Saturday, June 25, 2011

On What Works

The Ruling Class and their tireless agents in the Republican Party have it made it very clear that they do not retreat, they do not surrender; neither do they negotiate in good faith, nor do they compromise. They are the Ruling Class, after all. They declare, they command, they order, they rule.

Everyone else has the choice to submit. That is their only rational choice. Should they choose to do otherwise, they will pay a heavy price for their insolence.

This behavior of the rentiers and their tireless agents has been going on for so long now that it seems to be the normal state of affairs. Orders and commands are issued and by and bye they are obeyed.

Of course, it means that ordinary people are sacrificing practically everything they have on the command of the Ruling Class and their tireless agents. If they can manage to keep a job at all, ordinary people are working harder than ever and they are earning less, sometimes 75% less, than they did just two or three years ago.

They are paying more and ever more for necessities.

Their retirement security is being stolen from them piece by piece: first their pensions, then the value of their retirement accounts, then the value of their homes and property, then their Social Security and Medicare benefits.

More and more overseas wars of aggression are started in their names, others are continued into the indefinite future.

We see in the protests in Europe that the Ruling Class is not just unmoved by popular unrest, they in fact have doubled down on their demands for austerity, imposing even harsher conditions on the hapless populations than previously thought.

The nominally Socialist governments yield, without any fight at all. They believe they have no other rational choice than to yield and by yielding, they seal their own political fates, but maybe that doesn't matter. Perhaps they are rewarded by their Owners and Sponsors for "doing the right thing," ie: putting the entire burden of the financial and economic collapse on the masses, putting none of the burden on the financiers and rentiers.

That is, after all, the point of "austerity," no matter where it is imposed, and no matter the precipitating cause. The masses, the People, must and will be made to pay for the recklessness of their financial Overlords.

Street protest, which has roiled Greece and the other countries being squeezed dry by the Financial Interests, has had no positive effect at all. Governments ignore the Street in "Peripheral Europe" just as they once did in the Arab World. Oh, but that changed, didn't it?

In the Euro-Core -- ie: France and Germany -- which is ostensibly being "protected" by the austerity measures being imposed on Peripheral Europe, the public is being propagandized to believe that they are being "forced" to work harder and longer to bail out Greece and the other Peripheral countries, and they are steaming mad about it.

But they're being lied to. "Greece" as a nation, and the People of Greece are not being bailed out. National sovereignty is being extinguished, and the People of Greece are being forced to pay off the gambling debts of the financial class, in full. With interest. The People of Germany and France are being forced to pay off those same debts, not Greece's debts, the gambling debts of the Euro-Banksters, just like here in the United States, where the Banksters have been paid off for the same losses over and over and over again. Once the cycle starts it is almost impossible to stop.

Governments are so completely in thrall to their financiers and Banksters, they cannot imagine saying "No!" to the extortion demands they face, and when Iceland, alone, said "No!", the propaganda went into full cry insisting that's not what the People and their government said at all. It's astonishing to witness.

But as usual, peoples are being set against one another in these trying times.

Iceland said "No!" Years ago Argentina said "No!" All over Latin America, governments came to the conclusion that the austerity measures that were being demanded of them for more loans simply weren't in the national or popular interest, and more and more they said "No!"

Surprisingly, the world did not end.

Nor did these nations collapse. Saying "No!" was what these governments needed to do then, and it is what the governments of Peripheral Europe need to do now, but they are paralyzed with fear of the consequences to them, personally, of saying "No!"

They cannot do it. Not yet.

The plug has to be pulled on the financial class once and for all.

The way that's done is the way it's always been done: by effectively nationalizing the banks, strictly regulating currency and financial transactions, prohibiting and punishing speculation, and seizing assets of the hyper wealthy. The financial class may try to fight back, by freezing credit, but they can only go so far in that direction before they are face to face with their own intrinsic vulnerability. As we have seen whenever the demands of the financier class are refused and rejected, the financiers rather quickly back off and seek out other marks for predation.

The class is highly vulnerable because they don't deal in either a product or a service, they deal in fantasy. Most of the bubble wealth and the extortion they thrive on is simply phantom wealth; but it's all they know.

Convincing governments to do what's necessary to free the People from the predation of the financiers is no simple task, though. We see that the pleading of the People -- such as has been taking place in Spain and Portugal -- doesn't work. Anarchist riots (as in Greece) don't work. Replacing governments (as in Ireland) doesn't work.

