During the 1967 Six Day War, a series of strict emergency laws were enacted across the Arab World, most notably in Egypt and Syria. Police powers became absolute while constitutional rights were suspended; any non-governmental political activity such as street demonstrations, rallies, protests, and organization of dissident political groups was quickly crushed by the iron fist of dictators. The laws were called temporary defensive measures, emergency acts that would be lifted once the nation was safe again.
The laws were simply left in place. The rulers of Egypt and Syria, content with their power, decided to concede nothing to their citizens. Tens of thousands of people found themselves imprisoned for extended periods of time, simply for demanding the principles of democracy already encoded in their constitutions or being critical of the government. The emergency laws provided these autocratic regimes with the authority to force their will onto to their people without opposition.
Under a president deemed worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize, the will of the authoritarian tyrant caste is being written permanently into American law.
H.R. 347/S1794, otherwise known as the “Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011,” passed unanimously in the House and receiving only three negative votes in the Senate, makes it a felony—a crime defined by the federal government as punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year—to “enter or remain in” an area designated as “restricted.” The law makes no exception for demonstrators who unknowingly gather outside of federally-designated free-speech zones; you may not have willfully or knowingly done anything other than exercise your free speech and free assembly rights, but if you “in fact” “[impede] or [disrupt] the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions,” you’re going to prison. And since Obama’s ink dried on the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 and America was declared a battleground, you could be held indefinitely.
These laws would have made Martin Luther King, Jr., and other Civil Rights luminaries felons subject to indefinite detention.
When, and if, demonstrators get released from incarceration, they will continue to suffer the long-term legal consequences termed by prisoner-rights advocates as “civil death.” Felons are barred from multitude vocations, associating with certain people or even living in particular areas, ineligible to serve on a jury or receive government assistance, and even denied the right to elect their own public servants. As of 2008, over 5.3 million people in the United States are currently left without the right to vote because of felony disenfranchisement. A sure-fire way of controlling political opposition is to deny it the ability to participate in political life.
Restricted areas spoken of in HR347, interpreted under existing law and court precedents, include any “building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting” and “a building or grounds so restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.” This definition, kept intentionally broad and vague, allows anti-protest measures to be applied at the whim of the political elite. Already in Chicago, Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel presides over crippling restrictions on public activity brought as a result of the upcoming NATO conference—and the simultaneous anti-globalization protests—on May 20-21st, 2012.
While the laws were called a temporary response to the G8 summit taking place in Chicago alongside the NATO conference, the Obama White House made a last minute decision to move G8 to the presidential compound at Camp David, a restricted military installation. The laws in Chicago will remain. Draconian laws enacted in the name of national defense in the Other Civil War are nothing new.
On September 14, 2001, President George W. Bush declared a national emergency due to the terrorist attacks of three days earlier. The National Emergencies Act of 1976 requires the President to renew this state of emergency on an annual basis if he wishes it to remain in effect; Bush renewed it every year he was in office and Obama has continued the trend.
The United States has been in a declared state of national emergency for the last 11 years.
According to Harold Relyea, a specialist working for the American government in the Congressional Research Service, the president “may seize property, organize and control the means of production, seize commodities, assign military forces abroad, institute martial law, seize and control all transportation and communication, regulate the operation of private enterprise, restrict travel, and, in a variety of ways, control the lives of United States citizens.”
Combined with Patriot Act measures enacted by Congress under George W. Bush and extended by Obama, these laws provide a framework of surveillance and control only dreamed of in some Orwellian nightmare.
The nature of neoliberal globalization virtually ensures that fascist cartels will force their monopolies onto unwilling nations or unknowing populations; plurilateral agreements like the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, are created in secret by leaders of a select handful of the wealthiest countries and designed with the intention of forcing them upon developing nations. ACTA includes provisions that profoundly restrict fundamental rights and freedoms, most notably the freedom of expression and communication privacy. It also severely restricts generic drug creation and use in underdeveloped countries. They are nonnegotiable.
