The Iron Heel

I know nothing that I may say can influence you … You have no souls to be influenced. You are spineless, flaccid things. You pompously call yourselves Republicans and Democrats. There is no Republican Party. There is no Democratic Party. There are no Republicans nor Democrats in the House. You are lick-spittlers and panderers, the creatures of the Plutocracy. You talk verbosely in antiquated terminology of your love of liberty, and all the while you wear the scarlet livery of the Iron Heel.

That was a short speech given by one of the new Socialist members of the Congress that had worked within the system but as predicted were eventually conquered by the might of the oligarchy.

Jack London, himself a socialist, wrote an interesting dystopean novel that expressed the problems with Capitalism and developed a likely outcome of the struggle between corporations and people, or as we might express it one hundred years later, between the one percent and the ninety-nine percent. The novel is titled The Iron Heel; it is structured as a manuscript written by a key player in the revolution (as such, remember that the footnotes are a part of the fiction and often serve to lend validity to the speculative future vision).

London’s main character is a charismatic leader who speaks for the side of the working man (this man’s wife is the narrator). Here he describes the situation:

The working man on the street railway furnish the labor. The stockholders furnish the capital. By the joint effort of the workingmen and the capital, money is earned. They divide between then this money that is earned. Capital’s share is called ‘dividends.’ Labor’s share is called ‘wages.’ … the workingman, being selfish, wants all he can get in the division. The capitalist, being selfish, wants all he can get in the division. … When there is only so much of the same thing, and when two men want all they can get of the same thing, there is a conflict of interest between labor and capital … an irreconcilable conflict.

His position on the oligarchy which controls the lives of so many workers is clear:

The weakness in their position lies in that they are merely business men. They are not philosophers. They are not biologists nor sociologists. If they were, of course all would be well. A business man who was also a biologist and a sociologist would know, approximately, the right thing to do for humanity. But, outside the realm of business, these men are stupid. They know only business. They do not know mankind nor society, and yet they set themselves up as arbiters of the fates of the hungry millions and all the other millions thrown in. History, some day, will have an excruciating laugh at their expense.

The time-period of this upheaval in the politics of the United States was the first decade of the 20th century. Here we are barely out of the first decade of the 21st century and it hasn’t changed much. London had no knowledge of airplanes, missiles, weapons of mass destruction, let alone television, computers, and Starbucks. Imagine how this novel might be written today. Interestingly, so much of the strategy of the current plutocracy (the one-percent) is mirrored in the Iron Heel. In many ways, you might wonder if the contemporary conservative movement wasn’t originally developed using London’s novel as a blueprint?

I realize that the unfortunate communist experiment in the Soviet Union provided an immediate and unarguable boogieman against socialism, especially in this country, but there are other examples of socialism, often in a modified or hybrid form, that are reasonably successful. It can be argued without too much effort that they are at least as successful as the plutocracy that is rapidly destroying the United States.

One thing that this book and others of a similar nature suggest is that the oligarchy can only push their advantage up to a point and further than that they may well be facing armed insurrection. It’s fun to consider what will happen to the one percent if there is a major shift in the politics of this country. It seems to me that the oligarchy has laid the groundwork to be hoisted on their own petard in the not too distant future. This suggest two things to me:  they should discontinue this win-at-any-cost greed and support more reasonable (and ultimately fair) arrangements that would help to reduce the enmity that has developed, or, they should make certain that there is no way for any other political or social unit to gain power in the country in the future.

I see movement toward the latter option:  control the vote, disenfranchise the opposition, never compromise, create a police state, foment fear, exaggerate enemies, accuse the opposition of crimes against the country, inject huge amounts of money into the political process, submit the population to unrelenting propaganda, and lie, lie, lie. Good plan? Seem familiar? Worried yet?

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