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Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy

Photo by Nathaniel St. Clair Capitalism is a lot more important than democracy. I’m not even a big believer in democracy. – Stephen Moore, a potential...

Capitalism is Anti-Social: Socialism is Anti-Capital

Consciousness is… from the very beginning a social product.— Karl Marx Given the degree of consciousness control suffered by people under the domain of privately...

Video: Johann Hari & Naomi Klein: Does Capitalism Drive Drug Addiction? - British journalist Johann Hari recently sat down with Naomi Klein to discuss his new book, "Chasing the Scream: The First and Last...

Christchurch, the White Victim Complex and Savage Capitalism

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair Despite his own denials, anti-Muslim xenophobia underwrites the 74-page manifesto compiled by Australian mass murderer Brendan Tarrant. The title itself,...

Video: Anand Giridharadas: “Woke capitalism” is about deflecting criticism, not benefiting communities

Be wary of corporate philanthropy that claims to be building community but actually has a profit motive, says author Anand Giridharadas. This "woke capitalism"...

MSNBC panelist says Bernie should embrace capitalism because his father fled Nazis. Wait, what?...

Corporate media criticism of democratic socialist Bernie Sanders is to be expected, but RT’s Lee Camp...

Capitalism and the Reactionary Power of White Identity Politics

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair “Yet the end that planters and poor whites envisaged and, as the fight went on, the end that large numbers...

Gender, Class and Capitalism

A half-century ago a capitalist coup was launched in the U.S. to shift power from labor and the liberation movements of the 1960s to...

Naomi Klein and Shoshana Zuboff Discuss Mounting Dangers of ‘Surveillance Capitalism’

A live-streamed discussion about "the unprecedented form of power called 'surveillance capitalism' and the quest by corporations to predict and control our behavior" featuring...

Video: Age of Surveillance Capitalism: “We Thought We Were Searching Google, But Google Was... - Corporations have created a new kind of marketplace out of our private human experiences. That is the conclusion of an explosive ... Via...

Video: Big Tech Stole Our Data While Democracy Slept: Shoshana Zuboff on the Age... - Corporations have created a new kind of marketplace out of our private human experiences. That is the conclusion of an explosive ... Via...

The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created by Richard Nixon in 1970 as the official response to the nascent environmental movement. As laid out...

Video: UK Brexit Vote Reflects a Deep Crisis in Capitalism (Pt 2/2)

Had the British been presented with the option, people might choose a socialist Britain over a capitalist EU, but they are not given that...

Video: UK Brexit Vote Reflects a Deep Crisis in Capitalism (Pt 1/2)

Had the British been presented with the option, people might choose a socialist Britain over a capitalist EU, but they are not given that...

Capitalism and Race Redux

Race is among the more tortured axes of American social relations. The nation was formed from slavery and genocide and no redistribution of political...

Putin and Russia’s Turn to Capitalism

For the longest time Vladimir Putin has assumed the role of an Ian Fleming super-villain in the imaginations of both liberal and neoconservative pundits....

Exploitation and Expropriation, or Why Capitalism Must be Attacked with Equal Force on Every...

There is much discussion on the left about the connections and relative importance of class, race, gender, and the environment. Some, like political scientist...

Capitalism’s Opponents: – LewRockwell

By Ron Paul December 17, 2018 ...

Until We Confront Capitalism, We Will Not Solve the Climate Crisis

International climate negotiations have failed to curb runaway greenhouse gas emissions since the first UN treaty on emission reductions was adopted in 1992. Consumer-focused...

Joe Kennedy and the Precarious Promise of “Moral Capitalism”

We are a nation that was founded in opposition to hereditary rule. The founders rejected the notion of a king and embraced the principle...

Joe Kennedy and the Precarious Promise of “Moral Capitalism”

We are a nation that was founded in opposition to hereditary rule. The founders rejected the notion of a king and embraced the principle...

The Soft-Totalitarian-State of Totalitarian-Capitalism | Dissident Voice

Introduction Where am I, and what is this nonsense, this totally irrational socio-economic formation? The wool has been pulled over the eyes of the general-population...

Humanity is Killing the World’s Wildlife Populations, Not ‘Capitalism’

Photo Source N i c o l a | CC BY 2.0 Cocked the gat to her head, and pulled back the shirt cover But what...

Trump and the Endgame of Capitalism

Toddlers scrambled alongside their parents on Sunday to escape sprawling clouds of tear gas. A mother attempting to scale a border fence fell and...

The Global Rise of Fascism: Capitalism End Game?

Photo from the archives of Torbak Hopper It is everywhere. In a few years, it has metastasized like a cancer, on all continents. Its fervent...

Video: Keiser Report: Capitalism is not working? (E1307)

In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max and Stacy discuss the surge in share buybacks as corporations turn their Trump tax break into...

Capitalism Is Killing Patients… And Their Physicians

Photo Greanville Post Physician burnout, depression, and suicide increasingly invade discussions within the medical field. Depression and suicide are more common among male and female...

Video: Steve Bannon on the Crisis of Capitalism and the Divine Right of Billionaires

Mathew Fox and Paul Jay discuss Bannon's alliance with the far-right Catholic Opus Dei, and his vision of the Judeo-Christian West Visit ... Via...

Catabolism: Capitalism’s Frightening Future

Photo Source SPACES Gallery | CC BY 2.0 “Out of the frying pan, into the fire” is an apt description of our current place in...

Food, Justice, Violence and Capitalism

In 2015, India’s internal intelligence agency wrote a report that depicted various campaigners and groups as working against the national interest. The report singled...

Food, Justice, Violence and Capitalism

In 2015, India’s internal intelligence agency wrote a report that depicted various campaigners and groups as working against the national interest. The report singled...

Noam Chomsky – The Future of Capitalism

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Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit

Police and protesters outside Climate Summit in San Francisco. Photo: Jonah Raskin. Have no fear. The end is not near or here. Victory is ours,...

Video: Is Capitalism In Crisis? Author of ‘Karl Marx’s Capital and The Present’ Responds

The fundamental proneness to crisis under capitalism was not overcome in the Golden Age of Capitalism and crisis in the late 1960s ushered in...

A People’s Definition of Capitalism

Capitalism in a truthful word: Exploitation. The long form definition is full of complexities purposely installed to hide the fact the short version sounds so...

Capitalism’s Rough & Tumble Climate Affair

Photograph Source Rennett Stowe | CC BY 2.0 It’s entirely possible that capitalism and climate change are not compatible. They just cannot seem to live...

Video: US democrats lose faith in capitalism, gain for socialism – poll

Democrats seem to be falling out of love with capitalism with recent polls showing they are now more positive about socialism. READ MORE: ... Via...

Young Americans have soured on capitalism, and that’s what got Trump elected – Slavoj...

Support for capitalism among younger voters has dropped drastically, a new Gallup poll reveals. The US...

Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 

Despite appearances, it is a mistake to conceptualize the workings of capitalism by placing world-changing agency in the hands of the capitalist class. Sure,...

Video: Trump’s Supreme Court: Capitalism and Democracy Can No Longer Coexist

Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh pushes the Supreme Court towards defending a far-right corporate state, says Henry A. Giroux the author of ... Via...

How Facebook and Surveillance Capitalism Empower Authoritarianism

“Black Elevation.” “Mindful Being.” “Resisters.” “Aztlan Warriors.” Those are the names of some of the accounts removed from Facebook and Instagram Tuesday after Facebook...

Video: A Threat to Global Democracy: How Facebook & Surveillance Capitalism Empower Authoritarianism - “Black Elevation.” “Mindful Being.” “Resisters.” “Aztlan Warriors.” Those are the names of some of the accounts removed from ... Via Youtube

Video: A Threat to Global Democracy: How Facebook & Surveillance Capitalism Empower Authoritarianism - “Black Elevation.” “Mindful Being.” “Resisters.” “Aztlan Warriors.” Those are the names of some of the accounts removed from ... Via Youtube

Globe and Mail Report on Business exposes Lies of Capitalism

The captains of industry are fond of promoting the notion that capitalists, but never government, generate wealth. So what to make of two recent Globe...

The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair Symbolic Violence The mistreatment of migrants at the border has been at the top of the headlines, thanks in no small...

Video: Boots Riley on How His Hit Movie “Sorry to Bother You” Slams Capitalism... - We continue our interview with Boots Riley, writer and director of “Sorry To Bother You,” his new film about an evil telemarketing...

Capitalism and Democracy Can No Longer Coexist

Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh pushes the Supreme Court towards defending a far-right corporate state, says Henry A. Giroux the author of American...

Regime Change and Capitalism | Dissident Voice

by T. Mayheart Dardar / July 8th, 2018 Regime change, both the term and the strategy it describes, has become all too familiar to those...

Living in the Ruins of Capitalism

The daughter of friends was telling me recently about the almost completed PhD thesis she is writing at UCLA’s History Department. It is, she...

Proving Ground for Racialized Capitalism

Photo by Gustavo La Rotta Amaya | CC BY 2.0 The Civil War ended and Edward A. Pollard “of Virginia” immediately wrote a history of...

Herd-Mediocrity and The Meta-Narrative of Bourgeois-Capitalism

The Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is committed to mediocrity. In fact, the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism celebrates it. Everywhere the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism reigns...

The Peoples’ Capitalism | Dissident Voice

Introduction America began as a plutocracy and rather quickly evolved into a corpocracy, or an unequal partnership between Corporate America and Government America, with the...

Shared Capitalism | Dissident Voice

Part 8 of 10 Part Series: Economic Sanity and Alternative Economic Systems by Gary Brumback / June 1st, 2018 Jeff Gates wrote a book jam packed...

Spiritual Capitalism | Dissident Voice

Dana Zohar and Ian Marshall, who wrote the book, Spiritual Capital: Wealth We Can Live By, are a fascinating, couple married to each other....

Post-Modernism Has Not Smashed To Pieces The Meta-Narrative of Bourgeois-Capitalism

Western high-tech civilization can never fully enter the post-modern era without eradicating civilization of bourgeois-state-capitalism, namely, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, that encrusted jewel, dead...

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution

Part 6 of 10 Part Series: Economic Sanity and Alternative Economic Systems by Gary Brumback / May 30th, 2018 The authors of Natural Capitalism argue...

Crib Notes on Late Capitalism

Gordon Gekko, the fictitious corporate raider so memorably personified by Michael Douglas in Wall Street, lectured an assemblage of investors and flaccid board members...

Video: Yanis Varoufakis on Iran Nuclear Deal Demise, US Trade Negotiations, Europe’s Far Right... - In part two of our interview with economist Yanis Varoufakis, the former finance minister in Greece and co-founder of the Democracy ... Via...

Video: Keiser Report: Social Media Surveillance Capitalism (E1125)

Check Keiser Report website for more: In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max and Stacy discuss the 'turds' 'harvesting baby brains' ... Via...

Video: Profits Can be Made from Catastrophes With Disaster Capitalism (1/2)

Antony Loewenstein, author of Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing Out of Catastrophe, says companies that make profits from disasters around the world also have...

White Supremacy and Capitalism Are Deeply Entangled With the Colonial Slave Trade

Marchers protest during the March Against Slavery to raise international awareness of migrants being abused and exploited, held in Los Angeles, California on January...

Challenging Capitalism through Workers’ Control

Workers’ assembly at Officine Zero, a former night train repair facility, in Rome (Photo: Officine Zero) A common feature in every crisis situation, from the...

Video: Keiser Report: Surveillance capitalism, cyberbullying & data brokers (E1213)

Check Keiser Report website for more: In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max and Stacy discuss surveillance capitalism, cyberbullying and data brokers....

Video: Keiser Report: Surveillance Capitalism (E1212)

Check Keiser Report website for more: In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max and Stacy discuss surveillance capitalism, cyberbullying and data brokers....

Tribalism, Reason, and the Challenges Raised by Global Neoliberal Capitalism

This is not an ordinary review or even rehash of George Orwell’s 1945 essay, “Notes on Nationalism.” Rather, it is a reflection on and...

Video: MLK’s Fight Against Racism, Militarism & Capitalism: Historian Taylor Branch on King’s Final... - It was 50 years ago today when Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. He was just 39 years old....

To Honor King, Let’s Work to End Racial Capitalism

An activist holds a Pan-African flag during a protest disrupting the Association of Chiefs of Police Conference on October 25, 2015, in Chicago, Illinois....

The Pope Is Wrong About Capitalism


Video: “The Battle for Paradise”: Naomi Klein on Disaster Capitalism & the Fight for... - Six months since Hurricane Maria battered the island of Puerto Rico, the island is the site of a pitched battle between wealthy...

Capitalism’s Process of Universal Commodification – Consortiumnews

The Marvel/Disney movie “Black Panther” is the latest example of an idea with anti-capitalist origins being co-opted for corporate commodification...

Economic Update: Capitalism Breeds Inequality

This week's episode discusses how globalization has worsened inequality and injustice, how Quebec's doctors are rejecting pay increases, the significance of the YMCA workers'...

Video: On International Women’s Day, Women Declare: Emancipation Comes Through the Rejection of Capitalism - From Afghanistan to the Philippines to Mexico to Spain, women across the globe are taking to the streets today to mark International...

Video: In Spain, Women Launch Nationwide Feminist Strike Protesting “Alliance of Patriarchy & Capitalism” - In Spain, women have launched the first nationwide women's strike in Spain's history to mark International Women's Day. Their motto: “If we...

Top NYT Editor: ‘We Are Pro-Capitalism, the Times Is in Favor of Capitalism’

The Huffington Post piece (2/27/18) that revealed  editorial page editor James Bennet’s declaration that “the New York Times is in favor of capitalism.” Media criticism is,...

Video: “The Young Karl Marx”: Raoul Peck on New Film Examining How Marx Developed... - World-famous filmmaker Raoul Peck is releasing a film today in Los Angeles and New York on the life and times of Karl...

Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story

Photo by Coco Curranski | CC BY 2.0 The Cold War displaced the legacies of the New Deal. Time and Trump are now displacing Cold...

Video: Five Months After Maria, San Juan Mayor Decries “Disaster Capitalism” & Privatization in... - As this week marks five months since Hurricane Maria battered the island of Puerto Rico, more than a quarter of the island...

Capitalism Scapegoats the Government for All Its Problems

This week's episode discusses how the fishing industry is self-destructing, how malls mirror US capitalism, how the UK is renationalizing, the upcoming spikes in...

We the People, Trumped by Constitution and Capitalism

Donald Trump has been struggling with historically unmatched low approval ratings – in the middle and high 30s for the most part –  across...

Video: MLK’s Radical Final Years: Civil Rights Leader Was Isolated After Taking On Capitalism... - Fifty years ago this April, Rev. Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. He was just 39 years old. Today we...

Global Capitalism and Livelihoods Denied: Whipping India’s Farmers into Submission

In India, there is a push to drive people from the countryside into cities. The mainstream narrative implies that urbanisation is natural in the...

Capitalism and the Opioid Crisis

This week's episode discusses a UN report on poverty in the US, Oreos being produced in Mexico, US households having zero or negative net...

It’s Time to Confront the Scourge of Capitalism in the Food System

Mr. Peanut joins other Kraft Heinz mascots in Times Square for the kick-off event of the 'Feed Your Family, Feed The World' program, on...

Capitalism’s Failure Of The Flesh: The Rise Of The Robots | By Phil Rockstroh

Humankind, being an inherently tool-making species, has always been in a relationship with technology. Our tools, weapons, machines, and appliances are crucial to forging...

Capitalism Reduced Indonesian Cities to Infested Carcasses

From Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Samarinda and Pontianak ***** Several years ago, a prominent Indonesian businessman who now resides in Canada, insisted on meeting me in a...

Capitalism’s Failure of the Flesh – Consortiumnews

A bitter irony of modernity is that the age-old dream of freeing people from work’s tedium has been answered by...

Capitalism’s Failure Of The Flesh: The Rise Of The Robots

Humankind, being an inherently tool-making species, has always been in a relationship with technology. Our tools, weapons, machines, and appliances are crucial to forging...

Plunder Capitalism

Photo by Coco Curranski | CC BY 2.0 I deplore the tax cut that has passed Congress.  It is not an economic policy tax cut,...

Economic Update: Capitalism, Corporations and Media

This week's episode discusses corrupt Congressional "tax reform," giant corporations' abuse of power, GE CEO wastes millions, corporate structure and sexual harassment/abuse, Detroit's fake...

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on Trump, Shock Doctrine and “Disaster Capitalism” in...

AMY GOODMAN: That was San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. I interviewed her last month in the San Juan's Roberto Clemente Coliseum, where she and her entire mayoral...

Video: San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on Trump, Shock Doctrine & “Disaster Capitalism”... - Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz joins us for an extended interview about how Hurricane Maria had changed Puerto Rico since it struck the...

A Partisanship Of The Heart: Interior Measures Towards A Re-Visioning Of Capitalism’s Imperium Of...

According to a nationwide study conducted by the Center For Disease And Prevention (CDC) a greater number of US Americans died (approximately 65,000) from...

Cradles of Capitalism – LewRockwell


Video: Left-Swipe: Why are US Millennials leaning away from capitalism?

Asked what kind of country they'd prefer to live in, 44 percent of young Americans said they prefer socialism, with only 42 percent favoring...

China and the US: Rational Planning and “Lumpen” Capitalism

US journalists and commentators, politicians and Sinologists spend considerable time and space speculating on the personality of China’s President Xi Jinping and his appointments...

Video: Yanis Varoufakis on Global Capitalism & How Trump’s Tax Plan is Class War... - President Trump and House Republicans have unveiled their long-promised proposal to reform America's tax code, with Trump ... Via Youtube

Video: San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz On Trump, Shock Doctrine & “Disaster Capitalism”... - We continue our coverage of Puerto Rico, where United Nations experts are warning of “alarming” conditions, now more than five ... Via Youtube

Marc Faber, Freedom of Speech, & Capitalism

Political Correctness Hampers Honest Debate What would the world be like today had Europeans never colonized Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, and...

2 or 3 Things I Know About Late-Stage Capitalism | By

A number of recent, press articles, including an over 8000 word feature piece in the New York Times have asked, to quote the The...

Two or Three Things I Know About Capitalism

A number of recent, press articles, including an over 8000 word feature piece in the New York Times have asked, to quote the The...

Economic Update: Transition Beyond Capitalism

This week's episode discusses the economic costs and benefits of refugees, the rise of BRICS nations in the world economy, the closing and privatization...

Damaged by Hurricanes and "Vulture" Capitalism, Caribbean Islands Plead for Debt Relief

A dog walks past damages on September 20, 2017, in Grand Case, on the French side of the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, after...

Video: Honduran Activist Berta Caceres Stood Up Against Racism, Patriarchy, and Capitalism

Filmmaker Jesse Freeston marks the first anniversary of the assassination of Berta Caceres, an outspoken critic of US imperialism and environmental activist ... Via Youtube

Capitalism, the State and the Drowning of America

Photograph Nathaniel St. Clair As Hurricane Harvey lashed Texas, Naomi Klein wasted no time in diagnosing the “real root causes” behind the disaster, indicting “climate...

Disaster Relief: Capitalism and Socialism

In human society, there is no such thing as a purely “natural” disaster. While storms, flooding, landslides and other emergencies are in some sense...

Video: Dr. Robert Bullard: Houston’s “Unrestrained Capitalism” Made Harvey “Catastrophe Waiting to Happen” - The death toll continues to rise as massive amounts of rain from Hurricane Harvey flood Houston and other parts of Texas and...

Capitalism and the Houston flood catastrophe


The Rise of the Robots and the End of Capitalism?

Photo by Nick Amoscato | CC BY 2.0 Recently, there has been much speculation concerning automation and its anticipated effects on human life. This philosophical...

What is Capitalism?

I recently had an exchange that got me questioning the nature of Capitalism. What I’ve come to understand in my exploration of the topic...

Capitalism and Its Discontents: What Are We Living For?

Whoever is not prepared to talk about capitalism should also remain silent about fascism. — Max Horkheimer, from the essay “The Jews and Europe”, December...

The World Beyond Capitalism

A New Idea Addresses Some Old Problems The chron was conceptualized to solve the biggest problem in Capitalism: labor costs. Controlling labor costs to maximize...

Capitalism and Its Discontents: What Are We Living For?

Photo by Metro Centric | CC BY 2.0 “Whoever is not prepared to talk about capitalism should also remain silent about fascism?” -Max Horkheimer, from the...

Is Capitalism in Crisis? Latest Trends of a System Run Amok

Capitalism has always been a highly irrational socioeconomic system, but the constant drive for accumulation has especially run amok in the age of high...

How U.S. Capitalism Opened the Door to Racial Oppression

Photo by Image Editor | CC BY 2.0 Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, recently surveyed U. S. patterns of violent racial...

“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet

Photo by David Shankbone | CC BY 2.0 A recent Washington Post and ABC poll finds that just 37 percent of Americans think that the...

The Museum of Capitalism

Should capitalism be put in a museum? If you think that’s a good idea, you should visit the Museum of Capitalism (MOC) in Oakland, California. Some...

Video: Extended Interview with Actor James Cromwell Before His Jail Sentence: “Capitalism is a... - Watch our extended interview with Oscar-nominated actor James Cromwell before he reports to jail at 4 p.m. Friday in upstate New ... Via...

Imperialism Is Alive and Kicking: A Marxist Analysis of Neoliberal Capitalism

Indian Marxist economist and political commentator Prabhat Patnaik. (Photo: Sreejithkoiloth / Wikipedia) The concept of imperialism has fallen out of the political lexicon of many...

Monopoly Capitalism in Action: How Amazon's Acquisition of Whole Foods Could Affect Us All

A customer shops for produce at a Whole Foods Market February 22, 2007, in San Francisco, California. (Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) In today's...

Alternative Medicine vs. Crony Capitalism

There are lots of debates between what is called establishment medicine and alternative medicine. They have very different strategies in conducting research. Their standards...

Marcus Garvey’s Economic Philosophy has a Capitalism Problem

The controversy surrounding the May 19th unveiling of a bust of Jamaica’s first national hero and Pan-Africanist Marcus Mosiah Garvey on the Mona Campus...

Economic Update: Capitalism's Self-Destruction

  This week's episode discusses the declining California State University system, Trump vs. coal industry realities, Hudson Yards for the mega-rich vs. New York's social...

The U.S. Political Scene: Whiteness and the Legitimacy Crisis of Global Capitalism

The U.S. political scene has been undergoing a facelift in an effort to restore the decreasing legitimacy of the transnationally-oriented capitalist class. This transformation...

The U.S. Political Scene: Whiteness and the Legitimacy Crisis of Global Capitalism

The U.S. political scene has been undergoing a facelift in an effort to restore the decreasing legitimacy of the transnationally-oriented capitalist class. This transformation...

The State of Capitalism — When and Why Will It End?

[youtube] In this educational video Professor of Economics Emeritus (University of Massachusetts), Marxist economist and founder of Democracy at Work, Richard Wolff, talks about capitalism's current and future state....

The Looting Machine Called Capitalism

I have come to the conclusion that capitalism is successful primarily because it can impose the majority of the costs associated with its economic...

From Earth Day to the Monsanto Tribunal, Capitalism on Trial

World Environment Day (WED) occurs on 5 June every year. Promoted by the United Nations, its aim is to encourage global awareness and action for...

Caribbean Reparations Movement Must Put Capitalism on Trial

Why is the reparations movement in the Anglophone Caribbean not putting capitalism on trial in its campaign to force British imperialism to provide financial...

Capitalism: Unregulated Disaster…

Radioactive Wrecking ball Crashing into Regulatory edifice: Watchdogs Devoured by Fat-cats-hawks While we skim crude, dilute fracking-fluid, boil, Triple-filter opaque water to drink; Serve sushi, sample saki with Geiger Counters—and Pay Nazis Not to Poison Pears and Apples we call ‘Organic’ Read more

Capitalism Produced Trump: Another Reason to Move Beyond It

President Donald Trump departs the Oval Office, where he was to sign two executive orders related to trade, at the White House in Washington,...

Economic Update: Capitalism in Trouble

This week's episode discusses major troubles such as Brexit and Trump, the student debt penalty, New York billionaires asking to be taxed, Trump's job...

Video: Pope Francis Calls for Broad Front Against Tyranny and Savage Capitalism

Matthew Fox and Paul Jay discuss the Pope's message to social movements and comparing the European far right and the rise of Trump to...

Economic Update: Capitalism and Democracy

This week's episode discusses the economy of Puerto Rico, worsening inequality in the UK and the decision by Girl Guides of Canada to cancel...

Video: Bannon-Trump Promises to Unleash Unfettered Capitalism

Bhaskar Sunkara, Phyllis Bennis and Paul Jay discuss Trump and Bannon's fight for the 'deconstruction of the administrative state' and deregulation of fossil ... Via...

Capitalism in Crisis: Getting Ready for Change in the Age of Trump

Photo by Metro Centric | CC BY 2.0 The rise of Donald Trump raises opportunities and perils regarding the prospects for societal transformation and change....

Economic Update: Questions About Capitalism

This week's episode discusses the Caterpillar equipment company's tax evasion, Obamacare, the mistreatment of immigrant workers, Harvard's history with slavery, billionaires, as well as...

Trump and Saving Capitalism

Capitalism, Thomas Piketty showed in his book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century has a built-in tendency to worsen income and wealth inequalities. One consequence of this...

Sweat Shops, GMOs and Neoliberal Fundamentalism: The Agroecological Alternative to Global Capitalism

Much of the argument in favour of GM agriculture involves little more than misrepresentations and unscrupulous attacks on those who express concerns about the technology and its impacts....

