Monday, January 10, 2011

capital's war against wikileaks


Video - What is the Matrix?

Al-Jazeera | As a political theorist, Assange leaves something to be desired. "Neocorporatism" describes a system in which capital and labour are enmeshed in an integrated but ultimately dependent relationship with a powerful and autonomous state apparatus - an update of the triangular relationship that enabled unprecedented economic growth and gains for the working class in the West in the decades after World War II.

Ideologically, this kind of close working relationship between government, big business and organised labour is the antithesis of the neoliberal system WikiLeaks seeks to combat.

But Assange is right that there is something "neo", if not exactly new, in the way the corporate sector is behaving today and its relationship with government. It lies in the embrace - or better, re-embrace - of finance capitalism and militaristic empire and the military industrial complex that sustains it.

Whether preying on unwitting consumers in middle America or preying on suspected insurgents in the Middle East, these are two of the most secretive sectors of the American economy. They depend on the public knowing as little as possible about their inner workings to secure the greatest possible freedom of action, power and profits.

The power of secrecy
Assage's abandonment by the Swiss banking system and its American corporate cousins is thus not surprising. Few industries have used secrecy and lack of disclosure more effectively than the banking, financial services and credit card industries.

Indeed, their secretive business practises are central to their constant ability to rake in enormous profits at the expense of working and middle class Americans through monopolising trading systems, charging morally usurious interest rates and fees, and engaging in other practises that would make even the most cold-hearted lone shark blush.

If the grand bargain between workers, capitalists and governments enabled the first two post-World War II generations to move from high school right into the middle class, this road was irreparably damaged by the 1980s, when the neoliberal Right first came to power.

As the United States entered its long and painful era of deindustrialization American foreign policy became more aggressively militaristic; and so joining the military as opposed to GM or Ford became one of the few routes to secure any kind of stable economic future (as long as you stayed in the military).

Not surprisingly, profits from the financial sector surpassed that of manufacturing in the early 1990s and haven't dropped since. But these profits and the economic growth they generated have relied disproportionately on government and consumer debt and a hollowing out of the manufacturing sector, which together helped make the US the "sick man of the globe", as one senior corporate economist.

For their part, GM, Ford and Chrysler simultaneously focused most of their energies on producing comparatively profitable gas-guzzlers like SUVs while establishing financial services arms that quickly became responsible for a substantial share of their profits (in some years upwards of 90 percent of profits are so derived).

Their lending practises, it's worth noting, included the kinds of "liar" home loans, given out with little concern over the ability of borrowers to pay them, that precipitated the global economic crisis of 2007 till today.

Financialisation and history
None of these practises would have withstood the light of public scrutiny, and it was only the corporatisation - in good measure, financialization - of American politics that allowed them to flourish in the last thirty years. Few enterprises threaten that secrecy as much as WikiLeaks and its laser-like focus on openness, which is why its actions are viewed in Washington as "striking at the very heart of the global economy".

The "financialisation" of the economy represents the increasing dominance of the financial industries in the overall economy, taking over "the dominant economic, cultural, and political role in a national economy".

Crucially, this process isn't unique to the United States; it also happened to previous empires, like the Hapsburg's, Dutch and British empires, at precisely the eras they lost their dominant global position. In all cases, financialism and militarism went hand in hand, as first pointed out by the British historian John Hobson's famous 1902 book Imperialism: A Study.

In it, Hobson argued that the monopolisation of the financial sector created a new oligarchy that linked together the large banks and industrial firms together with "war mongers and speculators" which encouraged imperialism to secure markets for the surplus products produced by corporations.

1 comments:

arnach said...

...which doesn't mean that things cannot change. This "robber baron" type of takeover has happened before, and it can (and will) be reversed again. "They" may have once again achieved a level of control over the media and the government, but that will be undone by the people. Eventually. Again. Repeating an unlearned history is, unfortunately, inevitable.

But then we're back on the subject of education again...

I gotta find some spare time to read that decision...

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