The Maw of the Machine, or A Donor’s Eye View of the Base and Superstructure Dynamic of Party Patronage

Dearest friends,

Have you ever inserted money into a vending machine? I have! Where does the money go? How does it turn the dollars into chocolate? It is like magic, if magic was real and made of chocolate and also magic. Amazing! And friends, have you wondered how your dollars magically turn into social justice? I haven’t. Step into my Chocolate Factory, but please avoid Mr. Weiner or he’ll show you his Willy Wonka.

How much does it take to buy your way into a politician’s good graces? $1,000,000? $10,000,000? $1,000,000,000? If you answered $10,000, you’re closest to the money. A donor dinner is often only a thousand or couple thousand dollars. For very important people, it might be tens of thousands of dollars, or a hundred or two hundred thousand for someone like the President. These sums are, in fact, fairly small dollar. But the small proletarian donors can’t play because they’re just too small. They could aggregate their funds under a suitable figurehead like le Chapo Man or a union boss. But the boss, once elevated, soon finds his material interests differ from his former comrades. No longer a proletarian, he becomes his own player in the great game, able to independently express his will. The coordination problem prevents proletarians from pooling their resources together to fight.

So you can make contact fairly cheaply. But what about following up? How do you buy a politician with such small sums? Laundering the money through organizations. I don’t mean in the “dark money” sense. That’s childish. Instead, found a cause. A front organization. Get together a few of your friends and make a NGO focused on some political cause you have coming from some ideology you share. Call this the backers a “faction” or “ideo-tribe”. More on this later. When you look at something like urbanism, that’s obviously a front for certain elements of high finance, right? It allows you to justify further development through livability rhetoric. This new construction, preferably of something holy like public housing, creates profits for developers, real estate private equity funds (hedge funds), issuers of asset-backed bonds relating to these deals, and ultimately becomes its own power base which can feed back into the original cause. Or take the green movement. Green rhetoric allows the subsidization of green industries. Good news if you run Nikolai’s Motors or Zappy Sun Power Fun. You get you and a few of your other well-heeled friends in your faction and you each chip in, say, 10 grand. Because these are causes, and ideally, “good causes”, you can attract the donations of small donors, well-meaning progressives or conservatives who want to make change. All of that goes into your slush fund. Being the founder and a major donor, you can set the agenda, which effectively means you control all that money, which means you’ve effectively levered up your initial small dollar outlay several times over. Your initial million or whatever becomes twenty or thirty or fifty million.

And it all comes from the little people. That it comes from the retail workers and clerks and delivery boys is not a flaw but the point! These are the people who can’t fight back if they ever notice you using the organization as a front. Not that they will. How could they? What does the corrupt organization look like? One imagines no show jobs and corrupt cynicism everywhere – but that’s not necessary. Because the front organization’s cause legitimately advances the material interests of the backer, overt corruption is not needed at all. The sinecures need not look like sinecures. Sincerity does not dissolve the organization. Let in all the sunshine you want – the demon does not melt.

Best of all, it’s a tax writeoff. Isn’t that something?

Once your front organization is rolling, you can put people on the payroll. Bluechecks, writers, activists… and politicians. And once you give a politician a sweet, sweet sinecure, you buy the man. And why not? You’re supporting some nice, sweet progressive cause. Nothing corrupt about it, no sir. And even if there are people so principled they’ll never take any money at all, there’s always far more willing to be bought. Many are the activists and bluechecks waiting for their big chance to be pushed up the ladder. Push them, and they will repay you with loyalty. Why not? You made them.

Once they’re in office, they can start repaying you. And believe me, why invest in a cause if it won’t turn a profit? If you and your friends chip a total of $1mm, leverage it to $20mm, and win back a development opportunity worth $25mm, you’ve gotten a 2400% return on your own money and a 25% return on the front org’s. A profit! And you had better turn a profit. The cold logic of capital demands it. If you are not increasing the resources of your front org rather than diminishing, someone else is. There are many ways to redirect money back into your pockets. Secret information, like knowing about coronavirus beforehand so you can short it. Sinecures and created job positions at new bureaus so you can place your lackeys. Favorable laws – or unfavorable ones for your enemies. And the best part? Most of the giveaways don’t even have to look that crooked. Because the cause advances your interests, even sincere laws passed will help you. All the while, the cost is footed by public funds. The burden on the taxpayer creeps higher and higher.

Thus moves the political machine. This is the base. The action of the base is to concretely mobilize manpower, money, and mantras to serve your political empire.

But how do you coordinate and form your ideo-tribe in the first place? That’s the superstructure, the dynamics of ideology. That’s social media, that’s the blogosphere, that’s the public square, that’s Reddit and Twitter and 4chan and all those spaces. Ideology is always promulgating around the internet. One or another flavor of communist thinking or liberal thinking or conservative thought will match up with your material interests and moral sensibilities. Then you can latch on. Now you have a common thread to connect with other players in the game. It launders sordid material interest into sacred morality and ideology.

And what kind of ideology is ideal? Not orthodoxy. Orthodoxy in an ideology signifies you want to conform to something greater than yourself, which often means seeking a tribe to belong to, a protector to shield you, or a patron to employ you. No, you want heterodoxy. Drop a Marx quotation in the right places on the “Right”, and you can be ushered into a hidden circle. Those who are overcorrect in professing their ideology create a signal for wanting a party job. Profess heterodoxy, and it shows you aren’t in a position to need to parrot a party line for cash. It shows you can afford to dictate one.

You take your heterodox ideology with which you’ve bonded and you turn around and create organizations to push it. These are your front organizations. The control doesn’t have to be direct here, though it sometimes is. The point is that it pushes discourse your way. As discourse goes enough your way, your front orgs grow more and more powerful, thus moving them from the superstructure from the base. They pay off, pay you, you seize power. Your new ideology, whatever it is, Anarcho-Frontierism, Radical Recyclianism, Eco-Fascism, is now the mainstream in some way. Once upon a time, neoconservatism was a few followers of the mad Jew Strauss, and the New Left was a bunch of radical chic philanthropists and some young buck politicians with the steely ambition in their eyes.

But once it becomes the mainstream, it is no longer heterodox to profess your ideology. Professing it is now the domain of young Twitter suckups looking for a cushy media job. So the organizing ideology shifts again. Thus, the base-superstructure dynamic is always shifting the discourse window to new politics. Thus we have a continuous feedback cycle of base-superstructure ideological laundering for material interests.

And what about the employees of the front orgs? For some, fame, power, and prosperity await. They will rise high, and those that envy them will be many. Their smiles will strike fear into the hearts of their courtiers. All the riches of the empire will be splayed before their feet. But for most, the machine will consume their big city dreams. They will pen article after article chasing the big break. They will march and call and knock. Their friends will decry them as a gentrifier or the stooge of Melon Tusk or a thousand other things. And in time, they will return home, ashamed by their own brokenness. It does not matter what happens to them. The freelances are the free lances, mere disposable foot soldiers.

These are the shadow wars waged by capital from its invisible fiefdoms, their movements only betrayed by the occasional silver-steel flash in that everblack night.

Lamenting his own unread ink,
Monsieur le Baron

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