Welcome Bruce Levine, and Host Jon Walker.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite

Jon Walker, Host:

A large part of Get up, Stand Up is trying to answer the question: why?

Why is it, despite living in a “democracy” where most people now strongly oppose the wars, our government continues to wage them? More importantly, why have the American people remained so passive as the corporatocracy acts in such blatant opposition to the clear democratic will of the people? Why, despite opposition to the wars getting steadily stronger, have the protests against them been getting increasingly smaller?

Bruce Levine concludes that the problem isn’t that we are a “center-right” country or an apathetic people. The issue is that we are a people who have been systematically beaten down by the corporatocracy. As a clinical psychologist, he sees the people as a whole as  suffering from abuse syndrome — a people actively demoralized.

Much of the book focuses on the tools that have been used to demoralize, condition and isolate Americans. It looks at such diverse causes as television, burdensome student loans, over-prescribed psychiatric drugs, and the heavily pro-consumer propaganda we are nearly always exposed to.

Levine focuses on the importance of acknowledging and overcoming this abusive relationship and the need restore morale, self-confidence and the willingness to resist among populists.

The conclusion of the book deals with strategies and tactics. While this section makes some good points and highlights some interesting actions taking place, like the Work College Consortium and worker’s co-operatives, I felt it lacked a truly satisfying answer to the question of where exactly activists should go from here. However, I can’t really fault Levine on this point because this has become the big question the progressive community as a whole has been struggling rather unsuccessfully to find the right answer to.

Bruce E. Levine’s past books include Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic and Commonsense Rebellion.

136 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Bruce Levine, Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite”

BevW April 16th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Bruce, Welcome back to the Lake.

Jon, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Jon Walker April 16th, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Bruce, welcome to the book salon.

dakine01 April 16th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Good afternoon Bruce and welcome to FDL this afternoon.

Hey Jon!

Bruce, I have not had an opportunity to read your book so forgive me if this is answered in it but why can’t the Corporate Elites see that by continuing to beat down on people all the time, they eventually will hurt their own needs since there won’t be enough people to purchase the products they are trying to sell to support their own needs?

eCAHNomics April 16th, 2011 at 2:02 pm

A large part of Get up, Stand Up is trying to answer the question: why?

Simple. Corps (and their CEOs of course) have the vast majority of the money, and won’t stop until they have it all.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Good to be on FDL

PeasantParty April 16th, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Welcome to the Lake, Bruce. I’ve been looking forward to this Salon!

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 2:05 pm

I thought I’d start with a long post to give people a feel of Get Up, Stand Up.

Get Up, Stand Up is about transforming political passivity.

Many of us who are authors, journalists, educators, and in the media would like to believe that truths of oppression and injustices sets people free to resist it. And these truths can set us free when we are not dispirited. So Tom Paine’s Common Sense did energize a huge portion of American colonials to revolt against the British. There are other examples of muckraking journalists inspiring action, and there remain some Americans taking constructive political actions — I talk about them in Get Up, Stand Up.

However, it’s my experience – and the polls actually reflect this — that many Americans know the truth that the United States is neither a genuine democracy nor a real republic in which elected officials actually represent the people. Many Americans know that the United States is a corporate state or a “corporatocracy” in which Americans are ruled by a partnership of giant corporations, the extremely wealthy elite, and corporate-collaborator government officials. However, rather than taking to the streets about this, most Americans increasingly shrug the shoulders with resignation over this.

There are millions of Americans who feel defeated, demoralized, and broken, so much so that truth of tyranny and exploitation are not enough to initiate political action. Something else is required, and that is essentially the point of Get Up, Stand Up – to deal with these missing pieces necessary to energize people to take actions.

Jon Walker April 16th, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Bruce a big part of your book is looking at how very passive Americans have been-compared to other countries- in face off some big injustices/government acting against the will of the people.

What one of these moments (or should I say lack of moments) has really stood out to you.

PeasantParty April 16th, 2011 at 2:08 pm


I have a son with ADD. It occured to me that the largest part of his failures and feelings of failure at school were due to his not being able to learn by rote. Do you feel this structure and way of living in America has aided the “stand down” feelings?

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 2:09 pm

One example of our passivity has to win the two long wars we are involved in, Afghanistan and Iraq, and how relatively little opposition there is despite over 65 percent of Americans opposing these wars, across the political spectrum. Actually there was more resistance when these wars were more popular.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 2:11 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 9

Yes, standard schools are one of the 12 major areas that I focus on which are “breaking Americans spirit of resistance.” Despite well-meaning teachers, the primary lesson learned in schools is compliance and obedience, not challenging illegitimate authorities. And this is only worse now with “no child left behind” and “race to the top.”

PeasantParty April 16th, 2011 at 2:13 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 11

Thank you. I do know that his spirit was broken and the huge creative drive he had to learn all things went away.

Jon Walker April 16th, 2011 at 2:13 pm

You compare this passive response to what you see in an abusive relationship, was there a moment where this way of looking act the entire power structure clicked for you or was it an idea that slowly grow after seeing many small situations like an abusive relationship.

I know I have starting seem any refer to liberals acting like the battered wife of the Democratic party.

bearman April 16th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

I also will read the book and it is good to see people taking action…while many Americans now realize how bad the country has gotten there needs to be ways we can fight back as a group along with what we can ourselves. The Tea Party gets ink and talk from the MEdia and they do not represent the view of most people…if we could organized we could fight back effectly..short term. mid term and long term,,I am with you Bruce! “welcome to the fight this time I know ourside will win”!

spocko April 16th, 2011 at 2:15 pm


I haven’t read the book yet but I’m very interested in the role depression plays in activism. Also how unemployment and underemployment leads to depression and lowered activism.

The right wing has traded in violent rhetoric and talk of armed upraising for years. If the left even hints at it, there is swift action by the government. (You will remember the pre-crime arrests of protesters in New York and Minneapolis).

The media is still stuck on 1960 metaphor of “Dirty Hippies” rioting while ignoring hundreds of “Isolated incidents” of right wing shooting violence against the left.

I think that if the tea party directed their talk of violence, and actual violence at individuals behind the corporate powers on Wall Street they would put down faster than you can say Don’t Tread on Me.

It appears that the Right still have permission to be violent, specifically at the left. But nobody can talk about violence directed at people really in power on the right.

If, as some say, depression is anger turned inward, is this a reaction for people to not protesting vigorously or violently against corporate interests, since they know they will be swiftly put down? And by put down I mean arrested, sued, marginalized, mocked and shunned by both the right and left communities.

eCAHNomics April 16th, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Americans aren’t passive. It takes money to organize (notice how quickly Koch backed Tea Party got off the ground & how much success it has despite being totally unrepresentative of the vast majority of Americans), and the monied interests are against the people.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Lot of other evidence of American political passivity compared to other nations. Take a look at the American response to our disputed election in 2000.That’s the one that Gore won by a half a million votes but lost because of electoral votes, and the Supreme Court stopped the recount in Florida. That’s the one in which Supreme Court Justice Stevens, in dissent, said, something like, “The identity of the winner of this year’s presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.” We had a Handful of protest after this, and maybe
60K at Bush’s inauguration. Compared this to millions risked life, civil unrest, in Iran in 2000 and in Mexico in 2006 after their disputed elections. Compare this to millions participating in sit downs, general strikes, forced new elections in Ukraine after their disputed elections in 2004 in their Orange Revolution which was actually successful in ushering new elections.

gigi3 April 16th, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Welcome Bruce. I too have been looking forward to your visit. Please talk about ways in which we can advance liberation psychology to break through the current state of passivity.

GlenJo April 16th, 2011 at 2:18 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 7

I am one of those people. How can I effectively act to force change?

eCAHNomics April 16th, 2011 at 2:20 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 17

Disagree that 2000 election is evidence of passivity.

The actual vote was so close, and the corp bought media did such a good job of muddying the waters, that it was not an issue to generate much interest.

Evidence of passivity would be if no one did anything to the vast theft of elections like Akmedinejad, Karzai. The U.S. has not had such elections.

