30 Jun 2016

We must win back democracy, even if it takes Hedges' revolution

While the banks, elites, and the super-rich have been scrambling to try to hold onto their billions following the UK’s shocking vote to exit from the European Union, the anger expressed by the leave side was another emotional cry to end the control that corporations and the elite have over everyday people in many Western countries.

The day after the vote, panic and fear struck at the hearts of money gamblers as their bets turned sour and markets lurched downward. The wealthiest people lost $120-billion.

On the other side of the equation, people in most part of the UK except Scotland and Northern Ireland expressed their anger over their inability to have more control over their lives. They blame the EU for the disastrous performance of the economy since the 2007-08 financial collapse. They also fear the idea of “ever closer union”, moving toward a United States of Europe, which would lessen their control over their lives.

Meanwhile, the same anger is present in several Western countries. People have seen economic policies that favour corporations and the rich that destroy their jobs, businesses and communities. Citizens began to lose control of their governments in the early 1980s when Thatcher in the UK and the Reagan in the US – without consulting the public – adopted a series of neo-liberal policies.

Multi-nationals, elites and banks firmly control Western governments through neo-liberalism, financial integration, and globalization. In 2011, a research group at a Swiss institute studied a database of 37-million companies, and identified a “super-entity” of 147 tightly knit companies – all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity – that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in a huge network.

Angry over EU membership, neo-liberalism

In the UK, millions of people feel they have suffered because of both their EU membership and neo-liberal policies.

Many well-paying jobs have disappeared due to neo-liberal policies. UK corporations have shipped their production to poor countries to maximize profits. When Thatcher came to office in 1979, manufacturing accounted for almost 30 per cent of Britain’s national income and employed 6.8 million people; by 2010, it accounted for 11 per cent and employed 2.5 million.

Then there’s the massive disparity between the rich and poor. Between 2012 and 2014 the richest 10 per cent in Britain held assets - a mix of property, cash and pension funds - worth just under £5Trillion. The poorest 10 per cent owned just £5.7 million.

The biggest issue for the leave side was the massive influx of migrants from the rest of Europe and refugees from Syria and other countries. While mainstream media has focused on the racist element, the deeper issue for people is that they have no control over EU-regulated migration and illegal immigration. The government says the UK experienced net migration of 330,000 people in 2015, but the Express newspaper says the figure does not take into account 1.1-million illegal immigrants.

Some of Britain’s elite finally get it. Considering the vote, veteran Conservative Ken Clark observed that citizens increasingly feel the institutions of government are making their lives worse, not better.

"There's a strange, angry and uncertain mood out there...”, said Clark, “(an) anti-establishment, anti-political class feeling. The discontented older generation of every social background and class are angry about what's happened in their lives."

If the UK were a more equitable society, it likely would still be in the EU today.

Democracy no longer functions

Elsewhere, in several European countries, tens-of-millions of everyday people realize they are powerlessness when it comes to influencing major decisions that affect their lives because of neo-liberal policies. Democracy, whereby governments look out for the interests of people first, no longer functions in many European countries, Canada and the United States.

Working people in several European countries, including Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland have suffered greatly at the hands of a vicious neo-liberal policy component – austerity.

The most severe austerity abuse has been heaped upon the people of Greece. When the government was unable to pay its debts, the big money guys at the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank – instead of acting like humans – put the neo-liberal screws to the Greek people. They were forced to reduce spending on everything, including health, social services, education, etc. Wages and pensions were slashed.

A bitter irony is the fact that, having caused trillions of dollars of hardship to ordinary people in many countries – including Canada – the International Monetary Fund has admitted that austerity does not lead to economic revival.  However, it does enrich banks and corporations.

We should not forget that Canadians revolted against the neo-liberal and austerity policies of Stephen Harper. At one point Canadians were so desperate to get rid of Harper that they were prepared to vote for the New Democrats, traditionally a left-wing party.

Canadians have no say in trade deals

Canada is locked into the neo-liberal way of doing things. Most controversial are the two possible trade agreements the government wants to sign, CETA (The Canada and European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), and  the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The deals have been negotiated in secret and favour corporations and trade over the interests of government veto power, labour, and the environment.

Because Canadian corporations and the wealthy are so powerful they get away with hiding their money in tax havens, making it more difficult for the government to provide services. Instead of creating its’ own bank that could issue interest-free loans to itself, the government will continue to be financed with loans from for-profit banks.

In the US, traditional politics is in a state of crisis. People are revolting against the Democratic and Republican parties over many of the same issues that anger Brits: trade-induced job loss, stagnant wages, and a vanished sense of prosperity.

Of course the election of Donald Trump as President would be a serious setback for democratic government. But he is advocating changes that appeal to some of those folks who are discontent: ripping up existing trade deals, slapping high tariffs on imported goods, and punishing companies that move production overseas.

If Hilary Clinton wins the election, ordinary people will continue to suffer while she gives a free rein to corporations and spends $596-billion a year on various wars.

Change could come in US

But, because of its revolutionary history and chaotic nature, perhaps the US is the country where we might see a change in the form of government.

Perhaps after the November election, the dedicated forces behind Democrat Bernie Sanders, many of whom support a more progressive social democracy, will split off and form a third party. However, this has failed in the US in the past.

Radical US journalist Chris Hedges believes that, because the corporations and elite are so strongly entrenched, significant change is going to come through some form of revolution.