Big Brother Capitalism Strikes Back

Photo by SPACES Gallery | CC BY 2.0 In classic capitalist fantasy, the “private” marketplace is a land of liberty and the state is a...

Capitalism and America’s addiction epidemic


Authentic Hope in the Twilight of Failed Neoliberal Capitalism

Each group of speakers at the Open Labs fora on "Cities that Learn" in Mexico City explained their unique methodology and shared success stories...

Seeding the Future Against Destructive Neoliberal Capitalism

Speakers at a seed exchange near the Río Santiago in México share planting tips. (Photo: Michael Meurer) There was much bluster about US job losses...

Capitalism and Racism: Evil Twins

Which comes first, racism or the systemic need for racism? In all the reams of printed and digital discussion about Donald Trump’s (attempted) ban on...

Futures Shaped by Automation and Catastrophe: Peter Frase on Capitalism's Endgame

What will replace capitalism as we currently know it? (Photo: Wolf-Ulf Wulfrolf / Flickr) Is capitalism's collapse inevitable? If so, what kind of post-capitalist society...

Global Warming Is About Destroying Capitalism

By Martin Armstrong Armstrong Economics February 4, 2017 A shocking statement was made by a United Nations official Christiana Figueres at a news conference in Brussels. Figueres admitted...

Rebel Cities, Urban Resistance and Capitalism: a Conversation with David Harvey

Emanuele: You begin your book Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, by describing your experience in Paris during the 1970s:...

Plastic and Capitalism Are Killing Ocean Life

For 21st century capitalism the more disposable the better. Ocean life and human health be damned. According to a recent Ellen MacArthur Foundation study, the...

President Trump: Nationalist Capitalism, an Alternative to Corporate Globalization

During his inaugural speech, President Trump clearly and forcefully outlined the strategic political-economic policies he will pursue over the next four years. Anti-Trump...

MLK Day 2017: Mobilizing Against Racism, Capitalism and Militarism in a Neo-Fascist Era

Dawn at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC, on January 18, 2016. (Photo: Zach Gibson / The New York Times) Coretta Scott...

Capitalism Rations What We Most Need — Let's Demand Medicare for All: A Conversation...

Mariame Kaba speaks at an event she organized calling for the closure of youth prisons as part of the Chicago Teachers' Union's #ShutDownCHI one-day...

Canada’s Household Debt Crisis: Blame Capitalism!

Canadian capitalism is in crisis, with household debt reaching a record high 166.9 per cent of disposable income and about 208 per cent of...

Capitalism Is the Problem

Employees assemble synthesizers at Moog Music's production facility in downtown Asheville, North Carolina, June 9, 2015. Moog's new employee-ownership arrangement is more than just...

Economic Update: We Can Do Better Than Capitalism

This week's episode includes updates on the mistreatment of homeless people, voter suppression, widespread lead contamination, Trump's foreign employees and unequal retirement. The show...

Crony Capitalism Made Rick Perry Our Energy Secretary

Rick Perry has taken quite a tumble since being governor of Texas. He was a twice-failed GOP presidential wannabe and then ended up being...

Trump and Netanyahu: Prodigal Sons of Capitalism

A love affair has been brewing in the corridors of power in Washington and Jerusalem, soon to be consummated. Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and Donald...

Capitalism Breeds Reckless Consumption and Starves the Public Sphere

Our culture systemically devalues things that have no price, such as caring for others and political participation. (Photo: Michael Aston / Flickr; Edited: JR...

Capitalism Breeds Reckless Consumption and Starves the Public Sphere

Our culture systemically devalues things that have no price, such as caring for others and political participation. (Photo: Michael Aston / Flickr; Edited: JR...

Racism, Capitalism and Denialism

Given the founding of the nation in vicious ethnic cleansing of the original inhabitants and the forced immigration of kidnapped Africans in chains, racism,...

Video: Keiser Report: Restoring Faith in Capitalism (E1002)

Check Keiser Report website for more: In this episode of the Keiser Report Max and Stacy discuss restoring faith in capitalism with ... Via...

Globalization and Free-Market Capitalism Are Tearing Our Societies Apart

Globalisation and free-market capitalism are the dominant systems influencing the lives of billions in our dysfunctional world. These doctrines are pushed by corporations powerful...

What Has Neoliberal Capitalism Ever Done for India?

Colin Todhunter When India ushered in neoliberal economic reforms during the early 1990s, the promise was job creation, inclusive growth and prosperity for all. But,...

Economic Update: Moving Beyond Capitalism

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The 2015 British General Election: Capitalism’s One-Horse Race

RINF, Global Research, Countercurrents, Counterpunch

Britain is currently in the grip of a general election campaign. Voting takes place on 7 May and election fever in the media is building as various commentators and politicians engage in empty rhetoric about British values and democratic principles. Due to the nature of the 'first past the post' voting system, the only two parties with a realistic hope of achieving a majority of seats in parliament are Labour and the Conservatives. As in the outgoing parliament, the party most likely to achieve third place, the Liberal Democrats, might hold the balance of power in a hung parliament.

On TV last week there was a ‘leaders’ debate’. The issues debated revolved around the economy, the National Health Service and immigration. Leaders of the three main parties embraced a cosy consensus based on the need to continue with ‘austerity’ but quibbled over the nature or speed of cuts to the public sector and public services. The debate has set the tone for the unfolding campaign.

All three main parties are pro-big business and are aligned with the neoliberal economic agenda set by the financial cartel based in the City of London and on Wall Street and by the major transnational corporations. The likes of Chatham House, Centre for Policy Studies, Foreign Policy Centre, Reform, Institute of Economic Affairs and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (most of which the British public have never heard of) have already determined the pro-corporate and generally pro-Washington policies that the parties will sell to the public. Pressure tactics at the top level of politics, massively funded lobbying groups and the revolving door between private corporations and the machinery of state have also helped shape the policy agenda.

As if to underline this, in 2012 Labour MP Austin Mitchell described the UK’s big four accountancy firms as being "more powerful than government." He said the companies’ financial success allows them privileged access to government policy makers. Of course, similar sentiments concerning 'privileged access' could also be forwarded about many other sectors, not least the arms industry and global agritech companies which armed with their poisons, unsustainable model of industrial agriculture and bogus claims have been working hand in glove with government to force GMO's into the UK despite most people who hold a view on the matter not wanting them.

The impact and power of think tanks, lobbying and cronyism means that the major parties merely provide the illusion of choice and democracy to a public that is easily manipulated courtesy of a toothless and supine corporate media. The knockabout point-scoring of party politics serves as entertainment for a public that is increasingly disillusioned with politics.

The upshot is that the main parties have all accepted economic neoliberalism and the financialisation of the British economy and all that it has entailed: weak or non-existent trade unions, an ideological assault on the public sector, the offshoring of manufacturing, deregulation, privatisation and an economy dominated by financial services.

In Britain, long gone are the relatively well-paid manufacturing jobs that helped build and sustain the economy. In its place, the country has witnessed the imposition of a low taxation regime, low-paid and insecure ‘service sector’ jobs (no-contract work, macjobs, call centre jobs - much of which soon went abroad), a real estate bubble, credit card debt and student debt, which all helped to keep the economy afloat and maintain demand during the so-called boom years under Tony Blair. Levels of public debt spiraled, personal debt became unsustainable and the deregulated financial sector demanded the public must write down its own gambling debts.

The economy is now based on (held to ransom by) a banking and finance-sector cartel that specialises in rigging markets, debt creation, money laundering  and salting away profits in various City of London satellite tax havens and beyond. The banking industry applies huge pressure on governments and has significant influence over policies to ensure things remain this way.

If you follow the election campaign, you will see no talk from the main parties about bringing the railway and energy and water facilities back into public ownership. Instead, privatisation will continue and massive profits will be raked in as the public forks out for private-sector subsidies and the increasingly costly ‘services’ provided.

There will be no talk of nationalising the major banks or even properly regulating or taxing them (and other large multinationals) to gain access to funds that could build decent infrastructure for the public benefit.

Although the economy will be glibly discussed throughout the campaign, little will be mentioned about why or how the top one percent in the UK increased their wealth substantially in 2008 alone when the economic crisis hit. Little will be said about why levels of inequality have sky rocketed over the past three decades.

When manufacturing industry was decimated (along with the union movement) and offshored, people were told that finance was to be the backbone of the ‘new’ economy. And to be sure it has become the backbone. A spineless one based on bubbles, derivatives trading, speculation and all manner of dodgy transactions and practices. Margaret Thatcher in the eighties sold the economy to bankers and transnational corporations and they have never looked back. It was similar in the US.

Now Britain stands shoulder to shoulder with Washington’s militaristic agenda as the US desperately seeks to maintain global hegemony - not by rejecting the financialisation of its economy, rebuilding a manufacturing base with decent jobs and thus boosting consumer demand or ensuring the state takes responsibility for developing infrastructure to improve people's quality of life - but by attacking Russia and China which are doing some of those very things and as a result are rising to challenge the US as the dominant global economic power.

The election campaign instead of focusing on 'austerity', immigrants or welfare recipients, who are depicted by certain politicians and commentators as bleeding the country dry, should concern itself with the tax-evading corporate dole-scrounging super rich, the neoliberal agenda they have forced on people and their pushing for policies that would guarantee further plunder, most notably the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

However, with a rigged media and all major parties representing the interests of an unaccountable financial-corporate-state elite, we can expect Britain to continue to fall in line behind Washington’s militarism and a further hollowing out of what remains of the economy and civil society.

No matter who wins on 7 May, the public is destined for more of the same. The real outcome of the election has already been decided by the interlocking directorate of think tanks, big business and its lobby groups and the higher echelons of the civil service. The election will be akin to rearranging the deckchairs on a sinking ship.

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Feeding The Vultures, While Starving Agriculture: Capitalism’s Great Indian Con-Trick

The 4th Media, Global Research, Countercurrents, RINF

The story goes like this: India is an economic miracle, a powerhouse of growth. It is a nation that increasingly embodies the spirit of entrepreneurship. And the proof? Until recently, India had year on year 9% GDP growth (or thereabouts).

Such logic, statements and figures are the stuff of headlines that pay homage to the supposed wonders of neoliberalism which the corporate media trots out time and again in the belief that if something is repeated often enough then it must be true.

Visit Delhi or Mumbai and you can witness the trappings of this ‘success’. Newly built towns on the outskirts with gleaming apartment blocks and sterile shopping malls. What more could a person want? All well and good for those who have benefited from neoliberal economic reforms that began in 1991 - because indeed it seems that is all they do want.

But these beneficiaries of neoliberalism comprise a minority. They constitute but a section of the urban population, which in turn constitutes a minority within the country. They are the ones the ideologue-economists and corporate-controlled media in the West focus on when celebrating capitalism and its global ‘success’. But what about the bulk of the population, the two thirds that live in villages and rural India?

According to Sudhansu R Das, the Indian village was once enshrined in a performing eco-system and a healthy social life (see this). In fact, the village was the centre of a rural economy, an economic powerhouse of agricultural innovation, artisanship and entrepreneurialism. However, the British Raj almost dismantled this system by introducing mono crop activities and mill-made products. Post-independent India failed to repair the economic fabric and is now actually accelerating the dismantling. As a result, rural India is too often depicted as a ‘basket case’, a drain on the nation's subsidies and resources.

It is not, however, agriculture that is the subsidy-sucking failure it is so often portrayed as in the mainstream media. The spotlight should instead focus on corporate-industrial India, the supposed saviour of the nation, which has failed to deliver in terms of boosting exports or creating jobs, despite the massive hand outs and tax exemptions given to it (see this and this).  As subsidy-sucking failures go, it has much to answer for.

Of course, corporate-industrial India is engaged in a huge con-trick, which forms part of the neoliberal agenda worldwide: subsidies to the public sector or to the poor are portrayed as a drain on the economy, while the genuinely massive drain of taxpayer-funded corporate dole, tax breaks, bail outs, sops, tax avoidance and evasion are afforded scant attention. If anything, through slick doublespeak, all of this becomes redefined as being necessary to create jobs or fuel 'growth'.

But what does the taxpaying public get in return for subsidising the private sector in this way and for paying for its fraudulent practices? What do ordinary people get for being forced to ‘stand on their own two feet’ while subsidising a system of ‘free’ enterprise that is anything but free? Jobs...  'growth'?

No, they see record profits and levels of inequality and experience austerity, the outsourcing of jobs, low pay, the destruction of rights, deregulation, mass unemployment and the erosion pensions and social security (see this  and this).

The machinery of state is pressed into the service of private capital for the benefit of private capital under the guise of 'growth' or the 'national interest' and that is the price the rest of us pay.

This is exemplified by the following quote:
“We don’t think how our farmers on whose toil we feed manage to sustain themselves; we fail to see how the millions of the poor survive. We look at the state-of-the-art airports, IITs, highways and bridges, the inevitable necessities for the corporate world to spread its tentacles everywhere and thrive, depriving the ordinary people of even the basic necessities of life and believe it is development.” – Sukumaran CV
What Sukumaran CV describes above is in India underpinned by unconstitutional land takeovers, the trampling of democratic rights, cronyism, cartels and the manipulation of markets, which to all purposes is what economic ‘neo-liberalism’ has entailed in India over the last two decades. Corporations have run roughshod over ordinary people in their quest for profit.

In the process, there have been untold opportunities for well-placed officials and individuals to make a fast buck from various infrastructure projects and sell offs of public assets, such as airports, seeds, ports and other infrastructure built up with public money or toil.

This neoliberal agenda is based on state-corporate extremism, which has across the world resulted in national states submitting to the tenets of the Wall Street-backed pro-privatisation policies, deregulation, free capital flows, rigged markets and unaccountable cartels. It is the type of extremism that is depicted as being anything but by the corporate-controlled media.

Powerful corporations are shaping the ‘development’ agenda in India and the full military backing of the state is on hand to forcibly evict peoples from their land in order to hand it to mineral extracting and processing industries, real estate interests and industry.

Moreover, the deal that allows the Monsanto/Syngenta/Walmart-driven Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture in return for the US sanctioning and backing the opening up of India’s nuclear sector to foreign interests has shown who is setting the agenda for agriculture, food and energy.

Almost 300,000 farmers have taken their lives since 1997 and many more are experiencing economic distress or have left farming as a result of debt, a shift to (GM) cash crops and economic ‘liberalisation’ (see this). And yet the corporate-controlled type of agriculture being imposed and/or envisaged only leads to bad food, bad soil, bad or no waterbad health, poor or falling yields and an impending agrarian crisis.

It’s not difficult to see where policy makers’ priorities lie. In a recent TV interview (watch here), food policy analyst Devinder Sharma highlighted such priorities:
“Agriculture has been systematically killed over the last few decades. And they are doing deliberately because the World Bank and big business have given the message that this is the only way to grow economically… Sixty percent of the population lives in the villages or in the rural areas and is involved in agriculture, and less than two percent of the annual budget goes to agriculture… When you are not investing in agriculture, you think it is economically backwards, not performing. You are not wanting it to perform. You are ensuring that the price they get today under the MSP (Minimum Support Price) has also being withdrawn. Leave it to the vagaries or the tyranny of the markets… Twenty-five crore people in this country are agricultural landless workers. If we give these people land, these people are also start-ups, these people are also entrepreneurs... But you are only giving these conditions to industry... agriculture has disappeared from the economic radar screen of the country… 70 percent of the population is being completely ignored…”
Farmers have been imbued with the spirit of entrepreneurship for hundreds of years. They have been "scientists, innovators, natural resource stewards, seed savers and hybridisation experts" who have increasingly been reduced to becoming "recipients of technical fixes and consumers of poisonous products of a growing agricultural inputs industry" (see here).

In his interview, Devinder Sharma went on to state that despite the tax breaks and the raft of policies that favour industry over agriculture, industry has failed to deliver; and yet despite the gross under-investment in agriculture, it still manages to deliver bumper harvests year after year. Furthermore, when farmers are prioritised, politicians are accused of populism and playing to a vote bank. Yet when industry receives subsidies, hand outs and tax breaks, it is called 'reform'and portrayed as contributing to 'growth':
“When we talk about budgets, it’s going to be populism or reforms. What is reforms? … if you don’t give anything to industry, they call it ‘policy paralysis’. But if you give them all kinds of dole then they think it is growth, they think it is a dream budget. In the last 10 years, we had 36 lakh crore going to the corporates by way of tax exemptions. Where are the jobs? They just created 1.5 crore jobs in the last ten years. Where are the exports? ... The only sector that has performed very well in this country is agriculture. Year after year we are having a bumper harvest. Why can’t we strengthen that sector and stop the population shift from the villages… Why do you want to move the population just because Western economists told us we should follow them. Why? Why can’t India have its own thinking? Why do we have to go with Harvard or Oxford economists who tell us this?”
With GDP growth slowing and automation replacing human labour the world over in order to decrease labour costs and boost profit, where are the jobs going to come from to cater for hundreds of millions of former agricultural workers or those whose livelihoods will be destroyed as transnational corporations move in and seek to capitalise industries that currently employ tens of millions (if not hundreds of millions)?

Are they to become what Arundhati Roy calls the "ghosts of capitalism," the invisible, shoved-aside victims of neoliberalism who are deemed surplus to requirements?

India’s development is being hijacked by the country’s wealthy ruling class and the multinational vultures who long ago stopped circling and are now swooping. Meanwhile, the genuine wealth creators, the entrepreneurs who work the fields and have been custodians of the land and seeds for centuries, are being sold out to corporate interests whose only concern is to how best loot the economy.

As they do so, they churn out in unison with their politician puppets the mantra of it all being in the ‘national interest’ and constituting some kind of 'economic miracle'.

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Real Business Leaders Want to Save Capitalism

A few weeks ago I was visited in my office by the chairman of one of the country’s biggest high-tech firms who wanted to talk about the causes and consequences of widening inequality and the shrinking middle class, and what to do about it.

I asked him why he was concerned. “Because the American middle class is the core of our customer base,” he said. “If they can’t afford our products in the years ahead, we’re in deep trouble.”

I’m hearing the same refrain from a growing number of business leaders.

They see an economic recovery that’s bypassing most Americans. Median hourly and weekly pay dropped over the past year, adjusted for inflation. 

Since the depths of the Great Recession in 2009, median real household income has fallen 4.4 percent, according to an analysis by Sentier Research. 

These business leaders know the U.S. economy can’t get out of first gear as long as wages are declining. And their own businesses can’t succeed over the long term without a buoyant and growing middle class.

They also recognize a second danger.

Job frustrations are fueling a backlash against trade and immigration. Any hope for immigration reform is now dead in Congress, and further trade-opening agreements are similarly moribund. Yet the economy would be even worse if America secedes into isolationism.

Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, warned recently on “CBS This Morning” that income inequality is “destablilizing” the nation and is “responsible for the divisions in the country.” He went on to say that “too much of the GDP over the last generation has gone to too few of the people.” 

Blankfein should know. He pulled in $23 million last year in salary and bonus, a 9.5 percent raise over the year before and his best payday since the Wall Street meltdown. This doesn’t make his point any less valid. 

Several of business leaders are suggesting raising the minimum wage and increasing taxes on the wealthy.

Bill Gross, Chairman of Pimco, the largest bond-trading firm in the world, said this week that America needs policies that bring labor and capital back into balance, including a higher minimum wage and higher taxes on the rich. 

Gross has noted that developed economies function best when income inequality is minimal.

Several months ago Gross urged his wealthy investors, who benefit the most from a capital-gains tax rate substantially lower than the tax on ordinary income, to support higher taxes on capital gains. “The era of taxing ‘capital’ at lower rates than ‘labor’ should now end,” he stated. 

Similar proposals have come from billionaires Warren Buffett and Stanley Druckenmiller, founder of Duquesne Capital Management and one of the top performing hedge fund managers of the past three decades. Buffett has suggested the wealthy pay a minimum tax of 30 percent of their incomes.

The response from the denizens of the right has been predictable: If these gentlemen want to pay more taxes, there’s nothing stopping them. 

Which misses the point. These business leaders are arguing for changes in the rules of the game that would make the game fairer for everyone. They acknowledge it’s now dangerously rigged in the favor of people like them.

They know the only way to save capitalism is to make it work for the majority rather than a smaller and smaller minority at the top.

In this respect they resemble the handful of business leaders in the Gilded Age who spearheaded the progressive reforms enacted in the first decade of the twentieth century, or those who joined with Franklin D. Roosevelt to create Social Security, a minimum wage, and the forty-hour workweek during the Depression.

Unfortunately, the voices of these forward-thinking business leaders are being drowned out by backward-lobbying groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that are organized to reflect the views of their lowest common denominator.

And by billionaires like Charles and David Koch, who harbor such deep-seated hatred for government they’re blind to the real dangers capitalism now faces.

Those dangers are a sinking middle class lacking the purchasing power to keep the economy going, and an American public losing faith that the current system will deliver for them and their kids.

America’s real business leaders understand unless or until the middle class regains its footing and its faith, capitalism remains vulnerable.

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The Practical Choice: Not American Capitalism or “Welfare State Socialism” but an Economy...

For years Americans have assumed that our hard-charging capitalism  is better than the soft-hearted version found in Canada and Europe. American capitalism might be a bit crueler but it generates faster growth and higher living standards overall. Canada’s and Europe’s “welfare-state socialism” is doomed.  

It was a questionable assumption to begin with, relying to some extent on our collective amnesia about the first three decades after World War II, when tax rates on top incomes in the U.S. never fell below 70 percent, a larger portion of our economy was invested in education than before or since, over a third of our private-sector workers were unionized, we came up with Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor, and built the biggest infrastructure project in history, known as the interstate highway system.

But then came America’s big U-turn, when we deregulated, de-unionized, lowered taxes on the top, ended welfare, and stopped investing as much of the economy in education and infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Canada and Europe continued on as before. Soviet communism went bust, and many of us assumed European and Canadian “socialism” would as well.

That’s why recent data from the Luxembourg Income Study Database  is so shocking.

The fact is, we’re falling behind. While median per capita income in the United States has stagnated since 2000, it’s up significantly in Canada and Northern Europe. Their typical worker’s income is now higher than ours, and their disposable income – after taxes – higher still.

It’s difficult to make exact comparisons of income across national borders because real purchasing power is hard to measure. But even if we assume Canadians and the citizens of several European nations have simply drawn even with the American middle class, they’re doing better in many other ways.

Most of them get free health care and subsidized child care. And if they lose their jobs, they get far more generous unemployment benefits than we do. (In fact, right now 75 percent of jobless Americans lack any unemployment benefits.)

If you think we make up for it by working less and getting paid more on an hourly basis, think again. There, at least three weeks paid vacation as the norm, along with paid sick leave, and paid parental leave.

We’re working an average of 4.6 percent more hours more than the typical Canadian worker, 21 percent more than the typical French worker, and a whopping 28 percent more than your typical German worker, according to data compiled by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

But at least Americans are more satisfied, aren’t we? Not really. According to opinion surveys and interviews, Canadians and Northern Europeans are.

They also live longer, their rate of infant mortality is lower, and women in these countries are far less likely to die as result of complications in pregnancy or childbirth.

But at least we’re the land of more equal opportunity, right? Wrong. Their poor kids have a better chance of getting ahead. While 42 percent of American kids born into poor families remain poor through their adult lives, only 30 percent of Britain’s poor kids remain impoverished – and even smaller percentages in other rich countries.

Yes, the American economy continues to grow faster than the economies of Canada and Europe. But faster growth hasn’t translated into higher living standards for most Americans.

Almost all our economic gains have been going to the top – into corporate profits and the stock market (more than a third of whose value is owned by the richest 1 percent). And into executive pay (European CEOs take home far less than their American counterparts).

America’s rich also pay much lower taxes than do the rich in Canada and Europe.

But surely Europe can’t go on like this. You hear it all the time: They can no longer afford their welfare state.

That depends on what’s meant by “welfare state.” If high-quality education is included, we’d do well to emulate them. Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 rank near the bottom among rich countries in literacy and numeracy. That spells trouble for the U.S. economy in the future.

They’re also doing more workforce training, and doing it better, than we are. The result is more skilled workers.  

Universal health care is another part of their “welfare state” that saves them money because healthier workers are more productive.

So let’s put ideology aside. The practical choice isn’t between capitalism and “welfare-state socialism.” It’s between a system that’s working for a few at the top, or one that’s working for just about everyone. Which would you prefer?

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As the rich get richer, the middle class fades, and the poor are ruthlessly demonized by the rich, America is becoming that most evil of capitalist states—a place where a few uber-rich feast at the table while the rest of us struggle for scraps. In such a state, the elite few who possess nearly everything can purchase most anything, including the government and the media. Consequently the state is run for the benefit of the wealthy few at the expense of the many. Sociopaths in positions of power in the corporate and political worlds partner to form a sinister alliance. Privatization of all functions of government and deregulation of business practices become the rallying cries. As Mussolini declared, “Fascism should rightly be called coporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power.”

Republicans and their billionaire donors are trying mightily to make America this kind of state today. In this model, capitalism becomes more than free enterprise; it is the iron wall separating the ultra wealthy from the rest of us. It is the means by which stark income inequality can become permanent.

Two books I recommend reinforce this notion. Thomas Piketty’s “Capitalism In The Twenty-First Century” uses economic numbers to make an scientific case for the destructiveness of the current version of American capitalism. The means and opportunities by which the common person can access middle class status are being cut off, intentionally and rigorously, by the 1% who control 55-60% of all the wealth of the country. And this “socioeconomic gulf” is widening.

