September 11, 2011

Two Futures (And the Decade of 9/11)


As you might imagine, this blog doesn’t have much to say about the anniversary of 9/11. This wasn’t the start of Western imperial aggression, nor the start of its neoliberal stage, nor of terrorism in response to it, nor of the cynical use of terrorism as a pretext for the premeditated actions of corporatists and totalitarians. So 9/11 didn’t generate anything new. What it did was dramatically accelerate things. But the basic game plan was already set and would’ve been played out regardless. In its absence, today we’d be in pretty much the same spot, although the police state might not yet be as overt and the degradation of civil liberties not yet as advanced. The state of kleptocracy, the Bailout, and the captivity of the economy, I think, wouldn’t be significantly different. The movement imperative toward relocalization and true democracy wouldn’t be different.
In a comment yesterday Strieb mentioned seeing a new cult of death. I’m not sure what he meant, but the cultural fetish of 9/11 certainly bears comparison to the old fascist cults of death. Nazi rallies always celebrated death, Hitler had his cult of the Blood Banner from November 1923 and his yearly anniversary ritual speech and invocation of the blood of the martyrs (about whom he was utterly cynical in private; one was “irreplaceable” only because of his social connections to rich donors, that’s all; the rest were infinitely more useful dead than alive – sound familiar today?), Rumania’s Iron Guard, Spain’s Falange with its favorite marching song, “Long Live Death!”
This sense of a cult of death is rendered more uncanny vs. a backdrop of heightened terror warnings and ubiquitous militarized police. The aftermath of the hurricane and a second big dumping of rain and flooding a week later adds to the sense of destruction and doom.
Meanwhile, we’re all about life. As negative as we often must be, our emphasis is affirmative toward positive democracy, community, a new way of life built around a new agriculture, positive freedom in the broadest as well as most specific sense. We aspire to take full responsibility for ourselves, and as much as possible we take responsibility today. We look to the future, we believe in the future.
By contrast, everything about this system and its culture reeks of decrepitude, decadence, rot, the dying. Its flight from responsibility and freedom, its short-run greed and short-run fear, its total surrender to “fear itself”, betray how it has no confidence in the future, because deep down it recognizes it has no future.
So however obnoxious things are today in their overt death cult aspects as well as their more sublimated circus/sports fan manifestations; more importantly, however much more crime and violence this system commits in its death throes, we can remain confident in our aspirations, for tomorrow belongs to us. Negatively, every element of the physical, economic, and political unsustainability of today shall hand tomorrow to us. Affirmatively, we shall seize tomorrow with the democratic hand because our cause is just and is blessed by history, whose democratic arc is long but curves toward its own consummation. All the vaster trend lines, far more vast than the temporary data noise of the fossil fuel binge, are vectors toward it.
We may be small at the moment and have to scramble to avoid the teeth and feet of the huge, lumbering reptiles. But 9/11 was a pebble toss compared to the asteroid that has already hit them, though as Nietzsche said lightning takes time to arrive, and it takes time to hear the thunder. Today we already begin to thrive in our own way, and we shall survive, and eventually stand tall as the new humanity we already constitute in embryo.

January 20, 2011

We Have A (Fascist) Command Economy

Filed under: Corporatism, Health Racket Bailout, Neo-feudalism — Tags: , , — Russ @ 6:39 am


