Keith's NO EMPIRE Blog

A radical dissident perspective on various topics. Comments welcome at

Friday, June 10, 2005

1st CAFTA letter to McDermott

April 10, 2005
Congressman Jim McDermott
1035 Longworth House Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20515-4707

Dear Congressman McDermott:

I am writing to inform you of my strong opposition to CAFTA. I understand that congress will soon begin hearings on this corporate/oligarch friendly, people/environment hostile treaty.

The ugly consequences of corporate globalization (of which CAFTA is a part) include the wholesale destruction of the infrastructure of Third World countries. Countries which were once able to feed themselves now must import food to survive (India, Mexico, etc). This is the consequence of the intentional destruction of their local agricultural base. Now they do what we tell them or they can’t earn the money to feed themselves. Water is privatized. Education is privatized (eliminated for most).Healthcare is privatized (eliminated for most). The IMF runs their economy for the benefit of our corporate oligarches.

No amount of economic fairy tales and falsification can hide the destructive reality of the consequences of corporate globalization. This is why people and social justice organizations throughout the Americas are adamantly opposed to CAFTA and other neoliberal trade agreements. The people oppose these agreements because they know that their economic livelihood and hope for the future will be destroyed. The corporations are pushing for these agreements because the common sense and human compassion of the corporate elites have been overwhelmed by power lust. When businessmen rule, society suffers.

Our military is not fooled by this economic deception. In the U.S. Space Command’s Vision for 2020, they anticipate that "globalization of the world economy" will lead to "a widening between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’" with "deepening economic stagnation, political instability, and cultural alienation" leading to violence and unrest among the "have-nots." Just as any sane person would anticipate, and which is already occurring. Of course, our traditional way of maintaining "stability" in Latin America is the U.S. funded application of massive violence against the local population. Among other things, CAFTA is a huge jobs program for the death squads. This is what you are being asked to approve.

As bad as all of this is, the long term consequences are worse. This ongoing increased trade in goods and the expansion of our oil dependent economy is leading to disaster. We are rapidly approaching peak oil output and the days of cheap oil will soon be over. Continuing to expand cheap oil dependent activities is irresponsible. Worse yet, the emission of massive amounts of greenhouse gases which will inevitably accompany the globalization process is a giant step in the wrong direction. We are rapidly approaching runaway planetary warming with potentially disastrous consequences. Voting for CAFTA (or any other corporate globalization agreement) is the most anti-environmental act you can perform. Much worse than opening up the ANWR to oil drilling, bad as that is. In fact, it is the globalization of our fossil fuel dependent economy that creates the demand for oil which makes oil exploration and environmental destruction inevitable. What kind of world is this to leave to our grandchildren?

Jim, voting against CAFTA should be an easy decision for you. Your district is well informed and strongly progressive. We were delighted when you went to Iraq and spoke against the war. We applaud your efforts to protect social security. We are counting on you to stand up and be counted on this critically important issue. To oppose the destructive insanity of neoliberal corporate globalization. To do the right thing and vote against CAFTA. When you do, you can rest assured that the voters of the 7th district will be solidly behind you. I personally commit to providing support on this important issue and if you have questions, comments or requests, please feel free to contact me (enclosed is a paper I gave you at your 2004 potato feed).



Corporate Globalization (there is no other kind) is the most anti-environmental, anti-social justice, anti-democratic scheme that ever was, or likely ever will be. In a nutshell, the intent of the globalization scheme advocated by our corporate rulers is to turn the planet into one big company town.

At the most obvious level, Corporate Globalization aims at removing any and all impediments to economic exploitation, domination and control. Economic decision making (by corporate management, not the people) is effectively isolated from political interference. Money rules, pure and simple. Any and all laws which inhibit the ability of transnational corporations to do whatever they like are considered restraint of "free trade." Disputes are adjudicated in secret by corporate lawyers who inevitably, inexorably decide that the corporations know best.

At the most fundamental level, trade in goods increases fossil fuel usage, hence, is inherently anti-environmental and should be minimized whenever possible. It is neither necessary nor wise to create "trade dependent" nations, states, etc, which survive on the fuel intensive importation/exportation of commodities better produced locally. Local autonomy (political, fuel, food, etc) is the key to sustainability. Trade dependency is the key to corporate domination and control. Political barriers to economic control are relentlessly attacked, while information sharing and local development (for the people) is discouraged.

All countries which successfully developed and modernized relied extensively on ideas, procedures, processes, etc, developed elsewhere (technological diffusion). It is highly indicative of the true goals of Corporate Globalization that "trade" agreements strongly emphasize "intellectual property rights." In other words, to prohibit the Third World from doing what the First World did to develop! The intent is clear: to keep the Third World underdeveloped and locked into dependency on First World corporations. An economic plan to subjugate the Third World into perpetuity! Let us not fail to mention that the economists who provide pseudo intellectual justification for this Economic Imperialism earn their living misrepresenting reality in service to power.