Likewise, Naomi Klein's book Disaster Capitalism warns of the evils of capitalism in the 21st century. She argues that deregulation has been extremely profitable for those at the top but something of a disaster for those at the bottom.

No surprise there, but Klein does imply that there is more than simple economics at work. Governments in league with corporations around the globe have employed something called the “shock system.” This system uses crises or calamities to pass laws that implement destructive capitalist policies. She cites examples from Asia, Latin America, and Russia, but the same could be said for our own 9/11 catastrophe that led to the unwarranted invasion of Iraq. The greed and corruption that followed was unprecedented. War profiteers and contractors got rich, and the commoner was left to ponder how his pockets got picked. Same with the Wall Street meltdown and bailout in 2008. It nearly destroyed our economy, but in the end the taxpayer funded billionaires who put another one over on us.

Klein is quoted in the latest edition of OpEd News as saying, “If we want to understand how this system has swept the globe from Latin America to Russia to this country, we need to understand the incredible ‘utility of crisis’ to this project, because the great leaps forward for this project have taken place in the midst of and during the immediate aftermath of some kind of a shock. The extreme cases that I discuss in the book are wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters...the most common shocks that have created the context for pushing through these very unpopular policies in a way that economists often call economic shock therapy. The first shock is the economic crisis; the second shock is the economic shock therapy.”

Olympic Capitalism: Bread and Circuses Without the Bread

The author of Brazil's Dance With the Devil, Dave Zirin, must love sports, as I do, as billions of us do, or he wouldn't keep writing about where sports have gone wrong.  But, wow, have they gone wrong!

Brazil is set to host the World Cup this year and the Olympics in 2016.  In preparation Brazil is evicting 200,000 people from their homes, eliminating poor neighborhoods, defunding public services, investing in a militarized police and surveillance state, using slave and prison labor to build outrageous stadiums unlikely to be filled more than once, and "improving" a famous old stadium (the world's largest for 50 years) by removing over half the capacity in favor of luxury seats.  Meanwhile, popular protests and graffiti carry the message: "We want 'FIFA standard' hospitals and schools!" not to mention this one:

(FIFA = Fédération Internationale de Football Association, aka Soccer Profiteers International)

Brazil is just the latest in a string of nations that have chosen the glory of hosting mega sports events like the Olympics and World Cup despite the drawbacks.  And Zirin makes a case that nations' governments don't see the drawbacks as drawbacks at all, that in fact they are the actual motivation.  "Countries don't want these mega-events in spite of the threats to public welfare, addled construction projects, and repression they bring, but because of them."  Just as a storm or a war can be used as an excuse to strip away rights and concentrate wealth, so can the storm of sporting events that, coincidentally or not, have their origins in the preparation of nations for warmaking.

Zirin notes that the modern Olympics were launched by a group of European aristocrats and generals who favored nationalism and war -- led by Pierre de Coubertin who believed sport was "an indirect preparation for war." "In sports," he said, "all the same qualities flourish which serve for warfare: indifference toward one's well being, courage, readiness for the unforeseen."  The trappings of the Olympic celebration as we know it, however -- the opening ceremonies, marching athletes, Olympic torch run, etc., -- were created by the Nazis' propaganda office for the 1936 games.  The World Cup, on the other hand, began in 1934 in Mussolini's Italy with a tournament rigged to guarantee an Italian win.

More worrisome than what sports prepare athletes for is what they may prepare fans for.  There are great similarities between rooting for a sports team, especially a national sports team, and rooting for a national military.  "As soon as the question of prestige arises," wrote George Orwell, whom Zirin quotes, "as soon as you feel that you and some larger unit will be disgraced if you lose, the most savage combative instincts are aroused."  And there is prestige not just in "your" team winning, but in "your" nation hosting the grand event.  Zirin spoke with people in Brazil who were of mixed minds, opposing the injustices the Olympics bring but still glad the Olympics was coming to Brazil.  Zirin also quotes Brazilian politicians who seem to share the goal of national prestige.

At some point the prestige and the profits and the corruption and the commercialism seem to take over the athletics.  "[T]he Olympics aren't about  sport any more than the Iraq war was about democracy," Zirin writes. "The Olympics are not about athletes.  And they're definitely not about bringing together the 'community of nations.' They are a neoliberal Trojan horse aimed at bringing in business and rolling back the most basic civil liberties."

And yet ... And yet ... the damn thing still is about sports, no matter what else it's about, no matter what alternative venues for sports are possible or imaginable.  The fact remains that there are great athletes engaged in great sporting activities in the Olympics and the World Cup.  The attraction of the circus is still real, even when we know it's at the expense of bread, rather than accompanying bread.  And dangerous as the circus may be for the patriotic and militarist minded -- just as a sip of beer might be dangerous to an alcoholic -- one has the darndest time trying to find anything wrong with one's own appreciation for sports; at least I do.

The Olympics are also decidedly less militaristic -- or at least overtly militaristic -- than U.S. sports like football, baseball, and basketball, with their endless glorification of the U.S. military.  "Thank you to our service men and women watching in 175 countries and keeping us safe." The Olympics is also one of the few times that people in the U.S. see people from other countries on their televisions without wars being involved. 

Zirin's portrait of Brazil leaves me with similarly mixed sentiments. His research is impressive. He describes a rich and complex history.  Despite all the corruption and cruelty, I can't help being attracted to a nation that won its independence without a war, abolished slavery without a war, reduces poverty by giving poor people money, denounces U.S. drone murders at the U.N., joins with Turkey to propose an agreement between the United States and Iran, joins with Russia, India, and China to resist U.S. imperialism; and on the same day this year that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission proposed ending the open internet, Brazil created the world's first internet bill of rights. For a deeply flawed place, there's a lot to like.

It's also hard to resist a group of people that pushes back against the outrages being imposed on it.  When a bunch of houses in a poor Brazilian neighborhood were slated for demolition, an artist took photos of the residents, blew them up, and pasted them on the walls of the houses, finally shaming the government into letting the houses stand.  That approach to injustice, much like the Pakistani artists' recent placement of an enormous photo of a drone victim in a field for U.S. drone pilots to see, has huge potential. 

Now, the question is how to display the Olympics' victims to enough Olympics fans around the world so that no new nation will be able to accept this monster on the terms it has been imposing.

read more

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Co-ops-- cooperative economic enterprises-- have been embraced by significant groups of people at different times and places. Their attraction precedes the heyday of industrial capitalism by offering a means to consolidate small producers and take advantage of economies of scale, shared risk, and common gain.

At the advent of the industrial era, cooperatives were one of many competing solutions offered to ameliorate the plight of the emerging proletariat. Social engineers like Robert Owen experimented with cooperative enterprises and communities.

In the era of mass socialist parties and socialist construction, cooperatives were considered as intermediate steps to make the transition from feudal agrarian production towards socialist relations of production.

Under the capitalist mode of production, co-ops have filled both employment and consumption niches deferred by large scale capitalist production. Economic activities offering insufficient profitability or growth have become targets for cooperative enterprise.

In theory, cooperatives may offer advantages to both workers and consumers. Workers are thought to benefit because the profits that are expropriated by non-workers in the capitalist mode of production are shared by the workforce in a cooperative enterprise (less the present and anticipated operating expenses and investments, of course). Many argue as well that the working conditions are necessarily improved since workplace decisions are arrived at democratically absent the lash associated with the profit-mania of alienated ownership (though little attention is paid to the consequences for productivity and competitiveness against capitalist enterprises).

Consumers are said to benefit when they collectively appropriate the retail functions normally assumed by privately owned, profit-driven outlets. Benefit comes, on this view, by purchasing from wholesale suppliers, collectively meeting the labor requirements of distribution, and enjoying the cost-savings from avoiding a product markup (little attention is paid to limitations on participation dictated by class, race, or gender; the wholesale quantity discounts enjoyed by capitalist chains are also conveniently overlooked).

A case can also be made for the cooperator's dedication to quality, safety, and health- promotion.

In reality, cooperatives in the US are largely indistinguishable from small businesses. Like small private businesses, they employ few people and rely heavily upon “sweat equity” for capitalization. Like other small businesses, US cooperatives operate on the periphery of the US economy, apart from the huge monopoly capitalist firms in manufacturing, service, and finance.

Cooperatives as a Political Program

Since the demise of the Soviet Union and Eastern European socialism, many on the US Left have rummaged for a new approach to the inequalities and injustices that accompany capitalism. Where more than a decade of anti-Communist purges had wrung nearly all vestiges of socialist sympathy from the US psyche, the fall of the ludicrously-named “Iron Curtain” found Leftists further distancing themselves from Marxian socialism. Hastily interning the idea of socialism, they reached for other answers.

It is unclear whether this retreat was actually a search for a different anti-capitalist path or, in reality, grasping an opportunity to say farewell to socialism.

In recent years, several Leftists, “neo-Marxists”, or fallen Marxists have advocated cooperatives as an anti-capitalist program. Leading advocates include the Dollars and Sensecollective centered around the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, GEO (Grassroots Economic Organizing), Professor Gar Alperovitz, Labor Notes, United Steel Workers of America, and media Marxist-du-jour, Professor Richard Wolff. Some are organizing around the idea of a “New Economy” or a “Solidarity Economy”, with cooperative enterprises as a centerpiece.

Now coops are not foreign to Marxist theory. After World War I, the Italian government sought to transfer ownership of unused land from big estates, latifondi, on to peasants, especially veterans. As much as 800,000 hectares were thus passed on to poor peasants. Through this process and land seizures, the number of smallholders increased dramatically. Socialists and Communists urged the consolidation of these holdings into collectives, agricultural cooperatives. Certainly more than 150,000 hectares ended up in cooperatives. In those circumstances, the rationale was to increase the productivity, to save the costs, to enhance the efficiency of peasant agriculture in order to compete with the large private estates. Cooperatives were not seen as an alternative to socialism, but a rational step away from near feudal production relations toward socialism, a transitional stage.

Likewise, in the early years of the Soviet Union, Communists sought to improve small-scale peasant production by organizing the countryside into collective farms, producers' cooperatives. They saw cooperative arrangements as rationalizing production and, therefore, freeing millions from the tedium and grind of subsistence farming and integrating them into industrial production. Through mechanization and division of labor, they expected efficiency and productivity to grow dramatically, speeding development and paving the way for socialism.

Again, cooperative enterprises counted as an intermediary for moving towards socialist relations of production. Thus, Marxists see the organization of cooperatives as a historically useful bridge between rural backwardness and socialism.

But modern day proponents of cooperatives see them differently.

The 'evolutionary reconstructive' approach is a form of change different not only from traditional reform, but different, too, from traditional theories of 'revolution'” says Gar Alperovitz of cooperatives and other elements of the “Solidarity Economy” (America beyond Capitalism, Dollars and Sense, Nov/Dec, 2011). Like most proponents, Alperovitz sees cooperatives as pioneering a “third way” between liberal reformism and socialist revolution. However, a minority of advocates (Bowman and Stone, “How Coops can Change the World”, D&S, Sept/Oct, 1998, for example) see cooperatives as the “best first step towards that goal [of a planned, democratic world economy]. They suggest that the correct road is through “spreading workplace democracy” and on to socialism.

Whether postured as a “third way” or a step towards socialism, it is difficult to get a clear picture of the extent and success of the cooperative movement; it is equally challenging to gather a sense of how it is suppose to function in a capitalist economy.

As for numbers, Alperovitz (“America beyond Capitalism”, D&S, Nov/Dec, 2011) muddies the waters by citing the numbers of “community development corporations” and “non-profits” (Alperovitz, 2011) as somehow strengthening the case for cooperatives. The fact that community development corporations have wrested control of neighborhoods from old-guard community and neighborhood groups and embraced developers and gentrification causes him no distress. Of course “non-profits” count as an even more dubious expression of a solidarity economy. In a city like Pittsburgh, PA, mega-non-profits remove 40% of the assessed property from the tax rolls. These non-profits not only evade taxes, but divide enormous “surpluses” among super-salaried executives. They beggar funding from tax shelter trusts and endowment funds, completing the circle of wink-and-a-nod tax evasion. Of course there are, as well, thousands of “non-profits” that pursue noble goals and operate on a shoestring.

Alperovitz alludes to credit unions as perhaps sharing the spirit of cooperation without noting the steady evolution of these once “third way” institutions towards a capitalist business model. Insurance companies also share this evolution, but they are too far down this path of transition to capitalist enterprise to be credibly cited by Alperovitz.

Alperovitz leaves us with “...11,000 other businesses that are owned in whole or part by their employees.” In this slippery total of whole or partial worker ownership are included ESOPs-- Employee Stock Ownership Programs, a touted solution to the plant closing surge that ripped through the Midwest in the 1980s. Alperovitz pressed vigorously for ESOPs in the steel industry in the 1980s as he does cooperatives today. When asked to sum up their track record, one sympathetic consultant, when pressed, said: “I don't think its been a real good record of success. Some have actually failed...” (Mike Locker, “Democracy in Steel?”, D&S, Sept/Oct, 1998). But we get no firm number for cooperatives in the US.

Another advocacy group for cooperatives gave a more candid picture of the cooperative movement in the Sept/Oct, 1998 issue of Dollars and Sense (“ESOPS and Coops”). A study by the Southern Appalachian Cooperative Organization claimed that there were 154 worker-owned cooperatives employing 6,545 members in the US. In sixty percent of the 154, all workers were owners. Median annual sales were $500,000 and 75 percent had 50 or fewer workers. Twenty-nine percent of the coops were retail, twenty-eight percent were small manufacturing, and twenty-three per cent food related businesses.

Interestingly, the same article claims that there were approximately 11,000 ESOPs in 1988 (source: National Center of Employee Ownership). If we take Alperovitz's 2011 claim seriously, there has been little growth in the ensuing thirteen years of “...businesses that are owned in whole or part by their employees...”.

From this profile, we can conclude that cooperatives in the US are essentially small businesses accounting for a tiny portion of the tens of millions of firms employing less than 50 employees. As such, they compete against the small service sector and niche manufacturing businesses that operate on the periphery of monopoly capitalism. Insofar as they pose a threat to capitalism, they only threaten the other small-scale and family owned businesses that struggle against the tide of price cutting, media marketing, and heavy promotion generated by monopoly chains and low-wage production. They share the lack of capital and leverage with their private sector counterparts. Cooperatives swim against the tide of monopolization and acquisition that have virtually destroyed the mom and pop store and the neighborhood business.

Some of the more clear-headed advocates acknowledge this reality. Betsy Bowman and Bob Stone concede the point: “...Marx argued in 1864 that capitalists' political power would counteract any gains that coops might make. This has proven true! When capitalists have felt threatened by cooperatives, they have conducted economic war against coops by smear campaigns, supplier boycotts, sabotage, and, especially, denying credit to them.” (Bowman and Stone, D&S, Sept/Oct, 1998).


Until recently, cooperators and their advocates had one very large arrow in their quiver.
When pressed on the apparent weakness of cooperatives as an anti-capitalist strategy, they would counter loudly: “Mondragon!”.

This large-scale network of over 100 cooperative enterprises based in Spain seemed to defy the criticisms of the cooperative alternative. With 80,000 or more worker-owners, billions of Euros in assets and 14 billion Euros in revenue last year, Mondragon was the shining star of the cooperative movement, the lodestone for the advocates of the global cooperative program.

But then in October, appliance maker Fagor Electrodomesticos, one of Mondragon's key cooperatives, closed with over a billion dollars of debt and putting 5500 people out of work. Worker-employees lost their savings invested in the firm. Mondragon's largest cooperative, the supermarket group Eroski, also owes creditors 2.5 billion Euros. Because the network is so interlocked, these setbacks pose long term threats to the entire system. As one worker, Juan Antonio Talledo, is quoted in The Wall Street Journal (“Recession Frays Ties at Spain's Co-ops”, December 26, 2013): “This is our Lehman moment.”

It is indeed a “Lehman moment”. And like the Lehman Bros banking meltdown in September of 2008, it makes a Lehman-like point. Large scale enterprises, even of the size of Mondragon and organized on a cooperative basis, are susceptible to the high winds of global capitalist crisis. Cooperative organization offers no immunity to the systemic problems that face all enterprises in a capitalist environment. That is why a cooperative solution cannot constitute a viable alternative to capitalism. That is why an island of worker-ownership surrounded by a violent sea of capitalism is unsustainable.

The failures at Mondragon have sent advocates to the wood shed (see Leading theoretical light, Gar Alperovitz, has written in response to the Mondragon blues: “Mondragón's primary emphasis has been on effective and efficient competition. But what do you do when you are up against a global economic recession, on the one hand, or radical cost challenges from Chinese and other low-cost producers, on the other?”

What do you do? Shouldn't someone have thought of that before they offered a road map towards a “third way”? Are “global economic recessions” uncommon? Is low cost production new? And blaming the Chinese is simply unprincipled scapegoating.

Alperovitz goes on: “The question of interest, however - and especially to the degree we begin to face the question of what to do about larger industry - is whether trusting in open market competition is a sufficient answer to the problem of longer-term systemic design.” Clear away the verbal foliage and Alperovitz is admitting that he never anticipated that open market competition would snag Mondragon. Did he think that Fagor sold appliances outside of the market? Did he think that Mondragon somehow got a free pass in global competition?

Of course the big losers are the workers who have lost their jobs and savings. It would be mistaken to blame the earnest organizers or idealistic cooperators who sincerely sought to make a better, more socially just workplace. They gambled on a project and lost. Of course social justice should not be a gamble.

The same sympathy cannot be shown for those continuing to tout cooperatives as an alternative to capitalism. If you want to open small businesses (organized as cooperatives), be my guest! But please don't tell me and others that it's somehow a path beyond capitalism.

Comrades and friends: It's impossible to be anti-capitalist without being pro-socialist!

Zoltan Zigedy

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Confronting Neo-liberal Capitalism: SIGTUR’s tenth Congress in Perth/Australia, 2 to 6 December 2013.

Last week, I attended the tenth Congress of the Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Union Rights (SIGTUR) in Perth/Australia, 2 to 6 December 2013. SIGTUR is a network of more militant trade unions from the Global South with a focus on South-South co-operation. In this post, I will reflect on SIGTUR’s achievements, problems as well as possibilities for the future on the basis of the exchanges at this Congress. I will argue that it will only be through joint campaigns against capitalist exploitation that relationships of solidarity can be established through SIGTUR more widely.

Since its establishment in 1991, SIGTUR’s membership has steadily increased. At the Congress in Perth, Latin America was represented by delegates from CUT/Brazil and CTA/Argentina. From Africa, the Nigerian Labour Congress and the South African Cosatu had sent strong delegations, complemented by a representative from Ruanda and a delegate from the ITUC-Africa. Unions from Asia included large delegations from CITU/India and the KCTU/South Korea. Smaller delegations came from the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia. One delegate from the smaller Japanese union ZENROREN also participated. Finally, a large delegation represented various federations of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). The latter had founded SIGTUR together with Cosatu from South Africa against the background of Australian union solidarity with the anti-Apartheid struggle as well as Cosatu support for striking Australian dockers (see also SIGTUR – A movement of democratic unions of the Global South). In the following, I will first look at key differences between SIGTUR members, before discussing common challenges and the need for joint campaigns.

Australian unions and labour movements from the Global South

Although geographically located in the Global South, Australia is clearly an industrialised country unlike the countries of other SIGTUR members. Unsurprisingly, first differences emerged right at the beginning of the Congress. When the various delegations introduced themselves, the ITUC-Africa representative made clear that the capitalist system as such needed to be challenged. CITU from India identified capitalism and imperialism as the main target, while the KMU delegate from the Philippines mentioned monopoly capitalism as the main opponent. In general the unity of the working class was singled out as essential in the struggle to transform existing structures of exploitation.

By contrast, Ged Kearney, President of the ACTU, raised concerns about the recent change in power towards a Conservative government and the related attack on the welfare state and progress enacted by the previous Labour government. The Australian social and industrial compact around the welfare state and employment rights was under attack, she argued. At the global level, workers from different countries would be pitted against each other and a general increase in insecure work was noticeable. While the proliferation of free trade agreements endangered the environment and undermined workers’ rights, corporate power was globalised. Not capitalism as such, but unfettered capitalism was identified as the opponent. Decision-making at G20 meetings should be done in consultation with employers and trade unions, as unregulated free markets would not work. This resembles very closely the position of many European trade unions and their emphasis on social partnership with employers to ensure a capitalist system with a human face, in which economic growth is combined with fairness at work and throughout wider society.

Members at the founding meeting of SIGTUR, Photo by Rob Lambert

Trade unions and the position vis-à-vis political parties and social movements

Another area of differences concerned the relationship between trade unions and political parties and social movements. As the Argentinian CTA delegate outlined, instead of close connections with a political party, his union has emphasised co-operation with social movements. Individuals and social movements can even be directly CTA members without representing sections of the working class. This was the basis, he argued, on which the successful struggle against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) had been based. These sentiments were echoed by the delegate from the ITUC-Africa, making clear that unions can no longer be islands. They need to co-operate with progressive civil society and move from workplace issues to community concerns as in the successful global campaign for the rights of domestic workers. CUT from Brazil and the South African Cosatu, on the other hand, have close relationships to governing political parties with the PT and the ANC respectively, as had the Australian ACTU until recently with a Labour government. They would still emphasise their autonomy as trade union. Especially CUT emphasised its close collaboration with social movements such as the movement of landless workers (MST) as well as participation in various left networks, combined with critical positions on government policy, when necessary. Nevertheless, this strategy is clearly different from the CTA’s approach.

CITU/India, in turn, completely rejects co-operation with social movements, as 95 per cent of them would be funded by transnational corporations (TNCs) or governments and, therefore, could not be allies in class struggle. The South Korean KCTU, finally, had actually founded its own party, which even gained 10 per cent in elections at some stage. However, soon afterwards it split and one of the two resulting parties split yet further, so that the union decided in the end not to support any longer a specific political party. Instead, it joined the broad alliance People’s Power, which is currently the platform for the struggle against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Considering these differences over who the opponent actually is and whether to co-operate with political parties and/or social movements in the struggle, how can SIGTUR actually function as a coherent network?

Common challenges and joint campaigns

Despite these differences, it soon became clear at the Congress that the various SIGTUR members are conscious of the common challenges they face and the need for joint campaigns to confront them successfully. For example, the damage caused by the increasingly powerful TNCs are everywhere the same. Chevron, the global energy TNC, for example, extracts local wealth and undermines trade union and workers’ rights in Australia as it does in developing countries. Local communities suffer everywhere, as Chevron neither provides jobs with training opportunities for local people nor establishes sustainable infrastructure. The environment is frequently damaged too. Equally, the threat to the public sector through outsourcing and privatisation affects South Korea, where the KCTU is currently involved in a bitter struggle over the privatisation of the railways (see Korea: Support railway workers’ right to strike), as it does Australia, where austerity measures undermine the public provision of services, or India, where the government intends to privatise the system of food distribution to the poor. 

Delegates at the SIGTUR Congress in Perth.

SIGTUR members agreed that these common challenges required joint responses including global campaigns against specific TNCs, such as Chevron, Samsung or Suzuki as well as a joint campaign for the public sector and against privatisation. The current Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations were especially identified as dangerous. On the one hand, this agreement intends to strengthen TNCs further allowing them to sue specific governments, should they endanger their profits, on the other it pushes the privatisation of the public sector, opening it up precisely to a take-over by these TNCs.

In short, as clear as the differences over members’ position on capitalism and on co-operation with parties and social movements were, it was equally clear that these differences did not prevent in any way joint actions by SIGTUR. Throughout the Congress, Australian trade unionists discussed and worked with their fellow colleagues from other Southern labour movements on an equal footing.

The challenge of joint activities: What future for SIGTUR?

As it became clear at the Congress, the main challenge actually is not how to handle differences between SIGTUR members, but how to move towards joint actions. In individual discussions with various representatives, doubts were frequently raised about SIGTUR’s capacities in this respect. A Thai delegate, for example, told me that he had been at similar Congresses before, but was getting increasingly frustrated about the lack of progress. The CTA delegate from Argentina emphasised that SIGTUR was important for his union’s international activities, but ultimately the ITUC in Latin America was more active and the cultural similarities made it easier to organise joint campaigns regionally. Equally, a Cosatu delegate emphasised the lack of SIGTUR action between Congresses and pointed to the intensive activities by the ITUC-Africa, being a much more worthwhile international organisation to work with. CUT from Brazil still values SIGTUR, I was told, but less than in the past. In short, the next three years will be crucial for SIGTUR. Joint activities will be necessary so that members continue having faith in the network. Alternatively, SIGTUR and the idea of South-South co-operation could lose attraction.

Discussions at the SIGTUR Congress in Perth

And the potential is there. A new structure with four regional co-ordinators has been established and several targets for joint activities identified. The unique Global South dimension, the fact that SIGTUR members perhaps with the exception of the ACTU are not affected by the ideology of social partnership still puts it in a unique place for class struggle against capitalism. The presence of three trade unionists from Myanmar, where it has just recently become possible to form openly trade unions, and SIGTUR’s signing up to the initiative of Trade unions for energy democracyindicates that it remains cutting edge as an international labour organisation. The decisive task will be to translate this potential into concrete actions so that SIGTUR becomes more known internationally and its more militant outlook can provide a guiding example for others.

Solidarity and the overcoming of differences is ultimately always the result of struggle. The next three years may be decisive for SIGTUR’s future as a network. Either members are able to carry out joint initiatives against capitalist exploitation through SIGTUR, or they may well feel that their efforts are better spent elsewhere.

Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK

Personal website:

9 December 2013

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The Poverty of Capitalism and the struggle for another world.

The current global economic crisis has been covered extensively within academic literature and the wider (social) media alike. Few, however, have tackled the topic with the ambition of questioning capitalism itself. John Hilary’s book The Poverty of Capitalism: Economic Meltdown and the Struggle for What Comes Next(Pluto Press, 2013) is a welcome exception here. In this blog post, I will provide a critical engagement with this excellent analysis of capitalist crisis and moves towards alternatives. 

The power of transnational capital

John Hilary, Executive Director of the British NGO War on Want, looks in detail at three economic areas, which have been dominated by transnational capital at the expense of workers’ most basic human rights, extraction, garments and food production. ‘The Marikana massacre’, he argues, ‘is a brutal reminder that direct conflict with the extractive industries’ insatiable drive for profit remains a daily reality for millions of people across the world’ (P.99). While Western countries and increasingly emerging economies such as China continue to exploit the mineral wealth of developing countries, the dispossession of the local population often includes widespread human rights abuses.

The global garments industry is closely controlled by brand names and retailers, who relentlessly squeeze suppliers in producing more cheaply. Unsurprisingly, working conditions in this sector are characterised by super-exploitation with a disregard for issues such as health and safety.  The recent collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, when more than 1000 people were killed is only one of the most extreme examples of the consequences of poor working conditions in this sector. In relation to food production, ‘as with the garments sector, the production, distribution and consumption of food are already dominated by a small number of giant transnational corporations who seek to determine what is grown and what is eaten in all corners of the globe. As with the extractive sector, capital has become increasingly aggressive in its attempts to appropriate the natural resources necessary for its further expansion: land, seeds, water and the genetic building blocks of life itself’ (P.118). In short, global capitalism has intensified exploitation across borders with the peoples of the Global South bearing yet again the brunt of the onslaught. 

The rise of the BRICS and CSR as hopes for alternatives?

John Hilary dismisses hopes that the rise of the BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, will result in a dramatic change in global capitalism. Yes, the balance of power in the global economy is changing, but capitalism itself has not been undermined. ‘Instead of the traditional division between the capital-exporting countries of the North and the capital-importing countries of the South, the increasing accumulation of capital in the semiperiphery has generated a new wave of imperialism from the emerging economies themselves’ (P.34). At the same time inequality across the globe is increasing between countries, but also within countries and the BRICS are no exception here. ‘In the emerging economies of India and China, similar increases in inequality have taken place against the backdrop of hundreds of millions living in absolute poverty (P.18). Interestingly, the position of transnational capital has actually been strengthened rather than weakened as a result of the rise of the BRICS. ‘The G20’s decision to resurrect the failed institutions of twentieth-century globalization in the interests of transnational capital represents the greatest structural continuity between the new world order and the old’ (P.29).

John Hilary is equally clear in his dismissal of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) schemes as a way of self-regulation by transnational capital. ‘For all its claims to be channelling the power of business in pursuit of humanity’s common goals, CSR has successfully undermined the very cause it purports to serve’ (P.59). Instead of constraining capital and ensuring good working conditions for workers, CSR actually legitimises current practices of exploitation. The fact that many NGOs have collaborated with capital in this area makes the situation worse. This ‘has contributed to the closing down of critical space, as corporations have been able to point to their partnerships with “respectable” civil society (especially NGOs from the global North) as a means of marginalizing more radical opposition to their operations or to the system as a whole’ (P.79).

What alternatives beyond capitalism?

Photo by seven-resist
Importantly, John Hilary does not stop with criticising hopes linked to the BRICS and CSR. He also attempts to identify real moments of alternatives. Unlike many liberal commentators of the current situation, he is fully aware of the impossibility of regulatory changes. Real change can only be brought about, if global capitalism itself is challenged (P.117). His thinking is organised around three concepts: popular sovereignty, common ownership, and social production. ‘The concept of sovereignty is essentially opposed to the disempowerment inherent in corporate globalization, in that it reclaims authority over natural resources and the means of production from transnational capital, relocating legitimate authority within the democratic structures of the community, however constructed and contested (P.131). Common ownership can galvanise the resistance against the new wave of enclosures reflected in ‘land grabbing’ and social production allows the production for use, not for profit. These concepts are positively supported with a whole range of examples from Latin American countries, where the so-called ‘pink tide’ of centre-left and left governments has resulted in measures of significant wealth re-distribution from Lula’s Brazil and Morales’ Bolivia to Hugo Chavez’s ‘new socialism’ in Venezuela. 

As important as all these examples of change are, it is this aspect of the book where I find myself in slight disagreement with John Hilary. I am not convinced that the majority of the ‘global justice movement’ has declared itself opposed to capitalism as such rather than criticising the most negative outgrowths of neo-liberalism. Nor does the re-emergence of the state as an important actor of development in Latin America point towards a future beyond capitalism. As John Hilary acknowledges himself, at the national level ‘several of the “pink” governments have actually augmented the power of capital both nationally and internationally, maintaining their socially progressive credentials through pro-poor welfare programmes, but at the expense of any structural change’ (P.146). Capitalism as such is not challenged. Is John Hilary slightly too optimistic when assessing the current potential for moves beyond capitalism? Perhaps, but then there are many studies simply re-asserting the dominance of capitalism. In a way, it is refreshing that The Poverty of Capitalism goes into the opposite direction.

Photo by Sterneck
When looking at all the examples of transformative change mentioned by John Hilary, perhaps it is the movement around food sovereignty, demanding that people can decide for themselves what to grow and for whom, which directly challenges corporate power and may include the seeds for a different world. The peasant farmers’ movement La Via Campesina organises 150 local and national organisations from 70 countries and ensures a strong presence of this movement at the international level. Demands for ecological, sustainable, local and self-determined agriculture find support in the Global North and South alike.

The struggle over the future world order is open ended. It is these struggles, which can function as vehicles, ‘by which to develop an international class consciousness over and against the very real challenges posed by globalization to transnational solidarity’ (P.116). Solidarity is always the result of concrete struggles, and it is in this respect, that John Hilary’s positive assessment of the current situation may be justified. Hence, to conclude with his words, ‘the struggle for alternatives beyond capitalism is what makes another world possible. Even in the midst of crisis, that world is already coming into view’ (P.161). 

An impressive book, a must read for all those interested in transformative change beyond capitalism!

Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK

Personal website:

12 November 2013

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US President Barack Obama has signed legislation passed by Congress Wednesday to temporarily lift the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown, averting the threat of default just hours before the October 17 deadline.

The legislation funds the government through to January 15 and lifts the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling until February 7. The White House budget director, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, said she has issued a directive to all government employees to return to work.

The 16-day budget crisis has subtracted an estimated $24 billion in from the American economy and triggered a flurry of criticism from major foreign lenders and domestic business captains.

As promised, Obama signed the legislation shortly after it was passed in the House of Representatives.

As indicated before the US Senate vote, Republican House Speaker John Boehner did not block the fiscal deal from moving on, and it passed by a vote of 285-144 in the lower chamber.

The measure was supported by every Democratic member of the House, but was rejected by a sizeable portion of Boehner’s GOP caucus.

Conservative Republicans were nearly unanimous in their opposition to the plan, as the federal health care law – the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare – they so object to will go virtually unscathed after all.

The Senate approved the proposal by a vote of 81-18 earlier on Wednesday evening.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spent previous days constructing a deal as the House failed to come to an agreement on a proposal Tuesday.

“This compromise we reached will provide our economy with the stability it desperately needs. It’s never easy for two sides to reach consensus. It’s really hard, sometimes harder than others. This time was really hard,” Reid said ahead of the vote. “The country came to the brink of a disaster. But in the end, political adversaries set aside their differences and disagreement to prevent that disaster."

Republicans Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio were among the 18 'nay' votes in the Senate.

"This is a terrible deal," said Senator Ted Cruz on the Senate floor before the vote. "This deal embodies everything about the Washington establishment that frustrates the American people."

President Obama said in a statement after the Senate vote that Washington must begin to gain back the trust of voters given that more confrontations on debt, governmental budgeting, and other issues await.

"Hopefully next time, it won't be in the eleventh hour. We've got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis,” Obama said.

The US Treasury’s authority to borrow money to pay down US debt obligations was scheduled to end Thursday, October 17. With no full spending bill from Congress, many government operations have been on hold since October 1.

The 16-day government shutdown has cost the US $1.7 billion per week in lost economic output, according to a study by IHS Global Insight, a Massachusetts-based research firm. The S&P ratings agency declared Wednesday the shutdown has subtracted $24 billion from the US economy, cutting 0.6 percent from the fourth quarter GDP growth.

Major US creditors like China - which holds $1.3 trillion in US Treasuries - have openly discussed “de-Americanizing” as the crises-hopping US government has become increasingly volatile to the world economy. China has introduced a so-called “haircut," or a discount, on the value of US Treasuries held as collateral against futures trades.

Developing and developed nations are equally concerned, and institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have issued several warnings.

Some US business leaders are too voicing their discontent with Washington’s political turmoil.

"Most CEOs I speak to in the United States say they're seeing a slowdown in business because of this," Laurence Fink, the CEO of giant asset manager BlackRock Inc, told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.

"I was on a conference call with many of them, and I heard across the board, a slowdown from the American consumer because of this narrative, so it's having an impact on our economy already – and it's going to have an impact on job creation at a time when we need more job creation," he added.

Upon news of a deal, the Dow Jones Industrial Average shot up by more than 200 points.

“Investors are relieved that it looks like we’re not going to go over the cliff,” Ben Hart, a research analyst at the Pennsylvania-based Haverford Trust Co., told Bloomberg News. “It takes the worst case scenario off the table.”

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Colonialism and the question of capitalism

It became clear early on that the location of the workshop and the background of the participants mattered. SIGTUR is an initiative of trade unions in the Global South including Australian, South Korean, Indian, Brazilian and Argentinian trade unions in addition to COSATU from South Africa. One of the key aspects they have in common, with the exception of Australian unions, is their joint history of colonialism and liberation struggles. Unsurprisingly, neo-liberal globalisation is not simply regarded as the latest epoch of capitalism. It is viewed as a continuation of colonial policies, characterised by the extraction of minerals and agricultural goods for the industries of developed countries as well as the destruction of home grown industries. These policies continued in the 1950s and 1960s as part of national development projects, devised by the core for countries in the periphery of the global economy, and have been further intensified since the 1970s with the onset of globalisation and the related general deregulation and liberalisation of national policy space. Inevitably, in contrast to similar workshops organised in industrialised countries, frequent demands were made for proposals, which do not only reform capitalism, but provide a transformative path towards socialism in the 21st century.

Photo by Egui_
Second, the fact that the workshop took place in South Africa influenced the debates. Almost twenty years after the first democratic elections in post-Apartheid South Africa, the country is characterised by high level unemployment and enormous economic inequality between the rich and poor. These tensions exploded in the so-called Marikana massacre, when policy killed 34 striking miners within three minutes on 16 August 2012 (see  The Marikana Massacre and The South African State's Low Intensity War Against The People; and The Dance of the Undead - Not only at Marikana, Not only in South Africa ...). In order to overcome South Africa’s triple crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequality, Zwlinizima Vavi, General Secretary of COSATU, demanded at the workshop a second phase of transformation in South Africa. With the political transformation accomplished since 1994, it was now time to tackle rising economic inequality. Counter neo-liberal policies were to include a shift towards state ownership and nationalisation of some parts of the economy, the stop of South African capital exports through capital controls and the punishment of capital speculation, as well as the provision of comprehensive welfare services. What South Africa needed, he concluded, was its own Lula moment, a reference to Brazil’s former President, who had presided over policies of wealth re-distribution towards the poor.

Of course, Marikana is a key example of how the capitalist crisis also fragments workers and induces disunity within the labour movement. While Marikana is specific to South Africa, similar tensions can be noted elsewhere and mass mobilisation against neo-liberal economics was identified as the only possible way forward towards overcoming economic and social inequality as well as fragmentation.

Collective bargaining as a way of transformation?

Collective bargaining is currently under attack in Europe (see How European pressure is destroying national collective bargaining systems). Unsurprisingly, when European trade unionists and labour academics discuss collective bargaining, it is a defensive move. Generally, I am sceptical about this as it fails to recognise that collective bargaining is covering fewer and fewer workers and has already become less relevant as a result. More importantly, in Europe too we should focus on how to organise the increasing informal sector of the economy.

The Global South including South Africa has always been characterised by a large informal sector. Hence my surprise, when Neil Coleman from COSATU introduced a revived system of sectoral collective bargaining as a transformative way forward. He outlined the Brazilian experience, where the state had been successful at boosting domestic demand levels through an emphasis on collective bargaining combined with a national minimum wage policy. Undoubtedly, millions of Brazilians have been lifted out of poverty as a result of state policies. Whether these policies including collective bargaining are, however, transformative or simply reform based was left open. In my view, it is difficult to see how collective bargaining would improve the livelihood of mostly black people living in the sprawling townships around Johannesburg and working in the informal economy.

Photo by RachelIF2SEA

‘Embedded free trade’ or ‘fair trade’?

Against the background of capitalism’s uneven and combined development, it is not surprising that there are tensions over ‘free trade’ policy in the international labour movement. While unions in the North often support free trade agreements (FTAs), as they consider them to secure the jobs of their members, labour movements in the Global South are critical as it leads to deindustrialisation and the loss of jobs (see Trade unions, free trade and the problem of transnational solidarity).

An interesting discussion ensued over how to label an alternative trade regime. While I argued in favour of ‘embedded free trade’ in order to facilitate an engagement with Northern trade unions, which generally view ‘free trade’ positively, colleagues from Southern trade unions opted for ‘fair trade’ in order to indicate a more radical break from current trade policies.

Photo by Alejandra H. Covarrubias
The re-establishment of national policy space is clearly an essential element of an alternative trade regime. It would allow governments to protect infant industries until they are competitive, provide space for capital controls and the regulation of transnational corporations, as well as provide the possibility to emphasise food sovereignty over free trade by agribusinesses. And yet, it is also clear that while this would help to reform the current ‘disembedded free trade’ regime, where the WTO not only furthers the trade in goods, but also pushes trade in services and agriculture, as well as expands regulations into investment rules and intellectual property rights, it would not be enough to move beyond capitalism towards socialism. Ultimately, capitalist exploitation is rooted in the way production is organised around wage labour and the private ownership of the means of production and, as a result, capital maximises profits in the exploitation of workers. Only if the way of how production is organised is changed, can there be a transformation of the current system.

Climate Change and the future of Green Capitalism

Jacklyn Cock from the SWOP Institute made clear that the current focus by capital on the green economy was ‘the wolf in sheep clothing’. The trading in carbon emissions will simply lead to a financialisation and further commodification of the environment. The expansion of the market into all aspects of nature would not protect, but further destroy the environment. On the other hand, the change to a low carbon economy could be change towards a real alternative to neo-liberalism. Here, the immediate task would be the formation of alliances with other movements including especially environmental groups. The immediate request should be for food and energy sovereignty, linking justice to sustainability by empowering people to decide for themselves what to grow and what type of energy to use.

Photo by GovernmentZA
Dinga Sikwebu from the South African metalworkers’ union Numsaoutlined how capital was increasingly focusing on extreme energy generation including fracking, tar sands and further extensive use of coal. Renewable energy was clearly the way forward from a labour perspective. In contrast to Northern campaigns around jobs related to the green economy, however, he pointed out there are actually not that many jobs, which will be created as a result of a shift towards renewable energy. Hence, other arguments for an alternative energy policy, which resonate with workers, are needed. Considering that in South Africa many manufacturing workers still owned a piece of land, which they cultivate when not at work, a possible way forward would be to point out that all citizens will be negatively affected by climate change. In their role as farmers, manufacturing workers too notice the changing climate with different rain seasons than in the past. Unsurprisingly, Numsa, together with the agricultural workers’ trade union, is currently involved in a campaign for land reform linking up different trade unions and social movements. Nevertheless, Dinga Sikwebu also made clear that a shift to renewable energy in itself was not enough. For a real shift towards eco-socialism, it was necessary to move away from market-based incentives towards social ownership and democratic control of all types of energy generation, echoing Jacklyn Cock’s request for food and energy sovereignty.

The key challenge of moving into this direction was, according to Rob Lambert, the co-ordinator of SIGTUR, to find a solution to the question of how to connect trade unions in the workplace with movements of the dispossessed. He identified the limits to liberal representative democracy and demanded that trade unions urgently needed to restructure themselves from hierarchical, bureaucratic organisations into agents, which welcome diversity, direct democracy and independent initiatives by its members. If this is combined with a focus on issues beyond the workplace, as in the case of Numsa and its participation in a campaign for land reform, then the kind of forces may be available, which are needed to push successfully for transformation.

The development of alternatives through experiments in concrete struggles

Clearly, conceptual and strategic discussions are necessary in the search for alternatives to neo-liberal globalisation; alternatives, which are focused on human well-being and development in contrast to capital’s maximisation of profits. Nonetheless, concrete alternatives to capitalist social relations of production can only be developed on the ground in concrete struggles and the interplay between ideas and action. Moreover, alternatives which work in one part of the world may be unsuitable for other parts. No blueprint can be prescribed.

Hence, perhaps the next step in the search for alternatives could be a focus on concrete experiments of establishing a non-capitalist economy? In the area of ‘free trade’, for example, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) is already one practical example in this respect. At its beginning in 2004 was a treaty between Venezuela and Cuba with the former providing petroleum to the latter at very favourable prices in exchange for doctors and teachers from Cuba, working in some of Venezuela’s poorest states. Direct negotiations between the two countries had replaced a reliance on prices set by the market. A more in-depth analysis of this and other alternative economy examples may be the way forward in the search for alternatives by the Futures Commission. 

Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK

Personal website:

2 July 2013

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The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West


Author’s  Note

I receive numerous questions from readers about our economic situation and the condition of civil liberty.

There is no way I can answer so many inquiries, and no need. I have written two books that provide the answers, and they are inexpensive. I have done my job. It is up to you to inform yourself. Kindle Reader software is available as a free online download that permits you to read ebooks in your own web browser.

My latest, The Failure Of Laissez Faire Capitalism And Economic Dissolution of the West , is available as an ebook in English as of March 2013 from and from Barnes&Noble.

My book is endorsed by Michael Hudson and Nomi Prims and has a 5 star rating from Amazon reviewers (as of March 23, 2013). Pam Martens’ review at Wall Street On Parade is available here

Libertarians who have not read the book have had an ideological knee-jerk reaction to the title. They demand to know how can I call the present system of crony capitalism laissez faire. I don’t. The current system of government supported crony capitalism is the end result of a 25-year process of deregulation.

Deregulation did not produce libertarian nirvana. It produced economic concentration and crony capitalism.

Amazon provides as a free read the introduction by Johannes Maruschzik to the German edition. Below is my Introduction to my book.

Paul Craig Roberts, March 27, 2012

Not only has your economy been stolen from you but also your civil liberties. My coauthor Lawrence Stratton and I provide the scary details of the entire story in The Tyranny of Good Intentions [5]. In the US law is no longer a shield of the people against arbitrary government. Instead, law has been transformed into a weapon in the hands of the government.

Josie Appleton documents that in England also law has been turned into a weapon against the people. [6] Anglo-American law, the foundation of liberty and one of the greatest human achievements, lies in ruins.

Libertarians think that liberty is a natural right, and some Christians think that it is a God-given right. In fact, liberty is a human achievement, fought for by Englishmen over the centuries. In the late 17th century, the achievement of the Glorious Revolution was to hold the British government accountable to law. William Blackstone heralded the achievement in his famous Commentaries On The Laws Of England, a bestseller in pre-revolutionary America and the foundation of the US Constitution.

In the late 20th century and early 21st century, governments in the US and Great Britain chafed under the requirement that government, like the people, is ruled by law and took steps to free government from accountability to law.

Appleton says that the result is a “tectonic shift in the relationship between the state and the citizen.” Citizens of the US and UK are once again without the protection of law and subject to arbitrary arrests and indictments or to indefinite detention in the absence of indictments.

In the US, citizens can be detained indefinitely and even executed without due process of law. There is no basis in the US Constitution for these asserted powers. The unconstitutional powers exist only because Congress, the judiciary and the American people have accepted the lie that the loss of civil liberty is the price paid for protection against terrorists.

In a very short time the raw power of the state has been resurrected. Most Americans are oblivious to this outcome. As long as government is imprisoning and killing without trials demonized individuals whom Americans have been propagandized to fear, Americans approve. Americans do not understand that a point is reached when demonization becomes unnecessary and that precedents have been established that revoke the Bill of Rights.

If you are educated by these two books, you will be better able to understand what is happening and, thus, you will be in a better position to survive what is coming.

Introduction to The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic
Dissolution of the West: Towards a New Economics for a Full World

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the rise of the high speed Internet have proved to be the economic and political undoing of the West. “The End Of History” caused socialist India and communist China to join the winning side and to open their economies and underutilized labor forces to Western capital and technology. Pushed by Wall Street and large retailers, such as Wal-Mart, American corporations began offshoring the production of goods and services for their domestic markets. Americans ceased to be employed in the manufacture of goods that they consume as corporate executives maximized shareholder earnings and their performance bonuses by substituting cheaper foreign labor for American labor. Many American professional occupations, such as software engineering and Information Technology, also declined as corporations moved this work abroad and brought in foreigners at lower renumeration for many of the jobs that remained domestically. Design and research jobs followed manufacturing abroad, and employment in middle class professional occupations ceased to grow. By taking the lead in offshoring production for domestic markets, US corporations force the same practice on Europe. The demise of First World employment and of Third World agricultural communities, which are supplanted by large scale monoculture, is known as Globalism.

For most Americans income has stagnated and declined for the past two decades. Much of what Americans lost in wages and salaries as their jobs were moved offshore came back to shareholders and executives in the form of capital gains and performance bonuses from the higher profits that flowed from lower foreign labor costs. The distribution of income worsened dramatically with the mega-rich capturing the gains, while the middle class ladders of upward mobility were dismantled. University graduates unable to find employment returned to live with their parents.

The absence of growth in real consumer incomes resulted in the Federal Reserve expanding credit in order to keep consumer demand growing. The growth of consumer debt was substituted for the missing growth in consumer income. The Federal Reserve’s policy of extremely low interest rates fueled a real estate boom. Housing prices rose dramatically, permitting homeowners to monetize the rising equity in their homes by refinancing their mortgages.

Consumers kept the economy alive by assuming larger mortgages and spending the equity in their homes and by accumulating large credit card balances. The explosion of debt was securitized, given fraudulent investment grade ratings, and sold to unsuspecting investors at home and abroad.

Financial deregulation, which began in the Clinton years and leaped forward in the George W. Bush regime, unleashed greed and debt leverage. Brooksley Born, head of the federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission, was prevented from regulating over-the-counter derivatives by the chairman of the Federal Reserve, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The financial stability of the world was sacrificed to the ideology of these three stooges that “markets are self-regulating.” Insurance companies sold credit default swaps against junk financial instruments without establishing reserves, and financial institutions leveraged every dollar of equity with $30 dollars of debt.

When the bubble burst, the former bankers running the US Treasury provided massive bailouts at taxpayer expense for the irresponsible gambles made by banks that they formerly headed. The Federal Reserve joined the rescue operation. An audit of the Federal Reserve released in July, 2011, revealed that the Federal Reserve had provided $16 trillion–a sum larger than US GDP or the US public debt–in secret loans to bail out American and foreign banks, while doing nothing to aid the millions of American families being foreclosed out of their homes. Political accountability disappeared as all public assistance was directed to the mega-rich, whose greed had produced the financial crisis.

The financial crisis and plight of the banksters took center stage and prevented recognition that the crisis sprang not only from the financial deregulation but also from the expansion of debt that was used to substitute for the lack of growth in consumer income. As more and more jobs were offshored, Americans were deprived of incomes from employment. To maintain their consumption, Americans went deeper into debt.

The fact that millions of jobs have been moved offshore is the reason why the most expansionary monetary and fiscal policies in US history have had no success in reducing the unemployment rate. In post-World War II 20th century recessions, laid-off workers were called back to work as expansionary monetary and fiscal policies stimulated consumer demand. However, 21st century unemployment is different. The jobs have been moved abroad and no longer exist. Therefore, workers cannot be called back to factories and to professional service jobs that have been moved abroad.

Economists have failed to recognize the threat that jobs offshoring poses to economies and to economic theory itself, because economists confuse offshoring with free trade, which they believe is mutually beneficial. I will show that offshoring is the antithesis of free trade and that the doctrine of free trade itself is found to be incorrect by the latest work in trade theory. Indeed, as we reach toward a new economics, cherished assumptions and comforting theoretical conclusions will be shown to be erroneous.

This book is organized into three sections. The first section explains successes and failures of economic theory and the erosion of the efficacy of economic policy by globalism. Globalism and financial concentration have destroyed the justifications of market capitalism. Corporations that have become “too big to fail” are sustained by public subsidies, thus destroying capitalism’s claim to be an efficient allocator of resources. Profits no longer are a measure of social welfare when they are obtained by creating unemployment and declining living standards in the home country.

The second section documents how jobs offshoring or globalism and financial deregulation wrecked the US economy, producing high rates of unemployment, poverty and a distribution of income and wealth extremely skewed toward a tiny minority at the top. These severe problems cannot be corrected within a system of globalism.

The third section addresses the European debt crisis and how it is being used both to subvert national sovereignty and to protect bankers from losses by imposing austerity and bailout costs on citizens of the member countries of the European Union.

