We watch the desperate citizens of Tunisia and Egypt demonstrate successfully against their resident dictators, and hope their joy is fulfilled, even as oppressed people under neighboring tyrants try to emulate them, and are slaughtered by the firepower of their own Establishments. We have seen Greek workers and pensioners take to the streets, and even staid Englishmen and women in the UK rally against tax-cheating corporations, and against austerity programs which would be unnecessary had the corporations paid their taxes. We hear about food riots and the rising cost of food, and the threat of hyper-inflation.
Meanwhile, right here at home, we see the betrayed workers in Wisconsin fighting their ruthless Governor. We worry about intractable unemployment and irrational anti-immigrant laws, and the steady increase in political violence, of which the Tucson shootings are only the latest example. We hear Representative Jackie Speier (D,CA) on the floor of Congress speaking eloquently against the Republican war on women. We sign petitions against attacks on Social Security, the environment, the thievery of Wall Street, and the opening of the floodgates of corporate political spending due to the Citizens United decision. Does it not strike you that all of these battles have something in common? That they are not isolated, local incidents, each with its own, individual backstory and provenance?
UPDATE: See above for video from Al Jazeera on revolution suppression in Libya tonight. The tyrant appears to be following the classic doctrine of using overwhelming force against the opposition.
The fact is, the world is in a grassroots rebellion against the global corporate elite and the results of their imposing, or trying to impose, their particular economic-political philosophy on the world. What ties together all these many events, these seemingly local or fringe fights, is that the vultures of the corporate global elite are coming home to roost, recognized at long last for what they are: their disastrous policies, which have been nothing less than vicious class warfare by the wealthy few against the vast majority. We begin to understand that the intent is to embed in the body politic a new aristocracy, a kind of modern feudalism (which I call corporate feudalism).
This is the final, mature form of capitalism, but it can no longer be called capitalism, much less free enterprise, although it claims to be “capitalism” or a “free market.” These terms are disguises, word magic designed to disarm and confuse the intended victims. The terms fail to acknowledge the built-in, massive disasters, the “creative destruction” which is fundamentally necessary to the operation of the mature system—- so fundamental that some refer to the system as “disaster capitalism.”
As it happens, the United States has become inextricably identified with disaster capitalism because, as the surviving super power post-World War II and post-Cold War, it has, through the World Bank and IMF, forced the Free Market theory on the rest of the world, enabling American corporations to dominate across the globe in a new kind of colonialism, cleverly termed “market economy,” and “free trade.”
The basic free market theory claimed to describe how economies really work, and promised that such free market economies, compared to economies run by cumbersome socialist government planning, would produce far superior results in allocating resources and producing prosperity. Time and again, when a third world country fell into hard times and needed foreign money to recover, the economists and financiers of the World Bank took advantage of the national troubles to force “reforms” on the country. The reforms invariably created even worse social and economic hard times, while achieving two results: destruction of the local economy and society, enabling foreign (i.e., Western) corporations to take over the country’s wealth, and elevating selected local elites to greater wealth and dominance, recruiting them into the developing global corporate elite, while depressing the general working population even more. This is “globalization” in action.
When desperate local workers revolted, they were accused of being communists/terrorists, and American power almost always intervened against them, overtly or covertly, in order to restore the favored position of American corporations. (Example, Pinochet in Chile, the Shah in Iran). Time and again, American policy has been, either to confuse the imposition of free trade market economics with “democracy,” or simply to support an authoritarian ruler who co-operated with American corporations and pretended to support America against whatever bete noir Americans were currently worried about, whether it was “communism” or “Islamic terrorists.” Was either of these threats truly existential? That is another topic, but the world in which we live today resulted from combining free market policies at home and abroad, and repeatedly using tunnel vision responses to the perceived threats (like supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan against the Soviets), which seldom looked more than one move ahead, much less took the long view.
