Chris Hedges Original Politics

America’s Fate: Oligarchy or Autocracy

The competing systems of power are divided between alternatives which widen the social and political divide — and increase potential for violent conflict.

By Chris Hedges / Original to ScheerPost

The competing systems of power in the United States are divided between oligarchy and autocracy. There are no other alternatives. Neither are pleasant. Each have peculiar and distasteful characteristics. Each pays lip service to the fictions of democracy and constitutional rights. And each exacerbates the widening social and political divide and the potential for violent conflict.

The oligarchs from the establishment Republican Party, figures such as Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney, George and Jeb Bush and Bill Kristol, have joined forces with the oligarchs in the Democratic Party to defy the autocrats in the new Republican Party who have coalesced in cult-like fashion around Donald Trump or, if he does not run again for president, his inevitable Frankensteinian doppelgänger. 

Original illustration by Mr. Fish.

The alliance of Republican and Democratic oligarchs exposes the burlesque that characterized the old two-party system, where the ruling parties fought over what Sigmund Freud called the “narcissism of minor differences” but were united on all the major structural issues including massive defense spending, free trade deals, tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, the endless wars, government surveillance, the money-saturated election process, neoliberalism, austerity, deindustrialization, militarized police and the world’s largest prison system.

The liberal class, fearing autocracy, has thrown in its lot with the oligarchs, discrediting and rendering impotent the causes and issues it claims to champion. The bankruptcy of the liberal class is important, for it effectively turns liberal democratic values into the empty platitudes those who embrace autocracy condemn and despise. So, for example, censorship is wrong, unless the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop are censored, or Donald Trump is banished from social media. Conspiracy theories are wrong, unless those theories, such as the Steele dossier and Russiagate, can be used to damage the autocrat. The misuse of the legal system and law enforcement agencies to carry out personal vendettas are wrong, unless those vendettas are directed at the autocrat and those who support him. Giant tech monopolies and their monolithic social media platforms are wrong, unless those monopolies use their algorithms, control of information and campaign contributions to ensure the election of the oligarch’s anointed presidential candidate, Joe Biden. 

The perfidy of the oligarchs, masked by the calls for civility, tolerance, and respect for human rights, often outdoes that of the autocracy. The Trump administration, for example, expelled 444,000 asylum seekers under Title 42, a law that permits the immediate expulsion of those who potentially pose a public health risk and denies the expelled migrants the right to make a case to stay in the U.S. before an immigration judge. The Biden administration not only embraced the Trump order in the name of fighting the pandemic, but has thrown out more than 690,000 asylum seekers since taking office in January. The Biden administration, on the heels of another monster hurricane triggered at least in part by climate change, has opened up 80 million acres for oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and boasted that the sale will produce 1.12 billion barrels of oil over the next 50 years. It has bombed Syria and Iraq, and on the way out the door in Afghanistan murdered 10 civilians, including seven children, in a drone strike. It has ended three pandemic relief programs, cutting off benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance that were given to 5.1 million people who worked as freelancers, in the gig economy or as caregivers. An additional 3.8 million people who received assistance from the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation for the long-term unemployed have also lost access to their benefits. They join the 2.6 million people who no longer receive the $300 weekly supplement and are struggling to cope with a $1,200 drop in their monthly earnings. Biden’s campaign talk of raising the minimum wage, forgiving student debt, immigration reform, and making housing a human right has been forgotten. At the same time, the Democratic leadership, proponents of a new cold war with China and Russia, has authorized provocative military maneuvers along Russia’s borders and in the South China Sea and speeded up production of the long-range B-21 Raider stealth bomber.

Oligarchs come from the traditional nexus of elite schools, inherited money, the military and corporations, those C. Wright Mills calls the “power elite.” “Material success,” Mills notes, “is their sole basis of authority.” The word oligarchy is derived from the Greek word “oligos” meaning “a few” and it is the oligos who sees power and wealth as its birthright, which they pass on to their family and children, as exemplified by George W. Bush or Mitt Romney. The word “autocracy” is derived from the Greek word “auto” meaning “self,” as in one who rules by himself.