I will suggest that it is in Germany’s interest to leave the EU, revive the mark, and enter into an economic partnership with Russia. German industry, technology, and economic and financial rectitude, combined with Russian energy and raw materials, would pull all of Eastern Europe into a new economic union, with each country retaining its own currency and budgetary and tax authority. This would break up NATO, which has become an instrument for world oppression and is forcing Europeans to assume burdens of the American Empire.

Sixty-seven years after the end of World War II, twenty-two years after the reunification of Germany, and twenty-one years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Germany is still occupied by US troops. Do Europeans desire a future as puppet states of a collapsing empire, or do they desire a more promising future of their own?

Capitalism in Crisis: Richard Wolff Urges End to Austerity, New Jobs Program, Democratizing Work

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As Washington lawmakers pushes new austerity measures, economist Richard Wolff calls for a radical restructuring of the U.S. economic and financial systems. We talk about the $85 billion budget cuts as part of the sequester, banks too big to fail, Congress’ failure to learn the lessons of the 2008 economic collapse, and his new book, "Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism." Wolff also gives Fox News host Bill O’Reilly a lesson in economics 101.


AMY GOODMAN: "Anda," music by the pianist, arranger and composer Bebo Valdés. He died Friday at the age of 94. The son of a cigar factory worker and grandson of a slave, he studied classical music at the Conservatorio Municipal in Havana and became a favorite collaborator with the great Cuban singers of his era, including Beny Moré and Pío Leyva and Orlando Cascarita Guerra, along with Americans such as Woody Herman and Nat King Cole, was considered a giant during the golden age of Cuban music. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report.

Our guest is Richard Wolff, a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, now at New School University, author of a number of books, including Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism.

I want to talk about austerity here at home. This is House Speaker John Boehner speaking last month defending the $85 billion budget sequester cuts that took effect on March 1st.

HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: The American people know, the president gets more money, they’re just going to spend it. And the fact is, is that he’s gotten his tax hikes. It’s time to focus on the real problem here in Washington, and that is spending.

AMY GOODMAN: House Speaker John Boehner. Professor Richard Wolff, your response? And also, that the Obama administration was warning catastrophe if sequestration took place. It took place.

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, it’s a stunning comment on our dysfunctional government built on top of a dysfunctional economy. Here we are in the middle of a crisis. We have millions of people without work, millions of people losing their homes, an economy that doesn’t work for the vast majority. The United States government is one of the major customers for goods and services in America. Sequestration is simply a cutback in government spending. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that if the government, as the largest single buyer of goods and services, cuts back on the goods and services it buys, that means companies across America will sell less, and they’ll have less need of workers, and they will lay off workers. So, this is an act that worsens an unemployment that is already severe.

If you put that together with the tax increase on January 1st—and let me say a word about that. We heard a lot of public debate about taxing rich people, not taxing rich people, Republicans and Democrats, but the tax on the wealthy is small compared to the tax on the middle and lower incomes that went up on January 1st. When we raised the payroll tax here in America from 4.2 to 6.2 percent, we raised over $125 billion—huge amount of money, much more than was raised by taxing the rich—and we savaged the middle- and lower-income groups in America, those that in the presidential election both candidates had sworn to save and support. We attacked them, thereby limiting their capacity to buy goods and services because we taxed them more.

You put together the taxing of the middle and lower incomes with the cutbacks of government spending, and you’re going to do what every European country that has imposed austerity has already discovered: You’re making the problem worse. So with all the homilies that Mr. Boehner can put out there about how spending is a problem, this abstract idea doesn’t change the fact you’re making the economic conditions of the mass of people worse by these austerity steps, not better. And that ought to be put as the fire burning at the feet of politicians, so they stop talking these abstractions and deal with the reality of what they’re doing.

AMY GOODMAN: So what do you think needs to be done?

RICHARD WOLFF: A radical change in the policies. And I think it has to go far beyond simply reversing this austerity program, which, again, just for a word about history, back in the 1930s, the last time we had a breakdown of our capitalist system like this, we didn’t have austerity, we didn’t have cutbacks. We had the opposite. Roosevelt, in the middle of the '30s, created the Social Security system, went to everybody over 65 and said, "I'm going to give you a check for the rest of your life." He created the unemployment compensation system, giving all the unemployed for the first time checks every week for a year or two. And he created a public employment program and hired millions of workers. It’s the opposite of austerity. So any politician who says, "We must do this, because there’s no option," has forgotten even the American history of not that long ago.

So, the first thing I would do is go in that direction—not austerity, but its opposite. But I want to go further, because I think our problem is deeper. This crisis wasn’t supposed to happen. When it happened, it wasn’t supposed to last a long time. All of that has been proven false. The problems run deep. And I think what we have to do, and what that book tries to do, is to talk about reorganizing our economy so that for the first time we can say we’re not only going to get out of this crisis, we’re taking the kinds of steps that can prevent us from having them over and over again as our unstable business-cycle-ridden economy keeps imposing on us. So, for me, it’s the more profound change that we finally have to face, painful as it is. After 50 years of a country unwilling to face these questions, I think we need basic change. And that’s what I spend most of my time stressing.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we talk about the basic change, "democracy at work," as you put it—


AMY GOODMAN: —what could Obama do without congressional support right now?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, I think, in many ways, he could initiate a public employment program. I think it’s long overdue that he find all the ways available to him to say what Roosevelt said—and not that Roosevelt did everything correctly, and not that he’s a genius or any of that, but to take some lessons from those people in our country before who took steps that were successful.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, Roosevelt didn’t plan on doing this when he first took office.

RICHARD WOLFF: Absolutely. He had pressure from below. The CIO, the biggest union-organizing drive in American history, never had anything that successful before.


RICHARD WOLFF: That’s right. And with the socialist and communist parties, who were strong at that time, working with them, they organized millions of Americans into unions who had never joined a union before, and they pushed from below in a very powerful way. And they changed Mr. Roosevelt, showing that politicians, if subject to pressure from below, can change—same lesson that Cyprus has just taught us yet again. So, my response is: Learn from that. Roosevelt went on the radio to the American people and said, basically, "If the private sector either cannot or will not provide work for the millions of Americans that need and want to work, then it’s my job as president to do it." And he did it.

And I think Mr. Obama could and should overcome whatever has made him hesitate. We in this country not only don’t have a federal employment program, the Republicans and Democrats haven’t even put it on the floor to debate it as an important issue, even though it comes out of our own history. So I would say, put us—put our people to work. They want to work. The Federal Reserve says 20 percent of our tools, equipment, factory and office space is sitting idle, unused. So we have the people who want to work; we have the tools, equipment and raw materials for them to work with. And lord knows we need the wealth they could produce. Put them to work, and make it a national issue that that happen.

AMY GOODMAN: Where does the money come from?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, Roosevelt went to the wealthy, and he went to the corporations, and he said to them, "You must give me the money to take care of the mass of people, because if you don’t, we’re going to have a catastrophe in this country. We’re going to have a social revolution." My argument is, let’s go back to the same tax rates that Roosevelt imposed, or at least in that neighborhood, which is much higher on wealthy people and much higher on corporations than we have today. That’s what he did. That’s how he funded it.

And in case our politicians are worried, let’s remind them: Mr. Roosevelt, who took those daring steps, was re-elected to be president four consecutive times, the most popular president in American history. It’s not a dead-end political decision. It’s the best decision a president could make to leave his legacy in history, that, we are told, our presidents care so much about.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Richard Wolff, author of Democracy at Work. Again, before we talk about "democracy at work," I wanted to go to a recent hearing in Washington. Executives with the banking giant JPMorgan Chase appeared before a Senate panel earlier this month to answer questions around so-called "London Whale trades" that cost the bank more than $6 billion and derailed financial markets worldwide. This is Arizona Republican Senator John McCain criticizing JPMorgan’s actions.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: JPMorgan completely disregarded risk limits and stonewalled federal regulators. It is unsettling that a group of traders made reckless decisions with federally insured money and that all of this was done with the full awareness of top officials at JPMorgan. This bank appears to have entertained—indeed, embraced—the idea that it was, quote, "too big to fail."

AMY GOODMAN: Ashley Bacon, JPMorgan’s interim chief risk officer, testified at the same hearing.

ASHLEY BACON: I don’t think it is too big to fail. I think there’s further work that needs to be done to demonstrate and document that, and it’s in process. I’m not leading that process or deeply involved in it, but I think it is—it’s something that needs to be demonstrated to everybody’s satisfaction.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Ashley Bacon, JPMorgan’s interim chief risk officer. Can you explain what took place here and what is happening?

RICHARD WOLFF: Yes. On the question of "too big to fail," there really isn’t much to say. In 2008, our banks failed—all of them—the way the Cyprus banks failed and for very similar reasons. They took in a lot of depositors’ money, and they made risky bets they shouldn’t have made, and they failed, and so they didn’t have the money to honor their obligations, and they turned to the government for a bailout. And when the government hesitated, because it’s public money to bail out a privately failed bank, they were told, in another kind of blackmail, "We’re too big to fail. If you don’t bail us out, we will collapse and take the entire economy with us." And that was a persuasive argument. Particularly after they allowed Lehman Brothers to fail and that nearly did take the economy with it, that was a convincing argument.

You would have thought they had then learned the lesson about the problem of a too-big-to-fail financial institution. If you thought that, you would have been wrong, because the same banks that were too big to fail in 2008 are, all of them, bigger today. So we didn’t learn the lesson. We didn’t break up the banks. We didn’t limit, control their growth. They’re bigger now than they were then. And in a sense, maybe shame on them the first time, but having allowed this to happen, it’s shame on us.

Number two, we seem to need, as a nation, to believe that we have the power to control, limit or regulate, whether it’s the Glass-Steagall Act that came out of our disaster of the 1930s or the Dodd-Frank Act, which came out of the disaster that started in 2008. We seem to want to believe we can leave in place private banks, no matter how big they are, and hedge them about with regulations. The proof of the Whale trades in London, the proof of everything we know, is that these banks have the money, the staff, the resources to work their way around the regulations at least as fast as we impose them on them. That’s what these hearings fundamentally show. They can make trades that are too risky. They can lose wild amounts of money. They can turn to the government and demand to be helped and bailed out each time. And they get it. We are telling them, in a classic example, "Look, do whatever you want. You don’t have any risk of fundamental failure and punishment." Regulation doesn’t work, because we believe in place an entity, a large corporation, with the money and the incentives to get around it.

AMY GOODMAN: Interestingly, Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase, did not testify. He was brought before the Senate, what, about last June, where the senators were asking him for advice. And then, when you looked at the senators on the Senate committee and how much money JPMorgan Chase had given each of them, we’re talking about millions of dollars went to many of them.

RICHARD WOLFF: When I say that the big corporations, particularly the banks, have the resources and the incentives, I’m being polite. Yeah, part of the resources are going into literally making sure that the political regulator is a good friend and understands the complexities. In simple English, they are buying their way into the situation we watch, which is: "We will pretend to be regretful. You will pretend to be protecting the public. You will make regulations that we help you write so that we can get around them." It is something that ought not to be allowed to continue, because we’re living the economic crisis that comes from that way of doing business.

AMY GOODMAN: What lessons have been learned since 2008? And today, could the U.S. see the same situation as Cyprus?

RICHARD WOLFF: Absolutely. We have banks that are literally telling us, because we know from our controls that they are trying, even, to regenerate it. They’re trying to get people to borrow more money again. We’re not changing the wage structure of America, which means that Americans are required to go into debt to supplement their wages. You know, the irony is, we are trying, in the language of some of these folks, to kickstart our economy, to get it going again. But the problem is, our economy was a train heading into a stone wall in the first years of this century, and if we get our economy going again, without fundamental changes, what we’re doing is putting that same train back on the track heading towards the same wall. Cyprus shows us what’s happening.

But we don’t have to take just small countries. Take Great Britain, our classic ally. Their economy is now in the second or, in some people’s minds, the third recession within the crisis since 2007. They are following an austerity problem—process exactly like that supported by Mr. Boehner, and the economic downturn in Great Britain is catastrophic for that society. And so, we have this image of a future for us, if we don’t make fundamental change, but everyone wants to put it away and pretend that we can let it go by itself or a few regulations will solve the problem. They haven’t. They’re not doing it now elsewhere. That’s not a strategy we should pursue in this country, either.

AMY GOODMAN: When we come back, we’ll talk to Professor Richard Wolff about the alternatives, about, well, what he’s put forward, Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back with Professor Wolff in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We continue with Richard Wolff, professor emeritus of economics at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, visiting professor at New School University here in New York, does a weekly program on WBAI in New York called Economic Update every Saturday at noon. His latest book is Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism. So what exactly do you mean by this?

RICHARD WOLFF: What I mean is a change in the enterprises that produce the goods and services we all depend on and provide the jobs we all need and want. I think those have to be, in a fundamental way, democratized. So let me begin in that way.

We live in a country that says it goes to war around the world to bring democracy and that its central, most important political value is democracy. If you believe that—and I am a fervent supporter of democracy, and obviously you are—you’ve named your program that way—then we ought to have democracy in the place where we as adults spend most of our time. Five out of seven days we go to work. We walk into a place where we use our brains and our muscles eight or more hours, five out of seven days. If democracy is an important value, it ought to be right there, first and foremost. But we don’t. We basically have a situation where, for most of us, we go to work in a place where the decisions that are made are made by a tiny group of people. The major shareholders who own the block of shares in our system select a board of directors, 15 to 20 people, and they make the basic decisions: what to produce, how to produce it, where to produce it, and what to do with the profits. The rest of us must live with the results of that decision.

So if that tiny group of people make a decision to close the factory in Cincinnati or the office in Atlanta and move to Shanghai, the chips fall where they may. If they decide to use a toxic technology that’s not good for the air and water but is good for the profits, they do, we live with the results. And when they decide to take the profits of their business and to give enormous pay packages to a handful of top executives and big dividend payouts to their shareholders, which of course they do, since they’re in a position to do it, and the rest of us suddenly have to take out absurd debts to get our kids through college, then that’s the inequality of income and wealth that we have in America.

So, I look at this decision-making apparatus, I say, "Why are we surprised that they make the decisions the way we do—they do?" We all live with the results, and we have no say in how those decisions are made. It’s not democratic. That’s the first thing. But the second thing is, we’re now in five years of economic crisis that indicate that way of organizing the decisions doesn’t work for the mass of people. It works for them. The stock market’s back. The profits of big corporations are back—surprise, surprise—given who makes the decisions. But we are left.

And so, for me, the solution is, let’s face this. Let’s build an option, a real choice for Americans, between working in a non-democratic, top-down-organized capitalist enterprise or in what, for lack of a better term, we can call "cooperatives," workplaces that are organized democratically. I think we’ll have less inequality of income, we will have less pollution of our environment, and we’ll have less loss of jobs out of the country, if those decisions were made by the people, as they should have been from the beginning, who will not make the kinds of decisions that got us into the mess of economic crisis that we’re in now.

AMY GOODMAN: In June, you wrote a piece, Richard Wolff, in The Guardian called "Yes, There is an Alternative to Capitalism: Mondragon Shows the Way." Mondragon, Spain’s renowned co-op where all enterprise is owned and directed by co-op members. At the Green Party’s convention last year, the keynote speaker, Gar Alperovitz, said the Mondragon model is being replicated here in the United States. I want to just turn to a clip of what Gar Alperovitz said, the professor of political economy at the University of Maryland.

GAR ALPEROVITZ: So, in Ohio, the idea of worker ownership is a bigger idea. Lots of people understand it. And in Cleveland, building on the Mondragon model—some of you know about the Mondragon model—and other ideas, there are a series of worker-owned, integrated co-ops in Cleveland in a neighborhood where the average income is $18,000 per family. And they have got these co-ops, not just standing alone, but linked together with a nonprofit corporation and a revolving fund. The idea is to build the community and worker ownership, not just make a couple workers richer, to say the least, not rich, but to build a whole community, and to use the purchasing power of hospitals and universities—tax money in there—Medicare, Medicaid, education money, buy from these guys, and build the community. That model—and it’s the greenest for—one of the things is the greenest laundry in that part of the country, that uses about a third of the heat and about a third of the electricity and about a third of the water. They’re on track now to put in more solar capacity that exists—one of the other worker-owned companies—that exists in the entire state of Ohio. These are not little, dinky co-ops.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Gar Alperovitz talking about the Mondragon model here. And when we were in Spain, Democracy Now! went to Mondragon and interviewed one of the cooperative members, and we’ll link to that at [ Click here to watch the interview with Mikel Lezamiz, director of Cooperative Dissemination at the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation in Spain’s Basque Country. ] But, Richard Wolff, talk about that model and what’s happening here.

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, the model of Mondragon is so interesting, not only because it’s a real co-op, where the workers make the decisions—what to produce, how, where, what to do with the profits. And just to mention one of their achievements, they have a rule that the highest-paid worker cannot get more than a maximum of eight times the lowest. In our society, it’s typical in our large corporations that the CEO gets 300 to 400 times what the lowest worker. So, for those of us that are interested in a less unequal society than what we have here in America, the lesson is, if you cooperatize your enterprise, that’s a sure route to get there. And we haven’t found any other route that is just as effective.

So, the importance of Mondragon is, they start in the middle of the 1950s with a Catholic priest, Father Arizmendi—I always have to remember it—with six workers in the north of Spain, desperately trying to overcome the unemployment there. And here we are over a half a century later. Having to compete with countless capitalist enterprises, they won that competition. Trying to grow, they have a growth record that would be the envy of any capitalist corporation. They went from six workers in 1956 to 120,000 workers today in Spain.

AMY GOODMAN: And they are making?

RICHARD WOLFF: And they are making everything. They make dishwashers. They make clothes washers. They raise rabbits on farms. They do high-tech research, together with General Motors and Microsoft as some of their partners there. They do an immense array. They’re really a family of 200 to 300 co-ops that are united within the Mondragon cooperative corporation. So they’ve shown the ability to grow. They’ve shown the ability to adapt. They’ve shown their competitive power. They have—excuse me, they’ve shown all the different ways that a corporation can develop without a top-down hierarchical, undemocratic structure. So we don’t have to choose between effectiveness, growth, job, security, and a cooperative structure. The cooperative structure can be a way to get there.

Here in the United States, we have lots of such co-ops developing. There’s one even named after Father Arizmendi in California in the Bay Area. There are six Arizmendi bakeries and coffee shops that were set up on that model. They started with one; they’re now six. Hint: They’ve grown. And you can do this. And all over the United States, there are these efforts, often done by people who want a different kind of life. They want to be in charge of their own job. They want to have a sense of control and a sense that they’re not just a drone doing the work, but they’re part of the folks who design and direct. It brings out new capacities. It makes you more happier to go to work. It’s a more satisfying job life than you would otherwise have. So I think it recommends itself on all kinds of levels.

One other example, we can learn something from a country called Italy that we admire for its cuisine and its lovely countryside. They have a law there, passed in 1985, called the Marcora Law after the name of the legislator. Here’s what it does. It offers a choice to unemployed workers. You can take a dole every week, an unemployment check, the way we do in this country, or you have an option, an option B that we don’t have. If you get at least nine other workers to make the—unemployed workers, like yourself, to make the following choice, here’s what you can get. As a lump sum, you can get your entire unemployment program of two years of checks in your hands right at the beginning; you have to have nine other workers or more, and you have to use that money as the start-up capital for a cooperative enterprise. The idea of the Italian government was, if we give workers this to set up a job and an enterprise, they will be much more committed to it than they would if they didn’t have that role.

AMY GOODMAN: How do they know they’ll do it?

RICHARD WOLFF: They don’t. But they know those workers have an incentive, because if they don’t make that work, they can’t go back and collect unemployment. That’s what they got. The government doesn’t spend much more money than it would have anyway, but it creates jobs, and it creates workers committed, because it’s their enterprise, to make that work as their personal solution and as a way not only for them to survive, but for the whole of the Italian society for the first time to see what it’s like to have an enterprise where you run the affair.

You know, here in America, we want to believe in freedom of choice. Let’s give our people freedom of choice. They can have the choice to go work in a top-down, capitalist enterprise—what we’re used to—but if we develop the alternative, really a program of co-ops around the country, then American young people and older people could say, "What would it be like to work there? Let’s see what that’s like." And then we would have the choice we do not have in this country now.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Wolff, before we end, I want to turn back to the crisis in Cyprus and relate it to what’s happening here. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News warned his audience last week that Cyprus and other European countries are facing economic hardships because they’re so-called "nanny states."

BILL O’REILLY: Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, now Cyprus, all broke. And other European nations are close. Why? Because they’re nanny states, and there are not enough workers to support all the entitlements these progressive paradises are handing out.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. Richard?

RICHARD WOLFF: You know, he gets away with saying things which no undergraduate in the United States with a responsible economic professor could ever get away with. If you want to refer to things as nanny states, then the place you go in Europe is not the southern tier—Portugal, Spain and Italy; the place you go are Germany and Scandinavia, because they provide more social services to their people than anybody else. And guess what: Not only are they not in trouble economically, they are the winners of the current situation. The unemployment rate in Germany is now below 5 percent. Ours is pushing between 7 and 8 percent. So, please, get your facts right, Mr. O’Reilly. The nanny state, you call it, the program of countries like Germany and Scandinavia, who tax their people heavily, by all means, but who provide them with social services that would be the envy of the United States—a national health program that takes care of you, whether you’re employed or not, and gives you proper healthcare. In France, for example, the law says when you go to work, you get five weeks’ paid vacation. That’s not an option; that’s the law. You get support when you’re a new parent for your child care and so forth. They provide services. And they are successful in Germany and Scandinavia, much more than we are in the United States and much more than those countries in the south.

So they’re not broken, the south, because they’re nanny states, since the nanny states, par excellence, are doing better than everyone. The actual truth of Mr. O’Reilly is the opposite of what he says. The more you do nanny state, the better off you are during a crisis and to minimize the cost of the crisis. That’s what the European economic situation actually teaches. He’s just making it up as he goes along to conform to an ideological position that is harder and harder for folks like him to sustain, so he has to reach further and further into fantasy.

AMY GOODMAN: In our last minute, other cures for capitalism, as you put it?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, I think that there’s a set of fundamental reorganizations. When you have a private banking system in the United States, the way we did up until, say, the 1970s and '80s, you had it in a position relative to the economy that made a certain sense. But over the last 30 and 40 years, for a whole host of reasons, we have made debt a central part of the economy. Today it is not unusual for a person who goes into a grocery store to get a bottle of water to use a credit card, basically to make a loan in order to buy that bottle of water. Everything that consumers do is now mediated by debt. Everything corporations do, and as we look around the world, the governments are in debt. Debt is everywhere. It has become the water we swim in, the air we breathe. That puts the banks in an unbelievably powerful position, because they're the repository of the means to borrow. If we’re going to make an economy dependent on debt, we can’t leave the power to control that—

AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds.

RICHARD WOLFF: —in the private hands of banks. Either we don’t become a debt-ridden country, or we make borrowing and lending a social program. We can’t allow private banking. It doesn’t work. It needs to be changed.

AMY GOODMAN: Richard Wolff, I want to thank you for being with us. If you’d like a copy of today’s show, you can go to our website at Richard Wolff is professor emeritus at University of Massachusetts, teaches at New School University.

A DC Insider Explains How the Wall Street Lobby Owns DC: Crony Capitalism Prevails...

Jeff Connaughton found out Wall Street always wins in DC. (Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Connaughton)Jeff Connaughton found out Wall Street always wins in DC. (Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Connaughton)It's not always readily apparent how Wall Street pulls the strings in DC. Although sometimes it is indeed blatant, most of the financial "too big to fail" control of the capital is a bit more subtle.

Jeff Connaughton started off on Wall Street at Smith Barney. He gravitated to assisting Joe Biden in his ill-fated 1988 quest for the White House, and then onto Biden's senate staff. After clerking for DC Federal Appellate Judge Abner Mikva, he joined him when Mikva became Clinton's White House counsel. After that, he remained on the inside of DC power manipulation when he opened a K-Street lobbying firm – another member of the revolving door government.

When Biden was elected vice-president, Ted Kaufman, Biden's top aide, was appointed to replace him for two years in the Senate for the remainder of Biden's term. Kaufman, in turn, asked Connaughton to be his chief of staff. Together, they vowed to take on Wall Street. Given that Kaufman was not going to run for a full term, they figured that they had no need to depend on campaign funding that might influence their crusade.

In the end, they stood proud but defeated. Wall Street had prevailed almost entirely across the board.

Eventually, disillusioned and repulsed by the crony capitalism he witnessed and later even facilitated as a lobbyist, he retired from the Wall Street money zone in our nation's capital and moved to Savannah, Georgia.

Connaughton's gradual epiphany is our gain, as he reveals detailed accounts of how the Wall Street chess board works at the expense of sound financial law. Although he was not at the epicenter of power, he was close enough to smell the malodorous scents of a city bought and paid for.

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In the following excerpt from "The Payoff," Connaughton explains how former Democratic Senator, a Wall Street point man, undercut President Bill Clinton on even a minor amendment to hold corporations accountable for intentional deceptive securities fraud.

It's revealing in both how a key Democratic at the time was carrying Wall Street waters – and his loyalties were greater to the financial world than to the president of his party. Furthermore, it reveals that if Wall Street can defeat an amendment that just required honesty to potential stockholders about future company performance, then they were in charge down to the smallest detail.


It was past nine o'clock in the evening when President Clinton strode into the room. He was dressed immaculately in a suit and tie, yet he strongly resembled an older version of the Arkansas kid he'd once been, perhaps because of the way his face lit up when he saw Bruce Lindsey, his long-time friend and deputy White House counsel. It was as though [White House Counsel Ab] Mikva and I weren't even there.

