Across 100 Miles of Ocean: Experiments in Capitalism and SocialismAkio Tanaka I Social Economics I History I February 14th, 2014
The Age of Enlightenment ushered in revolutions in France and the US, but the revolution that really threatened the dominant global order was the revolution mounted by the slaves of French Haiti in 1804. In response to the revolt, France and the US, a nation founded on slave labor and appropriated Indian land, joined forces to suppress the Haitian revolution. The US has intervened militarily in Haiti repeatedly since 1804, most recently in 2010 to maintain the lowest sweat-shop wages in the hemisphere.
The Age of Industrialization began with the inventions of the steam engine at the end of the eighteenth century and the internal combustion engine at the end of the nineteenth century. However, both coal and oil produce carbon dioxide which contributes to global warming. With the exponential growth in the world population over the past hundred years, there has been corresponding exponential increase in the global temperature which is threatening the ecological survival of the planet.
During the last century, the industrialized world was divided between two competing economic systems: Communism led by the Soviet Union and Capitalism led by the United States.
In 1989, the Soviet Union collapsed and the United States saw it as a victory of Capitalism over Communism. The Democratic Party joined the Republican Party's full embrace of the corporate agenda, and the corporations felt empowered to seek profits with absolutely no regard for the consequences to Earth and all its life forms. The US essentially became a corporate-military empire using its military to secure oil for its oil-based economy.
The world urgently needs an alternative to the global warming of oil-based economy and the radical ecological destructiveness of capitalism.
Although Haiti has been under the US boot for two hundred years, another narrative was taking place next door - just 100 miles south of the US.
Cuba had also been under the US boot since the Spanish American War in 1898. But, in 1959, Cuba staged a socialist revolution, removed the US-backed dictator Batista, and aligned with the Soviet Union. The Cuban government went on to provide resources for education and health care for its people that are unsurpassed in the hemisphere, but their economy was based on oil like the rest of the industrialized world.
Cuba was getting its oil from the Soviet Union. Therefore, when the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba lost its source of oil. It was a time of extreme hardship. However, instead of cutting back on social programs, Cuba developed an economy based on local, sustainable, organic agriculture; and, in the process, managed to create a post-peak oil economy and thus help stem global warming. Now, they are creating a society based on ecological socialism.
Capitalism and Globalization
During the Gilded Age, 1865-1901, the corporation became the dominant form of business organization in the US. The US also became an Imperial Power in 1898 after the Spanish-American War, during which they acquired the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam and Cuba.
Theodore Roosevelt tried to steer the Republican Party in the direction of Progressivism, including trust-busting and increased regulation of businesses, but the country reverted back to free market ways after his administration. The 1920s were a decade of increased consumer spending and economic growth fed by laissez faire economic policy. The resulting overproduction of goods and the speculation on the Stock Market led to the Crash of 1929.
The Depression which followed the Crash of 1929 was severe and prolonged. To counter the threat being mounted by Bolshevik forces, the business community allowed FDR to propose legislations to put limits on business and measures to help the public. These were the measures that had been championed by progressives since the 1890s: the Glass-Steagall Banking Act '33 separated commercial banking from investment banking, the Security and Exchange Commission '34 regulated the stock market, the Telecom Act '34 created the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the airwaves, the Social Security Act '35 and the Farm Security Act '37 assured some measure of economic security for the workers and the farmers, and the Wagner Act '35 legalized the Unions that were being organized by the workers. The Roosevelt administration also introduced public works programs, WPA and CCC, to give unemployed workers jobs to build the physical infrastructure of the country.
[Atom Bomb - The imperialistic ambitions of several nations led to World War I (1914-18) and World War II (1939-45), which saw the development of the atomic bomb. Subsequently, other nations developed the atomic bomb as leverage in geopolitics. 65 years later, mankind is minutes away from total annihilation by the thousands of nuclear warheads on operational alert. The nuclear industry has promoted nuclear energy as clean energy that does not contribute to global warming; however, there are other problems with nuclear energy. There are currently 550 million pounds of spent fuel rods from the 500 nuclear reactors that remain "ferociously" radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years, and there is no way to contain the radiation from an accident such as the ones that happened at Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011. A world renowned cancer specialist, Carmelo Iacono said: " Nuclear radiation is the most carcinogenic thing that exists and it cannot be kept under control, as Fukushima tragedy proved."]
After WWII, the world was divided between Communism, led by the Soviet Union, and Capitalism, led by the US. The Cold War led to a competition to gain control over the natural resources of the former colonies of Europe that were struggling to liberate themselves. The United States created the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency to counter Communism.