Every environmental and social justice organization that I belong to (I belong to a lot) opposes Corporate Globalization. The voiding of existing environmental regulations, the inevitable massive burning of fossil fuels, and the destruction of local Third World economies worldwide represents an unprecedented political, sociological and environmental disaster.

The era of cheap fossil fuels is nearly over, and in the not-to-distant future, an economy based on excessive fossil fuel dependency (international trade, etc) will collapse (hopefully, prior to irreversible ecological destruction). Whether or not this occurs depends upon political decisions made now.

Seattle Keith 10/17/03

Reply to McDermott's Response to CAFTA Letter

May 13, 2005

Congressman Jim McDermott
1035 Longworth House Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20515-4707

Dear Congressman McDermott:

I was stunned, shocked and saddened by your response (attached) to my anti-CAFTA letter. I’m not exactly sure what to make of it.

Let us begin by noting that CAFTA is a response to the U.S. failure to force through FTAA. Our corporate controlled government is now trying to achieve its objectives piecemeal. The full force of empire is being directed against these pathetically small and weak countries which we have used and abused for over 150 years. Their current sorry state a direct consequence of U.S. intervention and exploitation, which CAFTA will perpetuate and intensify.

You mention brutal civil wars in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua in the 1980s which claimed over 200,000 lives. Civil wars? Let’s be honest. In the 1980s, the U.S. unleashed a brutal campaign of terror, torture and mass-murder to pacify the population and create the "stability" necessary to improve investment opportunities. In El Salvador and Guatemala, the U.S. trained, equipped and funded military, acting as U.S. mercenaries, committed numerous massacres, while their companion death squads tortured and disappeared any and all opposition to U.S. domination and control. In Nicaragua, the CIA ran a proxy war utilizing ex-Samoza military personnel to invade Nicaragua from neighboring countries and conduct terror operations against the civilian population. The economy was destroyed, the population murdered and terrorized until finally in 1990 the Nicaraguans surrendered at the polls.

In your third paragraph, you note (correctly) the endemic poverty, high unemployment, and dependence upon a few export commodities. You then engage in incredible sophistry by suggesting that the Caribbean Basin Initiative was a kindly attempt by the U.S. to alleviate the conditions which were a root cause of the "civil wars." That’s pure crap. The primary consequence of this corporate friendly initiative was to provide economic incentives to the transnational corporations to establish sweat shops in the maquiladora export zones. This encouraged U.S. corporations to relocate (or threaten to relocate) offshore to "business friendly" locations and export back to the U.S.. A good deal of international trade is actually internal corporate transfers among their various holdings. Surely you don’t mean to imply that this was a boon to the local economy? As you should be aware, any and all attempts to reform the oligarchies and provide benefits for the majority have been met with U.S. violence. Arbenz in Guatemala, Allende in Chile, and now Chavez in Venezuela, to name a few obvious examples.
To suggest that we were trying to benefit the people even as our mercenaries engaged in mass-murder is simply incredible.

You mention coffee prices. For how long have the Latin American countries tried to establish rules, procedures and agreements to stabilize coffee prices? For how long has the U.S. opposed and thwarted these efforts? The drop in coffee prices was a direct consequence of the (U.S. controlled) World Bank encouraging and financing Viet Nam to become a coffee exporter. Since it is bad business for producers to create an over supply, we can safely assume that the World Bank intentionally collapsed the market to ensure cheap coffee prices, and for other reasons as well. One of the functions of the World Bank is to keep Third World commodities plentiful and prices low. Yet another example of our deep concern for the well being of our Third World brothers and sisters.

Fortunately, you opine, export diversification saved the day! If it wasn’t for all of those maquiladora sweat shops, what would the poor people do? Congressman McDermott, are you aware that thanks to globalization the wages of these poor people (the numerical majority of the population) have been falling? The whole intent of corporate globalization (including CAFTA) is to create corporate controlled economic structures which will prevent independent economic development anywhere, but particularly in the Third World, which is to be maintained as a world of paupers. Not everyone, of course. The satraps and compradors are doing just fine. Richly rewarded for their service to empire. Please don’t counter with any macro-economic statistical claptrap. All that this would show is that the corporations and oligarches are doing just fine (which was the intent, after all).

