Home truths

Alright, world. It is time we come to terms with some home truths.

Capitalism is not the only means by which democracy can be achieved.

And contrary to popular opinion, free trade does not prevent war.

In fact free-trade has largely been achieved through war.

Free-trade has a long and violent history, almost more violent than all the worker’s revolutions put together.

From Chile to Brazil, Portugal, Nicaragua, the former Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Uruguay, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Guatemala, Honduras, The Philippines, Vietnam, China, Japan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, there are few countries in the world that haven’t been invaded for the sake of free trade.

Upton Sinclair once said: ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.’

Today’s political crisis is the culmination of the 35-year long-fiction about money and history.

Unless we come to terms with how both operate, the victor of this ideological spectre will not be those with the best policies or intentions, but those who are best able to perpetuate these long mythologies.

Please understand that the right to self-determination has almost always been a violent, bloody fight against the establishment.

The French and Russian revolutions were some of the bloodiest in history.

What little progress workers have achieved over the last half-century is not the inevitable result of a system designed to support our interests, but an exception made possible by key individuals who defied the status quo and who were almost always punished for it.

The New Deal almost didn’t happen, were it not for the good-will of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and his running mate and VP, Henry Wallace. Both men were punished severely for having the audacity to pull America – and the world – out of The Great Depression. FDR survived one assassination attempt that resulted in the accidental death of Chicago mayor,  Anton Cermak, who took a bullet meant for the President.  As I have written about previously, FDR was also subject to an almost-fascist coup, organised, funded and executed by the country’s leading bankers and capitalists. Were it not for the fact they picked the wrong military man to lead the charge – General Smedley Butler –  America might be a very different country right now. Or at least a slightly different country… (*sigh*).

And boy did they really pick the wrong guy.

Butler, then the most highly decorated Marine in US history, was tired of being “a gangster for capitalism” and blew the whistle on the entire operation. He would go on to write in War is a Racket that he: “spent 33-years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corp. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

“I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914,” he wrote. “I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. My record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested…

“During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a ‘swell racket’. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

Having risked a fascist-coup, Roosevelt put his professional career on the line for what he believed in. He even threatened not to run for a second term if the terms of the New Deal were not met. And even when it did pass Congress, it was full of massive compromises, including structurally excluding African Americans from even participating in its rewards. Massive concessions to the South were the only way to get the New Deal through Congress.

Even so, the DNC eventually had its revenge, bumping Vice President Wallace from the ticket at the nominating convention, replacing him with the incompetent Harry S Truman, who would become President within three months of his elevation to power, upon the death of FDR.

Likewise, British wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, almost fell victim to a fascist coup plot –  this one organised by Britain’s leading industrialists and aristocrats – for daring to defy Hitler. The capitalists of The Right Club, a group of British capitalist fascist sympathisers, even tried to organise a surrender and subsequent alliance with Nazi Germany. Thankfully MI6 put the kibosh on the attempt.

Even Australia’s former Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, was deposed in a CIA coup for opposing US and British imperial interests.

Small gains were made over time, that suited the interests of working people, but those who stuck their neck out for us almost always lost theirs, mostly – but not always – in the proverbial sense.  

American labour leader Joseph Yablonski was murdered by assassins in November 1969 hired by union political opponent, Mine Workers president, Tony Boyle.

Chilean President Salvador Allende was assassinated in a 1973 CIA coup led by economist Milton Friedman and his ‘Chicago Boys’, making way for Augusto Pinochet to takeover in what was to be the first in a long-line of ‘free-market coups’, appointing leaders sympathetic to US interests.

Marxist revolutionary, Thomas Sankara was assassinated in 1987 for challenging neoliberal IMF orthodoxy in Burkina Faso by repudiating unjust debts.

10 union leaders connected to Coca-Cola were killed between 1990 and 2002, including Colombian union leader, Isidro Gil. A day after he was killed, the workers at his plant were summoned to the manager’s office and given two choices: Resign or die. The plant then hired new workers at less than a third of what it was paying its former employees. Monthly wages were slashed from US$380 to $100 a month.  