And Wisconsin is complete contrary evidence to the hypothesis that Americans have been beaten down politically/emotionally.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Re: Questions about comparing Americans politically to people stuck in abuse syndromes.

Abuse syndromes are vicious cycles in which the more you eat crap, the more you lose self-respect, the weaker you get, and more incapable of resisting. Often the humiliation of abuse is so painful, we shut ourselves down with drugs, alcohol, or depression so as not to feel the pain but this shutdown also causes immobilization and inaction. As one becomes weaker, one feels psychologically dependent on the abusers. To deny the pain of humiliating acquiescence, victims of abuse may defend and even express positive feelings about their abuser.

Other observers of subjugated societies have recognized this phenomenon of subjugation resulting in demoralization and fatalism. Paulo Freire, the Brazilian educator and author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and Ignacio Martin-Baró, the El Salvadoran social psychologist and popularizer of “liberation psychology,” understood this psychological phenomenon. So too did Bob Marley, the poet laureate of oppressed people around the world.

Many Americans are embarrassed to accept that we, too, after years of domestic corporatocracy subjugation, have developed what Marley called “mental slavery.” But unless we acknowledge that reality, we won’t begin to heal from what I call “battered people’s syndrome” and “corporatocracy abuse.” A vitally important piece of the solution is overcoming the problem of demoralization and fatalism and creating the “energy to do battle.”

RFShunt April 16th, 2011 at 2:24 pm

I’m sorry to say that I haven’t read your book (yet – it sounds right on the money and I will).

I’m interested in your take on the role television plays in this – both TV “journalism” and TV entertainment. I’m specifically interesting in ways you might see for activists with media skills to change that.

Jon Walker April 16th, 2011 at 2:24 pm

A lot of left wing populists feel very burned about the failure to get change as a result of electing Obama and see little ways to improvement through electoral action in our two party system.

To state simply for the chat, from your perspective what set of behaviors do you think grassroots progressive should direct their energy towards?

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

I am slowly getting the hang of this, and will try to do better to directly people’s comments and questions.

Many Americans have lost confidence that genuine democracy is possible, and have lost the energy to do battle. And so regaining the “energy to do battle” is a big part of what we must focus on.

I am interested in the question: What cultural forces have created a politically passive and discouraged US population. The good news is that answers to it provide, within the ordinary daily events of our lives, a road map of opportunities to regain the “psychological building blocks” for democratic movements — somebody please remind me if I forget to describe what I mean by “building blocks.”

What most motivated me to write Get Up, Stand Up was to answer these questions: Can anything realistically be done to turn this demoralization and passivity around? Is it actually possible for people to rebuild their morale? Can we forge connections necessary to support a truly democratic populism that can take power away from elite control?

Again, I’m not saying that EVERYBODY is politically passive. I describe individuals and organizations that are resisting in Get Up, Stand Up. But I think I back up in the book the idea that there is a remarkable amount of passivity in response to severe attack on our liberties and on justice in general.

Jon Walker April 16th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

A note to Bruce, if you want to reply to a one comment or question there is a reply button to first click on the bottom right hand of every comment.

blink April 16th, 2011 at 2:27 pm

However, I can’t really fault Levine on this point because this has become the big question the progressive community as a whole has been struggling rather unsuccessfully to find the right answer to.

The “progressive community” would rather delude itself and does not want to acknowledge what “the right answer” is. That’s all. It isn’t rocket science. We do not live in a functioning democracy. The Egyptian people showed us what needs to be done. The progressive community doesn’t want to do that though. They are always looking for some easier, less painful way. “Primary challenges,” investment in “3rd Parties” – the supposedly educated, politically aware progressive community is anything but. So, they constantly run back to some form of working within a wholly corrupted, establishment managed electoral system to bring about change. It’s Einstein’s definition of insane. There is no struggle to find the right answer. People don’t want to hear the right answer.

spocko April 16th, 2011 at 2:28 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 20

Agreed. Also the understanding of the right the pressure points for the recount and knowing how to play the media.

How many people did Al Gore’s people and democrats were flown down to riot? Where were the Democratic Crusaders, who knew what the media needed to see?

Hundreds of “paid GOP crusaders” descended upon South Florida to protest the state’s recounts, with at least half a dozen of the demonstrators at Miami-Dade paid by George W. Bush’s recount committee. Several of these protesters were identified as Republican staffers and a number later went on to jobs in the Bush administration.
Brooks Brothers Riots

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 2:28 pm
In response to RFShunt @ 22

TV clearly has a subduing effect. Go to any of our prisons-for-profit and you’ll see that they spend more money on cable tv rather than hiring even poorly paid non-union guards because tv is a cheap way of subduing people. lots of other essential anti-democratic aspects of tv beyond the fact that most of the programming is put out there by 6 major corporations. The major subduing problem of tv goes beyond the content and has to do with the pacifying effect of simply watching and not acting.

econobuzz April 16th, 2011 at 2:29 pm

IMHO passivity can have many causes that require very different interventions. Passivity can result from lack of: willpower, hope, encouragement, energy, and necessary means — to name a few. These all have different remedies.

Simply chalking our demise up to “passivity” doesn’t get one very far. Not saying that the book does that — I haven’t read it.

RFShunt April 16th, 2011 at 2:32 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 28

re: pacifying effect – you’ll get no argument from me.

Any thoughts on the second part of my question? What can activists with media skills do to reverse/ameliorate that?

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 2:33 pm
In response to Jon Walker @ 23

Okay at the risk of pissing off some people attached to electoral politics as the only vehicle for change, remember that all kind of totalitarian societies have elections. Democracy is about power, and unfortunately in the U.S,.

(1) The major strategic problem in focusing on electoral politics is not in itself but the over- focus on a battlefield where the elite have such an advantage. Given the US electoral process and the power of money – which is now gotten this is a “battlefield of democracy” that those with little money have little chance of winning.

(2) give away their power when they focus only on getting leaders elected, becoming dependent on those leaders; lose self-respect with “less of two evils”

(3) buy into the elite notion that democracy is all about elections;

(4)stop focusing on building up individual self-respect and collective self-confidence through economic self-reliance;

(5) lose sight of the fact that genuine democracy means having influence over all aspects of their lives;

(6) forget that if they have no power in the workplace, in their education, in their buying and selling of goods, in their entertainment, or in all their institutions, then there will never be democracy worthy of the name.

Again the problem is in the OVER-FOCUS to the expense of other “democracy battlefields” where the elite and their money don’t have such an advantage.

Jon Walker April 16th, 2011 at 2:33 pm
In response to blink @ 26

Looking at how things are going in eqypt now it is hard to say that is the “right answer.” Even massive popular protest without a proper structural set of demands and a foundation of sustained power to demand them, you can quickly be subverted by a similar power structure with new branding after the anger is reduced.

The old joke in middle east/central asia politics was that there democracy was “one man, one vote, one time”

eCAHNomics April 16th, 2011 at 2:33 pm
In response to blink @ 26


Look how long it took in those countries for the authoritarian states to become such a burden that the people took to the streets. Decades & decades.

And even then it took several strong tipping points.

1. Really sclerotic and worn out regimes.
2. Rocketing food prices, pushing the already dire economic circumstances of the peeps over the brink.
3. Demographics of younger, better educated peeps in those countries (owing in some large part to declining birth rates, interestingly).

To name but 3.

Americans would be just as militant in similar circumstances. It just hasn’t gotten ugly enough in the U.S. to launch such massive responses.

Added on edit: Contrary to what many Americans think (this is a general comment, not directed at you blink), history did not begin yesterday.

GlenJo April 16th, 2011 at 2:35 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 24


Lack of jobs.
Crushing healthcare costs.
A President, voted in with a mandate for change, who turns on the voters.

That’s a couple.

Imagine how liberating it would have been for those who have lost jobs and are losing everything to have a President who offered to bail them out instead of the bailing out the very people that caused this economic crisis?

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 2:36 pm

I thought that that would be a good place –given the questions and comments –to bring in an important and pervading aspect of Get Up, Stand Up, which is the “psychological building blocks for democratic movemnts.

Historian Lawrence Goodwyn has studied democratic movements and written extensively about the Populist Movement in the United States that occurred during the end of the nineteenth century, what he calls “the largest democratic mass movement in American history.” He also studied Solidarity in Poland. He concluded that democratic movements are initiated by people who are not resigned to the status quo.

For him, the two major psychological building blocks for democratic movements are what he called “individual self-respect” and “collective self-confidence.”

Without individual self-respect, people do not believe that they are worthy of power or capable of utilizing power wisely, and they accept as their role being a subject of power. Without collective self-confidence, people do not believe they can succeed in wresting power away from their rulers.

So, one organizing principle of Get Up, Stand Up was looking at all parts of our lives – from the workplace, to schools, the family, to my psychology profession, and several other areas – to see how we can rebuild individual self-respect and collective self-confidence. And these building blocks also become a major criteria for whether certain actions going to bring us closer to democracy.

VMT April 16th, 2011 at 2:36 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 28

I think TV goes beyond pacification. I stopped watching TV for years, watched commercial-free programs on the Internet, and then I was forced by my new apartment lease to pay for basic cable. So I started watching TV occasionally and what I noticed is that the propaganda in the commercials irritated the hell out of me. I couldn’t watch TV without getting a barrage of propaganda about things like how Chevron was building towns in Africa, etc. TV doesn’t just pacify; it pushes ideology to a ridiculous degree. The Internet isn’t much different in many ways. It really is a monolithic thought control process, the mass media these days, and I’m not sure there is a solution to it.

veganrevolution April 16th, 2011 at 2:38 pm

My solution is direct action and general strikes. I’d completely ignore the electoral arena and built a people’s movement on our own. For example, the strategy in Wisconsin–recalls and the courts–is bound to fail because the capitalists will simply do an end around through voter fraud and pouring tons of money to defeat left wing causes and candidates. Full disclosure: I have anarchist sympathies.

one_outer April 16th, 2011 at 2:39 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 33

I think blink is speaking more to the fact that we already know what to do specifically because the electoral system is unresponsive. He means in the streets civil disobedience on a large enough scale. Sure, the conditions aren’t that bad, but the point is we already know a way to take it to the next level and change our political conditions. And we probably shouldn’t wait until they get that bad to do it, or at least try.

I’m interested in Bruce’s take on civil disobedience, as in is it necessary, how should it be conducted, and so forth. I assume it’s addressed in the book.

Jon Walker April 16th, 2011 at 2:40 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 31

in a general sense it conceptually sounds great but it doesn’t really help people looking for ways to turn it into say five concrete steps they can take.

example move your money into small credit unions, refuse to take loans, join start local membership groups, etc…

blink April 16th, 2011 at 2:42 pm
In response to Jon Walker @ 32

No it isn’t hard to say it was the right answer. Just because they haven’t followed through properly and/or didn’t have the proper structural set of demands doesn’t mean we couldn’t. Once it started, it took them 18 DAYS to achieve a great deal of what they initially set out to do. 18 DAYS. So, we don’t let them subvert. We make sure we do have sufficient structural demands that don’t allow for that to happen. And if they try it we shut them down again and again and again till they understand their time is over.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Certainly, one great way change is accomplished in American and world history is through “disruption” and I devote a chapter to this in Get Up, Stand Up.

Disruption as a strategy of power is essentially about stopping cooperation with authorities in a manner that creates significant deprivation for authorities.

Some examples include, Boston Tea Party, American Revolution, Abolitionist Movement, Civil Rights Movement, Flint Sit Down Strike,boycotts, Picket lines that disrupt business. Blocking evictions and foreclosures.

If American history teaches anything, it is that disruptive power can work, but that without its continual threat, the gains it produces disappear. In the Abolitionist Movement, the disruptive tactics of abolitionists and African American slaves were instrumental in the ultimate emancipation of the slaves, but the controlling elite in the South was able to re-create a system of racial apartheid and subordination of African Americans.

Disruptions take a great deal of energy and involve a great deal of risk. There can be a risk of lost of income, economic marginalization, imprisonment, or death.

However, certain “disruption” — at least the right kind for a specific adversar — can work.

VMT April 16th, 2011 at 2:44 pm

I think one of the main problems with respect to social movements in the US is that people like their private worlds and don’t want to break down their boundaries. American culture is in many ways a schizoid culture. We commune with our TVs and not with our neighbors.

eCAHNomics April 16th, 2011 at 2:45 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 35

My explanation for the end of Gilded Age populist movements is entirely economic, and has nothing to do with pop psych.

Like my points about ME democracy movements in 33, during the U.S. gilded age, ordinary workers got so badly economically treated that they finally erupted.

They will do the same in the future when similar circumstances arise.

Actually, I think the U.S. economy might fail before that happens. Owing to fact that it is so dependent on consumer spending (70% plus). While consumers are fundamentally insatiable and will look for any excuse/trick to increase spending, eventually those will run out, and the economy will drop without bottom.

Will take a long long time.

U.S. consumers still have far more resources than those in ME countries.

eCAHNomics April 16th, 2011 at 2:46 pm
In response to one_outer @ 38

I’m arguing that circumstances are not “ripe”. Not that we don’t know what to do or won’t do it when ripeness happens.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 2:47 pm
In response to one_outer @ 38

Yes, I address civil disobedience. There are wise and unwise forms of it.

Organizer Saul Alinsky’s criticism of gun-celebrating leftist radicals in 1960s: “A guy has to be a political idiot to say all power comes out of the barrel of a gun when the other side has the guns.”

But there is all kinds of civil disobedience.

A lot of Americans aren’t aware of this. But in July 2010 in Iran, following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s 70 percent tax increase on businesses, Iranian merchants struck Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, shutting down their enterprise. This put the government in the position of either collecting 70 percent of zero sales—nothing—or reducing the tax. The merchants understood the mutual nature of dependency between themselves and the government, but they also understood that certain tactics would lead to the kind of violent struggle that they could not win. They chose the correct tactic. The Iranian government retreated from its original tax plan and raised taxes only 15 percent, which ended the strike.

So, if Americans think that civil disobedience — the right kind — can’t work — they are more dispirited than Iranians.

spocko April 16th, 2011 at 2:48 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 21

Many Americans are embarrassed to accept that we, too, after years of domestic corporatocracy subjugation, have developed what Marley called “mental slavery.” But unless we acknowledge that reality, we won’t begin to heal from what I call “battered people’s syndrome” and “corporatocracy abuse.” A vitally important piece of the solution is overcoming the problem of demoralization and fatalism and creating the “energy to do battle.”

Okay, this is the most salient point I’ve seen.

My good friend Athenae often talks about getting up and fighting after a loss. As Jon said above, many thought we had won after electing Obama. Imagine our surprise and despair when we found out, Nope, he’s not “The One” he just talks like The One. This is not the man you were looking for, keep fighting. The hard work as yet to begin, yada, yada, yada.

Frak that noise! It’s like Lucy baiting Charlie Brown into kicking the football. I’m tired of being a sucker.

And here is another thing, we often measure activism by protests and more specifically how the Media covers the protests. How’s that working out in America? With Fox News covering 5 tea partiers in a tricorner hats it makes it look like they are the winners in protest juice.

Energy directed at getting the media to notice us assumes that when the powers that be see it they will do something different. Yet there is no real leverage there. Instead I envision them LAUGHING at us. “Ohhh. 100,000 protesters, I’m so scared! HAHHAHAHAHAHAHAH! Suckers.”

You want to take real action that makes an impact? You go after the other side financially. You want to hurt the rich people running this show, you take away their money. You get them fired from their job. You put them in jail.

Imagine expending the same energy that goes into a 100,000 person protest going into a financial or legal battle. Take down a WS shark. Get Rush Limbaugh behind bars for parole violations or James O’Keefe who is on parole. How about busting Sean Hannity for financial fraud.

otchmoson April 16th, 2011 at 2:49 pm
In response to VMT @ 42


This may be correct to a degree, but there is also another element. I’m a 60-plusser, and during the VietNam mele, I was a young adult–too busy doing the ‘right thing’ to involve myself with politics. Now, when I have a great many political concerns, I have no experience. I went to my first rally a little over a month ago (when the Florida legislature convened)–but was fearful. I’d never been to a rally . . . how to I get there? . . . where do I park? . . . do I bring my own sign? . . . what happens if there are anti’s who want to be confrontational? . . . will the police interfere? . . . Call it timidity, fear, constraint–but basically, I wanted a manual telling me all those things, and there is no such beast.