The president asked Bruce whether he remembered an old visitor from northwest Arkansas. "Well he was here last night, and I offered to let him stay in the Lincoln Bedroom, and you know what he said to me?" Clinton affected an even deeper Arkansas accent: "Mr. President, I know you think Lincoln was a great president, but if he was so great, why'd we even have to fight that war?" We all laughed, and Clinton continued, "Can you believe that? Half the country wants to see the Lincoln Bedroom, and he didn't want to stay in it."

Clinton turned off the mirth like a faucet. He asked Bruce: "So what have we got?" What we had, as Bruce explained, was the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, now before the Senate. A corporate coalition—Wall Street banks and brokers, accountants, insurers, Silicon Valley—wanted the bill, which would make it more difficult to prove securities fraud, passed intact. The bill's opponents felt it would shield securities fraud by these companies. Particularly troublesome to them were provisions regarding the statements companies make about future performance.

The bill's opponents felt that its language threatened their ability to sue for securities fraud when a company's executives talked up the price of its stock by issuing misleading forecasts while simultaneously selling their own shares. Those behind the bill, however, wanted to make it harder to prove wrongdoing in such cases. According to them, whenever a stock's price dropped, securities class-action lawyers quickly filed suits against companies in the hope that they would settle out of court rather than risk losing at trial. Wall Street and others viewed these suits as extortion. They wanted increased protection in such cases, but the bill's opponents felt that the proposed legislation gave Wall Street and the others too much leeway. Mikva, Bruce, and I believed some adjustment may have been needed, but the proposed bill set an almost impossibly high bar, giving Wall Street and the others too much protection. The White House was under tremendous pressure.

Just the day before, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, after getting an earful from a number of CEOs, had taken the West Wing stairs two at a time on his way to Mikva's office. From my desk outside the office, I heard Bowles practically yell, "What the hell are y'all doing to make Silicon Valley so upset about this bill?" Wall Street, seeking to hide the blue stock-trader jackets of high finance behind the white lab coats of high tech, had wisely pushed Silicon Valley in the vanguard of lobbying the White House. What we're doing is standing up for a fair outcome, I thought to myself, as Mikva closed the door behind Bowles.

Afterwards, I begged Mikva to ask to see the president again. I was determined that the White House not undercut Arthur Levitt, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who was standing up to the bill's authors to force modifications. Levitt was trying his best to gain revisions to the bill so it wouldn't eviscerate private securities-fraud actions, an important supplement to the SEC's own enforcement efforts.

Mikva asked for time on Clinton's schedule, and I quickly banged out a briefing memo for him. When Clinton's scheduler finally called, much later that night, Mikva turned to me and said, "Come on." This would be the only time I would personally brief the president on an issue.

The meeting, which Bruce Lindsey also attended, was in Clinton's personal study in the White House mansion rather than in the Oval Office. That was a plus. Few staffers got to see the study, with its famous painting of Lincoln and his Union Generals with a rainbow in the background. The minus was at that late hour no official photographer would be on duty. So there would never be a picture of me seated on the couch, Leaning Forward to Educate the President on a Momentous Issue.

Bruce provided an overview of the standard in the Senate bill, and I filled in the specifics. The standard required a showing of three elements, connected by an "and." This meant a plaintiff would have to prove all three of the elements to get past a defense motion to dismiss the suit. The president looked at Bruce and me and said "Did y'all say 'and'? They have to show the first two and the third?"

"Yes, Mr. President."

"Well that's just too high." I recognized the "high" as pronounced by a fellow Southerner, with mouth wide open to give the I its full effect. "I've stood out there in Silicon Valley, and I've heard them go on and on about how bad some of these class action suits are, but I can't be in a position where it looks like I'm protecting securities fraud." Clinton even started to mimic the voice of an imaginary radio ad against him on the issue. I was urging him to take this position, so I didn't point out that it was highly unlikely any Republican opponent would try to use it against him.

"I can call Chris if you need me to," the president said, referring to Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, the Senate bill's author and then-current chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Dodd was Corporate America's point man in the Senate effort to curb class action securities action suits. Bruce said he'd call him and would keep the president informed.

As the meeting broke up, Clinton told Mikva and Bruce to go next door and say hello to Hillary, the First Lady, who was having dinner with Ann Landers, an old friend of Mikva's from Chicago. We left the president in his study.

While Mikva and Bruce went into the dining area, I stayed in the hallway, amazed that I was standing alone in the White House living quarters. A couple minutes later, President Clinton exited the study and smiled as he approached me. "Go on in there. Don't be shy," he said, again prolonging the vowel in "shy" a whole note.

"Thank you, Mr. President. I don't really need to meet Ann Landers," I said.

Then, in a moment I'll never forget, the President of the United States looked me in the eye and said, "You think I'm doing the right thing, don't you?" My passion apparently had shown during the briefing. Like most who had trod those historic halls, I turned out to be a yes-man: "Absolutely, Mr. President. You can't undercut the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission on a question of securities fraud."

President Clinton reflected, "Yeah, that's right. And Levitt is an Establishment figure, right?" Clinton was trying to reassure himself that the heat he'd take from Corporate America was worth it because even Levitt, one of its own, thought the legislation went too far. If the President has to think very hard before taking on this kind of fight, I thought to myself, imagine how disproportionately unlikely it is for Washington's lower castes to dare do the same.

"Yes, Mr. President. That's right."

That night, I couldn't sleep. It was intoxicating to have talked to the President. I knew I'd be meeting the next day with a dozen staffers from various White House offices—National Economic Council, Domestic Policy, Legislative Affairs, the Vice President's office and even the first lady's staff—who had been weighing in on this issue. I'd been arguing with all of them. Most of them had wanted to appease Silicon Valley because its support had burnished the images of Clinton and Gore as forward-thinking, pro-business Democrats.

When the meeting began the next morning, I said: "We met with the president last night," and I laid out his decision. For the first and only time in my life, I felt presidential power surge through my body. It was electric. Every staffer who just the day before had been an obstacle now lay down like a forest blown flat by a nuclear blast. There was no further discussion. Mikva, Bruce, and I had the president's decision. It was time to implement.

I called a staffer in Senator Paul Sarbanes's office. I briefed him that if Sarbanes would offer an amendment that would preserve the viability of a securities-fraud action against company executives who had "actual knowledge" that a forward-looking statement was fraudulent, the White House would support it. Sarbanes's staffer didn't believe me. Just watch, I said. I'll get you a letter within an hour. Move forward with the amendment.

Sarbanes offered his amendment. As he spoke in the well of the Senate, he held aloft a letter from Mikva stating the White House strongly supported this amendment, which, to be honest, was hardly a radical notion. All it said was that company executives who knowingly lie about future performance won't be protected from securities-fraud lawsuits.

The vote began, and it looked for a while like we were going to win. Then Dodd started working his fellow senators. It soon became apparent it was going to be a tie. Finally, Dodd voted against the amendment, which failed by one vote.

Bruce had called Dodd and told him that President Clinton had personally requested this change. Yet Dodd still opposed the amendment. He sided with Republicans against a vast majority of Democratic senators. Dodd, for years one of the biggest recipient's of financial services industry campaign contributions, was too deeply in the pocket of Wall Street and the accountants to go against them. Admittedly, many of the Democratic senators who supported the amendment had long received campaign contributions from securities class-action lawyers.

Dodd's excuse was that the issue could be worked out when the slightly different versions of the bill passed by the House and the Senate were reconciled in conference before being sent to the president. Bruce was deeply disappointed that Dodd had voted against the president. I was outraged. It was my first experience of how Wall Street, accountants, and insurance companies could combine to bend Washington to its will. I knew the accounting industry—because it had activated its professional members in virtually every state—had been a particularly effective fundraising machine. Partners at the big accounting firms had spoken about the bill with hundreds of members of Congress and dozens of senators at campaign donor events across the country. Accountants were often the deep pockets targeted by class-action lawyers after the fraudulent company those same accountants had audited each year had turned feet upwards.

My role at this stage became to negotiate a compromise provision while reporting to Bruce. I never met with a senator or representative or their staff; all of my negotiations were directly with the corporate coalition. Because I wasn't an experienced attorney (I'd graduated from law school only a year earlier), I relied on input from two respected academics: John Coffee of Columbia Law School and Donald Langevoort, then at Vanderbilt Law School. I called them frequently for objective advice on how judges would apply the various drafts of the provision.

During the negotiations, I was invited to hold a video conference call with the general counsels of Apple, Hewlett Packard, and five other Silicon Valley firms. At one point, one of the general counsels said, "Jeff, where is all this fraud you're so worried about?" I'm not claiming to have been clairvoyant. But Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Andersen, and other prominent cases of systematic fraud would soon prove that questioner's confidence in corporate rectitude to be ill-founded.

After weeks of discussion, I offered a compromise. The White House would agree to a two-pronged approach. The standard would be "actual knowledge" that a forward-looking statement was false, or a higher "willfulness" standard if the statement had been accompanied by "bespeaks caution" language: in other words, if the statement was followed by a description of risk factors and a warning to investors not to rely on the prediction's accuracy.

The coalition never accepted or rejected my proposal and the impasse dragged on for months. Mikva, who just a year before had hired me as one of his judicial clerks, even joked at one of the Counsel's office staff meetings, "Who knew that Jeff would become a household name on Wall Street?"

By this point, Mikva, Bruce, and I had also established that the White House was opposed to the product liability reform bill—which targeted the standards governing private suits for negligence against manufacturers of faulty products—making its way through Congress. Mikva was fielding phone calls from a handful of Democratic senators, including Jay Rockefeller, who were furious that White House lawyers were placing roadblocks in front of that bill, too.

Meanwhile, Arthur Levitt at the SEC had been under siege to soften his position on the securities-fraud bill. During a visit to meet with Mikva, Levitt told me how personally offended he was by the insulting language and the threat of SEC budget cuts that Dodd and other senators had used when they berated him by telephone. These were important issues; the SEC should've played a leading role in crafting the standards in the bill. Instead, Congress was bullying the SEC chairman to support legislation slanted toward the interests of a corporate coalition that had raised millions of dollars for members of the House and Senate.

The bill emerged from conference. Now the question became would Clinton sign it? Mikva, Bruce, and I lobbied hard for a veto. We encouraged independent legal scholars—who didn't have a dog in the fight—to write letters to Clinton. As it turned out, Clinton was very close to John Sexton, the president of New York University and a securities law expert. Sexton spoke to the President and urged him to veto, which Clinton did. Some have speculated that Clinton wanted to have it both ways: he vetoed the bill, but also signaled to Dodd that he wouldn't be overly displeased if two-thirds of Congress voted to override it. I don't know whether that's true or false.

Regardless, that's exactly what happened. Even Ted Kennedy, the great champion of civil rights and liberties, who had assured plaintiffs' groups that he was with them, flipped and went along with the corporate coalition and voted to override Clinton's veto. For Bruce, Mikva, and me, the defeat was devastating. The next morning, Dodd was quoted on the front page of the Washington Post as saying that Clinton's veto had been the result of "poor staff work." For unrelated reasons, Mikva left the White House a short time later. Because he'd brought me with him, I followed him out the door.

In his second term, President Clinton made mistakes—deregulating the financial services industry, supporting the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, and leaving derivatives transactions unregulated—that would, within a decade, have devastating consequences. Once upon a time, though, in 1995, we had a president who—with the support of his advisors—was willing to do the right thing and stand up to Wall Street, which even then had already taken over most of Washington.

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Copyright by Jeff Connaughton. Not to be reproduced with permission of the author or Anderson Literary Management, LLC.

Noam Chomsky: Can Civilization Survive Capitalism?

Capitalism as it exists today is radically incompatible with democracy.

March 5, 2013  |  

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There is “capitalism” and then there is “really existing capitalism.”

The term “capitalism” is commonly used to refer to the U.S. economic system, with substantial state intervention ranging from subsidies for creative innovation to the “too-big-to-fail” government insurance policy for banks.

The system is highly monopolized, further limiting reliance on the market, and increasingly so: In the past 20 years the share of profits of the 200 largest enterprises has risen sharply, reports scholar Robert W. McChesney in his new book “Digital Disconnect.”

“Capitalism” is a term now commonly used to describe systems in which there are no capitalists: for example, the worker-owned Mondragon conglomerate in the Basque region of Spain, or the worker-owned enterprises expanding in northern Ohio, often with conservative support – both are discussed in important work by the scholar Gar Alperovitz.

Some might even use the term “capitalism” to refer to the industrial democracy advocated by John Dewey, America’s leading social philosopher, in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

Dewey called for workers to be “masters of their own industrial fate” and for all institutions to be brought under public control, including the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication. Short of this, Dewey argued, politics will remain “the shadow cast on society by big business.”

The truncated democracy that Dewey condemned has been left in tatters in recent years. Now control of government is narrowly concentrated at the peak of the income scale, while the large majority “down below” has been virtually disenfranchised. The current political-economic system is a form of plutocracy, diverging sharply from democracy, if by that concept we mean political arrangements in which policy is significantly influenced by the public will.

There have been serious debates over the years about whether capitalism is compatible with democracy. If we keep to really existing capitalist democracy – RECD for short – the question is effectively answered: They are radically incompatible.

It seems to me unlikely that civilization can survive RECD and the sharply attenuated democracy that goes along with it. But could functioning democracy make a difference?

Let’s keep to the most critical immediate problem that civilization faces: environmental catastrophe. Policies and public attitudes diverge sharply, as is often the case under RECD. The nature of the gap is examined in several articles in the current issue of Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Researcher Kelly Sims Gallagher finds that “One hundred and nine countries have enacted some form of policy regarding renewable power, and 118 countries have set targets for renewable energy. In contrast, the United States has not adopted any consistent and stable set of policies at the national level to foster the use of renewable energy.”

It is not public opinion that drives American policy off the international spectrum. Quite the opposite. Opinion is much closer to the global norm than the U.S. government’s policies reflect, and much more supportive of actions needed to confront the likely environmental disaster predicted by an overwhelming scientific consensus – and one that’s not too far off; affecting the lives of our grandchildren, very likely.

As Jon A. Krosnick and Bo MacInnis report in Daedalus: “Huge majorities have favored steps by the federal government to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated when utilities produce electricity. In 2006, 86 percent of respondents favored requiring utilities, or encouraging them with tax breaks, to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they emit. Also in that year, 87 percent favored tax breaks for utilities that produce more electricity from water, wind or sunlight  [ These majorities were maintained between 2006 and 2010 and shrank somewhat after that.

Why It’s Harder to Love Someone in This Era of Extreme Capitalism

Capitalism gave our fantasy a blank check but it stole our reality.

Photo Credit:

February 13, 2013  |  

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Love is older than capitalism. But the romantic variety, along with its peculiar pains, takes cultural center stage just as capitalism makes its debut. That’s no coincidence. Capitalism and romantic love have grown together, reinforcing and reflecting each other in ways that we hardly notice.

Our society’s organization has a lot to do with the way we understand our perceptions and experiences, including love. Depending on what values we emphasize and the way we imagine ourselves in relation to others, our expectations can bring us fulfillment or crash on the rocks of disappointment.

In the High Middle Ages, the tradition of courtly love among the nobility focused on a knight’s bond to his lady fair; a reflection of the relationship between vassal and lord. Reciprocity was a strong feature of this connection. Women like the powerful Eleanor of Acquitaine, who could often both inherit and manage property in the feudal system, found that courtly love offered them a way to freely express sexual desires outside of the conventions of patriarchy. They could put chastity aside, along with the need for the legitimacy of children. Feudal values, based on a system of private jurisdictions, fed the possibility of love for both men and women outside the bounds of marriage.

The Renaissance turned things in a somewhat different direction. In the 16th century, bourgeois writers like Thomas More (a major figure in the court of Henry VIII), didn’t have much use for female sexuality and influence. They were preoccupied with the emergence of the mercantile and manufacturing economy, and under the early capitalist model, sexuality was to be regulated, religious devotion encouraged, and public life circumscribed. Instead of reciprocity, hierarchy was the primary structure of relationships between king and subject, man and woman, and, eventually, employer and employee. Patriarchal family values were restored. For women, love had to lead to marriage and it had better not stray beyond that boundary. (Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's second wife, famously got caught in the crosshairs of this shift.)

As the ideal of love as mutuality and reciprocity among men and women declined, love became, in the words of historian Joan Kelly, a “narcissistic experience.” It also reflected a general shift in the conception of the self. In his book, The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Society, Anthony Giddens suggests that romantic love introduced the idea of a personal narrative, which is why it emerged along with the novel. Self-realization became the keynote of romantic love. As the Enlightenment loosened religious dominance, people turned to the inspiration of romance as a replacement for what had once been provided by religion. Romantic love became salvation.

By the 19th century, the decline in the belief in immortality sped the transformation in the way people saw themselves. If we don’t possess an immortal soul, then we have to elevate our sense of our temporary selves. If we can’t live forever, then we have to fulfill ourselves now. Our individual hopes and desires gain more significance. We don’t want to accept limits in our earthly life, and we are constantly reaching for more. Romantic love becomes the way we can expand, the place where we imagine ourselves heroic.

As capitalism matures, its emphasis on leaping toward the new and the original stands out. It thrives, as historian Joyce Appleby tells us, on “relentless revolution.” Novelty reigns supreme. The consumer is groomed for the ceaseless search for new sensations and new possibilities. Capitalism looks forward. It revels in future visions rather than reflection. As industrialization brings the demands of endless work, capitalism has to stimulate the desire for pleasure and consumption. The Puritan ethic of delayed gratification, based on the idea of scarcity, is pushed aside. Capitalism offers us the fantasy of abundance, where restraint is unnecessary.

Disaster Capitalism in the Maghreb: War, Refugees and Profit in West Africa

The British security firm G4S is set to rake in massive profits thanks to crises in Mali, Libya and Algeria. Recognized as the world’s biggest security firm, the group’s brand plummeted during the London Olympics last year due to its failure to satisfy conditions of a government contract. But with growing unrest in North and West Africa, G4S is expected to make a speedy recovery.French legionnaires in Mali, which used to be part of France's African empire. (Photograph: Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images)

The January 16th hostage crisis at Algeria’s Ain Amenas gas plant, where 38 hostages were killed, ushered in the return of al-Qaeda not as extremists on the run, but as well-prepared militants with the ability to strike deeply into enemy territories and cause serious damage. For G4S and other security firms, this also translates into growing demands. “The British group (..) is seeing a rise in work ranging from electronic surveillance to protecting travelers,” the company’s regional president for Africa told Reuters. “Demand has been very high across Africa,” Andy Baker said. “The nature of our business is such that in high-risk environments the need for our services increases.”

If Algeria’s deadly encounter with al-Qaeda was enough to add then north African country to private security companies emerging African market, Libya must be a private security firm paradise. Following NATO’s toppling of the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his brutal assassination in Sirte on October 20, 2011, numerous militias sprung up throughout Libya, some armed with heavy weapons, courtesy of western countries. Initially, such disturbing scenes of armed militias setting up checkpoints at every corner were dismissed as an inevitable post-revolution reality. However, when westerners became targets themselves, ‘security’ in Libya finally became high on the agenda.

Many private security firms already operate in Libya; some were even present in the country before the former Libyan government was officially overthrown. Some of these firms were virtually unknown before the war, including a small private British firm, Blue Mountain Group. The latter was responsible for guarding the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, which was torched on Sep 11 last year. It later emerged that the attack on the embassy was preplanned and well-coordinated, resulting in the death of four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. It remains unclear why the State Department opted to hire Blue Mountain Group, as opposed to a larger security firm as is usually the case with other western embassies and large companies that now vie to reconstruct the very country that their governments conspired to destroy.

The lucrative business of destroying, rebuilding and securing has been witnessed in other wars and conflicts spurred on by western interventions. Private security firms are the middlemen that keep local irritants from getting in the way of post-war ‘diplomacy’ and the work business giants.

When a country eventually collapses under the pressure of bunker busters and other advanced weapons, security firms move in to secure the realm as western diplomats start their bargaining with the emerging local elites over the future of the country’s wealth. In Libya, those who contributed the biggest guns were the ones that received the largest contracts. Of course, while the destroyed country is being robbed blind, it is the local population that suffers the consequences of having brute foreigners with guns watching their neighborhoods in the name of security.

It must be said that the new Libyan government has specifically rejected Blackwater-style armed contractors – as in having boots on the ground – fearing provocations similar to those that occurred in Baghdad’s Nisour Square and similar killing throughout Afghanistan. The aim in Libya is to allow smooth business transactions without occasional protests provoked by trigger-happy foreigners. But considering the deteriorating security in Libya which has been created by the systematic destruction of the central government and its entire military apparatus, a solution to the security vacuum remains a major topic of discussion.

Private security firms are essentially mercenaries who offer services to spare western governments the political cost of incurring too many casualties. While they are often based in western cities, many of their employees come from so-called Third World countries. For all involved, it’s much safer this way, for when Asian, African or Arab security personnel are wounded or killed on duty, the matter tends to register, if ever, as a mere news item, with little political consequence, Senate hearings or government enquiries.

Mali, a west African country that is suffering multiple crises – military coups, civil war, famine and finally an all-out French-led war – is the likely next victim or opportunity for the deadly trio: western governments, large corporations and of course, private security firms.

In fact, Mali is the perfect ground for such opportunists, who will spare no effort to exploit its massive economic potential and strategic location. For years, the west African country has fallen under political and military western influences. The year 2012 represented a text-book scenario that ultimately and predictably lead to western intervention that finally took place on January 11, when France launched a military operation supposedly aimed at ousting armed Islamic extremists. The military operations will last “as long as necessary,” declared French President Francois Hollande, echoing the same logic of the Bush administration when it first declared its ‘war on terror.’

But as inviting as the Malian setting may seem, it is equally intricate and unpredictable. No linear timeline can possibly unravel in simple terms the crisis at hand. However, all arrows point to large caches of weapons that made their way from Libya to Mali following the NATO war. A new balance of power took hold, empowering the ever-oppressed Tuareg and flooding the country with desert-hardened militants belonging to various Islamic groups. Two symmetrical lines of upheavals developed at the same time in both the north and south parts of the country. On one hand, Tuareg’s National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) declared independence in the north and was quickly joined by Ansar Dine, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA). On the other hand, US-trained army captain Amadou Haya Sanogo made his move in the southern part of the country in March, overthrowing President Amadou Toumani Touré.

The Malian storyline developed so rapidly, giving the impression that there was no other option but imminent confrontation between the south and the north. France, Mali’s old colonial master, was quick to wave the military card and worked diligently to enlist west African countries in its war efforts. The plan was for the intervention to appear as if it’s purely an African effort, with mere logistical support and political backing by their western benefactors. Indeed, on Dec 21, the UN Security Council approved the sending in of an African-led force (of 3,000 soldiers) from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to chase after northern militants in the vast Malian desert.

That war was scheduled for Sep. 2013, however, to allow France to form a united western front and to train fragmented Malian forces. But the militants’ capture of the town of Konna, close to the capital Bamako, has reportedly forced France’s hand to intervene in Mali and without UN consent. The war which was waged in the name of human rights and Mali’s territorial integrity, has already sparked outcries from major human rights organizations regarding crimes committed by foreign forces and their Malian army partners. However, what seems thus far as an easy French conquest has left other western powers licking their chops over the potential of having access to Mali, which is unlikely to have a strong central government anytime soon.

On Jan 25, the African Press Agency's page on Mali was filled with news items about eager western involvement in solidarity with the French war buildup. It ranged from “Italy to send aircraft to help transport troops to Mali” to “Germany pledge aid to Africa for Mali intervention.” All calls for political dialogue, especially as ethnic strife is likely to devastate the country for years to come, seem to fall on deaf ears. Meanwhile, according to APA, the UK is offering help to Mali in finding a ‘political roadmap’ aimed at security the ‘political future of the West African country.’

As France, the US and EU countries determine the future of Mali through military efforts and political roadmaps, the country itself is so weakened and politically disfigured beyond any possibility of confronting outside designs. For G4S and other security firms, Mali now tops the list in Africa’s emerging security market. Nigeria and Kenya follow closely, with possibilities emerging elsewhere.

From Libya to Mali a typical story is forming, coupled with lucrative contracts and massive opportunities of all sorts. When private security firms speak of an emerging market in Africa, one is to safely assume that the continent is once more falling prey to growing military ambitions and unfair business conduct. While G4S is likely to polish its tarnished brand, hundreds of thousands of African refugees (800,000 in Mali alone) will continue their endless journeys into unfamiliar borders and unforgiving deserts. Their security matters to no one, for private security firms have no room for penniless refugees.

Ramzy Baroud

Ramzy Baroud ( is an author and editor of His work has been published in many newspapers, journals and anthologies around the world. His is the author of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London). His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).

An Economic Alternative to Exploitative Free Market Capitalism

In 1649, a group of English communists started fighting the notion of private property in what became known as the commons movement. They were using the unstable period in England’s history to introduce a new economy, one that would see land, wells and other means of wealth as shared resources. This group would prevent a small class of people from collecting and consolidating the rights to basic human life, such as water and food. In an annual celebration that doubled as a protest, they would circle the village commons and level or dig up any hedges and fences that designated spots of private ownership. They became known as the “levelers” or “diggers.”(Illustration by Jac Depczyk)

The movement, which was subsequently quelled in 1651 by landowners and the Council of State, has seen a revival in the past decade. It remained dormant for so many years because of its fundamental threat to modern economics, putting community needs at the center of society rather than those of the individual. 

