Hit Men, Jackels... Has Our Turn Come?
I just finished reading Glen Yeadon's fantastic book, The Nazi Hydra In America I've been quoting at such great length for the last couple months. Towards the end is the story of the CIA assassination of Jaime Roldós, Ecuador's first democratically elected president in modern times. A few days ago we posted a story about Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands and immediately readers started asking me why we left out any mention of the assassination. Well, that's a travel blog; this is the political blog. And, to be honest, like most Americans, I just didn't know that the CIA had murdered the president of Ecuador in 1981. Our media doesn't exactly harp on that sort of thing.
Roldós was elected on a populist platform and pissed off the corporations that determine U.S. policies in Latin America by insisting that his countrymen be treated as human beings. He decreed a 40 hour workweek, doubled the minimum wage to $160/month and rallied other countries in the region to a policy embracing human rights, which, predictably, drove American conservatives into a frenzy of bloodlust. Roldós rejected an invitation to Reagan's inauguration (January, 1981) and 4 months later he had a plane crash. The CIA assassinated the President of Panama, Omar Torrijos, a few months later (another plane crash).
John Perkins, in his epic 2004 book, Confessions of An Economic Hit Man, explained that the CIA murdered both Torrijos and Roldós, but not just because of a human rights declaration. A CIA asset planted a bomb in a tape recorder in Roldós' plane because he was in the middle of reorganizing the country's oil policies, a big no-no in a very high stakes world where there's no fooling around tolerated.
From Yeadon we learned that in Latin America "legally elected governments leaning to the left or announcing reforms that threatened corporate America were branded as communist and soon overthrown by covert support of hard-right rebellions. Invariably the new regime was a brutal right-wing dictatorship that murdered thousands to suppress dissent. The United States soon recognized the new regime and offered support for its military and police, all in the name of combating communism and supporting freedom."
But that isn't all The U.S. offered. Remember, the leadership of the OSS and the CIA came almost entirely from Wall Street reactionaries and fascists, with connections to plutocrats and corporations that financed the rise of Hitler and the building of the Nazi war machine. It hasn't mattered who we elected president. The CIA, the national security state, had an agenda that was all about the bottom line of American corporations. Yeadon:
The record of CIA interventions leaves a bloody trail across the globe. The pattern is always the same: a popular government is legally elected and starts reforms that threaten the interests of multinational American corporations. Economic or military inducements are tried. If they fail, then the CIA begins covert methods to oust the government. These operations ended in a bloody coup in Chile and a brutal guerrilla war in the Contra revolution in Nicaragua, only two of many tactics used after all other means fail.
John Perkins in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man describes how multinational American corporations and the World Bank act as extended arms of the CIA. Perkins, who was employed by the American consulting firm, MAIN, lays out a model of deliberate economic sabotage of countries, conducted by the CIA, the IMF and the World Bank. The first step is to coerce a country to sign a plan for economic development, which may include construction of a dam, airport, factory or other infrastructure. The plan is deliberately oversized in such way that there is no hope the country can never repay the loan.
The country is deliberately misled by overly optimistic forecasts of the success and need for such projects. A few corrupt local politicians and rich families receive some funds to grease the way for the project. Once the economic forecasts fall short, the country slides into default on the loan. The World Bank then forces the country to accept austerity measures, which require the government to privatize property at fire sale prices, or grant other economic concessions to American corporations.
So what happens when Austerity gets shoved down peoples' throats by the ruling elites. You remember the riots in Greece and England recently. You ain't seen nothing yet. Capitalism is falling apart and we can expect some very turbulent weather ahead-- and the U.S. isn't immune the way it was in 1848 when revolutions swept across Europe.
A key aspect of this sudden mass awareness is in response to high unemployment and the deeply unpopular measures that politicians are forcing upon working people, both byproducts of the Great Recession. Politicians are blaming "the markets" for demanding austerity measures, but "markets" are simply places where wealthy people invest their money. To guarantee a profitable return on their money these investors demand that labor laws be squashed and social programs be eliminated, all over the world.
Spain, for example, is one of many countries having austerity measures forced down their throats. Reuters reports:
"Analysts see the shaking up of the country's inflexible labor laws [laws that protect workers] and the easing of hiring and firing [so older, activist, or slower workers can be fired] as vital to restoring the country's competitiveness. The labor reforms are crucial. They will help to restore growth [profits] in the long term. Growth is the only way out of these adverse fiscal trends,' said Luigi Speranza, analyst at BNP Paribas." [May 27, 2010]
To summarize, creating new laws that enable Spanish corporations to work their workers harder will be better for profits.