[It was a peaceful protest, but again, it was out of my comfort zone. I had to close my small business for half a day; drive 60 miles round trip; and leave the protest wondering, “What did I accomplish?”

eCAHNomics April 16th, 2011 at 2:50 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 45

You keep missing the point, which is that your analogies are very far away from actual U.S. circumstances.

one_outer April 16th, 2011 at 2:50 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 45

Thank you. I didn’t know that about Iran, and that’s exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about. Those people realized they were a class and that the elites depended on them, so they acted together – as a class. That’s definitely the right kind of civil disobedience.

PeasantParty April 16th, 2011 at 2:51 pm
In response to VMT @ 36

TV has morphed from good people doing good things like on Little House on the Prarie to crap. For me, I’d like to see an Archie Bunker style family where Archie takes a baseball bat to everything plastic and not made in America. I’d like to see Archie go off on pay tv and radio along with the rising prices of beer.

If that is not commiserate misery in the making, I don’t know what would get viewers to realize the real issues.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 2:51 pm
In response to VMT @ 42

Yes, social isolation is one of my 12 major categories for how Americans have been made powerless. For a variety of cultural and societal reasons this has happened. It was especially upsetting for me to read one well-done study which showed that 25 percent of Americans had NO confidants in their lives at all. This is a huge increase from just 20 years ago. Social isolation is important to keep people from resisting.

Resistance has lots to do with letting go of fear. And if you are all alone, the idea of risking with no social or economic support is extremely scary.

blink April 16th, 2011 at 2:52 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 33

You premise everything having to be a REACTION. Why not pro-actively work toward and uprising instead? This idea of sitting around and waiting for crushing tyranny is just stupid. “WE” already know it is bad enough. So why not explain that to people? Why not work to build a movement for the expressed purpose altering the system so as to marginalize the establishment oligarchs? Why not lead by example and give people something to JOIN rather than waiting for the grand bloody reaction? Saying there has to be X factors met before revolt occurs is simply another dodge – another way to avoid doing something IMO. This is a big country with a lot of pissed off people. The anger and frustration is out there. We just need to give it a positive, peaceful avenue to express itself.

one_outer April 16th, 2011 at 2:52 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 44

I guess I’m not a determinist of some sort. I don’t think there has to be a ‘natural’ or ‘ripe’ time to take action. People aren’t stupid, and they can be sold on ideas. They can recognize that they’re being stolen from and lied to without starving first.

veganrevolution April 16th, 2011 at 2:52 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 41

I agree resistance need not be disruptive. The Food Not Bombs movement is an example of an autonomous collective which does a lot of good for homeless people. The best thing we can do is create our own institutions apart from the dominant state. Of course, the US state will see that and try to squash it because it doesn’t really believe in democracy or autonomy. A hierarchical, authoritarian system like ours (though masking as a democratic one) despises autonomous movements and organizations because it threatens the legitimacy of the state, which is inherently illegitimate.

Jon Walker April 16th, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Bruce I wonder if you feel the internet on net has been a big help in liberating people mental or if you think on net things it has lead to more zombification and people taking in even more pro-money centric propaganda?

VMT April 16th, 2011 at 2:54 pm
In response to otchmoson @ 47

I hear you. I’ve been in protests thinking to myself that my essential purpose was to make a photo of the crowd size increase by one. There is something about protests that makes me feel more alienated than part of something. I wish they didn’t have that affect, but I don’t how organizers can change that. I think they should brainstorm it, though. The large protests of the past came about because people knew their neighbors would be there and the protest was part revolt and part festival.

eCAHNomics April 16th, 2011 at 2:54 pm
In response to blink @ 52


BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 2:57 pm
In response to blink @ 52

This is a great point. Disruption is only way, and probably the least important way to transform the US into a real democracy.

At a larger group level necessary to build a democratic movement, take seriously what it is that people actually need to diminish their pain, and take seriously what you can create that actually helps to diminish pain in a way that actually provides greater self-respect.

I look at detail in Get Up, Stand Up at the “Populist Movement.” The Populist organization in the 1880s and 90s was called the “Alliance” and they experimented with lots of economic self-help ideas before succeeding with the first large-scale working people’s cooperatives in which by working together for the sale of their product, they eliminated the middle-man and gained higher prices for their crops.

The “Alliance” provided not simply the fraternity of like-minded people but tools for economic self-reliance—an antidote to pain.

One must do more than simply create an organization of like-minded idealists and hold demonstrations. One must create democratic institutions such as the cooperatives that actually provide something useful. With institutions such as the cooperative, people can discard a servile deference and regain individual self-respect, which is lost when one is dependent on despised entities.

VMT April 16th, 2011 at 2:58 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 50

Bertold Brecht tried to break the trance people were in when they consumed art by interrupting them from the dream world escape art can facilitate. I think it’s about time content producers started adopting similar techniques, but, of course, that would mean they actually wanted people to wake up from passivity. Anyway, Brecht proves that this issue isn’t new.

eCAHNomics April 16th, 2011 at 2:58 pm
In response to one_outer @ 53

I’m just a forecaster. Have spent decades doing it. While acknowledging that forecasting is a loser’s game in the sense that it is so difficult to get it right, particularly at turning points, the only time forecasting matters, one lesson I’ve learned is that peeps respond to circumstances, they do not take control of them in advance.

So if you dispute my interp of history, I’d be very interesting in reading contrary examples.

Not to mention that selling ideas requires lots & lots of $$$$.

blink April 16th, 2011 at 2:59 pm
In response to one_outer @ 53

Exactly. This idea of waiting around is a dodge. People want to see some action. They would join in a heartbeat if they thought that a group was honestly trying to take on the corporatist oligarchs and get the money out of our political system.

otchmoson April 16th, 2011 at 3:01 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 57


Are you talking $$$$$’s to organize . . . or alternatively, perhaps the $$$$’s that we need to remove from corporate coffers. When I think back to the BP debacle, I was non-plussed that anyone would even consider patronizing BP stations. (And for a while, the BP at the nearby interstate exchange was quite barren.) A friend made the argument to me that she continued to patronize her nearby BP, because the owner/franchisee(?) was in no way causal in the catastrophe. I suppose these owner/operators are tied in by year-long (or multi-year leases)??? And hurting one of our own community members is not a good thing. I imagine these people were powerless to change brands, cancel contracts, etc. But if we are really to view the current situation as a class war, should we be thinking that there is bound to be collateral damage . . . and maybe we can support our local citizens in ways OTHER than patronizing their big-name business?

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Generally, resistance requires greater strength and less fear. So another important element of those who are resisting is to form alliances.

In this battle against the corporatocracy, human relationships are vitally important. It is in the interest of the elite to keep people divided and distrust¬ing one another. It is in the interest of people working toward democracy to build respectful and cooperative human relationships across all levels of society.

The elite who maintain a hold on power are a small minority. Those of us who believe in genuine democracy—of, by, and for the people—far outnumber the elitists, but we are divided. The elite’s strategy of “divide and conquer” is one that routinely works, but not always. Their strategy fails when we recognize that the divides among us pale in significance compared with a common desire to have our fair share of power. And so Get Up, Stand Up is also about unifying people who oppose elite control so as to focus on our common desire for genuine democracy.

Across the political spectrum, anti-authoritarians on the left and libertarian fans of Ron Paul and Jesse Ventura agree on major issues such as opposition to the costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, long and costly drug war, opposition to the Wall Street Bailout, opposition to the Patriot act and several other issues. Of course, there are differences, and I am not talking about forming a political party of anti-authoritarians but Ralph Nader and Ron Paul have been recently talking about coalitions and alliances on these HUGE issues, instead of simply being divided on things like gun control.

I have worked with many across this political spectrum on issues of mental health reform treatment. Both Erich Fromm, the democratic-socialist psychoanalyst and the libertarian psychiatrist Thomas Szasz both are equally concerned that mental health professionals are increasingly being used to manipulate/medicate people into adjusting to a society that they really need to be rebelling more against.