The IMF and the World Bank provided the development funds to 'third world countries' in return for access to their natural resources. If the country was not willing to participate, the US often sent in the CIA or military to put in place a compliant government: Iran '53, Guatemala '54, Vietnam '55, Turkey '60, Congo '60, Brazil '64, Greece '67, Indonesia'67, Iraq '68, Chile '73, Uruguay '73, Afghanistan '73, Argentina '76, Nicaragua '81, Grenada '83, Panama '88, Haiti '91, Yugoslavia '92, Honduras 2009.
The US tried but failed to overthrow the governments of Cuba in 1961 and Venezuela in 2002.
On the home front, the FBI's COINTELPRO program was used to neutralize any domestic threat to the capitalistic system: the American Indian Movement, the Black Panthers, the Puerto Rico Independence Movement, and Earth First!, to name a few.
Workers in the US, on the other hand, did very well after the war. With the rest of the world's industry destroyed by the War, the US became the dominant manufacturing country. Through the '50s, '60s, and '70s American workers across the board (especially white workers) enjoyed a high level of employment and prosperity.
Children of the middle class, freed of the deprivation of the Depression, joined many progressive movements like the civil rights movement. During the early '60s, the US passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and Medicare, and in the later years of that decade, anti-war activism against the Vietnam War fueled a larger activist movement that challenged the capitalistic system. Led by the consumer advocacy of Ralph Nader, Congress passed an astounding number of progressive legislation: the Freedom of the Information Act '66, the Environmental Protection Agency '70, the Clean Air Act '70, the Occupational Safety and Health Act '70, the Consumer Product Safety Act '72, the Endangered Species Act '73, the Clean Water Act '77. The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970.
In response, the same forces that opposed FDR's New Deal began to mount a counteroffensive. In 1971, Lewis Powell, who was nominated to the Supreme Court by Nixon, sounded the alarm in his Memorandum, 'Attack on the American Free Enterprise System': "Perhaps the single most effective antagonist of American business is Ralph Nader, who -- thanks largely to the media -- has become a legend in his own time and an idol of millions of Americans… There should be no hesitation to attack the Naders, the Marcuses and others who openly seek destruction of the system. There should not be the slightest hesitation to press vigorously in all political arenas for support of the enterprise system. Nor should there be reluctance to penalize politically those who oppose it."
Powell prefigured the neoliberal agenda that would unfold between 1980 and 2010.
The creation of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 1973 was a corporate blowback to Nader-led reforms. The organization's membership includes both state lawmakers and corporate executives whom, over the following decades, helped draft much of the legislation that attacks workers' rights, rolls back environmental regulations, deregulates major industries, and privatizes education and other government programs.
The Trilateral Commission was also created in 1973 with a goal to establish a global political structure that will allow the Multi-National Corporations (MNC) to circumvent the domestic laws and regulations of individual countries, which resulted in the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1994.
On the judicial front, the formation of the Federalist Society in 1982 spearheaded the Right's takeover of the federal court system, which culminated in the Citizen United decision of 2010.
The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 was a watershed which marked both the end of FDR's New Deal Era and the re-ascendancy of pre-Progressive era corporate rights over peoples' rights. President Reagan signed into law the Economic Recovery Tax Act which cut taxes on the wealthy and the corporations; he appointed James Watts, who was hostile to environmentalism and supportive of the development and use of federal lands by foresting, ranching, and other commercial interests, as Secretary of the Interior; he appointed corporate attorney, Anne Gorsuch, as the Director of EPA, who gutted environmental protections by hiring staff from the industries they were supposed to be regulating ; and he broke the power of the unions by breaking the air traffic controllers (PATCO) strike.
The breaking of the PATCO strike marked the beginning of the end of the post-war American middle class. Between 1980 and 2010, the corporations and the rich became wealthier as the tax burden was shifted from corporations to individuals; and, among individuals, from the rich to the middle class. In the 1940s, corporations paid 60% of the federal income tax. In 2010, they paid 20%. In the 1960s, the top income tax rate for individuals was 91%. In 2010, the top rate was 35%
In 1985, with the increasing conservative backlash against the civil rights, women's, and labor movements, along with the success of the 'Reagan Revolution,' the Democratic Party founded the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) to cater to corporate interests.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989-91, the US saw it as a victory of capitalism over communism, and the Democratic Party joined the Republican Party's full embrace of the corporate agenda.