Greece faces a similar austerity plan, according to The Guardian UK:
"Tax increases, spending cuts and wage reductions and a sweeping privatisation programme have led to violent protests in Greece, with many arguing that the International Monetary Fund and European Union have demanded too high a price for their financial support." [August 2, 2011]
In the United States, these policies find expression in the attack against public-sector unions and the targeting of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for cuts, while mass unemployment is allowed to act as a very efficient way to lower wages for all workers.
Politicians have made it clear that economic growth, especially corporate profits, will increase in response to these anti-worker policies. They are only partially right. Corporate profits in fact have been on the rise, but the austerity measures have been responsible for the depressed economies throughout Europe and the US. When workers' wages are lowered and social programs are decimated, working people and the poor are left with little money for any purchases other than the bare necessities. Without consumer demand for their products, corporations curtail operations even more. This global dynamic has been decades in the making, with the recession having finally forced the issue into the forefront.
The Reagan and Thatcher administrations were the first Western representatives during the post-World War II era of this now dominant trend, which aimed at pushing back the social programs and wages won by the labor movements. Their policies were in response to the lower corporate growth rates that began in the 1970s and continue to this day. Now, all of Europe is suffering because banks and corporations demand a more profit-friendly business environment: universal health care and education programs are in jeopardy, plus wages and other benefits are under attack.
For the wealthy and corporations this is a life-and-death struggle. The Great Recession has already bankrupted the banks and corporations who were not fit enough to survive under a crumbling market economy. The existing companies are thus forced to squeeze more work for less pay out of their workers, since labor is the most flexible cost of any business. Pushing labor costs down - and by extension cutting social programs - is thus the priority of the corporations and their paid-for politicians across the globe, since the global economy is tightly connected and they all play by the vicious rules of the market. In fact, the intensity with which the corporate elite is pursuing these policies is a reflection of their negative outlook for the global economy.
This constitutes a new era in global capitalism, one that mimics the market economy of past generations. The 2008 recession was not a temporary phenomenon, but the ushering in of a new period in which the corporate elite attempt to restructure social relations, meaning that past assumptions regarding wages and social programs must be destroyed, as a new, more profitable equilibrium is sought between the corporate elite and working people.
Implied in this nation-by-nation restructuring is a restriction of democracy, since these anti-worker policies negatively affect the vast majority of the population. The riots in London are an expression of this, as are the mass demonstrations throughout Europe as well as the Middle East. In the United States, democracy is circumvented via the so-called Super Congress, whose duty it is to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Austerity programs throughout Europe are being implemented against the wishes of the general working populations.
Also included in this attack on working people is the corporate elite's doubled efforts to divert the working-class anger toward fake populist movements-- like the Tea Party in the US-- or against minorities, such as Muslims and immigrants in the US.
This will require that working people stay focused on who exactly is attacking them, while focusing on measures that can serve as alternatives to what the corporate elite are forcefully implementing.
The most immediate and important demand of working people must be taxing the rich and corporations, since social programs need to be funded and expanded and a massive jobs program with a strong green component is desperately overdue. It's not by coincidence that taxing the rich is rarely used in austerity plans; and when, on rare occasions, the rich are taxed, it's at low levels with high publicity, so the angry public will think the illusion of "shared sacrifice" is a reality.
For example, in the US, President Obama is again calling to end the Bush tax cuts for the rich (after allowing them to continue less than a year ago). It is doubtful that the Bush tax cuts will be ended, but if they were, it would be insufficient. Working people must demand that taxes on the rich be raised to at least pre-Reagan levels (70 percent), while President Eisenhower levels would be best (90 percent). Over the decades, the tax burden has shifted dramatically, causing wealth to accumulate into the bank accounts of the top 1 percent of the population, the same people who are now demanding that social programs be destroyed so that their investments are secured and their corporate profits remain high.
Since illusions of an economic recovery have now been shattered, it's up to working people to demand that their labor unions and community groups unite to tax the rich and corporations in order to finance a massive jobs program. Fortunately, the AFL-CIO is organizing actions for the first week of October to demand jobs and oppose cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Many within the labor movement are calling for massive demonstrations across the country for October 1. It will take these types of actions to unite working people to fight for a positive solution to the economic crisis.
I hope you watched, or will watch, the interview with John Perkins above. It will help explain why we're being sucked into an Austerity Regime here in America and Europe. Watch this one afterwards: