GLOBAL TRANSFORMATION: The Harmonization Imperative


Richard Moore


(C) 2004 Richard K. Moore




* Adversarial systems and liberal democracy

IfWe the People are to respond effectively to our
Transformational Imperative, then we will need to do so by
means of an appropriate social movement. In the preceding
chapter I argued that a protest movement like the
anti-globalization movement cannot be our transformational
vehicle. I also suggested that electoral politics cannot be
our vehicle either, and I offered the Populist Movement as an
example of a promising popular movement that finally
floundered on the shoals of the political system. In this
chapter I'd like to take a deeper look at our 'democratic'
system, as a prelude to investigating what kind of movement
could serve our needs.

Liberal democracy is an adversarial system. Candidates compete
for party nominations, parties compete to get their candidates
elected, and elected representatives compete to get their
programs adopted in parliaments. In the U.S. Constitution,
adversarial dynamics are enshrined in the form of a carefully
worked out balance of powers among the executive, judiciary,
and legislature.

There is a naive democratic theory behind this system of
governance. When advocates for side each present their case,
there is some hope that all relevant information will emerge,
enabling good decisions to be reached. When candidates and
parties compete, there is some hope that their relative
success will be related to the size of their
following--leading indirectly to a democratic result. In a
competition among people, ideas, and programs--the theory
goes--the best will rise to the top.

But with any kind of system, theory is one thing and practice
is another. As I tried to show in the case of hierarchy,
systems tend to have inherent dynamics--and the way those
dynamics play out is not always consistent with the theory or
purposes under which the system is established. In the case of
hierarchies, an inherent tendency toward centralization of
power inevitably pushes against whatever mechanisms are set up
to constrain the hierarchy. We can see this in the gradual
consolidations of power by the Federal Government in the U.S.
and by the Brussels bureaucracy in the EU. In the case of
adversarial systems as well, there are inherent dynamics which
we can observe wherever adversarial systems are employed.

An adversarial process operates as a competitive game. The
objective of the game is to win. If you want to be a
successful player in the game, you need to be better at
winning than the other players. In the case of politics,
winning means getting elected. According to the naive theory
democracy, the election of a candidate should reflect general
acceptance of the candidate's program. But in reality, victory
in the political struggle depends on the ability to attract a
constituency by whatever means prove to be effective--and
selling programs isn't the means that works best in practice.
More important might be the charisma of the candidate, or the
vulnerability of the opponent to a smear campaign, or the
ability to focus public attention on superficial but dramatic
issues, or countless other propaganda games we see played out
in typical campaigns. When programs are talked about, a
candidate usually does best by evading questions or by telling
people the lies they want to hear. The dynamics of the
competitive game lead to results that have little to do with
the naive theories behind representative democracy.

Electoral reforms can be attempted, and have frequently been
implemented, but reforms are like sand castles set against the
tide. The same political dynamics, and similar results, can be
seen in every nation that uses competitive elections. Indeed,
if we look back two thousand years to the Roman Republic we
can see the same patterns of corruption, complete with costly
campaigns, gerrymandering of districts, bought votes, etc.
What we need to understand here is that 'corruption' is the
wrong word for these phenomena. They are not distortions of
the system, rather they are the normal behavior of such a
system. It is the adversarial system itself that is a
corruption--of democratic principles.

* Liberal democracy and elite hegemony

Liberal democracy is an ideal system to facilitate rule by
wealthy elites. In any adversarial game, the advantage goes to
the strongest players. On the school yard, the game of 'King
of the Mountain' is naturally dominated by the biggest and
strongest kids. In politics, the game of elections is
naturally dominated by those with the most campaign funds and
the most media support. By such means wealth can be translated
directly into political power and influence--and by such means
every so-called 'democracy' is in fact ruled by wealthy
elites, either in office or from behind the scenes. There is
an ironic truth behind the neoliberal myth that capitalism and
'democracy' are closely related. In the myth the two are
related by a mutual respect for human freedom; in truth they
are related by their mutual friendliness to elite domination.