In decayed democracies the battle for power is always, as Aristotle points out, between these two despotic forces, although if there is a serious threat of socialism or left-wing radicalism, as was true in the Weimar Republic, the oligarchs forge an uncomfortable alliance with the autocrat and his henchmen to crush it. This is why the donor class and hierarchy of the Democratic Party sabotaged the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, although on the political spectrum Sanders is not a radical, and publicly stated, as the former CEO of Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein did, that should Sanders be the nominee they would support Trump. The alliance between the oligarchs and the autocrats gives birth to fascism, in our case a Christianized fascism.

The oligarchs embrace a faux morality of woke culture and identity politics, which is anti-politics, to give themselves the veneer of liberalism, or at least the veneer of an enlightened oligarchy. The oligarchs have no genuine ideology. Their single-minded goal is the amassing of wealth, hence the obscene amounts of money accrued by oligarchs such as Bill Gates, Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos and the staggering sums of profit made by corporations that have, essentially, orchestrated a legal tax boycott, forcing the state to raise most of its revenues from massive government deficits, now totaling $3 trillion, and disproportionately taxing the working and middle classes. 

Oligarchies, which spew saccharine pieties and platitudes, engage in lies that are often far more destructive to the public than the lies of a narcissist autocrat. Yet, the absence of an ideology among the oligarchs gives to oligarchic rule a flexibility lacking in autocratic forms of power. Because there is no blind loyalty to an ideology or a leader there is room in an oligarchy for limited reform, moderation and those who seek to slow or put a brake on the most egregious forms of injustice and inequality. 

An autocracy, however, is not pliable. It burns out these last remnants of humanism. It is based solely on adulation of the autocrat, no matter how absurd, and the fear of offending him. This is why politicians such as Lindsey Graham and Mike Pence, at least until he refused to invalidate the election results, humiliated themselves abjectly and repeatedly at the feet of Trump. Pence’s unforgivable sin of certifying the election results instantly turned him into a traitor. One sin against an autocrat is one sin too many. Trump supporters stormed the capital on Jan. 6 shouting “Hang Mike Pence.” As Cosimo de’ Medici remarked, “We are nowhere commanded to forgive our friends.”

The political and economic disempowerment that is the consequence of oligarchy infantilizes a population, which in desperation gravitates to a demagogue who promises prosperity and a restoration of a lost golden age, moral renewal based on “traditional” values and vengeance against those scapegoated for the nation’s decline. 

The Biden’s administration’s refusal to address the deep structural inequities that plague the country is already ominous. In the latest Harvard/Harris poll Trump has overtaken Biden in approval ratings, with Biden falling to 46 percent and Trump rising to 48 percent. Add to this the report by the University of Chicago Project on Security & Threats that found that 9 percent of Americans believe the “use of force is justified to restore Donald J. Trump to the presidency.”  More than one-fourth of adults agree, to varying degrees, the study found, that, “the 2020 election was stolen, and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.” The polling indicates that 8.1 percent — 21 million Americans  — share both these beliefs. Anywhere from 15 million to 28 million adults would apparently support the violent overthrow of the Biden administration to restore Trump to the presidency.  

“The insurrectionist movement is more mainstream, cross-party, and more complex than many people might like to think, which does not bode well for the 2022 mid-term elections, or for that matter, the 2024 Presidential election,” the authors of the Chicago report write.

Fear is the glue that holds an autocratic regime in place. Convictions can change. Fear does not. The more despotic an autocratic regime becomes, the more it resorts to censorship, coercion, force, and terror to cope with its endemic and often irrational paranoia. Autocracies, for this reason, inevitably embrace fanaticism. Those who serve the autocracy engage in ever more extreme acts against those the autocrat demonizes, seeking the autocrat’s approval and the advancement of their careers. 

Revenge against real or perceived enemies is the autocrat’s single-minded goal. The autocrat takes sadistic pleasure in the torment and humiliation of his enemies, as Trump did when he watched the mob storm the capital on Jan. 6, or, in a more extreme form, as Joseph Stalin did when he doubled over in laughter as his underlings acted out the desperate pleading for his life by the condemned Grigori Zinoviev, once one of the most influential figures in the Soviet leadership and the chairman of the Communist International, on the way to his execution in 1926.

Autocratic leaders, as Joachim Fest writes, are often “demonic nonentities.” 

