Sunday, May 8, 2016

Robert McChesney — Capitalism Is a Bad Fit for a Technological Revolution — Interview

The relevant historical period for what we are entering now is the 1930s and the Great Depression. In that period, like ours, the political establishment was increasingly corrupt, incompetent and incapable of addressing the core problems. This generated strong movements across the world to address the problems. On the left were calls for socialism or the New Deal in the United States. This meant the government would aggressively tax or borrow unused capital and throw it into production thereby creating jobs and raising wages. This then stimulated the economy and gave businesses a reason to invest, while making the societies more democratic and egalitarian. The high point of this approach came in postwar Scandinavian social democracies, but we certainly felt it here as well.
The other approach was the emergence of fascism, which was then and now very much a response to mass unemployment, corruption and economic stagnation. The fascist solution to mass unemployment and stagnation was militarism -- that allowed irrational fear and jingoism to become the civic religion and terminate democracy and liberty, while employing the one form of government spending that did not threaten the dominance of the wealthy.…
President Franklin D. Roosevelt characterized World War II as a war against fascism and he was obsessed with seeing that it never return to the world after it was defeated. His concern was not simply for Germany or Japan, but for the United States as well. He understood that fascism was the product of mass unemployment, an economy dominated by monopolies, and a governing system that was corrupt and deemed ineffectual. And it invariably generates militarism, because that provided the fear that kept people in line.…
In 1944, FDR gave arguably one of the most important speeches of his life in his State of the Union address. He said to prevent fascism in the United States and to put democracy on solid footing it was necessary to add a "second bill of rights" to the US Constitution, also called an economic bill of rights. This included the right to a job at a living wage, the right to health care, the right to housing, the right to food, the right to education, the right to not have monopolistic firms dominate the economy, and so on.
If we had a society where these rights were guaranteed, the nation would never need to fear the threat of fascism; it would be able to solve any problem before it.…
Now FDR died shortly thereafter, and the political climate of the Cold War terminated the most progressive thrusts of the New Deal, so these proposals never got very far. But they did become the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the Freedom Budget proposed by Martin Luther King Jr. and A. Philip Randolph in the 1960s. And Bernie Sanders identified FDR's 1944 speech as the foundation of his vision of democratic socialism in his speech at Georgetown in November 2015, on that subject.
John and I believe this is a very good foundation for what we should be fighting for today. We would add some other rights, like the right to vote in fair elections, the right to a sustainable environment for life and a right to free broadband, but for the most part this gets us to the point where we have a democratic infrastructure that makes credible self-government not only possible, but a very likely outcome. For young workers today in the most precarious of situations, imagine what having these rights guaranteed would mean – everything.
For society as a whole it would mean that as automation proceeds, the benefits could be shared. Instead of some enjoying all the benefits while most struggled, all would be guaranteed some of the benefits, and working hours could be cut across the board as technology revolutionized the economy. We as citizens would control the process. That has to be the goal, because all other courses lead to dead-end streets.
Robert McChesney: Capitalism Is a Bad Fit for a Technological Revolution
Mark Karlin


MRW said...

I spent hours and hours listening to Dave Emory’s excellent 1994 radio series on Fascism, "Why Johnny Can't Identify Il Duce: The Cellular Methodology of Fascism"

Emory claims that most of us have the wrong idea about what it was and is. Emory’s series is exhaustive.

McChesney claims:
[...] the emergence of fascism, which was then and now very much a response to mass unemployment, corruption and economic stagnation. The fascist solution to mass unemployment and stagnation was militarism -- that allowed irrational fear and jingoism to become the civic religion and terminate democracy and liberty, while employing the one form of government spending that did not threaten the dominance of the wealthy.…

Emory, who spent his life studying fascism says this:
According to pop history that's disseminated by our media, our mass media, and unfortunately perpetuated to a large extent in our education system, is of a fluke event in which a couple of charismatic screwballs named Hitler and Mussolini hypnotized everybody, made them all go crazy. And then there was a nasty war, and then the Allies made everybody live happily ever after — or would have had it not been for Stalin. In fact, that is not the case. Fascism was a very self-conscious reaction against not only the increasingly organized, effective, and militant labor movements that grew up largely in reaction to the conditions of the Great Depression. But beyond that the phenomenon of world fascism, of the advent of fascism after World War I, was also a direct reaction to the formation of the world's first Socialist state, that of course being the Soviet Union, with Marxism no longer being just an abstract ideology adhered to by labor unions and social thinkers in various parts of the world, with a state that had now organized its means of production and even its culture along the lines preached by Marx and Lenin.

Many of the most powerful industrialists, financiers, and corporations not only backed an extreme militant
right-wing political philosophy, which subjugated democracy to the desired goal of anticommunism and of anti-labor enforcement, but which also collaborated very consciously with likeminded individuals and likeminded elements in other parts of the world. Industrialists and financiers in the United States and Britain, for example, as well as French industrialists, financiers, and political figures, and military figures collaborated actively with corporations, with political figures, with national security figures in the fascist powers of Europe, also Japan as well, but to a greater extent in Europe. Many of our most powerful industrialists and financiers, many political figures, and also many national security figures in the United States looked to Hitler and Mussolini and looked upon Hitler and Mussolini with great favor because of their — that is to say Hitler's and Mussolini's doctrinaire anticommunism and also because of their anti-labor stance. Fascism was not actually an aberration.