It is not by chance that we are governed by a system that
facilitates elite rule, nor was the system established due to
a mistaken belief in the naive theory of liberal democracy.
The naive theory is for school text books; it is part of the
establishment's supporting mythology. The elites who set up
these political systems understood very well how they actually

In an earlier chapter I described how colonial elites in
America (aka Founding Fathers) met in secret and designed a
constitution that ensured their own continued ascendency. In
this endeavor they violated the terms under which the
Constitutional Convention had been assembled, and then they
used their wealth and influence to push through the
ratification of their document. The process by which the new
republic was founded illustrated how the political process
would subsequently operate--both processes being characterized
by elite intrigue, deception, and manipulation.

After the Convention completed its work, a debate raged
throughout the colonies as to whether the new Constitution
should be ratified. As part of this debate, a series of
newspaper articles appeared that have come to be known as the
Federalist Papers. These papers reveal with considerable
candor the elite reasoning behind the design of the new
government. Zinn writes:

      In Federalist Paper #10, James Madison argued that
      representative government was needed to maintain peace in a
      society ridden by factional disputes... "Those who hold and
      those who are without property have ever formed distinct
      interests in society." The problem he said, was how to control
      the factional struggles that came from inequalities in
      wealth.Minority factions could be controlled, he said, by the
      principle that decisions would be by vote of the majority.
      So the real problem, according to Madison, was a majority
      faction, and there the solution have an "extensive
      republic", that is, a large nation ranging over thirteen
      states, for then "it will be more difficult for all who feel
      it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with
      each other...The influence of factious leaders may kindle a
      flame within their particular States, but will be unable to
      spread a general conflagration through the other States."

The purpose of the new system, in other words, was to enable
the colonial elite to retain their economic and political
dominance by systematically preventing the ascendency of any
kind of popular democratic movement. The rules of the
adversarial game were carefully worked out so as to enable the
successful management of factionalism  by the elite
establishment. The system was consciously designed to
facilitate elite rule and that is how it has functioned ever

* Divide and rule

Directly after the ratification of the Constitution, two
elite-led political parties were established. Madison,
Jefferson, and Monroe joined the Democrat-Republicans, while
Hamilton, Washington, and Adams joined the Federalists. This
set the pattern for U.S. politics ever since: two mainstream
parties, both controlled by wealthy elites, and providing the
illusion of choice to voters. The two major parties had the
funding to carry out major national campaigns, and then as now
people were corralled into choosing between the lesser of two
evils when they cast their ballots.

From the beginning, the primary agenda of all mainstream
parties has been to facilitate economic growth and the further
enrichment of the wealthy elites who control both the economy
and the government. I do not mean to imply that the elite were
then, or are today, a monolith with a single consensus agenda.
There have always been ideological divisions and different
cliques competing for relative advantage. These differences
play themselves out partly in political campaigns, and lead to
rhetoric that attempts to attract voters to supporting one
clique rather than the other. Each party tries to convince
voters that the other party is to be feared, and that their
own party will lead to popular prosperity. Voters have a
choice, but it is always between two different elite agendas
which differ only in the tactics by which growth is to be
facilitated--and by which the people are to be kept under

As Madison anticipated, political stability in America has
been achieved through the management of factionalism. At any
given time, some sizable faction was always doing rather well
under the elite-managed system of economic growth, and these
more prosperous elements provided a solid base of support for
government policies. But there was always a mass of unrest
boiling up from the less advantaged segments of society.
Particularly with industrialization and the increasing
dominance of capitalist dynamics, wealth was very unequally
distributed, workers, women, and minorities were exploited,
and there were always movements of various kinds attempting to
influence the elite agenda. These movements were contained
either geographically, or else by means of pitting one faction
against the other. The Populists probably came closer than any
other movement to challenging elite hegemony, but they too
finally fell prey to adversarial dynamics when they cast their
lot in the electoral game.

