“Class is a Dirty Word”

Class is a dirty word in that it gets close to the truth about who governs and for whose benefit.

— Michael Parenti

Michael Parenti is an internationally known award-winning author and lecturer. He is one of the nation’s leading progressive political analysts. His highly informative and entertaining books and talks have reached a wide range of audiences in North America and abroad.

In the land of those who think they’re free and the home of savage capitalism, class is indeed a dirty word. Remember, we’re a nation of Joe the Plumbers. If we just work hard enough and fend off those socialist vampires who want to suck us dry by redistributing our hard-earned wealth, we can all be financial successes. And if you’re a faux-progressive presidential candidate—like Obama, you’re doomed to political perdition unless you sign a blood oath disavowing your ties to socialism.

Yet there are a few political analysts and academics who dare to blaspheme against capitalism, which is the “God” this benighted land truly worships—despite the disgustingly hypocritical veneer of faux Christianity. Remember that Michael Parenti has one of the filthiest mouths you’ll ever hear. He dares to repeatedly spew profane diatribes against capitalism, the sacrosanct basis for our precious American Way of Life. Parenti has the chutzpah to derisively attack our system, which we all know is the best that’s ever been (or will be), by asserting that there are divisions amongst US Americans based on socioeconomic standing. And worst of all? He uses the “C” word! Somebody needs to give his mouth a good cleansing with a bar of Dial!

Parenti recently answered a few questions Jason Miller threw his way. Let’s see how much further he traveled on the road to perdition…

Jason Miller: You’re one of the best kept secrets of the “American Left” (ridiculously marginalized and small in number as we are). Why is it that despite your brilliant critiques, particularly of bourgeois revisionist history, you remain relatively obscure even amongst the more radical segment of the US population?

Michael Parenti: It’s really not all that bad. People do describe me as “widely acclaimed” and “internationally known” etc. and I do reach varied audiences in North America and abroad with my writings, lectures, and interviews. But it is true that there are sectarian or small minded elements on the left – including some very prominent figures – who are quiet practitioners of McCarthyism in that they exclude or try to isolate anyone who (a) places a strong emphasis on the realities of class power (b) occasionally uses a Marxist analysis or (c) finds some things of value in existing socialist societies that are worthy of being preserved, such as human services, guaranteed right to a job, free education, free medical care, affordable housing for all, etc. These societies, now mostly defunct, have been deemed by most of the left as worthy of nothing but a constant unremitting denunciation.

JM: Do you think the bourgeoisie has begun demonizing environmentalists and animal rights advocates because they perceive us to be a legitimate threat to the system, is the Green Scare simply another aspect of the divide and conquer tactic, do animal and Earth exploiters wield that much power within the system, is it a combination of these, or something more?

MP: The purveyors of free-market global capitalism believe that they have a right to plunder the remaining natural resources of this planet as they choose. Anyone who challenges their agenda is to be subjected to whatever misrepresentation and calumny that serves the free market corporate agenda.

JM: How has the capitalist class in the US been so successful at convincing the masses that we live in a “classless society” and etching a cultural standard in granite that it is taboo to discuss class issues?

MP: Through control of the universe of discourse, including the media, the professions, the universities, the publishing industry, many of the churches, the consumer society, the job market, and even the very socialization of our children and the prefiguring of our own perceptions, the ruling interests are able to exercise a prevailing ideological control that excludes any reasoned critique of the dominant paradigm. Class is a dirty word in that it gets close to the truth about who governs and for whose benefit.

JM: What are your thoughts on Obama and what change we may see under his presidency?

MP: I greeted Obama’s electoral victory with very little enthusiasm but much relief that the lying slime-bag right-wing John McCain was defeated. I think Obama will be another Bill Clinton, perhaps not as bad. Some people see his accession to the White House as a great historic victory for African Americans and for democracy. But I am not all that impressed. When the victory is extended into social democratic policies that have a salutary effect on millions of struggling impoverished African-Americans and other working poor, then I’ll start dancing in the streets.

