will require more and more planning. Deliberate management of the American future will become widespread, with the planner eventually displacing the lawyer as the key social legislator and manipulator… How to combine social planning with personal freedom is already emerging as the key dilemma of technetronic America, replacing the industrial age’s preoccupation with balancing social needs against requirements of free enterprise.[25]

In the same line of arguing in favour of more coordination, planning, and “technical” expertise, Brzezinski also posited an image of where this could eventually lead:

Another threat, less overt but no less basic, confronts liberal democracy. More directly linked to the impact of technology, it involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled and directed society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite whose claim to political power would rest on allegedly superior scientific know-how. Unhindered by the restraints of traditional liberal values, this elite would not hesitate to achieve its political ends by using the latest modern techniques for influencing public behavior and keeping society under close surveillance and control…  Persisting social crisis, the emergence of a charismatic personality, and the exploitation of mass media to obtain public confidence would be the steppingstones in the piecemeal transformation of the United States into a highly controlled society.[26]

Thus, we come to understand the ideologies, intent, and actions of two divergent social actors: the technocratic and policy-oriented intellectual and the dissident action-oriented intellectual. One supports power, one supports people. Our educational system is still to a significant degree composed of and designed to produce (like industrial factories for intellectual products) those intellectuals who support power, who engage in social engineering with the purpose of social control. Dissident intellectuals, while they exist, remain confined. They engage in research and write in academic journals which reach only other dissident intellectuals. This is the case not only in the West, but across a great deal of the world. There are, of course, exceptions, but they are few and far between. The knowledge and ideas and dissident intellectuals must be designed not for the purpose of internal discussion and debate among other dissidents within the institutions of academia, but to reach the masses, to empower the people, and to join – actively and actually – with the people as they mobilize for change. In order to do this, new forums, conferences, media, and other sources and organizations should attract the “value-oriented intellectuals” away from Ivory towers of intellectual isolation and into the people-oriented pathways of political action. The language must be made less academic and more accessible, the activities must be more directly engaged with people than distant and distracted.

The rigors of academic life make this a great challenge, not only for students but for professors as well. Professors are expected to publish consistently in journals and other publications, and so when they are not teaching or instructing, they are researching and writing, independently and isolated. There is very little time or opportunity for direct engagement, or for writing for other publications and avenues which could allow their research to reach a wider audience. This keeps intellectuals disciplined and distracted, and ultimately, gives little relevance to their research in terms of actually affecting any meaningful changes in society. However, here we come to understanding the inherent dichotomy of a crisis, in this case, the “Crisis of Education.” As the crisis of education leads to increased costs, increased debts, decreased enrollment, decreased opportunities, increased social unrest, increased student resistance, and ultimately, a decrease in the amount of teachers and professors (this is already taking place), there also opens an avenue through which much of the disciplinary mechanisms which held dissident intellectuals back will be eroded. With nothing left to lose (in terms of job security, financial stability, social prestige and opportunity), dissident intellectuals will be far more inclined toward participation in activism and social movements. Avenues for their participation should be opened up and extended as this crisis continues and deepens.

A simply example of such an opportunity to attract dissident intellectuals would be a type of international conference, media, and educational institute. It could begin with a conference, drawing dissidents from around the world – from Egypt, Tunisia, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Spain, the U.K., Canada, Australia, United States, Iceland, Ireland, Chile, Taiwan, etc. – to hold a discussion and debate on the origins, evolution, development and potential for the growing social and activist movements, whether in the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, anti-austerity protests, student strikes, and others. The conference could be televised for free online, so people all over the world could view and engage. A major aim and result of the conference could be to establish an educational institution, which brings together such intellectuals from around the world with more consistency, which organizes a network of globally connected but locally-oriented decentralized schools, designed specifically for a broad, multi-disciplinary and globally-relevant education for social change. They could hold classes in which students and teachers engage as equals, bringing in local activists, alternative media, even filming the actual classes and discussions to post online, even provide a live feed. The aim would be to provide education for the purpose of empowering people to activism and social change. They could establish their own media outlets, providing research and discussion of activities by students and professors, and become engaged in actively planning and helping organize social movements, protests, and other activities.

The point would be to provide a forum where education has an empowering social purpose, where it integrates itself with other elements of society and does not remain isolated and insulated. For example, if one such discussion were to take place in a local decentralized school on the topic of food sustainability, agriculture, GMOs, and the politics of food, the result could be a decision to establish a network of organic farmers who would be willing to produce cheap food for poor areas, establish a space where there could be a cheap organic food market, or cheap (or free) meals made with the food, but dispensing it to poor people in poor areas of major cities, who would otherwise not have the means of good food for decent prices. It’s a very simple program, but the effects can be profound. Not only could it begin to integrate farmers and agriculturalists with such an emerging movement, but it could integrate the poor more closely with such a movement. The poor are, after all, the largest constituency in the world, and the one in the most need of help and empowerment. For the poor, the ideological and power struggles between the middle and upper classes are largely irrelevant, because neither benefit nor empower them. If there is to be a true and genuine revolutionary change in global society, acting without the ideas and support of the poor is a sure way to guarantee failure for genuine change. To get the support of the poor, the poor must be supported; they must be given a stake in the future, empowered to act and participate in change, and the starting point for this is to address the immediate necessities of poor people everywhere: food, clothing, shelter.

The difference between how ‘social control’-oriented institutions (such as foundations and NGOs) address poverty and how revolutionary and radical organizations would address poverty, is the intent and methods in dealing with these immediate concerns. NGOs and foundations seek to establish methods of providing food, clothing, shelter and general necessities so much as to address the symptoms of poverty, not the causes, and thus, to ultimately sustain the system that creates poverty by alleviating the worst conditions just enough to prevent rebellion or resistance. Revolutionary or radical organizations would seek to address the immediate concerns of the poor in order so that they may be empowered and able to begin finding ways to support themselves, to learn from them, and to provide access to forms of knowledge which have been denied to them. Thus, any programs of directly helping the poor would have to be accompanied with opportunities for education, knowledge, and outlets for action. The point is not to simply feed a poor individual, but to disseminate knowledge about why they are poor, how society creates and sustains the poor, the sources and solutions to poverty. Thus, it does not simply alleviate the symptoms, but empowers the individuals. Further, any radical movement must in turn be educated by the poor, for through their very existence, they are better able to understand the nature of the system that exists, because they have always been subjected to its most ugly and oppressive apparatus. While it may be easy for middle class intellectuals and students to promote a revolutionary cause based upon an ideology of how the state can and should function, poor people are able to give a better idea of how the state does function, has functioned, and thus, raise critical questions about the ideas, objectives, and actions of middle class and other radicals. The point would not be to be modern missionaries, providing food with “the Bible,” but to help – not out of pity but out of empathy and necessity – to empower, and, ultimately, to learn from and work with the poor. If any radical or revolutionary movement emerges which does not include a significant number of leaders from the poor population, and without significant support from the poor population, it is inherently anti-democratic and unworthy of pursuit.

This is, of course, just one example. The objective then, would be to find a way to bring dissident intellectuals out of the rigid confines of academia, and into the real world: to embolden, empower, and engage with the people, to participate in activism and social mobilization, and to work with a wide variety of other social groups and sectors in order to collectively participate in the construction of a new and far better world. It is time that this must be the acknowledged purpose of intellectuals, not the exception.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.


[1]            Frank Webster and Kevin Robins, “Plan and Control: Towards a Cultural History of the Information Society,” Theory and Society (Vol. 18, 1989), pages 341-342.

[2]            Sidney Kaplan, “Social Engineers as Saviors: Effects of World War I on Some American Liberals,” Journal of the History of Ideas (Vol. 17, No. 3, June 1956), pages 366-367.

[3]            Sue Curry Jansen, “Phantom Conflict: Lippmann, Dewey, and the Fate of the Public in Modern Society,” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies (Vol. 6, No. 3, 2009), page 225.

[4]            Walter Lippmann, et. al., The Essential Lippmann: A Political Philosophy for Liberal Democracy (Harvard University Press, 1982), page 91.

[5]            Ibid, page 92.

[6]            McGeorge Bundy, “The End of Either/Or,” Foreign Affairs (Vol. 45, No. 2, January 1967), page 189.

[7]            Ibid, pages 189-191.

[8]            Michel J. Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington and Joji Watanuki, The Crisis of Democracy, (Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, New York University Press, 1975), pages 6-7.

[9]            Ibid, page 31-32.

[10]            Ronald Aronson, “Sarte and the Radical Intellectuals Role,” Science & Society (Vol. 39, No. 4, Winter 1975/1976), pages 436, 447.

[11]            Ibid, pages 447-448.

[12]            Ibid, page 448-449.

[13]            Noam Chomsky, “A Special Supplement: The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” The New York Review of Books, 23 February 1967:


[14]            Ibid.

[15]            Noam Chomsky, “Great Soul of Power,” Information Clearing House, 26 July 2006:


[16]            Joseph Blenkinsopp, Sage, Priest, Prophet: Religious and Intellectual Leadership in Ancient Israel (Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), page 2.

[17]            Ibid, page 144.

[18]            Ibid, pages 153-154.

[19]            Ibid, page 154.

[20]            Bronwyn Davies, et. al., “The Rise and Fall of the Neo-liberal University,” European Journal of Education (Vol. 41, No. 2, 2006), page 311.

[21]            Zbigniew Brzezinski, Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era (Greenwood Press, Westport: 1970), page 265.

[22]            Ibid, page 269.

[23]            Ibid, page 278.

[24]            Ibid, page 256.

[25]            Ibid, page 260.

[26]            Ibid, pages 252-253.

Bringing Down the Empire: Challenging the Institutions of Domination

Bringing Down the Empire: Challenging the Institutions of Domination

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo

We have come to the point in our history of our species where an increasing amount of people are asking questions, seeking answers, taking action, and waking up to the realities of our world, to the systems, ideas, institutions and individuals who have dominated, oppressed, controlled, and ensnared humanity in their grip of absolute control. As the resistance to these ideas, institutions, and individuals grows and continues toward taking action – locally, nationally, regionally, and globally – it is now more important than ever for the discussion and understanding of our system to grow in accord. Action must be taken, and is being taken, but information must inform action. Without a more comprehensive, global and expansive understanding of our world, those who resist this system will become increasingly divided, more easily co-opted, and have their efforts often undermined.

So now we must ask the questions: What is the nature of our society? How did we get here? Who brought us to this point? Where are we headed? When will we get to that point? Why is humanity in this place? And what can we do to change the future and the present? These are no small questions, and while they do not have simple answers, the answers can be sought, all the same. If we truly seek change, not simply for ourselves as individuals, not merely for our specific nations, but for the whole of humanity and the entire course of human history, these questions must be asked, and the answers must be pursued.

So, what is the nature of our society?

Our society is one dominated not simply by individuals, not merely by institutions, but more than anything else, by ideas. These three focal points are of course inter-related and interdependent. After all, it is individuals who come up with ideas which are then institutionalized. As a result, over time, the ‘institutionalization of ideas’ affect the wider society in which they exist, by producing a specific discourse, by professionalizing those who apply the ideas to society, by implanting them so firmly in the social reality that they often long outlive the individuals who created them in the first place. In time, the ideas and institutions take on a life of their own, they become concerned with expanding the power of the institutions, largely through the propagation and justification of the ideas which legitimate the institution’s existence. Ultimately, the institution becomes a growing, slow-moving, corrosive behemoth, seeking self-preservation through repression of dissent, narrowing of the discourse, and control over humanity. This is true for the ideas and institutions, whether media, financial, corporate, governmental, philanthropic, educational, political, social, psychological and spiritual. Often the idea which founds an institution may be benevolent, altruistic and humane, but, over time, the institution itself takes control of the idea, makes it rigid and hesitant to reform, and so even the most benevolent idea can become corrupted, corrosive, and oppressive to humanity. This process of the institutionalization of ideas has led to the rise of empires, the growth of wars, the oppression of entire populations, and the control and domination of humanity.

How did we get here?

The process has been a long one. It is, to put it simply, the history of all humanity. In the last 500 years, however, we can identify more concrete and emergent themes, ideas, institutions, individuals and processes which brought us to our current place. Among these are the development of the nation-state, capitalism, and the financial system of banking and central banking. Concurrently with this process, we saw the emergence of racism, slavery, and the transformation of class politics into racial politics. The ideas of ‘social control’ came to define and lay the groundwork for a multitude of institutions which have emerged as dominant forces in our society. Managing the poor and institutionalizing racism are among the most effective means of social control over the past 500 years. The emergence of national education systems played an important part in creating a collective identity and consciousness for the benefit of the state. The slow and steady progression of psychiatry led to the domination of the human mind, and with that, the application of psychology in methods of social engineering and social control.

