Is the oligarchy suicidal?

Political cartoonist and essayist Ted Rall wonders why, in the face of ever-increasing anger about the growing inequality in the US and other developed countries, the ruling class does not do what it used to do in the past to quell popular unrest.

During the 1930s and 1960s liberal leaders ended street protests by promising change. Why not now? Why isn’t anyone promising to address income inequality? They could lie and break their promises later.

He examines possible reasons for this inaction and concludes that the oligarchy has deluded itself into thinking that this time around they can insulate themselves from the consequences of their actions.

[T]here has always been a division within the elites between enlightened liberals and hardass thieves. The liberals don’t like us; they fear us. So they try to keep us satisfied enough not to revolt. The thieves count on brute force—cops, pepper spray, camps—to keep the barbarians at bay. The balance of power has shifted decisively to the thieves—which is why figures like Obama can’t even pretend to care about the issues most important to the great majority of people.


  1. georgemontgomery says

    The thieves count on brute force—cops, pepper spray, camps—to keep the barbarians at bay.

    Of course. The oligarchs of today think they have the ultimate weapons. Local cops now militarized, mil-grade pepper spray (5 million Scoville units on the low end, habenero peppers are about 100000 units), Patriot Act, Gitmo, Enhanced Interrogation, and UAVs. The FAA has to work UAVs into the civil controlled airspace, so the field testing of UAVs that has been ongoing in Afghanistan will have uses here in the U.S.
    Bear in mind that the civil authorities have never hesitated to employ the military in putting down unrest. From coal mine strikers to the WWI bonus marchers, U.S. citizens have been murdered in the name of “civil order”.
    It amuses me that the conservatives that I work with have always been ranting about how the liberals were going to take their guns and freedom away, so they were going to vote for the real Americans – the Republicans!!!!
    Maybe the U.S. was never that great, but it saddens me, no, makes me despair, to see it coming to an end.

  2. Randomfactor says

    During the 1930s and 1960s liberal leaders ended street protests by promising change. Why not now?

    Simple answer: in the 1930’s and 1960’s we HAD liberals in positions of power. Who do we have now? A couple of Congress members?

    All the liberals today are OUTSIDE the power structure. That’s the big problem.

  3. unbound says

    The thieves primary plan? It has already been activated. It is called Pravda…er, Fox News. You have about 1/2 the people lapping that up as if it was news. Keep in mind that the other major news outlets have gotten distinctly more conservative as well.

    In fact, when the wiretapping issue came to full steam, someone noted that the Wall Street Journal was all pro-Bush and stating how awful it was to accuse Bush of anything. Contrast that with the Wall Street Journal of a bygone era that said if Nixon did indeed do his crimes, he should indeed be punished. Most of the articles from NYT and WP are he said / she said non-journalism anymore.

    Much of the population is not angry with the thieves, but rather angry with the imaginary boogey-men. The liberals, the illegal immigrants, the atheists, the muslims…whatever the conservative news cycle points them at.

    To be honest, I think the thieves are right. I don’t see nearly enough anger in people. It’s not like this income inequity is anything new…it’s been building steadily for over 3 decades.

  4. F says

    I’d say that a smart, truly liberal leader wouldn’t make any promises that can’t be kept, because that would encourage the protest movements to keep going strong. Not that this is what is happening here.

  5. kraut says

    After all – Obama has prepared for it by permitting the military to operate freely within the US against its citizens if they should become unruly.

    Remember what the ruling classes in Germany’s Weimar republic did when the working class became too enamored with left wing ideas:
    They turned to enable the fascists to run the government in their name, and profited mightily under that rule.

    And as a witness: “The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.”

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, April 29, 1938. Message to congress

    Fascism in Italy as Mussolini conceived it was in essence a corporate state, that sacrificed freedom and liberty to a state that enforced a cooperation of capital and labour, in essence however to the benefit of the owner of the means of production. the interest of a healthy – meaning profitable – production overriding the interest of any individual group to the benefit of the state. Any disruption in production through labour disputes is defined as against the interest of the state, thus has to be quelled by any means possible.
    “We have constituted a Corporative and Fascist state, the state of national society, a State which concentrates, controls, harmonizes and tempers the interests of all social classes, which are thereby protected in equal measure. Whereas, during the years of demo-liberal regime, labour looked with diffidence upon the state, was, in fact, outside the State and against the state, and considered the state an enemy of every day and every hour, there is not one working Italian today who does not seek a place in his Corporation or federation, who does not wish to be a living atom of that great, immense, living organization which is the national Corporate State of Fascism. (On the Fourth Anniversary of the March on Rome, October 28, 1926, in Discorsi del 1926, Milano, Alpes, 1927, p. 340).”

    What is interesting is the attempt of the ruling class in America to establish a corporate state without advancing any of the benefits the fascist state as envisioned by both Hitler and Mussolini, a state that guarantees at least the health (unless a war is needed to further corporate interests, a regular workday, regulated holidays etc. ( i.e KDF in Germany, the youth organizations to prepare a healthy youth for the upcoming “struggle”)

    Interesting is further the role that Mussolini sees for the Catholic church, and one has to wonder about the rise of the influence of Catholicism in the US:
    “The Fascist state claims its ethical character: it is Catholic but above all it is Fascist, in fact it is exclusively and essentially Fascist. Catholicism completes Fascism, and this we openly declare, but let no one think they can turn the tables on us, under cover of metaphysics or philosophy. (To the Chamber of Deputies, May 13, 1929, in Discorsi del 1929, Milano, Alpes, 1930, p. 182)”

    And those are to all who think Liberalism is the enemy of the US, to all the teabagging idiots out there:
    “Anti-individualistic, the Fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the State, which stands for the conscience and the universal, will of man as a historic entity (11). It is opposed to classical liberalism which arose as a reaction to absolutism and exhausted its historical function when the State became the expression of the conscience and will of the people. Liberalism denied the State in the name of the individual; Fascism reasserts the rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual”

  6. jamessweet says

    Right-wing extremists dismiss empirical data with anecdotal evidence. “If America is so poor in economic mobility, maybe someone should tell all these people who still want to come to the U.S.,” Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation told the Times.

    I think this point deserves a more direct answer than was given in the article, which basically proceeded to say “Poor Americans know they are poor, so neener-neener.”

    People still want to come to America because as a whole the country is rich. Our poor are still better off than in a lot of the world (though not so much in the developed world, I’m afraid), and a lot of the most desperate US immigration comes from places like that.

    However, contrary to the rising tide metaphor, absolute wealth only goes so far. Relative wealth, i.e. income inequality, matters a lot too.

    Poor Canadians aren’t coming to the US. Middle class and rich Canadians might come for a variety of reasons.

  7. says


    It’s about time that people called out the Tea Party and the bulk of the Republican Party for what it actually is – the ugly face of American Fascism.

  8. Tim says

    Another fact that’s important to point out is that the genius of the Occupy movement has been to stay — even in the face of pressure by the media — leaderless and without specific demands. This strategy has made it far harder for the oligarchy to seduce the leaders and provide empty promises to any specific demands given.

    These two strategies are what makes the Occupy protest far different from the protests in the ’60’s and ’70’s.


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