“Rather than the qualities which raised him from the masses, it was those qualities he shared with them and of which he was a representative example that laid the foundation for his success,” Fest wrote of Adolf Hitler, words that could apply to Trump. “He was the incarnation of the average, ‘the man who lent the masses his voice and through whom the masses spoke.’ In him the masses encountered themselves.”

The autocrat, who celebrates a grotesque hyper-masculinity, projects an aura of omnipotence. He demands obsequious fawning and total obedience. Loyalty is more important than competence. Lies and truth are irrelevant. The statements of the autocrat, which can in short spaces of time be contradictory, cater exclusively to the transient emotional needs of his followers. There is no attempt to be logical or consistent. There is no attempt to reach out to opponents. Rather, there is a constant stoking of antagonisms that steadily widens the social, political, and cultural divides. Reality is sacrificed for fantasy. Those who question the fantasy are branded as irredeemable enemies.

“Anyone who wants to rule men first tries to humiliate them, to trick them out of their rights and their capacity for resistance, until they are as powerless before him as animals,” wrote Elias Canetti in “Crowds and Power” of the autocrat:

“He uses them like animals and, even if he does not tell them so, in himself he always knows quite clearly that they mean just as little to him; when he speaks to his intimates, he will call them sheep or cattle. His ultimate aim is to incorporate them into himself and to suck the substance out of them. What remains of them afterwards does not matter to him. The worse he has treated them, the more he despises them. When they are no more use at all, he disposes of them as he does excrement, simply seeing to it that they do not poison the air of his house.”

It is, ironically, the oligarchs who build the institutions of oppression, the militarized police, the dysfunctional courts, the raft of anti-terrorism laws used against dissidents, ruling through executive orders rather than the legislative process, wholesale surveillance and the promulgation of laws that overturn the most basic constitutional rights by judicial fiat. Thus, the Supreme Court rules that corporations have the right to pump unlimited amounts of money into political campaigns because it is a form of free speech, and because corporations have the constitutional right to petition the government. The oligarchs do not use these mechanisms of oppression with the same ferocity as the autocrats. They employ them fitfully and therefore often ineffectually. But they create the physical and legal systems of oppression so that an autocrat, with the flick of a switch, can establish a de facto dictatorship.

 The autocrat oversees a naked kleptocracy in place of the hidden kleptocracy of the oligarchs. But it is debatable whether the more refined kleptocracy of the oligarchs is any better than the crude and open kleptocracy of the autocrat. The autocrat’s attraction is that as he fleeces the public, he entertains the crowd. He orchestrates engaging spectacles. He gives vent, often through vulgarity, to the widespread hatred of the ruling elites. He provides a host of phantom enemies, usually the weak and the vulnerable, who are rendered nonpersons. His followers are given license to attack these enemies, including the feckless liberals and intellectuals who are a pathetic appendage to the oligarchic class. Autocracies, unlike oligarchies, make for engaging political theater. 

We must defy the oligarchs as well as the autocrats. If we replicate the cowardice of the liberal class, if we sell out to the oligarchs as a way to blunt the rise of autocracy, we will discredit the core values of a civil society and fuel the very autocracy we seek to defeat. Despotism, in all its forms, is dangerous. If we achieve nothing else in the fight against the oligarchs and the autocrats, we will at least salvage our dignity and integrity. 


Chris Hedges writes a regular original column for ScheerPost. Click here to sign up for email alerts.

Chris Hedges
Chris HedgesChris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact. 

Copyright 2021 Chris Hedges

56 comments

  1. Usually Chris Hedges is talking about the religious fundamentalist fascists as the major problem. They are mostly ignorant, but well meaning within the scope of their communities, but maybe 2-3% as effective in shaping public opinion as the State Media.
    While I agree Trump would like to be an Autocrat, ruling by fiat, he was an ineffectual man child as President, a loud-mouthed Outsider held well in check by a shocked Establishment, who could not believe he had snookered the Electorate, at least Electoral College-wise, better than their preferred Hillary (although few would argue he was more than a middle finger to the establishment).
    With the weight of House and Senate, all Government Agencies (except SCOTUS), including the CIA which seems to rule the US Police State now, Biden would seem the fitting Autocrat AND Figurehead for the Oligarchs. More a “Hitler” and Fascist in his actions than even Trump could be in words (anyone can spew hate, Biden can move the levers of power with his hate). Biden, for ~50 years in DC is the Champion of “all the major structural issues including massive defense spending, free trade deals, tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, the endless wars, government surveillance, the money-saturated election process, neoliberalism, austerity, deindustrialization, militarized police and the world’s largest prison system.” Biden has a long history of always being on the wrong side. It is fitting that he, one of the most Corrupt Presidents in American history, reaches his ambition as the Emperor of the American Empire.