I almost gagged on your fourth paragraph where you note significant changes with much more to be accomplished. The obvious inference is that good things have happened, but we can do even better! Is it possible that you consider the immiseration of the majority of the population of these countries a good thing? That the destruction of the local agricultural base, the privatization of health care and of education is good? That hunger, poor health and ignorance are a sound basis for future development? You want to accelerate the process? Why? Why is it good to eliminate any and all political constraints on corporate exploitation and environmental destruction? Who are these agreements going to benefit? Surely not the people of Latin America, who have suffered grievously for many years as a consequence of U.S. intervention and domination.

But wait, a ray of hope. You seem to tentatively oppose the Bush approach to trade agreements because they lack the fig leaf of labor protections. Paper protections, I might add, that are in direct conflict with a core purpose of these corporate driven agreements. Protections that won’t be worth the paper they are written on. You express hope that these agreements can provide an incentive for Central American labor reform. Are you joking? Do you actually believe this? Do Central American labor organizations and progressives oppose these agreements because they’re too stupid to appreciate that Uncle Sam has their best interests at heart?

Getting back to the Central American economies, it is highly instructive to note that as a consequence of IMF structural adjustment programs, a fast growing area of Third World economies are the remittances from friends and relatives in the First World. The World Bank and UN estimate total remittances worldwide at $200-$300 billion per annum. In Haiti, remittances account for almost a quarter of total gross domestic product. This is your idea of economic development? For large numbers of people in Latin America, the two keys to economic survival are remittances and coca production. All of this is a direct consequence of U.S. economic and foreign policy.

I know that this letter is long and strident. So be it. I have reached the point of total disgust with U.S. illegality, immorality, and stupidity in regards to corporate global imperialism. I had hoped that there might be few members of congress who would have the courage to resist the pressures of their corporate constituency and show real leadership in these troubled times. To acknowledge the reality of peak-oil production, global warming and other forms of ecological breakdown, the immorality of Third World subjugation, and the unsustainable nature of our National Security State economy. To take the lead in opposing U.S. militarism, canceling (not "forgiving") the odious Third World debt, getting rid of the World Bank, IMF, WTO, NAFTA, and all other instruments of economic subjugation and control. To fight like hell to get the U.S. to transition to a sustainable peace-time economy. Things which most of the politically active progressives in the 7th district generally support. Things which I had thought you might support.
And then I got your letter. What am I to make of it? That Congressman Jim McDermott is basically a neo-liberal imperialist who occasionally masquerades as a progressive? Say it ain’t so, Jim, say it ain’t so.

Yours disapprovingly,

April 26, 2005

Dear Keith:

Thank you for contacting me about the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). As you know, The Bush Administration launched trade negotiations with Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua in hopes of securing a trade agreement that will lead to increased trade among these countries and ours.

In the 1980s, three of these countries - El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua - endured brutal civil wars. The other two, Costa Rica and Honduras, often were staging grounds for military action. The wars left more 200,000 people dead and more than one million seeking refuge abroad.

Some of the roots of war lay in economic conditions, such as endemic poverty, high unemployment and a heavy national dependence on a few export commodities. In an effort to temper these problems, the U.S., in 1985, created the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), which reduced tariffs on many products imported from Central America. As a result, CBI countries have significantly diversified their economies. For example, in 1989, coffee represented $105 million of El Salvador's $245 million in total exports to the United States. Today, clothing represents $1.7 billion of El Salvador's $2 billion in exports to the U.S. This growth and diversification has enabled the Salvadoran economy to withstand the record low coffee prices that would have crippled its economy in the 1980s. Today, each Central American country is a peaceful democracy working to integrate their economies with other new world democracies.

While significant changes have occurred in Central America over the last two decades, there is still much more to be accomplished, especially in the area of labor rights. While pursuing free trade agreements with developing countries, our aims shoul include not only opportunities for American businesses, but also development of those principles and labor protections that allow our workforce to compete in foreign markets.

When we encourage developing countries to sell us their goods and services, we can help them expand their economies, create jobs, and raise the living standards of their populations. CBI and other trade preference programs for developing countries have demonstrated this. A well-structured free trade agreement could build upon the progress that resulted from CBI, and provide new opportunities to American firms and exporters, which would help create jobs here at home.

I am concerned that the Bush Administration is taking the wrong approach to CAFTA, as it did with the recent Chile and Singapore free trade agreements, which I opposed. Instead of seeking and promoting greater labor protections for workers in countries with whom we trade, the Administration virtually ignores this concern. I believe its approach is wrong; addressing this critical issue would provide substantial incentives for labor reforms in Central America while ensuring that American workers are not unduly harmed.

While I will reserve a final judgement about CAFTA until the negotiations are finalized and I have had an opportunity to review the agreement thoroughly, I remain dubious about the Administration's philosophy toward international trade, particularly with regard to Central America.

Thank you again for your comments. I will keep them in mind as the 109th congress moves forward.


