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Blueprint for a Bloodless Revolution

 

There can be little doubt that moneyed interests working through the media, education, entertainment and other institutions have taken over the U.S. government. Election campaigns depend on communicating with voters, and the commercial media charge dearly for that privilege. They refuse to cover political campaigns in the context of news reporting but instead force candidates to get their message out through paid commercials. And, of course, television commercials provide little hard information about a candidate’s policies and qualifications; they create beguiling images. The media get rich from campaigns while the voting public is kept in ignorance.

Large corporations and other moneyed groups generally hedge their bets in elections. They contribute money to both sides. Of course, they contribute more money to the side which they think will be more sympathetic to their interest. Then, after a candidate is elected to public office, he or she will be beholden to the campaign contributor. And since legislators lack the time and resources to research issues before them, they will need to rely on lobbyists who double-team or triple-team them with information and analysis pertinent to the bills. While it is claimed that no bribes are involved, the bills usually resemble what the lobbyists recommend. As a result, our laws are riddled with special preferences, tax breaks, restrictions on trade, and other features that favor big money.

American capitalism is no longer a network of businesses controlled by their owners and managers, who, at least, are human beings. Instead, Wall Street stands at the top of its apex. In recent decades, American business has increasingly been controlled by structures of money - mutual funds, pension funds, money-market funds, hedge funds, commodity-index funds, real-estate investment funds, and other financial instruments.

Each fund has a manager who is compensated on the basis of the fund’s performance - which means how rapidly it grew in dollar value. As a result, fund managers exert pressure on the top management of corporations to maximize quarterly earnings. Long-term performance does not matter so much because the fund managers can always dump their shares in a company once their price has appreciated and buy an undervalued stock. Their main concern is making money.

Real-estate investment funds, consisting of mortgages packaged by Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, led to the housing-foreclosure crisis and the public bailout of Wall Street investment firms. Goldman Sachs’ commodity-index fund drove up the price of wheat to the point that it produced famine in Third World countries. Such experiences belie the often-heard assertion that “free markets” maximize the use of economic resources. No, they maximize the value of the investment funds and, even more, the financial reward given the fund managers. According to testimony given on “Democracy Now”, there were one hundred managers of hedge funds in the United States who earned more than one billion dollars apiece last year and paid no federal taxes.

In a capitalistic society, we let people do as they please with their money, relying on government to look out after the public interest. Government needs to impose regulations that will prevent housing-foreclosure epidemics, the need to bail out banks that are “too big to fail”, or mass starvation caused by manipulation of grain markets.

The sad fact is, however, that the Wall Street firms have their hooks in the government regulators. They give generously to the campaigns of legislators who sit on the House Financial-Services Committee or the Senate Banking Committee and to occupants of the White House. Essentially our government has been bribed not to serve the public. Government officials know that the fate of the community is not necessarily their fate. The system will reward them personally if they side with Wall Street against the people’s interest.

Some dream that the situation will become so bad that the citizenry rises up in rebellion. They have the idea of peasants with pitchforks storming the castle. Some groups of dissatisfied citizens called militias are arming themselves to resist the government. However, the government is more than prepared for a violent confrontation. It has assembled an overwhelming military and security force with superior equipment, organization, and training that could easily put down anything that a citizenry armed with pitchforks or guns could muster. The government’s battle-hardened forces would be prepared to mow down their fellow citizens if an armed rebellion were attempted.

Yet, there is a need for revolution. The revolution must be bloodless for it to succeed. This revolution must win the hearts and minds of a majority of citizens before the final phase of the assault on abusive government begins at the ballot box. In America, people can capture the government through the electoral process.

The difficult part is persuading enough people to vote for a certain policy or position when the mass media pull in another direction. Two things are necessary: first, creating one’s own media that would allow voters to bypass the commercial media; and, second, finding a way to persuade enough citizens to vote for candidates and policies favorable to the cause. It seems an impossible task.

It used to be that political parties nominated candidates to public office and got them elected. Today, the two main parties, the Democrats and Republicans, function mainly as brand names serving well-financed interest groups. They both have membership lists and a certain organization consisting of volunteers. During the campaigns, candidates raise money for commercials and other expenses and try to assemble and motivate party members to make telephone calls, find lawn-sign locations, or distribute campaign literature.

The volunteers are not paid. They work in campaigns out of an idealistic desire to elect the better candidate and have a better government or the opportunity to rub shoulders with important people. After the election, the candidate either becomes an elected official with sole discretion to decide government policy or is defeated, in which case all the hard work goes to naught. The campaign volunteer winds up with nothing other than a presumed gratitude from the erstwhile candidate if that person should happen to be elected.

This incentive is too weak to sustain a political organization that can overcome the influence of money. That is because the volunteer’s work is essentially unrewarded. The party member’s motivation lacks staying power. Money, on the other hand, does have staying power. If a person owns a business that makes money, the owner gets to keep the money earned or spend it in various ways.

Political parties could compete with moneyed institutions if they offered a similar incentive. They would need to assure their volunteer members that their work will not be in vain. The members would personally profit if they do successful work, as in a commercial business.

The incentives offered by political parties might mimic those of money. That means that individuals who did work might receive credits or “units of reward” for their work as businesses pay their employees in money. However, these credits would not be legal tender; they could not be used to purchase goods and services. The credits would apply only to the party’s internal operation. These would be votes used to elect party officials, adopt party platforms, and nominate candidates to public office.

Necessarily, the party’s members would have an unequal number of votes under this scheme. As shareholders of corporations have votes at the annual meeting that are proportionate to the number of shares owned, so members of this political party would vote according to the number of “shares”, or votes, they own in the party organization.

