Wednesday, June 23, 2010

CSIS and 'foreign control' . . . .

So Richard Fadden, the chief spook of Canada tells us, on the eve of the G20 summit mind you, that several Canadian politicians are "under the control of foreign governments"

Really? We needed CSIS to tell us this?

Unfortunately the humorous quality of this story is somewhat dissipated by the fact that our so-called spy service isn't actually referring to the obvious fact that our Prime Minister and several of his cabinet ministers are shameless agents of the US and Israel. Stephen Harper's rather pathetic and frightening dispensationalism surely qualifies Harper for foreign control status.

But of course Mr. Fadden isn't referring to this kind of foreign control. It is perfectly acceptable when the Prime Minister shifts decades of policy to fall into line with US or Israeli goals.

Aha! Watch and wait.If the story wasn't simply an entire fabrication timed to help justify the billion dollar boondoggle of the G20 meeting, we will eventually find out that what Mr. Fadden is talking about is once again pesky communists. Because CSIS has never had a problem with foreign control, as long as it is the 'right' foreign control.


Anonymous said...

Okay. I'll bite. Are you suggesting you'd actually welcome Chinese control of our government?


kirbycairo said...

I appreciate you reading and your occasional comments Leo, but I can never quite get my head around your political naivety.

First; Any such claims by an organization like CSIS must be treated with a truckload of salt - particularly in light of the timing.

Second; Foreign Political influence is an intricate web of power that runs through our government at all levels

Third; The Prime Minister is already under the influence of the US and Israel to an undue degree, and some of this is a direct result of his dispensatioinalism.

Forth; CSIS would be glad to see our government under the total control of the US or any other ultra-right force so it is not a matter of foreign influence, it is only a matter of which foreign power - and this is hypocrisy on the part of CSIS.

Fifth; All Western nations are not only under the influence of, but largely controlled by, the unaccountable force of large multi-national corporations. When they say jump, our governments ask 'How High?'

Anonymous said...

Assuming for a moment that your set of statements is correct (which my own personal experiences suggest is unlikely), and the current state of affairs in Canada has been brought about through the machinations of an international ultra-right wing cabal at the behest of corporations, why am I displeased by the resulting standard of living?

I enjoy great personal and social wealth in a clean and beautiful country. I have the freedom to purchase what I want, move where I like, and say what I (naively) believe. I choose to worship, or not, as I please. I read what I like and I benefit from the system of laws (which I have, on occasion, made use of).

How would my lot be any improved by throwing off the shackles of these so-called fascists?

How would any 'true' freedom my liberators offer me be any different that I currently have?


kirbycairo said...

Well Leo - having had first-hand experience of so-called security agencies as well as multi-national corporations, my personal experience tells me that what I say is true.

There is no doubt that we live in a prosperous country with a great deal of flexibility in the political and social structure. But if you think there is not a true power structure underlying this (certainly at an economic level) then you are just naive). It is what Gramsci called 'hegemony.'

Furthermore, you say that you enjoy great personal wealth. Do you think that not everyone who has enjoyed a high level of relative prosperity in their respective system throughout history has not said exactly what you say??? This is the kind of thing that prosperous people have always said and always will say. But the people at the lower end of the economic scale (both nationally and internationally) mostly know better. Your personal wealth or power is not a defense of the system in general just as the wealth and power of the Sun King was not a believable defense the pre-revolutionary French social-economic structure.

Furthermore, your question about how things would or could be better if this structure changed is the exact same argument that the aristocracy used during the revolution in France, as well as the essence of Edmund Burke's argument in his notorious "Reflections on the Revolution in France."

Meanwhile, the majority of people in the world, (as well as many here in Canada) have no clean drinking water, don't have a telephone, and have no substantial health-care. And the reason for this is in part because of the power and unaccountability of multinational corporations. They would, of course, like us to believe otherwise, just as the rich and powerful have always wanted to divert attention away from the real results of the power structure.