Although the Democratic Leadership Council hailed the election of President Clinton in 1992 as proof of the viability of a 'third way,' what the 1990s and Clinton's era represented was the consolidation of a new kind of political discourse, and a new involvement by the corporations in shaping it. Now, the two major political parties are completely absorbed in self-perpetuation and only serve the narrow sector of powerful elites and corporate interests that fund and thereby control them. Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz observed that the US has a government " Of the 1%, by the 1%, and for the 1%".
Harvard Professor, Lawrence Lessig, in his book, 'Republic, Lost,' wrote:
The great threat to our republic today comes not from the hidden bribery of the Gilded Age, when cash was secreted among members of Congress to buy privilege and secure wealth. The great threat today is instead in plain sight. It is the economy of influence now transparent to all, which has normalized a process that draws our democracy away from the will of the people. A process that distorts our democracy from the ends sought by both the Left and the Right: For the single most salient feature of the government that we have evolved is not that it discriminates in favor of one side and against the other. The single most salient feature is that it discriminates against all sides to favor itself. We have created an engine of influence that seeks not some particular strand of political or economic ideology, whether Marx or Hayek. We have created instead an engine of influence that seeks simply to make those most connected rich… The rich who whose power comes not from hard work, creativity, innovation, or the creation of wealth. The rich who instead secure their wealth through the manipulation of government and politicians. The great evil that we as Americans face is the banal evil of [politicians and lobbyists who] turn to the massive wealth directed by our government as the means to securing wealth for themselves. The enemy is not evil. The enemy is well dressed." [Currently over half of retiring members of Congress became lobbyists. One former Democratic President has amassed personal net worth of $80 Million.]
The two-party system which was originally created in 1860s to exclude newly emancipated blacks from political participation was now being used - with unlimited corporate money - to exclude the 99% from political participation. To maintain the duopoly, the Two Parties collude to exclude Third Party candidates from ballot access and debates, thereby limiting voter choice and real debate. The Two Parties still go through an elaborate charade of holding elections; however, they mainly differentiate themselves over social issues which are of no concern to the corporations, such as guns, abortion, the death penalty, and gay and immigrant rights.
The Republicans position themselves as the defenders of white American cultural values. By conflating the freedom of individuals with the freedom of huge corporations to make profit, and by appealing to the vulnerabilities and racial resentments of poor and working class whites, they cruelly and cynically dupe much of the working class into voting against their own economic interests.
The Democrats remain only as nominal defenders of progressive values; trotting out, until recently, Dennis Kucinich every four years to convince any straying Democrat that 'there is at least one good progressive among the bunch.' They used Ralph Nader as a 'bogeyman' to suppress any real progressive movement, duped their constituency in 2008 with an empty and cynical promise of 'Hope and Change', and co-opted the Occupy Movement in 2011.
The President who dismantled many of the progressive New Deal legislations of FDR was Democrat Bill Clinton: the Telecom Reform Act '96 paved the way for corporate control of the media including the Internet, the Welfare Reform Act '96 removed the safety net for the poor, the Freedom to Farm Act '96 removed the protections for the family farms and led to the gigantic subsidies for the corporate agribusiness, and most fatefully the Banking Reform Act '99 took away the government oversight of the banking system.
Clinton also pushed and got the Congress to pass NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) and WTO (World Trade Organization) Agreements which allowed corporations to pursue profit free from constraints of the US environmental and worker protection laws. The current illegal immigration crisis in the US is also a direct result of NAFTA, where importation of cheap, subsidized, genetically modified corn from the US drove Mexican farmers off their land. Globalization is the face of financial imperialism.
During Clinton's administration, there were two major transformations of the national political economy: financialization (the shift of investor preference from industrial production to finance, insurance, and real estate) and the off-shoring of production. The off-shoring destroyed the real productive economy and the middle class, and the financialization ushered in the era of predatory banks that plundered the American middle-class with the Dot-com Bubble of 2000 and the Subprime Mortgage Housing Bubble of 2008.
On the world front, the coup in Russia that occurred between1989-91 brought an end to the Cold War and presented the US with both an opportunity and a problem.
Since the invention of the automobile in 1885, the petro-fueled engine has been the engine of commerce and war, and oil became the one key strategic resource. Control of the oil is tantamount to control of the industrial world and the developing industry throughout the world.
In 1971, the gold standard for the dollar was finally replaced with the oil standard because of the strain of federal expenditures for the Vietnam War. With the financialization of oil, the multinational corporations which depend on a stable international currency have advanced the US military presence over the oil fields of in the Middle East and Central Asia in order to stabilize the price of oil. Another consideration was that India and China, with their huge populations, were both eyeing the oil fields in Central Asia - which are right next door.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, the US saw the opportunity to use its military dominance to secure the oil fields of the Middle East and Central Asia.