    1. “More a “Hitler” and Fascist in his actions than even Trump could be in words (anyone can spew hate, Biden can move the levers of power with his hate).”

      Really? The problem with overheated rhetoric, whether from Trump or from Hedges, is that it creates an environment where everyone says objectively silly – but actually quite dangerous – things. It is not an advertisement for Biden to say that he is rather clearly less fascist than Trump. And from a Left perspective, he’s been better than one would have expected from his record.

      Yes, the Dems tried to delegitimize Trump with their recklessly fabricated Russiagate. Biden was one of the Dems, but he wasn’t in the lead there. In their race to the bottom of fascism, Trump outdid the worst Dems, even Hillary, with his bigger-than-Russiagate lie of 2020 being stolen and then with January 6, his contempt for elections.

      What levers of power has Biden moved with his hate more effectively than Trump moved with his hate? None to speak of. Biden is a Hitler? Even the most brainwashed Trumpite Republicans don’t say this; they understand how foolish it sounds. Even Trump wasn’t a Hitler, hardly a Mussolini at his worst.

      1. According to this Sussman indictment the Democrats did more that “delegitimize” Trump.

        They allegedly engaged in a full blown conspiracy to nullify his presidency. They not only hired lawyers and tech firms to carry this out but also enlisted government agencies like the FBI to alternately join them in this illegal scheme and publicly look the other way as a compliant media assistants them.

        I care little for Trump. But we all should care when elements of a political party along with elements of the national security state conspire to nullify an election.

        The “noble lie” will always come back to haunt us. And corruption supposedly for a good reason is still corruption.

  2. It’s certainly a sad commentary on the massive ideological confusions that characterize our times that here on a ‘mainstream’ Left forum, one of the ‘stars’ among the American Left’s intelligentsia is actually advocating, with a straight face, with not one trace of irony, that the Left “must defy the oligarchs”.

    Gee… One wonders if he also writes essays arguing that the Left should represent working people?

    Whew! What incisive hard-hitting cutting-edge analysis. He really cuts to the nitty-gritty, doesn’t he?

    Chris Hedges, the fiery Left ideologue, observing that the American Left is currently fully supporting the primary agenda of the American Ruling Oligarchy, thinks the American Left shouldn’t just oppose Trump, but rather should oppose the rapacious Ruling Elites who rule over our nation and are causing so much human suffering, both in our own nation, and all over the world.

    Man!….He sure can get to the heart of things… (Has he always been this passive aggressive?)

    Where.. O where (and how) did the Left get this ‘lost’… So ‘lost that a leading Leftist commentator would actually feel the need to advocate that the Left should oppose the power structure that is causing suffering among the proletariat?

    Mr. Hedges clearly lacks the perspective to see himself, and hear his words, from a ‘classic’ Left perspective. Way back before Identity Politics, back before the American Left had voluntarily mortally wounded itself by completely abandoning Class Analysis, this essay would have been criticized, if not ridiculed, as an exercise in ‘brilliantly’ stating what is VERY obvious to even a sophomore English major who just came to her first meeting of radicals last week.

    It’s not his fault, I suppose. What’s a person in the limelight, who exudes pretenses to ‘leadership’, but wants everybody to like him most of all, s’posed t’ do? Criticize the Left for being so ‘dumb’ that it needs reminding that it should oppose the Ruling Oligarchy?

    Naw. That’s going too far. He wants to make people feel good about themselves while he sneaks in the subliminal message (somehow) that they are acting like complete idiots.

    May History record that in Sept 0f ’21 Chris Hedges wrote an essay about how the Left should be opposing the Ruling Oligarchy.