Kader Arif, the European parliament’s rapporteur for ACTA, resigned from his position in January 2012 denouncing the treaty “in the strongest possible manner” for having “no inclusion of civil society organizations, a lack of transparency from the start of the negotiations, repeated postponing of the signature of the text without an explanation being ever given, [and] exclusion of the EU Parliament’s demands that were expressed on several occasions in [the] assembly,” concluding with his intent to “send a strong signal and alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation” and refusal to “take part in this masquerade.”
As with other undemocratic measures being passed around the world, HR 347/S1794 is a ruthless and reactionary law designed to eliminate political and economic dissent.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
It is little wonder that HR 347/S1794 has been called by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), one of only three members of Congress to vote against the bill, the “First Amendment Rights Eradication Act.” While the NDAA seeks to remove your 4th, 5th and 6th Amendment rights, this newest attack on self-determination is aimed at the heart of 1st Amendment rights including Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly, and Freedom to Petition.
The Supreme Court ruled in Boos v. Barry, 485 U.S. 312, 318 (1988), that protesting outside an embassy was worthy of Constitutional protection, recognizing that freedom of speech, even if it may interfere with normal governmental activity “reflects a ‘profound national commitment’ to the principle” and “‘debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.’”
While the right to free speech, assembly, and the petition of grievances is enshrined in the US Constitution, the right of government to conduct its business without dissent is not.
In 1783, twenty-four year old William Pitt, then the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was petitioned to change the law based on the “necessity” to save the East India Company from bankruptcy. His reply was brief.
“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”
The arguments of a tyrannical Congress would have you believe that HR 347/S1794 is a necessity, that demonstrations against the actions of government and business cause it undue hardship. While the government’s ability to permissibly restrict expressive conduct is limited by reasonable time, place, and manner regulations, the restrictions must, by law, be narrowly tailored to prevent unconstitutional adversity.
HR 347/S1794 flagrantly violates the First Amendment, since it is a broad and sweeping restriction based particularly on political speech in a public forum and not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest.
Of course, the crypto-fascists in Congress will argue that protecting themselves from the sight of the “unwashed masses” is a compelling state interest. They wouldn’t be incorrect. The nature of power is self-preserving; by surrounding themselves with a no-free-speech zone, the State can continue its self-congratulatory paternalism, content in the false knowledge that they’re “looking out for the little guy.”
The unconstitutional socio-political deprivation embedded in these authoritarian anti-Occupy laws would arguably be unfeasible without an almost complete blackout by mass media.
Media and communication play a central, perhaps even a defining, role in the ability of police-state measures to pass. Where is the outrage over the state of emergency laws that have gripped this country for almost a dozen years? How can unelected bankers wrest power from leaders in Greece, the birthplace of democracy, while the rest of the world fumbles with “austerity measures” to save their own necks? Consolidation of the global commercial media system can be easily linked to deregulation in the name of neoliberal “progress.”That deregulation—and the resulting monopoly that keeps alternate news sources like Democracy Now! and Al Jazeera English off the air—has allowed only capitalist rhetoric to flourish.
The business interests that control the mainstream media are the same that control the United States government. They will allow no dissent as they continue their war on liberty.
American anarchist Noam Chomsky, long known for his critiques of U.S. policy, has often written about the “manufacture of consent,” something propaganda maven (and Freud nephew) Edward Bernays happily called the art of manipulating people. In his criticism of the global commercial media system, Chomsky posits that mass media, as a profit-driven institution, tends to serve and further the agendas and interests of dominant, elite groups over the social well-being of entire societies. His writing firmly rejects the kinds of censorship that HR 347/S1794 proposes.
“If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Goebbels was in favor of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favor of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.”
What does this mean for us? Simply put, this is not a battle of the Left versus the moderate Right. This is a direct attack on the United States Constitution, a charter written expressly to limit the government’s power over its citizens.
This is a war of the authoritarian oligarchy upon the principles of democracy.
Around the world, the working and middle classes have risen up against the duplicity of their governments, the engineering of political realities by corporate interests, and the social stratification enforced by capitalist exploitation. In the United States, both Occupy Wall Street and the libertarian wing of the Tea Party have demonstrated against the excesses of the US federal government. These protests, however, have been relatively small compared to the injustice being perpetrated upon the American people.
