The American economist Richard Wolff brings Marxist ideas to life with clarity, simplicity and most importantly humour. He studied economics at some of the top universities in the US. He explains in his “occupy our future”talk how in all these years of studying economics the idea of questioning the capitalist system itself was unthinkable. He compares the taboo of not talking about the system to the way sex used to be taboo, concluding that we are better off now that we can talk about it.
Wolff praises the occupy movement, explaining that it has made a big impact on the way people think. The idea of the 99% and the 1% is now something that is being acknowledged. Although they may just be stating the obvious, it is one of those things that have gone unquestioned for many years. By exposing the inherent inequality that is generated by capitalism, we can begin to question the system itself and whether it is really the best that humanity can do it the 21st century.
In times of crisis, economists like Richard Wolff have found a new popularity among many who were previously hostile to his ideas. He now gets so many calls that he has to pick and choose where to speak and who to meet as it would be physically impossible to accept every invitation. According to Wolff the great depression of the 1930s (which was far worse than the current crisis) would not have been overcome if it wasn’t for the strength of the trade unions, socialist and communist ideas of the time. However he does not argue for another kind of new deal as such a deal is easily undone when the organisation of production remains unchanged.
The solution is in fact democracy. But democracy in the work place. It is almost absurd that many of us spend most of our lives in these places but we have very little control over what we produce, how we produce it and what happens to the money that doesn’t form a part of our wage packet.
I remember when I first came across conspiracy theories. I was about 19 and I was working as a street fundraiser. This meant that I got the chance to speak to a wide range of people. There were a few that mentioned websites like “prison planet” and 9/11 truth. I remember one guy who enthusiastically told me about some of the content and to be honest I didn’t really understand what he was talking about and I thought he was quite crazy. He seemed to me at the time to be someone who was addicted to the Internet.
I then came across the 9/11 truth movement at anti-war demonstrations. As always, I listened to what they had to say and I took their leaflets. However at this point I wasn’t convinced. Then my sister developed the obsession. I say “obsession” because I’ve always felt that those who were sucked into this idea became one track minded as if 9/11 truth was the one thing that we should be talking about. I did some research on Wikipedia, but I still didn’t find myself any further to the truth!
Then finally, I got sucked in. I gave into the chronic drug users and Internet addicts who kept whispering in my ear the echo of “the illuminati”, “the masons” and of course the Rothschilds. I started reading up on all these ideas and watched the videos. It became a bit of an obsession at one point. No matter how much of that kind of material you view, there is always more. But for some reason, you never really find the “truth” that you seek. When I came across David Icke and some of the other celebrities of that genre it started to border on the ridiculous. A lot of the material seemed more like what you might find in a sci-fi novel than the work of a political scientist, historian or genuine investigative journalist. However, I didn’t abandon conspiracy theories at this point; instead I just decided that there are many things that we don’t know and continued to investigate the idea.
In the end, some useful research did come out of the whole obsession. I came across an article in Indymedia which, although the idea was heavily influenced by conspiracy theory websites, it led me to discover the large amount of influence the Rockefeller family has in US politics. I found this out by looking at websites which were not influenced by conspiracy. It was at this point that I began to realize how false, useless and divisive these theories really are.
There are some things that conspiracy theories have in common; despite the fact that they can be used to influence those on the left as well as those on the far right. Below are the main reasons why I am now against all conspiracy theories. In stating my reasons I will also outline some of the common themes, which make them all as one united force in the spread of misinformation.
1.) They never call for any kind of political action to solve these problems. There is never any genuine movement that they want you to join and they have no connection whatsoever to any known activist organization on the left. The only kind of action I have come across is something called “non-compliance”- this is the idea that you must stay at home and cut yourself off from the system; rather than do something constructive about the problems we face.
2.) There is never any real evidence to back up their claims. Despite some of the conspiracies giving an alternative version of history that goes back as far as the beginning of the 20th century (if not further), never has there been any discovery, whatsoever that confirms any of their ideas to be true. Their so called “evidence” is often constructed by the use of Illuminati symbols, which are so general that they could be applied to almost anything or anyone. There is a limit to the amount of shapes you can make out of a company logo. Why is it their logo that makes them evil and not their actions; which are plain for everyone to see?
