Fight the disease of globalized corporate capitalism

Fight the Disease, Not the Symptoms

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

The disease of globalized corporate capitalism has the same effects across the planet. It weakens or destroys democratic institutions, making them subservient to corporate and oligarchic power. It forces domestic governments to give up control over their economies, which operate under policies dictated by global corporations, banks, the World Trade Organizationand the International Monetary Fund. It casts aside hundreds of millions of workers now classified as “redundant” or “surplus” labor. It disempowers underpaid and unprotected workers, many toiling in global sweatshops, keeping them cowed, anxious and compliant. It financializes the economy, creating predatory global institutions that extract money from individuals, institutions and states through punishing forms of debt peonage. It shuts down genuine debate on corporate-owned media platforms, especially in regard to vast income disparities and social inequality. And the destruction empowers proto-fascist movements and governments.

These proto-fascist forces discredit verifiable fact and history and replace them with myth. They peddle nostalgia for lost glory. They attack the spiritual bankruptcy of the modern, technocratic world. They are xenophobic. They champion the “virtues” of a hyper-masculinity and the warrior cult. They preach regeneration through violence. They rally around demagogues who absolve followers of moral choice and promise strength and protection. They marginalize and destroy all individuals and institutions, including schools, that make possible self-criticism, self-reflection and transcendence and that nurture empathy, especially for the demonized. This is why artists and intellectuals are ridiculed and silenced. This is why dissent is attacked as an act of treason.

These movements are also deeply misogynistic. They disempower girls and women to hand a perverted power to men who feel powerless in the global economy. They blame ethnic and religious minorities for the national decline. They foster bizarre conspiracy theories. And they communicate in the Orwellian newspeak of alternative facts. They claim the sole right to represent and use indigenous patriotic and religious symbols.

India, built on the foundations of caste slavery, has become one of many new neofeudal states, among them Turkey, Poland, Russia and the United States. Its neofeudal structure continues to carry out atrocities against Dalits—the former “untouchables”—and now increasingly against Muslims. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who as the chief minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat oversaw a vicious anti-Muslim pogrom, has defended sectarian discrimination and violence even though this year he made a tepid declaration that “[w]e will not tolerate violence in the name of faith” and issued other unconvincing appeals for religious peace. As prime minister he has employed threats, harassment and force to silence those who decry human rights abuses and atrocities carried out in India. He attacks his critics as “anti-national”—the equivalent of “unpatriotic” in the United States.

Modi, like his fellow demagogues in other parts of the world, including Donald Trump, speaks in the language of moral purity and promotes self-serving historical myth. Indians who eat beef—a huge number—are targeted, school history books are being rewritten to conform to right-wing Hindu ideology and its open admiration for fascism, and entertainers considered too political or too salacious are under attack.

There are within America’s corporate power structures individuals, parties and groups that find the hysterical, imbecilic and irrational rants of demagogues such as Trump repugnant. They seek a return to the polished mendacity of politicians such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. They hope to promote the interests of global capitalism by maintaining the fiction of a functioning democracy and an open society. These “moderates” or “liberals,” however, are also the architects of the global corporate pillage. They created the political vacuum that the demagogues and proto-fascist movements have filled. They blind themselves to their own complicity. They embrace their own myths—such as the belief that former FBI Director James Comey and the Russians were responsible for the election of Trump—to avoid examining the social inequality that is behind the global crisis and their defeat.

The 400 richest individuals in the United States have more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the population, and the three richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the U.S. population. This social inequality will only get worse as the weak controls that once regulated the economy and the tax code are abolished or rewritten to further increase the concentration of wealth among the ruling oligarchs. Social inequality at this level, history has shown, always results in these types of pathologies and political distortions. It also, potentially, presages revolution.

The short-term political and economic gains made by the Democratic Party and liberal class in the last few decades came at the expense of the working class. The liberal class, because of its complicity in globalization, has destroyed its credibility as well as the credibility of the “liberal” democratic values it claims to represent. Enraged workers, lied to for decades by “liberal” politicians such as Bill and Hillary Clinton and Obama, delight in Trump’s crude taunts and insults directed at the power structure and elites they loath. Many Americans are perhaps aware that Trump is a con artist, but he at least appears to share their disdain for the “liberal” elites who abandoned them.

It will eventually become apparent to some, perhaps many, of Trump’s supporters that he is cravenly in the service of the 1 percent and has turbocharged the corporate kleptocracy. The Democratic Party, busy purging Bernie Sanders supporters from its ranks, is banking on this epiphany to revive its political fortunes. The Democratic leadership has no real political strategy, other than to hope that Trump implodes. They are backing and funding opposition movements such as Indivisible and the women’s marches, as well as the witch hunt about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, all of which have as their sole focus removing Trump and restoring the Democratic Party to power. This form of resistance is sterile and useless.

