The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The economics of fascism

From the Toronto Star, here is the article I've been waiting to read for a long time. It links the economic results of tying corporate power to government power (fascism) to the past and the present. This ties our current race to feudalism with corporate takeover of governments past.


Digging deeper into 20th century history, one finds the exaltation of big business at the expense of the citizen was a central characteristic of government policy in Germany and Italy in the years before those countries were chewed to bits and spat out by fascism. Fascist dictatorships were borne to power in each of these countries by big business, and they served the interests of big business with remarkable ferocity. These facts have been lost to the popular consciousness in North America.

...

Before the rise of fascism, Germany and Italy were, on paper, liberal democracies. Fascism did not swoop down on these nations as if from another planet. To the contrary, fascist dictatorship was the result of political and economic changes these nations underwent while they were still democratic. In both these countries, economic power became so utterly concentrated that the bulk of all economic activity fell under the control of a handful of men. Economic power, when sufficiently vast, becomes by its very nature political power. The political power of big business supported fascism in Italy and Germany.

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Hitler attended to the reduction of taxes applicable to large businesses while simultaneously increasing the same taxes as they related to small business. Previous decrees establishing price ceilings were repealed such that the cost of living for the average family was increased. Hitler's economic policies hastened the destruction of Germany's middle class by decimating small business. Ironically, Hitler pandered to the middle class, and they provided some of his most enthusiastically violent supporters. The fact that he did this while simultaneously destroying them was a terrible achievement of Nazi propaganda.

Hitler also destroyed organized labour by making strikes illegal. Notwithstanding the socialist terms in which he appealed to the masses, Hitler's labour policy was the dream come true of the industrial cartels that supported him. Nazi law gave total control over wages and working conditions to the employer.

Compulsory (slave) labour was the crowning achievement of Nazi labour relations. Along with millions of people, organized labour died in the concentration camps. The camps were not only the most depraved of all human achievements, they were a part and parcel of Nazi economic policy. Hitler's Untermenschen, largely Jews, Poles and Russians, supplied slave labour to German industry. Surely this was a capitalist bonanza.
I note here with some concern that the US has its own untermenschen, who we lock up and then force to labor for big business. There have been several articles on prison labor being used for cheap manufacturing, US prisoners sewing jeans for Levi Strauss, etc. Is it less horrible that instead of linking slave labor directly to ethnicity as the Nazis did, that we use the war on drugs and a racially skewed justice system? Just asking.

Mussolini, the one-time socialist, went on to abolish the inheritance tax, a measure that favoured the wealthy. He decreed a series of massive subsidies to Italy's largest industrial businesses and repeatedly ordered wage reductions. Italy's poor were forced to subsidize the wealthy. In real terms, wages and living standards for the average Italian dropped precipitously under fascism.

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As in Italy and Germany in the '20s and '30s, business associations clamour for more deregulation and deeper tax cuts. The gradual erosion of antitrust legislation, especially in the United States, has encouraged consolidation in many sectors of the economy by way of mergers and acquisitions. The North American economy has become more monopolistic than at any time in the post-WWII period.

U.S. census data from 1997 shows that the largest four companies in the food, motor vehicle and aerospace industries control 53.4, 87.3 and 55.6 per cent of their respective markets. Over 20 per cent of commercial banking in the U.S. is controlled by the four largest financial institutions, with the largest 50 controlling over 60 per cent. Even these numbers underestimate the scope of concentration, since they do not account for the myriad interconnections between firms by means of debt instruments and multiple directorships, which further reduce the extent of competition.

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Antitrust laws do not just protect the marketplace, they protect democracy.

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In the U.S., millions still question the legality of the sitting president's first election victory, and the power to declare war has effectively become his personal prerogative. Assuming that we have enough democracy to protect us is exactly the kind of complacency that allows our systems to be quietly and slowly perverted. On paper, Italy and Germany had constitutional, democratic systems. What they lacked was the eternal vigilance necessary to sustain them. That vigilance is also lacking today.

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Neo-liberals call relentlessly for tax cuts, which, in a previously progressive system, disproportionately favour the wealthy. Regarding the distribution of wealth, the neo-liberals have nothing to say. In the end, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. As in Weimar Germany, the function of the state is being reduced to that of a steward for the interests of the moneyed elite. All that would be required now for a more rapid descent into fascism are a few reasons for the average person to forget he is being ripped off. Hatred of Arabs, fundamentalist Christianity or an illusory sense of perpetual war may well be taking the place of Hitler's hatred for communists and Jews.

We really need to wake up, and soon, about just what the concentration of wealth in this society really means. We are already invading other countries without cause and torturing innocent people, and locking our own citizens up without habeous corpus. Can't we wake up and smell what is going on here?

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