What does work are sustained General Strikes. Surrounding and shaming the wealthy can be very effective. Making their lives miserable, and making it impossible for their companies to function are the key ways of bringing about necessary liberation from their thrall, but it is necessary to shut down the operations of the complicit governments as well, and all of this involves greater or lesser physical and financial risks in the short term that, for the most part, ordinary people are not particularly willing to endure -- unless they are relatively certain of success.

Ian Welsh posted an outline of strategies for resistance and change that's worth considering. There is more, much more, to effective resistance. The key is to shut down the operations of the Overclass -- which is probably easier in this technological age than many of us realize -- and hamstring their governmental servants. Make it impossible for them to function. Suddenly, their tune changes, and what was once implacable is suddenly yielding.

Right now, of course, they are yielding nothing because they don't think they have to. In fact, they are redoubling their demands. Governments are yielding en masse.

But that can change in a twinkling.


  1. Another very clear example of how the deck is stacked now:

    The Walmart Decision. It's kinds obvious now that "too big to fail" doesn't apply at all to workers. They actually did all they could to show the force of their claim by creating a "class" more than a million strong. And what did the Obscene Court say? It was too big and must fail. They didn't decide on the merits of the discrimination case. Just that the class itself was too big to be a class.

    So, the government says it can not let financial institutions fail if they are too large for that. But a huge collective of workers petitioning the court? Break them up!!!

    I think your ideas are basically all we have left. Our political parties are obviously working on behalf of the ruling class, and are useless when it comes to fighting against newer regimes of enclosure. They want the enclosure and the predation to continue, because it feeds them. Within the parties, you have some individuals with integrity and good ideas. But they are overwhelmed by the system, and powerless to do anything more than nibble at the edges set aside for such nibbling.

    A key to the effectiveness of your wrench in the gears strategy, though, is it must be accompanied with a strong, clear, insistent narrative. Without that, it will be too easy to categorize it all as nihilist futility.

  2. The Aljazeera video of the Spanish protests is illustrative of what is going on, but it is not the whole picture. They did a documentary on the Egyptian people's revolt, too, that was similar in many ways to the Spanish revolt.

    The way they characterize it, there is no overarching narrative. There are plenty of discreet demands, the chief among them being a more functional and inclusive democracy, but what they want this democracy for is nebulous.

    This may be Aljazeera's take on the situation, but I think it may well be something else. In the "internet age" there can be no overarching narrative because the rebellion itself is leaderless, and the participants are discreet individuals. This is what the internet does.

    And the result of such rebellions is equally amorphous. While certain popular demands may be met, others are ignored, and in the end power reverts to... who? To what object?

    It isn't exactly futile, but it doesn't get very far. At least not on the first go-round.

    Spanners in the works are necessary, and those least likely to do so have to be willing to throw a few wrenches into the Machine or even throw themselves on the gears and the levers of the Machine (h/t mi compadre Mario.) But, thinking back to 1964, even when Mario et al were able to effectively shut down the University and they seemed to get what they wanted, it turned out the deal wasn't -- quite -- what the rebels wanted or demanded.

    And the jocks have never forgiven them for challenging authority.

  3. Che Pasa,
    How wonderful to have found you (and Cuchulain!). I have nothing of value to add here at the moment - I simply wanted to say that your insights are valuable and your writing marvelous. I have missed you at UT...lately, I have missed UT at UT; the tone and feel are changing.
    I will be a constant reader, although I may not comment often. I guess I could say, "Yeah, what you said" over and over, but that would be stupid, eh?
    Keep writing, Che. It's great stuff.

  4. I've been reading other things lately, but have to get back to Savio's biography. Thanks for the reminder. Great video.

    I think another important thing to consider is how this all ties in with the rest of the world. It would be a mistake, of course, if we focused our energy on Wall Street sins, austerity, wage and wealth inequality . . . without putting it into broader context, or connecting the dots.

    Last night, while watching "A Bridge Too Far," I was struck with the thought of proportion. As in, wars destroying millions of lives, collapsing entire cities, forcing millions into refugee marches -- obviously, the far greater tragedy and travail than American economic woes. But economic forces are the chief cause of almost all of our wars in the first place, providing the rationale, if not the actual orders, for the march into madness.

    Change this economic system, truly democratize it (not just symbolically), take it out of the hands of the .01% who control it, and we radically diminish the chances for war.

    . . . .

    The supposedly "antiwar" crowd on the libertarian right clearly wants even less "democracy" than we have right now, when it comes to the economy. Which means they want less than zero. They can't be "antiwar" and favor unrestrained capitalism at the same time.