PeasantParty April 16th, 2011 at 3:03 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 58


That reminds me of the worker owned factories that some of us here at FDL have talked about. With so many people out of work, their skills going to waste, etc. it seems we all should be doing this.

The elites sitting behind the desks and trading away your sweat on the stock market have no idea how to actually make the goods. We the people do!

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 3:06 pm
In response to Jon Walker @ 55

Jon–just saw your comments about the Internet. Of course it certainly seemed helpful in the Egyptian Revolution. But we must also remember that the Populists didn’t need Twitter to get the word out that by cutting out their producer cooperatives were getting them more money and creating more self-reliance, self-respect, and confidence. And those Populists were perhaps the largest democratic movement in US history that really scared the crap out of the elite of that era. So, I have a chapter on the lessons we can learn from the great Populist rebellion, which damn near came close creating real democracy in the US without the Internet.

iconoclast April 16th, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Might part of the problem sort of be the way that leftists and liberals talk to each other? I’ve noticed this for a long time, and quite frankly, this sickens me: it often seems like the loudest bunch of people are those who:

1) Want to get out and withdraw as quickly as possible, leaving people browner, poorer, and younger than themselves to fix the mess of an society that gave them their opportunities and then abandoned everyone after them.

2) Believe everything is hopeless.

3) Basically want to go back to some idyllic past state ignoring what the past was actually like for a lot of people.

spocko April 16th, 2011 at 3:08 pm
In response to blink @ 61

I’m encouraged by the actions of USUncut in this regard.

I also think that it needs to have parts beyond protests. I don’t want to say, “Protests don’t work” but I think that other strategies to effective change need to happen.

GlenJo April 16th, 2011 at 3:09 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 63

Third parties would appeal to me at this point – I think the Democratic party has failed especially if they end up running Obama in 2012.

In generally, I’m at the point where I support Democratic candidates for local elections, but am going to give up on Democratic candidates for national elections. I don’t think the party represents “the base” anymore at the national level. I don’t think I have left the party, but the DC Democrats have left me, and almost everyone else I know who counted on them for representation.

I have been a lifetime Democratic party supported up to this point.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 3:10 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 64

Yes, I am very much interested in worker coops and producer coops, as I think that wherever we can create workplace democracy it will make it more likely that we can create democracy through society.

Perhaps some of you are unfamiliar with the these coops.

Workers owning their business collectively usually means that they all invested with a “buy-in” when they begin working at the cooperative. Worker-owners share profits—the surplus money left after expenses—as well as financial risks. Fundamental to a worker cooperative is that decisions are made democratically by the people who do the work, usually according to the principle of “one worker, one vote.”

“Producer cooperatives” –like what the Populists did– provide more power to small businesses. By banding together, producer cooperatives are not at the mercy of giant corporations, and have greater bargaining power with buyers.

iconoclast April 16th, 2011 at 3:13 pm
In response to spocko @ 67

I’ll say it if you’re not willing to-because it doesn’t seem like typical protests work against this bunch. For one thing, they’re not covered to the point where they seem to impact the general public mindset. For another thing, we’re dealing with conservatives-whether they call themselves Democrats or Republicans-who really don’t care what the public thinks as far as I can tell. We’re not their donors. We aren’t their friends. We’re basically just speedbumps they need to deal with once every two to four years and sources of cash through our taxes for their profits.

blink April 16th, 2011 at 3:13 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 57

Places like FDL have held fundraiser after fundraiser for ineffectual “actions” in the past. Get the majority of the greater “liberal” netroots on the same page, working toward the same goal and there would be enough money to do what we need to do. The real sacrifice would be people’s time and energy. I am going to post a general plan of action here in my next post to this thread. Pick it apart. Tell me why it wouldn’t work, whatever, but for the love of pete recognize that it is a plan of REAL action and that, even as unfleshed out as it is, it is far and away preferable to “primary challenges”, investing in 3rd parties or doing nothing.

Jon Walker April 16th, 2011 at 3:13 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 65

although I do believe the populist party movement was helped dramatically about the huge growth in information connectivity produce by the growth of the telegraph system and railroad system just a generation earlier

gigi3 April 16th, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Bruce, you talk about how effectively members of the Corporatocracy use “divide and conquer.” For example; they don’t give a whit about so-called wedge issues, yet they use the media to focus on them election after election. How do we get people to recognize these tactics for what they are?

During a recent radio interview you discussed all the issues on which Ralph Nader and Ron Paul agree and I believe on which most Americans agree. How can we move past all the divisive name-calling and partisanship to unite under our commonly-held beliefs (Constitution & Bill of Rights, rule of law, restoration of rights, end the wars, sound money system, etc.)

eCAHNomics April 16th, 2011 at 3:18 pm
In response to otchmoson @ 62

Money to organize, as I mentioned in my contrary example at the beg of the thread, namely how easy it was to org the Tea Party against the int of Americans because of Koch money.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 3:21 pm
In response to Jon Walker @ 72

Yes, that’s true.

Generally, what’s extremely important in energizing democratic movements is both solidarity and success. Successes — even small ones — can build greater solidarity, and solidarity creates greater success. This replaces the vicious negative cycle we have now for many Americans of hopelessness creating inaction which creates no successes which creates more pessimism.

That is why I also took a look at successful strikes in American history to see how they pulled it off. The Flint Sit-Down strike in the midst of the Great Depression has lots of lessons to teach about solidarity and success.

And also, i liked looking at “wildcat strikes” that were successful, which are often strikes against management and union leadership, which wAs the case of the Great Postal Strike in 1970, which I have some personal interest in as my father was one of the strikers in this successful wildcat strike against management and union leaders.

Jon Walker April 16th, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Are there any groups or organizations right now that you think are going a very good job at this moment or that you have been impressed by and could use more support?

PeasantParty April 16th, 2011 at 3:23 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 74

As long as we continue to buy the Koch family of products, they will continue to use our own money against us. We have to boycott all things Koch.

blink April 16th, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Here’s an idea…

Something off the cuff I wrote a few weeks ago (with a few changes to the original). A broad, quickly written plan to bring about changes to the political and electoral system. Some variation of the following would work…

1. Readers of the major, influential left-leaning netroots blogs abandon the one war party electoral process altogether. Ignore the politicians and their media lapdogs. Stop talking about them. Stop writing about them. Stop getting caught up in the time-wasting outrage-of-the-day cycle. If an election happens to come along during the following process and individuals want to vote, use that vote to send a message by voting for anti-establishment third party candidates ONLY but otherwise ignore the electoral process altogether.

2. Commit to challenging the site owners/operators of these popular, respected left-leaning blog sites to use their sites for the purpose of promoting and coordinating discussions about needed changes to our political/electoral system. Why should they not want to participate and if they don’t why not? What’s the rationale? What’s the excuse?

3. Use these same sites or develop a “home” site to coordinate and begin that process of deliberating on and hashing out precisely what changes need to be made. Encourage commenters/diarists to tackle and write about a change they think needs to be included and why. What the change will accomplish etc. Think big and think small. Have the rest of the community review, weigh the worth of, debate, revise, come to a consensus on or vote on, etc.

A short list of random stream of thought examples in no particular order-

Do away with the electoral college completely? Public financing of elections including free tv time if need be – zero corporate money allowed period, individual donations capped at $100, matching federal funds? Mandatory jail time for candidates taking corporate or other “special interest” funds during a campaign or their time in office. Some form of ranked choice voting system like perhaps – proportional representation through the single transferable vote, or PR-STV, Instant Run-off – ranked choice voting system…etc, etc, etc.


Also during step 3 – actively work to build up the movement. Go to Libertarian blogs and invite them to participate. Get the Ron Paul folks involved if possible. Contact the Unions. Contact university kids and the organizations they belong to. Contact any non-fascist organization you can think of and ask them to alert their members and try to get them involved in the process. Remember this effort is not about wedge issues and demands for specific government programs and the like. This is about deep electoral/campaign and system reform – changes to the political and electoral system in order to attempt to permanently marginalize the corporate oligarchs and put the power in the hands of the people. The American citizenry. To make the electoral process matter and get the money out of the system. And anyone should be welcome to participate. Presented correctly, all but the most hardcore idiotic wingnuts should WANT to participate.