Though it was in the 19th century that revolutionary ideas and new philosophies of resistance emerged in response to the increasing wealth and domination at the top, and the increasing repression and exploitation of the rest. In reaction to this development, elites sought out new forms of social control. Educational institutions facilitated the rise of a new intellectual elite, which, in turn, redefined the concept of democracy to be an elite-guided structure, defined and controlled by that very same intellectual elite. This led to the development of new concepts of propaganda and power. This elite created the major philanthropic foundations which came to act as “engines of social engineering,” taking a dominant role in the shaping of a global society and world order over the 20th century. Ruthless imperialism was very much a part of this process. By no means new to the modern world, empire and war is almost as old as human social organization. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, rapid imperial expansion led to the domination of almost the entire world by the Western powers. As the Europeans took control of Africa, the United States took control of the Caribbean, with Woodrow Wilson’s brutal occupations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The two World Wars transformed the global order: old empires crumbled, and new ones emerged. Bankers centralized their power further and over a greater portion of human society. After World War II, the American Empire sought total world domination. It undertook to control the entirety of Latin America, often through coups and brutal state repression, including support to tyrannical dictators. This was done largely in an effort to counter the rise of what was called “radical nationalism” among the peoples of the region.  In the Middle East, the United States sought to control the vast oil reserves in an effort to “control the world.” To do so, the United States had to set itself against the phenomenon of Arab Nationalism. Israel emerged in the context of great powers seeking to create a proxy state for their imperial domination of the region. The birth of Israel was itself marked by a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against the domestic Palestinian population, a fact which has scarred forever the image and reality of Israel in the Arab world. The development of the educational system facilitated the imperial expansion, not only in the United States itself, but globally, and largely at the initiative of major foundations like Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford.

Who brought us here?

While the ideas and institutions are the major forces of domination in our world, they are all started by individuals. We are ruled, though it may be difficult to imagine, by a small dynastic power structure, largely consisting of powerful banking families, such as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, and others. The emerged in controlling the financial system, extended their influence over the political system, the educational system, and, through the major foundations, have become the dominant social powers of our world, creating think tanks and other institutions which shape and change the course of society and modern human history. Among these central institutions which extend the domination of these elites and their social group are the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Group, and the Trilateral Commission.

Where are we headed, and when will we get there?

We face the possibility of a major global war. Already the Western imperial powers have been interfering in the Arab Spring, attempting to co-opt, control, or outright repress various uprisings in the region, as well as extending their imperial interests by supporting militant and destructive elements in order to implement – through war and destabilization – regime change, such as in Libya. The war threats against Iran continue, not because Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon, but because Iran seeks to continue to develop independent of Western domination and has the capacity to defend itself, an incomprehensible thought for a global empire which believes it has the ‘right’ to absolute world domination. The empire itself is threatened by a ‘Global Political Awakening’ which marks the changing ideas and understandings of humanity about our situation and the possibility for change, even revolutionary if necessary. As the global economic crisis continues to descend into a ‘Great Global Debt Depression,’ we see the increasing development of resistance, leading even to riots, rebellion, and potentially revolution. The middle classes of the West are being plunged into poverty, a condition which the rest of the world has known for far too long, and as a result, the political activation of these classes, along with the radicalization of the student population – left in jobless debt for an eternity – create the conditions for global solidarity and revolution. These conditions also spur on the State to impose more repressive and totalitarian measures of control, even to the possibility of state terror against the domestic population.

Just as the process of resistance and repression increase on a global scale, so too does the process of global centralization and expansion of domination. Through crises, the global elites seek to construct the apparatus of a ‘global government.’ The major think tanks such as the Bilderberg Group have long envisioned and worked toward such a scenario. This ‘new world order’ being constructed is specifically for the benefit of the elite and to the detriment of everyone else, and will inevitably – as by the very nature of institutions – become tyrannical and oppressive. The ‘Technological Revolution’ has thus created two parallel situations: never before has the possibility of absolute global domination and control been so close; yet, never has the potential of total global liberation and freedom been so possible.

Why are we here, and what can we do to change it?

We are here largely due to a lack of understanding of how we have come to be dominated, of the forces, ideas, institutions, and individuals who have emerged as the global oligarchy. To change it, firstly, we need to come to understand these ideas, to understand the origins and ‘underneath’ of all ideas that we even today hold as sacrosanct, to question everything and critique every idea. We need to define and understand Liberty and Power. When we understand these processes and the social world in which we live, we can begin to take more informed actions toward changing this place, and toward charting our own course to the future. We do have the potential to change the course of history, and history will stand in favour of the people over the powerful.

The People’s Book Project seeks to expand this understanding of our world, and the ideas, institutions, and individuals which have come to dominate it, as well as those which have emerged and are still emerging in resistance to it. What is the nature of our society? How did we get here? Who brought us here? Why? Where are we going? When will we get there? And what can we do to change it? These are the questions being asked by The People’s Book Project. The products of this project, entirely funded through donations from readers like you, is to produce a multi-volume book on these subjects and seeking to answer as best as possible, these questions. It is, essentially, a modern history of power, people, and potential. The book itself lays the groundwork for a larger idea, and a plan of action, a method of countering the institutional society, of working toward the empowerment of people, the undermining of power, to make all that we needlessly depend upon irrelevant, to push people toward our true potential as a species, and to inform the action of many so that humanity may learn, discover, try and, eventually, succeed over that which seeks to dominate.

The People’s Book Project depends entirely upon you, the reader, for support, and that support is needed now.

See what others are saying about The People’s Book Project:

The People’s Book Project may be a radical idea for radical times, but it’s an idea whose time has come. With crowd-funding the people finally have the chance to compete with the seemingly unlimited resources of  the financial elite who have traditionally written our history. This  is why I support Andrew Gavin Marshall’s project and hope others will  support it, too. For once the people have the chance to reclaim their own history, and to tell the truth the way it deserves to be told.

James Corbett

The People’s Book Project is a great undertaking for our time. Around the world we have seen a political awakening of the oppressed, exploited, and impoverished that has swept the globe, from Cairo to Melbourne to the imperial capital itself: Washington D.C. The project is so important because by tracing how we got to this point in history and who got us here, it allows us to then use that knowledge to begin to envision and articulate a new global social, political, and economic order and then take concrete steps to see this vision come to fruition.

Devon DB

I am an enthusiastic supporter of the People’s Book Project because our society is in desperate need of creating new Social Architectures.  The Industrial Age is crumbling – but ‘the new’ has yet to be invented.  Thus, we need brilliant young minds to create new possibilities, through the haze of mind numbing commodification of everything.  The People’s Book Project represents incredible discipline and in-depth research by brilliant young minds to discover the futures we need to build together.  Join me in supporting this exploration of our future.

Jack Pearpoint and Lynda Kahn

Please support The People’s Book Project and make a donation today!

Thank you for your support,

Andrew Gavin Marshall

Liberty, Anarchy, Property, Democracy and Power

I have had a number of debates and discussions recently, largely through various social media networks and similar avenues, on some issues that are of major concern to those who seek to confront the challenges of the present and construct a better path for the future. So I thought I would take this opportunity, with ideas fresh in my mind, to simply share some thoughts on these subjects and issues. There is also a relevance between these thoughts and The People’s Book Project, for it is the research for the book which has shaped the conclusions and/or directions of these ideas, and which will be supported with historical facts throughout the book(s).

As the title indicates, the subject of this article is: Liberty, Anarchy, Property, Democracy and Power. What are these concepts? What are their historical and present manifestations? How do they interact, inter-twine, counteract, or confront each other? Is it possible to ground these concepts in a wider understanding?

Let’s start with Power. What is power? Power, I would suggest, can be defined as an authority which is imposed over or through an entity or entities, the authority and right to define and direct existence and action. Exercised through individuals, ideas, and institutions, Power can amount to a person’s right and ability to determine the course of their own life, to exercise free thought, establish their own opinions, ideas and make their own decisions, which inform their actions. This, perhaps, could be explained as ‘Personal Power,’ which I would argue is an absolute necessity and is synonymous with autonomy and independence, individuality and freedom. In this sense, “Personal Power” is Freedom. Other forms of power, exercised through ideas and institutions, can give support to Personal Power (through knowledge, action, information, and inspiration), or, alternatively, can oppress and destroy personal power for the benefit of Institutional Power (or centralized/hierarchical power). The power of an idea has the duality of being able to support Personal Power or Institutional Power, or otherwise undermine and oppose them.

So what is Liberty? Many define liberty as that which allows for the free actions and decisions of one individual to determine their own lives so long as it does not infringe upon the liberty of another. Some view liberty as an individual right, and others as a collective necessity. I do not think, however, that the individual is antithetical to the collective. For an individual to thrive, grow, prosper, discover, understand, decide and live free and with their Personal Power to determine the course and content of their own individual life, I think it is an inherent necessity or pre-requisite that collective liberty and solidarity co-exist with individual liberty.

Freedom for one requires freedom for all. Why is this so? If freedom for one individual exists without the freedom of all, their personal liberty (or Personal Power) exists in a vacuum outside and around the collective human experience. One may then be free to decide their own course in life, so long as that course requires no interaction or involvement of others, as those others would not be free, and thus, the interaction would be based upon the concept of one person’s liberty being derived from the deprivation of another person’s liberty, or in other words: tyranny. Further, the notion of “individual liberty” without “collective liberty” and “collective cooperation” in fact, unknowingly deprives the “individual” of the actual freedom, justice, knowledge, interaction, personal growth, prosperity, development, and humanity that comes through social interaction with others. That social interaction is strengthened if the collective (whether we refer to a small community or the collective of all humanity) is itself free and liberated. In this sense, the freedom of others and the interaction and mutual support (cooperation) of the collective strengthens the liberty of the individual: it gives her or him support, protection, Power, growth, knowledge, interaction, information, insight, understanding, material support, inspiration, humility, and love.

To elaborate on this concept, I must admit that such a situation has never existed in history, and that is the point! One may point to a pocket of freedom or liberty here and there, even examine a small isolated island’s experiment with absolute liberty (or Anarchy), and see how such a society collapsed, thus concluding that such a circumstance is unsustainable, unobtainable, undesirable, and ultimately, impossible. Just as no man is an island, no island is even an island, for beneath the surface of the water, it connects with the landmass of the earth below, which connects with all other landmass, all the oceans are connected, and all the people are connected through our mutual co-existence on this planet, whether we interact personally with one another or not.

One need only look at the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804 to understand how potential liberation becomes absolute tyranny. Once the most profitable colony in the world, Haiti’s slaves (approx. half a million) revolted against the slave-owning class and established the first black republic in history. Almost immediately Haiti’s government became a military dictatorship, designed to protect the newly-liberated country from the foreign imperial powers of France, Great Britain, Spain, and the United States. It’s history has been scarred by revolution, rebellion, invasion, occupation, civil war, coups, corruption, despotism, and poverty. Yet, even in the revolutionary period, a large percentage of the population desired the ability to have a small piece of land with which they could grow their own food for subsistence and live in liberty. Such a situation would have been impossible if the domestic dictatorships were not constructed, as foreign powers repeatedly attempted to invade and restore slavery; thus, it was deemed necessary to maintain a strong national military. However, that military returned the people to plantation labour under conditions which could compare with the brutality of colonial slavery. So what were they liberated from? Surely, an idyllic free island nation of peasants would not have been possible without the military to protect it from foreign empires; but then, the military itself destroyed liberty in order to secure its own institution and provide economic growth in order to protect the nation from those foreign empires. All the while, the people were thrown back and forth, repressed, controlled, and left to the ravages of an historical contradiction: freedom could not exist without the state, which was required to protect the free from those who would enslave the people; nor could freedom exist with the state, which enslaved people to its will to protect its own survival from those who would destroy it and again enslave the population.

So, freedom could not exist without the state, nor could it exist with it. How do we understand this contradiction, how do we remedy this paradox?

If at the same time that Haiti experienced its revolution, freeing itself from all forms of slavery and domination, and giving liberty to the population, imagine, then, what course of history could have been taken had the liberation struggle taken place simultaneously in all the colonies of the Mediterranean, Latin America, and the world; or, for that matter, had true liberation struggles taken place in the imperial nations themselves. If all people, everywhere, threw off the shackles of domination, control, and hierarchical power simultaneously, in solidarity, and in cooperation; what foreign power then would exist to crush the revolution of a tiny island? What state structure would be built without the justification of “protection of those freedoms” through the destruction of those freedoms? Could states at all justify their existence?

It is in this context that I argue that the freedom of one requires the freedom of all, that, inevitably, individual liberty cannot exist without collective liberty. To add to this, absolute freedom and liberty (also known as philosophical Anarchism) is not to be confused with “chaos”, a word often mistakenly interchanged with that of ‘Anarchy.’ Anarchy is not chaos, as an anarchist society is a highly organized and functioning society, requiring cooperation, collective support and effort and interaction based upon the understanding that individual liberty requires collective cooperation. The organization of an anarchistic society is simply not organized on the basis of hierarchical institutions, which deprive others of liberty and freedom, and impose centralized (institutional) power from above. Instead, anarchistic organization requires cooperatives, collective groupings of free-associations of individuals, working together, discussing together, deciding together (as free individuals, not as an organized ‘mob’), and acting in mutual support. When workers take over a factory and run it themselves, collectively making decisions, sharing responsibilities, and taking action, that is Anarchism. It is not libertarianism, or free-market capitalism, because it rejects the concept of the factory being the “private property” of the ‘owner’, and it’s not socialism because the state has no involvement whatsoever. It is the manifestation of workers realizing that they can work, produce, profit, and prosper without the ownership class.

