Thursday, July 31, 2008

Corporatism By Another Name

In a piece written for, titled "The Military-Industrial Complex", and subtitled "It's Much Later Than You Think," Chalmers Johnson writes the following which is itself a quote from Eugene Jarecki's The American Way of War,
The leading Italian philosopher of fascism, the neo-Hegelian Giovanni Gentile, once argued that it should more appropriately be called "corporatism" because it was a merger of state and corporate power.

A “…merger of state and corporate power.” Why does that ring a bell?

The current administration’s and its sycophants’ fondness for referring to our perceived enemies as “fascists” has faded, perhaps because it has recognized the risk that the term might well be turned against them. The “merger of state and corporate power” is not the only similarity (structurally, certainly not ideologically) that exists between this nation today and Nazi Germany in the 1930’s.

This is not an “I hate America” piece. I love my country, and I hate what has been being done to it for decades by a corporate-controlled government.

Some of the following points are, perhaps, a bit of a stretch but none is, I believe, entirely refutable. The central point is that corporate power has taken over our government and that attempts to resolve the symptoms of that takeover are not going to have much, if any, effect until the cause itself is addressed. After examining the symptoms of a “corporatist state” I’ll explore what I believe will be required to resolve the issue.

I’m assuming that you know some history and are familiar to at least some degree with the shape of the German Weimar government and it’s descent into fascism. If you are not, then the pernicious nature of the following symptoms will be self evident in any case.

The government is controlled by corporate interests, with corporate representatives literally writing bills which are passed by lawmakers. Legislators are unresponsive to popular demand, responding instead to the corporate sponsors of their political campaigns and creating laws that are more and more blatantly against the common interest, such as bankruptcy reform and financial institutional regulation.

We no longer have a “citizen soldier” army, but have established a professional military that is isolated from the citizenry to a degree unprecedented in our history; that, in effect, represents a military class. This military advertises itself as “warfighters” and as “the best fighters in the world” and is idolized by government spokesmen, politicians and the media.

We have a politically active military leadership. Generals and admirals routinely speak and advocate on matters of national policy in the media and before Congress, and are appointed to commands based on political affiliations and personal politics.

While we do not have a military leader, the term “Commander in Chief” is used to an unprecedented degree by our current executive, by the media, and by both candidates for our highest office. The term is also now commonly used to refer to the nation’s highest office with respect to the nation as a whole, rather than being properly limited to it’s role with respect to the nation’s armed forces.

Campaign rhetoric and news media commentary for our nation’s highest office revolves around the military credentials and prior military service (or lack thereof) of the candidates, using such terms as the “Commander in Chief test” that the candidate must “pass.”

We have a foreign policy that is increasingly militaristic. To cite Chalmers Johnson again, in the same article referenced above,
"Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates (a former director of the CIA) has repeatedly warned that the United States is turning over far too many functions to the military because of its hollowing out of the Department of State and the Agency for International Development since the end of the Cold War. Gates believes that we are witnessing a "creeping militarization" of foreign policy."

To suggest that Panama and Grenada posed imminent threats to our national security is fairly ludicrous, and it has been widely acknowledged that the invasion of Iraq was for the purpose of controlling natural resources in that region.

While one candidate has promised increased diplomacy in foreign policy, he has also promised increased and ongoing war in Afghanistan, continues to threaten to go to war in Iran unless that country meets very specific demands, and threatens attacks inside Pakistan..

We still conduct leadership by fear mongering, with “keeping the nation safe” from mostly undefined threats being a euphemism for foreign policy. By polls, the nation’s major concern is economic, but the campaigns continue to revolve around the issue of the war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran along with issues of protecting the nation against threats that are, for the most part, illusory.

The chief executive has stolen power from the elected legislative body, in effect usurping that body’s “power of the purse” and it’s power to create laws and to expect those laws to be enforced. No effort has been made by that legislative body to recapture its power, and no specific promise has been made by either presidential candidate to prosecute the abuse of authority or to restore the balance of power to government.

Our chief executive has assumed the power to arrest and imprison without time limit and without recourse to the courts, and to use torture as an implement of its intelligence-gathering and criminal justice policies.

Civil liberties are being eroded in the name of “national security,” and not in a temporary manner, but in permanent and secretive ways that specifically eliminate the judiciary from the process.

High officials, including the highest elected official in the nation, have openly and notoriously violated laws and have not been and will not be brought to account. This nation has established as policy that laws which apply to the citizenry as a whole do not apply to the governing class.

The media is controlled by the same corporations that control the government and, as a result, the media presents the government message. There is ample documentation of more than one media entity literally being used by the civilian government and the military to publish its “talking points” without critique.

The class division between the wealthy, governing class and the working class is an increasingly yawning, unbridgeable gulf. For the first time since the Great Depression, a generation is living less well than the generation that preceded it, and the gap between the upper class and the lower class has regained the level that was extant in the 1920's.

The liberal position is that the solution is to elect Democrats to office, or a Democrat as President, and that all of this will be made better. That position is belied by the election of 2006 and the fact that a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress has changed absolutely nothing. Democratic leadership is using the excuse that their majority is too slim, but that is utter nonsense. The Republicans managed their agenda handily with an equally slim majority, and in the past 18 months the Democratic Party has participated eagerly in passage of much of the most egregious legislation.

The Accountability Now Political Action Committee is organized to defeat the reelection of Democrats who supported the recent Patriot Act and FISA bills. I fully support that effort, and I hope they succeed. But the elimination of a few incumbents is, in the long run, going to have no effect on the overall nature of our government. Whether we have Republicans or Democrats in the majority, and who we have in the White House ultimately means very little as long as the corporations maintain overall control of our government.

And the corporations will continue to be in control as long as we continue to reelect their puppets to Congress at a 95% rate. The defeat of a handful of Representatives, or of a few Senators is not going to affect the course or the nature of the way our nation is governed.

The people of this nation will have to rise up and say “Enough” in a way that changes history. They can do that at the polls, but I suspect that things will have to become significantly worse before they do so.

The solution would consist of a revolution at the polls. That revolution can come when we the people decide that “Not one single incumbent shall be reelected, without regard to policy, voting record, accomplishment, or party affiliation.” A revolution so powerful that in one single election the voters would elect 435 new Representatives and 33 new Senators. It wouldn’t even have to succeed perfectly; just establish the revolution in principle and come close to success.

In so doing, the people of America can reclaim their government.

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