The problem was that the end of the Cold War also deprived the military of an enemy to justify its bloated budget; and the public, caught up in the euphoria over the fall of the Berlin Wall and the lifting of the Iron Curtain, were clamoring for peace dividend and de-militarization. The US needed a way to engage militarily in the Middle East and Central Asia.
The problem was partially solved in 1990 by the First Gulf War, which was the opening gambit in a war to secure the Middle East oil. The US baited Iraq into Kuwait in order to be able to drive them out militarily and take over Kuwait. On July 25, 1990, then-US Ambassador April Glaspie told the Iraqis, " [US] has no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait." However, when Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, the US took immediate military action against Iraq and subsequently gained control over Kuwait. Kuwait was the real target of the 1990 war against Iraq. With the oil replacing the gold standard, Kuwait became the new Fort Knox.
The US kept a financial and trade embargo on Iraq through the 90s and, in the late 90s, intervened in Yugoslavia to bring the former Communist country under the banner of free-market globalization. However, the US found it difficult to garner public support for military intervention to secure the oil fields in Central Asia.
In 1998, Zbigniew Brzezinski, in his book 'Grand Chess Board', wrote that the key strategic plan for the US was to secure the Central Asian gas and oil fields, but he acknowledged the problem of garnering public support: " [US] may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat ".
In September of 2000, the neo-conservative think tank, The Project for the New American Century, published a report entitled 'Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources for a New Century,' calling for the transformation of the US military to establish American hegemony, but the report also acknowledged the problem: " the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor" .
The problem was finally resolved in 2001 with the 9/11 Incident, which was a " catastrophic and catalyzing event" "of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat".
President Bush used the 9/11 Incident to establish military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. Islamic fundamentalism was already on the rise in the Muslim countries, so the US military occupation of Muslim countries unleashed what Robert Fisk calls 'The Great War for Civilization' between Fundamentalist Islam and Judeo-Christian West, providing the National Security State with a credible new enemy.
The 'War on Communism' segued into the 'War on Terror', 'Al Qaeda' became the new 'Red Scare', and the Military Industrial Complex was able to keep its one trillion dollar annual franchise.
President Eisenhower, in his 1961 farewell address, warned the country about the emerging power and influence of the Military Industrial Complex; however, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 had effectively silenced public figures from challenging the Military Industrial Complex and voicing opposition to war since then.
President Bush also used the 9/11 Incident to enact the Patriot Act, drastically scaling back civil liberties, allowing wider surveillance of citizens, and detention of suspects. The 342-page Patriot Act was part of the Continuity of Government (COG) Plan to suspend the Constitution and declare Martial Law in case of nuclear attack that was expanded in the 1980's to include any national emergency.
The US is putting in place the apparatus of a police state where the Orwellian-sounding 'Department of Homeland Security (DHS)' subjects air travelers to full body scans and has access to all information sent or stored over the Internet and telephone network. FBI agents and militarized police units, which were first used for War on Drugs, are deployed with increasing frequency against anyone involved in environmental, anti-war and anti-globalization activism. The FBI has reinstated the COINTELPRO infiltration and entrapment tactics of the '60s and 70s. The over 150 FBI convictions of terrorists since 9/11 have been the result of entrapment sting operations.
In response to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the city imposed a de facto martial law where thirty different law enforcement agencies were deployed to search for a solitary, nineteen-year-old suspect. When the suspect was finally apprehended, the crowd greeted the massed militarized police with shouts of "USA! USA!" - An object lesson in how the public willingly embrace the authoritarian excess of a police state during state of fear.
Although the police state has been justified by the need to fight terrorism, its real purpose is to enforce the extreme inequality, the 1% vs. the 99%, that results from the neoliberal political economy. In addition, it serves to control a general population in revolt, e.g. the nationally coordinated suppression of the Occupy Movement by the FBI and the DHS's National Operations Center. The 2011 Occupy Movement so unnerved the establishment that a provision was added to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act allowing the US military to indefinitely detain or render to a "foreign country or entity" without charge or trial anyone deemed a threat to the domestic order.
The corporations also saw the coup and collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989-91 as triumph of capitalism over communism, and they pushed for repeal of government regulations and the privatization of government assets and programs, including education and postal service, with the ultimate goal of privatizing Social Security and Medicare.
Reagan-era deregulation of the Savings & Loan industry had resulted in the collapse of this industry and a $150-billion government bailout. During the Clinton administration, the banking industry pushed for deregulation and succeeded in getting the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (Banking Reform Act) passed - successfully repealing the Glass-Steagall Act, which was enacted after the 1929 Crash to prevent the banks from gambling with their depositor's money.