1. I mean that in a precise sense. The economic definition of fascism, which is roughly synonymous with corporatism, is a command economy which maintains private rent extractions. (This is separate from other aspects of classical fascism – political authoritarianism, ideological obscurantism, censorship, destruction of civil liberties, tribalism, racism, military aggression. But as we’re seeing, most of these definitely follow from the economic aspect, and all are likely to follow in the end.)
2. Given that necessary part of the definition, there can be two manifestations of this command economy. It may be corporatized toward an ideological goal, as in the case of Nazism. In this case the rentiers are kept because they’re judged to be the most effective vehicle to achieve certain practical goals, e.g. fast rearmament in Hitler’s case. Or, the corporatization may be done for the sake of maximizing the extractions themselves. The already classic case is modern neoliberalism. In this case, the rentiers prefer to dispense with the full fascist phenomenon for as long as they can, since classical fascism generally means the thugs take over the operation, while the “legitimate businessmen” become the junior partners. Today’s corporatists want to maintain control of their thugs, and anyway there’s no need to go all the way to full fascism in the absence of any real leftist movement.
So it’s a fist/glove relationship, although which is the fist and which is the glove varies with the system. The Nazi Four Year Plan was based on building political prestige through a jobs program while the thing was really geared toward rearmament and war. (When Hitler was told about Keynes’ ideas, he grasped the essence immediately. To paraphrase, “It’s all propaganda. The government makes a show of force toward the economy, this causes the people to believe in the government and therefore the economy, and this actually makes the economy strong.” This wasn’t really classical Keynes, which was supposed to function in the context of liberal democracy, if capitalism weren’t actually totalitarian. But of course it is, and Hitler was thus an early exponent of Samuelson-Friedman-Krugman bastard Keynes.)
Neoliberalism flips this relationship over. State, party, war are all meant to serve as accoutrements of profiteering and greed fundamentalism. It’s robbery for its own sake, and everything else is meant to be instrumental toward this.
3. Examples.
*The Bailout. The big banks are permanently insolvent, and all government policy boils down to stealing from the people to hand the loot over to the banks. The banksters are then supposed to directly steal as much as possible in the form of “bonuses” and other “compensation”, as well as swindle, speculate, gamble, wage economic war on currencies and governments,  and commit any and every other financial crime they can think of. They’re not supposed to hold anything back. This is the most profound and evil Permanent War the US government wants to enshrine.
*The military wars of aggression. This is the Permanent War proper. The wars are launched with public money and resources. The main purpose of the wars is to convey stolen public money to an innumerable menagerie of corporate rackets. Weapons contractors are only the beginning. Beyond that, the Permanent War’s goals are to directly aggrandize big government, quell dissent, provide pretexts for further assaults on civil liberties, and keep the phony “war on terror” going as a political astroturf.
*The health racket bailout. Congress artificially commodified health care by propping up zombie “insurance” rackets. They did this first with an antitrust exemption which was meant to shield them from any market competition. Now this bailout, assisted by a corrupt judiciary, is trying to eliminate market competition in the form of non-participation. The government’s command goal is to maximize the forced market for the worthless Stamp, the mandated “insurance” policy, while stripping all cost controls and restrictions on it.
(The favorite lie of these corrupt judges and other system hacks, that “Congress didn’t create this market”, is one of the most brazen direct lies we’ve heard in recent times.)
*Food. The government is indirectly but inexorably trying to repress and strangle all competition for corporatized food.
*“Austerity”. Gut public interest spending and public services, take the money freed up and hand it over to the rich and to big corporations.
*Privatization. For decades now, governments at all levels have engaged in massive control fraud, simply handing over public property to private criminals for pennies on the dollar. (Of course the federal government has led the way.) The corrupt officials involved are paid off in direct bribes, quasi-direct bribes (bribery laundered as “campaign contributions”), and most of all, lucrative revolving door sinecures. This is simply corruption, bribery and embezzlement. It’s a capital crime.
(The commodification of education falls into this category.)
4. Here’s the command pattern.
A. The government borrows and/or prints (i.e. credits accounts), and hands the money directly or indirectly to corporations.
B. The government austeritizes and hands over the loot.
C. Bogus government programs (e.g. the Obama stimulus, or employer tax credits) are really just corporate loot conveyances.
D. The government is now planning to raise taxes on the non-rich. The VAT is one example often bruited. Such regressive levies are then meant to be handed over to the corporations and the rich. The health Stamp mandate is one such tax. Obama, the Democrats, and the Republicans now openly call it a tax.
E. Austerity and privatization are direct robbery. The Bailout-inflicted loss of interest income to pensioners and other savers is indirect robbery.
F. The eventual goal is to buy up all the land as well. (Foreclosuregate is a critical development. The people are still on the land. We could always morally seize it. It’s now clear we can legally seize it as well, even according to the banksters’ own rigged law. This blunder of the banks is a one-time opportunity. Our choice can be to stop paying, stay on the land, Jubilate in Place, and as industrial agriculture fails, we can work our own land as our own bosses. Or the other option is to meekly depart, let the banks take it all, let all land revert to the equivalent of REO, and end up working it as indentured debt slaves. Which of these outcomes we deserve will be demonstrated by the choice we make.)
G. Eventually the dollar collapses, hyperinflates, whatever. Or maybe the system can somehow maintain it, with the public owing all the debt. However it works, the rich and the corporations end up with all the real assets.
We worked for every cent that exists.
They stole every cent they have, and want to steal every cent still outstanding.
But if we let them steal the rest, then I guess Ayn Rand would be proven right, and they really were entitled after all.
So that’s the goal of neoliberalism. That’s the nature and the goal of today’s command economy. I think we can see why the term “fascist” would also be appropriate for it.

