Class politics or anti-semitic conspiracies? Why David Icke, Ron Paul and Alex Jones are dangerous to the Occupy Movement.
David Icke. Alex Jones. Ron Paul. The Zeigeist Movement. President Andrew Jackson. What do all these people have in common? No, they’re unfortunately not the next line up of Celebrity Big Brother. They are however a series of individuals and “movements” who despite having little sway over most political thought in the world today, have made a disturbing encroachment into movements against austerity, cuts and for social justice. This blog has already covered a few of these individuals before. And we’d be lying if we didn’t find the occasional presence of Alex Jones or David Icke amongst the internets a comedy joy we’ve all indulged in frequently.
But there is a time and a place for Alex Jones and David Icke, and that time is 3o’clock in the morning, pished, going on you tube – NOT inside movements for real, radical social change in the UK or anywhere else. This isn’t a call that everyone inside these movements must be 100% Marxists or Socialists. Far from it, we need to engage with people who are not already activists. It’s about recognising that the ideas promoted by the groups and individuals outlined in the beginning of this post aren’t just misguided and wrong – they’re actively dangerous to any real success over the economic misrule and capitalism.
David Icke knows Boyzone will destroy the lizard people
The groups and individuals are quite diverse, ranging from a US Democratic President in the 1800′s, a Republican Congressman standing for President and a former Grandstand presenter who thinks he is Jesus and that the world is run by lizards. What could possibly unite such a disparate group? The answer is that they are all people who have argued against the forces of the wealthy and powerful in society – generally the banks and financial institutions. So how are they any different from socialists?
The difference lies in their analysis of what problems the bankers cause, what should replace them and how they go about trying to enact that change. Their analysis ranges from completely insane to explicitly racist, and their solutions from ineffective to backwards and reactionary. The base of their analysis is that the world economic crisis is a problem inflicted by specific forms of banking (such as fractional reserve banking) and financial management, and that ultimately it is bankers and not capitalism and class society that is to blame.
These individuals obviously don’t agree on everything – Ron Paul’s not mentioned Lizard control over the Royal Family in the GOP debates, at least not yet – but what they basically agree on runs something like this; Banks developed their wealth and power at the expense of hardworking people (typically small businesses and artisans). They now use this wealth and power to enslave governments and control culture, media, politics, and social attitudes in a range of countries, as well as initiating wars for their own benefit. Often the phrase “International Bankers” is used interchangeably with Jews, or “Zionists”, alleging that the world is in the thrall of a gigantic Jewish-Banker conspiracy.
Alex Jones rocks out against the globalists
These theories have been able to make some headway on the left because there is a grain of truth in what they say about bankers, if not Jews. Bankers have historically used their economic power to influence society, and have a long history of exploitation of both the developing world and the working class in the West. The problem is that banks are just one part of a system of exploitation called capitalism. In capitalism the work people do to produce commodities is sold on at a profit to the employer. These employers are not just bankers, but range from retailers, oil companies, mines, factories, restaurants and so on. Banks are a fundamental part of that system, as the profit is invested in banks which then use this money to make more money, to invest in other industries and to lend so people can continue to buy products without having to raise wages.
This is the real cause of the economic crisis, and properly identifies what role the bankers played. In the past, if people wanted to buy stuff – like cars, clothes or houses – they either had to save up for it, or get a modest loan that was based on their ability to repay it. This meant working class people had to be paid enough so they could buy the things capitalism produced – whether it was trainers or tellies. Karl Marx identified the problem with this a hundred years ago – the companies which want to sell the working class trainers at £50 a pop are the same companies who want to pay them 10p an hour. Recessions come and go in capitalism because inevitably companies end up producing goods at the same time they try to keep wages down, so the working class cannot buy their goods and the companies end up going bankrupt.
For the past 30 years capitalism thought it had a way out of this problem – make it easier for working class people to borrow lots of money, so that way they can still buy the products without having to increase wages. This kept capitalism booming, even though for the past 30 years wages in the USA have been stagnating. It also meant as well as having money to pay for consumer goods, working class people now had to pay money to banks in interest. This is what the banks have done – lending billions of the profits working people made, so that the same people would keep buying and capitalism would stay afloat. This was not just a system endorsed by the banks, it was in the interests of capitalism as system – every corporation, company, and business now had a market of indebted workers to sell to, and could continue to depress the wages of their workers safe in the knowledge that they could borrow money to buy their products.
Sensible and accurate version of why capitalism and the banks have collapsed
Eventually this illusion, that people could continue to afford things that were way beyond the wages they earned, came to a dramatic end with the economic crisis in 2008. This crisis began with the collapse of the housing bubble in the USA – where banks like Freddie Mae had offered loans to people with poor credit ratings, so they could own their own houses and keep capitalism afloat. When it became clear that the Emperor had no clothes, and the housing repayments couldn’t be made, banks in the western world collapsed requiring the bailouts we’ve all heard about. The banks loaned money they couldn’t repay – using a system called fractional reserve banking – where they only had a fraction of the deposits people made to the banks in their accounts, while the rest was loaned out. In order to stop people losing billions of their savings, governments stepped in to guarantee these funds.
So there’s plenty of very real criticism to be made of the banks – the fact they recklessly lent to boost their own profits, and when the shit hit the fan instead of taxing the super-rich to plug the gap, they were bailed out with public money. What should have been done is something similar to what Greg Philo and Glasgow Uni Media Group have argued for – a one off 10% wealth tax on the richest (who made their money predominantly through the financial bubble) to pay for the mess they caused.
Unfortunately this is not what Alex Jones, Ron Paul et al call for. They won’t argue for wealth redistribution, because by their own admission they aren’t Socialists – they are paleo-conservative Republicans. They may be Republicans who oppose the War on Terror, the developing attack on civil liberties in the USA or ongoing funding to Israel, but they all absolutely believe in capitalism – and that the problem with the economic crash of 2008 is not the free market, but bizarrely, “socialism”. Jones says big corporations and big government are the same, in contradiction to everything that the right-wing in the USA and Europe actually rolled back. People like Jones, Ron Paul, Icke etc draw many of their ideas from a very reactionary period of US political history during the 1800′s in which the United States of America was half-feudal and half-industrial – or as Abraham Lincoln described it “half slave and half free”.
The United States was divided in two – the North, in which slavery was abolished and an industrial revolution was starting, and the South where the economy was based on slavery, and was backwards and feudal. In this topsy turvy time it was the Democrat Party which was racist and pro-slavery, and it was the Republican Party that wanted to ultimately abolish the institution of slavery. At that time the Republican Party correctly saw that slavery would keep the United States trapped in a backward, medieval economy. The profits made by keeping slavery going would make an industrial revolution impossible. Slavery stopped the development of a paid working class, that is necessary to consume the products of industrialisation. The South was at that time a massive producer of cotton on the backs of slave labour, and was in practice a colony of European powers who wanted to buy cotton for use in their Industrial Revolution.
US Civil War
There were many honest Republicans at that time who found slavery morally abhorrent, but the alterior motivation for Republican opposition to slavery was their backing from the new American capitalist class. This class wanted the abolition of slavery so they could compete against the Southern economy, and so white Southern workers could be paid to do the jobs of the slaves. In short they wanted to develop the United States into a modern capitalist country like Britain or France, knowing that the untapped resources of the North American continent would make them a superpower.
The Democrats position was based on “states rights” – which meant defending the rights of states to uphold slavery. Their arguments were based on racist opposition to the emancipation of slaves, and the desire to keep large parts of the USA in a feudal state. As part of this outlook, many Democrats had a crude, populist opposition to capitalism. They opposed banks and the expansion of big business, believing it would enslave white Americans. Instead they promoted a vision of the USA as a continent where all whites would be able to own their own farms and businesses as independent artisans, farmers, shop keepers and craftsmen – with slaves to assist them.
Democrats were hostile to the industrial revolution and the development of modern capitalism because they saw (correctly) that capitalism would eliminate this parochial economic system – replacing farmers with agrobusiness, shopowners with department stores, gold whittlers with mines etc. This process was no picnic. Capitalism was ruthless in destroying feudal opposition to it’s development, and the working conditions – most notoriously those of Victorian Britain – are infamous for their depravity.
