Friday, January 27, 2012

Something is wrong. . . .

I don’t think one needs to be particularly intelligent or insightful to know that something is desperately wrong with capitalist democracy. The system is ailing, there is no doubt about it. Not only is the international capitalist system suffering from problems but the democratic system (the one that capitalists have tried for so long to convince us in inseparable from capitalism) is genuinely in crisis – fewer people vote each year, the faith that the system is meaningful is dying all around us. There are surely many reasons that capitalist-democracy is suffering but I believe that the primary reason is fairly simple. One needn’t be a Marxist to understand that socio-economic systems all eventually become self-destructive. The very drive toward greater profit is the cancer that infests the system of capitalism. The fundamental goal of any capitalist enterprise is the achievement of greater and greater profits, and one of the primary ways to gain these profits is to get a greater and greater share of the market. In other words capitalism drives toward a monopoly – the opposite of itself. The pressure toward greater concentration of corporate power was recognized as a problem at the end of the 19th century and movements in many countries began to attempt to address the dangers involved in such a movement. In the US this effort was referred to as the “Progressive Movement.” The result of these efforts were laws in most countries against the operations of monopolies, or so-called anti-trust laws.

Throughout much of the 20th century capitalism functioned under increasing pressure from electors to maintain more workers’ rights, but there were also pressures to increase the general distribution of wealth, greater protections for the poor and vulnerable, etc. However, toward the close of the 20th century, capitalism began to fight back against this pressure. Through globalization, currency movements, and most of all corporate media control, the agenda of corporatism began to undermine the gains that people had made for the past decades. Corporations began to get larger and more powerful and they used this power to operate as de facto monopolies. They not only compelled governments to serve their interests they used their ideological power to convince populations that despite ever increasing wealth overall, the system just couldn’t afford to let people have decent pensions, environmental controls, workers rights, unions, etc. In other words, despite the existence of more social wealth than ever before existed, the corporate ideology effectively convinced people that they had to be satisfied with less and less and that they had to begin to work harder and harder for a smaller piece of the pie. The result, of course, has been a growing gap between the rich and poor, as well as ever greater social, political, and economic control in the hands of fewer and fewer people. Education subsequently declines and people become ever easier to convince to act against their own interest, or to simply not take part in the political system at all.

The result of all of this political and economic upheaval is that people are beginning to realize that they are getting poorer at the very same time that the rich are getting unbelievably richer. But they are also loosing faith in their political institutions because they know something is wrong but they aren’t hearing many answers. And when they do hear real answers, real economic limits to corporate power, they are told by those very corporations that such answers are nothing short of communist plots. And those with enough knowledge to reject the corporate propaganda know that any one country attempting to make changes to the corporate agenda on its own is going to face some pretty stiff attacks from all over the globe. And so the dilemma deepens. We have government leaders that are little more than corporate servants who are willing to sell out the safety of the very planet just to increase corporate profits. As a matter of routine such governments are willing to ignore or break the very laws that they were elected to uphold just to ensure that their corporate sponsors can make a few more percentage points.

We in Canada saw a prime example of this ideology in action yesterday as our so-called Prime Minister gave a major speech to an international audience once again touting the lie that the problem with international capital is essentially that working people expect too much – they expect real pensions and some form of protection from real poverty. It is, of course, an absolute and utter lie, but he pushes the agenda nonetheless. If a society has more wealth than ever before and yet states are going bankrupt, then the problem is not the worker’s relatively modest demands.

Of course, power, particularly economic power, has a terrible tendency to be shortsighted. Corporations, like the aristocracy in the lead up to the Revolution in France, are desperately trying to maintain their money and power even as they creates the conditions for their own demise. The greater the inequality of wealth, the more you impoverish the people while the corporations are increasing their wealth, the harder it will become to hide the contradictions in the system and the more likely it will become that people will eventually seek to not only change the system but to seek revenge on those who have benefited from the deception and the inequality. Avoiding the 1917 revolution in Russia would have been pretty easy – a concerted effort at democratization and industrialization would have easily undermined the revolutionary cause. But the Russian aristocracy had become convinced that their power was part of a natural order, the only way things could be. I dare say that the corporate class of today as adopted a similar belief structure. How many times have you heard a rich man in a suit or a rightwing politician tell you that there is no alternative to our present system? They tell us that we cannot mess with the capitalist order or that it is a ‘natural’ system. Well I imagine that as the Russian aristocrats faced the barrel of a gun and the French aristocrats were led up the steps of the guillotine, they were deeply confused – “How can this be?” they must have thought to themselves.

Well it happened then, and it can happen again. If there is anything like a “natural” order in the world – it is continual change.  

Friday, January 13, 2012

Harper's Message to Gay People - We Dont' Want You Here!

Anyone who thinks that Harper and his bullies were unaware of the efforts by the Department of Justice lawyers to try to delegitimize same sex marriage is a fool. Obviously the Prime Minster knew. It is extremely unusual for the Federal Government to get involved in a divorce case and this case had to have been prepared a while ago at the highest level of policy makers. There is absolutely NO WAY that the PM wouldn't have known about this. On the contrary, the order to pursue this surely came directly from his office.

And this is the Harpercon's basic political strategy, poke around the edges of a major issue before jumping in. This is how it has been with the death penalty. The Conservative caucus overwhelmingly favours the return to the death penalty because all they really understand is the politics of hate, and revenge is an intimate associate of hate. However, knowing that they can't simply attempt to reinstate the death penalty without huge political consequences, they have instead begun the gradual chip-away. They stopped trying to save people who might be extradited to other countries and face capital punishment, and they are not attempting to save Canadians abroad who might be facing this most tyrannical act. Obviously in the long term their hope is to bring the death penalty to canada for any crime except those regularly committed by rich white men (that is to say corruption and money crimes). They don't care that the death penalty has no effect on crime, as their recent crime bill demonstrates, prevention of crime or rehabilitation are not on their radar - only punishment - swift, hard, preferably violent, punishment. Again, this is the CPC agenda of hate.

