In Get Up, Stand Up—Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, And Battling The Corporate Elite, (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2011) Bruce E. Levine, a PhD clinical psychologist, doesn’t come anywhere near to living up to the over-blown, and pompous title of his well written and readable book. To Levine’s credit he gives an accurate assessment of Barack Obama before he was elected and his record which doesn’t allow for the alleged ‘Progressives’ to bemoan the fact they were lied to by now President in Corporate America, Obama.
From a psychologist viewpoint, Levine provides a very telling overview of politics in this day and age. It boils down to, if you vote Republican you can expect politicians who openly support big business and are supported by big business, and because of that you can expect big government (while the Republicans profess they are for downsizing government) and continuous war. If you vote Democrat you can expect politicians who profess to support the general public while accepting most of their funding from big business, and who ultimately support big business, huge military budgets and continuous war. If you don’t vote you can expect big business and the corporate elite to run your life, and you will get continuous war. As a psychologist, Levine very succinctly describes this as learned helplessness. The greater American public opposes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Libya and everywhere else, vehemently objects to Wall Street bailouts, and the continued abuse at national airports by contractors of the government that subject travelers to warrantless questionably legal searches , yet seems powerless to do anything about it.
Populist is the correct term for a movement by the people and for the people, and not libertarian or progressive, or any other such form of newspeak and Levine uses it correctly, and gives a loose outline of the history of Populism in the United States. This reviewer objects to Levine taking 209 pages to explain what could easily be put into twenty or thirty pages. Levine never clearly defines the “Corporate Elite” given in the overly long title and he is fond of using the term ‘Corporatocracy’ which is also never clearly defined. It is assumed that corporate elite and corporatocracy are people in control of large corporations who purchase access to politician by making large campaign donations and who receive special interest legislation in return.
After his brief overview of the Populist and labor movement of the 1800s and the early part of the twentieth century, and the liberal use of many personal anecdotes, and explaining how the corporate elite divide and conquer their populist opposition, Levine never comes up with any concrete examples of what populist can do to get their side heard, win and change the system. He speaks in vague psychological terms about divorce, demonstrations and disruptions, work-place ‘Democracy,’ et cetera.
Generally Doctor Levine is accurate in his portrayal of history and events. This reviewer takes issue with Levine’s description of the North American Free Trade Agreement. As one who was born and grew up along the US Mexican border, saw the start of the maquiladora movement in the sixties and seventies and its full implementation during the 80s, and who lived in Mexico at the time of the passage of NAFTA, strenuously disagrees with Levine’s assessment that it cost US jobs. By the time of the passage of NAFTA many, many maquiladora jobs were already being shipped to Asia. The peak of maquiladora employment was in the mid 80s. The only jobs NAFTA really cost the US were the jobs taken by undocumented workers who lost their positions in Mexico because their country was thrown open to the likes of Walmart and other multinational corporations and were forced to “illegally” immigrate to the US in order to survive, and who took menial positions Americans by and large have no interest in working. Mexico was the big loser in NAFTA and not the US and Canada and this reviewer can attest to that from personal experience. This reviewer wonders why Levine does not mention the disastrous 1984 free trade agreement the US made with Israel, its first free trade agreement setting it on a bad course. In the “Free Trade” agreement with Israel billions in intellectual property has been stolen and up to a million well to high paying jobs in the US have been lost. It seems Levine or most no one else mentions this. This reviewer also wonders why Levine parrots Tel Aviv’s propaganda about Iran, obviously a subject he knows little about.
For 26 years, Chelsea Green has been a publishing leader for books on the politics and practice of sustainable living. The company was a founding member of the Green Press Initiative and have been printing books on recycled paper since 1985, when their first list of books appeared. They lead the industry both in terms of meaningful content—foundational books on renewable energy, green building, organic agriculture, eco-cuisine, and ethical business—and in terms of environmental practice, printing 95 percent of their books on recycled paper with a minimum 30 percent post-consumer waste and aiming for 100 percent whenever possible. This approach is a perfect example of what is called a “triple bottom line” practice, one that benefits people, the planet, and profits, and the emerging new model for sustainable business in the 21st century. Chelsea Green Publishing was established by Ian and Margo Baldwin in 1984, with the publication of The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giano. Today, Chelsea Green is considered a major publisher of books on sustainable living.
The Chelsea 2003 mission statement says of the company’s redefined sense of direction, in part: “…Is it enough to focus on the how-to of ‘green living’ in the face of such overwhelming force, the ‘shock and awe’ of forest and ecosystem destruction, the rampant plundering of the world’s oceans, the terror of GMO-contaminated-food, and the unintended consequences of biotechnology? We wish to move the company forward boldly and with a new sense of urgency. While continuing our commitment to remain at the forefront of information about green building, organic growing, and renewable energy – the practical aspects of sustainability – we will also publish for a new politics of sustainability, for the cultural resistance that living demands of us now.”
Ian is a co-founder of the Marion Institute which sponsors the www.metahistory.org website. He is also part of Vermont Commons, an organization dedicated to the proposition that Vermonters should peaceably secede from the United States and govern themselves as an independent nation.
With the above statement, this reviewer questions why Chelsea put out this book by Levine. This book could have provided guidelines for getting back at the corporate elite, shown how thinking every day citizens could take over their local and county governments and institute laws to really hurt the corporate elite, such as outlawing any but locally privately owned banks and credit unions in their communities to the exclusion of national and regional banks. This would really be something to which the corporate elites paid attention, much as the State of Vermont not allowing the Walmart corporation within their borders. This is something that would garner national attention and could be the basis for starting a true movement. The book did nothing like this except present a misleading title and give vague advise.
This reviewer lives in a rural county larger than the State of Rhode Island and over half the State of Connecticut combine in the State of Disbelief where all the major banks are large National Banks, Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo. No local banks exist, though sufficient business exists to support a large number of alleged institutions of credit. Why do all the profits accrue to large corporations headquarter out of the county and out of the state? The above suggestion would certainly serve well where the reviewer lives. Dr. Levine could have given concrete advise like that, but the reader really gets nothing from Levine.
This reviewer does not expect the reader to necessarily agree with him in his slamming of Doctor Bruce Levine’s book, and suggests the purchase of the book so the reader of the review can make his or her own judgment. The book can be purchased here: www.cheleagreen.com. The reviewer is also sure if given the opportunity to meet Levine, he would get along fabulously with him. This reviewer looks forward to reading more books published by Chelsea Green.