BUT… capitalism was a massive improvement on what had preceded it, which was the rule of Kings and Queens, and an economy run along the whims of unelected noblemen. Capitalism produced economic growth on a scale unheard of in human history – the development of modern industry, the mass production of consumer goods, the move from the country to the city, and most importantly, the rise of the working class. This is the most important part for socialists as now the group of people who produced clothes, dug the mines, ran the railways etc could be organised, and could eventually become the rulers of a new society – a socialist one.
One Democrat who owned slaves at this time, President Andrew Jackson, became infamous for his opposition to any central bank for the USA using his veto power to overrule it. Jackson today is heralded by many anti-banking Occupy activists for this stance. But Jacksons opposition to banking was not based on any socialist or even progressive desire for the working class to rule society – it was about defending small businesses and the institution of slavery against this massively powerful and dynamic economic system, that threatened to overpower all religious, nationalist and feudal opposition to it
President Andrew Jackson
Writing at the time Karl Marx identified these kind of “anti-capitalists” as feudal socialists,
“In this way arose feudal Socialism: half lamentation, half lampoon; half an echo of the past, half menace of the future; at times, by its bitter, witty and incisive criticism, striking the bourgeoisie to the very heart’s core; but always ludicrous in its effect, through total incapacity to comprehend the march of modern history”
Put simply, while many anti-banking forces in the 1800′s had legitimate points about the unaccountability of these financial institutions, their opposition fundamentally came from a desire to maintain an unfair, feudal and backward society. At that time Marx identified Capitalism as a brutal, but progressive force – one of the reasons why he wrote a letter of congratulations to Lincoln during the US Civil War for crushing feudalism and the slave economy of the South.
This radical transformation of society, from feudalism to capitalism terrified and alarmed many people in Europe and the USA. These societies existed during a time when the theories of race were commonly accepted and discussed as a science – to justify both slavery and the imperial exploitation of Africa and other colonies. As well as racist prejudice one other common bigotry was anti-Semitism, the hatred of Jews. As capitalism developed, producing transnational, global insitutions many racists alarmed at this transformation identified the enemy behind it – that of the Jew. As part of anti-semitic prejudice throughout Europe, Jews were forced into jobs in the financial sector that Christians deemed immoral – like banking. So when the industrial revolution was financed by and empowered banks with Jewish owners anti-semites saw a conspiracy by the Jewish race to enslave the white Christian race.
So much wrong in just one picture
The most notorious subject of these anti-Semitic conspiracy theories was the Rothschild Family. The Rothschilds were an extremely wealthy and powerful banking family during the 1800′s, who exercised massive influence over the developing capitalist economies of Europe and North America. This combination of power and Judaism made them the frequent target of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. As a major banking institution there’s no question the Rothschild’s would have been involved in underhand and conspiratorial plans to influence governments and secure their markets – but the accusations labelled at the Rothschilds go way beyond criticism of bankers influence, and into conspiracy nonsense about world Jewish plots to enslave the world. For example, the Rothschilds were accused of both funding American Capitalism and Russian Bolsheviks, a ridiculous allegation that had it’s base in anti-socialist racist sentiment. Many anti-Semites were disturbed at the challenge global capitalism posed to nation states sovereignty and could not understand the power of the economic system they faced, so instead chose to blame it on conspiratorial groups.
These ideas – anti-banking sentiment of small business Democrats, and anti-semitic opposition to the Rothschilds – unfortunately haven’t remained in the past. They continue to be advocated by people like Zeitgeist, Alex Jones and David Icke. This piece by Norfolk Community Action Group criticizes the influence these forces have in the occupy movement,
“The populist narrative is also an integral part of the political views of conspiracy theorists, far right activists, and anti-Semites. For anti-Semites, the elites are the Jews; for David Icke, the elites are the reptilians; for nationalists, they are members of minority ethnic, racial, or religious groups; for others, they are the “globalists,” the Illuminati, the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, the Federal Reserve, etc. All of these various conspiracy theories also tend to blend in and borrow from each other. Additionally, the focus on “Wall Street” also has specific appeal to those who see the elite as represented by finance capital, a particular obsession of the anti-Semites, Larouchites, followers of David Icke, etc. “The Rothschilds” are the favorite stand-in codeword of choice to refer to the supposed Jewish control of the banking system.”