Here we once again have another attempt by the Harpercons to chip away at something they hate - equality for gay people. They know that they cannot attack gay marriage directly so they instructed their lawyers to pick away at the basic legitimacy of gay marriage in an area where they didn't think people would take much notice. Test the waters for potential dangers, attempt to gradually shift people's minds toward a world in which gay marriage is not legitimate. So in an unprecedented effort they chose to attack marriages which the state would not normally question - marriages of people who reside elsewhere. It is a test for blow-back. The Canadian government has never brought into question the issue of how foreign governments have viewed a marriage. If your marriage is recognized here that has all that  has historically mattered. As one commentator pointed out, marriages between Jews and Muslims are illegal in Saudi Arabia (one of Canada's great allies). But imagine the uproar if Justice Department lawyers had argued that a Jewish-Muslim couple that had been married in Canada could not be divorced because they were never actually married!! We don't, of course, have to imagine because the government would never allow this to happen. This point demonstrates very clearly that this has been a very clear and conscious effort by the government to delegitimize gay marriage.

Make no mistake, the Harpercons are engaged in a concerted effort to rightwing, born-again Christian, intolerance of the US deep-south right here to Canada. And keep in mind they are doing it with the support of about one quarter of the adult population. Now that's democracy!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I am a Billionaire Socialist . . . . Oh no, I mean just a Socialist.

So it is official then. The Conservatives have now seamlessly entered into the crazy realm of politics which we have usually, up until now, reserved for the more nutty elements of the Republicans in the US and among which Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin are two of the primary stars. Those of us who have paid attention and watched closely have known for some time that many members of the Conservative Caucus suffer from delusions and narcissistic complexes. Many of them are religious extremism and hold racist views. Though the media has largely ignored their worst excesses (for reasons that I will surely never understand), we in the real world know that our Prime Minister is a dispensationalist with suspicious ties to Western separatists and racists. We know that there is at least one Cabinet Minster who has hidden his or her homosexuality in a remarkable act of hypocrisy. We know that with the cooperation of a very sympathetic media the Harpercons have done a fairly good job of keeping their extremist and wacky views out of the public consciousness. They have done this because these people know that the Canada that they want to create is overwhelmingly opposed by the vast majority of Canadians and the Harpercons therefore have to make every effort possible to act through stealth and avoid accountability. When a friendly media (even the CBC has been remarkably easy on Harper and his thugs) is not enough, the Harpercons obfuscate, divert, attack and smear others, shut down government, and destroy every possible democratic avenue that they can while the LPC has either supported them or simply looked on in confused bemusement.

Every once in a while the nuttiness comes shining through despite the unprecedented controls on MP's public appearances and speeches. Yesterday we saw one such example of Conservative Party wackiness in the words of Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver who is boiling mad over the fact that Canada has a system of public accountability when it comes to major, environmentally risky projects. If there is one thing that the Harpercons can't stand, it is public accountability. This bias is part of their overt hatred of democracy in any form and their aversion to facts and the opinions of experts. The Conservatives even suggest that they will use their parliamentary majority to undermine the whole business of having experts and the public be able to voice official concern over the Conservative's neanderthal environmental approach. I would expect no less from mindless, backward brutes.

The best part of Mr. Oliver's rant against democracy, and the reason I bothered to post against this tyrannical cabal, was his claim that "without exaggeration" those concerned over the introduction of a potentially dangerous pipeline in BC were being financed by "billionaire socialists" in the US. This talk is right out of the Tea Party playbook - avoid the facts of environmental dangers by fabricating the existence of socialist opponents, drawing on the red-baiting of the cold-war era. Once again, it is facts that the Conservative caucus is afraid of. There are, of course, no billionaire socialists in the US, or anywhere else for that matter. One simply could not be a billionaire and a socialist at the same time. Next we will hear the Harpercons talk of Christian-Atheists! When pressed, the illustrious and powerfully ignorant Mr. Oliver named names, as rightwing extremists are wont to do, and mentioned the existence of George Soros as evidence of these shadowy billionaire socialists who are financing Canadian environmentalists. Rightwingers in Canada have a long history of attacking Mr. Soros because he is a man with money who has the gall to be an advocate of actual democracy. And as any good Conservative knows, a democrat and a socialist are essentially the same thing. Now, if I were Mr. Oliver I would be very careful what I said about George Soros because few men have the resources to legally ensure that you are accountable for the things you say about him. But I am sure than in this case, the words of a rightwing Canadian just gave Mr. Soros a moment of amusement. I mean, imagine accusing one of the world's richest men who made much of his wealth in currency speculation (one of the most overtly capitalist enterprises there is) of being a socialist! If the accusation wasn't coming from a minister in a sitting government it would be hilarious rather than terribly frightening.

However, even in the US, Tea Party opinions are more and more often being recognized for what they are - diversions from any sense of reality. As I have said before, the longer the Harpercons are in office the more their real instinct of ignorance and hate will emerge and eventually even their friends in the media will no longer be able to hide their real MO from the public eye. Just as Kevin O'leary is the best possible spokesperson for the left because his extremist form of capitalist hate, the Harpercons, with their hatred for democracy and facts, will become their own worst enemies. I await that day patiently.