    The future of all Humanity hangs in the balance. Can people on the American Left grasp the subtle genius in his advocacy? We must oppose the Ruling Oligarchy, saith one who would lead us.

    Hear! Hear! Well said. We on the Left must oppose the Ruling Oligarchy. Let’s hear some appreciation for Mr. Hedges.

    1. Yeah I almost wanted to stop reading after that whole spiel on the etymology of “oligarchy” – reads more like a 11th grade essay for AP humanities class than the work of some renowned leftist journalist . But then again, when has Hedges ever offered any analysis in-depth? When has he ever written a Marxist critique? If at all, he’s just the “intellectual” version of Jimmy Dore.

    2. Your last sentence finally led me to understand your position. I understand your overall frustration. One thing is certain, the final finale is in sight.

    3. He’s way better than you. Smarter, moral, in contact with “the scum of the earth” through his prison teaching ministry. So if you want to criticize, please write something coherent so the rest of us don’t waste out time.

      1. Thank you for expressing your sentiments, Tom.

        I was just writing a comment about people like you. You have no idea on God’s Green Earth how to ‘do’ democracy, do you, sir?

        You assume that your opinion is unanimously held. (Other than by me, of course). The ‘split’ here, as you so self-servingly ‘see’ it, is between me, and “the rest of us”. Everybody else is on your side. Right?

        Okey doke, then. Thanks for weighing in. Message received. Just wanted to let you know I got it, and that I have better things to do than converse with a person who presents himself so overtly as such an overt bigot.

        Copied and pasted:

        bigotry: noun
        big·​ot·​ry | \ ˈbi-gə-trē \
        plural bigotries
        Definition of bigotry
        1: obstinate or intolerant devotion to one’s own opinions and prejudices : the state of mind of a bigot
        overcoming his own bigotry
        2: acts or beliefs characteristic of a bigot

        Thanks, again.

  3. Chris Hedges sees through eyes clearly. The masses do not. In truth this society is already lost and the only question is what will replace it. All the options seem to be different versions of hell. I see no realistic possibility short of catastrophe because the masses are ignorant, brainwashed and devoid of a moral and ethical center. A man who will stand for nothing will fall for anything. I see no daylight at all. That being said, it’s such a beautiful day. Time to go enjoy it.

    1. The cliché “A man who will stand for nothing will fall for anything” does not convince me. For example, Trump supporters do stand for something, TRUMP. That cliché needs re-writing.

  4. The rich and powerful will erect fortresses of wealth against the rising tide of human suffering and a changing climate.

    Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit Atrocities — Voltaire

    Oligarchy or Autocracy? this latest column from Chris suggests we have past “the tipping point”.

  5. Many excellent observations here. US autocrats seem fragmented and irrational, sheep flocks readily divided by propaganda. Many have the courage to take real action, but are lost in national/regional/tribal mirages. They must be incorporated into reform movements to bring fear to the oligarchy. Those movements will have to dispense with green/gay issues to be more than distractions.

    The reforms needed must :
    1. Rigorously restrict funding of elections and mass media to limited individual donations;
    2. Rigorously monitor public officials and their families and associates for corrupt influence;
    3. Restore election integrity;
    4. Restrict foreign military operations and prohibit their initiation by the executive;
    5. Establish mass media corporations with viewpoint balance in all operations;
    6. Establish the Congress of Policy Debate as a fourth branch of government to educate citizens;

    1. Sam, six excellent points, that I even I (writing from the 51st state: Australia) and an observer of US politics considers to be a good place to start.
      I’d like to add:
      7. Guarantees on the rights of citizens to vote; some of the attacks on this right seem really bizarre from an Australian perspective, where it’s extremely difficult to shaft someone’s right to vote.
      8. Open/modify the US system to permit more than 2 major parties to represent a diversity of opinion; obviously the GOP & the Dems don’t represent a large sector of the US public, which may partially account for ‘low’ voter turn-out.

    2. How in the world can the US reform itself when it’s declining so rapidly? In my prosperous and peaceful neighborhood, there are thefts taking place that we never had before.

      Maybe it’s time to leave the US if you can. Smart and wealthy Jews left Germany in the ’30s. Perhaps the best thing is to get the f-out of the US while it’s still an option.