Those votes can be considered to have no real value until the party elects its candidates to public office. If the party elects enough officials, it can control the government. And, whoever controls the government, controls everything. Government can do anything it wants in society, subject to its ability to hold its organization together.

That means that, while the political party is still out of power, its members will have an incentive not only to increase their number of votes in the party organization but also to build up the party to the point that it can take over the government. Then their shares would be converted into more general political power. Such power would be held unequally by citizens. Even though elections to public office would still be conducted according to the “one person, one vote” principle, non-party members would become second-class citizens.

The strategy, then, would to build up the committed membership of this political party until it can overcome the present domination of politics by big money and big media. Television commercials would have little effect if the viewers are individually committed to certain candidates and political positions. If the legislators owe their election to the party’s support, they would be fools to ignore the party and listen instead to the lobbyists. It all depends, of course, on the party’s margin of votes in the legislatures and the degree of commitment to the party’s agenda that government officials have.

How would the voting system work? That would depend on what functions are needed to build up the party organization to the point that it can take over the government. First, the party needs members. Second, it needs money. Third, it needs its own communication apparatus. Fourth, it needs volunteers to help with party functions. Fifth, it needs a way to calculate and keep track of the members’ number of votes. Sixth, it needs people to serve in government or be a liaison to government when the party has grown to that point. There may be other required functions, but these suffice to begin the discussion.

Without prescribing the particular number of points (votes) to be awarded for handling each function, let me suggest some specific functions.

Membership: Each member would receive a certain number of points for his or her own membership, kept active by renewal with payment of minimal dues - say, one dollar a year. Each member would also receive points for personally recruiting other members; and, perhaps, in pyramid fashion, for members recruited by those members whom one has recruited.

Money: There would be a sliding scale of annual dues. Members who have only a basic membership would receive no extra credit. However, the party would have a dues structure that assigns more points for dues contributions at higher levels.

Communications apparatus: The party needs to communicate with the public through its own newspaper (electronic or print), public-access cable-television shows, a party website, books and pamphlets, whatever coverage it can attract on commercial radio and television, and other means. Paid and volunteer labor would be needed to maintain this network. The party would need people to be knowledgeable speakers at meetings, do research, write papers, or otherwise create politically relevant content to be communicated to the public.

Party functions: The party would need to hold regular monthly meetings in various localities. That would require people to plan and preside at the meetings, help with meeting arrangements, receive membership applications, handle money, issue membership cards, administer the point system, etc. The party would also need to hold conventions, formulate positions on public policy, nominate candidates for elective office, and help out in the candidates’ campaigns.

Calculate members’ votes: There would be a computer data base with special software to convert information related to the members’ individual contributions to the party into a certain number of votes. Some information would come straight off the membership application forms. Otherwise, duly authorized committee might decide how many votes a particular type of work is worth. In any event, the point totals need to be calculated quickly so that members will have the right number of votes at meetings where party decisions are made. An up-to-date ranking of members by their individual number of votes should be prominently displayed to confer prestige and increase motivation.

Government service: The party’s candidates for public office would receive points for their electoral service as would the campaign managers, strategists, fund raisers, and volunteers who worked in the campaigns.

The result of this process would be a structure of people unequally empowered within the party organization. One’s voting power would be proportionate to one’s contribution in building the party so far as this is possible. Nothing would be done, of course, to change the system of equal voting in U.S. elections. Neither would it be possible to force party members to vote for party-endorsed candidates or to support the party’s policy agenda.

That’s why it is important to create a broad consensus of opinion that the government actions recommended by the party are desirable and just. Only by presenting good information and sound analysis at party meetings or through its newspapers or other communication vehicles will the public accept what the party wants and, in a sense, make it possible to put the program across.

Now we must talk about those policies and programs that government might adopt through such a process. People in any political organization have such varied opinions that it seems unlikely any set of them can win majority support. We start, however, with the premise that people would want to join this party to defeat the plutocracy that controls America. It is not socialism that is advocated here but the creation of a parallel structure of power, embodied in a political party, that would take over the government.

Socialism doesn’t work because it distributes economic reward on a basis other than work contribution and leads to totalitarian rule. Free enterprise has the advantage in rewarding initiative, work, and risk taking. What we have now, however, is not free enterprise but the merger of big business with government, allowing an elite to prosper while the middle class disappears.

Even so, there are elements of socialism in this proposal. The people who build the political organization to defeat the plutocracy need a reward for their work. In view of people’s diverse opinions, it would be unrealistic to assemble an electoral majority through policy proposals alone. Certainly that ought to be attempted, but the unifying theme of this or any revolution would be to turn things upside down and replace one ruling class with another.

Frankly, this means monetizing the party votes - something that ought to be popular with most party members. It means confiscating property from some so it can be given to others. The party, through government, would give property to to the members that brought it to power and take property away from the plutocrats who once used government to swell their bank accounts.

Mao ZeDong was right: Real power does come through the barrel of a gun. Government holds that gun. What government wants, it can get. It can create or erase money. It can replace one economic order with another. It can rewrite laws, even the U.S. Constitution, to accomplish what an effective majority wants. But the revolution proposed here would be bloodless. The old ruling class would not go before a firing squad or be put in prison. All they might lose would be their property and their privileged position of power.

Keep in mind that political control is not maintained by the gun alone. Government works through people who must be persuaded to cooperate. The best way is through moral persuasion. In a democratic society, the people should be convinced that government is doing right. Therefore, in addition to the crass incentive of money, party members and the public need to cultivate a vision of a better society.

 

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