Russell Brand's recent BBC interview with Jeremy Paxman has gone viral. He said what many are thinking but dare not utter. His obvious lack of preparation, his spontaneous honesty and irreverence apparently caught the BBC's Jeremy Paxman off guard.
Brand's call for revolution seemed less offensive to Paxman and all professional sycophants than his admission that he had never voted. He then went on to point out that elections are part of a process that entrenches power and control for corporate and political elites.
Democracy and Elections
He certainly hit a nerve. His bold statements resonate with the classes that suffer under the weight of austerity and what appears to be a terminally ill system that, as he points out, isn't working. They have also rattled financial parasites and their acolytes around the globe. With good reason. The conditions for revolution are actually ripening.
What has touched a particularly sensitive nerve was calling into question the supremacy and sanctity of parliamentary democracy. The smug unidimensional argument over the years has been, 'if you/me don't like the way the nation is run, vote for somebody else or, we are free to start our own political party'. This view, in its cartoonish simplicity, will not open backroom doors or examine power structures or relationships between wealth and political power. It is tantamount to telling Edward Snowdon to use the proper channels to complain about the NSA's nefarious activity (an outrageous affront to democracy).
Apologists for the NSA are exactly the same people that are rattled by Brand's bold statements. Their's is a view that suggests safety and security rests with the status quo. According to the current official narrative, security is the paramount concern. Its opposing existential condition (freedom) is diminishing as the defining characteristic of Western ideology.
The real question is whether elections, the act of voting itself, is sufficient criteria to constitute democracy. If we look at the way government policies are formulated and carried out, we can only conclude that Mr. Brand is correct. That is, the traditional notion of democracy has been perverted by big money, it is a sham.
We have witnessed conservative, liberal, and social democratic governments elected and, once elected, carry on where previous governors left off. No substantial independent political initiatives occur. That is, the people have been stripped of any meaningful political power. Political independence in Western nations is approaching that of the old Soviet Bloc. While NATO (the Pentagon) pressures governments to march to Washington's tune, displays of independent defiance are increasingly rare. They occur however. Not all Western governments are willing to wage war whenever Washington demands it. They do, in unison, mimic support for whatever madness intends to unleash at victim populations. The most recent embarrassing spectacle being their uniform bloodlust toward the Syrian people.
A decade ago, while Labour in the UK banged the war drum in concert with Washington, in a bold act of defiance Canadian Liberals resisted. Today however, foreign policy dissent is more strained and less tolerated.
While there is uniformity, more or less on the foreign policy front among Western nations, it is lock solid on questions of economics and financial policy. Central banks, the IMF and the US Treasury will not tolerate dissent. While the notion of real democracy is on thin ice now, in times of crisis, there is no pretense. For instance, the crisis in Greece exposed the latent dictatorial power of the European Union, the IMF, and the European Central Bank. As other nations get to the brink (Italy, Spain, Portugal), those that work for the financial bodies responsible for the crisis take explicit control nations. Ongoing financial crisis not only provides a pretext for financiers taking increased control of governments, it also serves to increase exploitation of workers, cut social spending and wages.
The upshot is, elections do not affect the way policies are formulated or the way economic decisions are made. On the important questions, financial power is real power.
Real Politik Power
The question is: Who is really in control? And more to the point, who/what is in control of the state that controls acolyte states. In other words, who or what actually controls the American state? Who is behind closed doors when the really big decisions are made? Who is it that tells Obama what to do?
Another interesting question is why this question is apparently completely off the radar as far as the mainstream media is concerned. Why did Russell brand's statements about what is obvious go viral?
It is worthy considering the possibility that a union between the American state (and client states) and the private/corporate sector is real. That 'possibility' not only explains why trillions of dollars has been either directed to private wealth (notwithstanding the technical public status of corporations) or, created out of thin air (quantitative easing) but, why individuals and organizations with no threat of terrorism are under the scrutiny of the NSA.
The Western world is not only facing increasing austerity and inequality and a state apparatus that is constantly watching us, it is also in a hair trigger posture for war. Again, we look to the same nefarious powers. We may turn our attention to the question of who profits directly from the insanity and lack of logic connected to ongoing endless war. Consider the outcomes. Who stands to profit from unleashing unholy hell toward Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran etc. Consider the relationships between the state and Boeing, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Halliburton, and so on and we begin to see a picture that renders partisan politics quaint. Its participants, naive.
John Kenneth Galbraith pointed out over a decade ago that “In 2003, close to half the total US government discretionary expenditure was used for military purposes. A large part was for weapons procurement or development. Nuclear-powered submarines run to billions of dollars, individual planes to tens of millions each.”
Galbraith explains further that weapons profiteers provide politicians with plans and designs for new weaponry that will provide jobs and salaries for politicians constituencies. What Galbraith does not explain (in this particular article) is that this type of spending is immensely wasteful. It is just one more example of corporate welfare.
Curiously, while the so called 'trickle down' myth has been utterly discredited as well as the broader neo liberalist ideology due to the colossal failures and financial catastrophes they have caused, it is still the basis of financial polices maintained by politicians - conservative, liberal, and social democrat alike.
Is it any wonder cynicism and suspicion have replaced naivety and political innocence?
Western foreign policy is shaped and dictated by the corporations that run the American state and so is a good deal of domestic policy. So called free trade agreements also give these very same corporate managers a handle and a great deal of leverage on domestic policies in all affected nations. Corporate managers or their representatives (behind those closed doors) pull Obama's strings. He and elected representatives in Western nations are a facade of power, a facade of democracy. Real power resides not with those elected but elsewhere.
In the last decade, we have been increasingly acclimatized to gulags, torture, pre-emptive and irrational, inexplicable war, contempt for Geneva Conventions and the American Constitution and economic catastrophe. We have reached a point where Russia, Asian leaders, and Latin Americans are showing the West how diplomacy works and how rationality and rule of law trump arbitrary tyranny.
Russell brand is correct. It is time to stand up to rule of the bourgeoisie and the privatization of all that is public, to unfettered corporate control of domestic policy not only in the USA, but everywhere. Because if we look into the nature of capitalism, it grows in one direction.