Just this week in Greece, where the State colludes with foreign imperial powers, bankers, multinational corporations, international institutions, the systems of debt and interest and domination, workers have taken control of a hospital in light of the government’s austerity measures to cut health care spending. They are reaching out to the community for support, and make decisions through a workers’ assembly. The hospital workers recognize that the services of health care are essential for the benefit of the people, and regardless of the decisions or excuses of the state, the banks, the IMF, the EU, or any other hierarchical institution of power, its services are needed, and those that provide the services are the workers at the hospital, not its managers, owners, financiers (whether public or private). So the workers take control, and reach out to the community for direct support, as the community will receive the benefits of the health care. They simply remove the elites from the picture. No doubt such efforts will be trampled, destroyed, opposed, oppressed, and erased from history. Nothing is more dangerous to elites than the threat of a good example. Even though many of these experiments have and likely will have failures, flaws, problems, or be crushed, the examples should be noted and the attempts continued to be made. For as more take notice, as more take action, more examples arise, spreading out like ripples from a drop of water into a puddle, and in time, people everywhere may be attempting the same or similar actions, perfecting (or at least bettering) the specifics, addressing the flaws, learning from the mistakes, improving the effects, including wider communities in the actions, generating international solidarity and support… and, through time, struggle, and effort, all hierarchical power structures everywhere would be struggling against the widening wave of people working together in making elite dominated structures irrelevant.

This is not a process that can be accomplished simply through workers taking control of their own work places, however. It will no doubt be a long, arduous, conflicting, challenging, and painful process, marked by flaws, failures, but driven by persistence, possibility, necessity, and humanity. In this sense, and elaborating on the earlier example of Haiti in explaining my understanding of ‘liberty’ (requiring the freedom of all for the freedom of one), I must also acknowledge that never before has this been possible on a global scale.

Today, and in the course of this century, however, it is possible. We are already globally becoming more interconnected through communication, information, and interaction, largely as a result of the Internet, which allows people in most places of the world to interact with others around the world on a person-to-person basis, not through a lens of power. Previously, unless you had the ability to travel everywhere in the world, one in North America could only view others in Africa, for example, through a lens of power: through the media, the government, educational institutions, industry, popular culture, and through ideas which ‘trickle down’ from hierarchical institutions. Now, however, we have the ability to communicate directly with those around the world who have the same means of communication, to talk to them directly, see them on camera, to listen to their knowledge and learn from it. Indeed, this is of the utmost necessity.

Many critical thinkers, activists, alternative media, and people’s movements in the West operate on the assumption that we have the answers to the problems of the world, and we simply need to spread “our” message to the rest (first to the rest of our domestic society and then the rest of the world) in order to obtain our concept of “liberation” and “freedom.” These activists, intellectuals, critics, and others alike are missing a critical component, however (and that is to say, not ALL of them are missing this, but rather as a general observation): as we are just now grumbling awake from our long consumer-imposed slumber of consent to the system of domination over us, largely galvanized by information exposed to us through the Internet and social media, we should, in fact, consult, discuss, and most importantly – LISTEN – to those who have been aware of the domination of the world, who have been subjected to the brutal blunt force of empire, oppression, and control for hundreds of years. It is of the absolute necessity that for us in the Western industrial nations to be able to move forward and build a new vision of society, we must first interact with, listen to, and learn from those who have been living under (and SURVIVING through!) the brutality and ruthless oppression of the empires that emanate from our comfortable living conditions. These are the other 6 billion people on earth. Without their voices being heard, listened to, understood, contemplated, and EMPOWERED, all action will be without informed understanding.

On a simple historical note, we also owe it to the people’s of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and elsewhere to give them voice as we speak and discover our own, to listen to them as we speak for others, to learn from them as we educate ourselves. We owe it to the rest of the world, for, without our misplaced consent to our nations and the ignorance of our true ruling systems and structures that we have for so long submitted to, the oppression, domination, destruction, impoverishment, murder, genocide, and dehumanization of the other people on this planet would not have been possible. Yes, we were and are lied to. But that does not absolve us of the responsibility to remedy the lies through seeking new truths. If we push ahead without moving alongside those we have – knowingly or unknowingly – pushed down and kept back, we move forward in a superficial sense. If we propose revolution for ourselves, but leave the rest out of our understanding, ideas, and actions, we doom our own revolutions (whether ideological, philosophical, or physical) to absolute failure. Importantly, our interactions with the colonized peoples of the world cannot consist of dictating TO, but learning FROM. We can begin in our own nations, where our displaced indigenous populations have been subjected to 500 years of domination, empire, genocide, and oppression… and yet, they survive, move forward; they act and seek change, they generate ideas and support each other. This has been the source of their strength in solidarity with one another. And while it is a long way to reach a better place, as most of these communities suffer currently a greater deprivation than most people in our modern societies, imagine the prospects and possibilities not only for them, but for everyone, if the population as a whole started to speak to, listen to, learn from, and act with indigenous communities, poor communities, disenfranchised peoples, and other oppressed and dominated and segregated people the world over.

Until we begin to remedy the flaws in our own social existence, which have been constructed around us and with our tacit if not apathetic participation and acquiescence, flaws that support segregation, isolation, division, exclusion, and domination, we will not move forward in any true, honest, and hopeful way. There is a fundamental and logical idea about segregation which is often overlooked without a thought: that the segregation of one individual or group from the rest, automatically entails the segregation of all. When issues of segregation are discussed, it often points to the community being “segregated” – whether it is a specific race, gender, the disabled, “mentally ill”, “criminals”, etc. – and presents them, alone, as being “segregated.” However, this passes over the notion that the wider community is itself segregated from whatever group is being excluded. Thus, apartheid was as much about keeping the black South Africans excluded from society as it was about keeping the whites excluded from the black population. Thus, the whites do not benefit from the knowledge, growth, development, inspiration, understanding, and existence that comes with interaction from the wider segments of society; just as the blacks were deprived of the benefits of the rest of society (to a much more oppressive degree, I might add). Physical separation augments this process of segregation, whether it exists with prisons, mental hospitals, ghettos, slums, in  schools, or with walls, fences, roads, etc. Thus, the segregation or exclusion of one – whether an individual or group – automatically entails the segregation and exclusion of all.

To move forward in any meaningful way, we must address this issue, this fact of our social existence, and begin to deconstruct it in order to achieve a greater inclusion, expand the collective community, and thus, expand collective knowledge, understanding, and experience, which in turn, will inform collective action. This long, painful, and challenging process is what is required, however, to achieve a global philosophical revolution, which would make irrelevant any immediate, narrow, and isolated concept of a “physical revolution” in usurping power, which simply turns into another form of tyranny. A philosophical revolution, however, should be the goal for people – individually and collectively, one which cannot be imposed from above, but which must build and grow from below, like a seedling in dirt, sprouting upwards and outwards into the sunlight and slowly growing tall and proud and into a strong, sturdy tree, which in turn blossoms flowers and seeds for future growth. The philosophical revolution will establish the collective understanding that is required to inform action and to create a new society.

In this sense, we are not yet ready for firm “solutions” in terms of stating flatly: this policy, this law, this structure, this system, this constitution, this state, this idea WILL work. There will be trial and error, but we already have a long human history to learn from and move forward with. It is this history, not simply of our narrow society or nation (itself being a false historical construct), but of the collective human history and experience, which can inform our present understanding, and which will come to inform our future ideas and actions as our collective interaction grows and develops into something more concrete and inclusive. And before my own hypocrisy is pointed out, in saying that I have already advocated Anarchism as a “solution” and then say that we cannot advocate solid “solutions” at present, Anarchism is more a process than a product. There have been anarchist movements and experiments in history, most of which were brutally crushed. During the Russian Revolution, there was not simply the Bolsheviks (Communists) and the liberal-tsarist supporters (Whites), but there were also anarchist communities, which were crushed by both the other factions. The Spanish Civil War saw perhaps the largest explosion of anarchism in modern history, which was collectively crushed by Communists, Fascists, and Democratic State-Capitalist societies, all seeking their own interests. Anarchism does not abide by a strict set of “rules” or “regiments” or constructs for what such a society would entail, look like, or how it would manifest itself. It is an incredibly diverse philosophical realm based upon an opposition to hierarchical authority, upon the principle that centralized-institutionalized power cannot be assumed as just, but must justify itself, and if it cannot, it must be abolished; that people flourish best when free. A common term often interchanged with anarchism is: “libertarian socialism,” which may seem a contradiction, but, as explained by anarchist philosopher, Mikhail Bakunin: “We are convinced that freedom without Socialism is privilege and injustice, and that Socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality.”

In this sense, I think anarchism gets to the root ideals of both socialism and libertarianism. Socialism seeks the benefit for the many, libertarianism seeks liberty for the individual. As separate ideologies, they are opposed to one another, engaged in a constant struggle for identity and superiority. In the realm of anarchism, what was once oppositional ideas becomes mutually supporting: to link the collective good with individual liberty, and to suggest that individual good requires collective liberty. Thus, socialism without the state, libertarianism without private property. After all, how could state socialism benefit the majority if it functions through the centralization of authority? If it functions for a time, how long until the weaknesses inherent in institutional power destroy the ideals upon which it justifies itself (namely, that it attracts the wrong type of people to it, those who want to wield power, and who are more likely to rise through institutionalized power simply because they will do anything to do so)?

When it comes to libertarian philosophy, where a small state is desired, and a “free market” economy is favoured, where private property is sacrosanct and individual liberty is the ideal; how can such a society exist within the context of a state, within the context of corporations, which are themselves constructs of the state? Corporations will exist, grow, dominate, and naturally seek to infuse themselves with the State, support its growth, which then will support their growth (as it does today in our State Capitalist societies), and at the expense of everyone else. Thus, we are left with corporate tyranny, or State Capitalism, the very thing we have today in Western societies. The principle of private property, elevated to holy and untouchable heights by libertarians (who refuse to even QUESTION private property), is viewed as a central foundation and necessity for a libertarian society. In their version of history, private property was viewed as the means to liberty from historical monarchical and feudal societies, where the state dominated land and property. Indeed, this change took place, where the “rights” of private property were guaranteed. However, they served the narrow interests of the new capitalist class that developed at the time. What was defined AS private property, also changed through history, and continues to. At one time, humans were considered private property: this was called slavery. Today, our very genes, cell structures, biology, life force, environment, atmosphere, and all material existence is increasingly being defined as “private property” so that corporation may come to OWN the RIGHTS to life, itself.

An early anarchist thinker once declared, “Property is theft.” Indeed, the concept of private property in libertarian thinking can lay the basis for a free society, as, in principle, it allows for individuals to own their own individual property, free from the control of outside forces, specifically, the state. Unfortunately, this is not the world we live in. As private property became a “right” for the emerging capitalist classes hundreds of years ago, the wider populations did not receive the benefits. In fact, where once they worked and laboured on the lands of the state and king, they then worked on the lands of the private businesses and industries. In time, they became property, and were bought and sold. Eventually, formal slavery transformed into wage-slavery, where workers “leased” their labour for hourly pay, and continued to struggle in a much-deprived existence, while those who OWN the industries and land, whether private or public, profit at the expense of the people. The “principle” of private property liberated in as much as it liberated an emerging elite from an old elite; it did, however, continue to deprive the many, who could own or simply exist on and make use of land and resources collectively, not for short-term profit, nor for the State’s reaffirmation of control, but for the wider benefit of all people, individually and collectively, and as such, the land and resources would be used wisely and with a long-term approach to not plundering the earth upon which all communities and peoples depend: something that neither states nor private enterprise is capable of.

Thus, I view anarchism – or libertarian socialism – not as a “single” idea of a “solution”, a society-to-be, but rather an approach to moving forward which removes the barriers that currently exist between people: institutional power, hierarchical authority, segregation, exploitation, exclusion, domination and oppression. Whatever society results would come through trial and error, experience, effort, small successes and large failure, collective action informed by collective understanding; growth not separately, but together, collectively. I cannot even imagine the structure or form of such a future society, though there are many possibilities, many ideas, many suggestions, but ultimately, it is unknown, unstructured, undefined. In this sense, anarchy is, I would argue, the best means of an approach to moving forward, for it is a uniting force for the people (such as finding the common ground between libertarians and socialists), from which knowledge and growth can occur, without which a true global change cannot take place. As such, anarchy is the only true, direct and intrinsic form of democracy, where it would truly be a society “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” What results, is for posterity to determine, but far from imposing a single idea of what we should replace our current society with, it instead sets out a method of discovering that process for ourselves, collectively and individually.