During the Bush administration, Wall Street used the new banking deregulation signed into law by President Clinton in 1999 to perpetrate an egregious fraud that plundered middle class America through creation of the subprime mortgage housing bubble. First the banks lowered the interest rate and loan requirements for mortgages, and then they made enormous profits trading the derivatives on the inflated value of the housing market. When the housing bubble burst in 2008, precipitating the credit crisis, they extorted from Congress massive taxpayer bailouts and guarantees. In addition to the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program), the Federal Reserve has transferred trillions of dollars of public funds into private banks. As FDR observed in 1933, "a financial element in the larger centers own[s] the government…" [Robert Rubin, Democrat Clinton's Treasury Secretary, and Henry Paulson, Republican Bush's Treasury Secretary, both hail from Goldman Sachs.]
During the Presidency of George Bush, dangers to the Republic that two former Presidents had warned about came to pass:
Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about the military industrial complex (MIC): "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."
Abraham Lincoln warned us about the corporations: "Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed."
To an American public traumatized by the Bush Presidency, Wall Street and corporate America poured enormous amounts of money to market an African American man, Barack Obama, as the candidate of 'Hope and Change' in 2008; however, once in office, President Obama retained Bush's Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and tapped Lawrence Summers - who, as President Clinton's Treasury Secretary, pushed for the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act - as the Director of the White House National Economic Council. Not only has President Obama kept Guantanamo Bay detention camps open, he has expanded the use of Predator drones for extra-judicial assassinations and the prosecution of government whistleblowers like Edward J. Snowden and Bradley Manning, who are heroically trying to bring transparency to our democratic governance.
Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, was asked in 2010 what difference he saw between Bush and Obama. He succinctly answered, "If something has changed, it's just the color of the president that's changed."
The Republic that was founded to free the colonies from the British monarchy was taken over by a corporate-military state.
Corporation and military are the two government sanctioned entities that the ruling class uses to commit mass murder and environmental destruction.
In Vietnam, the US government killed 3 million Vietnamese and poisoned the land with 19 million gallons of dioxin-laden Agent Orange. In Iraq, the US government killed 1 million Iraqis and poisoned the land with 800 tons of depleted uranium causing an epidemic of horrific birth defects.
In Bhopal India, a gas leak at a Union Carbide plant led to 16,000 death and 558,125 injuries; in Libby Montana, Grace Corporation knowingly hid for decades the adverse health effect of asbestos from its workers and the city; in Prince William Sound, in what is considered to be one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters, Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil killing 250,000 seabirds and destroying billions of salmon and herring eggs. Even though they shirk legal responsibility for these disasters, the corporations claim the same Constitutional rights as people.
To underscore the absurdity, the Supreme Court which first established corporate personhood in 1886 in Santa Clara vs. Southern Pacific, gave full first Amendment rights to corporations in 2010 in Citizen United vs. Federal Election Commission by equating money with free speech, thus freeing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. In 2011, the court expanded the rights of corporate free speech by striking down the Arizona's public financing election law.
[Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) - In May of 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in 'Bowman vs. Monsanto', further ensconcing in judicial precedent the ability of corporations "to own products of life" by perverting the patent law.
GMO is the ultimate weapon of neoliberal globalization. The corporate agribusiness is corroborating with US Department of Agriculture and the State Department to control the very basis of civilization which began with the cultivation of grains 10,000 year ago; they are trying to hijack the worlds agricultural and biofuel supply by forcing the farmers to use patented genetically modified seed crops. In 2009 alone, 17,638 Indian farmers committed suicide due to debts and crop failures incurred by using GM seeds.
Aside from imposing new feudalism on the world, there are other problems with GMO. GMO have been implicated in epidemic of allergies and auto-immune disorders, and bee die-offs in the Corn Belt. GMOs have genes that are designed to overcome natural reproductive barriers between organisms which make it possible to transfer genes over from another organism, so GMOs reinforce genetic homogeneity and promote large scale monocultures contributing to the decline in biodiversity and increase vulnerability of crops to climate change, pests and diseases. Ignacio Chapela, a microbial ecologist and mycologist at the UC Berkeley, documented the flow of transgenes into wild Mexican maize. Another problem is that the same mechanism which allows the transfer of genes can jump across organisms to create mutant new organisms. Corporate agribusiness is playing Russian roulette with the very basis of life.]
The United States, whose wealth was originally built on slave labor and appropriated Indian land, had turned on its own citizens and the world.