Organized labor has tried to make up for their decline in membership and economic power in recent years by abandoning any pretense of non-partisan organizing and pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars of member dues money into the campaigns of Democrats. The opponents of organized labor are allowed to paint it as a partisan special interest group in the pocket of the Democratic Party. This has proven to be the case for far too long. The Democrats, in turn, have taken labor’s vote as a matter of course and done little to advance the political agenda of the working class. The vast majority of workers who remain outside of traditional unions see no use in joining one; management sees suppression of organization as just another cost of doing business. A return of radical unionization, exemplified by the Industrial Workers of the World call to organize the entire working class into One Big Union to abolish the wage system, would do much to stop the pitting of worker against worker, allowing for people over profit, cooperation over competition. The Preamble to the IWW Constitution still reflects this.
“The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life. Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.”
Organized labor can, and should be, a force to reckon with. It cannot do so, however, as long as it continues to blindly support a party that has forgotten the farmers, laborers, labor unions, and minorities that have made up its traditional base. Regardless of whether organized labor feels it must undergo a transitional program from capitalism to participatory economics, it must divorce itself from unwavering allegiance to the Democrats. Labor would be more effective supporting individual politicians who promote a working class agenda, whether they are Green Party, Libertarians, Social Democrats, or independents.
Civil libertarian organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, the First Amendment Coalition, and the Center for Constitutional Rights have a long history of defending the inalienable rights retained by—as opposed to privileges granted to—citizens of the United States under the Constitution. As nonpartisan organizations, they have the ability to denounce legislators of any camp for transgressions of civil liberties. It is expected that they will use test cases to undermine the illegal laws being propagated by the political elite; as part of a diversity of tactic, these kinds of cases should be applauded, even as the larger movement forges ahead with broader goals. Embracing different tactics allows radical proponents of liberty and democracy to work with mainstream advocacy groups to advance our larger strategy in accordance with our common goals. The Saint Paul Principles provide a framework for that cooperation without sectarian breakdown.
The fiscal conservatives, moderates, and libertarians who make up the Republican base have seen the party of Lincoln hijacked by social conservatives like Leo Strauss, who said the “crisis of our time” was a “permissive egalitarianism” embedded in liberal democracy and neoconservatives like Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who prompted Reagan to givefinancial and material support to pro-Western authoritarian regimes.
Libertarians and fiscal conservatives have little in common with the state-enforced conservative social policies pushed by the religious right wing that seems to dominate the Republican Party. The interventionist war machine driven by neoconservative thought—to say nothing of the government intrusion into privacy via the Patriot Act, REAL ID, and NSA domestic spying program—runs contrary to principles of state sovereignty and self-determination held in high esteem by traditional conservatism, principles that Thomas Paine instilled into American body politic under the phrase “Common Sense.”
As encroachments on personal privacy and individual liberties continue, both the Democratic and Republican parties have forgotten their base: the working and middle class.
Communist Karl Marx borrowed the term “proletariat” as a description for the working class from the Ancient Roman Empire, whose rulers believed the only contribution the masses could make to Roman society was the ability to raise children to colonize new territories. The crypto-fascist authority today, encompassing both the Democratic and Republican Parties, continues this view; to capitalists, workers are not individuals but only the rungs of a ladder designed to lift them higher on the pyramid scheme of capitalist economics.
H.R. 347/S1794, rightly nicknamed the “First Amendment Rights Eradication Act,” has been passed by both chambers of Congress. It now sits on President Obama’s desk, awaiting his signature. If his capitulation to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012—and its promise of indefinite detention—is any indication of his future action, he’ll sign it.
This issue transcends traditional party politics. Political opposition will be outlawed immediately. Pro-life rallies will effectively end with ban on public demonstrations, as well as pro-choice demonstrations. The government will not hesitate to prohibit any and all organizations it defines as dissenting or subversive, including alternative parties, labor unions, veterans’ associations, and others. Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party can both kiss the promise of reforming government goodbye.
Congress has already declared America a battleground. They now want to silence us. It is time to bring the battle home.