In any case, a major consequence of globalization has been the development of an international corporate elite composed of the managers and CEO’s (not the shareholders per se, and certainly not the workers), a relatively small group whose interests are no longer tied to the nation of their origin, who have more in common with each other than with their own countrymen. The transition is incomplete, proceeding at uneven rates, but the changes all share many features in common. Around the globe, these include (“but are not limited to”):
*Ruthless exploitation of labor, including reduction of labor costs everywhere by any means possible in order to increase profits;
*Destruction of any and all regulations of business, including in the financial sector, ending accountability and rejecting any social responsibility;
*Tax cuts, insulating the elite from paying for the social and political infrastructure which actually enables them and their corporations to exist at all, putting the burden for that on the subject population;
*Hostility to, and eventual destruction of, publicly funded education so as to dumb down the work force, resulting not only in a more amenable, fragmented labor force, but in the establishment of an aristocracy whose educated, better fed off-spring will inherit their leadership position;
*Destruction of the middle class once a country is “developed,” by siphoning as much wealth as possible upward, creating finally a two-tier economy, and a basically two-tier society wherein the tiny top of the pyramid holds most of the country’s wealth;
*Use of the national political system in the interests of the corporations; and
*In exchange for all this, the elite declares itself to be the “job-creating investor class,” demanding that every one be grateful to them.
As is befitting the innovator of this free market theory, the United States is further along in the consequences of developing this mature form of capitalism, except that its long democratic tradition has protected it from much of the pain suffered by third world countries’ transition to globalization—- until now. The shock and awe of the last financial meltdown (which may not be entirely a black swan event) is exactly the opportunity a well-prepared corporatist group needed to finish installing its control.
I am not a believer in fancy conspiracy theories, but I have no doubt anymore that there has been a well-planned, long-term campaign to achieve such control, including the total capture of a major political party, the domination of the media, the establishment of a powerful and well-funded network of think tanks and front organizations, an accommodation on social issues with a fundamentalist religious faction which provides foot soldiers, and the infiltration of conservative corporate shills into the judicial system (like Chief Justice Roberts, for example). In other words, it is America’s turn, and the coup is in its final stages.
Egyptians, we are told, rebelled against their oppressors because of the persistent high rate of unemployment, the corrupt crony capitalism and nepotism of the established upper crust, the huge gap between the incomes of the wealthy elite and the vast majority, because of torture and police brutality, and the fact there was no possibility of bettering themselves within the system. The good citizens of Egypt knew they had been ripped off, and they wanted to control their own destiny, so they revolted and demanded “democracy,” which sounded like the solution to their problems. Egyptian unemployment is said to be at 9 percent. So is the American, and I have heard that about the same ratio of national wealth is in the hands of the upper one percent in Egypt as in the U.S. The American middle class has seen stagnant or sinking actual incomes, and most no longer believe the next generation will do better than their parents.
One difference between Egyptians and Americans is that the Americans started from a higher plateau, but are facing the same net results as Egyptians. Another is that Egyptians had a single hated individual, Mubarak, on whom to focus their anger (always helpful in a revolution), whereas Americans cannot figure out whom to blame. There is concern that the Egyptian revolution will be hijacked by either the Army or the Islamic Brotherhood. The incipient American revolt by the Tea Party was quickly hijacked by the corporotists, and its teeth were drawn; it is unlikely that, Wisconsin notwithstanding, there will be a second revolt any time soon. One by one, bit by bit, any effective response to the corporate coup has been co-opted, defunded, demonized, or otherwise de-fanged. Indeed, part of the problem has been the failure of American progressives to recognize the connection among all the attacks, to give the enemy a name, or to respond aggressively with an alternative philosophy.
The enemy is the modern, global corporation and, therefore, the people leading the corporations, and their secular religion mis-named “free market.” Any public figure who even hints at questioning this religion is guaranteed to be demonized, marginalized, and hounded from office. The truth is, progressives cannot trust their own leaders, many of whom have been co-opted by corporate money and the corporate religion. Only a grassroots movement, from the bottom up will work—- as the Egyptians discovered.