Noted Author Bill Greider Featured At NFFC Meeting
By Don Deichman
While a record-setting snow storm in Washington, C. C. prevented author Bill Greider from driving across town to address a February meeting of the National Family farm Coalition, a speaker-phone hook-up served as next best plan. Greider, a former Washington Post editor whose books include an expose of the Federal Reserve, “Secrets of the Temple,” has just released a new book, “The Soul of Capitalism; Opening Paths to a Moral Economy.”
I was only able to attend part of the three-day NFFC meeting, and was glad to be there for the Greider presentation, which appeared a likely highlight of the meeting. What followeshere are excerpts from his presentation and answers to audience questions.
“The really big subject now ought to be capitalism itself, and the destructive collisions it has with society at large. I’ve discovered a surprising optimism, from people like yourselves who’re trying to bread out. (But) nobody is winning apocalyptic victories…
“We spent most of the last century trying to act as county-poise to the damage-like pollution, etc. Simultaneously, we argued over socialism vs. capitalism. That’s over. At least it’s resolved for the long period ahead of us…
“We can now ask some old questions...(as) people like social gospel theologians...sever and serious critics of the American system...(like about) the nature of work, not just for poor and struggling farmers. But what are the relationships of people and their own work?...
“I see what I call pioneers trying to open new venues for change, like Washington state ‘enviros; - and even some people on Wall Street who have a social promise, which we’re not used to hearing from finance capital…
“This is a vision, but not Utopian. It requires people like you...and there’s a lot of you around this country… Despite the darkness of this moment… and it is dark… I’m encouraged by the ability of people…
“My fantasy, going way back (is) get all these people in the same hall someplace...I mean leap across the usual issue divisions. I give a simple idea of the ecology of agriculture.”
QUESTIONER: I agree with you that we’re in a dark time. If it wasn’t for the world community holding us back, we’d have troops in Iraq fighting right now. The average person doesn’t get what’s happening (right?)
GREIDER; Just in the last week or two, I’ve gotten agitated and depressed by events. We’ve been subjected to extra-ordinarily relentless propaganda. A New York Times survey told that 42% of American think Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attack. That accusation was not even made by George Bush and his warrior pals. I think they tried to transfer the pain of the injury of 9/11 to Saddam Hussein. I’ve believed for some months that this was a political bluff game, but in the last few weeks I’ve been persuaded there’ll be a war ..and we’ll be deeply polarized… I was impressed by the articulate and gentle anti-war calls, also some reasoned calls on the other side.
QUESTIONER: Your earlier book, “One World, Ready Or Not; The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism: said very little about agriculture, as you acknowledged when questioned in a National Public Radio call-in show. Do you cover agriculture more in this new book?
GREIDER: I excluded commodity trade in that book because it is not modern, it is from colonialism. I do use agriculture (in this new book) as an example of action...things in motion, which I find promising. But it is being choked off by the corporates.
QUESTIONER: You said that because of movement, you’re hopeful. I was at Porto Alegre (Brazil, a global rural gathering), and I’m hopeful too.
GREIDER: I come from the Midwest. In newspaper writing, I’ve seen people in all positions. We’ve got the usual load of fools and scoundrels, but (also) lots of remarkably good people… What we’re missing is what I’m trying to do in this new book...get people to step back a few paces...see how to get investors to (side with you). It’s true that in the last 20-30 years inequalities of wealth are wider and wider. What that leaves out, however, is that large accumulation of funds that’s owned by workers. If you take major pension funds and life insurers, they own 60% of all traded (stocks). This (present) corporate meltdown is an opportunity. There’s a real gathering of momentum...There’s a consciousness that didn’t exist 30 years ago., and it certainly didn’t exist 60 years ago, about workers being owners, and ecological. We are not as powerless as portrayed… Americans can exert decisive influence on capital.
QUESTIONER: A Bill of Rights Defense Committee meeting in Minneapolis (met on) the Patriot Act. As we as close to trouble on that as I think?
GREIDER: I also told you I’m depressed by (that) gathering force…. As a young reporter, these black nationalists told me how they were subverted by plants, provocateurs, etc. I didn’t really believe them (but learned that what they said was true). Believe me, I was really thrilled by the anti-war demonstrations around the world...but if war goes forward, the government will be (acting on) its own paranoia…
QUESTIONER: There doesn’t seem to be much of a loyal opposition… Are they gonna’ get more backbone? Will there be a crack in the power structure?
GREIDER: What’s happened is this relentless propaganda: Go to war—Go to war—Go to war. (But leaders) have all been blindsided by the anti-war effort. So they’re invested in dismissing it. Sure, we’ll support the troops. But I have a feeling the anti-war movement will intensify. This country has turned back to a re-constituted cold war, in which we’ll seek out conflict. They’ve closed off creativity that could have led these international organizations to (reform) the world over instead of a reactionary “let’s get it on with these distant others.”...There's some pretty serious stuff on the table about what we believe about ourselves and our country. The imperialists in the White House ought to recognize that the world is not with them. We ought to bang on the Democrats in a very threatening way, especially the ones who’ve sold out early on the war.
AN INQUIRY TO US IN GREIDER’S CLOSING: How much of your work gets crumbled by the war on Iraq?