To secure natural resources, the US has an empire of over 850 military bases around the world, garrisoned proxy states of Israel in the Middle East and Colombia in South America; two regions with large oil reserves, and a new AFRICOM base in Africa with its vast land and mineral wealth.
At home, Americans are now subjected to destructive resource extractions: mountaintop removal coal mining which poisons the watershed, 'fracking' of earth for natural gas which poisons the water table, the off shore drilling with consequent disastrous blowout that poisoned the Gulf, the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that could compromise the Ogallala Aquifer. The water is also being poisoned by the chemicals used in agribusiness and manufacturing; especially toxic is mercury from coal-fired power plants which accumulates in fish and climbs up the food chain, posing the greatest risk of nerve damage to pregnant women, women of childrearing age and young children. The average newborn has over 200 different chemicals and heavy metals contaminating its blood when it takes its first breath.
To secure cheap labor and to circumvent domestic laws and regulations, the US negotiates free trade agreements: NAFTA, WTO, and the pending TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) trade pact. These policies allows the transfer of manufacturing to sweat shop labor in countries like Mexico and China where there are no environmental or worker protection laws. At home, American workers saw their manufacturing jobs decline from 53% of the economy in 1965 to 9% in 2006; and union membership decline from 35% to 7% during that same period.
Wisconsin Governor Walker's effort to strip public sector workers of collective bargaining rights in 2011 is an example of the ruling class' new strategy of pitting public sector workers, who still have some union representation, against private sector workers, who lost union representation over the years.
The most telling statistic is the US incarceration rate, which increased from 500,000 in 1980 to 2,500,000 in 2010. The US has 5% of the world population but 25% of the world prison population. This increase was due to the War on Drugs which was a deliberate new Jim Crow policy decreed by the ruling class to reverse the gains of the civil rights movement by criminalizing and incarcerating African-Americans.
The ruling class uses the racial divide to maintain the 1%-99% class divide.
Although most developed nations provide universal healthcare and education for their citizens, the US has costly for-profit healthcare system, and is in the process of privatizing K-12 education with charter schools. College graduates enter the real world already in virtual debtor's prison with over trillion dollars of student loan debt. The ruling class portrays universal health care and education as entitlement for blacks whose cost is born by the white workers, thus getting the white workers to vote against their own economic interests.
Meanwhile, a gaggle of cackling, imbecilic, corporate media hacks like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity fan the flames of anger and frustrations of the American workers onto immigrants, Muslims, 'Third World' leaders, environmentalists, liberals, and the poor; the beleaguered public is turning in increasing numbers to the appeals of patriotic fascism, evangelical fundamentalism, and the culture of illusion.
The ruling power of our country manipulates the habits and opinion of the masses through television. Americans watch on the average five hours of television per day. The invisible government manipulates this media using the public relations and propaganda techniques pioneered by Edward Bernays whether they are trying to sell a soft drink, a political candidate, or war.
When the US appropriated the land from the Indians, it not only killed off the Indians, but it also killed the idea of the commons - that the land and its bounty are there to be sustainably shared by all. The US replaced it with the idea of the sanctity of private property - that a few people, the 1%, can own and exploit the wealth of the land. A human culture was replaced by a class culture. And a society that enslaved blacks has been transformed into a dystopian society where 99% of the people are in a debt peonage to the 1%.
Global Warming and World Population
On top of the tragedy and farce of the capitalistic system, the world also faces the looming ecological disaster of global warming.
Over the past 100 years, with the ready availability of fossil fuels, the world population has increased exponentially to 7 billion people. Since fossil fuels release greenhouse gases the average temperature which has stayed relatively stable over the preceding 10,000 years has also risen exponentially over the past 100 years. Global temperature is tracking the world population.
So what is driving the population to increase? The mantra of capitalism is growth and profits. Capitalism needs the growing population to increase market size and to reduce labor cost. The capitalist nations, with their industrialized factory farms and massive agricultural subsidies, have been able to supply the grains to feed the ever-growing world population.
The IMF and the World Bank regiment on 'third world countries' always follows the same pattern. In return for development money, they force the country to sign away their natural resources and accept the importation of cheap subsidized grains which drives the farmers off their land. Corporations make money by producing more and more manufactured goods from extracted natural resources, so the displaced agrarian labor is forced into minimum wage jobs like sweatshop manufacturing and mining. Populations in countries like Mexico and Pakistan have increased over threefold between1960 and 2010.