The commons protects large resources from privatization, such as the lobster fisheries in Maine or grassland management in Mongolia, and allows collectives to regulate extraction. Exploitation is avoided because no one individual has more of a right to the source than any other.

“[The commons]” is “an intellectually coherent way of talking about inalienable value, which we don’t have a vocabulary for,” David Bollier, author of “The Wealth of the Commons” said in a conference Tuesday at the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Washington, D.C.

It is a way, Bollier says, of formally introducing the “political, public policy, cultural, social, personal, even spiritual” aspects of life into our economic system, which now, he says, can deal only with monetary value.

"You could say that it’s a different metaphysics than that of the modern liberal state,” he says, “which looks at the individual as the sole agent.”

The commons movement is a reaction to exploitative free market capitalism. It rejects the notion that resources, spaces and other assets are purely a means to wealth. It condemns the privatization of public works, such as the parking meters in Chicago, which allows the sovereign wealth fund that controls it to increase the rates.

When an economy allocates wealth to private entities, Bollier says, those property rights inevitably get consolidated until a few large institutions control its means.

The commons movement is a reaction to exploitative free market capitalism. It rejects the notion that resources, spaces and other assets are purely a means to wealth.

Instead, he says, we need to protect the commons with rules that bar individual ownership of that property. It is not, however, a space that is left as a free-for-all; it still has regulations and state recognition that prevent private groups from exploiting it.

The commons introduces a “role for organized self-governance as opposed to government,” Bollier says, “although they can be made complimentary.” The community manages the resource and has an involved interest in keeping others from decreasing its supply, he says, because the license belongs to the public.

But the commons is not restricted to natural resources—it extends to the Web, science and other technologies.

The Internet has become the setting for a fierce battle between public advocates that would like to designate forums as open and free, and companies that seek to control more of its content through bills like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Many programmers have handed over their copyright ownership to the public in the form of General Public Licenses and Creative Commons licenses, which allow the public to use and contribute to forums without having to pay for usage. It also keeps companies from using personal information, as with Facebook, to target potential consumers.

Additionally, one-fifth of the human genome is privately owned through patents. Salt Lake City-based Myriad Genetics, for example, owns the breast cancer susceptibility gene, which guarantees monopoly control over research into cancer. It discourages many other researchers from exploring treatment, something that could ultimately stunt our capacity for medical advances.

The issue extends further: Monsanto uses Genetically Modified Organisms to displace natural seeds, multinational water bottle companies are privatizing groundwater, and software companies retain copyrights on mathematical algorithms that others then cannot use.

“Enclosure,” Bollier says about patents and private ownership, “is about dispossession. It’s a process by which the powerful convert a shared community resource into a market commodity … This is known as development.

“The strange thing about the commons is that it’s invisible because it’s outside of the market and the state,” Bollier says. “It’s not seen as valuable and isn’t recognized because it has little to do with property rights for markets or geopolitical power … but there’s an estimated 2 billion people around the world whose lives depend upon commons like fisheries, forests, irrigation water and so forth.”

The neoliberal market does not, paradoxically, grasp the purpose behind the commons. Our current system is one-dimensional, Bollier says, and is designed to attach a price to everything.

For years, sustainability experts have sought ways to incorporate moderation and conservation into the neoliberal model through such incentives as cap and trade. But companies, Bollier says, will pay the extra fees until it is no longer economically viable, proving that in a system of privatization, people are willing to shell out penalty payments as long as they do not disrupt their profits.

“There’s an allure in trying to meet microeconomics and neoliberal economics on its own ground,” says Carroll Muffett, moderator of the discussion and president of the Center for International Environmental Law, “to say ‘if you want to put a price on everything, here’s the price for this and look how massive the price is,’ whether it’s access to water or it’s pollination … but for me the danger is: Is meeting them on their own ground what we should be doing? Is there an inherent compromise in there that risks giving up something that ultimately cannot have a value put on it?”

Until recently, Bollier and Muffett say, there has been much wiggle room for the free market to expand. But as the basic needs of fresh water, energy and food are being overproduced or vanishing because of climate change, companies are finding that their only options are to draw from the scant resources of Third World communities to meet their profit margins. It is a test to see what, in the end, neoliberalism holds higher in value: money or life.

Muffett says that question has already been answered in the building of the coal-fired Medupi Power Station in South Africa. An assessment of the power station projected that there wouldn’t be enough water to keep the plant operating and meet the needs of the local community. The watershed adjacent to the plant is already so overtaxed that it doesn’t reach the sea. The company, Eskom, proposed to reroute water from another watershed for its main operation and use the local supply for its filtration system. It would raise the price of water for the community to keep “poachers” from draining the source.

“The water that’s being poached,” Muffett says, “is to give people access to fresh water and to water their crops for subsistence living.

"Putting a price on that for a community is ultimately missing the point. The water isn’t fungible. If I give you my gallon of water and you give me $1,000, I can’t drink the thousand dollars.”

Both Bollier and Muffett say this is the result of an economy based on the philosophies of Thomas Malthus and John Locke, whose models do not guarantee the right of existence. To exist, one must have money. It becomes the defining characteristic of life.

“That’s the risk in the natural capital approach,” Muffett says. “It’s saying ‘if you give me a thousand dollars, that’s a substitute for my bees, my pollinators, for the land where my ancestors are buried.’ And there is no substitute for that.”

This article was made possible by the Center for Study of Responsive Law.

© 2012

Thomas Hedges works for the Center for Responsive Law in Washington, DC

An Economic Alternative to Exploitative Free Market Capitalism

In 1649, a group of English communists started fighting the notion of private property in what became known as the commons movement. They were using the unstable period in England’s history to introduce a new economy, one that would see land, wells and other means of wealth as shared resources. This group would prevent a small class of people from collecting and consolidating the rights to basic human life, such as water and food. In an annual celebration that doubled as a protest, they would circle the village commons and level or dig up any hedges and fences that designated spots of private ownership. They became known as the “levelers” or “diggers.”(Illustration by Jac Depczyk)

The movement, which was subsequently quelled in 1651 by landowners and the Council of State, has seen a revival in the past decade. It remained dormant for so many years because of its fundamental threat to modern economics, putting community needs at the center of society rather than those of the individual. 

The commons protects large resources from privatization, such as the lobster fisheries in Maine or grassland management in Mongolia, and allows collectives to regulate extraction. Exploitation is avoided because no one individual has more of a right to the source than any other.

“[The commons]” is “an intellectually coherent way of talking about inalienable value, which we don’t have a vocabulary for,” David Bollier, author of “The Wealth of the Commons” said in a conference Tuesday at the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Washington, D.C.

It is a way, Bollier says, of formally introducing the “political, public policy, cultural, social, personal, even spiritual” aspects of life into our economic system, which now, he says, can deal only with monetary value.

"You could say that it’s a different metaphysics than that of the modern liberal state,” he says, “which looks at the individual as the sole agent.”

The commons movement is a reaction to exploitative free market capitalism. It rejects the notion that resources, spaces and other assets are purely a means to wealth. It condemns the privatization of public works, such as the parking meters in Chicago, which allows the sovereign wealth fund that controls it to increase the rates.

When an economy allocates wealth to private entities, Bollier says, those property rights inevitably get consolidated until a few large institutions control its means.

The commons movement is a reaction to exploitative free market capitalism. It rejects the notion that resources, spaces and other assets are purely a means to wealth.

Instead, he says, we need to protect the commons with rules that bar individual ownership of that property. It is not, however, a space that is left as a free-for-all; it still has regulations and state recognition that prevent private groups from exploiting it.

The commons introduces a “role for organized self-governance as opposed to government,” Bollier says, “although they can be made complimentary.” The community manages the resource and has an involved interest in keeping others from decreasing its supply, he says, because the license belongs to the public.

But the commons is not restricted to natural resources—it extends to the Web, science and other technologies.

The Internet has become the setting for a fierce battle between public advocates that would like to designate forums as open and free, and companies that seek to control more of its content through bills like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Many programmers have handed over their copyright ownership to the public in the form of General Public Licenses and Creative Commons licenses, which allow the public to use and contribute to forums without having to pay for usage. It also keeps companies from using personal information, as with Facebook, to target potential consumers.

Additionally, one-fifth of the human genome is privately owned through patents. Salt Lake City-based Myriad Genetics, for example, owns the breast cancer susceptibility gene, which guarantees monopoly control over research into cancer. It discourages many other researchers from exploring treatment, something that could ultimately stunt our capacity for medical advances.

The issue extends further: Monsanto uses Genetically Modified Organisms to displace natural seeds, multinational water bottle companies are privatizing groundwater, and software companies retain copyrights on mathematical algorithms that others then cannot use.

“Enclosure,” Bollier says about patents and private ownership, “is about dispossession. It’s a process by which the powerful convert a shared community resource into a market commodity … This is known as development.

“The strange thing about the commons is that it’s invisible because it’s outside of the market and the state,” Bollier says. “It’s not seen as valuable and isn’t recognized because it has little to do with property rights for markets or geopolitical power … but there’s an estimated 2 billion people around the world whose lives depend upon commons like fisheries, forests, irrigation water and so forth.”

The neoliberal market does not, paradoxically, grasp the purpose behind the commons. Our current system is one-dimensional, Bollier says, and is designed to attach a price to everything.

For years, sustainability experts have sought ways to incorporate moderation and conservation into the neoliberal model through such incentives as cap and trade. But companies, Bollier says, will pay the extra fees until it is no longer economically viable, proving that in a system of privatization, people are willing to shell out penalty payments as long as they do not disrupt their profits.

“There’s an allure in trying to meet microeconomics and neoliberal economics on its own ground,” says Carroll Muffett, moderator of the discussion and president of the Center for International Environmental Law, “to say ‘if you want to put a price on everything, here’s the price for this and look how massive the price is,’ whether it’s access to water or it’s pollination … but for me the danger is: Is meeting them on their own ground what we should be doing? Is there an inherent compromise in there that risks giving up something that ultimately cannot have a value put on it?”

Until recently, Bollier and Muffett say, there has been much wiggle room for the free market to expand. But as the basic needs of fresh water, energy and food are being overproduced or vanishing because of climate change, companies are finding that their only options are to draw from the scant resources of Third World communities to meet their profit margins. It is a test to see what, in the end, neoliberalism holds higher in value: money or life.

Muffett says that question has already been answered in the building of the coal-fired Medupi Power Station in South Africa. An assessment of the power station projected that there wouldn’t be enough water to keep the plant operating and meet the needs of the local community. The watershed adjacent to the plant is already so overtaxed that it doesn’t reach the sea. The company, Eskom, proposed to reroute water from another watershed for its main operation and use the local supply for its filtration system. It would raise the price of water for the community to keep “poachers” from draining the source.

“The water that’s being poached,” Muffett says, “is to give people access to fresh water and to water their crops for subsistence living.

"Putting a price on that for a community is ultimately missing the point. The water isn’t fungible. If I give you my gallon of water and you give me $1,000, I can’t drink the thousand dollars.”

Both Bollier and Muffett say this is the result of an economy based on the philosophies of Thomas Malthus and John Locke, whose models do not guarantee the right of existence. To exist, one must have money. It becomes the defining characteristic of life.

“That’s the risk in the natural capital approach,” Muffett says. “It’s saying ‘if you give me a thousand dollars, that’s a substitute for my bees, my pollinators, for the land where my ancestors are buried.’ And there is no substitute for that.”

This article was made possible by the Center for Study of Responsive Law.

© 2012

Thomas Hedges works for the Center for Responsive Law in Washington, DC

‘We’re trying to build capitalism without capitalists’ — Russian tycoon

Russia’s 'failure' to build capitalism without a market economy costs it almost two thirds of GDP, Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska told RT on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos. He also says the country lacks entrepreneurial expertise.

The World Economic Forum has ended, with three scenarios of Russia’s development presented during the event – energy sector review, institutional reforms and social cohesion.

RT spoke with Russian tycoon Deripaska, who is most pessimistic about Russia’s method of building its economy.

­RT:Why do you think one of the key speakers was Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev? He was obviously showcasing Russia as an investment opportunity. What do you think are the main hurdles at the moment that are not allowing foreign investors to flock to Russia?

Oleg Deripaska: Because maybe they have a better opportunity. And for us it’s important to improve in our own situation and provide them with a more predictable climate, to give them a more transparent picture. The practice should be changed. And I think that was the main reason why government and officials now at Davos just to show they have a strong commitment not to do this.

RT:What do you think is the first thing that needs to be done? What do you think the government should focus on to really address that?

OD: First of all they should change management of the central bank. Because, what you said, the whole country all around the world tried to cure a problem which happened in 2008, and we have the complete opposite, actually. We have a central bank which creates more problems for the growth than try to support it.

RT: Well, speaking of the central bank, when you had the opportunity to speak during the Prime Minister Medvedev’s session, the only thing you said was that Russia has two great banks, VTB and Sberbank, and that is certainly not enough. Can you elaborate on that? Can you tell me why you think that’s not enough for a country like Russia, and what exactly needs to be done in this respect?

OD: Russia is not just Moscow, Russia is not just a resource sector. Russia is vast opportunity from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg, from agriculture to IT. And of course, we should have a better financial system. But no one could grow it – it’s not a mushroom. Not enough to have rain. Financial system – it is a commitment of the country, a commitment of the state institutions, central bankers, people, you know, to grow a proper infrastructure for capital market, for debt market.

We already have a naïve view on opportunities in the beginning of the ’90s when we tried to build capitalism –not even democracy – no one has interest in democracy. We are trying to build capitalism without capitalists, without market economy, without people who understand how to run enterprise, private enterprise, and we fail. And this failure cost us almost two thirds of GDP. Now we try to develop country without that market. We try to bring innovation, we try to bring and use opportunity not to benefit out of WTO without comparing what is the cost of capital in Russia and in the country which we want to compete with – Germany, with the United States, with Korea. And we have a cost of capital, you know, which is four times higher than the same cost of capital in the US, three times higher than Korea, and of course it is …it will not add us more opportunity, and this is what we should do. It’s not foreign investment; it is not foreign media or analysts. It’s our homework, and we haven’t started yet.

­Oleg Deripaska
- CEO of the largest aluminum company in the world, RUSAL.
- Chairman of Russian company Basic Element
- President of Enplus group
- Vice-president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs
- Chairman of the Executive Board of the Russian National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce
- Member of the Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Council, an agency of the Russian Government
- Named Businessman of the Year in 1999, 2006, and 2007 by Russia’s leading business newspaper Vedomosti, published in partnership with Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times

RT:Well, the cost of capital in many ways is tied to inflation, so that is one of the issues that should be tackled – would you agree with that?

OD: Yeah, but Russian inflation has no monitory base. It’s everyone knows. Even central bank analysts show this. And we’re not talking about inflation as a basic problem. It’s about money supply. There are basic failures. We don’t have institutions who provide. We don’t have middle class. We don’t have foreign investment which could provide money supplies. It’s only central bank, and central bank should not sit in comfortable chairs teaching us there is a structural problem, there is inflation, lying to us about the costs, and about what’s going on with our inflation, with our costs of capital, with our cost of debt, and this is something that should be changed immediately.

RT:And how do you think it should be changed? And how do you think the central bank’s approach could be changed – what is the main problem? What is the main reason for it being the way it is?

OD: The main problem is the people. If you look at the CVs, no one was in private banking. No one. And they run, almost market economy. We still have a great state presence, we still have a lot of inefficiency. It’s ridiculous. We need to have people who experience a problem, we need to have people who know what’s true customer relations and solve this issue, otherwise it will…it could run forever. 

'Africa becoming next China is a dream'

RT:You are very big on China. And there’s been a lot of talk this time around in Davos that Africa is going to be the next China. You have assets there. Would you agree with that assessment?

OD: No.

RT: What prevents them from being the next hotspot for growth?

OD: No governments, no stability, no competence, lack of education. As a result of lack, lack, lack – it’s just a dream.

'WTO accession as such won't benefit Russian economy'

RT:You mentioned the WTO and obviously that’s one of the hot topics for Russia in general. We have a lot of expectations but, you know, nobody really understands how our economy’s going to benefit from the WTO accession – how do you think it’s going to unravel?

OD: The WTO will not change monetary policy – our economy will not benefit for sure. It’s an opportunity – you need to use this opportunity. But again, if cost of capital and debt in Korea three times less than in Russia, who would invest in component somewhere in the Ural region instead of, you know, to buy enterprise in Korea to have proper supply base, productive workforce, and no barrier to bring this component back to Russia and assemble it. This is the reality – it’s not a charity club. What we are saying, industrial people to our government. First prepare the economy. Try to recognize what sector would be developed. Try to organize support for this sector, and then you know jump into this shark ocean.


'No one wants to support business'

RT:Well, do you think that this lack of available capital is one of the reasons Russia’s economy is not diversifying away from its dependence on the energy exports at the rate that perhaps some would hope?

OD: It’s one of the main problems.We need to not just have sectorial diversification, regional diversification. Now only four regions in Russia benefit out of development for the last 10 years and I think main problem is human perception. Still people would not look at the business as opportunity not to solve many problems. They still believe that the government should, you know, do some miracle and provide solution which is huge mistake. And of course no one wants to support the business… we talk about energy reform – it is nowhere. Monetary reform which we already discussed. We talk about access to infrastructure, we talk about investment in infrastructure. We try to look at the development in transportation sector, in energy sector. We try to develop a system when the customer through yearly increase in tariffs will pay for development of utilities. It’s ridiculous.

RT:You mentioned image and the perception – that’s really also been one of the main issues here – everybody talking about the image of Russia not quite being  up to par , not really quite being up to what the reality of what doing business in Russia is. But according to many surveys less than 30 per cent of Russians are actually interested in having their own businesses – that’s a very low number compared to pretty much any developed country. Why do you think that is, and do you think it’s a matter of entrepreneurs having a bad reputation or having the wrong image, or do you think there are deeper underlying problems?

OD: I think the country should recognize it is hard work and you need to commit almost whole of your free time to do it. We need to help them to grow. We need to reduce barrier to start the business. As I said, banking system, monetary policy, access to resources, infrastructure, and through support of the regional government. And actually fair budget system. Now we consolidate all money from the budget to Moscow and then redistribute it. In nature it’s killing incentive for regional governors to develop something because then it would be equalized.

RT:So there’s a big divide between the center, Moscow, and the regions, we all know about that, and that’s also been one of the issues discussed here at the forum on a global level – this divide between the rich and the poor – the haves and the have nots. How big of an issue do you think it is for Russia?

OD: Unless we will not move our capital some way in the region, like Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, it will become even worse. It’s actually creating wrong signal for the labor market. We attract so many people from ex-Soviet republics which actually creates more burden for Moscow, St. Petersburg’s Region, Moscow Region, St. Pete’s Region infrastructure and will actually create more tension, and this is completely unnecessary. The only way is to move capital somewhere not so close to Moscow – it is decided now because it is another mistake – and try to develop the same way as Brazil did, as Kazakhstan did, and it would be very beneficial and would solve a lot of problems.

RT:It looks like China is really driving the demand in the metals and mining sector at the moment. Do you think that’s going to be the trend going forward?

OD: Yes. Because they’re in the industrial phase. They need more commodities to complete their programs. There was a cycle in China development when they had very fast growth rate in terms of consumption of these commodities and they create misperception in the world it’s over and now we need to rationalize our output not to meet demand, not to produce waste, not to produce metal and resources for the ‘stock’ and this is the reality. There will be less investment in mining sector in the future and investors should be very cautious, you know, to choose what project to follow.

RT: If there will be less investment in the mining sector, what other sectors are you looking at yourself?

OD: We look at Russian development in the factory and financial sector construction.

RT:In the financial sector what are you interested in?

OD: It’s a future story.

The Extremist Cult of Capitalism

A 'cult,' according to Merriam-Webster, can be defined as "Great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work..(and)..a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion."

The Extremist Cult of Capitalism

A 'cult,' according to Merriam-Webster, can be defined as "Great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work..(and)..a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion."Capitalism has been defined by adherents and detractors: Mil...

The Crisis of World Capitalism: the Myth of Canadian Exceptionalism

The interview was conducted by Rebekah Wetmore and Ryan Romard. Rebekah Wetmore is an independent researcher and community organizer. She has an MA in Sociology from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Ryan Romard is a MA Candidate in Sociology at Acadia University. He studies the Sociology of Agriculture in Cuba.

This interview forms part of Great Recession-Proof? Shattering the Myth of Canadian Exceptionalism, and is published in the most recent issue of Alternate Routes: A Journal of Critical Social Research.

Rebekah Wetmore and Ryan Romard (RW/RR): The crisis of world capitalism starting in 2007 was the most severe crisis of capitalism since the Great Depression and thus far the recovery, both globally and within Canada, has been weak at best. With this mind, to what extent is the current crisis cyclical and in what ways is this related to a broader, systemic crisis of the capitalist system?

Michael Lebowitz (ML): This is not a question for which there is a quick answer. What do we mean by a crisis of capitalism? I distinguish between a crisis in capitalism and a crisis of capitalism. For me, there is only a crisis of capitalism when there is an organized and conscious subject prepared to put an end to capitalism.

There are always crises, though, within capitalism. Understanding this distinguishes a Marxian perspective from the perspective of mainstream neoclassical economists for whom the normal state of capitalism is equilibrium and crises are aberrations. For Marx and Marxists, crises are inherent in capital’s tendency toward overaccumulation. It is inherent in the nature of capital that its orientation is to grow, to expand – to accumulate, accumulate! In a crisis, though, that process of accumulation is checked.

All crises take the form initially of the inability of capital to realize the surplus value extracted from workers through exploitation in the process of production. If capital is unable to realize the surplus value which is contained within commodities through sale of those commodities, it will cut back on their production. And, the result is unemployment as well as reduced demand for investment – in other words, reduced demand for the sector producing means of production. Growing unemployment in both the consumer goods sector and the sector producing means of production means that there will be greater difficulties in selling commodities. Thus, the initial emergence of the inability to sell commodities brings with it a deepening crisis within capitalism.

Part of that deepening of the crisis involves a significant reduction in the values of capital – in the value of raw material stocks, for example, but especially what is called fictitious capital. By fictitious capital, we mean the capital invested in various vehicles which, while linked ultimately to the fortunes of real capital within the spheres of production and circulation, takes on a life of its own. For example, the values of shares in corporations (which have their real basis in the profitability of those corporations) expand significantly in the period of a boom. Presumably, these values are related to expectations of that profitability but those stock values are determined instead by prospects of money to be made in the stock market. Until the moment of truth, there comes a point as a crisis within the real economy emerges in which there is an enormous destruction of those values contained in this particular form of fictitious capital – i.e., a crisis of the stock market. And this is not the only form of fictitious capital. We’ve seen a great destruction of fictitious capital in the form of various financial instruments such as derivatives, etc. as well as real estate values. All of this has its impact and feeds back on the real, underlying economy to deepen a crisis.

None of this explains why crises occur, though – why capital’s drive to expand comes up against barriers. In Marx’s Capital, he indicated that capital develops an ability to grow by leaps and bounds and comes up against no barriers except those presented by the availability of raw materials and the extent of sales outlets. Both those barriers are the result of capital’s tendency for overaccumulation. In the case of the first, Marx described how overaccumulation tends to be manifested in lagging production of raw materials and other products whose source is nature. Agriculture and extractive industries such as mining, Marx noted, are modes of production sui generis – they cannot be expanded in the same way as spheres of production which are users of raw materials. Precisely for this reason, then, in an extended period of accumulation, capital often comes up against the problem of the rising value of raw materials with the result that a greater proportion of capital outlays must be for what is called constant capital. These will be periods in which the rate of profit tends to fall because overaccumulation in industry has as its counterpart underaccumulation in the production of raw materials. You can see my discussion of Marx’s argument in “The General and the Specific in Marx’s Theory of Crisis,” which is reprinted in my book, Following Marx: Method, Critique and Crisis.

The second barrier that Marx identified is rooted in the antagonistic conditions within which capital functions – in other words, in the nature of capitalist relations of production themselves (recall that Marx stressed that the real barrier of capital is capital itself). Capital’s drive to increase the rate of exploitation brings with it a tendency for its ability to produce more and more articles of consumption to come up against a barrier in terms of its ability to realize the surplus value contained in those commodities; this tendency for overproduction of capital often takes the form of intensification of capitalist competition. The begged question, though, is if a rising rate of exploitation is significant, why doesn’t the relatively increased share of income for capital lead to increased capitalist expenditures (investment and consumption)? The answer is that capitalists are not likely to expand productive capacity if there is already unused capacity in the productive sector (because of overaccumulation) and falling profit rates because of the burden of the high costs of raw materials. The situation is one in which workers can’t spend and capitalists won’t. It’s a situation when capitalists choose to place their funds elsewhere – in securities, real estate, etc.

I have been describing a crisis which is essentially a cyclical crisis. Cyclical crises, though, by definition don’t last. For one, the process of destruction of values can restore the conditions for resumption of profitable production. But crises can be more than cyclical; they can also be structural. When we talk about the overaccumulation of capital, it is essential to recognize that capital does not expand in unison. There is an inherent tendency toward unevenness: some capitals will be the major contributors to the growth and accumulation of capital while others may bear the brunt of the effects of overaccumulation. In particular, there are periods in which capital expands in new areas, new geographical regions, more rapidly than in the old regions of capitalist expansion. This process may reflect new, advanced productive forces (thus, better means of securing relative surplus value) or very high rates of exploitation based upon low real wages and a high length and intensity of work – and sometimes it may be both modern techniques and very low wages.