JM: Prior to Obama’s election, a number of radical thinkers posited that the US was in a pre-revolutionary stage. What impact do you think the Obama administration will have on the potential of consciousness, anger, and social unrest reaching critical mass amongst the working class in the US in the near future? Or better yet, are you even optimistic that the American people will catch fire and revolt against our wretchedly rapacious and imperialistic system?

MP: I do not think we are entering a pre-revolutionary stage. However political struggle can be a surprising phenomenon emerging with great democratic force and sudden movement in the most unexpected ways. We are approaching an economic crisis of momentous scope. The radical reactions may not be all that progressive and rational. The unfortunate thing about corporate capitalism is that it is often advantaged by the very wretched conditions it itself creates. I am hoping that the social groups that have been activated by Obama’s campaign will not go to sleep and will not let up the pressure for progressive change.

JM: What do you say to critics who assert that socialism is a utopian dream in the abstract and a nightmare in reality?

MP: Your question is a paraphrase of the one I posed in my book, Democracy for the Few. “Is socialism not just a dream in theory and a nightmare in practice?” In response I pointed out that the features which make life livable in capitalist society are mostly socialistic in practice, including human services, infrastructure development, environmental protections, and even many technological advances that are funded or even created by government sources.

JM: With Castro hanging in there and now Chavez, Morales, Correa, and Ortega in place, to what extent do you think socialism will continue to expand and flourish in Latin America?

MP: It is not likely that the reforms in Latin America will really lead to socialism but at least to some gains for the most desperately oppressed.

JM: Some argue that there is a “third way” that represents a better alternative to capitalism than socialism. Your thoughts?

MP: Maybe they are referring to the social democracy that is found in some Western European countries that provide decent human services and better regulation of corporate doings. But even these social democracies are under attack and face rollback. Look at what has happened to Britain.

Jason Miller is a wage slave of the American Empire who has freed himself intellectually and spiritually. He is Cyrano's Journal Online's associate editor. He welcomes constructive correspondence at JMiller@bestcyrano.org or via his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner. Read other articles by Jason, or visit Jason's website.

11 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on December 26th, 2008 at 10:20am #

    i agree w. MP w. everything he said except that he had some/a bit enthusiasm for O’s (s)election.
    well, i had fear; fear of greater evil against children; but not amer children.
    O wil or might throw a few bucks at own children but lotsof bombs in iq, afgh’n, syria, palestine.
    actually it won’t be O who will do all that but oligarchy.thnx

  2. Ron Horn said on December 26th, 2008 at 11:51am #

    Its great to see someone else confirm my own view that capitalism is the real religion of the US with the other nominal religions serving mostly to dumb down the population. Hence all the taboo words in relation to this religion such as the very word itself and class. After WWII people lost their careers for the mildest forms of association with organizations that were not completely loyal to the system, teachers had to swear loyalty oaths to the government which were really to this religion, etc. With the Empire more secure in recent times, the discrimination against people who don’t demonstrate sufficient allegiance to this system is much more subtle, but still as effective.

  3. Ron Horn said on December 26th, 2008 at 11:56am #

    I also get a kick out of the expressions used to avoid using the taboo term “ruling class” such as “the powers that be” or “the power elite”.

  4. kalidas said on December 26th, 2008 at 12:21pm #

    Gosh, I feel cheated..

  5. Max Shields said on December 26th, 2008 at 12:36pm #

    I find this interview frivalous.

    The old socialism/capitalism bagahoo and then the talk about Obama.

    This is nowhere talk. First socialism and capitalism are inventions, just like the electric light bulb. They are not burried in our DNA. So, let’s get passed so we can think about what we’re doing here.

    As far as Obama being a better than McCain and perhaps a tad better than Clinton. Who cares? What’s the point? The system shits out two typses of presidents. So, what’s new?

    Let’s get out of the weeds and start thinking. Much of the fundamental prinicples are right in front of us. Instead we regurgitate the NYT…or some facsimile thereof.