4. Do this over the course of what? Six months? A year? 2 years? And come up with a solid, working list of necessary changes to the electoral system that we believe will ultimately marginalize the big money influence of the corporatist oligarchy.

5. Take that list and use the abilities of the many lawyers and political law junkies we have within the community to fashion those demands into potential legislation. Set up donation funds if need be to support the bill writing experts while they work.

6. During step 4 and throughout the process of step 5, also begin the process of discussing and coordinating what forms of peaceful direct action and civil disobedience will be engaged in for the upcoming battle to have the list of changes committed to law.

7. Once the prospective legislation writing process is complete and the potential law has been vetted and we have come up with a solid plan of coordinated acts of civil disobedience and peaceful direct action ready to go, send copies to every major news outlet we can think of along with a letter stating our case, the need for these changes, etc. Send copies to the prospective law to every member of congress. In short, let the nation and the world know we are coming. Let congress know that we expect the bill(s) to be implemented without changes and we are willing to be significantly disruptive until they are. Strikes, boycotts, sit-ins, payment freezes. etc.

The bottom line? If we don’t generate enough support then it will fail. But I believe wholeheartedly that if we organize ourselves well enough and get the word out properly, that even if we haven’t reached “enough” people initially, that people will be awakened by the acts of civil disobedience and direct action and will show their solidarity and join the effort.

It is just a question of do we have the fortitude to sustain massive acts of peaceful direct action and civil disobedience. Do we have the gumption to do what the Egyptian people did and follow through until we get the results we want?

Either way, like the Egyptians, we do not live in a functioning Democracy and until we acknowledge that and take real steps to create system where a democracy can exist, we will continue to decline and no significant change will be possible. The anger is out there. We only have to reach it and channel it.

eCAHNomics April 16th, 2011 at 3:25 pm
In response to blink @ 71

enough money to do what we need to do

Do you really think complete coalition of lefties can match the billions that corps can pour into buying pols? When the ROR on campaign contributions is something like 800% or 8000%. A few billion for a corp is pocket change.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 3:25 pm
In response to gigi3 @ 73

Yes, “divide and conquer” is really the major tactic of the corporate elite. They’ve done it racially, ethnically, religiously, and more lately on private vs. public employees.

I think we need to be aware of this, and work hard to stay focused on what we all have in common.

It’s important when we have conversations with fellow populists across the spectrum to realize that many issues that divide us –e.g. gun control, same-sex marriage, etc. — can be quite emotional ones. But if we have respect for one another on these issues, I give examples and anecdotes in Get Up, Stand Up, we can all better unite and stay focused on the BIG issues of how we are all being SCREWED.

Scarecrow April 16th, 2011 at 3:26 pm

How do you account for what happened in Madison, Wisconsin? How did the activists there overcome their fears and act collectively? And what does that experience teach us about what’s missing elsewhere?

Jon Walker April 16th, 2011 at 3:29 pm

The ability of the corporate elites to keep a united front even as the greed in some parts of, like health care, manage to bleed other parts like manufacturing and basic service dry is really remarkable.

At some point there will probably be some kinda of break in this front, when and how to possibly exploit it is a tough question though.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 3:29 pm
In response to Jon Walker @ 76

There are many kinds of successful activism against corporations. City Life/Vida Urbana, for example, has won victories over some of America’s largest banks, including the Bank of America, and prevented many foreclosures and evictions. I detail this and other successful anti-corporatist efforts in Get Up, Stand Up.

Generally, the successful activism is very pragmatic. City Life understands what banks don’t want to have — bad publicity — and they use that against them.

It’s very important to understand the power of money, and the fear of the corporate elite here. They really don’t give a damn about millions of people protesting if it is not going to cost them any money. But, even if protests are small as in the case of City Life, if they threaten the money of the corporate elite, they are effective.

john in sacramento April 16th, 2011 at 3:30 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 17

Coming to this late, but I have one example of these things working, at least in a small way

After seeing what happened in Florida in 2000, and seeing what just happened in Ohio in 2004, our DFA group organized a rally at the federal building (where Barbara Boxer has an office) and the state capitol to do two things: 1) encourage Senator Boxer to sign on with the Congressional Black Caucus to debate the counting of the electoral college ballots until a proper recount and investigation could take place. She did. And 2) get the CA State electors to delay their vote until there was a recount. They didn’t (there’s an interesting backstory about that, but too detailed to get into here).

Like Mick Jagger says Sometimes Can’t Get What You Want. But we did help convince Senator Boxer to join her colleagues to at least debate the election

Maybe we didn’t change that election, but I think it added a steppingstone to the elections in 2006 and 2008

Although I think the Democrats are horribly braindead, and missed the mandate that they were given, (look at 2010) I still think small actions put all together can make a difference

Here’s a link to the rally

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 3:31 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 81

Re: Wisconsin

As I make clear in Get Up,Stand Up — especially for critically thinking pessimists who have given up hope — history teaches us that you never know until the moment it happens when the right historical variables will come together to encourage people to let go of their fear and gain the energy to resist.

So in Wisconsin occurred, if not a perfect storm, about as good of a storm as I’ve seen in many years. State employees had actually agreed to eat considerable crap, agreeing to accept a major increase in what they pay toward their pensions and healthcare benefits, but even those major concessions were not good enough for Governor Walker, who continued to demand the elimination of collective bargaining in key areas. Telling a union that they have no collective bargaining rights on health insurance, pension, and work safety is a blatant effort to try to completely crush it. By this “union death threat,” Walker put workers and union leaders in a position of having virtually nothing left to lose in terms of having a union—and when people lose their fear, watch out!

blink April 16th, 2011 at 3:31 pm

It isn’t about the money. All their money will mean nothing in the face of massive sustained peaceful direct action and civil disobedience. In fact, THAT is the only way to neutralize their money. The only way to make it ineffective. Battling them with money will surely never do it. That is a battle that cannot be one.

VMT April 16th, 2011 at 3:33 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 80

we can all better unite and stay focused on the BIG issues of how we are all being SCREWED.

I think it would be a step in the right direction if the netroots actually made an effort to write a platform, a short list, of the core areas that we could all agree on. Something like:

1. Single payer health care
2. Campaign finance reform (publicly financed election reform)
3. Anti-trust practice to break up the large corporations
4. Social Security benefit expansion
5. Major defense spending cuts

David Kaib April 16th, 2011 at 3:34 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 83

Generally, the successful activism is very pragmatic. City Life understands what banks don’t want to have — bad publicity — and they use that against them

I think this is an important and neglected point. Too many people think that corporations or powerful politicians are impervious to pressure, but it strikes me they are more often unpressured. The amount of commercials for corporations that are just designed to convince us they are good citizens, as opposed to selling any product, are more evidence of this.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 3:35 pm
In response to blink @ 86

Re: Money.

I think this is a good point.

There are many “battlefields for democracy” and the corporate elite would like you only to play on those fields that money controls the outcome (e.g. national elections where basically tv advertising dollars controls to a large extent nominations and ultimate winners.)

So, a key part of Get Up, Stand Up is recognizing there are multiple battlefields for democracy and engage on those in which large amounts of money are not so important.

AitchD April 16th, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Very effective and highly organized resistance and a precursor to social revolution had its origins in the Free Speech Movement in 1964 at UC Berkeley. That movement grew, and spread. When it interfered with Nixon’s secret war in 1970, college students were shot at in Kent, Ohio and Jackson State.

That was all it took. The movement scattered. Many dropped out and moved to the Northwest. Many gave up and got jobs and mortgages.

Firedoglake is like a reunion.

one_outer April 16th, 2011 at 3:37 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 60

Past does not have to be prologue – that’s determinism. Of course chances are, people won’t, and that is something we know from history.

But the collapse of a society like ours, with our level of technology and share of world wealth, is completely unprecedented. We need not think our limits are the way these things played out in the past.