Dr. Zakk Flash is an anarchist political writer, radical community activist, and editor of the Central Oklahoma Black/Red Alliance (COBRA). He lives in Norman, Oklahoma.
An Open Letter to the UC Regents,
When the Board of Regents met at UC Riverside last Thursday (January 19, 2012), police officers engaged in violence against students and staff members who had gathered to protest. News reports and video footage document officers jabbing protesters with batons and firing projectiles. This follows outcry within the UC community, across the United States, and internationally about police violence toward protesters at UC Berkeley on November 9 and UC Davis on November 18. We, the undersigned faculty of the University of California, San Diego, believe that the use of violence against students and staff exercising their right to peaceful protest is entirely unacceptable. Such use of force by police against peaceful protesters runs directly counter to values of reason, dialogue, and free expression that are basic to the very idea of the university as an institution. We therefore call on the Board of Regents to publicly condemn the use of violent tactics in the policing of campus protest.
Yours sincerely,Professor Charles Thorpe, Sociology Professor Morana Alac, Communciation Professor Lisa Cartwright, Communication Professor Ivan Evans, Sociology (President, UC San Diego Faculty Association) Professor Martha Lampland, Sociology Professor Chandra Mukerji, Communication Professor Luis Martin-Cabrera, Literature Professor Ross Frank, Ethnic Studies Professor Wm. Arctander O’Brien, Literature Alanna Aiko Moore, Subject Librarian, Social Sciences and Humanities Library Professor Roshanak Kheshti, Ethnic Studies Professor Christian Wuthrich, Philosophy Professor Tara Knight, Theatre Professor Stefan Tanaka, History Professor Brian Goldfarb, Communication Professor Zeinabu Davis, Literature Professor John Blanco, Literature Professor Stephanie Jed, Literature Professor Robert Horwitz, Communication Professor Valerie Hartouni, Communication Professor Nitin Govil, Communication Professor Patrick Anderson, Communication Professor Guillermo Algaze, Anthropology Professor April Linton, Sociology Professor Marcel Henaff, Literature Professor Kelly Gates, Communication Professor Isaac Martin, Sociology Professor Nancy Caciola, History Professor Anna Joy Springer, Literature Professor Nina Zhiri, Literature Professor Rosaura Sanchez, Literature Professor Lisa Lowe, Literature Professor Rebecca Klatch, Sociology Dr. Beatrice Pita, Literature Harrod Suarez, Lecturer, Ethnic Studies Professor Jann Pasler, Music Professor Anya S. Gallaccio, Visual Arts Professor Robert Westman, History Professor Jin-Kyung Lee, Literature Professor Gerald Doppelt, Philosophy Professor Rachel Klein, History Professor Fred Lonidier, Visual Arts (President, UC-AFT Local 2034) Professor Ricardo Dominguez, Visual Arts Professor Kartik Seshadri, Music Professor Louis Hock, Visual Arts
Americans like to keep things simple and direct, so here it is: they rule. For the simple reason that they (the ruling class) have all the money. The top 5% of US citizens own almost 2/3 of the country’s wealth, or 63.5%. Compare that massive share to 12.8% for the bottom 80% — that is, “the rest of us,” as Rhonda Winter puts it in the excellent article from which this pie chart is taken.
Now go a little further, into the research she drew her chart from — a briefing paper of the Economic Policy Institute called “The State of Working America” — and you find that the top 1% holds over 1/3, or 35.6%, of the country’s net worth. Elsewhere, in The Nation, you will find such interesting tidbits as “In 2006, the top 0.01 percent averaged 976 times more income that America’s bottom 90%” — a thousand-fold gap between “them” and “the rest of us.”
The whole point is, though, that very few people go any further, because very few people have any idea how unequal the United States has become. We are, apparently, a nation of idealists, which is a good thing. We are also, however, a nation of blind idealists, which is a pretty bad thing across the board. A couple of psychologists named Norton and Ariely did a study comparing people’s ideas of what inequality is and what it should be with the actual facts on the ground. Anyone interested in creating a more progressive political order should turn up the attention meter right here.