Anarchists, then, can also be seen as highly pragmatic, as has been the case historically. For example, all anarchist thought generally rejects the legitimacy of the State; however, some strands of anarchist thought accepted the necessity of ‘national liberation’ struggles as a stepping stone to a larger global liberation struggle. Anarchists have been known to modify tactics, ideas, approach, and understanding as the circumstances demand. It is a philosophy of patience, but persistence. It holds to ideals, questions, and particular understandings regarding hierarchy, institutions, and power; but allows for actions to maneuver within the existing present circumstances, knowing that all cannot come at once, but that things will come and go in stages, that the march to progress is slow and hard, and that we should support others who march, whether or not we endorse their specific philosophy (say, for example, nationalism).

Many critical American activists, alternative media, politicians and others make up what some refer to as the “American Awakening,” opposing the government, corporate tyranny, empire and other similar facets of the modern society. But a large degree of these individuals and groups espouse highly nationalistic rhetoric, firmly attach themselves to libertarianism (to the degree that is becomes a blind faith situation), and endorse popular myths of the national history: that America was once a great beacon of freedom, and then outside or other forces turned it into what it is today. America is where it is today because of where it was when it was created. A person gets sick because their immune system is weak. America became the most powerful and oppressive empire in the world because of the weaknesses inherent in its form, structures, institutions, and ideologies throughout its history. If we do not reconcile with our own histories, we do not move forward, but try to jump back to a myth of a time that never actually existed in reality.

We see the factions of the American Awakening in the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement, one generally representing the right, libertarian-leaning faction, and the other the left-leaning more socialist faction (admittedly a very wide generalization, considering the immense diversity that exists within the movements, especially the Occupy movement). They become opposed to one another, struggle against the interests of one another, and demonize each other. As they fight and divide, institutional and hierarchical power centralizes and grows. As they fight one another, they weaken one another; as they weaken each other, the power over top grows and strengthens, and it may more easily co-opt, control, or destroy the resistance movements. These are symptoms of a growing awakening, yes, but they are not the “answers.” As we mature and move forward, we must find common ground to unite the factions against common challenges.

The Tea Party and the Occupy Movement both have a distrust of state and corporate power as it exists and functions in today’s context. It is, rather, their solutions and interpretations of power that divide them. But as anarchism has shown, there is mutual ground to stand upon. Thus, anarchism provides a stronger foundation upon which people may come together and move forward collectively, but this requires the willingness and ability of all parties, whether right, left, middle, socialist, communist, libertarian, or staunch anarchist, to allow for practical and strategic capitulations, in both ideology and action. Through finding common ground to stand on and work together in moving forward, there will be immense opportunities and indeed, inevitability of learning and growing and evolving – philosophically and otherwise – through such cooperation and mutual capitulation, for such an experience would inevitably lead to important lessons and understandings that all parties involved would not be privy to otherwise, had they remained fractured, factionalized, segregated from one another.

It is through this process that people may discover their true power, Personal and Collective. In doing so, they will inevitably deprive institutional forms of power from their own positions and hierarchies. Ultimately, I think this process will be one of the major features of the 21st century, stretching well into this century, if not to the end of it. Just as in all things, there is a perpetual search for and attainment of some sort of balancing force in the world: on the one hand, people will have to come together and create a global philosophical revolution as a precondition for and resulting from the struggle of global liberation and absolute freedom for all peoples on earth from all forms of domination; and, on the other hand, institutional and hierarchical power is seeking to globalize and centralize and dominate on a truly global scale as never before seen, more removed from the many, more controlled by the few, and more dehumanizing than any and every form of tyranny before. Indeed, it may be that it will only be this process of the globalization of power and domination which provides the collective experience necessary to spur on a global philosophical revolution. The interesting fact is that never before in human history have either of these processes been truly possible until today: global domination or global liberation. Both, moreover, are advanced by the same socially transformative process: the Technological Revolution. This is the modern form of the historical human revolutions which brought about the Stone Age and organized human society. In this context, humanity is now emerging from its historical adolescence, where we have always had, and to some degree required, some form of authority telling us how to think, what to do, how to act, who to be; but now, it is time to become an adult: to become autonomous, free, independent, and liberated.

It must be freedom for all, or freedom for none.


Andrew Gavin Marshall

7 February 2012

Power, Propaganda, and Purpose in American Democracy

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

NOTE: The following article is the documented transcript from the second episode of a new podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People with Andrew Gavin Marshall,” hosted by BoilingFrogsPost.com. The information within the article is an extracted sample from a book being written and funded through The People’s Book Project.

Listen to the podcast HERE.

One central facet to the development of the modern institutional society under which we live and are dominated today, was the redefining of the concept of ‘democracy’ that took place in the early 20th century. This immensely important discussion took place among the educated, elite intellectual class in the United States at that time, and the consequences of which were profound for the development of not only American society and democracy, but for the globalization that followed after World War II. The central theme that emerged was that in the age of ‘mass democracy’, where people came to be known as “the public,” the concept of ‘democracy’ was redefined to be a system of government and social organization which was to be managed by an intellectual elite, largely concerned with “the engineering of consent” of the masses in order to allow elite-management of society to continue unhindered.

The socio-economic and political situation of the United States had, throughout the 19th century, rapidly changed. Official slavery was ended after the Civil War and the wage-slave method of labour was introduced on a much wider scale; that is, the approach at which people are no longer property themselves, but rather lend their labour at minimal hourly wages, a difference equated with rental slavery versus owned slavery. While the system of labour had itself changed, the living conditions of the labourers did not improve a great deal. With Industrialization also came increased urbanization, poverty, and thus, social unrest. The 19th Century in the United States was one of near-constant labour unrest, social upheaval and a rapidly growing wealth divide. And it was not simply the lower labouring classes that were experiencing the harsh rigors of a modern industrial life. One social critic of the era, writing in 1873, discussed the situation of the middle class in America:

Very few among them are saving money. Many of them are in debt; and all they can earn for years, is, in many cases, mortgaged to pay such debt… [We see] the unmistakable signs of their incessant anxiety and struggles to get on in life, and to obtain in addition to a mere subsistence, a standing in society… The poverty of the great middle classes consists in the fact that they have only barely enough to cover up their poverty… their poverty is felt, mentally and socially, through their sense of dependence and pride. They must work constantly, and with an angry sense of the limited opportunities for a career at their command.[1]

As immigrants from Europe and Asia flooded America, a growing sense of racism emerged among the faltering middle class. This situation created enormous tension and unease among middle and working class Americans, and indeed, the industrialists who ruled over them. Yet many in the middle class viewed the lower class, which was increasingly rebellious, as well as the immigrant labourers – also quite militant – as a threat to their own standing in society. Instead of focusing primarily on the need for reorganization at the top of the social structure, they looked to the masses – the working people – as the greatest source of instability. Their approach was in attempting to preserve – or construct – a system beneficial to their own particular interests. Since the middle class survived on the backs of the workers, it was not in their interest as a class to support radical workers movements and revolutionary philosophies. Thus, while criticizing those at the top, the call came for ‘reform’, not revolution; for passive pluralism not democratic populism; for amelioration, not anarchy.

This is what became known as the ‘Progressive Movement’ in American history. Influential journalists became leading ‘Progressives,’ and prominent social thinkers and social critics began further analyzing and arming the journalists with reformist ideas. The middle class was itself a major audience for progressive journalists. They acknowledged the need for social change and reorganization, and pushed for a method of achieving such change through the rational approach of ‘social science’ and “social evaluation.”[2] One of these leading progressive journalists, Edward Bellamy, wrote a book in 1888, “Looking Backward,” in which he argued that, “it would be the force of public opinion – opinion bolstered by the instrument of reason – that would perform the task of remaking the world for the benefit of all humanity.” Thus, “an informed and intelligent ‘public’ would be the agency through which a new historical epoch would be initiated.”[3]

This progressive form of journalism came to be known as “muckraking,” a term coined by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906, as this reform-oriented investigative journalism “began to reshape the discourse of public life,” driven by increasing discontent over governmental and corporate corruption.

The notion of “the public” was born in the eighteenth century Enlightenment, fused with the notion that the public was a rational body of persons, able to comprehend, identify and organize facts, premised on – as philosopher Jürgen Habermas articulated – the “informed, literate men, engaged with one another in an ongoing process of ‘critical-rational’ debate.” Thomas Jefferson reiterated such notions, suggesting that, “the creed of our political faith” rested at “the bar of public reason.” Progressive journalism gave profound emphasis to the promotion of facts and “social documentation.”[4]

Mass circulation media had changed the nature of “the public” in the late 19th century. In particular, the newspaper industry grew, and like with other industries between the 1880s and World War I, “financial consolidation and technological innovation combined to alter the character and scale of big-city and small-town journalism,” as newspapers became big business. Thus, news was becoming ‘standardized,’ and the growth and business of magazine publishing followed suit.[5]

Yet, the proliferation of mass media was of a dual nature. While more people were able to gain access to more information from more places simultaneously, there was also the development of a trend in the emergence of a “public” increasingly defined as “spectators,” no longer active participants in the ‘public square,’ but observers from afar, in their geographically segregated middle class.[6]

As the first decade of the 20th century drew to a close, and World War I drew nearer, a new concern was increasingly developing among the ‘Progressive’ movement and its ideologues and journalists. While continuing to push for reform, there was a growing rumbling and sense of revolution brewing from below, among the working class people. This concern increasingly moved to the forefront among Progressive intellectuals, who saw their own class and social conceptions threatened by the grumbling masses trapped in poverty beneath them. Perhaps the most influential intellect of the early 20th century was a man named Walter Lippmann, a Harvard graduate who joined with Progressive publicists and had even joined the Socialist Party in 1910. By 1914, however, Lippmann had turned from his socialist inclinations, and wrote the well-received Drift and Mastery, which prompted Teddy Roosevelt to refer to Lippmann as “the most brilliant man of his age,” at just 25 years old. Lippmann’s principle concern was with the notion of the people ruling:

Ongoing middle-class hostility toward big business – once understood as a constructive catalyst for social reform – had now become, to Lippmann’s increasingly conservative mind, an inadvertent stimulus of social disintegration. As attacks on the practices of big business mounted and an increasingly militant working-class movement challenged the very concept of privately held wealth, Lippmann became more and more alarmed… In a country once “notorious for its worship of success,” Lippmann wrote, public disfavor was being heaped “savagely upon those who had achieved it.”[7]

Lippmann held the muckraking journalists increasingly responsible for this change on social perception, in which social unrest “threatened to spin out of control.” Lippmann described what he saw as an atmosphere of “accusation,” largely aimed at big business, which he viewed as “a collective psychological malady, a dangerous condition of paranoia, that, unless checked, posed a greater danger to society than the excesses of wealth.” Society was a pot on the verge of boiling over. As Lippmann wrote:

The sense of conspiracy and secret scheming which transpire is almost uncanny. “Big Business,” and its ruthless tentacles, have become the material for the feverish fantasy of illiterate thousands thrown out of kilter by the rack and strain of modern life… all the frictions of life are readily ascribed to a deliberate evil intelligence, and men like Morgan and Rockefeller take on attributes of omnipotence, that ten minutes of cold sanity would reduce to a barbarous myth.[8]

In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt gave an interview with the New Haven Register in which he lamented that the excesses of big business, coupled with the challenge of muckraking journalism, was creating a deeply precarious situation, in which, “sooner or later, unless there is a readjustment, there will come a riotous wicked, murderous day of atonement.” Thus, a “search for order” had come to dominate the minds of the once-reformist intellectuals of the day. As Stewart Ewen wrote in his excellent book, PR! A Social History of Spin:

Progressives looked for new strategies that might be employed to contain this impending social crisis. In this quest, a growing number turned toward the new ideas and techniques of the social sciences, hoping to discover foolproof instruments for diagnosing social problems and achieving social stability… To Lippmann and a growing number of others… the social sciences appealed less in their ability to create an informed public and more in their promise to help establish social control.[9]

Lippmann felt that the “discipline of science” would need to be applied to democracy, and that, “social engineers, social scientists, armed with their emerging expertise, would provide the modern state with a foundation upon which a new stability might be realized.” Thus, explained Ewen:

[N]ovel strategies of social management and the conviction that a technical elite might be able to engineer social order were becoming increasingly attractive… Accompanying a democratic current of social analysis that sought to educate the public at large, another – more cabalistic – tradition of social-scientific thought was emerging, one that saw the study of society as a tool by which a technocratic elite could help serve the interests of vested power.[10]

One of the most important works of this period was the 1895 work by French social psychologist, Gustave Le Bon, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, in which he analyzed the changing nature of politics from being middle class oriented to transforming into popular democracy in which “the opinion of the masses” was becoming the most important opinion in society. Le Bon wrote that, “The destinies of nations are elaborated at present in the heart of the masses, and no longer in the councils of princes.” He lamented that, “the claims of the masses are becoming more and more sharply defined, and amount to nothing less than a determination to destroy utterly society as it now exists,” and that, “The divine right of the masses is about to replace the divine right of kings.” The “crowd,” postulated Le Bon, was only able to ‘react’ and was driven not by logic or reason, but by passion and emotion.[11]

