How We Are Ruled

By Bruce Parry

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The Capitalist Central Committee

The University of the Poor seeks to identify and develop leaders of the poor and dispossessed in order to build the unity of that class. By dispossessed, we mean those who do not own private property: factories, plants, stores, banks, agribusiness, etc. All we own is personal property: cars, TVs, furniture, perhaps a house, etc. The poor – if you count everyone at or below twice the “official” poverty line – are about 48 percent (nearly half) of the population of the United States. Four out of five – 80 percent – of the population will experience poverty at some point in their lives. Those are the people we aim to unite.

Those who do own and operate big business – the factories, plants, big box stores, banks, agribusiness, etc. – make up the capitalist class.

The capitalist class is the most organized, educated, strategic and powerful class in history. It is well financed. The capitalists are completely organized. They have their own communications systems. They own all the factories, the plants, and all the businesses. They control all of the newspapers. They control all of the media. They control the federal government, the state governments, and the local governments. They control the military. They control the police. And this class is on the attack. 

If we do not understand our class enemy, how they are organized and what their strengths and weaknesses are, we will lose. To lose against such a deadly enemy is very dangerous. Our job is to study the class enemy – the capitalist class – in order to defeat them.

Some of the questions that follow from this are straight forward. How is the class enemy organized? How do they rule? How are we ruled? The answer is the capitalists have a Central Committee, a central point of coordination, a central node in their network; it is the Council on Foreign Relations (the CFR). There is a great deal of public knowledge about the CFR and we can learn about it, how it rules, and what it does. We aim here to begin that process.

The Processes of Class Rule

The capitalist class rules through five processes. They are 1) the Special Interest Process, 2) the Policy Formation Process, 3) the Candidate Selection Process, 4) the Ideology Process, and 5) the Violence Process. Let’s briefly look at each. 

1) The Special Interest Process is how specific interests of particular businesses and industries always seem to dominate government decisions. This is done by government penetration by business at every level. Businesses are the source of personnel for government jobs, usually in the very area that the government is supposed to regulate. These people are called In-and-Outers because they come from the business sector into the government, and then, when they leave the government, they go out into the private sector in the same arena. The CFR is very prominent – although not the only player – in the Special Interest Process.

In addition to In-and-Outers, businesses spend billions of dollars each year on lobbyists who go to elected officials and other decision-makers and win them to their special interests. Again, this works at the federal, state and local levels of government. Further, there are advisory committees at every level that are supposedly “independent” of the governmental process. The federal government has over 1,000 of these committees. Appointment to the committees is dominated by “experts” put forth by business and by lobbyists; the CFR plays a central role. This is how special interests at every level are dominated by business in general and by the CFR in particular.

2) The Policy Formation Process deals with broader policy issues, including foreign policy and broad domestic policies. Policy formation is primarily done by the CFR. The CFR has blue-ribbon committees to study issues, publish books and articles, and to hold forums, meetings and conventions. And, they use In-and-Outers to penetrate government.

The policies that are carried out by the government are, in large part, developed by the CFR. The CFR is – among other things – a think tank. Even when the policies it recommends are challenged, after compromise the CFR policies are usually the ones carried out. Of course, this varies with the Presidential administration. For example, nine members of the Biden Cabinet are members of the CFR.

3) The Candidate Selection Process is one where elected officials are vetted and fostered by the capitalist class. The all-or-nothing electoral system in the United States fosters a two-party system. In a parliamentary system, each party is allocated seats in the legislature depending on the proportion of the vote it gets. In the U.S., the party with a majority gets elected. Period. The other party gets nothing. Thus, the system fosters two parties so that a majority can be formed.

It is obvious that money is central to the Candidate Selection Process. With the passage of Citizens United, corporations can donate virtually unlimited funds to the candidates of their choice. Further, ultra-right organizations, are attacking and limiting the right to vote.

Interestingly, those selected by this process generally do not have strong political beliefs. Hence, they are particularly susceptible to the Special Interest and Policy Formation Processes. Those with strong political beliefs, or those whose politics are at odds with the interests of the capitalists, are isolated and filtered out, if they ever get in the door.

4) The Ideology Process is the process whereby the capitalists shape the beliefs, attitudes and opinions of the general population. Again, the CFR is a dominant aspect of this process. The CFR uses its publications (books and articles), its web presence both through its website and through social media, its meetings and forums, and television and radio, to present its views and policies to the world in general. The public itself often does not realize the source of the information. The CFR publishes thousands of Op-Ed articles in newspapers it influences and has programming on all 156 stations of the NPR (National Public Radio) network. In short, the CFR and the capitalist class are conducting a propaganda war to ensure that the population sees virtually no alternative to the capitalist system and the U.S. system of “democracy.”

5) The Violence Process is essential to understanding ruling class power. It is clear that the capitalist system is violent, especially towards the poor and dispossessed. First and foremost, poverty is violence. So is mass incarceration. The murder of African American youth and others of color is particularly devastating.