It turns out that in strictly economic terms, Americans are not full-on egalitarians, but on average, they think everyone should have at least a piece of the pie. They think the top 20% should have around 30% of the wealth, the bottom 20% should have around 10%, and so on according to a smoothly sliding scale. They realize it’s not true, of course, and they estimate that the top 20% may in reality be holding over half of the spoils. What they do not realize is not only that the top 20% swallows a whopping 85% of the pie (with, of course, the top 5% taking the lion’s share of that). Even more crucially, they also do not realize that the bottom 40% — what economists call the 4th and 5th quintiles — are for all practical purposes off the chart, simply invisible, because they (or maybe “we,” depending on who you are) own only 0.2% and 0.1% of the wealth respectively. Let’s put that in plainer terms. Almost half the people in this country get virtually nothing from the deal.
I would draw two conclusions from this psychological study. The first is that the United States is ripe (and even wildly overdue) for a political revolt against the plutocracy. No doubt you will reply, “But that’s exactly what the Tea Party is calling for!” And so they are…in part. But every day the newspaper shows that most of the Tea Party rage against Wall Street is being successfully channeled into rage against Big Government, while the resentment against taxation acts to preserve the massive tax cuts that for the past thirty years have overwhelmingly benefited the super-rich. An atavistic fear of Obama’s black skin and a constant barrage of ideology from Fox News and the Koch brothers’ think tanks and political action committees seem to be doing the job just perfectly for the plutocracy. However, as unemployment rises even while the profits of the super-rich increase, I am not sure this situation can go on indefinitely. Beware the day when right-wing rage from the red-state grassroots finds a serious political translation, because even if it castigates the rich, the sound of that vengeful and nationalistic voice will not be agreeable to your ears.
This leads to my second conclusion. We organic intellectuals on the Left — and this “we” is finally serious, I am speaking to those who might actually read this site — are not doing our job. We have no Tea Party. We are for equality, social democracy, outright socialism, a workers’ revolution, all power to the multitudes or whatever, but we are not getting the word out to the left-of-center masses. We have the information, thanks to studies like the ones I have been quoting, but we are not able to turn information into action, not even on the simplest of demands: tax the rich and control the banksters. Yet these very simple demands could lead directly onwards to more progressive policies that we are all support, such as cutting the military budgets, achieving universal health care, restoring public education and replacing the prison economy with job-producing community development programs. It’s clear that the Dems will not do these things, because in their vast majority they belong to the upper 5%. So we have to create the conditions for a political revolt from the grassroots, and we have to do it in a way that is not simply cooptable by smooth-talking people like the current president.
Here’s one idea, only one among many. Copy the image at the top of the article and take it down to your local button-making shop. Pick a fat button and ask them to put big letters around the bottom that say, “Eat the Rich!” Get a whole bunch of those buttons, wear them, distribute them and start talking to whoever you meet about the facts and figures that are discussed in this blog post and in any of hundreds of readily available left-of-center publications. Start an open, public, regular meeting group to discuss those facts and figures and many other things that make the present what it is. Do your job as a public intellectual, educate the people around you and learn from them, build grassroots awareness and rage wherever your roots happen to be. Hold the course in that direction as the unemployment figures rise, and make contact with as many similar groups as you can find. All of this will lead in very interesting directions. Keep it up and maybe soon we’ll all get together for a big ‘ole political banquet and finally eat the rich!
Here is the outline of a self-organized seminar which we are preparing at Mess Hall in Chicago for the Fall, as one activity of the Slow-Motion Research/Action Collective. It is an outgrowth of Four Pathways through Chaos and the Technopolitics projects, as well as the Public School events around the UC strikes. Hopefully in this seminar we can develop and share a precise but also useful analysis of the current crisis, and lay some foundations for autonomous research and education practices in this city and in collaboration with other groups. Get in touch if you are interested!
GOALS: The seminar program seeks to develop a framework for understanding the present political-economic crisis and for acting against and beyond it. Historical study is integrated with militant research and artistic expression. The program is a first step toward a self-organized university, including Internet resources for sharing research notes and reference materials.