An associate and friend of Le Bon’s, Gabriel Tarde, expanded upon this concept, and articulated the idea that “the crowd” was a social group of the past, and that “the public” was “the social group of the future.” The public, argued Tarde, was a “spiritual collectivity, a dispersion of individuals who are physically separated and whose cohesion is entirely mental.” Thus, Tarde identified in the growth of the printing press and mass communications, a powerful medium through which “the public” is shaped, and that, if managed appropriately, could bring a sense of order to a situation increasingly chaotic. The newspaper, Tarde explained, facilitated “the fusion of personal opinions into local opinions, and this into national and world opinion, the grandiose unification of the public mind.” A German sociologist named Ferdinand Tonnies argued that the newspaper became a channel through which one faction of society could “present its own will as the rational general will.” Thus, “objective reality” was in actuality, managed and controlled. The press, in this case, as the “organ of public opinion” could be a “weapon and tool in the hands of those who know how to use it and have to use it… It is comparable and, in some respects, superior to the material power which the states possess through their armies, their treasuries, and their bureaucratic civil service.”[12]

One of Walter Lippmann’s most influential teachers at Harvard, Graham Wallas, wrote that, “Organized Thought has become typical.” Thus, the idea of “the public” – malleable to suggestion, organized and controlled – came to manifest a type of ‘solution’ to the problem of “the crowd” – irrational, emotionally driven, and reactive. While the crowd was irrational, the ‘public’ could be reasoned with.[13]

One individual who was greatly influenced by these ideas was a man named Ivy Lee, a newspaperman who graduated from Princeton in 1898, and had come to offer his services to major industrial executives as one of the first corporate public relations practitioners. In 1916, he told a group of railroad executives that, “You suddenly find you are not running a private business, but running a business of which the public itself is taking complete supervision. The crowd is in the saddle, the people are on the job, and we must take consideration of that fact, whether we like it or not.” Thus, Lee felt that it was essential for the business community to “manufacture a commonality of interests between them and an often censorious public to establish a critical line of defense against the crowd.”[14]

Ivy Lee defined the job of public relations persons to that of a “news engineer,” and described himself as “a physician for corporate bodies.” The aim was to “supply news” to the press and the public so as to “understand better the soundness of a corporation’s policy or perspective.”[15]

One notable event was what came to be known as the Ludlow Massacre. The Colorado coal strike began in September 1913, in which roughly eleven thousand miners (mostly Greeks, Italians and Serbs) went on strike following the murder of one of their organizers. They went on strike against the Colorado Fuel & Iron Corporation, which was owned by the Rockefeller family, and against their low pay, horrible living conditions, and the “feudal domination of their lives in towns completely controlled by the mining companies.” The strikers were immediately evicted from their shacks in the towns, and subsequently set up tent colonies, when the Rockefellers hired gunmen (using Gatling guns and rifles) to raid the tent colonies. The Colorado governor called out the National Guard (whose wages were paid by the Rockefellers), and raided the colonies. On 20 April 1914, the largest tent colony at Ludlow, housing over one thousand men, women and children, was machine gunned by the National Guard, with the strikers firing back. When the leader of the strike was called up to negotiate a truce, he was shot dead, and the machine gun fire continued, with the Guard moving in at nightfall to set fire to the tents. The following day it was discovered that one tent included the charred bodies of eleven children and two women. This became known as the Ludlow Massacre.[16]

The Rockefeller Foundation emerged in this era, and became immediately interested in the ‘construction of knowledge’ as a means to defending the interests of the Rockefeller Group and capitalist society as a whole. The Rockefeller Foundation secretary, Jerome Greene, identified “research and propaganda” as a means to quiet social and political unrest. It was felt that “public opinion on the labor question could be shaped through the foundation in order to counter leftist and populist attacks on both the Rockefeller business enterprises and on capitalism.”[17]

Following the Ludlow Massacre in 1914, a government commission – the Walsh Commission – was appointed to study the issue, and the Rockefeller Foundation began preparation for its own study.[18] As the Walsh Commission began their work, the Rockefeller Foundation sought to join forces with other major corporate leaders to advance their formation of ideology, and attended a conference “held between representatives of some of the largest financial interests” in the United States. This conference resulted in two approaches being pushed forward in terms of seeking to “educate the citizenry in procapitalistic ideology and thus relieve unrest.” One view was the interpretation that the public was provided with “poor quality of facts and interpretation available on social and economic issues.” Thus, they felt there was a need for a “publicity bureau” to provide a “constant stream of correct information” targeted at the lower and middle classes. However:

The Rockefeller representatives at the conference proposed an alternative strategy of public enlightenment. Although they accepted the usefulness of such a publicity organization, they also wanted a permanent research organization to manufacture knowledge on these subjects. While a publicity organization would “correct popular misinformation,” the research institution would study the “causes of social and economic evils,” using its reputation for disinterestedness and scientific detachment to “obtain public confidence and respect,” for its findings. And, of course, the research findings could be disseminated through the publicity bureau as well as other outlets.[19]

While the Rockefeller Foundation sought to manufacture ideology in response to the Ludlow Massacre and industrial relations in general, on the corporate side of the matter, the Rockefeller group employed the ideas of an emerging field of public relations, and specifically utilized the talent of Ivy Lee, one of the first PR men in America. Lee’s efforts were employed in “damage control” for the Rockefeller name, which was highly despised by the general public in the early 20th century. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. hired Ivy Lee on behalf of the Rockefellers to “secure publicity for their views.” What Lee did for the Rockefellers initially was to produce a series of circulars entitled, “Facts Concerning the Strike in Colorado for Industrial Freedom,” which were sent to “public officials, editors, ministers, teachers, and prominent professional and business men,” in an attempt “to cultivate middle-class allies.”[20]

Based around the concept that “truth happens to an idea” – a famous phrase of Ivy Lee’s – his bulletins were operating on the basis that “something asserted might become a fact, regardless of its connection to actual events.” As Lee explained to the Walsh Commission in 1915, in regards to his definition of ‘truth’: “By the truth, Mr. Chairman, I mean the truth about the operators’ case. What I was to do was to advise and get their case into proper shape for them.”[21] When asked the question, “What personal effort did you ever make to ascertain that the facts given to you by the operators [the Rockefeller group] were correct?,” Lee responded: “None whatever.” As Lee stated to a grouping of railroad executives in 1916:

It is not the facts alone that strike the popular mind, but the way in which they take place and in which they are published that kindle the imagination… Besides, What is a fact? The effort to state an absolute fact is simply an attempt to… give you my interpretation of the facts.[22]

With World War I, the term ‘propaganda’ became popularized and took on negative connotations. In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson established the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI) as a “vast propaganda ministry.” The aim of the CPI was to build support in the public for the war, and such an effort was especially challenging in the face of significant anti-war sentiments and potential resistance. This potential was especially ripe in immigrant communities, cramped in urban ghettos and lost to the failed promises of “opportunity” that drew them to America in the first place. Before U.S. involvement in the war, “working-class and radical organizations, pacifists, anarchists and many socialists, maintained that this was nothing but a ‘rich man’s war’.”[23]

It was not only in America that working class sentiments were extremely anti-war, but in Britain and other major nations as well. To add to this situation, in 1917, Russia was in the midst of revolution, leading to the exacerbation of fears on the part of many leading intellectuals and social analysts that revolution was possible anywhere. Thus, many of these analysts and intellectuals had begun lobbying President Wilson “for the establishment of an ideological apparatus that would systematically promote the cause of war. One of these analysts was Arthur Bullard, a leading Progressive, who had been a student of Wilson when the president had been a history professor at Princeton.” Bullard advocated a strong wave of publicity for the government in promoting the war, to “electrify public opinion.” Bullard thus suggested the formation of a “publicity bureau” for the government, “which would constantly keep before the public the importance of supporting the men at the front. It would requisition space on the front page of every newspaper; it would call for a ‘draft’ of trained writers to feed ‘Army stories’ to the public; it would create a Corps of Press Agents,” and to organize a propaganda campaign aimed at making the struggle “comprehensible and popular.”[24]

Walter Lippmann, who was the most respected and influential political thinker of that era, wrote a private letter to President Wilson supporting Bullard’s recommendation, adding that the chief aim of such an agency should be to promote a vision and advertise the war as seeking “to make a world that is safe for democracy.” According to Lippmann, war necessitated the nurturing of “a healthy public opinion.” The President asked Lippmann to develop a plan for the specifics of such an agency, for which Lippmann developed a grand strategic vision, mobilizing communications specialists, and the motion picture industry. Thus, in April of 1917, the Committee on Public Information (CPI) was formed, whose membership included the secretary of state, the secretary of war, and the secretary of the navy, as well as a civilian director, George Creel, a Progressive journalist. Creel, who had been central in the original generation of Progressive writers and publicists, had developed an extensive list of contacts and understood well “the importance of public opinion.” Thus, as Stuart Ewen wrote, “When war was declared, an impassioned generation of Progressive publicists fell into line, surrounding the war effort with a veil of much-needed liberal-democratic rhetoric.”[25]

As the concepts and ideas of “public opinion” and “mass democracy” emerged, the dominant political and social theorists of the era took to a debate on redefining democracy. Central to this discussion were the books and ideas of Walter Lippmann. With the concept of the “scientific management” of society by social scientists standing firm in the background, society’s problems were viewed as “technical problems” intended to be resolved through rational professionals and experts. Scientific Management, then, would be applied not merely to the Industrial factories to which the concept was introduced by Frederick Taylor, but to society as a whole. Lippmann took it upon himself to describe the role and means through which “Scientific Management” could be applied within an industrial democratic society. Lippmann felt that the notion of an “omnicompetent, sovereign citizen” was “a false ideal. It is unattainable. The pursuit of it is misleading. The failure to produce it has produced the current disenchantment.” Further, for Lippmann, society had gained “a complexity now so great as to be humanly unmanageable.” Thus, there was a need, wrote Lippmann, “for interposing some form of expertness between the private citizen and the vast environment in which he is entangled.” Just as with Frederick Taylor’s conception of “scientific management” of the factory, the application of this concept to society would require, in Lippmann’s words, “systematic intelligence and information control,” which would become “the normal accompaniment of action.” With such control, Lippmann asserted, “persuasion… become[s] a self-conscious art and a regular organ of popular government,” and the “manufacture of consent improve[s] enormously in technique, because it is now based on analysis rather than rule of thumb.”[26]

Thus, arose the panacea of propaganda: the solution to society’s ailments. “In a world of competing political doctrines,” wrote Lippmann, “the partisans of democratic government cannot depend solely upon appeal to reason or abstract liberalism.” Henceforth, “propaganda, as the advocacy of ideas and doctrines, has a legitimate and desirable part to play in our democratic system.” Harold Lasswell, a leading political scientist and communications theorist in the early 20th century, wrote that: “The modern conception of social management is profoundly affected by the propagandist outlook. Concerted action for public ends depends upon a certain concentration of motives… Propaganda is surely here to stay; the modern world is peculiarly dependent upon it for the co-ordination of atomized components in times of crisis and for the conduct of large scale ‘normal operations’.” In other words, propaganda is not merely a tool for times of war and crisis, but for times of peace and stability as well; that propaganda is the means and method through which to attain and maintain that stability. Lippmann added to the discussion that, “without some form of censorship, propaganda in the strict sense of the word is impossible. In order to conduct a propaganda there must be some barrier between the public and the event.”[27]

In 1922, Lippmann wrote his profoundly influential book, Public Opinion, in which he expressed his thoughts on the inability of citizens – or the public – to guide democracy or society for themselves. The “intellectuality of mankind,” Lippmann argued, was exaggerated and false. Instead, he defined the public as “an amalgam of stereotypes, prejudices and inferences, a creature of habits and associations, moved by impulses of fear and greed and imitation, exalted by tags and labels.”[28] Lippmann suggested that for the effective “manufacture of consent,” what was needed were “intelligence bureaus” or “observatories,” employing the social scientific techniques of “disinterested” information to be provided to journalists, governments, and businesses regarding the complex issues of modern society.[29] These essentially came to be known and widely employed as think tanks, the most famous of which is the Council on Foreign Relations, founded in 1921 and to which Lippmann later belonged as a member.

In 1925, Lippmann wrote another immensely important work entitled, The Phantom Public, in which he expanded upon his conceptions of the public and democracy. In his concept of democratic society, Lippmann wrote that, “A false ideal of democracy can lead only to disillusionment and to meddlesome tyranny,” and to prevent this from taking place, “the public must be put in its place… so that each of us may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd.”[30] Defining the public as a “bewildered herd,” Lippmann went on to conceive of ‘public opinion,’ not as “the voice of God, nor the voice of society, but the voice of the interested spectators of action.” Thus, “the opinions of the spectators must be essentially different from those of the actors.” This new conception of society, managed by actors and not the “bewildered herd” of “spectators” would be constructed so as to subject the managers of society, wrote Lippmann, “to the least possible interference from ignorant and meddlesome outsiders.”[31] In case there was any confusion, the “bewildered herd” of “spectators” made up of “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders” is the public, is we, the people.

Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud and former member of Woodrow Wilson’s wartime propaganda machine, the Committee on Public Information (CPI), was another ‘actor’ who played his part in redefining democracy in the age of public opinion. In his 1923 book, Crystallizing Public Opinion, Bernays explained how the ideas of individuals could be shaped into mass opinions through the use of propaganda and ‘public relations.’ Known commonly as the “Father of Public Relations,” Bernays, returning from the post-War Paris Conference in 1919, believed quite strongly in the idea that if propaganda could be used effectively in times of war, it can and should be used effectively in times of peace.

In 1928, Edward Bernays wrote an article for the American Journal of Sociology entitled, “Manipulating Public Opinion: The Why and the How.” Public opinion, explained Bernays, “is the thought of a society at a given time toward a given object; broadly conceived, it is the power of the group to sway the larger public in its attitude.” Bernays was also influenced not simply by his own experiences in the wartime Committee on Public Information, but also by his uncle, Sigmund Freud’s ideas which regarded people as irrational and driven by subconscious emotional desires. With such a conception of the psychology of individuals and groups, Bernays and others felt that people must have their beliefs and opinions shaped by others, others who presumably are the exceptions to the rule regarding the emotionally driven irrational mind. Reflecting this belief, Bernays wrote: “Public opinion can be manipulated, but in teaching the public how to ask for what it wants the manipulator is safeguarding the public against his own possible aggressiveness.”[32] Today – claimed Bernays – the swaying of public opinion “is one of the manifestations of democracy that anyone may try to convince others and to assume leadership on behalf of his own thesis.”[33]

Bernays’ attempt to present the manipulation of public opinion as a “manifestation of democracy” crudely neglects the reality of those who have access to the apparatus and mechanisms that sway public opinion, itself. If that apparatus, which it largely is, is confined to the upper class of society, is that not a bastardization of democratic ideals? Bernays further explained:

The manipulation of the public mind… serves a social purpose. This manipulation serves to gain acceptance for new ideas.[34]

Bernays described the nature of propaganda, explaining that one major experiment on the manipulation of public opinion concluded that “attitudes were often created by a circumstance or circumstances of dramatic moment.” Thus, Bernays explained, “very often the propagandist is called upon to create a circumstance that will eventuate in the desired reaction on the part of the public he is endeavoring to reach.”[35] In other words: problem, reaction, solution. Create a problem to incur a specific reaction for which you provide a desired solution. For the propagandist, “analysis of the problem and its causes is the first step toward shaping the public mind on any subject.”[36] Bernays wrote:

This is an age of mass production. In the mass production of materials a broad technique has been developed and applied to their distribution. In this age, too, there must be a technique for the mass distribution of ideas. Public opinion can be moved, directed, and formed by such a technique. But at the core of this great heterogeneous body of public opinion is a tenacious will to live, to progress, to move in the direction of ultimate social and individual benefit. He who seeks to manipulate public opinion must always heed it.[37]

Bernays later wrote on the development of the public relations industry, of which he was a central and pioneering actor. “Public relations,” wrote Bernays, was “a relatively new profession, and its practitioner, the professional counsel on public relations, serve a constructive function in our complex, free society.” He elaborated: “public relations came about because organized activity, which depends on public support, needed a societal technician to counsel it – the counsel on public relations.” This, Bernays felt, was vital to a “democratic society”:

New and faster means of communication and transportation furthered the growth of the profession. Social science research increased understanding of human behavior. The greater complexity of the society and the overlapping and interwoven network of communications that hold it together almost made the evolution of the new profession inevitable.[38]

As Bernays explained, “[i]n a democratic society almost every activity depends on public understanding and support,” and thus, he concluded, this can only be brought about “by public education, persuasion, and suggestion by effective public relations. This profession makes it possible for minority ideas to be more readily accepted by the majority.” He referred to this as “the marketplace of ideas,” but neglected to explain that, like other markets, this one, too, is rigged. His conception of “democratic society” is very much an elitist view of democratic society, articulated best by Walter Lippmann in seeking to “engineer the consent” of the public, which was viewed as irrational and incapable of true democracy. Reflecting on his 1923 book, Crystallizing Public Opinion, Bernays discussed the concept of the “manufacture of consent,” a term coined by Walter Lippmann but which Bernays was eager to present as his own. He stated: “I refined the approach and called it the engineering of consent”:

In the engineering of consent, determination of goals is subject to change after research about the relevant publics. Only after we know the state of public opinion through research can we be sure that our goals are realistic.[39]

In 1947, Bernays re-examined his support for propaganda in a democratic society, writing that:

Today it is impossible to overestimate the importance of engineering consent; it affects almost every aspect of our daily lives. When used for social purposes, it is among our most valuable contributions to the efficient functioning of modern society.[40]

Naturally, it seems, “efficiency” is held in high regard as an objective of social planning and thus, an aim of society itself. As such, “effect” is often left by the wayside, as in: the effect of an “efficient” modern society is secondary to the actual efficiency of it. Thus, if the effect of a modern society is dehumanization, so long as that process is “efficient,” social planners may view it as desirable, present it as “functioning,” and see whatever means which bring it about as “valuable contributions.” But then, it must be conceded, the ‘desired effect’ for social planners is always social control. Regardless of the human or dehumanizing effects of such a system, if the result is “order and control,” and so long as this is achieved “efficiently,” the system functions well.

In 1928, Edward Bernays wrote a book entitled, Propaganda, which later became used by infamous propagandists such as Hitler’s propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels. On the first page of his book, Bernays wrote, and it is worth quoting at some length:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.

Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet.

They govern us by their qualities of natural leadership, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their key position in the social structure. Whatever attitude one chooses toward this condition, it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons… who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.[41]

These ideas, among many others, have had incredible influence on the philosophy, actions, intentions, and perceptions of not only American society, but the world at large. They spurred on the development of the consumer society, along with other projects of social engineering that have, through the course of the 20th century, been focused on the application of social control. It is fundamentally though the notion of “engineering consent” that we have come to the point where so few are able to control so much, leaving little to nothing for the vast majority of the world’s people. This elite intellectual discussion which took place in the early 20th century came to define democracy not only for America, but the world as a whole. Thus, we have a new understanding when it comes to our leaders expressing their desires and objectives of spreading democracy around the world. In short, they seek to “engineer consent” on a much larger, grander scale than ever before imagined. It is the globalization of social engineering which we are witnessing in the modern era, and its origins lay in the discernable past.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He is also the host of a podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People” in cooperation with BoilingFrogsPost.com.


[1]            Stuart Ewen, PR! A Social History of Spin (New York: Basic Books, 1996), page 42

[2]            Ibid, pages 44-46.

[3]            Ibid, page 46.

[4]            Ibid, pages 49-50.

[5]            Ibid, pages 50-54.

[6]            Ibid, pages 58-59.

[7]            Ibid, pages 60-61.

[8]            Ibid, pages 62.

[9]            Ibid, pages 63-64.

[10]            Ibid, page 64.

[11]            Ibid, pages 64-66.

[12]            Ibid, pages 67-71.

[13]            Ibid, pages 71-73.

[14]            Ibid, pages 74-75.

[15]            Ibid, pages 76-78.

[16]            Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (Harper Perennial: New York, 2003), pages 354-355.

[17]            Robert F. Arnove, ed., Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism: The Foundations at Home and Abroad (Indiana University Press: Boston, 1980), page 67.

[18]            Ibid, page 68.

[19]            Ibid, pages 69-70.

[20]            Stuart Ewen, PR! A Social History of Spin (New York: Basic Books, 1996), page 78.

[21]            Ibid, page 79.

[21]            Ibid, pages 80-81.

[22]            Ibid, pages 104-105.

[23]            Ibid, pages 104-105.

[24]            Ibid, pages 106-107.

[25]            Ibid, pages 108-109.

[26]            Frank Webster and Kevin Robins, “Plan and Control: Towards a Cultural History of the Information Society,” Theory and Society (Vol. 18, 1989), pages 341-342.

[27]            Ibid, pages 342-343.

[28]            Sidney Kaplan, “Social Engineers as Saviors: Effects of World War I on Some American Liberals,” Journal of the History of Ideas (Vol. 17, No. 3, June 1956), pages 366-367.

[29]            Sue Curry Jansen, “Phantom Conflict: Lippmann, Dewey, and the Fate of the Public in Modern Society,” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies (Vol. 6, No. 3, 2009), page 225.

[30]            Walter Lippmann, et. al., The Essential Lippmann: A Political Philosophy for Liberal Democracy (Harvard University Press, 1982), page 91.

[31]            Ibid, page 92.

[32]            Edward Bernays, “Manipulating Public Opinion: The Why and the How,” American Journal of Sociology (Vol. 33, No. 6, May 1928), page 958.

[33]            Ibid, page 959.

[34]            Ibid.

[35]            Ibid, pages 961-962.

[36]            Ibid, page 969.

[37]            Ibid, page 971.

[38]            Edward Bernays, “Emergence of the Public Relations Counsel: Principles and Recollections,” The Business History Review (Vol. 45, No. 3, Autumn 1971), page 296.

[39]            Ibid, page 297.

[40]            Edward Bernays, “The Engineering of Consent,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (Vol. 250, Communication and Social Action, March 1947), page 115.

[41]            Edward Bernays, Propaganda (New York: Ig Publishing, 1928), page 37.

A Brief Message for Humanity: We Want to be Free!

Can you hear it? Taste it? Smell it? See it? Touch it? … Can you feel it? The people of the world are waking up, rising up, acting up, fed up, not giving up, but getting up, standing up, climbing up… looking up. Around the world, in every place, in every case, in every situation, circumstance, and altercation, the powers of our world, sitting firm in their positions, atop the institutions of our domination, proffering the ideas of our indoctrination, seek to confuse, divide, control, co-opt, crush, define, repress, overrun, undermine, and cause distress… to all those people, everywhere, who look forward with new eyes, crying out to the world, and in to themselves, “We want to be free!”

No cry, echoed through all eternity, ever carried such prominence, such eternal relevance and for all past and present circumstance. “We want to be free!”

No single idea, before or hereafter, has such enormous power, such overwhelming possibility, such unsurpassable resonance with the potential for such everlasting permanence. “We want to be free!”

From Tunisia, to Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Palestine… to Greece, France, and Spain, Germany, England, Iceland, and Italy… across the lands of Asia, and the sea itself, to Canada, America (even the South)… Honduras, Chile, and Brazil, from Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, to the birthplace of humanity in that continent across the ocean, that great and wonderful landmass with those great and wonderful people in Africa. Everywhere, people cry out the same. “We want to be free!”

Everywhere, at all times and in all places, there are those among us, not separate, but indeed, very much human, who have lost their way, thrown their heart to the wind, love only themselves and their bank accounts, who seek to dominate, obfuscate, eradicate, the earth they plunder, and push the rest of us under, control, corrupt, and devastate. Their cause is profit and power, their means are deception and dehumanization, and yet their greatest weakness is their own deprivation, their disassociation, endless demoralization and reckless devastation. All they touch and control, has no warmth of heart, no hope of happiness, no joy of love like that which may be found in the smallest country, in the poorest village, with the poorest family, with the saddest story and the hardest life. For even in the greatest of tragedies, humans reach out to one another and find each other in their hearts and minds, hopes and dreams, actions and interactions.

Do not hate and despise those who sit above, in their towers of despair, in their prisons of profit, their cells of control, for they live, daily, paying the price for power. By segregating themselves from everyone else, they deprive themselves of all the humanity they can experience, learn, and love. Do not hate them, for they are weak and petty. Pity them for their self-isolation, love them for their human weakness, which we all share alike. Any such position of power can turn the most benevolent of beings into the most treacherous of tyrants. It is not the human which is depraved, but the society built up around us which makes the human depraved. Don’t hate the people, help the people! For they too, know not what freedom tastes, smells, sounds, looks and feels like. Let us show them the way, let all of us, together and forever, cry out, “We want to be free!”

Let them hear us, fear us, hate us, hurt us, push us, press us, crush us, curse us, and let them see us stand back on our feet, look above and beyond their petty positions, and again cry out, “We want to be free!” Let them see what humanity is capable of creating, instead of destroying. Let them see how humanity can cooperate, not segregate. Let them see, and tremble, and falter and fail, for when they come crashing down to the earth upon which we all stand, from which we all are provided our necessities of life, let us offer them a hand, lift them up, and join the call, “We want to be free!”