The year 2010 saw the inkling of the emerging ecological calamity caused by global warming. Russia had series of hundreds of wildfires that broke out across the country due to record temperatures (the hottest summer in Russian history) and crop failures caused by drought. The warming oceans resulted in unprecedented monsoon rain that flooded much of Pakistan and caused massive mudslides in China.
In 2011, the US had major blizzards in the Northeast, a historic flooding of the Mississippi River, nation's deadliest single tornado in more than sixty years, and massive wildfires in the Southwest, yet the House of Representatives voted 240-184 to defeat a resolution that said " climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare."
Peak-Oil and Cuba
So what is the solution to population growth and global warming? What is the alternative to capitalism and its mass exploitation, expansion, and oligarchic rule?
Democratic socialism in Western Europe works to a degree. Their populations are stable, and the governments do an adequate job of meeting the health, education, and welfare of the people; but much of their economy is based on oil just as in rest of the world.
More profound change has taken place in Cuba. Cuba has built a 50-year socialist experiment, so instead of suffering from the stasis of European communism, they have managed to create a dynamic society that meets the health, education and welfare needs of its people. Cuba has also made vital contributions to the creation of an egalitarian economic and social order in Latin America, and sustainable agriculture at home.
It was evident from the beginning that Cuban revolution placed importance on empowering the people. The first task the government embarked on was the Maestra Program - where high school students were sent all over the island to teach people how to read and write. In 1962, UNESCO certified that Cuba was free of illiteracy. Education, at every level, is free. (Documented in the film, 'Maestra: Teacher': 2011.)
Then, the government embarked on providing for the health care needs of its citizens. In spite of constant threats, the blockade by the US, and the subsequent empty shelves, it offers medical training and health care unsurpassed in the hemisphere. In fact, Cuba even trains thousands of doctors from other countries for free so that they can go back and help the people in their own countries, including students from America's inner cities. (Documented in the film, 'Salud: Cuba and the Quest for Health': 2006.)
Cuba has also done amazing things internationally. Cuba played a decisive role in the liberation struggles in Angola and South Africa, and it sends health care missions around the world, from Pakistan to Haiti. In Haiti, they aren't just treating people. Even before the massive earthquake of 2010, they were literally setting up a health care system in the country, and have helped Haiti more than any other country by far.
Salvador Allende was overthrown in 1973 because the US feared that success of democratic socialism in Chile might become a model for other Latin American countries. The Nicaraguan revolution, which was modeled on the Cuban revolution, was crushed in 1980's because it posed 'the threat of a good example' to other nation in the area. But, since 1959 Cuba has remained a beacon for socialism as an alternative to rapacious capitalism.
In 1999, populist Hugo Chavez won the Presidency of oil rich Venezuela and started to use the oil revenues to help the poor. The US tried to overthrow Chavez in 2002 in a failed coup attempt. Since then the progressive elements in other South American countries followed Venezuela in rejecting the neoliberal agenda: Lula in Brazil '03, Kirshner in Argentina '03, Vazquez in Uruguay '04, Molares in Bolivia '06, Corea in Ecuador '06, Bachelet in Chile '06, Zelaya in Honduras '06, Ortega in Nicaragua '07, Humala in Peru '11, and they are all democratic in ways the US never will be. [The US finally intervened staging a coup against President Zelaya of Honduras in '09.]
Cuba has helped establish populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia and other South American countries by sending education and health care missions, which has led to the formation of new political and economic alliances like Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) as an alternative to the neoliberal globalization. [The legendary Cuban-born music professor, Norman Mikowsky of Manhattan School of Music, said that Havana is to Latin America, what Athens was to Europe, in ancient times.]
But the most amazing thing Cuba accomplished is what it did domestically after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. Until then, Cuban agriculture was based on oil like the rest of the world - using herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers. With the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba lost its source of oil. This, in addition to the economic blockade, the constant threat of invasion, and numerous assassination attempts on Fidel Castro by the US.
Facing this severe cut back in oil, Cuba did not cut back on education and healthcare, but instead embarked on coming up with post peak-oil agriculture to feed its people. In the process they developed cutting edge bio-tech research and innovative, sustainable, organic agriculture. (Documented in the film, 'The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil': 2006.)
Cuba is a still a third world country and has its own problems which include a bloated bureaucracy and scarcity of goods caused by the US blockade, but they have stabilized the population just as the socialist democracies in Europe have done and done so with a largely post peak-oil economy thus reducing their contribution to global warming. [In 2006, Cuba was the only nation in the world which met the World Wildlife Fund's definition of sustainable development.]