3.) What difference would it make if it is true? If the problem really is that the rich and powerful have secret societies or is the problem that they have so much wealth and power while most of humanity are living in poverty? When we begin to talk about the Illuminati we stop talking about the real problems of an economic system called capitalism that sustains itself through greed, wars and the poverty that most of the world are subjected to so that the rich can get richer. What do we do about greedy billionaires who are not part of a secret society? Are they the good guys? In other words it encourages us to focus on the occult rather than what these individuals and companies are doing that is actually evil and we don’t need to look at conspiracy to find the evidence.
4.) They discredit genuine political struggle. There are CT websites which claim that the Arab Spring was a plan by the west to destabilize the region. Many have fallen for this idea. It has only served to divide the left and create support for crumbling dictators like Assad in Syria. The regime’s propaganda fits in with the likes of infowars. Thousands have been killed in Syria and the evidence is everywhere. It is possible to be against imperialism and support the revolution. There is plenty of information out there that is not the mainstream media or conspiracy. If we really believe in freedom and equality then we must be for the people and against the ruling elites, no matter how close or far they are from the west. Your enemy’s enemy is not always your friend, especially when they are an enemy of their own people.
5.) They sometimes serve the interests of the far right. It’s one thing to be anti-Israel, anti-Zionist or even pro-Palestinian. But quite another to be anti-Semitic. The whole Jewish conspiracy is much more than simply an attack on Israel or Zionism. A film about the Rothschild family that was made before the second world war, depicts the Jewish family who lives in the ghetto, pretending to be humble and poor, but in fact being extremely wealthy. I very much doubt that the Rothschilds ever lived anywhere other than a mansion. The film was Nazi propaganda which tried to show how all Jews were rich, greedy and tightfisted. There are many videos that portray this idea in the modern era. Sometimes blaming the Jews themselves for the holocaust and sometimes explaining why the Jews hate the Arabs. But always blaming the Jews for everything- rather than the kind US republicans, for example. Not making it any different from Nazi propaganda; because that’s exactly what it is. The current European far right tend to be more anti-Islam than anti-Jew these days. They have their own conspiracy theories that they follow along with their usual highly distorted version of history.
6.) They are never anti-capitalist but are often anti-communist and anti-socialist. They are not against socialism in the way that someone on the left may be, they say it’s a part of the Illuminati’s plan. The fact that Karl Marx and Trotsky were Jewish also help to feed this myth- “Fascism and communism are the same thing”. Without any kind of explanation.
7.) They help those in power by making us think that they are more powerful than they are, by making us think that everything in history was a set up, by making us think that revolutions are simply orchestrated by some powerful group. They serve to dis-empower the people, spread fear, divide people and make activists look like their crazy and don’t have a clue what they are talking about.
Does it mean something that I have a total of 7 points? Was it deliberate? No of course it wasn’t! Only a misinformed conspiracy theory follower would believe that and I hope you’re not one.
A short documentary of the children who are left to sell what they can after their homes and school has been shelled. They go to visit their old school
Anti-government protests continue to wave their green, white ,black flags in Syria. According to the Local coordinating committees (LCC) the government opposition only gets bigger as the death toll increases. The Syrian people are brave and they are able to protest freely not because they are free from government oppression but because they have the Free Syria Army to protect them. They are also highly organised and able to trick the regime by organising fake protests and by carrying out other actions while the demonstrations continue so that the security forces are distracted by other activities. While Internet and telecommunications are often cut off and monitored, activists are organising themselves through the use of satellite phones and using traditional meeting places like mosques where they “name” the demonstration. The Syrian people will win as we are seeing more soldiers desert and join the FSA, who continue to support the peoples revolution. Say “No to intervention” and say “Yes to solidarity”.
Egyptian women talk about their involvement in the uprising and their ongoing struggle.
The first in a series of videos on youtube entitled “words of women from the Egyptian revolution.
Press cc for English subtitles