FORMAT: Eight two-part sessions, each four hours long with a half-hour break in the middle. The first part of each session will be a course delivered by Brian Holmes, with readings that may be done in advance or afterwards. Each installment of the course will be accompanied by another presentation, screening, artistic event or organizing session offering some parallel to or resonance with the material; these are developed by a collective working group. Readings will be posted on the web and full course notes as well as reference materials will be made available immediately after each session. Distanced participation or parallel sessions in other cities are welcome.
CONCEPT: The development of capitalism is marked, every thirty or forty years, by the eruption of extended economic crises that restructure the entire system in organizational, technological, financial and geopolitical terms, while also affecting daily life and commonly held values and attitudes. In the course of these crises, conditions of exploitation and domination are challenged by grassroots and anti-systemic movements, with major opportunities for positive change. However, each historical crisis has also elicited an elite response, stabilizing the worldwide capitalist system on the basis of a new integration/repression of a broad range classes, interest groups, genders and minority populations (whose definition, composition and character also change with the times). In the United States, because of its leading position within twentieth-century capitalism, the domestic resolution of each of the previous two crises has helped to restructure not only national social relations, but also the international political-economic order. And each time, progressive demands that emerged from the crisis period have been transformed into ideologies covering a new structure of inequality and oppression. By examining the crises of the 1930s and the 1970s along with the top-down responses and the resulting hegemonic compromises, we will cut through the inherited ideological confusions, gain insight into our own positions within neoliberal society, identify the elite projects on the horizon and begin to formulate our own possible agency during the upcoming period of instability and chaos.
1. Introduction: technopolitical paradigms, crisis, and the formation of new hegemonies.
We begin with a theoretical look at more-or-less coherent periods of capitalist development, known as technopolitical paradigms. During twenty to thirty-year periods, technologies, organizational forms, national institutions and global economic and military agreements all find a working fit that allows for growth and expansion, up to a limit-point where the paradigm begins to encounter conditions of stagnation, internal contradiction and increasing crisis. Autonomist Marxism helps us understand the dynamics of grassroots protagonism during the crisis periods. To grasp the mechanisms whereby systemic order is recreated, we can draw on Antonio Gramsci’s notion of hegemony as the construction of a set of discourses and practices that articulate the behaviors of the diverse classes, in order to secure their consent to a new social hierarchy. Hegemony is first achieved at the national level; but when its formation is successful it spreads throughout world society. The ingredients of a hegemony are moral, aesthetic, philosophical and epistemological; but these abstract categories of thought and imagination are intertwined from the start with economic practices and institutional forms. Hegemony is the force of desire and belief that knits a paradigm together and sustains it despite manifest injustices.
2.Working-class movements and the socialist challenge during the Great Depression.
This session describes the emergence of Fordist-Taylorist mass production in the United States, then turns to economic and geopolitical conditions following the Crash of ‘29. We follow the interaction between labor movements and socialist/communist doctrines, while examining the major institutional innovations of the Roosevelt administration. Can the 1930s be understood as a “regulation crisis” of assembly-line mass production? What are the forces that provoked the crisis? Has the “New Deal” become an idealized figure of class compromise for succeeding generations? What does it cover over?
3. The Council on Foreign Relations during WWII and the US version of Keynesian Fordism.
Only after 1938 was the economic crisis resolved through the state orchestration of innovation and production, effected by wartime institutions. Corporate leaders from the Council on Foreign Relations were directly inducted to the Roosevelt government and planned the postwar monetary and free-trade order enshrined in the Bretton-Woods agreements. How was the intense labor militancy of the 1930s absorbed into the Cold War domestic balance? To what extent did the American experience shape the industrial boom in the Keynesian social democracies of Western Europe and Japan? How were the industrial welfare states supported and enabled by neocolonial trade and resource extraction?
4. The ‘60s revolts, Third-World self-assertion, stagflation and the monetary chaos of the ‘70s.
The brief convergence of labor movements, student revolts and minority rights campaigns in 1968 was a global phenomenon, spurred on by Third World liberation and the struggle in Vietnam. Wildcat strikes, entitlement claims and the political imposition of higher resource prices (notably by OPEC) were all key factors in the long stagnation of the 1970s. We examine the breakdown of Bretton-Woods, the conquest of relative autonomy by Western Europe and Japan and the last surge of decolonization movements in the 60s, followed in the ’70s by the Third World push for a New International Economic Order. We also look at the fear and anxiety that the ’68 revolts produced in ruling classes across the world. Does the US internalize global economic and social contradictions during this period? Which aspects of the social and cultural revolts posed real obstacles to the existing economic structure? Which ones became raw materials for the formation of a new hegemonic compromise?
5. The Trilateral Commission and the transnational hegemony of Neoliberal Informationalism.
The launch of the Trilateral Commission by Nelson Rockefeller and Zbigniew Brzezinski in 1973 is an elite response to the crisis, with concrete political effects: some twenty members of the Commission were named to the Carter administration in 1976. During the decade the coming of “postindustrial society” was announced by sociology, while technoscientific innovations like the microprocessor went into production. Cooperation among trilateral elites was paralleled by financialization, the rise of networks, the creation of transnational futures and options exchanges, etc. However, the Treasury-induced US recession of 1980-82, the “Star Wars” military buildup and the emergence of a new innovation system are specifically American contributions to the new technopolitical paradigm that takes shape in the US in the 1980s, before going global after 1989. So we have to understand the difference and complementarity of Republican and democratic responses to the crisis (the right-wing Heritage Foundation was also founded in 1973). What are the defining features of Neoliberal Informationalism? Who are its beneficiaries – and losers? How is the geography of capitalist accumulation transformed by the new hegemony? What sort of commodity is transmitted over the electronic networks? And what does it mean to be a consenting “citizen” of the trilateral state-system?
6. BRIC countries, counter-globalization, Latin American and Middle Eastern social movements.
With the breakdown of the USSR in 1989, followed by the first Gulf War, the world-space is opened up for transformation by the trilateral economic system. The 1990s witnesses the largest capitalist expansion since the postwar industrial boom, driven by Neoliberal Informationalism. The global boom of the net economy was supposed to be synonymous with “the end of history” and the universal triumph of liberal democracy – but that soon hit the dustbin. After tracking the expansion of trilateral capitalism we focus on the economic rise of the Gulf states and the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China), as well as the political currents of the counter-globalization movements, Salafi Jihad, Latin American Leftism and finally, the Arab Spring (and following hot summer). Do these diverse economic and political assertions mark the end of the trilateral hegemony and the reemergence of a multipolar order?
7. Financial crisis, climate change and elite attempts to stabilize Neoliberal Informationalism.
Here we examine the inherently volatile dynamics of the informational economy, culminating in the Asian crisis of 1997-98, the dot-com bust of 2000 and finally, the credit crunch of 2008 and the ongoing fiscal crisis of the neoliberal state. The central product of Neoliberal Informationalism now reveals itself to be the financial derivative. Little has been done in the United States to control finance capital, but the debt crisis has massively punished the lower ranks of society and seriously eroded the status of the middle classes, with a major attack on the public university system and a move to cut all remaining welfare-state entitlements. What is the significance of the bailout programs? How have the European Union and Japan faced the crisis? What paths have been taken by the Gulf states, and above all, by China? Is contemporary economic geography now changing? Do we see the beginnings of new alliances among international elites, outside the traditional arenas of trilateral negotiation?
8. Perspectives for egalitarian and ecological social change in the upcoming decade.
In the absence of meaningful reform and redistribution, continued financial turmoil appears certain, along with a reorganization of the monetary-military order. Meanwhile, climate change is already upon us, advancing much faster than previously anticipated. The result of all this is unlikely to be business as usual. What we face is a triple crisis, economic, geopolitical and ecological, with consequences that cannot be predicted on the basis of past experience. Can we identify some of the central contradictions that will mark the upcoming years? Which institutions and social bargains have already come under severe stress? In what ways will the ecological crisis begin to produce political responses? How will class relations within the United States interact with crossborder and worldwide struggles? Is it possible to imagine — and work toward — a positive transformation of the current technopolitical paradigm?
Comments. Ideas. Contributions. Welcome.