What we can call the “Fear Project” is also alarming. Television, movies, the news and other forms of media allow fearful scenarios to dominate. They tell us to be afraid of everything. The plethora of police shows, shows depicting violent crime and “reality TV” are designed to keep us afraid of acting on our own behalf. The racist and male supremacist aspects of the Fear Project, coupled with the current political discourse, make the propaganda detrimental to the poor and dispossessed and immobilizes us.

How the CFR is Organized

The CFR is run directly by members of the capitalist class. There are 170 corporate members of the CFR including over thirty international corporate members. There are another 5,000 members that are drawn from the class and from experts and leaders they have selected. To be a member, you must live in the U.S, and be nominated by present members, so it’s not open to just anybody.

Experts are brought up though the ranks. Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice and Joseph Stiglitz are examples. They each began as academic experts who were advanced based on their expertise and their adherence to the capitalist ideology of the CFR. Thousands of lesser known experts are also part of the CFR.

The CFR conducts thousands of forums, meetings and conventions. They range from discussions of books and articles to full-blown policy forums held at the highest levels. The CFR’s primary publication, Foreign Affairs, is a major outlet for their policies and views. It has a broad online presence. Many of their forums and meetings result in online videos, blogs, and articles that are widely disseminated.

CFR decisions are carried out through government penetration. In-and-Outers are used to carry out the decisions made by CFR committees and panels. They penetrate the advisory committees set up at every level to influence governmental decisions.

With regard to the environment, the CFR is completely clear on the danger of environmental degradation to humanity. Nevertheless, their policies are to increase profits instead of saving people. In short, the CFR policy is to allow the death of thousands in the name of profits for the capitalists.

The Trilateral Commission was founded in 1972 by David Rockefeller and Zbgniew Brzezinski. The CFR is a domestic organization and other international organizations did not include Japan. Rockefeller and Brzezinski wanted to pull together the leaders of Western Europe, North America and Japan. Brzezinski became the Director and Rockefeller the North American Chair. it was an invitation-only, international agenda-setting and policy-planning organization. Unlike other international organizations which were dominated by Europeans, the Trilateral Commission was dominated by the U.S. and particularly the CFR. By 2011, the Trilateral Commission had 408 Commissioners and had expanded to include many more nations, notably including China, India and Mexico, but also Eastern European countries.

The Council of Councils was founded in 2012. It directly connected the CFR to twenty-one other “leading foreign policy institutes” from around the world. At the initial meeting, the attendees identified three main trends. First, national governments alone cannot meet the challenges now facing the world. Second, domestic politics increasingly shape international conditions and limit multilateral approaches to solutions. Third, emerging powers with growing economic strength will fundamentally alter geoeconomics and geopolitics. Its current mission is to work toward consensus on global governance and multinational cooperation.

Other Considerations

There are other considerations that need to be addressed. One is whether there are organizational challenges to the CFR as the leading collective of the capitalist class. As with different factions of the class, there are a number of organizations that need to be studied and evaluated for their role as representatives of the capitalists. Among some of the older ones are the Business Roundtable (founded 1972), the Business Council (1922), the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the Chamber of Commerce and the Committee for Economic Development.

Some of the newer challengers include the World Economic Forum (which meets at Davos), the G20, the Atlantic Council (1961), the Center for New American Security (2007) and New America. New America is a “left leaning” think tank that is moving to penetrate the progressive movements and co-opt them.These groups are seriously interconnected. We need to study these groups and learn more about them.

The third consideration is that there are “city CFRs.” These are organizations that are the central committees – or central nodes if you prefer – for the capitalist class in the various cities and locales. In New York, it is the Partnership for New York. In Chicago, there is the Commercial Club of Chicago. In Philadelphia, there is Philadelphia First. It is imperative that people study the capitalist class nationally and locally and understand its workings.


How does the CFR operate? It meticulously studies current events. Its forums and congresses take on the major issues of the day. It gathers leaders from academia and the private sector to develop analysis, assessment and proposals regarding every pressing issue. It then turns the results of these debates into books, articles, op-ed articles, podcasts and briefing notes.

This debate, this study, is absorbed by the CFR, which implements its policies through the In-and-Outers, their form of cadre. They anticipate struggles and issues before they arise, examine them closely in the heat of engagement, and implement or revise plans as necessary, based on their study and debate. They influence their allies. They incorporate them in their dialogues through the Trilateral Commission, the Council of Councils and other bodies.

We must do the same. We must meet the class enemy with knowledge and organization. In order to do that, to know ourselves as well as our enemy, we must study and struggle and learn from every engagement we are in. We must use every struggle to teach us how to win political power.

Bruce E. Parry is a member of the University of the Poor and is a long-term social activist and independent researcher in Chicago, IL. He is a combat veteran of the Vietnam War. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY and completed his doctorate in Economics at The American University in Washington, DC. He is the Veterans Coordinator for the National Union of the Homeless and is a member of the Illinois Union of the Homeless. He is a member of the Coordinating Committee for the Illinois Poor People’s Campaign and works with the Campaign’s South Side Cluster. Although he is retired, Bruce continues to do research and teach classes in Political Economy. He lives with his wife, son and daughter on the South Side of Chicago.

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