Today the grassroots U.S. population is divided into two
primary factions, usually known as liberals and conservatives,
or left and right. This split represents a rather
sophisticated version of factional manipulation. It does not
represent any real difference of interests. It is not the case
that grassroots liberals and conservatives are from different
economic strata, or have different self-interest agendas for
fundamental national policies. The divisions, though deeply
felt, are not over matters of state, but over issues such as
abortion, gay rights, and the like. These kinds of issues,
according to the Constitution, are not even the business of
the Federal Government--they are the kind that should be dealt
with locally or at the state level. But divisiveness is so
effective at controlling the population that the major parties
are happy to promote such issues to the national level, where
they can be exploited to generate fear and anxiety. Campaigns
and rhetoric are focused on these peripheral issues, and
fundamental issues of national policy never even come up for
discussion. Campaigns have no more relevance to national
policy than do high school debates, and as in high school
debates the winner is decided more on the style of their
presentations than on the validity of their positions.

As I write, an election campaign is in progress which
exemplifies the depths to which the American political system
has fallen. The two major candidates are John Kerry and G.W.
Bush, while Ralph Nader is running under an independent
banner. Bush's support comes not from his fundamental
policies, but from his exploitation of religious
fundamentalism and conservative fears. His supporters have
been conditioned to believe that the deterioration of American
society is due to a loss of traditional morals, and they fear
a liberal victory. Kerry's support comes not from his
policies, but from the fact that he is not Bush. Bush scares
liberals to death. The main topical issue of the
day--imperialism in Iraq--has been declared off limits by both
major candidates. They differ only in the tactics by which the
imperialism should be carried out. And the really important
issues of the day--such as fundamental economic policy and the
abandonment of the Bill of Rights--are never mentioned by
either side or by the media.

The attitude of liberals toward this campaign is particularly
instructive. If the principle of representative democracy had
any relevance at all, then one would expect very widespread
support for Nader. He identifies and articulates issues that
are dear to the hearts of liberals, his policy positions are
principled and openly expressed, and they are in line with
liberal thinking and with the agendas of progressive
activists. One would expect him to be the clear choice for
liberals and progressives. If they actively supported him, he
might even be able to assemble a majority following in the
population. And yet, the general liberal response to Nader's
campaign is to label him a 'spoiler' and to reject him as a
serious candidate. When it comes to elections, liberals are
quick to abandon the principles that they spend the rest of
their time fighting for. In the choice matrix of the
adversarial game, fear trumps a clear opportunity for
democratic expression.

Permit me to offer a humble metaphor for our political
condition. Two bullies stand up in the school yard and declare
that one of them is to be elected 'King of The School'. Their
'campaigns' consist of pointing at one another and saying,
"He's even nastier than I am."  Another boy stands up and
says, "Hey kids, we don't need this. Let's get together and
avoid both bullies." All the other kids bleat "Baahh!" and
tell him to sit down. Under this divide-and-rule system, no
sheep dog is needed--the sheep are frightened into herding one

* The potential for a fascist takeover

Although the adversarial game of American politics has always
been controlled and manipulated by the elite establishment,
campaigns have not always been so totally devoid of
substantive issues as they are today. In earlier years, for
example, the Democratic Party was closely allied with labor
unions--and this brought some element of real choice into the
election process. In earlier years the middle classes were
benefiting from government policy--and politicians could put
forward their agendas, with at least some degree of candor,
and hope to attract voters. But as capitalism faces its final
global growth crisis, and has been forced to pursue
neoliberalism, elites no longer have anything of substance to
offer voters--apart from the continuing decline of civil
society. Elites have no choice but to turn politics into a
circus that has no relevance to the affairs of state, and that
is what they have done--not only in the U.S. but, ever
increasingly, throughout the Western 'democracies'.