But there are other resistance movements—the most prominent being the battle by the water protectors at Standing Rock to block the Dakota Access pipeline—that attack the disease. It is easy to tell the resistance from the faux resistance by the response of the state. During the women’s marches, Democrats, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz, were honored participants. The police were usually courteous and helped facilitate the marches; arrests were few and coverage by the corporate press was sympathetic. In contrast, during the long encampment at Standing Rock, which took place under the Obama administration, the nonviolent resisters were physically attacked by police, the National Guard and private security contractors. These forces used dogs, pepper spray, water cannons in subzero temperatures, sound machines, drones, armored vehicles and hundreds of arrests in their efforts to destroy the resistance.

Attack the symptoms and the state will be passive. Attack the disease and the state will be ruthless.

Once Trump’s base begins to abandon him—the repression in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a good example of what will happen—the political landscape will turn very ugly. Trump and his allies, in a desperate bid to cling to power, will openly stoke hate crimes and violence against Muslims, undocumented workers, African-Americans, progressives, intellectuals, feminists and dissidents. He and his allies on the “alt-right” and the Christian right will move to silence all organs of dissent, including corporate media outlets fighting to restore the patina of civility that is the window dressing to corporate pillage. They will harness the power of the nation’s substantial internal security apparatus to crush public protests and to jail opponents, even those who are part of the faux resistance.

Time is not on our side. If we can build counter-capitalist movements that include the working class we have a chance. If we can, like the water protectors at Standing Rock, mount sustained acts of defiance in the face of severe state repression, we have a chance. If we can organize nationwide campaigns of noncooperation we have a chance. We cannot be distracted by the symptoms. We must cure the disease.

Chris Hedges
Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, New York Times best selling author, former professor at Princeton University, activist and ordained Presbyterian minister. He has written 11 books,…
Mr. Fish
Mr. Fish, also known as Dwayne Booth, is a cartoonist who primarily creates for and Mr. Fish’s work has also appeared nationally in The Los Angeles Times, The Village Voice, Vanity…

After Trump visit to Poland: PiS government adopts new authoritarian measures

By Clara Weiss
24 July 2017

Less than three weeks after US President Donald Trump’s visit to Poland, the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) has dramatically escalated its drive toward dictatorship.

In his speech in Warsaw on July 6, Trump praised the policies of the PiS and appealed to Polish chauvinism and anti-Semitism. After his speech, Trump visited a conference of the “Three Seas Initiative” in Wrocław, thus granting open support to Warsaw’s attempt to revive the far-right military alliance of the so-called Intermarium (Between Seas), which is directed against both Germany and Russia.

Last week, the PiS pushed through legislation that will effectively place the judicial system under its control. First, it railroaded through parliament a restructuring of the judicial system and the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), which is responsible for nominating and promoting judges. The law gives the PiS far-reaching control over the appointment of judges.

A second bill provides for the current 83 Supreme Court judges to retire. PiS Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro will be put in a position to appoint new ones. The lower house of parliament approved the bill last Tuesday and the Senate ratified it on Saturday night. It is expected that Polish President Andrzej Duda will sign the bill soon, even though polls show that over 50 percent of Poles want him to veto it.

Given that the Supreme Court is responsible for monitoring and certifying elections, the continuation of nominally free parliamentary elections in Poland is doubtful.

Discussions of the bill in parliament last Tuesday were accompanied by shouting, vulgar insults and scuffles. The head of PiS, Jarosław Kaczyński, openly threatened dictatorial measures against representatives of the liberal opposition and accused them of treason and murder. When an MP from the liberal opposition party Civic Platform (PO) quoted Kaczyński’s brother, the former president of Poland Lech Kaczyński, who died in a plane crash in 2010, Jarosław Kaczyński exploded, shouting: “Don’t befoul my dead brother’s name by letting it pass through your treasonous mouth. You destroyed him, you murdered him. You are scoundrels!”

For years, the PiS has been blaming the former liberal government for the plane crash, but never has a PiS politician so openly raised the accusation of murder.

Scuffles followed on the floor of the parliament. Kaczyński then summoned Witold Zembaczyński, a delegate from Nowoczesna, and threatened that “all PO politicians will be sitting [in jail].” A PO delegate later retorted on Twitter that it was the members of the PiS who would end up in jail.