“There are all sorts of neutral indicators that show that’ says Hedges. “Low voter turnout, the fact that [the US] Congress has an approval rating of seven per cent, that polls continually reflect a kind of pessimism about where we are going, that many of the major systems that have been set in place — especially in terms of internal security — have no popularity at all.

“All of these are indicators that something is seriously wrong, that the government is no longer responding to the most basic concerns, needs, and rights of the citizenry . . . . But what’s going to take its’ place, that has not been articulated. Yes, we are in a revolutionary moment; but maybe it’s a better way to describe it as a revolutionary process.”

Control of society by a self-appointed superior class using neo-liberal policies is incompatible with any true form of democracy. As we have seen in history, people will always rebel against tyranny. Will there be radical change in the US? As the cliché goes: Time will tell.

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  1. Great blog. Covers all the bases. Refreshing perspective from all the BS establishment-hysteria being puked up all over the place. It literally makes me want to vomit.

    Notice how the establishment looters attempt to lump right-wing crackpots (who always blame minorities for their problems: unoriginal lizard-brained fools) in with center-left progressives who realize the neoliberal era must come to an end or civilization is going to implode into world war (like it did during the 1930s under similar economic chaos.)

    They said Bernie Sanders supporters were 'racist, misogynist Bernie Bros' FFS. I cannot think of a more disgusting and outrageous lie. Bernie Sanders was arrested chained to a black woman being arrested in the 1960s during the civil rights movement. Hillary Clinton was a Goldwater Girl who supported segregation and Reaganomics 16 years before Reagan.

    The European ECONOMIC Union is not about 'peace love and unity.' It's about forcing neoliberal reforms on a social democratic people who would never vote for them. This is the very definition of 'evil empire' created to negate the democratic will of the people.

    Augustus' Roman Empire puts this anti-democratic EEU agglomeration to shame: barbarians from 2000 f*cking years ago had a more developed European civilization than what these scheming robber barons cooked up, which includes a debtor prison for nations dumb enough to have accepting unregulated toxic foreign investment during the 2000s global financial Bust Out.

    There is no other way forward than a return to Keynesian 'New Deal' economics that created modern living standards, which were, 3 decades ago, unprecedented in human history. And to remove establishment 'training wheels' on democratic government. No they don't enhance management of the economy. They actually enable entitled sociopaths to loot money other people have EARNED. They have stolen countless trillions in government debt, privatization rent-seeking schemes, loophole-exploiting and market-manipulation deregulation schemes, plundering worker wages and benefits while burdening the people with heavy debt loads; austerity measures that killed GDP growth and increased the real debt burden (public and private.)

    The robber barons are stealing wealth and power and destroying civilization in the process. The people, on the other hand, are invested in the future of humankind through their children and grandchildren. Their mutual self-interest is to act responsibly and provide a continuously developing world of wonder and achievement for their loved ones and fellow human beings. Achieving pure democracy free from establishment corruption should not be a revolutionary concept; but that is the revolution before us now. We just have to take what's ours and do what we have to do to save civilization from it's present course of self-destruction.

    -Bernie Orbust

  2. Finally acknowledgment and validation that there is a herd of elephants in the room. Great blog.

  3. Wow, this sums things up very nicely...its about the children and the grandchildren....throw in the environment and the gas and oil corporations to boot. As a prime example of corporations controlling governments, consider what the Irving billionaires have, and are continuing to do in New Brunswick {truly, a captive province} after the 25 year deal to manage the crown forests has run its course,Irving will have totally devastated the Acadian forest and turned NB into the toilet paper province......all the while being handsomely compensated in taxpayer dollars for deigning to avail themselves of the priviledge.

  4. Well said. The hope is that this is a peaceful revolution. They rarely are...

  5. Pretty much "on the money" about the money. Totally in line with my book: "Salvaging Capitalism/Saving Democracy". But the longer governments put off ditching the "training wheels" as "Anonymous" so precisely put it, the greater the risk to them and to everyone else. One would think politicians would wake up at some point, before they become redundant - as in my dystopian fiction.

  6. Nick, your last paragraph sums it all up! The wheels are definitely in motion and I'm predicting the USA will be in complete Chaos before the Election in November!

  7. An excellent overview of the global situation throughout the West Nick. But I think your statement, "Of course the election of Donald Trump as President would be a serious setback for democratic government." is premature and possibly wrong.

    Given all that you've reported it appears to me kind of naive to think that we're still living under a "democratic" system of government. Trump's the wild card. Clinton is the psychopathic killer like her husband. Life's a gamble. I'd rather gamble on Trump any day than have Hillary running the show down below.

  8. And then there's Australia... Folks are not happy in a number of "democracies" around the world.

  9. I am so disappointed that democracy does not work any more.

    The rich get richer and people like Bernie tell us this but people won't vote for him.

    According the Bernie, young people could get free post secondary education by making minor tax changes for the rich. But people won't vote for Bernie.

    There can only be 2 reasons: a) they are ignorant and do not take an interest in government policy b) they are stupid and unable to change their voting pattern from their parents and buddies.

    Either way, these people will be of no help in a revolution. When others are our marching, they will be sitting on their couches watching an ignorant program on television leaving the rest of us to get trampled.

    1. or when people STOP being afraid and start thinking for themselves!