This is not the beginning of the end, this is the end of the beginning. This struggle will not be fought and won in the streets of New York, in the sands of the Middle East, in the mountains of Asia or the plains of Africa. This struggle will be fought and won inside every individual human being on this planet, in your heart and mind. But we come together, these new and wonderful days, to see and meet one another, as if for the first time, and to feel what it is to be ‘human’, to be standing side by side, crying out, “No more!” No more war, no more injustice, no more racism and militarism and hatred and dehumanization, no more plundering and destruction, no more segregation and isolation, no more empire and domination, no more institutions and executions, no more division and deprivation. No more. No more. We want to be free!

We want to be free!

We want to be free.

And so, some day, not today, perhaps not tomorrow, perhaps not this year or the next, perhaps not in my lifetime or those of all the rest, but some day… free, we will be. You can feel it, today, everywhere. Always. It’s within each of us and between all of us. It’s here, just see it, take it, and make it yours!

In our struggle for freedom, to throw off the chains that bind us, we become the idea that unites us. The very act of demanding and seeking freedom, requires all the efforts to release those chains and shackles which hold your mind in thinking that there is no way, no chance, no point. The very call, “We want to be free!” is an act of freedom. For all the institutions and ideas of power built up around us, individually and collectively, have been put there to prevent us from ever making such a call, from ever standing up against them, from ever speaking from our hearts and acting from our instincts.

If you want freedom, be freedom. The only way to get it, is to act like you already have it. And indeed, in truth, you do.

So stand, unite, and call out to the world as they call back to you, “We want to be free!”

And some day soon, so it will be.

Don’t Divide, UNITE! From Occupy Wall Street to Liberate the World

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Having watched closely the development and rapid growth of the ‘Occupy’ movement from when it began on Wall Street in September to its current global scope, where on October 15th it is expected to erupt in hundreds of cities around the world, there are various concerns and issues which I feel the need to discuss in a little more detail.

First, there is the very real threat of having the movement co-opted, whether by philanthropic foundations, political parties, NGOs, union reps or more likely, an amalgamation of them all simultaneously. This threat is present and pervasive. For those who ignore the potential of co-optation, the result can only be for the movement to be made ineffective for true change.

However, there is another threat, more subtle, and yet, even more damaging than co-optation. This threat comes from not only the movement, but the wider population itself. In a word: division. While closely following the developments in regards to politicians, philanthropists, and long sold-out activist organizations aligning with the movement in order to assert their authority over it, I have been even more disturbed by many reports, voices, criticisms, and perspectives of the wider alternative media and ‘awakening’ population, particularly in the United States, but also elsewhere as the movement spreads. The easiest way for a movement to be co-opted is for the movement to first be divided against itself. So I would like to delve into a little more detailed observations on this issue.

What is the threat of co-optation?

I have written and spoken on this issue previously. I recently wrote an article entitled, “Against the Institution: A Warning for Occupy Wall Street,” in which I explained the methods through which co-optation takes place, as well as another article, “End the Fed… but don’t stop there!“, in which I expressed support for the development of the Occupy the Fed movement, but warned against such a narrow focus, and finally, I did an interview with Russia Today in which I warned about the potential for co-optation and methods to guard against it.

So, at the risk of repeating myself, I will just quickly summarize my points here.

Co-optation is the process whereby established, institutional powers join a movement with the intent to direct the movement into an area which is ‘safe’ for the institutional elite. The ‘institutional elite’ (or global and national elite, if you prefer), are those who own, direct, control, fund, and steer the various institutions and dominant ideologies of our world, including (but not limited to): corporations, international organizations, the State, education, psychiatry, the media, political parties, NGOs, philanthropic foundations, think tanks, the military, intelligence, central banks and private banks.

Principally, co-optation of social movements is made most effective through the efforts of philanthropic foundations. Foundations (most notably the Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller Foundations) were created in the early 20th century with a dual purpose: to create consensus among the elites (through the formation of ideology, think tanks, shaping the educational system, etc), and more importantly, the engineering of consent (also through education, as well as facilitating the rise of the consumer society, constructing ideology, organizing Non-governmental organizations – NGOs – and directing social movements). When money from a foundation enters a social movement, it has several effects. Often, the movement may start out as or be organically developing into a radical movement aimed at altering the actual social structure – or system – of which the philanthropists themselves sit atop. Philanthropic foundations were founded by and are still run by bankers, industrialists, the heads of universities, think tanks, and other social and cultural leaders.

When the money from a foundation enters a social movement, it begins to organize the movement. It removes the radical concepts (or demands) and begins to organize around what they consider “acceptable” demands, which are those which promote “reform” (not revolution), which can be enacted through legislation. The funding helps create activist organizations, NGOs, non-profits and lobbying groups. Those within the movement who promote the reformist and legalistic “demands” are then elevated into leadership positions through foundation funding. Those who are radical may even be tempted into such positions with the hope and promise of “making change.” Thus, the foundations ‘professionalize’ the movement. The leaders direct organizations, sit over large budgets, and have comfortable salaries. They are invited to international conferences of NGOs, corporations, international organizations, and governments. Their purpose is to “speak for the people” in such meetings, but by being professionalized in such a way, they are removed from the people. In fact, their new-found personal wealth, status, respect, and ‘inclusion’ into the global institutional structure makes them dependent upon that very structure and system for their own well-being and sense of self-worth. Thus, they will only pursue “reformist” and “legalistic” changes to the system, never radical or revolutionary, as they are now personally dependent upon that system. The foundations will integrate the movements with particular NGOs, other activist organizations, and particular political parties, which will then “take on the agenda” (albeit the heavily “reformist” agenda) of the movement, create legislation, and seek “change” from within the system.

Ultimately, the result is that the movement is made ineffective. Reforming the system is akin to rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic. However, while often creating seemingly benevolent changes, the effects are subtle, yet severe. By turning a potentially radical movement into a reformist co-opted movement, through the effective seclusion of the radical and revolutionary elements and ideas of the movement, the mass of the people behind it are mobilized behind the reformist agenda. As legislation is passed, “causes” promoted, political parties participating, and media attention growing, the movement loses its steam and becomes complacent. The legislation addresses their “demands,” and now that the “professional” and “organized” movement has taken up the cause, the people can go back to sleep and feel comfortable in that they were a part of some effort at “change.” However, by promoting change within the system, instead of creating a new social, political, and economic reality, the changes themselves are ineffective. This is because the fundamental problem, whether the issue is racism, economic exploitation, poverty, war, empire, austerity, tyranny, exclusion, discrimination, and political oppression, the problem rests in the ideas and institutions of power. If the institutional system itself is not addressed as THE problem, no alterations to that system will sufficiently address the particular concern of the activists and social movements.

I have begun a Facebook page to promote the issues and make others aware of the threat of co-optation. Please “like” the page, share ideas, issues, articles, videos, and concerns (as well as SOLUTIONS!) to help stop co-optation!

Solidarity or Co-optation?
In regards to the Occupy Movement, the unions in the United States and elsewhere began showing support and solidarity with the movement, marching with them, and speaking out in favour of their causes. One of the effects this has had has been for those on the right, or the more libertarian social movements, to demonize the Occupy movement, or for those critical of co-optation to decry the movement as “controlled.” Even in my warnings against co-optation, I have mentioned the threat from unions, which has led many on the left to criticize me.

Thus, I feel it is important to differentiate between solidarity and co-optation. Solidarity implies a type of social empathy, in seeing how the cause or struggles of one movement or people is the cause and struggle of your own movement or people. Solidarity is an incredibly important and necessary development, especially in the context of today’s globalized world. Solidarity allows for people the world over to understand and believe that the struggle of one person is the struggle of all people in all places, and indeed it is. Thus, solidarity, no matter with whom, should not be shunned. There is, however, a fine line between solidarity and co-optation.

Co-optation emerges when those who declare solidarity then begin to speak “for” the movement, assume leadership positions within the movement, promote their particular agendas as the agendas of the entire movement, and effectively steer it into directions which they desire. This process must be guarded against.

Now, on unions specifically, there are some things to keep in mind. Historically, as unions began to rapidly emerge in the 19th century in America, the entire century was marked with labour struggles, worker uprisings, protests, activists, and rebellion. At that time, especially in the latter half of the 19th century, the unions were largely organizing against the Robber Baron industrialists and bankers, such as JP Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Harriman, Carnegie, Astor, and Vanderbilt. The protests and rebellions were often repressed brutally by state police or even the national guard, often demanded and paid for by those very industrialists and bankers. Interesting to note that the NYPD, which has been repressing the Occupy Wall Street movement, received a $4 million donation from JP Morgan Chase. Funny how some things never change.

At that time, the unions were incredibly radical, often socialist, communist, or anarchistic. They presented a major threat to the established power, and so the 20th century saw the development of new institutions and ideas to properly manage a disgruntled populace and radical social movements. It was in this context, in the early 20th century, in which the working class and lower classes were increasingly radical, and the middle class was increasingly anti-capitalist and distrustful of the banking and industrial elite, that we saw the emergence of philanthropic foundations and public relations. In turn, both the fields of public relations and the foundations helped facilitate the development of the ‘consumer culture’ in America, with the aim, as one banker with Lehman Brothers, Paul Mazer said, “We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture.” The bankers funded the entertainment industry, Hollywood, Times Square, advertising, and the development of department stores; the foundations helped create credit unions to allow middle class people to borrow in order to finance consumption, and public relations put a new face on corporate America and made consumption the past-time of the middle class. The aim was to separate the middle class from the working class, which were in the context of the late 19th and early 20th century, becoming dangerously close to uniting against the common enemy (the system itself).

The most influential political theorist of the era, Walter Lippmann (the Zbigniew Brzezinski of his era), articulated the need for the “engineering of consent” among the majority of people, so that society may be ordered and controlled from above, while the desires of the lower classes were created and amused by the true ruling powers. Edward Bernays, the “father of public relations,” wrote in his 1928 book, “Propaganda”:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.

The elite, it can be said, were highly effective in dividing the working class and poor from the middle class. The middle class became dependent upon the system for a particular standard of living (defined by the ability to consume). Radical ideologies were then increasingly made irrelevant, demonized, and erased from the political consciousness. Any criticism of the system was then easily lopped into the category of the “Red Menace” of Communism, a boogeyman which still apparently exists for many right-leaning populations.

While the unions began as radical and indeed, revolutionary entities, this is not what they are today. The unions exist as they are, and are only able to be present in today’s institutional system, by having made the decisions to cooperate with big business and big government, and simply promote minor reforms and critiques to the system. They claim to speak for the workers of the world, but increasingly, especially since the emergence of the neoliberal era, they have come to consistently sell-out the workers. Throughout the Third World, as the neoliberal “Washington Consensus” was spread by the IMF and World Bank as a result of the 1980s debt crisis, union reps were bought off by government and business interests, made their pockets full while stabbing the workers in the back.

In regards to the Occupy Movement, solidarity with unions is not a bad thing. Here’s why: solidarity does not imply unions co-opting the movement (that must be prevented), but it does imply a solidarity with workers. Indeed, workers in America and around the world have suffered much more at the result of decisions and actions by banks, corporations, and governments than the middle class have. But solidarity with a growing and global movement is important, because so long as the movement remains grassroots, or seeks to promote its grassroots and radical potential, the movement can itself be an example for the workers and unions to return to their radical roots. Lead by example!

This seemingly reflexive impulse to simply denounce the entire movement the moment an organization, individual, or idea one does not agree with associates itself with the movement is the height of ignorance. Solidarity with workers and unions is important and necessary. But, if leadership in the movement develops (as it tends to with all social movements), let it develop organically from among the people, let it remain radical and revolutionary, and let it lead those it stands in solidarity with by showing them the way forward to grassroots, globalized, revolutionary social movements.

Destroyed From Within

This hits on another major issue, that of internal and external divisions. In this era, in the midst of the Technological Revolution providing more information and easier global communication than ever before in human history, people have the capacity to come together, to organize, unite, become activated and educated, and seek and promote change together, around the world. This is unprecedented in human history. A totally unique position for humanity to be in, and the greatest opportunity for true liberation humanity has ever had. Let’s not screw this up!

What I am referring to is that even for all the very real threats of institutional co-optation, we the people, seem to be doing a pretty good job of making the movement ineffective before the elite even have a chance to.

Unfortunately, one of the methods through which the movement is becoming divided is in regards to those who see a threat of co-optation. This is largely done through the alternative media and various social critics and activists. While keeping an eye out for the institutions and individuals commonly associated with co-optation, the moment that politicians, activist organizations, philanthropists or others show “solidarity” with the movement, many critical observers simply denounce the movement as “co-opted,” as in: it’s a done deal, party’s over, it’s “controlled” and it’s all a conspiracy! Go home, give up, the end.

Here is why this is an awful position to take: it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If one sees the sharks circling and yells, “It’s over, jump in the water and get it over with!” one may forget that there is still a paddle in the boat. There is still hope. But for the boat to get to shore, attention must be called to the sharks, and those who call attention to the risks, may help steer it best to safety. If those who see the risks inherent simply then jump off the boat, the others remain unaware of those risks, and the boat will likely sink amidst the swarm of sharks. Instead, the movement needs the critical voices, those who see and seek to avoid co-optation. These voices are needed to help mobilize the movement away from co-optation. After all, while the sharks may be circling, we have a much better chance together than alone.

