Saturday, July 13, 2013

Globalisation, neo-liberalism and Fascism

Last year I wrote an article describing the links between neo-liberalism and the creed of Fascism. More recently, I wrote about the ideological links between Fascism and Political Islam.

What is Fascism? Apart from its ideological beliefs, it is, primarily, an economic system. Its economic aim is to consolidate economic and political power into the hands of an unaccountable elite of private interests, who use the government as an instrument for their aims. This also involves the erosion of employee rights, and the destruction of union power. This is then enforced through a total control over the use of force and psychological control over any opponents, by the use of state authority (e.g. police and the manipulation of the law) when necessary, or by covert surveillance and political marginalisation.

I explained last month about how authoritarianism has morphed over time. Before the Second World War, those on the political left decried authoritarians as Fascists, while those on the right decried the authoritarianism of Communism. But what is more telling is the definition that the left and right give for Fascism. When the right decry Fascism, they talk about total state control of the economy and the population; when the left decry Fascism, they talk about a corrupt elite taking control of the state and the population.
While those on the right decry Fascism when it means the private sector loses control of the economy and influence over the state, those of the left decry Fascism when democratic accountability is lost in the running of the state and the economy.
The reality is that it is the left's definition of Fascism that is much closer to the truth; the right's historical "fear of Fascism" was simply anger at losing their position of primacy.

From Fascism to Neo-liberalism

After the Second World War, economic Fascism in the developed world learned to adapt. While the USA defeated Fascism in Europe, it emerged as the world's military and economic superpower, challenged only by the Soviet Union.
The end of the Second World War saw the USA draw up the rules for the world to follow. With the other Allies financially crippled and dependent on American loans, there was no other option. The main financial institutions that run the world's economy are all children of this post-war economic settlement drawn up by the USA: these include the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO's predecessor, the GATT.

The main purpose of these changes was to free up the world market to reduce tariffs between states, making international trade much easier, and to help the economies of the Third World through the use of loans to restructure their economies better.
These aims are euphemisms for the destruction of the "old order": where Imperial and wannabe-Imperial powers (such as the British Empire, in the first case, and Nazi Germany, in the second) were rendered obsolete by a neo-liberal system that allowed the first stage of the process towards what is now called Globalisation. In other words, nation-states would become vehicles of world prosperity; which would massively benefit big business. The old system of protective tariffs that was favoured by the old Imperial Powers was over; as would be the old idea of Colonialism.
The breaking of tariffs most benefitted companies that were eager to expand their operations abroad, so it was no surprise that big business was pro-American in its stance on free trade. The same was true with big business' attitude to old-style Colonialism; much better for big business that Africa (for example) was a mish-mash of unconnected and squabbling countries rather than belong to just a few Imperial Powers, as it made it easier for multi-national companies to deal with them. And when this occurred, it meant that post-Colonial Africa (and elsewhere) became a living laboratory for this new form of economic Fascism; when entire nation-states were dependant on the whim of a multi-national CEO, or the IMF.
Colonialism by a number of nation-states became replaced by multi-national economic Fascism.

So while there was a "post-war consensus" in much of the developed world that ostensibly caused a temporary reduction in the amount of control big business had over industries and state services, the first steps towards Globalisation as we understand it today were started after the Second World War in the post-Colonial world

The ideological basis for this "neo-liberal" system received a boost with the tract "The Virtue Of Selfishness" by Ayn Rand, and her philosophy called Objectivism. She, and the "Chicago School" economist Milton Friedman, were largely responsible for the creation of Monetarism, which was a huge advocate of free markets, low taxation and the erosion of state intervention. This also included a scepticism towards employee rights and unions, which they both believed were responsible for the ills in the economy. More generally, they were passionate advocates of individualism and against all forms of "collectivism" (such as socialised medicine).
They were both contemporaries who reached the height of their fame in the post-war era in the USA, but their ideas became more commonplace by the sixties and seventies, especially in the Anglosphere. Both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were fans of Rand and Monetarism, as were big business. So when these two came to power, "neo-liberalism" was free to be put into practice as never before.