  6. Don Hawkins said on December 26th, 2008 at 12:48pm #

    The purveyors of free-market global capitalism believe that they have a right to plunder the remaining natural resources of this planet as they choose. Anyone who challenges their agenda is to be subjected to whatever misrepresentation and calumny that serves the free market corporate agenda.

    Oh really I wonder what ever gave them that idea. I am not sure yet if these purveyors of free-market global capitalism know it yet but many more are starting to see them for what they are, nuts. Of course these purveyors don’t think there nut’s and that should gave you a clue right there. The push is on isn’t it the next year will not be boring if nothing else.

  7. bozh said on December 26th, 2008 at 3:04pm #

    right, max
    one can build better toilets but the same shit goes in. one can have ‘better’ presidents, but uncle is like god who doesn’t change.
    is parenti also a closet socialist?
    NDP, the new democratic party, also had some.
    as i said, parenti is right ab so much; but, haven’t we alrady posited and repeated the same facts/conclusions a td times.

    ur also right ab “socialism”, “capitalism”. to me these r just labels for two distinct processes or human interrelationships.
    capiatlism is ab who is payer (ergo master) and payeee (ergo dependancy)

  8. The Angry Peasant said on December 26th, 2008 at 10:24pm #

    One thing I tire of is this fear of putting socialism into practice. Why the hell are we so apprehensive about this? Capitalism obviously doesn’t work. It breeds an evil, heartless, unsophisticated society. Time to start from scratch. The U.S. could do this relatively easy. Just take all the money from the CEOs, movie stars, ballplayers, and other undeserving greedlings and ration it out to the people. Institute the programs and services that we should already have, like health care and housing, and voila, you have a newborn socialist nation. Abolish the Federal Reserve and all other for-profit companies, and shut down all the mega-corporations. End the wage-slavery. Let Americans be masters of their own destinies again. Sounds like a plan to me. Perhaps some of the cynics think this to be over-simplifying things, but I don’t think so. Nor do I agree that America is not in a pre-revolutionary phase.Maybe we’re not today; probably won’t be for awhile, but the seeds are there. Obama’s smile may stave it off for another decade, but considering the condition this country is going to be in, it has to erupt sometime in the not-too-distant future. Let a few million more members of the middle class find themselves taking that second job sweeping up at the mall; let another city be wiped out by a global warming-induced megastorm; let another wave of corporate bailouts suck us all dry; let a couple more lines be scratched off the Bill of Rights. It has to boil over, eventually, even here in this sea-to-shining-sea sheep pasture.

  9. Brian said on December 26th, 2008 at 10:39pm #

    Dr. Parenti is a great speaker!

    I saw him speak at UW-Oskosh in 1986.

  10. dino said on December 27th, 2008 at 2:08am #

    I’m convinced that Mr. Obama will be a much better president than Mr.Clinton.I now that he was the last in the list of Israeli’s preferences for who will be the next President.I think that every other candidate would not cause to Joseph Lieberman to leave the party ranks and joins McCain after he run once as a democrat vice president .Even for one thick-skinned like Joe to leave in this way could not be easy and that means that Mr.Obama is very different.So i think that Mr.Obama and the crisis will bring a more peacefully time.And if not i’m sure that Ralf Nader will be elected in the next elections

  11. Grace said on December 28th, 2008 at 7:18am #

    In America, class is hidden behid the veneer of what everyone wants, but not everyone gets. Live in a “good neighborhood,” kids go to “good”schools. I see it more than some. I drive my son everyday 2 miles to a good school. What a difference two miles makes! If our house is worth 300, the houses in the good neighborhood go for 800-2mil. The elitists which is what they are, are angry that kids find their way there who dont “belong” In my kids first grade class, there are the popular kids of very aggressive elitist parents and the “others.” My son is academically in the top three of his class, so they tolerate him and even court him, because high test scores bring them more of the lion’s share of resources which are rare in any public school these days. Elitists are alive and well in America.