So, to those who denounce the movement as already co-opted and controlled, I have this to say: is it not better to see the problems and make others aware so that they may be avoided, rather than denounce the entire movement, isolate yourself from it, and them from you? After all, once you segregate yourself from the movement, you segregate your ideas from the movement. The most unfortunate aspect of this is that in diversity, there is strength. Diversity of ideas and beliefs is a great thing. The power of uniting regardless of these diversities, and in fact, because of them, is the only way forward.

The elite are constantly engaged in attempting to establish consensus, work together, create common ideology, establish mutual interests, and implement coordinated action. This is their strength. And I am not talking about political parties, Republican and Democrat, they are a sideshow developed for popular consumption, just like Hollywood. The elite – the true rulers of our world – constantly and often effectively seek to establish consensus in ideas and action. Yet, we the people, tend to actively engineer divisions and segregation. This is our GREATEST weakness. The elite love this. They love it especially because it does not even require their active participation. We can do it all on our own!

Examples of this in regards to the Occupy movement are as follows: I have seen articles and comments, blogs and alternative news, critics and dissenters, who denounce or decry the movement because there are “socialists,” “communists,” “anarchists,” or that the movement is “anti-Capitalist,” and thus, a “communist conspiracy by bankers.” Because the movement does not articulate MY specific ideas, the movement is therefore irrelevant and controlled. The movement decries Wall Street, and not the Fed, therefore it is controlled and co-opted! The Fed is the problem, not Wall Street! … These are very common denunciations of the movement.

Well, for those who focus on the Federal Reserve: indeed, the Federal Reserve is one of the MAIN problems, and in fact, the global central banking system itself. However, I find myself confused by those who seem to have enough knowledge of the Fed to know that it “needs to go,” but then state that “Wall Street is not the problem.” My confusion is this: Wall Street owns the Fed. The Federal Reserve System, composed of 12 regional Fed banks, which are themselves private banks, the most powerful of which is the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, are controlled by the banks. The board of directors of the NY Fed includes Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase. JP Morgan Chase is one of the principal shareholders in the New York Fed, as are the other major Wall Street banks. Thus, Wall Street owns and runs the Fed for the benefit of the Wall Street banks. So, those who claim we should focus on the Fed and not Wall Street are missing the critical point: they are almost identical, represent the same interests, work to the same ends, and are so heavily integrated that we should be against both (not to mention all other institutions of power).

In fact, many of those who claim that the Fed is the problem and the movement is controlled had themselves for years been highly critical of Wall Street. Yet, it seems, that as soon as others are critical of the same institution, but articulate different philosophies, they are wrong, the movement is controlled, and they are protesting against the wrong things. This creates needless divisions. Instead, would it not be more effective to join the movement and seek to educate the mass of the movement about the Federal Reserve System, instead of denouncing them simply for not knowing? After all, by denouncing them, you segregate yourself and your ideas from the movement. Subsequently, you complain that the movement doesn’t share your ideas, and is therefore wrong and controlled. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It must be understood that the majority of the Occupy movement is made up of students and average people, hurt by the economic crisis, or disturbed by the declining social conditions, the political apathy to make change, and the general dissatisfaction with the status quo, These are reasonable things to make people active and motivated. Do not expect the majority of these people to be as ‘aware’ of the large plethora of issues at hand, or to understand the system as well as those who have made a living out of studying it. I have seen footage from the movement where protesters denounce Wall Street and in the same breath endorse Obama. It’s absurd, yes, Obama is a Wall Street product (much like a derivative!), but don’t denounce the entire movement as a result. Instead, should we not seek to educate, engage, and interact with those people in the hopes of enlarging their perspective? But then, it is always much easier to denounce, disregard, and dismiss than it is to engage, participate, and integrate. What we may not realize is that dismissal only segregates our ideas and analysis from the wider population.

This is an Opportunity! Don’t Ignore it, Take it!

All too often we miss the forest for the trees. We so easily segregate ourselves from one another, as opposed to uniting together. We see the superiority of our own ideas, and demonize all others. Passive observation is always so much easier than active participation. The notion that libertarians have nothing to learn from socialists is as absurd as the notion that socialists have nothing to learn from libertarians. Yet, both groups so often demonize one another, and always keep each other at a distance, segregated, divided, and thereby both sides of the spectrum become ineffective. Both demonize each other based upon false conceptualizations of each philosophy. Socialists, and for that matter, many on the left, identify libertarians with neoliberalism, and thus, as part of the problem, as the status quo itself. Libertarians, for their part, see socialists as absolute Marxist Communists and, many on the right as well, tend to associate socialism with Communist China, the Soviet Union, or North Korea, and therefore they see socialists as wanting to destroy all individuality and freedom in favour of the all-encompassing power of ‘the State.’ This division was not always present, and it’s time it is relegated to the dustbin of history. We cannot move forward lest we move forward together.

There is, however, a philosophy which is known almost paradoxically as “Libertarian Socialism.” One would find this an absurd oxymoron, but it is an actual philosophy. It is often interchangeable with the term “anarchism.” Anarchism itself is perhaps the most effectively demonized and dismissed political philosophy, as well as the most misunderstood, not to mention the one with the most potential to unite the masses of people. It is an incredibly diverse philosophy, not dogmatic or strict, but incredibly all encompassing. Anarchism is simply the belief in human freedom being the necessary condition for human happiness, and that it is institutions of authority which make humanity depraved, violent, corrupt, and controlled. Anarchists have presented the most authoritative critique of the state, as well as various institutions of power. It’s origins and developments can be found in ancient Chinese Taoism, and it emerged as a distinct philosophy organically in several different civilizations, eras, and ideas: in ancient China, Rome, Greece, early Christianity, Medieval Europe, and the word “anarchist” first was used to describe a philosophical position in the 19th century, with philosophers like William Godwin, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Mikhail Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin, Leo Tolstoy, and into the 20th century with theorists like Emma Goldman and many others. In fact, it was the anarchist philosopher, Bakunin, who presented the greatest challenge to Karl Marx at the First International, as Marx sought to (and ultimately did) have Bakunin and the anarchists sidelined and made irrelevant in the Socialist International. Bakunin, for his part, predicted that Marxism is too authoritarian, as it would use the state to establish a dictatorship, and that if ever attempted, it would establish a “Red bureaucracy” all the more tyrannical than the government it was supposed to replace. Of course, Bakunin was correct in predicting this, but we don’t commonly learn about philosophers or philosophies which are accurate, that might have the undesired side effect of educating us.

Instead, we hear the word “anarchism” and think of violence, lawlessness, chaos, disorder, and primitive nature. Anarchism is in fact about the triumph of individuality, and the necessity of community; that the individual is best supported through communal ties. The promotion of absolute freedom from all structures of authority, along with a stressing of individuality (and with it, ingenuity and creativity), as well as the importance of community and interaction, has allowed this philosophy to attract communists, socialists, liberals, conservatives, and libertarians. In fact, it has allowed for mutual cooperation across the spectrum, for anarchism does not sit upon the left/right paradigm, but rather upon the freedom/tyranny paradigm. It is able to remove socialism and communism from authoritarian elements (which promote the state), and is also able to remove libertarianism from its arch-capitalist concepts which promote corporations and banks at the behest of the rest. Anarchism is capable of mixing the ‘free market’ ideals of libertarians with the social principles of socialists.

I stress this point simply to press the idea that there is mutual ground upon which the left and right are able to unite, to come together, act together, and learn from one another. I comfortably place myself within the anarchist philosophy largely because it is not dogmatic. For many years, I struggled to define my own views: I was neither conservative nor liberal, I identified with many social principles of socialists, yet was attracted to the freedom-promoting ideals of libertarians. I felt that Marxist analysis had much to offer, but I had great distaste for its proffered solutions. Through my own individual research on a wide range of subjects, I came to see not capitalism as the problem, nor the state as the sole problem. The problem then, I found, was that I was expected to identify “one” cause of all problems, and therefore, take “one” stance, and offer “one solution.” I could not do this. I found interesting and indeed important ideas in a wide array of philosophies, theories, critiques and concepts, but could not adhere to “one.” Rather, I would seek to take the ideas I liked from each, remove those I didn’t, and throw them together to form my own perspective as a kind of “hodge podge” philosophy. The result, was that I tended to identify the concept of power centralization itself as the issue: the notion of ideas and institutions of power depriving individuals and the collective of humanity the power of self-determination. When I quite literally stumbled into some anarchist philosophy, I realized that this concept has been articulated for thousands of years, developed organically by many civilizations, cultures, religions, and individuals. Known as different things at different times, it all tended to fall under the umbrella of anarchism, and what a wide, all-encompassing umbrella it is. What other philosophy could you have such variations of ideas so as to include what are known as “anarcho-communists” and “anarcho-Capitalists,” and that they may have such common ground to stand upon?

Diversity is Strength

Do not fear different ideas, radical concepts, or foreign philosophies. Engage, learn, teach, debate, articulate, DE-segregate, include, interact, unify, energize, challenge yourself and others, develop and grow. We do not all need to have ONE opinion, ONE idea, ONE solution. All we need is ONE reason to unite, yet we all too often overlook that very blatant, obvious reason to find many reasons for which we can divide. All it takes is one reason to unite, very simple: we are all in this together. That’s it! All the rest is salad dressing. We are all in this little world together. You don’t have to like every idea or every other person, you don’t have to think the same or act the same or dress the same or believe the same, all you have to do is be aware that we are, all of us, here on this little planet together. That realization makes it necessary that we begin to find common ground to stand on. This does not mean we need to have ONE idea, for once we have one dogmatic concept, it becomes institutionalized and corrosive and destructive.

Diversity is strength.

It amazes me, how in doing my own research for several years now, I find myself feeling so secure, so determined and even stubborn on the ‘correctness’ or ‘righteousness’ of a particular idea or understanding I have come to embrace. And then… I do more research, discover more things, delve into more history, more philosophy, more ideas, more analysis… and suddenly, I have to challenge all my preconceived notions and beliefs. Suddenly, I have to refine all my “correct” ideas to become “more correct.” And then, like it says on your bottle of conditioner, “rinse, repeat.” The one thing I have come to stop being surprised by, is that I am constantly surprised. My own beliefs, ideas, understanding and philosophy is in a constant state of growth, as I am in a constant state of learning. And yet, every time I come to some new conclusion, it seems as if my mind says, “Well then, that’s it, I’ve got it… now I’m done… right?” And then, I happen across some new subject, some new idea, or issue… and “rinse, repeat.”

We must learn to all put aside our inherent biases, to engage with our own knowledge, but with the acceptance that we have more to learn from others. Because, we do! Whether or not you believe it, we do. And we won’t ever move forward in this world unless we move forward together. The elite know this. They have always known this since ancient times. That is why elites seek to divide and conquer. But the system that has developed up and around humanity for the several thousand years of our existence on this little planet has become so ingrained in the human conception of itself that we no longer require the elite to divide us, we do such a good and effective job of it ourselves!

Humanity must mature from its adolescent stage of development where we have authority figures telling us how to dress, what to think, where to go and what to do. It’s time humanity becomes an ‘adult.’ In short, we need to grow up! Put aside the petty differences which do us no good, find our common ground to stand on, and move forward together.

The funny thing is, once we are capable of doing that, the elite become a sideshow. When we do that, we realize that the elite are always a sideshow. They become totally irrelevant, archaic, and useless. To change the world, we must change our selves. The true revolution requires no seizure of power or usurpation of the state. The true revolution is a philosophical revolution, fought and won internally. The growing and developing global protest Occupy Movement is an important step in establishing global solidarity, in truly experiencing the ‘power’ of individuals when they come together, in understanding that we are all indeed, together.

If the movement becomes a truly effective engine for change, it will have to promote solidarity with all peoples and groups all over the world, it will not demand anything of institutions and power structures, but demand change only of itself, and as such, seek to forge cooperation, education, understanding, and actively create new ideas and a new social reality.

If it is to be truly effective, not only must it guard against institutional co-optation, but it must more so guard against internal divisions and segregation. Whether the movement isolates itself from others, or others isolate themselves from the movement, the effect is the same.

But always remember…

Diversity is Strength!

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer and is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project.

VIDEO: Occupy Wall Street Infiltration?

My latest interview with RT, in which I discuss the issue of the potential for Occupy Wall Street to be infiltrated, co-opted and controlled, and what could be done to prevent this, both in terms of ideas and action.

Please help prevent co-optation of the Occupy Movement. Join the “STOP Co-Optation” facebook page, discuss ideas, promote information, and share with friends!

STOP Co-Optation of the ‘Occupy’ Movement

For more on this subject, see:

Against the Institution: A Warning for Occupy Wall Street

End the Fed… but don’t stop there!

A Revolutionary Idea for a Revolutionary Time: A Plan of Action for the Global Political Awakening


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