The funny part of all of that is that when you catch these people in unguarded moments, they more or less admit this. Just as I have heard people who have worked for CIDA admit that the so-called 'Aid' that Canada invests in the 'third world' is really aimed at the increase in Canadian business interests.

But you can go on enjoying your 'personal wealth' because you are on the receiving end of a system and have convinced yourself that because you are doing well, then everything is ok. But you were lucky by birth and have bought into the system and therefore enjoy its benefits. But your comfort is not necessarily an indication of systemic success. And this is precisely where your naivety lay.

And here is the real example - if the leaders of the Western Capitalist nations were really concerned with human rights, justice, etc. how is it that they continually support China which is one of history's worst violators of such rights. But the Capitalists don't care - as long as they are making money they have no problem with the Chinese government rounding up members of Falun Gong, executing people for dissenting opinions etc etc. This is a simple lesson that all they really care about is their power and money and will pay lip-service to freedom or invest in fascism - which ever one gets them what they want.

Real-politik, Leo, real-politik.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. I didn't mean to refer specifically to my personal wealth (which is modest) but to Canadians generally.

I'm sure that French aristocracy had similar questions, but I suggest the analogy isn't germane. In any case, it does not negate the validity of the questions.

I'm trying to imagine what alternative "power structure" you are advocating. And how you envision said structure displacing the current one.


kirbycairo said...

The question, Leo, is very germane because it speaks to the historical question of how ruling ideologies have maintained power and how many people have been entirely blind to the injustices of the system which they defend. The fact that people often don't think such things are germane is a terrible sign of their inability to see their own time in historical perspective. Overlook the germaneness of this question at your own peril.

As for a better system than the one we have, I think one need not be particularly radical to endorse a genuine change and the change is one that actually moves toward meaningful democracy. And this means not just simple electoral politics but creating mechanisms that take the unaccountable power of international capitalist organizations out of the political process. Thinkers like Marx once imagined that universal suffrage would bring about the necessary changes. It is now evident that power enters the political process through monetary influence and maintains that power through complex ideological disguises. The only reply to this is grassroots efforts for real democracy in which those with little or no voice are given a greater role and money doesn't necessarily equal power or ideological supremacy. This means looking at things like media ownership, public electoral funding, and a genuine change in international capitalist relations. This could mean that economies function for the needs of the people and not for the needs of 'business.'

How this change comes about. . . .I wish I knew.

Anonymous said...

Okay, historical perspective, I see that hierarchical power structures remain. But are you saying that all the progress that's occurred since the Bastille doesn't make a wink of difference? That the situation remains the essentially the same.

Such a conclusion seems to unaccountably diminish the significance of real improvements in people's lives.

Secondly, are you arguing that if we had "meaningful democracy" as you define it, that people would elect to pursue a fundamentally different path than we are currently on? If so, what's your evidence for this hope?



kirbycairo said...

Of course differences have been made and those differences are meaningful in many cases. But we have to be realistic about these differences and the numbers of people for whom life has significantly improved.In terms of actual numbers, more people are malnourished around the world today than at any other time in history. This is meaningful. Every forty seconds or so a child dies of something simple and preventable and this is, in many cases, a direct result of decisions of Western Capitalists and their trade practices etc.

I have just finished writing a book about the English Romantics and am appalled by the degree of wretched poverty in London in the first decades of the 19th century. I have lived in London in the 20th century and understand the difference in a very real and empirical way. But I have also lived in the third world and know that the majority of the world's population still live in unbelievably wretched poverty.

Things have changed for many, no doubt, but overall the distribution of wealth across the world is surprisingly similar to what it was two hundred years ago. But more significantly, the power structure continues to be frightfully similar to what it was during the the emerging two centuries of Capitalism, at least if we look at it on an international basis. We have paid a great deal of lip-service to changes but the power of capital remains remarkably unchanged. Thus I think we must continue to struggle against the concentration of power, whether it is in the hands of governments or shadowy figures in the international economy.

