June 2, 2010

Beyond the Freedom Flotilla: Neoliberal Assault (2 of 2)


Outside the US tabloid media zone the world remains transfixed by the horror of the Israeli government’s murderous act of piracy and its ongoing holding of the boats it hijacked and hundreds of hostages kidnapped on the high seas.
As I said in my previous two posts on this, I think this act had a dual purpose. Israel’s specific, proximate goal was of course to enforce its illegal blockade. But the lengths of aggression and piracy (even technically to acts of war) to which it was willing to go, and the nature of the blockade itself, which the Israelis have openly admitted is intended not to achieve practical security goals but to punish the people of Gaza, demonstrate that this government’s mindset goes beyond any reality-based goal, and is really trying to enforce total domination for its own sake wherever these criminals believe their power prerogative extends.
In the end, as always with totalitarians, the true crime isn’t the proximate allegation, which in this case the Israelis can’t even get straight. (That the humanitarianism of the mission was bogus? But they have all the cargo now; they’ve had it for two days. The fact that they can’t even plausibly try to plant contraband proves the complete innocence of the cargo.)
No, as always with such thugs, the true crime is defiance itself. Sure enough, the Israelis sound the most outraged when they simply sputter that the Flotilla was a “provocation”. Yes, indeed it was, and was meant to be. It was meant to challenge Israel’s illegal and illegitimate blockade as such. It was meant to challenge this tyrannical arrogation of power, an arrogation based not on authority or law, both of which on the contrary it flouts, but on brute force. The mission was the same as the eternal mission of all decent people who challenge tyranny. And just as they challenge tyranny on principle, so tyranny seeks to prop itself up on its own anti-principle, which is simply the lust for power and greed for phony wealth itself.
Which brings us to the larger significance of this act. On a global scale a great crime is progressing. The criminals seek to condemn ever more people to permanent impoverishment and servitude. The goal of the global finance elite and its flunkey governments is the restoration of feudalism itself, not only across the Global South but throughout the West itself.
I’ll give a quick recap.
1. As capitalism matured it should, according to reality and to its own textbooks, have seen profits fall to marginal levels. There should be very little profit left in the economy by now. Instead, the entire economy should have long since been functioning smoothly and efficiently, with sufficient goods and services in every sector, while government largely shrunk as it would have little role to play as economic arbiter. There would be rough equality of wealth and power distribution, little wealth and power concentration. Democracy would become steadily more healthy and strong.
This is how capitalism was supposed to function. This is what its promoters always promised. This is what would have happened, if every word hadn’t always been a lie.
2. In the reality of greed fundamentalism, elites were never textbook capitalists but always gangsters. No one ever wanted to be a capitalist. No one ever wanted to compete and innovate. They wanted to concentrate wealth and power, period.
As capitalism reached its terminal profit crisis in the latter 20th century, the power elites resolved to deploy an ever more aggressive command economy. They’d use the power of government to substitute extorted and stolen rents for their diminishing “capitalist” profits.
Globalization and financialization comprised the campaign of oligopoly capitalism to prop itself up while stringing along the Western middle classes. They substituted debt for production while obscuring the assault on all public amenities and power. Real wages have steadily eroded since the 70s while wealth concentration has exponentially risen. (That juxtaposition right there is a basic metric of robbery.) The system attacked unions on every political and “legal” level. Social Security has been steadily undermined via ploys like the rigging of inflation metrics (to fraudulently depress COLA increases). Other entitlements have been similarly eroded. Globalization’s open border for unskilled labor provides the basic force of gravitation for all wages, while outsourcing and offshoring destroyed many mid-level jobs completely, forcing and ever greater number  of workers into the undifferentiated unskilled mass. (The system did somewhat protect most kinds of professionals for a long time, but now that’s been eroding for many as well.) Walmartization provides a kind of linchpin, the direct conduit for addicting ex-citizens to cheap consumerism while directly destroying self-proprietors and middle class jobs in general, along with the communities anchored by the people who held such jobs.
In this way the temporary “middle class”, fueled by debt and cheap oil, had the carpet slowly pulled out from under it. Meanwhile the basic unproductivity of the Western system was covered up by bubbles, culminating in the housing bubble (itself fueled propagandistically by the Big Lie that you should rely on your house to provide for your retirement, not any other pension; this nicely provided cover while public entitlements and private pensions were gradually being subverted).
3. The crash of 2007-8 was the beginning of the collapse of this final bubble. No bubble could any longer be sustained on just propaganda. Now the command economy had to take a direct, very heavy hand. Thus we’ve had the advent of the Bailout and a new level of the disaster capitalist rampage, since the global economy is now nothing but an ongoing disaster, and the criminals have no outlets left but to drive disaster ever harder in order to extract profits from it.
In the new regimes, Bailout America and the Bailout Eurozone, all government policy (not just monetary, not just fiscal, but all policy) is now predicated on massive redistribution of public wealth to the banksters. The mechanisms have been too many and varied for me to recapitulate them here, but I and many others have written about them many times.
But this Bailout can’t be propped up forever. How long will anyone keep buying dollars? The bonds of indebted countries? Everyone knows these are all ponzi schemes. So in the end the Bailout itself must succumb to the same diminishing returns on “confidence” which did in the “regular” debt economy. Again the bubble must collapse. Reality wants to deflate.
4. So the next step is liquidation. It’s the good old “structural adjustment”. The old odious debt which the criminal West used to inflict such suffering on non-industrialized economies is now being brought home to the Western middle classes themselves. Today the term of art is “austerity”.
The fact that the “conventional wisdom” (to paraphrase Voltaire, it’s neither “conventional” nor “wise”, but manufactured propaganda intended to whitewash crime) is now that of the deficit terrorists, that the message is “the markets don’t really fear inflation now but might fear it in the future, so governments should act in obedience to this hypothetical future fear”, means the finance vanguard thinks the end is in sight for what free money can do for them, and that in order to continue their extractions they’ll have to move into more direct class warfare. It’ll no longer be sufficient to simply gut the interest returns for savers on pensions; now the pensions themselves must be directly stolen.
In the Baltics, in Eastern Europe, now intended for Greece,  now intended for Iceland, and next up Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, and soon after the UK, and soon after that the US itself, the non-rich will have their wages, salaries, and pensions liquidated (i.e. stolen) while all public property is privatized (i.e. stolen).
Even as you take home ever less in pay and see all prospects for paying for any kind of emergency, illness, or retirement become hopeless, at the same moment you’ll find yourself having to pay ever more extortionate tolls for anything and everything which used to be provided by the fabric of society itself. Driving on any road, receiving any government service, police, fire, calling 911 itself, are just examples of everyday critical extortions we’ll face.
Even basic health care will become completely unaffordable (and this at the same time that the system intends to collect Obama’s fascist insurance mandate for a worthless piece of paper), all public parks will be fee-generating private parks, libraries will cease to exist altogether, all environmental, health, consumer, and safety regulations will be removed. Access to the courts themselves will be restricted to the rich. Even the poll tax may be reinstated (although by now at least at the federal level the vote is so meaningless they might not bother with that one).
Anyone who doubts the malevolent intentions of Obama and the US kleptocracy on this score needs to learn about Obama’s “deficit commission”. This Star Chamber is dedicated to achieving what Bush failed to do, privatize Social Security. (Thus Obama hopes to outdo his predecessor in consummating the heritage of their shared hero, Reagan.) Pete Peterson and the Washington Post have led the call to bring the full force of “austerity” to America. Obama is simpatico with this goal. With his extralegal and anti-democratic commission he hopes to achieve this and far more. The ultimate goal is to strip all government spending except on corporate welfare, war, and the police state. (Although both war and the police state are being privatized as well.)
5. So that sums it up, where we are today. The gangster elite intends to reinstate feudalism, with all of us reduced to the literal serfdom of debt. As our debts become utterly impossible to ever pay, we’ll be indentured in various ways, become sharecroppers at every kind of job, and debt prison under hideous chain gang conditions will be applied as a constant threat to anyone who doesn’t meekly comply with his servitude, since we’ll all be convicts anyway in one big country-wide debtor prison.
But there’s an obvious alternative to all this. We debtors and cash cows can simply overthrow the debt at will. We can impose the debt jubilee from the bottom up. (That’s the same debt liquidation “our” governments would have allowed to naturally transpire in 2008 the way the real market wanted it to, if these really were our governments and not irrevocably rogue kleptocracies.)
The kleptocracy must expect real resistance at some point. This isn’t like the 60s, which was basically political protest against political crime on the part of the system. It was epiphenomenal. Today the struggle is far more elemental. It’s a zero sum fight to the death at the socioeconomic core. This is end game for neoliberalism and corporatism – totalitarianism of total collapse of their wealth and power. Liquidation of the people, or liquidation of their own power.      
So however repulsively meek the American people have been so far and perhaps will be in the future, the elites don’t expect things to be so easy everywhere else. In Iceland and Greece especially we’re seeing some will to resist the gangsters. We can expect protest and resistance of many sorts to become stronger and to see people fight back with ever greater resolve, if the people can ever develop a real consciousness of the crimes which afflict them, and the morale of the struggle which feeds on struggle itself.
Conversely, the criminals must want to strangle the very thought of resistance in its cradle. A few well-placed blows could sufficiently demoralize people that they’d more pliantly submit to their fate. This is part of the classical shock doctrine. It’s worked before in specific countries like Chile. Today it has to work on a global scale.
If we put the murderous assault on the Flotilla in that context, it looks like a rather clumsy attempt to provide such an object lesson. It’s clumsy because Israel’s so hated that outrage over its crimes seems to be one of the few things that can reconcile many peoples and governments. Indeed it’s consistently been used as a divide-and-conquer astroturfing tactic by every Arab government. It’s also clumsy because much like the Wall Street banks, Israel itself can exist in this form only through welfare handed out by the US government. Israel’s gratuitous crimes, which the despicable Obama must now stand isolated to defend, add yet another burden to the already absurdly overextended US government commitment. Once again we see how the best thing we have going for us is the tactical incompetence of the system thugs.
So we’ll have to expect the gangsters to become ever more violent and tyrannical as they try to tighten their feudal grip. Throughout history it’s always been this way, and the end of the oil age, the end of the exponential debt age, portend the most vicious reaction yet. The restoration of feudal organization in the form of debt slavery can only be accomplished through a combination of extreme violence and extreme slavishness on the part of the victims. Shock treatment means, among other things, applying the former to enforce the latter.
So the Israeli pirates weren’t just firing literal shots into the boats, but a far more profound metaphorical shot across the bow of the much larger Freedom Flotilla in prospect, all over the world. The killers hope that if they demoralize us pre-emptively, they won’t have to board us on the high seas of history at all. They’ll board us in our docile ports, at our jobs, in our unemployment, in our homes, in our thoughts.
So that’s the way we need to see this, and this is the propaganda and action of terrorism we must never allow to defeat us. Another flotilla has already embarked for Gaza. Everywhere, let’s put our own ships to sea.