This is a very dangerous political scenario. When people begin
to sense that the traditional political system can no longer
offer them hope, they tend to become easy prey for
fear-mongering demagogues. This is the kind of scenario that
enabled the rise of fascism following World War I. In that era
as well, though for different reasons, capitalism was facing a
growth crisis, in that case leading to the Great Depression.
While U.S. elites took the New Deal approach in response to
this crisis, the elites of Germany and Italy responded by
covertly supporting fascist movements. Under fascism, those
elites were able to mobilize their nations for a program of
aggressive imperial expansion--and by that means they got
their capitalist economies, and trains, running again.

Fascism is a recipe for imperialist aggression under
capitalism, and its ingredients include fear, racism, cultism,
patriotism, and the suppression of dissent. Whether or not you
can join me in characterizing the neocon clique as fascist,
you must at least admit that their program shares many of the
characteristics of fascism. Their New American Century agenda
parallels very closely Hitler's Mein Kampf agenda, both in its
plans for grandiose military conquest and in its spirit of
merciless self righteousness. The Patriot Acts are parallel to
the measures brought in by the Nazis to suppress dissent, with
'enemy combatant' being the updated term for 'enemy of the
Reich'. In Guantanamo and in Abu Ghraib--and in who knows how
many other secret detention centers-- we have seen evidence of
something very close to concentration camps, complete with
sadistic torture, rape, and murder. With the War on Terror,
and its multi-colored crazy-making alerts, we see the
systematic use of fear to manipulate the population. For
Hitler, it was the fear of 'the international Jewish-communist
conspiracy', for the neocons, it's the fear of 'the
international Muslim-terrorist conspiracy'. In order to get
the juices of fear flowing, Hitler made use of his Reichstag
Fire, and the neocons made use of their 9/11 Pearl Harbor. And
as Hitler created a Nazi cult based on his version of Teutonic
mythology, so Bush seeks his popular base in a cultish version
of Christian fundamentalism that is fed and nurtured by a
sophisticated and well-funded propaganda campaign delivered
via pulpits and talk radio. Given that G.W.'s grandpa,
Prescott Bush, was an enthusiastic Nazi collaborator, these
are parallels that should not be ignored.

There has not yet been a full-blown fascist takeover, because
we have not yet seen the systematic incarceration of domestic
dissidents, nor have we seen a suspension of the political
process. But the groundwork has been laid and the systems are
in place by which such a takeover could be readily
accomplished. All it would take would be a code-red alert and
a transfer of power to FEMA, as provided for in existing
legislation and in Presidential orders. In such a scenario,
communication channels would presumably be taken over by the
military and we could not be sure about what is going on
outside of our own local area. There might be pitched battles
and mass arrests, and no one outside of the affected area
would even know it was happening. Instead, we'd be glued to
our TV's watching whatever fear-propaganda they chose to
fabricate and broadcast. Recently Homeland Security announced
that it's making plans for an election postponement, based on
alleged intelligence reports, and under the circumstances that
is a very ominous development.

In addition, the Navy is sending seven aircraft carrier groups
to carry out 'exercises' in the seas around China, an act
considered highly provocative by the Chinese regime. Never
before have so many carrier groups been deployed in one place.
China is the ultimate military target of the neocon's New
American Century agenda, and the possibility must be
considered that they intend to provoke a war with China while
still occupying the White House. This would be very easy for
them to accomplish by a variety of means. They could stage a
fake incident, like JBJ did in the Gulf of Tonkin, or they
could create a real incident by 'accidently' violating Chinese
airspace or territorial waters in a way that compels the
Chinese to respond. In the event of such a war, it would seem
quite natural to go into the code-red scenario domestically.

When progressives consider their relationship to the electoral
process, it is important that they give as much attention to
the fascist downside potential as they do to the progressive
upside potential. Indeed, the dynamics of capitalism and the
adoption of neoliberalism creates a situation where fascists
now have more hope of gaining from politics than do
progressives. And it is important for us to remember that the
political environment leading up to Hitler's assumption of
power was characterized by a polarized struggle between
ultra-left and ultra-right movements. The two sides drove one
another to radical positions and created a climate of fear and
extreme political volatility. In such circumstances, people
are prone to welcome any strong hand that offers stability, no
matter how distasteful.

