"We are in power. Nobody will deny it. By virtue of that power we shall remain in power...We have no words to waste on you. When you reach out your vaunted strong hands for our palaces and purpled ease, we will show you what strength is. In roar of shell and shrapnel and in whine of machine-guns will our answer be couched. We will grind you revolutionists down under our heel, and we shall walk upon your faces. The world is ours, we are its lords, and ours it shall remain. As for the host of labor, it has been in the dirt since history began, and I read history aright. And in the dirt it shall remain so long as I and mine and those that come after us have the power. There is the word. It is the king of words--Power. Not God, not Mammon, but Power. Pour it over your tongue till it tingles with it. Power."
- Mr. Wickson, The Iron Heel by Jack London (1908), chapter 4
Jack London didn't just write tales of the Klondike Gold Rush and canine adventure stories. Sometimes he foretold the future. The above quote, written over a century ago and spoken by an aristocratic one-percenter in response to the rising tide of anti-plutocratic sentiment among the working class, is taken from London's dystopic novel, The Iron Heel.
The novel depicts a society of unregulated and unrestrained capitalism; a society of the impoverished and disenfranchised, the unemployed and the unrepresented, at the mercy of a tiny but ruthlessly aggressive corporate elite that controls the government. London describes the perception of "the great mass of the people [who] still persisted in the belief that they ruled the country by virtue of their ballots," when "[i]n reality, the country was ruled by what were called political machines. At first the machine bosses charged the master capitalists extortionate tolls for legislation; but in a short time the master capitalists found it cheaper to own the political machines themselves and to hire the machine bosses."
Furthermore, London delves into the deluded arrogance of the wealthy, stock-holding plutocrats, explaining, "They believed absolutely that their conduct was right. There was no question about it, no discussion. They were convinced that they were the saviours of society, and that it was they who made happiness for the many. And they drew pathetic pictures of what would be the sufferings of the working class were it not for the employment that they, and they alone, by their wisdom, provided for it." Later, he reiterates that "[t]he great driving force of the oligarchs is the belief that they are doing right. Never mind the exceptions, and never mind the oppression and injustice in which the Iron Heel was conceived. All is granted. The point is that the strength of the Oligarchy today lies in its satisfied conception of its own righteousness."
Clearly anticipating the recent talk of how important and benevolent "job-creators" are and how more equitable taxation policies would "punish success," London explains, "Out of the ethical incoherency and inconsistency of capitalism, the oligarchs emerged with a new ethics, coherent and definite, sharp and severe as steel, the most absurd and unscientific and at the same time the most potent ever possessed by any tyrant class."
At one point, London defines a political lobby as "a peculiar institution for bribing, bulldozing, and corrupting the legislators who were supposed to represent the people's interests" and excoriates journalists for their willingness, due to the fear of losing their jobs, "to twist truth at the command of [their] employers, who, in turn, obey the behests of the corporations." At one point, the "press in the United States" is described as "a parasitic growth that battens on the capitalist class. Its function is to serve the established by moulding public opinion, and right well it serves it." Likewise, London writes that Wall Street, "where was situated the stock exchange, and where the irrational organization of society permitted underhanded manipulation of all the industries of the country," deliberately "turned the stock market into a maelstrom where the values of all the land crumbled away almost to nothingness." Despite this economic turmoil, criminality and injustice, the Oligarchy remains terrifyingly "imperturbable, indifferent, and sure" in its "serenity and certitude." London foresees what we have recently witnessed: "Not only did it use its own vast power, but it used all the power of the United States Treasury to carry out its plans," later writing that "capture of the world-market by the United States had disrupted the rest of the world."