    (Hey, Teri. Nice to "see" you too.)

  5. They can't be "antiwar" and favor unrestrained capitalism at the same time.

    Isn't that the truth. Capitalism naturally breeds war and empire out of its constant need for expansion. The libertarian fantasy only works on the very smallest socio-economic scale -- and it usually doesn't work even then. So libertarians are called puerile for a reason: it's a teenage boy's rebellious fantasy of safety and autonomy. Natural when you are a boy trying to establish your self identity. Disastrous as a means to organize a society. You don't get Democracy, that's for sure.

    (Of course now I'll go on a tangent and ponder the all-male, all-elite-male -- and mostly young male -- Ancient Athenian Democracy, that bred ever so much war and empire, and didn't need capitalism to do it, but did need always expanding market control and a large population of non-citizen slaves and servants to do the work!)

    As for Mario Savio, he was a visionary and he became a real leader for a movement that initially lacked leaders. I think he could do it in part because of the class difference between him and children of privilege who made up most of the student body at Berkeley -- and therefore made up the vast majority of the Free Speech Movement rebels. As a product of the working class and used to struggle against the endowed and the powerful, Mario knew, perhaps instinctively, the vulnerabilities of the University's mission and its authoritarian structure.

    The University of California was a very Progressive (in the classic sense) institution and it was deeply authoritarian. Mario knew what buttons to push to shame and expose the institution for what it was, or rather to actually get it to shame and expose itself.

    Having done that, though, it's not at all clear that what was won by doing so -- and there were significant gains in student and faculty liberty -- was all that valuable or necessary. This is another case of being careful what you ask for. Every step forward in liberty at the University was purchased at great cost, both in blood and money. And the ripple effect of the official and administrative reaction to liberation throughout the public educational system has nearly destroyed it.

    The Revolution in Egypt got rid of the Old Pharaoh, but the palace and the military still run things with an iron rod, and the condition of the People is still dire. They have not obtained "democracy" nor any sort of economic progress or relief -- though it is promised. Yes. In due time.

    Same with Tunisia.

    Meanwhile in Libya and Syria, Bahrain and the Yemen, among other places, there is more or less constant civil war, with Authority remaining in place.

    In Europe, the revolts that inspired the Arab Spring have accomplished what, exactly? The Government of Ireland was brought down and has been replaced with another Government that's carrying out practically the same policies. The Government of Portugal was brought down and has been replaced with a "conservative" regime that instituting worse policies. Governments in Spain and Greece are holding on, at least for now, but they are doing so at enormous cost to the People and there is no sign that by replacing these governments, the People would achieve more than a superficial change in who directs their plunder and pillage.

    (Insert something rude about the French and Germans here)

    Instability like this is unusual and cannot be sustained indefinitely. Something will have to give. And my hope is the banksters and financiers are the ones who ultimately will have to take the fall.
    Hey, teri! I'm glad you found this little corner of blogtopia (h/t skippy the bush kangaroo). Salon seems to be on one of its periodic downward spirals, and the environment there can be quite poisonous.

    I'd rather not swim in that poison for a while!

    Ché -- the always cheery!

  6. Che,
    I wrote this as a comment on UT on 12 June. I was merely mulling over our invasion of Libya and wondering why we would do such a thing. It generated no response, but I was very interested in a later comment by Peter Dale Scott, which seemed very much in accord with what I had said. (His comment went unnoticed as well, even by Glenn - I found that odd.) I am not posting it here because I think it is so brilliant, but because it makes a good lead-in to the Scott article that Scott links to in his comment. [I guess I have to post Scott's comment in a separate posting: too many characters to fit it all here.]
    Anyway, what I said:
    I have been thinking about some things regarding Libya. Libya is bordered on one side by Egypt and on the other by Tunisia. In both those nations, as in Libya, the US previously supported dictators. The people of both Egypt and Tunisia arose to demand the return of the people's wealth to the people, state support for services and aid to the poor, state solutions to unemployment and wealth disparity, and nationalization of industries for the benefit of the people. The "Arab Spring". The US supposedly supported the populist uprisings, but the end result has been questionable.

    Tunisia is seeking loans. I don't know who is in power there now, or what is happening on the ground, but I do know that the IMF and World Bank (WB) are overseeing some loan programs.

    At the G8 meeting held the end of May in France, the aid programs to Tunisia and Egypt by the IMF and WB were agreed to total 20 billion to be split between the two countries.