Strike leader and rock-drill operator, Mgcineni Noki, was gunned down by South African police in 2012, along with 34 miners for daring to defy exploitative working conditions and slave wages.

Guatemalan union leader, Brenda Marleni Estrada Tambiento, was shot and killed in Guatemala City on the 19th of June, 2016, for advocating for labour rights.

Political and union leaders weren’t the only people who suffered for justice.

At least 975 American workers and / or unionists were killed by law enforcement, company militia, armed detectives and guards between 1850 and 1915 for striking.

At least 25 workers were executed by the state over the same period.  

The system is not and was never designed to support workers, who have forever been a thorn in the side of the capitalist class.  

What little progress the working man has made throughout history is in spite of a system rigged heavily against workers, thanks to the intervention of individuals who intervened to try to achieve some semblance of financial independence for the population, without which we’d still be living in feudalism.

The idea held by some on the far-right / far-left fringe – such as Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos – that a return to feudalism will result in the return of personal financial freedom is wishful thinking to say the least.

We do not need more dictators. One need only look to the Russian Revolution to find how that worked out for everyone.

These days we don’t have to fight for our rights, because a) we don’t have any, and b) organised labour has largely been destroyed. Unemployment is kept at such a level that most employed people know how replaceable they are, making them feel just insecure enough that they won’t rock the boat. That plus zero-hour contracts and the right of employers to revoke or change working conditions at the drop of a hat, most people are grateful to even have a job, they won’t question the legality or ethics of their employment. Even if it barely covers the cost of living.

So let’s get real about a few things:

Workers have almost always taken the fall for capitalism’s bad decisions. The only thing that has changed over time are the methods.

The EU was not formed to avoid war between France and Germany but to cement control of an industrial cartel and diminish the power of federal governments over their economies.  The UN wasn’t formed to achieve world peace. The World Bank is not actually the world’s bank. Though bodies like these now largely have more control over the world’s economy than actual governments, they do not operate to represent the interests of the great majority.

The Greek people took the fall for a French and German banking crisis.

The Royal Bank of Scotland has been artificially bankrupting thousands of its SME customers to mend its balance sheet, claiming 75% of each insolvency back from the Federal Government. This practice has only increased since the Global Financial Crisis, though the bank has been refining its practice since the late ’80s.

Austerity has been an excellent way to make civilians shoulder the debt obligations of banks and federal governments, increasingly beholden to the demands of international bodies, bureaucracies and multinationals over which they have no legislative control, let alone oversight, regulation or rule of law.

In each and every case, workers gave up their income for what amounted to a bailout by another name.

Austerity is largely only ever introduced as a way to help national governments repay their foreign debt. Less money in the economy – that is less money being spent by you and me – has the exact opposite effect austerity claims it is meant to have. (That is, if you believe the banks want the debts to be repaid, or that bodies like the IMF really believe it will improve economic conditions).

One need only look as far as Spain or Greece for evidence to the contrary.

The Spanish government reduced its expenditure by 3.5%, resulting in a 6.4% decline in national income between 2010-2012.

Greece experienced a 15% reduction in government spending while its national income declined by 16% over the same period.

Austerity is never meant to succeed.

Banks don’t care if their customers are forced to take the wrap for bad trades, or about cuts in public spending, so long as they help to keep The Big Lie alive.

Why we even have elections anymore is beyond me. Democratically elected governments the world over have completely admonished their responsibility for the economic well-being of their constituents. They have all but admitted that they exist to support the capitalist class and not much else.

Conspiracy theorists like to talk about a single global government, and while I think that idea is bonkers, it is also, strangely, not that far from reality. Except these days elected governments still have to go through the farce of campaigning before they can make all the deals that count behind closed doors.

Why not have the entire world elect the CEO of Goldman and Sachs? That would be a far more honest system than the one we have now, which elects governments that pretend to represent voters’ interests and then ignores them once power has been attained.