  6. An editorial by Chris Hedges says that while America sees two choices , oligarchy and autocracy, neither will benefit the public and we’re fucked. I guess it is in a way an explanation of why the Democrat and Republican parties do not seem essentially different. For me, how can America recover? regain? and regain what? When did we ever have a moral and ethical government? The Constitution is just a procedural document. If the public ignores its “representatives” then what government do we really have? Democracy was, at least once, seen as a way for individuals to represent their personal values and interests. Instead an entire “entertainment” industry has sprung up to dissuade individuals from doing anything except never-ending masturbation.

    So, even if we can recover from the COVID lie, we are still left with a government that is wrong.

    1. The COVID lie? Which part of the COVID lie are you referring to? Now fast approaching 700K deaths over a 20 month period seems like a cold hard truth.

      1. One part of the covid lie(s) you could start with is how an annual death count, which would make the (ginned up) mortality data for covid (alleged disease for which no viral cause has ever been validly demonstrated according to Koch’s postulates) comparable to that of flu and pneumonia (which have gone officially uncounted), has given way to a running total (20 months, and counting). And that’s just the top of the tip of the iceberg. You’re basing your cold hard truth on the panic porn of propaganda.

      2. One part of the covid lie(s) you could start with is how an annual death count, which would make the (ginned up) mortality data for covid (alleged disease for which no viral cause has ever been validly demonstrated according to Koch’s postulates) comparable to that of flu and pneumonia (which have gone officially uncounted), has given way to a running total (20 months, and counting). And that’s just the top of the tip of the iceberg. You’re basing your cold hard truth on the panic porn of propaganda, which proceeds to repeat lies until they become truth.

      3. 700 k deaths from what causes?
        Kary Mullis, the man who invented the PCR test, stated it was not a diagnostic tool. It’s too inaccurate.

  7. “The competing systems of power in the United States are divided between oligarchy and autocracy.”

    Both systems agree on many things. Tightly centralized power in the hands of a few favored elitist demigods (a group of them or just the family of the autocrat). Sidelining or full-on crushing of the thoughts, wants, needs, and rights of the Very Many. All of the “good stuff” being sucked and funneled up to the elitist demigod hierarchy. Two roads that ultimately lead to the same ugly destination of depravity and denial of basic human rights and decency for most of humanity.

    “The political and economic disempowerment that is the consequence of oligarchy infantilizes a population…”

    The American populace was deliberately and institutionally infantized right after the Greatest Generation of the 1940s era began to pass the torch beginning with the Boomers. The education system… the business of organized religion… the tribal camps that set up in politics and on certain spots of the AM Radio dial… and other social influencers all set out to keep Americans in a perpetual pre-juvenile state of mind. Some of the Boomers held on to parts of the values of the Greatest Generation, but many others tossed off those values in an attempt to forge a new identity of self-indulgence and rejection of older ways. And each generation that has followed the Boomers have fallen further down this road that leads to the Daddy State taking over all aspects of one’s life with many of the infantized happy to wait for their feedings and media amusements and their weekly allowance to show up from ‘Daddy’ State. No, not every single person in each generation. But a vast majority in each of them. The evidence is all around us.

    “We must defy the oligarchs as well as the autocrats.”

    We must first get out of the sand box and put down our toys. We must get back on the path to pursuing maturity and re-discovering an ability to think and reason again that the Daddy State has worked so hard to erase. In other words, start living like… adults.

  8. “But it is debatable whether the more refined kleptocracy of the oligarchs is any worse than the crude and open kleptocracy of the autocrat.”

    I believe Hedges meant to write “any better” rather than “any worse,” makes more sense that way.

    Spot on otherwise, preaching to the choir unfortunately.

  9. “The light at the end of the tunnel is just the light of an oncoming train”. Robert Spence Lowell–

    If we cannot even produce a viable third party we really are screwed.