    Egypt is under the control of the military, who have begun a reign looking (mysteriously) similar to that of Mubarak. They have cracked down on protests and refused to put into place the reforms demanded by the people. Egypt is also on the receiving end of loans from the US (we are "forgiving" 1 billion of Egypt's debt to us, provided the 1 billion thus saved is spent under our guidelines - i.e., strings attached) as well as our participation in the IMF and World Bank loans. Now the IMF and WB loan programs require as part of the recipient's end of the bargain the ending of subsidies for the poor, de-regulation policies, unfettered free markets, foreign investment opportunities, and privatization of industries. Exactly the opposite of what the people demanded in their uprisings.

    So, oddly, the uprisings in both countries have resulted in neo-liberal "reform" to be dictated by the IMF. One thinks of the financial reforms demanded of Russia under the IMF and the eventual resulting rise of the oligarchs there.

    I wonder if part of the reason for the Libyan invasion has to do with maintaining a troika of countries in North Africa held under the financial thumb of IMF neo-liberal privatization schemes, as well as the issue of oil. Looked at this way, Ghaddafi's desire to return to a gold dinar and go off the dollar was actually quite a big threat. Not just to the dollar, which I realized immediately, but to the entire policy prescription of the IMF - which is basically the same thing as saying "the policy of the US".

    I don't think the whole thing was simply Exxon wanting oil, or just the IMF looking to step in after a country has been reduced to rubble and thereby needing loans (where the IMF gets to dictate governmental policies in return for its loans), but rather one of those happy strange "coincidences" where several groups with agendas get to win together. Helped along by the CIA as their military arm. (There have been murmurs about the Libyan rebellion being fomented by the CIA from the start.)

    Thus the US is actively discarding democracy in favor of financial oligarchy, while at the same time publicly praising the "democratic uprisings". So who do we suppose is really running the US?

  7. And here is Peter Dale Scott's comment:

    Libya is about petrodollars as well as oil

    I thoroughly welcome and endorse your case that an economic motive underlies America’s and NATO’s intervention in Libya. However I think you focus too narrowly on oil. The U.S. motive, in Libya as earlier in Iraq, is not just about the oil, most of which reaches European markets rather than the United States. It is about the defense of the western petrodollar financial system enforced by the IMF, which rests primarily on control of the OPEC oil market, and enforcement of OPEC’s requirement that its oil sales be paid in U.S. dollars. Shortly before he was attacked, Gaddafi, like Saddam before him, had indicated his intention to start accepting euros for his oil sales, a move which could have threatened the global demand for U.S. dollars to finance oil purchases.

    I expand on this argument in my recent essay, "The Libyan War, American Power and the Decline of the Petrodollar System", Asian-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, April 27, 2011, In that article I observe that Gaddafi was using his oil earnings to challenge the residual Anglo-French colonial influence in the rest of Africa, thus weakening the ability of companies like Exxon to impose their will in their extractive contracts with former French colonies like Chad.
    —Peter Dale Scott

    Read his article if you have time; I think it is very interesting and he is easy to follow.

  8. Yes. It's hard to disagree with that analysis, given what's happened and is happening wherever these uprisings and civil wars have been taking place.

    In the end, the WB and IMF swoop in and require the opposite of what the People have been struggling to achieve. And, lo. The supposedly "Revolutionary" governments comply.

    Whereas the former dictatorships might just have resisted. Not on behalf of the People to be sure, but to get a "better deal" for themselves if for no one else.

    It's amazing.

    The unbridled giddiness of most of the media at the utter inability of the Greek People to affect their sorry fate at the hands of their IMF and ECB Overlords is really something to witness.

    But they are only slightly less giddy at the apparent failure of the "Arab Spring" Revolutions to change things for the better (for the People) in either Tunisia or Egypt.

    As for the civil wars raging in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa -- with plenty of American assistance, of course -- it's all a matter of picking sides, isn't it? But what are the "sides" really after?

    Who is running this show? Really?

    And what can anybody do about it? It is quite the muddle.

    I'm all in favor of the People rising up and taking control of their own fate from their financial and political Overlords, but we've seen, time and again, that doing so doesn't necessarily result in achieving What The People Want. In fact, it's just the opposite lately. Severely so.

    Is part of that failure due to the leaderlessness of these uprisings? Is it due to the nature of the internet and social media that provide the information and inspiration? Is it due to the endless overlap of competing objectives? The absence of a coherent narrative? The amorphous demands?

    Or is the game just rigged? If so, by whom and to what object?

    Questions. Far more questions at this point than answers.