This is what I think Bruce is talking about, if I can be so presumptuous. We have agency and things don’t have to turn out like they have in the past (and even in the past things haven’t always turned out the same, either).

If blink is right about anything, it’s that we need to start thinking in terms of agency, not as part of some grand historical pattern that repeats itself. It need not, and people exercise their power of agency if they realize they can create new patterns.

eCAHNomics April 16th, 2011 at 3:38 pm
In response to Jon Walker @ 82

My observation on that front is that U.S. industries age, and their abilities to produce products, buy pols, and their other activities, fade with the aging. Thus your examples of some U.S. inds in conflict with the goals of others can be divided into those industries with rising or peaking econ power vs. others with waning power.

Thus the ‘break’ you are positing will not occur. For example, as med ind rose & steel ind fell, steel ind lost its power not only in the economy but also in politics, Chamber of Commerce, other outlets.

Jon Walker April 16th, 2011 at 3:38 pm
In response to DavidKaib @ 88

Yes most companies don’t want to be seen as villians and most CEO have convinced themselves they are really great brilliant people that should be loved for all their hardwork. They are often very scared of smartly direct actions that produce bad press.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 3:39 pm
In response to Jon Walker @ 82

Yes, the corporatocracy is not a monolith, as the profits of one industry affect the losses of others, and so there is some possibility of “divide and conquer” here.

Re: health insurance. When other members of the corporate elite start to realize that insurance companies and Big Pharma is taking too much of the loot from the elite pie, there is a opening for us transforming the oppressive health insurance we have in the US.

AdamPDX April 16th, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Society requires cooperation from all it’s members to function. As much as the elites would like to make you believe their money makes their power insurmountable, it’s nothing but rubbish. The elites can’t buy cooperation from it’s citizens.

If 5% of the drivers on the freeway decide they are going to drive 45 mph, everybody on the freeway gets to go 45 mph. All the elite money in the world won’t will not force a citizen to choose to cooperate.

If 5% of the people riding elevators choose to hit every button on the panel, elevators are going to stop at every floor, and the elites are gonna have to wait for them.

gigi3 April 16th, 2011 at 3:41 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 77

I not only boycott Koch, I boycott all major corporations and have been doing so for years – haven’t been in a Wal-Mart in over 10 years. My money is spent to the greatest extent possibly patronizing local merchants.

People do not realize the power we have collectively, especially in how we choose to spend our money. What do you think would happen if even 10% of us stopped giving our money to mega corporations?

Does anyone believe major food companies just voluntarily stopped using high fructose sugar? Last week I bought Rumford cornstarch. In very prominent letters it states on the container, “Non-Genetically Modified Corn.” How did that come about?

blink April 16th, 2011 at 3:44 pm
In response to one_outer @ 91

If blink is right about anything, it’s that we need to start thinking in terms of agency, not as part of some grand historical pattern that repeats itself. It need not, and people if they realize that have the power to create new patterns.

Absolutely. In fact, failure to try to create new patterns is ultimately accepting that the pattern will and should repeat itself, with us in it, playing our role as the long suffering slaves to the elites. Failure to try to break the “grand historical pattern” is acquiescence.

PeasantParty April 16th, 2011 at 3:46 pm
In response to gigi3 @ 96

True! I’m in my mid fifties and the hardest thing for me to get my head around is how many Americans are buying their food on credit.

That used to be a 1930′s Depression era theme, but not now and the banks are loving it. Especially when they get to charge those huge interest rates on your milk and bread.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 3:47 pm
In response to gigi3 @ 96

Yes, economic boycotts –even if they only affect profits to a small degree– scare the hell out of the corporatocracy and should be regularly used.

But we must all keep in mind that we just don’t want to be constantly reacting to our oppressors. We also want to proactively create economic self-reliance for our selves.

So, being from a union family, I am all for them because I had firsthand evidence of seeing how they can create self-respect and collective confidence, the building blocks of democratic movements. But unions are not an end in themselves but only a beginning to complete democracy in the workplace, such as worker coops.

Again, we must do what we can to stop the power the corporate elite have over us but ultimately we must create our own self-reliance and power.

masaccio April 16th, 2011 at 3:49 pm
In response to VMT @ 56

I agree enthusiastically with this point. I went to one of the Move-On rallies for Wisconsin, and it could have been an anti-war protest in 1971, singers in tie-dies, chants of rebellion, speeches, and then we went home and nothing happened. The labor unions got screwed, and the war didn’t end.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 3:51 pm

I did want to make sure I got this in for demoralized critically-thinking populists who want to have hope without having their intelligence insulted.

There is one more divide, I believe, that not only divides true populists from one another but also divides many of us internally. That divide is about the belief in the possibility or impossibility of our actually defeating the corporatocracy.

Less than a decade before African American slavery ended in the United States, the idea of abolishing slavery seemed like an impossibility for most Americans, including Abraham Lincoln, who even doubted whether it would be possible to stop the spread of slavery (I have a Lincoln quote about this in Get Up, Stand Up).

Until shortly before it occurred, the collapse of the Soviet empire seemed an impossibility to most Americans, who saw only mass resignation within the Soviet Union and its sphere of control. But the shipyard workers in Gdansk, Poland, did not see their Soviet and Communist Party rulers as the all-powerful forces that Americans did. And so Polish workers’ Solidarity, by simply refusing to go away, provided a strong dose of morale across Eastern Europe at the same time other historical events weakened the Soviet empire.

The lesson from history is that tyrannical and dehumanizing institutions are often more fragile than they appear, and with time, luck, morale, and the people’s ability to seize the moment, damn near anything is possible. You never really know until it happens whether or not you are living in that time when historical variables are conspiring to create opportunities for seemingly impossible change.

BevW April 16th, 2011 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the end of this Book Salon,

Bruce, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and motivating people.

Jon, Thank you very much for Hosting this interesting Book Salon.

Everyone if you would like more information:

Bruce’s website and book

Jon’s website

Thanks all,
Have a great evening!

eCAHNomics April 16th, 2011 at 3:53 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 99

I’ve been saying for years that econ boycotts are an amazing effective tool. Grapes come to mind. To a lesser degree corp tomatoes.

Still take $$ to organize boycotts. Gotta get the grievance in the public eye and that requires money for publicity at a minimum, which corps are increasingly shutting out.

Heard something horrifying on booktv today, which is that the few leftie large donors who are left eschew est their own media bc “truth has a progressive bias.”

gigi3 April 16th, 2011 at 3:53 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 98

I also pay cash for everything except an occasional Internet purchase. This deprives the banks of debit/credit transaction fees and saves the merchants $$s.

otchmoson April 16th, 2011 at 3:54 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 99

While I have long thought about co-operatives, actually setting one up (for any manufacturing) requires bucks. Several years ago, I located a t-shirt company in California that was providing “Made in America” and functioned as a co-op. Sadly, in these challenging economic times, most people will not spend $12-15 (plus shipping) to patronize Made in America co-ops when their own pocketbook is better served by hitting the sales rack at Walmart (or other retailers). Since I am not heavy into consumerism, my contribution to the t-shirt producer was not significant . . . and I don’t know how we can ask people who are having difficulty paying for bread and milk to consider supporting MIA producers with their necessarily higher priced goods.

Jon Walker April 16th, 2011 at 3:55 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 92

Thanks for coming on Bruce

PeasantParty April 16th, 2011 at 3:56 pm
In response to gigi3 @ 104

So do I, but I am forced to do so in my long term unemployment. It just hurts my heart to see Americans have to buy their food on credit.

econobuzz April 16th, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Great discussion, thanks.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 3:58 pm
In response to Jon Walker @ 106

Thank you, Jon, for hosting this. And thanks to everybody else for their comments, and I’m very sorry if I didn’t respond to all comments. I will stay on a little longer, and you can also email me with questions and comments via http://www.brucelevine.net

PeasantParty April 16th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Bruce, thank you. It has been a most excellent Book Salon. I hope you sell millions!

AitchD April 16th, 2011 at 3:58 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 101

The US Constitution made slavery and indentured service illegal, but those weren’t abolished.