The thing we need to understand is that people have always had to fight to be a worker, not a slave. There are still people who argue that abolition of slavery is what destroyed the economy of the American South. Yet the capitalist class somehow managed to afford to fight an entire war over it, but adjusting their business models to reflect an annual wage? That was beyond the pale and unaffordable, apparently.

Salaries and a minimum wage were introduced in some countries to put an end to worker violence, but since that time capitalists have been finding other ways to reduce their financial obligation for their workforce.

Governments have – for the most part – accepted the idea that private debt should replace public spending, making populations ever more vulnerable to fluctuations in the market, caused by decisions they didn’t make, and over which they have no control.

Understand this: The then illegal activities that led to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis have now largely been legalised, and little – if anything – has been done to prevent another from occurring.

In fact private debt has increased significantly since 2008. US private debt has now exceeded 2008 levels, peaking at $12.7 trillion in the first three months of the year.

The country has more than $1 trillion in outstanding credit card debt, according to June 2017 figures.

The UK’s household debt has increased by 7% over the last five years from £1,518.5 billion in 2012 to £1,630.1 billion in 2017. Adjusted for inflation, unsecured consumer credit increased 4.9% over the last 12 months from £192 billion (in today’s money) in July 2016 to £201.5 billion in July 2017.

In June 2008 Australian household debt to income ratio sat at 165%. By 2017 that figure jumped to 190%.

As of 2016, Australia’s total personal debt is around $2 trillion and the average Australian household owes $250,000.

What this means is: if you lose your job, you are screwed. If house prices fall: you are screwed. If interest rates increase: you are screwed.

AND: If there is another financial crisis, then we are all really screwed, because you know who won’t be paying for it? The banks.

Basically, we are all screwed unless we stop accepting that enslavement by another name is a better alternative than fighting for the right to financial independence and self-determination.

We must stop pretending this is normal. And we must readjust our attitude to public spending.  The system is rigged. It is getting worse. And someone is going to have to pay for it.

Would you prefer the government continue to tax more than it spends? If we continue down this path, workers will have to assume even more debt and risk to compensate for poor business and trading practices, while government and the rule of law becomes weaker and more powerless. Or we must reconcile that the only thing distinguishing government from workers and business is the unlimited ability to issue currency.

Arguments over inflation are overstated, given there is not presently enough resources in the global economy for the majority to cover the cost of living. (Why do you think we’ve all had to take on more debt in the first place?) So long as public spending is directed towards employment that supports the creation of the jobs, products and services the population needs, inflation will never be a problem. 

And we are so far from that possibility that it is barely worth thinking about. There is not currently enough resources in ‘developed economies’ to provide infrastructure and  transport for existing populations, let alone plan for populations of the future.  

Health, education, agriculture, science, the environment, housing, social services, legal services: these are all so severely under resourced that until each category is at capacity, again, inflation should not be a concern.

Besides which, that is what taxation is for. Taxes exist to control inflation. And inflation is so not a problem right now that you could slash taxes for the entire population, rich, poor and in-between, and the economy would improve.

We must come to terms with how money and history really works in order to understand how workers have become slaves to the capital class.

Our complacency is leading us to a very, very bad place.

We must stop being afraid of government as a concept. Government was designed to represent the will of the people. But capitalism has taught us to be so afraid of government as a concept that we have been encouraged to diminish the role it plays in our lives. We have become so disenfranchised with the idea that government’s responsibility is to plan accordingly for the nation, that we have begun expecting less-and-less of our leaders. It’s like we are deliberately creating bad governments because as a culture we have forgotten what a positive alternative even looks like.

We must begin working towards good governance, instead of the system we’re stuck with now: elevating millionaires and billionaires to power and then expecting them to voluntarily represent our financial interests.

The system has not worked that way for some time.

The FDRs, Wallaces and Goughs were the exception to the rule, without which the world would have no middle class. We must be willing to understand the difference before we can achieve a return to government that is of the people, by the people, for the people.