The following comes from an interview Boston Review web editor, David V. Johnson did with David Graeber, an anthropologist at Goldsmiths, University of London and an anarchist / activist, best known for being the “Anti-Leader of Occupy Wall Street.” He is also the author of a recently published book, Debt: The First 5,000 Years, in which he “marries his academic and activist selves by dissecting our moral confusion about debt, showing both how contingent our intuitions are in the light of anthropology and how our obtuseness has led to the mass suffering of austerity programs and financial crashes”. The first of the two-part internview can be found here. In it Graeber talks about why we don’t put children’s lives ahead of corporate shareholders, what it means to be a conservative todays, and the tradition of debt jubilees (a subject I’ve addressed in this space before).
“The current political regime in Washington is a great example of the fundamental conservatism of global leaders. I think that’s one of the explanations for why you have young people finally showing up in the streets. We had this guy who ran as a candidate of change. He didn’t run as a radical, but he had all the social-movement rhetoric that made you think that actually he was going to do things differently. His candidacy mobilized grass roots supporters as if this were a social movement. It was all very self-conscious, and all these young people became politicized and thought this was going to actually mean some kind of profound change.
And what do we get? We get this guy who is basically a classic conservative. The word conservative has changed in contemporary American English; now it means “extreme radical reactionary” or “right-winger.” But in the old-fashioned sense of wishing to conserve existing institutions in as much a viable long-term form, that’s what Obama turned out to be. Pretty much everything he’s done is along the lines of “How can we save the auto industry? How can we preserve the banking system without nationalizing it, without changing it in any fundamental way?” He did not map out a great new vision of a health system. He said the system we have is not viable, but here’s a plan where we can preserve the same principles of profit-driven private health in a form that will be sustainable. So basically this is a guy who is willing to make heroic efforts not to change.
And yet it’s at a moment when you have Democrats seizing both houses of Congress, a charismatic President taking leadership over the financial crisis where it’s almost impossible not to change anything, and a popular rage against existing financial elites willing to accept emergency measures . . . If at a moment like that you can’t get any sort of progressive change through electoral means, it’s not going to happen.”
This is precisely why we must demand the change we voted for almost four years ago. The entire political landscape has been co-opted over the last few decades, driven so far to the right that what now passes for the mainstream left, the Democratic Party, represents the status quo. Progress? Forget about it! The Progressive movement isn’t even on the radar today – at least not in any meaningful way within the Democratic Party.
This is yet another unfortunate example of how corporate money, controlled by the uppermost 1% has stolen the American political process from we the people. What we need is a widespread grassroots campaign of primary challengers to every Democratic office up for grabs this year, by real progressives committed to reforming the electoral system.
One good candidate in each district with a few knowledgeable, net-savvy assistants could completely upset the apple cart and change the game forever. We might not all win, or even get past the primary, but a few would get through, and one or two would probably win.