May 23, 2009


There’s been loads of debate on what’s happening in America. Anywhere you can find expositions on capitalism and the end of capitalism or the death of capitalism or the reform of capitalism or how to save capitalism or the triumph of capitalism (this last one usually phrased in a different way). Also whether the putative reform of capitalism is actually socialism, and whether Americans are willing to entertain the term “socialism”, and from there of course to what terms like capitalism and socialism even mean anymore.
As to what terms we should use, it’s obvious that America has long been basically a corporatist system, meaning that here neither capitalism nor socialism are ideals, but are just tactics which are applied wherever appropriate to maximize the power and wealth of the nexus of big corporations and big government.
(The dream government for business would be something like the Franco regime. It was corporatist, economically “fascist”, with a state-supported religion (opium for the masses). But unlike Hitler or Mussolini Franco had a rational rather than a deranged foreign policy. (That’s why he resisted Hitler’s inducements to enter the war – Franco figured Hitler was cruising for a fall and would drag down everyone with him.)
So why has American business supported Bush-style hallucinatory imperialism and K-street thuggery? This shows the fundamental disconnect of all American life from reason and reality. In the twilight of cheap oil and exponential debt we have a void and a shoddy facade where an economy and a safety net should be, so that textbook “business” can no longer function, but only an ever more volatile disaster capitalism.)  
Capitalism, democracy, civics, citizenship, rule of law – all these mean nothing. They are nonexistent outside of propaganda pens (“schools”).
[I’d like to add here that if we want these things back, we can restore them, but not within the framework of big government, big corporations, the present system which is so terminally rotted, “bigness” itself, and not within the framework of the doomed fossil fuel civilization. We can only build new communities from the ground up. There can be a diversity of these, anything from smallholder capitalism to kibbutz communism, with the uniting principle being human community, as long as the other uniting principle is self-reliance and sustainability. If even the small relocalized communities get back into large-scale trade, specialization, “comparative advantage”, and the inevitable expansion and conflict which must follow from these, then the whole nightmare begins again, only at a smaller level.]
Rather, the terms that capture reality are feudalism, corporatism, plutocracy, kleptocracy, lemon socialism, welfare fascism. What these capture is the utter irresponsibility, the sociopathy of American economic life.
No one is any longer trying to create, to invent, improve, add value, to make better their own or anybody else’s lives, to shine light on truth. Innovation and talent – using these in their English rather than their nowadays more common Orwellian sense – mean nothing.
Rather, everyone at every economic level is trying to get over, to run a scam, to “get rich” (how tawdry and meanly nihilistic the “American dream” is at its core), to pose and not be, to say and not do. If they have the power they steal, spin, obscure, lobby, capture, bribe, obstruct, extort, and sue, to plunder, entrench, monopolize, rig the playing field in their favor, pull up the ladder behind them.
If they don’t have the power, they dream of these things.
How the banks and the FIRE sector have come to completely dominate the American system is a well-told story by now. I think anyone who is capable of understanding it must understand it by now. And now as Too Big To Fail zombies the big banks have only tightened their stranglehold over the economy and government, and over all measures of what constitutes economic good, bad, recovery, recession.
The other pivot of American life, economic, political, and psychological, is the “Global War on Terror”, which is the term encompassing the intensified imperial aggression America requires to secure the resources to prop up its fuel infrastructure, the corporatism which is directly enabled through the expanding military-industrial complex and is also the overarching system being propped up by this empire, and the increasingly constrictive “homeland” police state to repress the dissent all this must provoke.
My personal term for the GWOT and the neocon ideology it springs from is resource fascism. It centers on oil, but will soon center on “alternatives”: unconventional oil and agrofuels (we already have the ethanol pseudo-industry as a pure textbook example of a parasite). Here big corporations and mainstream environmentalists, conservatives and liberals, can join hands in trying to prop up cars and sprawl (the core material form of American life).
The unreality and the con extend everywhere. If the point of saving GM was to preserve good American jobs (or even just to maintain American military vehicle production, as some have argued), how is this served by letting them completely offshore to China? It’s not. Rather, “saving GM” is a particularly sloppy con job.
[I try not to bother tallying examples among small entities and non-rich, non-powerful individuals, since although there’s plenty of corruption there as well, keeping our eyes on the prize means maintaining focus on the crimes of the powerful. It’s these which construct and define the system. (The attempt among republicans to deflect this responsibility by blaming the small fry, so that the mortgage bubble and collapse were the fault of reckless borrowers exploiting the poor good-natured banks, and torture was the work of “bad apples”, is an absurd fraud.) So if we wish to be educated and aware, defend ourselves and fight back, the first rule is to counter-attack something big and bloated.]
I wish I had a more rigorously optimistic way to wrap this up this morning. I wrote the first part of it, then did some work in the garden, and now I come back and think about how beautiful out it is. I believe the earth will still be able to heal once the oil wave recedes. As horrible as man’s vandalism has been, it’s still a surface wound.
What’s more questionable is whether the human soul can heal. When we look at the systematic ravages in ideology and religion, the perversion of education and despoliation of culture, the psychopathy of science and the apparently universal hatred for the mind, and when we ponder what horrors are likely to convulse the dying decades of the oil age, as the mad genius of oil tries to leave behind it an absolute scorched earth of the spirit once and for all, we must wonder what part of what’s human can be carried through the flames.
I don’t know yet what can be done and how to do it, but that’s what I see more and more people trying to figure out. At least this is the most promising sign.