A Neo-liberal world

The past thirty years has seen an unprecedented leap in the gap between rich and poor across the world. This is a direct consequence of the economics of Neo-liberalism. While the average person in the developed world may feel "rich" due to advances in technology, the reality is that across the developed world people are poorer in real terms that they were thirty years ago.
Having an iPhone doesn't make you "rich"; being able to use Facebook doesn't mean you are "free". These concepts are all absolutes that can be measured to compared to what existed previously. The fact that you have an iPhone, and can use Facebook, but have a job that is an internship and cannot afford to buy your own house, tells you that you are poor in absolute terms. If you cannot save money each month, it means you are poor. If you barely have enough money to pay bills, it means you are poor.

Consumerism and advances in technology help feed the illusion that this "neo-liberal" model brings prosperity to everyone, when the opposite is true: Neo-liberalism concentrates power and influence into the hands of fewer and fewer people, none of whom are accountable to the public. I wrote in my article "Neo-liberalism is the new Fascism" that the financial crisis was a direct result of this economic system: a system where the rules are written by those who have the most to gain from it. Politicians around the world have bought into this system either because they have a personal interest in it, or are too intimidated by the alternative (the withdrawal of multi-national's investment) that they go along with it. In other words, the political establishment is tied to whim of this private sector elite.

In this way, "Neo-liberalism" is the extension of the idea of economic Fascism because it transfers effective government power to a private sector elite who are unaccountable to the public. Privatisation of former state services is a key method of neutering the role of the government in the economy, and transferring it to the private sector; meanwhile, the private sector act as economic vampires on the government, by ensuring that while all profits of privatised industries go to the private sector, any losses are picked up by the government. In the UK, PFI is ran using this model, as are the railways and other privatised industries: it is the economics of Fascism down to a tee.
This ensures that the government becomes more and more loaded with private sector debt, and then encourages the government that the only way to lessen the debt is to either privatise either more services, reduce state spending on the population, or increase taxes on the poor, thus continuing the vicious circle of corruption. It is the perfect formula to binding a government to Fascism. 

The growth of China as a world power and economy grew precisely when, thirty years ago, the leadership decided to buy into the "neo-liberal" model: foreign investment poured in, and the country grew rich. But again, China is successful because it has found a way for "neo-liberalism" to work for them. It is a one-party neo-liberal state, ideal for the purpose.

In the West, "neo-liberalism" has become the only accepted form of economic system; all others are open to ridicule, and dismissed by the political establishment. Neo-liberalism, as a refined form of Fascism, also learned to adapt to a world where freedom of expression cannot be so easily silenced. Therefore, freedom of expression is accepted (at least publicly), but is only indulged for the sake of maintaining democratic legitimacy. You are free to say what you like, as long as those thoughts and words are not put into actions (such as protest). When they are, people find the tools of state power will rapidly fall against them. Any kind of change that the government makes against its own interests, it may accept a small concession simply for the sake of its public image and longer-term survival.

Yet even this "indulgence" of free speech is relative, as people are finding out. The "War On Terror" was used as way to criminalise words that could be interpreted as inciting hatred or violence; in some parts of the world, government criticism can be called illegal by citing any number of obscure laws. In Turkey, as a result of the crackdown after the Gezi park protests, people can be arrested for simply standing still.
Political Islam is simply another branch of the same Fascist tendency, as I wrote earlier this month. The AKP in Turkey is more pro-Capitalist than its secular rivals; again, buying into the "neo-liberal" model for its own purposes, while many of the governing party's leading lights have favourable links to Turkey's "new rich".

These days, it appears that Globalisation has brought the world together as never before. But it's also true that Globalisation has allowed the world to be parcelled-off into spheres of influence, in ways that even former Imperial Powers couldn't quite manage.

Like in George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-four", there are a number of spheres of influence that effectively carve up the world, which are in turn effectively controlled by unaccountable elites. Annually, many of these figures meet at the "Bilderberg conference", which has been going on since 1954 (two-thirds of whom are from business, and one-third from government). While those who attend publicly state that what occurs is not consequential, what is discussed remains strictly confidential. So you can draw your own conclusions: to discuss long-term strategy? That remains the most likely answer.

And if the "Bilderberg Group" represents the elite of "neo-liberalism", how does its unaccountable nature make it any different from how Fascism operates?














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