  10. Three quick points:

    1) I completely agree with the thrust of this piece, particularly regarding what now seems clear, eg.: that the liberals and “progressives” are now so fearful of Trump Fascism, that they are making compromises and concessions that will guarantee failure and stoke the Trump revival;

    2) I disagree with this:

    “Yet, the absence of an ideology among the oligarchs gives to oligarchic rule a flexibility lacking in autocratic forms of power. Because there is no blind loyalty to an ideology or a leader there is room in an oligarchy for limited reform, moderation and those who seek to slow or put a brake on the most egregious forms of injustice and inequality. ”

    There is no “absence of ideology”. The oligarchs and their “progressive” enablers do have an ideology – it’s called “Neoliberalism” and it is disguised by what Professor Nancy Fraser calls “Progressive Neoliberalism’.

    3) In terms of diverting, dividing, and entertaining the masses, again the “progressive faction” is just as adept as the autocrats – thus identity politics and culture war.

  11. Or as the saying goes “shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations”.

  12. This is a tour de force in Confirmation Bias. Make a list of bad things which would characterize an autocrat, or a oligarch, or a person. Then pick an organization or a person and find on that list some bad things that apply. Also ignore things that would be on the list of Good things for the class. Having found some bad that apply declare that proves they ARE the bad. We need a new name for this kind of use of confirmation bias. Trump’s not an angel but he’s hardly an autocrat. Bill Gates is an odd duck but he’s not an evil autocrat. Many who get characterized as oligarchy WORKED their way there, they didn’t inherit it. Look up the statistics, most of the RICH did NOT inherit it, the worked for it.

  13. American politics is criminal enterprise and should be treated as such with the police investigating the damage done by political lies. Instead, the consequences of lies are investigated internally by politicians in whose interest it is to condone and allow lies.
    The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It was never intended to allow lies to be told and be supported by all political parties. Trump gets to lie endlessly to the detriment of his followers, their health and the country – is that ok? If one lies to the police, the FBI there are jail-time consequences. If politicians lie it is SOCIAL VIOLENCE AGAINST THE ENTIRE POPULATION.
    Lying is NOT free speech it is destructive of the psychology of the individual, a destruction of morals, conscience and good will. It is subversive destruction of people’s hearts, minds lives, yet it never stops.Lies are now lies are Free Speech and that’s a lie!
    All the columns that Hedges writes are in tacit acceptance of the most basic crimes of the state and the monsters it has created.

  14. In 1925 Zinoviev, along with Kamenev, split from Stalin and joined Trotsky’s Left Opposition to Stalin and the ascendant Soviet bureaucracy, to split from the latter in 1927. Zinoviev was executed by Stalin in 1936 (not 1926), as part of the so-called “Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center” in the first of the purge ‘trials’ that primarily targeted the Bolshevik old guard. This ‘trial’ served as the template for the ‘Great Terror’ show trials that followed which continued to go after the Bolshevik old guard and wiped out key sectors of the Red Army officer corps and intelligence services.

    The extremely mediocre but psychopathic and manipulative Stalin — who as an autocrat personified the grey, remorseless mediocrity of the unaccountable Soviet bureaucracy — needed above all to prevent any potential opposition challenging his ‘infallibility’. Anyone with any ability at all was a potential ‘threat’, to be rounded up and sent to the gulag or shot for the merest suspicion of ‘deviation’. It’s a real shame that many naive but otherwise talented and intelligent young people, in the face of the most profound crisis in living memory and looking to left ‘communist’ politics beyond the abysmal shitlibery of social democracy, have such profound illusions in the dullard autocrat Stalin as a ‘revolutionary’.

  15. It’s been attempted many times by people with influence and money.
    It’s always failed.
    We are outgunned (literally) and out manoeuvred by sociopaths and psychopaths.
    All we can do is enjoy Life, as opposed to their dictates of ‘living’

  16. passed the tipping point…gone past the tipping point… …the rich have always done this; wealth buys armies, and so it goes until a larger force takes over…nuke winter or over heated planet does us all in anyway, money and power be damned
    ; Brother West says it best…no one gets out alive…

  17. I have a very progressive friend who is filled with all of the usual talking points (save the planet, save the species, equal distribution of wealth, etc.). I asked him once, “What are you going to do about the monsters who will invariably co-opt your utopia?” His answer, “Kill them all!” This told me everything I need to know about social justice warriors. 😉

    As for Chris Hedges, he is the best analyst of what is happening in the Real World. However, he has zero solutions to realistically fix what is wrong. See ya all in the Gulag. 🙂

  18. Thank-you to everyone for the comments, as it’s helpful to have different perspectives.

    I’d like to add, we are all responding to being individuals living within a vast, bureaucratic system that dwarfs us. I’m confident most will agree that our system, call it capitalism, neoliberalism, consumerism, what have you, will come to an end. My bet, especially after seeing discussions like those of Roger Hallam on youtube, is climate change. Even without climate change, the ever-expanding military-industrial complex and surveillance state creates a society none of us sympathetic to this site want.