If the US Treasury sends every household a check for $10,000 (they can afford to promise anything) to ride out these tough times, probably not many people will buy books.

blink April 16th, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Thanks Bruce. I will be buying your book. Out of curiosity, do you reference Sheldon Wolin’s concepts of Inverted Totalitarianism and Managed Democracy at all in your book? Because I noticed you had “democracy” in quotes as if you understand and wish to relay to people that we do not actually live in a functioning democracy.

AitchD April 16th, 2011 at 4:02 pm
In response to gigi3 @ 104

Unless you get a discount for paying cash, you’re paying the credit-interest price and losing the value of your money. You might as well charge it.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 4:03 pm
In response to blink @ 112

No I don’t. But every time I hear Chris Hedges speak, he brings it up, so the world is certainly hearing about this.

gigi3 April 16th, 2011 at 4:04 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 107

Yes, it is truly heartbreaking to witness people buying food using credit cards. This is one of the many ways in which the poor become even poorer and disadvantaged. The few pennies they may have saved by buying something on sale at a big-box store is eroded many times over by the 29% + interest they have to pay.

AitchD April 16th, 2011 at 4:05 pm
In response to blink @ 112

As a functioning society, we traded being citizens for being consumers, and did it with both eyes open. think it can be reversed?

openhope April 16th, 2011 at 4:07 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 99

Thank you so much for this discussion. The Union’s also have to take a deep and politically painful examination of their own sliding-down-the-slippery slope of politics. Union management and union workers are not necessarily of the same mindset. You know, a political player’s a player,…and the average union worker is being continually and systematically removed from active participation in labor decisions.
So says my kitchen table.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 4:07 pm
In response to AitchD @ 117

Consumerism or what I call “fundamental consumerism” is a big deal in terms of breaking people and I rail about this in many of my articles and books.

There is nothing that breaks us more than this. In terms of reducing self-reliance, increasing self-absorption which makes it more difficult for us to connect, and for several other reasons, fundamental consumerism is a major issue that we need to fight off, and many people “get it” and are trying to fight it off.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 4:10 pm
In response to openhope @ 118

Yup. You got it right about unions. So few Americans are now in union, that few people are aware of the internal battles. I go into great detail in Get Up, Stand Up about how union power has been decimated.

blink April 16th, 2011 at 4:13 pm
In response to AitchD @ 117

Well, some of us may have done it with both eyes open but I think most did it while also being in a passive, propagandized, exceptionalist stupor. Sure I think that can be turned around. Otherwise I wouldn’t bother.

AitchD April 16th, 2011 at 4:14 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 119

Thanks for your work and your writing. Consumerism is a great heart break, a terrible loss of the most important ideas.

Have you recently been on C-SPAN’s BookTV or will you be on soon?

gigi3 April 16th, 2011 at 4:14 pm
In response to AitchD @ 113

My greater objective is to patronize local merchants. If the merchant makes a few cents more because I paid cash, and I know they do, so be it. I’d much rather have that money going to the local merchant than to the banks.

There are two places I shop where I regularly receive freebies and they are not samples from the manufacturer.

BruceLevine April 16th, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Okay, my wife and a friend are waiting for me to eat dinner, so I better go before they give me a hard time or, worse, they don’t leave any food left

Thanks again everyone.

Again, if you want to write me, you can do it via my website
at http://www.brucelevine.net

gigi3 April 16th, 2011 at 4:19 pm
In response to AitchD @ 117

Yes, we have become consumers. To the elite we are also workers, human resources and, the one I heard more recently, “renewable resources” (think healthcare).

mzchief April 16th, 2011 at 4:20 pm
In response to gigi3 @ 123

I discovered a small-family owned business using ADP payroll processing and I observed them not respecting employees. I dropped all patronage.

blink April 16th, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Take care Bruce.

mzchief April 16th, 2011 at 4:21 pm
In response to BruceLevine @ 124

Thank you, Bruce!

AitchD April 16th, 2011 at 4:27 pm
In response to gigi3 @ 123

Very good, and I’m more like you than different, although there aren’t many local independent merchants where I live.

Credit cards make volume consumer spending possible, and that helps keep prices down.

I shop almost exclusively at Trader Joe’s for food. I don’t know how they keep their prices lower (much lower) than anyone else. Their suppliers are a trade secret, though they’re well-known quality and organic producers who sell to TJ’s from their overstocks.

I have been in Wal-Mart four times in my life.

AitchD April 16th, 2011 at 4:34 pm
In response to gigi3 @ 125

Livestock and chickens are grist for the huge grain industry, and we are the grist for the slaughter houses. It’s why we are necessary, to feed the Beast. We are also livestock.

When I was a boy, veal was cheap since it was a by-product of the milk dairy industry. When the population increased by 100 mil, the dairy industry also increased, and veal turned expensive. Economics 101 teaches that it should have got cheaper.

Jack Harich April 16th, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Regarding your

The conclusion of the book deals with strategies and tactics. While this section makes some good points and highlights some interesting actions taking place, like the Work College Consortium and worker’s co-operatives, I felt it lacked a truly satisfying answer to the question of where exactly activists should go from here. However, I can’t really fault Levine on this point because this has become the big question the progressive community as a whole has been struggling rather unsuccessfully to find the right answer to.

I am a social problem researcher. For the beginnings of a possibly truly satisfying answer, please see The Dueling Loops of the Political Powerplace. This book is available for free download or a printed copy may be ordered.

gigi3 April 16th, 2011 at 4:40 pm
In response to mzchief @ 126

I would have done the same. I pay strict attention to how employees are treated where I shop and to how employees treat customers. You don’t need to be all that adept at reading body language to know if people enjoy where they are working.

To add to my # 123 about freebies. I was given an organic, red bartlett pear at Howard’s Market yesterday. It was delicious and I will be “paying for” some more in the next couple of days. A couple of weeks ago I was given a protein bar at The Health Mall that retails for just under $ 3.00. Some businesses have a way of showing their appreciation and it’s not always by giving items away. It pays future dividends through repeat business and positive word of mouth.

gigi3 April 16th, 2011 at 4:50 pm
In response to AitchD @ 129

I’d love to see a TJ’s open in my area. WF needs some competition, especially since they have begun to make compromises with Monsanto. For a long time I shopped at Whole Foods. Then I discovered an organic food cooperative not too far from me. All their produce and dairy is organic and they have grass-fed beef and free-range chicken (less expensive than WF).

MickSteers April 16th, 2011 at 5:40 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 33

Way late to this, but it seems to me that all of this discussion boils down to your point.

“Americans would be just as militant in similar circumstances. It just hasn’t gotten ugly enough in the U.S. to launch such massive responses.”

I really don’t think all of this penetrating psychological analysis, the Stockholm Syndrome, abused partner stuff is particularly useful. America is flat-out in denial. We simply refuse to believe we’ve wound up back in Great Depression circumstances yet, especially because we’re buggered for the exact same reasons as last time. Way too many of us harbor the sentiment that surely 80 years of progress, sophistication and technological wonder has allowed us to evolve past 1929. There must be a less painful technocratic way to fix the situation. Sadly, not. The forces arrayed against democracy and the little guy are as old as human nature, blunt and simple: greed and lust for power.

A meaningful populist uprising (rather than the proto-fascist Tea Party nonsense)will simply require a little more “ugly”. The lessons of the 1930s have been irretrievably lost, and replication of the pain seems to be the only way to relearn them.

Pity, that.

cbl April 17th, 2011 at 8:56 am
In response to BruceLevine @ 31

(1) The major strategic problem in focusing on electoral politics is not in itself but the over- focus on a battlefield where the elite have such an advantage. Given the US electoral process and the power of money – which is now gotten this is a “battlefield of democracy” that those with little money have little chance of winning

Bang !

Agent420 April 17th, 2011 at 9:15 am

TV programs about the “real reality” are boring to the American public. TV has taken the population into a fake reality where, like religion, requires no thought. All the pesky thinking has already been done. Why reinvent the wheel.
Bring back truth in advertising resulting in the transfer of more accurate information so that the people down in the trenches can at least hope that they are getting the true picture. When all these lap-eared yahoos find the knife of truth at their throats, we will hear a different song.

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