* The Harmonization Imperative

For two tactical reasons, then, the pursuit of a 'progressive
victory' via the electoral system is a no-win idea. The first
reason is simply that such a project cannot succeed. The
divisive power of the establishment media and political
machines are too powerful. Elites have refined the management
of factionalism into a science. We all know this intuitively,
and that is why most progressives don't want to 'waste' their
vote on a Nader-style candidacy.

The second tactical reason is that a strong and aggressive
progressive movement--within the context of neoliberalism and
adversarial politics--would heighten the fears of the right,
fan the flames of polarization, and help facilitate an overt
fascist takeover. Indeed, if a progressive movement showed any
signs of gaining power, the elite regime would be likely to
play the fascist card in self-defense. This is why I'm writing
this book instead of campaigning for Nader.

There is also a more strategic reason why a 'progressive
victory' is a no-win idea--even if it were achievable. Such a
victory would perpetuate hierarchy and the adversarial game.
The progressives would be on top for a while, but society
would remain divided. Progressive legislation would presumably
be enacted, but it would be enacted and enforced by a
centralized government. Those in opposition would rankle under
what they perceived to be a leftist dictatorship. The forces
of reaction would exploit this divisiveness and there would
always be a danger that the political pendulum would swing
back to the right. This is in part how Reagan was able to come
to power-- an eventuality that would have seemed inconceivable
during the euphoric progressive resurgence that followed the
resignation of Richard Nixon.

If we want to transform society both economically and
politically, then we must first transform our culture. If we
want a non-dominator culture, we cannot achieve it by using
dominator methods. Such a culture cannot be imposed by a
centralized government, it must be grown from the grassroots.
The Soviet experience demonstrates what can happen when a
centralized government sets out to create a brave new world in
the name of 'the people'. A dictatorship of the proletariat is
just another kind of hierarchical rule by elites.

In order to escape from the trap of factionalism, we need to
find a way to get beyond the superficial issues that divide
us. Underneath our political and religious beliefs we are all
human beings who want a better and saner world for our
families and our descendents. Instead of focusing on what
divides us, and struggling to prevail over the 'other', we
need to find a way to focus on what unites us--and learn how
to work together to achieve the kind of world we all want. We
face a common crisis as neoliberal capitalism destroys our
societies and threatens our life support systems. This crisis
presents us with an unprecedented opportunity to find our
common ground, as there is no sizable segment of the
population that benefits from the direction the regime is
taking us in. Factionalism no longer has any economic
teeth--the regime keeps us divided not by appealing to our
self interest but by means of manufactured and sensationalized
fears and anxieties.

If We the People are to respond effectively to our
Transformational Imperative--to save the world and humanity
from its crisis--we need first to actualize our common
identity as We the People. We need to learn to see one another
as human beings rather than as 'us' and 'them'. We need to
learn how to harmonize our deep common interests instead of
accentuating our superficial differences. In order to respond
to our Transformational Imperative, we must first respond to
this Harmonization Imperative.

Fortunately, there is a proven means by which we can move
effectively toward cultural harmonization and overcome
cultural factionalism. That means goes under the simple name
of 'dialog', and the next chapter is devoted to examining the
remarkable results that been achieved by appropriate kinds of
dialog--and exploring how dialog might be employed to awaken
We the People and empower us together to respond to our
Transformational Imperative.


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Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland
    "...the Patriot Act followed 9-11 as smoothly as the
      suspension of the Weimar constitution followed the
      Reichstag fire."  
      - Srdja Trifkovic

    There is not a problem with the system.
    The system is the problem.

    Faith in ourselves - not gods, ideologies, leaders, or programs.
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