The next day, Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski defended Kaczyński’s outburst as an “honest and manly response.” On her Facebook page, PiS parliamentary delegate Krystyna Pawłowicz threatened opposition politicians, writing that they would “sit [in jail] for the terror” they were allegedly creating “on the streets.” In a parliamentary session, she admitted that she was “dreaming” of reopening the notorious Bereza Kartusa concentration camp.

The camp was set up in 1934 under the authoritarian Piłsudski-regime to detain people it regarded as posing a “threat to security, peace and social order.” Thousands of people, including militant Ukrainian and Byelorusian nationalists, were imprisoned there and forced to perform forced labor, but the first victims were communists.

The PiS’s latest measures mark a turning point in the breakdown of the limited bourgeois democratic framework that was instituted in Poland with the restoration of capitalism and the dissolution of the USSR. In the past two years that the PiS has been in power, the government has brought under its control the secret services and state-run television and radio. It has purged most of the Polish army leadership and numerous state-funded scientific institutions, passed legislation to step up police surveillance, stripped the parliament of its powers, and curtailed the already limited right to abortion.

At the same time, it has strengthened the far-right and built up paramilitary militias that are subordinate to the PiS’s defense ministry. The threats by Kaczyński and other PiS representatives make clear that the government is now preparing for the violent suppression of any dissent.

In recent days, tens of thousands of people have protested daily against the bills in demonstrations organized by the liberal opposition parties PO and Nowoczesna. Protests took place not only in Warsaw and other traditional strongholds of the liberal opposition, but also in smaller towns and cities that have so far barely been touched by the opposition movement. Reports suggest that a significant layer of youth participated in the protests. Even though the judicial system is unpopular and discredited as corrupt, many view the latest bills as an assault on democratic rights and the preparation for a full-scale dictatorship.

The hostility to the government’s policies is much broader than the support for the liberal opposition. According to a poll by IBRiS, a stunning 82 percent of young people aged 19 to 29 consider themselves opponents of the government. Some 52 percent of all voters see themselves as opponents of the government, significantly more than would vote for both liberal opposition parties combined. Polls taken before the bills passed parliament showed 32 percent of voters in favor of the PiS (a drop of 4 percent), and 33 percent in favor of PO and Nowoczesna combined (23 percent, an increase of 1 percent, for PO, and 10 percent, an increase of 2 percent, for Nowoczesna).

Young people and workers who are opposed to the right-wing policies of PiS must not be fooled by the phony appeals of the liberal opposition to democratic sentiments. At the center of the power struggle between PiS and the liberal opposition are questions of foreign policy, as both factions of the bourgeoisie are preparing for war.

For the past 28 years, the Polish bourgeoisie has tried to balance between a military and foreign policy orientation toward US imperialism and close economic and political collaboration with the EU, and especially Germany. The escalation of the conflict between Germany and the US is pulling the rug from under the feet of the Polish bourgeoisie.

The attack of the PiS on bourgeois democratic institutions and rights and the strengthening of the extreme right are bound up with US war preparatons against Russia. The liberal opposition is not in principle opposed to preparations for war. Rather, the conflict is about with whom and against whom the fight is to be conducted. Both the PiS and the liberal opposition have supported the preparations for war against Russia. The question is whether this should be done with or against Germany.

The PiS is placing its bets on a revival of the Intermarium project, an alliance of far-right regimes in Eastern and Central Europe that is directed against not only Russia, but also Germany. Trump’s appearance at the conference of Three Seas Initiative in Wrocław earlier this month signaled that this policy now has the official blessing of Washington.

By contrast, the liberal opposition favors an orientation toward Germany and uses the assault on democratic rights by the PiS government to strengthen its cooperation with politicians in Berlin and Brussels. One of the liberal opposition’s main media outlets, the weekly Polityka, published a lengthy piece in late June warning against the revival of the Intermarium.

It wrote that the invasion of Poland in 1939 by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union had proven the unviability of the project. Polityka argued that then as now Poland was essentially “weak” and should not count on the US and the “doubtful authority of Donald Trump.” Moreover, Polityka argued, most states that now form part of the Three Seas Initiative are neither willing nor capable of turning against Germany.

Hostility toward the Intermarium project is also what motivates the EU’s opposition to the PiS’s authoritarian measures. The European Commission has threatened to evoke Article 7 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty against Poland for undermining the “rule of law.” This could involve far-reaching sanctions, including the suspension of voting rights for Warsaw in the EU. German Justice Minister Heiko Maas threatened the Polish government with “political isolation” because of its violation of “the basis of the European Union,” and encouraged triggering Article 7.