This emergence of new capitals and new forms of production provides a basis for a structural crisis – in other words, a crisis which is the result of the changing structure of capital. Although it does not occur with the periodicity of a cyclical crisis, this definitely has happened before – in what was called the Great Depression in England in the latter part of the 19th century (as the result of the growth of production in Germany and elsewhere on the Continent as well as the U.S.) and in the 1930s (after the growth of mass production in the U.S. and the growth of the rate of exploitation in the 1920s). Crises in capitalism which embody both cyclical elements but also significant structural elements will be deeper and longer than those which only involve cyclical swings. Further, structural crises may generate significant tensions because the change in the geographical locus of capital resulting from unevenness may lead to an attempt to redivide spheres of influence and power (and thus inter-imperialist rivalry). Finally, their resolution may require a process of restructuring of capitalist institutions in order to incorporate the new elements and manage these new relations – the obvious case being the restructuring which occurred with the Bretton Woods agreements after the depression of the 1930s and World War II.

I have been stressing this question of restructuring because it is obvious that the current crisis within capitalism is both cyclical and also structural in this sense. There’s been a very significant growth in productive capacity, an accumulation of capital, in centres such as China, South Korea, India, Brazil, etc. A significant part of the explanation of this process has been the enormous reserve armies of labour in the countryside which could be drawn upon for the expansion of wage labour within industry at wage rates well below the levels in the old capitalist centres. As a result, this has been a period marked by a rising rate of exploitation on a world scale and at the same time a rising demand for raw materials from these new expanding centres of capitalist accumulation (reflected in prosperity in raw material producing centres).

Both these characteristics tend to generate a crisis within world capitalism; however, within that general crisis, the unevenness is obvious. In the old centres of capital, we see that rather than the expansion of productive capital, money has flowed into finance and real estate; thus, one can speak accurately about the separation of finance capital from productive capital there (much like England’s shift toward rentier capitalism in the late 19th century). But there is more: in the context of capitalist competition and pressures upon profits we see that capital in these old centres has managed to insulate itself somewhat because of its success in shifting the tax burden to the working-class – reducing taxes upon corporations and upon those with high income (who are described as the ‘job creators’). Capital has been able to do this because the defeat of the working-class in these centres.

It is obvious that there is a very serious problem of an emerging ecological crisis to which capital is contributing substantially. However, that is a crisis of humanity – not a crisis of capital. ”

To describe, though, the growth of finance capital at the expense of productive capital as characteristic of this crisis in capitalism (and especially to see this as a sign of the crisis of capitalism) is an example of one-sidedness (which happens to coincide with the location of those who come to this conclusion). It doesn’t look at all like a crisis of capitalism in China, Vietnam, India, Brazil etc. In short, what we are seeing is a change in the structure of world capitalism, and the attempt to manage the change in that structure is reflected in such developments as the shift from the G7 to the G20. Will that restructuring of capital succeed? I suggest that, in the absence of the ability of the working-class throughout the world to prevent it, capital will succeed in this as it has in the past.

Let me turn, though, to a question which you didn’t ask explicitly: is there anything in this existing situation which points to the ultimate, final crisis of capitalism? Although there are many Marxist economists who are predicting the end of capitalism (something Marxist economists are prone to do), my perspective is somewhat different. It is obvious that there is a very serious problem of an emerging ecological crisis to which capital is contributing substantially. However, that is a crisis of humanity – not a crisis of capital. How and if this crisis of humanity can be prevented depends upon a serious movement of working people to put an end to capitalism by all means possible and as soon as possible. And that will be the crisis of capitalism.

RW/RR: Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper has unashamedly promoted the myth that the financial crisis did not greatly affect Canada. Is this notion of Canadian exceptionalism warranted? If not, what might the next couple of years be like for Canadians, particularly in light of the recent austerity measures?

ML: It is true that Canada has not been as affected by the financial crisis as the United States. But that has really little to do with the actions of the Harper government. In part, it reflects the difference in the nature of the banking system and the traditions of finance in Canada. In part, too, it also reflects the difference in the risk orientation of Canadians. But this is not a case of Canadian exceptionalism at all. Not unless you forget about all those other exceptions like Chile, Ecuador, Venezuela, Brazil, and indeed all countries exporting raw materials to China and experiencing a boom based upon this.

There have been two distinct tendencies affecting the Canadian economy. One is the tendency related to the depression in the United States, given Canada’s long-term dependence upon that market. The other tendency reflects the resource boom based upon exports to China and other Asian countries. Those two tendencies reflect the changing structure of world capitalism, and the geographical division involved is reproduced within Canada itself. Thus, provinces like Québec and Ontario, which have focused upon manufacturing, are suffering significantly whereas Prairie provinces like Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in particular have been benefiting from their resources.

The Harper government has thrown its lot in with the latter group of provinces and with the emerging new centres of capital. In its so-called budget bill, its determination to push through pipelines to serve China, its interest in Chinese foreign investment, its removal of environmental protection measures, etc, we can see that it is placing a wager on the structural changes in capital. This strategy has major implications for the Canadian economy. Thomas Mulcair of the NDP has raised the question of the ‘Dutch disease’ – i.e., the blow to Canadian manufacturing as a result of a rising value of the Canadian dollar linked to resource exports. I think that’s a bit premature because we cannot say at this point how much of this particular decline is cyclical and how much is structural. However, over a long time period, I think it is correct to talk about the spectre of the Dutch disease. The Harper government strategy points in the direction of a new model – actually a return to the old model, that of the hewers of wood and drawers of water (i.e., to a hollowing-out of the economy similar to what happened to Venezuela over a number of years as the result of its oil wealth).

In this period, the two tendencies interact. Budget deficits reflect the fate of the old capitals – in particular, the problems in the U.S. economy and the pattern of tax cuts for corporations and high income earners that have occurred here. As in the case of the United States, the defeat of the working-class and the weakness of working-class institutions has meant the successful imposition of capital’s austerity plan which is an attack on the working-class. To this can be added the effect of resource exports which have significantly elevated the value of the Canadian dollar relative to that of the U.S. and seriously affected manufacturing exports as well as those of sectors such as the forest industry (and thus employment in these sectors).

Of course, it is essential to recognize that these two tendencies are not occurring in two separate worlds. The rapid accumulation of capital in China and other emerging capitalist countries has itself been based on the existence of markets in the developed North. To the extent that the latter continue to slump, it cannot help but affect the accumulation of capital in the former and thus their demand for resources. When that happens (and I think the only thing in question will be its extent), Canada faces the real prospect of a serious decline. All other things equal, this will accelerate and intensify the capitalist austerity project.

So, when you ask the question as to what may the next couple of years be like for Canadians, it is difficult to provide a definite answer. It depends. All other things are not necessarily equal. If the working-class continues to be defeated, we can look forward to one defeat after another – one attack after another on social services, health and safety, education, everything that people have made sacrifices and struggled to achieve in the past. It’s not, of course, inevitable. Nothing is inevitable when it comes to the question of class struggle.

RW/RR: In The Socialist Alternative, you argue that “given the heterogeneity of the collective worker (and its various forms of immiseration) and capital’s use of differences to divide the working-class in order to defeat it, a political instrument is needed to mediate among the parts of the collective worker, provide the welcoming space where popular movements can learn from each other and develop the unity necessary to defeat capital.” Is the anti-capitalist left in Canada ready to form such a party? If not, what can be done to foster the development of this type of party?

ML: My immediate response is no, the anti-capitalist left in Canada is definitely not ready to form a party which can defeat capital. But there is also the question as to whether an anti-capitalist left as such can ever defeat capital. I doubt that. When I was involved in Rebuilding the Left in Vancouver, I argued that we needed to go beyond organizing on the basis of anti-capitalism and instead to stress explicitly the necessity for a socialist alternative. Anti-capitalism means something different for everyone. For some people, it is opposition to big corporations; for others, it is opposition to the banks or the capitalist state or money or large-scale industry, international capital or inequality in income and wealth. Accordingly, the perceived alternative can range from breaking up the corporations to developing alternative currencies to supporting cooperatives and credit unions to putting an end to private ownership of the means of production and to returning simply to the good old days when people could anticipate a good job, a home of their own and all the amenities that their parents had. The multiplicity of views about what we don’t like about capitalism (ie., anti-capitalism) was apparent in the Occupy movement.

Of course people should struggle against every assault by capital and every violation of our conceptions of justice. Marx made the point well: without the struggles of workers over wages, workers would be a “heartbroken, a weak-minded, a worn-out, unresisting mass” and would be incapable of any larger struggles. Of course, too, it is essential to try to link these struggles. However, in the absence of a positive vision, capital can and will separate and defeat those who oppose it. Trade unions under attack and facing capital’s demand for concessions, for example, can look at issues outside their immediate concerns and say, ‘what’s this got to do with our members?’

Sometimes, though, capital and the capitalist state make it easier to connect issues. In 1983, a simultaneous blanket assault by the Social Credit government in BC created conditions in which it was possible to unify teachers, hospital workers, renters, poverty movements and private sector trade unions who were injured by the proposed legislation in a movement toward a general strike. Similarly, when capital is in a crisis period and moves to administer its affairs through a general programme of capitalist austerity, it is possible to bring together those under attack – both those suffering from the crisis itself and those under attack by the capitalist state. That is what Occupy, the Enraged and the Middle East Spring demonstrate. And, right now that potential is there as the result of the Harper Government’s so-called Budget Bill.

But, as the disintegration of the General Strike movement in BC demonstrated, many ‘No’s’ do not make a big ‘Yes’. At the present time, people are fighting against reductions in social services, against measures which make universities and education inaccessible for many, against the removal of measures protecting against the destruction of the environment, against the removal of support for our current healthcare system – against, indeed, many characteristics of what is viewed as our entitlement, an entitlement which didn’t drop from the sky but which was the result of years of struggle. In short, people are struggling out of a sense of fairness. But there’s a difference between struggling over questions of fairness (sometimes identified as characteristic of moral economy) and being able to understand why all this is occurring – enough so to be able to put an end to such attacks. If you don’t understand the underlying factors, you are likely to look upon what you’re fighting for as the restoration of the good old days.

Marx made this point in talking about the limits of wage struggles. 99% of those struggles, he said, were reactions against capital’s previous actions to drive down wages. They were attempts to restore the traditional standard of life and occurred under the conservative banner of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. And, it was accurate to describe this as a conservative slogan because workers fighting under that banner were seeking to conserve or preserve the pre-existing conditions. While though those struggles were essential for developing their collective strength and dignity, Marx stressed the necessity for workers to go beyond those guerrilla wars against capital and its state and to struggle under the revolutionary banner of putting an end to capitalist relations.

We need to understand the nature of capitalism, and we need a vision of a socialist alternative if we are to defeat capital. This is my point in The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development, where I argue for a vision of socialism which involves social ownership of the means of production, worker and community decision-making and production for social needs rather than exchange. A focus upon human development unifies these elements and, indeed, has the potential to unify all our separate struggles. This vision of a society in which all human beings are able to develop their capacities and realize their potential is the vision contained in The Communist Manifesto – a society in which “the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” We need to communicate and struggle for the realization of that vision.

We need but we’re not ready to form a socialist party that can defeat capital. But we can develop a socialist project, one which listens, educates and helps to create the basis for a new type of party which is integral to and does not stand over and above social movements. ”

Defeating capital won’t happen spontaneously through some kind of collective epiphany. It requires conscious effort. But any attempt to create at this point a party to defeat capital would be viewed correctly as just another vanguard sect promising to deliver socialism. It is important to start from people’s conception of fairness and to understand why they are moved to struggle. However, we need to recognize the limits of guerrilla wars against capital and to learn to work together in practice to build an understanding about the nature of capitalism and the need for a socialist vision. That means finding ways to create spaces where popular movements can learn from each other – spaces and new forms like people’s assemblies at every level. We need but we’re not ready to form a socialist party that can defeat capital. But we can develop a socialist project, one which listens, educates and helps to create the basis for a new type of party which is integral to and does not stand over and above social movements.

RW/RR: Drawing on your work in Venezuela, Cuba and the former Soviet Union what might a socialistic response to the ongoing economic crisis look like? What has been Venezuela’s response to the economic crisis? What can socialists in Canada and elsewhere learn from these experiences about how to respond to the crises of capitalism?

ML: I’ve just completed a new book, Contradictions of ‘Real Socialism’: the Conductor and the Conducted, which stressed, among other things, the importance of building upon aspects of the ‘moral economy’ of the working-class in the former Soviet Union in order to move forward to socialism. As we know, however, what did happen was precisely the opposite – an attack on the concepts of fairness and justice of workers as part of the process of moving to capitalism. Unfortunately, too, there are many signs in Cuba that the response to their current crisis is to move in the same direction although it is still too soon to rule out the possibility that there can be a return to the ideas of Che Guevara about the importance of building socialist human beings.

Venezuela, though, does offer some ideas that Canadians can draw upon – precisely because it is a capitalist country with resource wealth, has the experience of suffering the Dutch disease and now has a government with the articulated goal of building a new socialism different from the experiences of the 20th Century. In particular, the government of Hugo Chavez has decided to use its resource wealth to expand enormously access to health services and education, to reclaim as state property the oil and other basic industries as well as telecommunications, electricity, steel, cement, airlines and a host of other sectors seen as important for satisfying the many needs of Venezuelans. By building up local industry, housing and agriculture with oil revenues, it is explicitly attempting to demonstrate that there is nothing inevitable about the Dutch disease if you have a government committed to food sovereignty and to creating opportunities for jobs that can serve the needs of people.

There are many problems in Venezuela, and not the least is the inherited culture of clientalism and corruption (as well as a tendency to populism) to which the Chavez government is not at all immune. But there are elements that can inspire many people within Canada who don’t think of themselves as part of an anti-capitalist or socialist Left. The idea of neighbourhood government where people can work together with their neighbours to solve local problems and to plan (something embodied in the communal councils and communes in Venezuela) and the idea of workers’ councils (without which, Chavez has said, you can’t build socialism) – these are ideas which don’t need oil revenues or major state-directed programmes. This concept of protagonistic democracy, a concept of democracy as practice through which people can develop their potential, can appeal to people precisely because of their sense of their powerlessness in modern capitalist society.

Are there ideas here for Canadian socialists to draw upon in the context of the current crisis and the capitalist austerity programme under way? Think about it. Taking resource wealth away from private corporations to be used for fostering the education and health of the people and building new socially-owned industry, creating new institutions which allow for the development of the capacities of people through their own practices, i.e., developing the ultimate productive forces – wouldn’t these be elements with which to counter capital’s austerity programme and to substitute for it a socialist austerity programme (i.e., austerity for capital)?

Consider how different would be the situation in the current crisis in Canada if resource revenues were poured back into the economy for education and health and for building and modernizing economic activity – investments for the future as well as a means of mitigating (instead of exacerbating) the current crisis. Capitalism, as Chavez has said, is a perverse system – one which doesn’t care about human beings. We can use the opportunity of the current crisis to demonstrate how it is a system that we need to go beyond. •

When Democracy Is Trumped by the Excesses of Capitalism

Richard D. Wolff. (Photo: Haymarket Books)Richard D. Wolff. (Photo: Haymarket Books)"Ideas of economic democracy are very much in the air, as they should be, with increasing urgency in the midst of today's serious crises. Richard Wolff's constructive and innovative ideas suggest new and promising foundations for much more authentic democracy and sustainable and equitable development, ideas that can be implemented directly and carried forward. A very valuable contribution in troubled times." – Noam Chomsky

In his new book, "Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism," Richard Wolff makes the compelling argument that modern capitalism has undermined democracy, replacing it with a plutocracy. All the props of a democracy remain intact - elections, legislatures, media - but they predominantly function at the service of the oligarchy.

Truthout readers can get "Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism" free with a minimum contribution by clicking here

The following excerpt is entitled "Private Capitalism and Democracy":

The problems of capitalism flow in part from who directs productive enterprises and how they direct them. In capitalism, the directors are the capitalists; workers are excluded from direction.

Driven by competition and other aspects of the system, capitalists direct the what, how, and where of production and the distribution of the surpluses they appropriate in their enterprises in very particular ways. Capitalists define goals such as maximizing profits and achieving high rates of growth or larger market shares, and then direct their enterprises accordingly. Capitalists routinely pursue those goals, often at the expense of their workers. For example, they fire workers and replace them with machines, or they impose a technology that exposes workers to health and environmental risks but increases profits, or they relocate production out of the country to exploit cheaper labor. However, if enterprises were organized differently—if workers collectively directed enterprises (and thus excluded capitalists)—the problems of enterprises would be solved in different ways, with different social consequences. I will develop this key point in detail in part III of this book.

In societies where the private capitalist organization of production prevails, the workers - the vast majority of the people - must live with the results of capitalists' decisions in directing enterprises. However, they are allowed no general participation in those decisions. Sometimes, workers, alone or allied with others, can influence capitalists' allocations of an enterprise's surplus. If, for example, workers threaten job actions while consumers threaten to boycott an enterprise's products, their alliance might achieve changed surplus allocations to meet their respective demands. These might include, for example, job-site daycare facilities for workers' children, medical insurance for workers and their families, and even pay supplements beyond basic wages. Capitalists recognize, in such cases, that the reproduction of their enterprises requires allocating some surplus to such usages.

Generally, the appropriation and distribution of enterprise surpluses is the exclusive right and responsibility of the capitalists, not the workers. Thus the problems of modern capitalism - for example, environmental degradation, extremely unequal distributions of income and wealth, and recurring, socially costly business cycles - result in significant ways from how capitalists direct their enterprises. Derivative problems—for example, the undermining of democracy as corporations and the rich protect their disproportionate wealth and power by corrupting politics - also result, to a significant degree, from how capitalists direct their enterprises.

Modern markets confront each capitalist enterprise with the competitive threat that another enterprise will be able to offer an alternative product of higher quality, lower price, or both. The uncertainties of changing tastes and preferences, changing interest rates for loans, changing prices for necessary inputs, and so on confront enterprises with a vast array of threats to their survival. Political shifts in the larger society mean that the taxes they have to pay, regulations they have to endure, and subsidies they may lose can also threaten their survival.

The typical capitalist enterprise's response is to seek more profits, increase the size of the company, or gain a bigger share of the market. Different enterprises stress one or another of these goals, depending on which is more important or available for its survival. Achieving these goals strengthens the capacity of the enterprise to prevent or lessen or absorb the endless array of threats it faces. Likewise, achieving these goals improves the enterprise's capacity to take advantage of any opportunity that arises. Thus, for example, greater profits enable an enterprise to make the investments needed to tap a new market; faster growth attracts capital and good press reports; and a larger market share can secure lower prices for larger quantities of purchased inputs.

In short, what capitalists do is governed by the system that unites the enterprises directed by capitalists, the markets in which they buy and sell, and the larger society and government for which they provide the bulk of goods and services. Capitalists respond to the signals they receive from the markets, the media, the government, and so on. The goals they pursue - profits, growth, and market share - are their rational responses to those signals. That pursuit is how the capitalist system defines their tasks or jobs. How well capitalists achieve these goals plays a major role in determining their remuneration, their social prestige, and their self-esteem.

Indeed, some capitalists come to internalize the system's rules and imperatives. They define themselves and mold their personalities in conformity with the behaviors imposed on them as capitalists. So it may seem and be said - even by capitalists themselves - that they are greedy or have other character flaws. However, when capitalists, for example, try to squeeze more work out of employees while trying to pay them less, replace workers with machines, relocate production to low-wage areas, risk their workers' health with cheap but toxic inputs, and so on - those are behaviors prompted in them by the realities of the system within which they work and for which they are rewarded and praised. Many capitalists do these things without being greedy or evil. When capitalists do display greed or other character flaws, those flaws are less causes than results of a system that requires certain actions by capitalists who want to survive and prosper.

The many different problems and failures of the capitalist system we have been discussing pertain to private capitalisms, whether they are more or less regulated. These problems and failures follow in large part from the internal organization of capitalist enterprises. Their directors often respond to the threats and opportunities facing the enterprise in ways that damage the interests of their workers, the workers' families, and the larger communities. That is how the system works and generates its particular and often serious economic problems.

What happens if we shift our focus from economics to politics? Politics in the United States has become utterly dependent on and corrupted by financial contributions to candidates, political parties, lobbyists, think tanks, and special committees, recently further enabled by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. The disparity of interests between capitalists and workers and the disparity of the concentrated resources they can and do devote to supporting their favored positions, politicians, and parties undermine a democratic politics.

In fact, we must question the very possibility of genuine democracy in a society in which capitalism is the basic economic system. A functioning democracy would require that all people be provided with the time, information, counsel, and other supports needed to participate effectively in decision-making in the workplace and at the local, regional, and national levels of their residential communities. The economic realities of capitalism preclude that for the overwhelming majority of workers, in stark contrast to corporate directors, top managers, their professional staff, and all those with significant incomes from property (above all, their property in shares of capitalist enterprises). Such persons also have concentrated wealth in the forms of their enterprises' surpluses and/or their personal property that they can donate to their preferred representatives among the society's major institutions, parties, and candidates. The political leadership created through such networks in turn advances these groups' interests in a capitalist system that rewards them richly. Only a highly mobilized and coordinated organization of the workers could hope to secure the financial resources that might begin seriously to contest the political power of capitalists' money by combining very small contributions from a very large number of donors. This possibility has sufficiently concerned capitalist interests that they have devoted enormous resources to sustaining opposition to workers' organizations. That opposition helped to produce the last fifty years' decline in US labor union membership as a percentage of workers and of political parties seeking to represent workers' interests against those of capitalists.

It is important to note that combinations and coalitions of corporate directors, top managers, large shareholders, and their various professional staffs have often used their financial resources in struggles among themselves.

These groups have and pursue some conflicting interests. However, their struggles do not blind them to common interests in securing the political conditions of the capitalist economic system. Thus they worked together to secure the massive US government intervention to overcome the capitalist crisis that hit in 2007, even though the bailouts went more to some firms and industries than to others. Similarly, they nearly all endorsed the refusal of the Bush and Obama administrations to undertake a federal hiring program to slash unemployment, even though firms and industries would be differently affected by such a program.

In the decades since the 1970s, stagnant real wages, rising hours of paid labor performed per person and per household, and rising levels of household debt all combined to leave working families with less time and energy to devote to politics - or indeed to social activities and organizations in general. Working-class participation in politics, already limited before the 1970s, shrank very significantly during the neoliberal period. At the same time, the soaring profits of US business and personal wealth of the richest Americans increasingly poured into US politics. In the first place, they had quickly growing resources that allowed them to influence politics to a greater extent than ever before.

In the second place, they had greater incentives to do so than ever before. The inequalities of individual wealth and income in the United States were growing. The profitability of business, and especially of the largest corporations, was likewise growing. This posed a challenge. Rising economic inequalities are always issues of concern to those at the top because of the risks of envy, resentment, and opposition. There is always the possibility that the economically disadvantaged will seek to use political means to recoup their losses in the economy. The 99 percent might turn to politics to negate the economic gains of the 1 percent. Thus it became - and remains - more important than ever for the 1 percent to use their money to shape and control politics.

The last three decades of US politics did not see a change of political opinion from more left to more right. Rather, what happened was a relative withdrawal from politics of those social groups that favored social-welfare and income-redistribution policies (the New Deal "legacy") and a relative increase in the participation of business and the rich, who used their money to shift the tone and content of US politics.

The result of this political shift has compounded the social costs and negative impacts of the economic crisis since 2007. Our dysfunctional economic system has suffered the added burden of a dysfunctional political system. Political parties and politicians stumble over one another in pandering to corporations and the rich.

Thus the TARP program of 2008 provided money to bail out banks and other corporations while also claiming to help the millions facing foreclosure. While the bailouts were accomplished, foreclosure assistance was trivial and far below even what little had been promised. If this was trickle-down economics, workers saw only a very slight trickle. Bush and then Obama have insisted on limiting government programs to reduce unemployment to those that "provide incentives and encouragement to the private sector" to hire more people. The political establishments in both parties refuse to discuss federal programs to hire the millions of workers who are unemployed. Instead, the crisis since 2007 has prompted all levels of government to cut many programs and payrolls, imposing "austerity" budgets just when the mass of people need exactly the opposite. A virtual political taboo precludes public discussion of how the costs for more government spending and larger government payrolls could be defrayed by taxing corporations and the rich. That would be an anti-crisis "trickle-up" government economic policy that does not entail deficits or raise the national debt.

What prevents another New Deal-type trickle-up economic policy from being adopted now is a political system compromised by its dependence on money drawn predominantly from certain social groups. Not surprisingly, those groups insist on trickle-down economics. The government helps them first, foremost, and overwhelmingly. The rest of the economy and society then wait to see what, if anything, actually trickles down.

Meanwhile, the total losses for the US economy for the years since 2007 far exceed what could have been spent to keep the economy going. Since 2007, many millions of newly unemployed and around 20 percent of our productive capacity have been sitting idle. Those people want to work; our economy wants and needs the wealth they could create to solve many of our nation's and the world's problems. However, our private capitalist economic system cannot bring together the unemployed with the idle tools, equipment, and raw materials to produce that wealth. And a dysfunctional political system does nothing about that.

The development of US capitalism, especially since the 1970s, has produced extreme economic inequality, the second major crisis in the last seventy-five years, and a political system in which money trumps democracy. To change this requires a cure for capitalism that targets both its economic and political problems directly and effectively. In part III of this book, I sketch the main features of such a cure.

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Copyright of Richard Wolff. May not be reprinted without permission of the author.

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