The “Rothschild Zionists” feature in both Alex Jones and Icke’s material – which blame a 200 year old banking institution for conspiratorial involvement in global capitalism. The reality is that the Rothschilds influence declined by the early 1900s – blaming them for the financial crisis is like blaming the British East India company for the ongoing exploitation of Asia. The Rothschilds have been surpassed and overtaken by new financial institutions.
So why do they continue to be prevalent in conspiracy theories related to banking? Because in the USA, when people are discontent and angry at the banks instead of looking to socialism – which has historically been weak in the USA – they go back to the most prominent anti-banking ideas and figures, which unfortunately are anti-semitic. Likewise many bankers are identified as “Rothschild Zionists” by Icke who clearly have no familial connection to the Rothschild family at all – like David Miliband and DSK. But it’s ok, as Icke explains:
“I should also stress that when I say ‘Rothschild’, I don’t only mean those called ‘Rothschild’, nor even all of the people who are known by that name. There are many in the Rothschild family and its offshoots who have no idea what the hierarchy is doing and there are many ‘Rothschilds’ who don’t carry the name itself.
When I say ‘Rothschild’, I am referring to the Rothschild bloodline because, as I have detailed in my books, they have long had breeding programmes that produce offspring that are brought up under other names.”
This is effectively an excuse to link all Jewish people in areas of power together, based on racist ideas of “bloodlines”, and using the code “Zionist” instead of what people really mean, which is Jew. Whatever crimes have been committed in the Zionist enterprise of the State of Israel against the Palestinians, the idea a country of five million Israelis control international finance is absurd and only makes sense if you believe in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
Last year SSY wrote about how an internet documentary called Zeitgeist played upon many of these conspiracy theories around finance, with reference to the banks. As well as the Zeitgeist movement another video has been doing the rounds – this one was posted by Occupy Glasgow:
The documentary is nowhere near as anti-Semitic as Icke’s rants. But it does have the same disturbing focus on the Rothschilds – along with lizardesque imagery for bankers – and puts slaveowner and Native American killer President Jackson in a good light. It makes its focus the inequities of the banking system – many of its criticisms have a point, such as the fact that the US Federal Reserve isn’t actually publically owned, but controlled by unaccountable and unelected bankers who have the power to control the US currency. However all of it stems from the same Jacksonian fear of big business and banking and not capitalism itself. Taking a look at its website – called “The American Dream” – it identifies the “good guys” as Alex Jones, The Cato Institute, The Drudge Report and other right-wing sites. They also link to Ron Paul, a Libertarian Republican who thinks someone dying from lack of medical care is choosing ‘freedom’.
The 99% can fuck off and die if they don’t have health insurance
Elsewhere on its website it calls for less government intervention in medicare, social security and federal spending. In short, a demand that the Government’s debt should be cut so we aren’t slaves to evil bankers – regardless of the massive job cuts entailed. They also ask you to be more like your grandfather, and not get into debt – ignoring that consumer debt would not be as massive if peoples wages went up at the same rate as profits in the USA. There’s also consideration to reintroduce the gold standard – that is link the value of your currency to the amount of gold you have. It’s very popular amongst the headbanger right, particularly with Glenn Beck fans, who like the idea as if you have gold the bankers can’t control you with their easily printed “fiat” money. But why would you want to organise a society’s currency on the value of a base metal, and have it fluctuate depending on mining rates? And why is it people who are demanding a rush to the gold standard are quite happy to sell you lots of precious gold for your useless fiat money?
The new Shitegeist
Jones, Ron Paul and the libertarian US right don’t call for the debt to be paid by taxing the rich, or for the economy to be restructured on need. This is because they’ve picked anti banking sentiment from a time when small scale traders were trying to survive against the onslaught of capitalism – a hopeless and reactionary struggle. Trying to solve the world economic crisis by trying to resurrect an economic system from 200 years ago is doomed to failure – it couldn’t withstand the force of capitalism then, in its progressive phase and it can’t stand against it now even if it’s clearly dying. What’s neccessary is a movement which organises not in the interests of small businesses vs banks, but workers and the poor vs all strands of capitalism. Only then will the interests of the 99% genuinely be enforced.