March 7, 2010

New Icelandic Sagas


It’s a good moment in Iceland, as voters overwhelmingly rejected the bailout assault their rogue government is trying to impose upon them.

Another implication is that an IMF-led loan is now in limbo, demonstrating that the international bailout watchdog is truly powerless when the people of the bailout recipient nation want to have nothing to do with the international rescue circuit.

The corporate NYT seems to be in some denial about this, judging by its headline “Voters in Iceland Appear to Reject Repayment Plan”. Yes, 93% against is quite an appearance.
And of course, this is no proposed “repayment” but rather a demand that Iceland’s people be stripped naked in the Icelandic wind to pay off British and Dutch governments who already bailed out their own speculators at least at par. But the NYT piece seems confused about this, and confused about itself as well. It thinks it’s an op-ed piece, evidently.

How to repay the debt, which represents more than 40 percent of Iceland’s gross domestic product, has consumed this small, isolated nation for the last year and a half, since its banks failed, its stock market crashed and its currency collapsed.

Shouldn’t that be, whether to pay off this debt, and is “the” debt their debt at all? The banksters’ debt is definitely not their debt at all.

But the vote has been overtaken by events, the government said: the deal at issue in the referendum is no longer the deal that is currently on the table in international negotiations.

Each day of delay increases Iceland’s financial burden. The second installment of a much-needed loan from the International Monetary Fund and a coalition of Nordic countries has been put off pending resolution of the dispute.

Britain has warned Iceland that it risks being an international pariah if it does not pay the money back and has threatened to stall the country’s efforts to join the European Union.

The Icesave matter has put increasing pressure on the year-old Icelandic government, a fragile coalition led by Johanna Sigurdardottir of the Social Democratic Party. On the one hand, it needs to show that it acknowledges the public’s deep bitterness; on the other, it needs to negotiate a deal quickly in order to move economic recovery along.

“We need to keep going,” Ms. Sigurdardottir said in a television interview. “We have to get an agreement.”

“It needs to negotiate a deal quickly in order to move economic recovery along.” That’s some reportage. We know that’s what the government says Iceland “needs” to do. (And “quickly” – that’s how you know you’re dealing with disaster capitalist vultures: everything always has to be so fast, always a stampede. Why does it have to be done “quickly”? I thought about it, and I can’t think of the reason. The fact is, as always they want to cut of the thought process, because anybody who thinks much about this realizes that none of these bailouts should be done at all. That they’re all great capital crimes.)
The government hastened to make clear its anti-democratic intent:

But the referendum was more symbolic than substantive, and the Icelandic government hastened to make clear that Iceland would still pay back the money, albeit on different terms from the ones rejected.

“We want to be perfectly clear that a ‘no’ vote does not mean we are refusing to pay,” Finance Minister Steingrimur Sigfusson said. “We will honor our obligations. To maintain anything else is highly dangerous for the economy of this country.”

Evidently you are wrong. You don’t seem to speak for the people, in spite of your lies to the contrary. But then, what can we expect from someone whose entire vocabulary is a compendium of criminal lies about “obligations” and what’s “highly dangerous” to the economy. What’s dangerous to the economy is to allow a criminal cabal to run it. Iceland did that for too long, and now they’re paying the price. They’ve taken some small steps to take back their country, but as these “negotiations” make clear, they still have a long way to go. They’re still saddled with the same criminals.
The banksters themselves earlier fled the country. As well they should have, given how direct some of the rage has been, with even some physical vandalism of their houses. And where are these banksters today? Conferring with their counterparts on how to ram this bailout down the Icelandic people’s throats. How to “take back” the country for themselves. They’re exactly like the monarchist conspirators against France during the early part of the Revolution. They are in fact traitors.
That’s why the French cut off the King’s head – for treason.
And that’s what the people of Iceland need to do. They should indict the gangsters for the whole litany of their crimes, starting with treason. Demand extradition. Meanwhile they should speak directly to the people of Britain and the Netherlands. They should say: “Don’t let them direct your anger against us. As we speak, our gangsters and your gangsters are conspiring against all of us. Direct your anger and your action against them. We’re taking back our country. How about you?”
(But it’s true, if you’re still brainwashed and still a slave to consumerism, then there’s no way off the debt treadmill. In that case, after this tantrum the people of Iceland will indeed have to bow and crawl and grovel in the end. The NYT and the Iceland gang will be proven right.)
But if they’re willing to grow up, to get serious, to take their lives and freedom back into their hands, perhaps the means are at hand. If Iceland rejects its debt immolation and faces consequent economic hardship, then its most pressing need will be food.
From things I’ve read over the years (during the boom), Iceland’s geothermal energy is so abundant they have a vast infrastructure of spas and heated pools. If they have enough energy for such luxury, they must have enough for necessities.
So I’d say shut down Nero’s bathhouses, take all the energy that frees up, and use it to heat greenhouses to grow crops.
I haven’t looked at the numbers, so I don’t know for sure if they could become self-sufficient in food that way, but they could take a huge step toward it, which would be a huge step toward economic self-sufficiency in general.
If they’re serious about their human freedom and their human dignity, that’s what they’d do. What could be more pressing than food security for the people? And who other than an antisocial criminal could oppose it? Any such obstruction rules himself out of the community, rules himself an outlaw.
The same food lesson of course applies far beyond Iceland. This post isn’t really even about Iceland.