As for your other question, I grant that there is an element of faith involved in the idea that under better conditions, people will opt for better things. This is, in Jessie Jackson's words, keeping hope alive. But there is also something to be said that in my experience, when people begin to really understand the international relations of power, and when they spend some time within social settings where people have a much greater role in decision making, people thrive and hunger to bring these process to other parts of their lives.I have seen this actively in adult education, particularly when 'popular education' strategies are pursued.

Anonymous said...

"More people are malnourished around the world today than at any other time in history."

I agree. But there is also correspondingly unprecedented number of people living in relative luxury, due in no small part to two centuries of Capitalism.

Capitalism may perpetuate relative inequities, but it is also responsible for absolute increases in wealth worldwide. It is remarkably successful in distributing risk and decision-making and resolving many collective action problems.

That doesn’t preclude important regulatory improvements, when necessary.

But when failures occur, they are largely due to various sorts of crimes; aberrations to Capitalism, not tenets of it. The corruptible human heart is hardly redeemable through a different economic order.

"Thus I think we must continue to struggle against the concentration of power."

I agree emphatically. But far from being controlled by a select few, there are literally hundreds of millions of capitalists invested in business enterprises around the world. Through RRSPs, CPP, or a multitude of other devices, citizens across the world have reinvested their personal wealth, assuming risk and reaping rewards.

Aside from case-by-case regulatory refinements, I'm unclear as to how we can erect a more efficient system of wealth creation and distribution without coalescing power further than it may already be.


kirbycairo said...

Leo -
This has gotten complicated and probably too complex to properly address here.

I have often said that Capitalism has a historical role to play, but one of the central parts of Marx that I agree with is that there comes a time when it no longer functions. This is again a complex issue and for me is built largely on the work of economists and philosophers like Ernest Mandel and Andre Gorz.

As for the issue of capitalism's so-called 'crimes' and 'aberrations' you are just flat wrong in my opinion and so unbelievably wrong that I find it difficult to even address the issue. Let me just say that the only reason that Capitalism continues to function is because of intelligent men like Roosevelt who knew that only a mixed economy of some sort would allow it to survive. Roosevelt was well acquainted with Engels' book The Condition of the Working-Class in England.

As for the 'Millions' of people who are capitalists. Indeed, the entire process of in a sense compelling people into having a vested interest in the Capitalist order through pensions etc, is one of modern capitalisms strength (at least in relation to its self-survival). But make no mistake, the real capital decisions are made by a very small group of people, and trade laws and decisions are made by an even smaller group of people. Also make no mistake that the vast majority of people who are invested in the system (through pensions etc) have little or even no idea what is going on in Capitalism in general and with their money in particular. I promise you that a teacher in, say, Winnipeg, who has money in a pension that is invested in a sweatshop in Taiwan, has no idea how they are contributing to the system of abuse and injustice. I know they don't because I have seen pension meetings where people have been amazed by such revelations.(And I have been in Third World sweatshops where such monies are invested) So because capitalism has worked its way into more people's lives doesn't mean they are 'capitalists' or understand capitalism. Even capitalist like George Soros understand this.

And this doesn't even get into the modern illusions of capitalism. An interviewer once asked Noam Chomsky 'What alternative is there to the 'free-market system?' and he replied "The system we have now is an alternative to the free market system." And indeed we hardly have a free market. We have regulated markets which are partly regulated for the good of society and partly regulated (as the international banking crisis demonstrated) to aid international capital.

As for changing things. . . again complicated territory. But I think one can make a fairly simple (and not very radical) argument that A: there are simply parts of society where the so-called market doesn't work and doesn't belong such as in Health care and education, B:One to the most important changes has to be international - making international standards of employment and food distribution so that modern capitalism doesn't become a simple race to the bottom and so that Western countries cannot do things like food dumping in Africa which leads to terrible suffering in the simple interest of Western food producers, C; We need to change the concentration of Media ownership so that we can increase discourse and people will begin to understand what is going. D: we need to take the money out of politics, it take approximately 50 million to run for the US senate, can we really have democracy under these conditions?

These are just some of the issues that could begin to change the worst abuses of capitalism and begin a reform of human society toward a more cooperative system that at the very least undermines the unaccountable power of corporations.