Former Bard Professor Joel Kovel in his book 'The Enemy of Nature: The end of capitalism or the end of the world?' wrote: "Firsthand experience with Cuba and Nicaragua has convinced me, as it has many others, that what was being geminated there remains of inestimable value to future of humanity if value is measured in terms of dignity and generosity instead of money."
The Cold War is over. Elites of both sides of the Cold War have gotten rich by abandoning their people. In China and Russia, the Communist Party members have appropriated state assets, and are using 'state capitalism' to enrich themselves. In the US the Capitalist elite are using 'c orporate socialism', the privatization of gains and the socialization of losses, to enrich themselves by means of massive taxpayer bailouts, subsidies, guaranties, no-bid cost-plus contracts, tax cuts, deregulations, privatization of public assets, and giveaway drilling, mining and logging rights of taxpayer assets on public land.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, the US corporations won but the American people lost. Ironically, the Cuban people also won.
The US has become a corporate-military empire engaged in an Oil War to secure the oil for its oil based economy, while its citizens have signed away their civil liberties and are facing cutbacks to their health, education and welfare. The US has embraced the late University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman's radical free market Capitalism, in which huge corporations are empowered to seek profits with absolutely no regard for the consequences to Earth and all its life forms.
Cuba has developed an economy based on post peak-oil sustainable organic agriculture and in the process managed to stabilize their population and help stem global warming. They not only provide for the health, education and welfare of their own people, they send armies of doctors abroad to take care of health needs of other countries' people.
It is a true David versus Goliath matchup across 100 miles of ocean, and we should all be rooting for the little guy for the sake of our planet.
The struggle is between people and the corporations. Corporations are structured so that people who work for them are sheltered from liability and forced to engage in short term financial speculations; however, limitless growth that capitalism requires is not sustainable on a finite planet. In the end, the means corporations employ destroy people and the environment. We must eliminate corporations.
Politics does not work because the government is an extension of the corporations. The two corporate parties work for the ruling class to funnel wealth from the 99% to the 1%. In 2008, politicians thought it was perfectly reasonable to bail out the banks that caused the financial crisis through their criminal behavior rather than the people who were victimized by it.
People cannot effect change through the current Two Party political system; however, they also do not have to give acquiescence. They can exercise grass root democracy by mobilizing to build and strengthen local autonomy and sovereignty, like the Populist Movement of the late 19th century in US. They can democratize the economy by organizing cooperatives, like the Mondragon Cooperatives in Spain, as promoted by University of Maryland professor, Gar Alperovitz.
Cicero said, "Freedom is participation in power". When the American people take back the power from the corporations and America truly becomes the Republic "of the people, by the people, and for the people", it will be the dawn of a new day for America and the world.
… from the novel 'Resurrection' by Leo Tolstoy [1828-1910].
"Though men in their hundreds of thousands had tried their hardest to disfigure that little corner of the earth where they had crowded themselves together, paving the ground with stones so that nothing could grow, weeding out every blade of vegetation, filling the air with the fumes of coal and gas, cutting down the trees and driving away every beast and every bird - spring, however, was still spring, even in the town.
The sun shone warm, the grass, wherever it had not been scraped away, revived and showed green not only on the narrow strips of lawn on the boulevards but between the paving-stones as well, and the birches, the poplars, and the wild cherry-trees were unfolding their sticky, fragrant leaves, and the swelling buds were bursting on the lime trees; the jackdaws, the sparrows, and the pigeons were cheerfully getting their nests ready for the spring, and the flies, warmed by the sunshine, buzzed gaily along the walls. All were happy - plants, birds, insects and children.
But grown-up people - adult men and women - never left off cheating and tormenting themselves and one another. It was not this spring morning which they considered sacred and important, not the beauty of God's world, given to all the creatures to enjoy - a beauty which inclines the heart to peace, to harmony, and to love. No, what they considered sacred and important were their own devices for wielding power over each other."
The Old Man in 'The Village of Water Mills' from the film 'Dreams' by Akira Kurosawa [1910-1998].
"We try to live the way man used to.
That's the natural way of life.
People today have forgotten they are really just part of nature.
Yet, they destroy the nature on which our lives depend.
They always think they can make something better.
Especially the scientists.
They may be smart, but most don't understand the heart of nature.
They only invent things that in the end make people unhappy.
Yet they are so proud of their inventions.
What's worse, most people are too.
They view them as if they were miracles.
They worship them.
They do not know it, but they are losing nature.
They don't see that they are going to perish.
The most important things for human beings are clean air and clean water and the trees and grass that produce them.
Everything is being dirtied… polluted forever.
Dirty air, dirty water… dirtying the hearts of men."