Ignacio said...

@MRN There are several social systems (which comprehend both economic and cultural relationships) that owe to the same tenet: "property rights trump everything". The difference is on how strongly they assert this principle and try to enforce it, and how far they allow this principle to reach socially (ultimately allowing the ownership of other human beings). From less severe to more severe I would say the order goes like this: Capitalism < Fascism || Feudalism/Monarchy < Society base around slavery

There are (not so) subtle differences on how those social systems structure and use institutions, law and power structures to shape social relationships and assert ownerships rights. On capitalism and fascism, the state is strong, and is controlled by the elite to coerce the population to accept the hierarchy in indirect (capitalism) or direct (fascism) ways. In feudalism and absolutists monarchies the state has ceased to exist as a composition of 'public' institutions, and has been completely co-opted by the power elite, the state is owned by the elite, or the state IS the elite (in extreme instances, a single person). In systems driven by slavery-complex, the control is total, now not through indirection via peer and social pressure and the institutions of the state, but through direct ownership of humans.

OFC never systems are monolithic and simple, and usually there is a mix of features and different castes which interact in different ways. But in a cyclical way, it seems some societies when under social breakdown will choose a reactionary path, the reactionary forces will always present themselves as 'saviours' with new ideas about how to save the collapsing social order and stop chaos, but those ideas are not new, but very old, and on the way will regress to a more severe iteration of the system where ownership rights are asserted more strongly than before and allowed to infiltrate the different castes deeper.

The formation of a power elite which is co-opting the official state by replacing it with a new form of institution (corporation) is a power grab to move to the stage were the state is owned privately (feudalism by other name), there may be a reaction from a part of the population, supporting 'fascists' which give them the 'third way'; but this is being confronted by the establishment (sold out politicians and their corporate overlords) because there is no imminent threat from a 'socialist state', hence the preferred state of affairs is to weaken the state and the rule by corporations. This is not even a conspiracy, you can read 'business leaders' talking this agenda usually on any business and economics magazine, asserting the superiority of this system above any other; group think at work, but specially when it favours your special interests.

It only goes downhill from there unless there is a strong backlash from the public demanding more democracy (which as Tom has said many times, is antithetical with capitalism).

Matt Franko said...

"power elite which is co-opting the official state by replacing it with a new form of institution (corporation) is a power grab"

Well maybe that institutional form works better? Why is the Chinese govt always trying to buy out western corporations? Because they dont work?

Why is the Chinese govt not content to just hack us as usual? Now they are transitioning to attempting a 'buyout' approach, why? If firms are all f-ed up and morons?

Ignacio said...

What does "work better" supposed to mean? Indeed, it "works better", if all you are concerning about is accumulating property, regardless of equity distribution or other "rights and obligations".

You cannot buy (officially) western nation states, but you can buy western corporations. So if you want to grab assets and have property claims what you do? You buy corporations, more so if those corporations end up owning states (through the revolving door, indirectly, or directly).

If you want to have leverage over government policies nowadays, and you don't go thought the ballot box (which you can't if you are an foreign nation) you just buy politicians indirectly through corporations. And in case what you want is assets... well, corporations are almost always a better option, as you cannot either buy government assets and you can count on stupid governments which think legalised psychopaths (corporations) should have more rights than actual persons.

The stupidity is on Western governments here, in case you haven't realized for thinking that they need Chinese munie, appeasing of bond vigilantes, or even western corporations and the so-called "wealth creators" munie, believing in 'free market' fairy tales, believing that corporate welfare should be a thing, that 'corporations are people' etc. etc. etc.

Bob said...

China would buy a lot more if the US allowed them to, if it weren't for the obstinate government obsession with 'national security'.

And outside investors would do the same with Chinese assets, if China were open to it.

Matt Franko said...

uh .... Venezuela? No electricity? No water? No beer?!?!?

How is that "accumulating property" ?

The firms that do these things successfully are not trying to "accumulate property".... they are trying to successfully provide a product/service while making munnie doing it....

Where are the other institutional forms that are successful too?

Matt Franko said...

c'mon what are you saying? making beer for some guy who busts his ass all day to have a cold one after work is "accumulating property"?


Ignacio said...

OFC is accumulating property. Money and stocks are claims on wealth existing or future and corporations goal is just one: maximization of profits (which is just claims on wealth and hence accumulation of property). OFC they "work better" for that, is their sole preoccupation and purpose. But not everything in our lives revolves around that, not in mine at least... but economic relationships have a profound impact in everything else.

Money and stocks per se do not say anything about responsibilities and relationships. Do corporations operate in a vacuum? There are other institutions which regulate corporations activities (or should...), corporations are not something which exists out of society, but when corporations are grabbing more political power to push their agenda, well, let me tell you they are not negotiating on your behave when they negotiate, and no one represents the interests of those not sitting at the table of those who negotiate (either between corporations, corporation and governments, if those have been captured, etc.).

Keep enjoying the trade deals shaped but those corporations, later come complaining that the Chinese are stealing your jobs and "your" corporations. And that's just on the top, as corporations do have effect on legislation which affects everyone everyday and not necessarily positively.

But is ok, this is what happens, don't expect any sort of MMT with widespread benefits when private ownership trumps everything else, just what I'm saying...