    So, what to do besides throwing up our hands and going back to our private lives? All I can offer is that there will come points in time, where the right idea, the right movement, having laid some earlier groundwork, can seize the moment to deflect society onto a different path. It’s hard to know what, if any, influence we or Hedges or Scheerpost can have in the long run, but the seeds we plant can bear fruit in unexpected, meaningful ways. It can be argued, resistance itself, regardless of your wealth or power, matters in the face of adversity: as Chris has alluded to before, our choices can help us keep our humanity in the face of a very inhuman system.

    1. Our good citizen Cynical Rex writes:

      “All I can offer is that there will come points in time, where the right idea, the right movement, having laid some earlier groundwork, can seize the moment to deflect society onto a different path”.

      Well said. Exceedingly well said.

      I think in terms of ‘spirit’. Spirits have no independent existence. They can only ‘be’ in human hearts.

      We each have some power to choose which spirits we embrace. Many spirits seek surreptitious means of entering our hearts. They find space to dwell there, often un’seen’. Love? Empathy? Appetite? Desire? Lust?Jealousy? Envy? Power? Good? Evil? There are many choices we can make, but many great influences are blasted at us constantly trying to get us to choose to embrace spirits that do not serve our own “safety and happiness”.

      Political struggle lies ahead. It yet lies in the future. We must first confront a spiritual struggle before we are even competent enough to be capable of mounting a political struggle.

  19. As I watch the goings on today I think I agree with Chris Hedges. It would seem that the oligarchy option is marginally better and can be endured by the masses more successfully than can autocracy. We have an ongoing oligarchic existence which seems marginally better than what was just removed. No matter what happens Lewis Powell convinced the capitalists to overthrow democracy by buying politicians thus becoming the father of the death of the republic. Last word for Ben Franklin, we couldn’t keep the republic for much more than 200 years.

  20. More than ever, Hedges editorializes with empty abstractions and moral platitudes, refusing any honest investigative reporting into how autocracy and oligarchy are one and the same in the New (ab)Normal of global totalitarian rule being implemented under medical martial law with the covid coup, with which he remains a collaborator. And for all his career criticism of the U$ political duopoly, he once again shows a willing participation in the same hack journalism that reinforces such false and controlled opposition as MSM propaganda cranks out around Biden versus Trump (!), polls and all.

  21. Bows and flows of angel hair
    And ice cream castles in the air
    And feather canyons everywhere
    I’ve looked at clouds that way

    But now they only block the sun
    They rain and snow on everyone
    So many things I would have done
    But clouds got in my way

    I look at clouds from both sides now
    From up and down, and still somehow
    It’s clouds’ illusions I recall
    I really don’t know clouds at all,,,,,

    Joni Mitchell (both sides now)

  22. Always ironic that someone who has literally been in the top 1% in terms of what he makes per year for over 35 years… [MODERATED] … Screw the Democrats, they aren’t for the working class, no person who doesn’t work for their corporate party would believe that and obviously the Republicans are the same. It doesn’t take any kind of intellectual insight to know that. But the moralist who doesn’t live by his own code yet repeats the same points week after week should maybe start looking in the mirror. During the last 25 years, over a billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty, and the global poverty rate is now lower than it has ever been in recorded history. Yes things are horrible for a lot of people but to act like today is worse than it ever has been just doesn’t fall in line with facts.

    1. How are you measuring top 1%? Global? Assets? I edited out some of the other baseless slander fyi so you still make your main points … which seem to be that people with privilege or human flaws should not do political analysis, and the world is generally headed in the right direction despite hiccups…which seem to put you in the liberal Demo camp?

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