Citizen Action Monitor

Although millions protested in worldwide climate strike on Sep. 20, “protest alone won’t save our planet”

America’s grim rulers are not moved – Paul Street explains why speaking truth to power is a waste of time.

No 2526 Posted by fw, September 29, 2019

Paul Street

“It isn’t about waking up our so-called leaders. Whatever their varying subjective standpoints, our money-mad masters’ objective position renders them annihilationist and thus evil. The world capitalist system depends on constant and relentless growth, the endless pillaging and commodification of the earth, to sustain their holy rate of profit. Accumulation is the reigning investor-class god. The rulers can no more break free from its addictive power than Ahab could break free from his compulsion to slay Moby Dick. If humanity must become the Pequod, capital says, so be it. … Power must be shifted from the national and global directorate of money to the popular and natural commons. The owners won’t give it up of their own accord. It will have to be taken from them. We will rebel radically, deeply and widely, and over a sustained period of time, or we will pass from the earth, killed off by our failure to confront class rule.”Paul Street, truthdig

Paul Street is an independent radical-democratic policy researcher, journalist, historian, author and speaker based in Iowa City, Iowa, and Chicago, Illinois.

In this essay, Paul asserts that things get serious when activists go beyond protests and put their bodies on the line – as those in the Extinction Rebellion are prepared to do in their non-violent, civil disobedience protests. According to Street, “You’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all. … Capital and its allies and servants within and beyond governments,” he writes, “are pushing us ever closer to irreversible environmental tipping points.”

Below is an abridged copy of Street’s article, featuring my added subheadings and highlighted text. Alternatively, read his piece on truthdig’s website by clicking on the following linked title.

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Protest Alone Won’t Save Our Planet by Paul Street, truthdig, September 27, 2019

“Students will rise up and vote.” But does voting in “the soulless empire of ecocide” make any difference?

One chant that history would not let me join in on Friday channeled popular anger into the nation’s empty, savagely time-staggered and corporate-captive electoral rituals. “Politicians take note,” the chant went, “students will rise up and vote.”

Voting in America just creates an illusion that hope and change has been advanced, and may even make things worse

To what end? There has been no greater progressive delusion and no bigger graveyard of social movements in American history than U.S. candidate-centered electoral politics. Voting for a Democrat who sounds like he or she cares about the environment fixes nothing. It can actually make things worse, by creating an illusion that one has meaningfully advanced hope and change when one has really just helped put deceptive new clothes on the soulless empire of ecocide.

Candidate Obama promised to help stop global warming; President Obama championed fracking and offshore drilling

Candidate Barack Obama claimed he would help stop global warming and thereby make the ocean stop rising. As president, —

  • Obama stealthily championed fracking and offshore drilling,
  • along with the national surveillance and police state that dismantled the Occupy camps
  • and cordoned off the Standing Rock water and climate protectors.
  • Since leaving office, “clean power” Obama has boasted to oil company executives and managers about his role in boosting so-called American energy independence by expanding domestic U.S. oil and gas production.
  • He was a green president, all right—green, as in serving those with money and reaping the cash rewards after leaving office.
  • He helped green-wash capital’s war on a livable planet, giving it counterfeit progressive cover.
  • Now he tells Thunberg that he and she are “a team.”

Neither Biden nor Warren will take on climate crisis; Sanders might, but moneyed interests will block him

A president Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren will not seriously confront climate collapse. Only a Bernie Sanders presidency holds serious promise in that regard, and the carbon-invested and addicted corporate and financial powers that be, within and beyond the Democratic Party, are not going to let such a thing occur.

Despite the huge worldwide student action events on Sep 20, US corporate news focused largely on impeachment, and You Tube trivia “news”

Impeachment also won’t get us out of our environmental mess. In fact, in the days since Thunberg’s speech in Battery Park, the now distinctly possible coming impeachment of Donald Trump took over the news cycle. The climate issue was trumped yet again in the dominant media-politics culture of the world’s most powerful and environmentally ruinous nation. (Even on Friday, the massive student climate protests were not mentioned until 10 minutes into “CBS Evening News,” preceded by reports of a bus crash and the New England Patriots’ firing of its star wide receiver, Antonio Brown.)

Eco-fascist Trump should be impeached – “for turning the planet into a giant greenhouse gas chamber”

The president richly deserves impeachment, but the Republican-controlled Senate is too afraid of his white nationalist base to remove him, and removing him would only put the Christian fascist Mike Pence in the White House. The notion of impeaching the eco-fascist Trump for his most egregious sin—accelerating the project of turning the planet into a giant greenhouse gas chamber—is, of course, completely off the table.

Protests do have their limits – “The deadly system marches on, without serious disruption of its inner workings”

Protests are not without limits. They can move one forward on the path to seriously confronting concentrated wealth and power, but they can also serve as pressure-reducing safety valves, providing emotionally potent illusions of popular power and functioning as strange vehicles of incorporation and co-optation. The deadly system marches on, without serious disruption of its inner workings. As Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges reflects, protests “can also be empty political theater” and “can be used to distance ourselves from a repugnant political figure such as Donald Trump, while leaving us silent and complicit when the same policies are carried out by a supposed progressive such as Barack Obama.”

Things get serious when activists put their bodies on the line to stop the odious machine

Things get serious when you go beyond protest to resistance by deciding, to use the young Free Speech activist Mario Savio’s words more than a half-century ago, that “the operation of the machine [has] become so odious … [that] you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus—and … make it stop. … You’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.

And modern global and militarized capitalism has gone far beyond odious, pushing us closer to irreversible tipping points

If that time hasn’t arrived by now, it never will. The machine—“modern” global and militarized state capitalism—has gone far beyond odious. It is literally exterminist, placing prospects for a decent and organized human existence at terminal risk. Capital and its allies and servants within and beyond governments are pushing us ever closer to irreversible environmental tipping points.

“How dare you!” Greta’s words to the UN reverberated around the world

You have stolen my dreams and childhood with your empty words,” Thunberg told world leaders Monday at the United Nations. “Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!

But the grim reapers are not moved – Speaking truth to power is a waste of time

Poignant and heartbreaking words, truthful words, but the grim rulers are not moved. The audacity of their cynicism is boundless. Their corporations and financial institutions are pathological by design. “Speaking truth to power” is a waste of time. It is dysfunctional.

The world capitalist system depends on constant, relentless growth, to sustain the unholy profits

It isn’t about waking up our so-called leaders. Whatever their varying subjective standpoints, our money-mad masters’ objective position renders them annihilationist and thus evil. The world capitalist system depends on constant and relentless growth, the endless pillaging and commodification of the earth, to sustain their holy rate of profit. Accumulation is the reigning investor-class god. The rulers can no more break free from its addictive power than Ahab could break free from his compulsion to slay Moby Dick. If humanity must become the Pequod, capital says, so be it.

We either rebel or face being killed off by our failure to confront the ecocidal ruling class

Ecocide is a capital crime. Power must be shifted from the national and global directorate of money to the popular and natural commons. The owners won’t give it up of their own accord. It will have to be taken from them. We will rebel radically, deeply and widely, and over a sustained period of time, or we will pass from the earth, killed off by our failure to confront class rule.

It isn’t sufficient to just protest, to just show the rulers you want to be free, it’s about dismantling and replacing the class-rule machine with a new order

It isn’t, contra Savio, just about showing “the people who run and own the machine” that you want to be free. It’s about achieving freedom by dismantling the class-rule machine and replacing it with a new democratic social and environmental order, a new set of social relations working within and for, not against, the web of life.

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