Jim McDermott, Member of Congress

Thursday, June 09, 2005

THE LEFT (2/21/05)

I tend to think of myself as being on the left, however, I’m not sure exactly what that means. I have come to believe that many "lefties" misperceive what the designation refers to, erroneously imputing some sort of shared ideology. The reality is that the term "left" is a historical designation referring to the location in the French legislative assembly of various factions. On the "right" were the monarchists, on the "left" was everyone else usually thought to be reformers because of their opposition to the monarchy. That’s it. In its present usage, the "left" refers to widely divergent groups of people and ideological perspectives who, curiously, feel that they have much in common when, in fact, they don’t.

If the term "left" refers to a historical grouping, what can we say about the ideological orientation of "the left." For starters, much of "the left," the communists, Marxists, Stalinists, Leninists and Trotskyites are ideological right-wingers camouflaged by progressive rhetoric. Think about it. The phrase "dictatorship of the proletariat" is a contradiction in terms. Was the former Soviet Union socialist? Was the National Socialist (Nazi) party socialist? Were Hitler and Stalin a couple of well-meaning lefties? Virtually everyone on the left (but not the right) would agree that Hitler was the ultimate right-winger, but what about Stalin? A one time hero to many so-called lefties, I might add. Sure there were differences between Nazi Germany and the former Soviet Union, but there were also a lot of obvious and significant similarities. Similarities which were ignored by the party faithful for far too long. Similarities which were the logical consequence of their authoritarian ideologies and organizational structures, with their strong emphasis on party loyalty and discipline.

I have a real problem with the prevalence of a Marxian perspective in much of the left. I say "Marxian" rather than "Marxist" to refer to those who share a Marxist outlook and bias, but not necessarily an acceptance of Marxist ideology. Those, for example, who are infatuated with class analysis. Or who see capitalism and profits as the source of most social evil. People who do not self-identify as communists or Marxists, yet who quote Marx and Lenin and accept the Marxist framework of anti-capitalist critique. In other words, people who analyze current social reality from a narrow and archaic ideological perspective.

It is not my intent to be overly critical of Karl Marx. He wrote The Communist Manifesto a little over 150 years ago when the Industrial Revolution was in full bloom and most of the workers worked in factories, the very symbol of western industrial power and might. At that point in time, it may have seemed realistic to organize factory workers into a class-conscious group that self-identified as "proletariat" and thereby usurp the capitalist elite. The Marxist elites would then assume power and establish a dictatorship. Out with the oligarches, in with the commissars. Why a dictatorship would be better than an oligarchy is a bit of a mystery to me. Personally, I don’t care for either. My main point, however, is that from an intellectual perspective, Marxist analysis may have seemed somewhat plausible in 1850.

Folks, with over 150 years of relevant historical experience, I am of the opinion that Marxist social analysis is so far removed from reality as to be detrimental to understanding current social organizational dynamics. For starters, the very notion of a class-conscious proletariat (factory workers) rising up to seize power is absurd. Yet, many on the left continue to base their hope for change on organizing the masses who, they believe, when confronted with Lefty Truth, will finally see the light, denounce Fox News, turn off the football game, fold up their flags and march hand-in-hand with their lefty comrades to form cooperatives. Marxist ideology has become a sort of secular religion where the followers engage in mind-numbing ritual incantations of the holy Marxist-Leninist scriptures. The one-hundred plus year old writings of Marx and Lenin are treated as revealed truth rather than outdated insights of questionable validity. Arguments are supported by scripture quoted from the book of Marx. Enough already!

To have any chance at all of achieving our worthy goals, progressives must be insightful and creative. The forces of empire have immense resources. Our one big advantage is our ability to perceive reality for what it is and to act on that knowledge. We must out-think the elites, un-hobbled by ideological constraints. We cannot continue to do the same old thing, to redouble our efforts in the same losing strategy. We need to understand basic social dynamics. Why do most people go along with elite rule? Why do most people accept crude propaganda rather than critically rejecting it? Why are Americans so patriotic? What can we do to counteract the social control mechanisms of our elite run society? We need to understand why society is the way it is, then act creatively to change it to be more like the way it ought to be. The understanding comes first.

There are several critically important points I am trying to make. The first is that "the left" is not an ideologically homogenous group. Attempting to crunch us together into a classical centralized organizational structure is counterproductive, yet, that is the recurring organizational philosophy. The second point is that those who do share at least a minimal intellectual kinship need to somehow communicate with each other to develop a cohesive social analysis and philosophy to guide their actions. Hopefully, there will be many different perspectives and insights. Diversity as strength, not weakness. Finally, we need to emphasize networking ( as opposed to organization building) as a means of coming together on specific issues. People who have significant differences can nonetheless work together on common goals.

Seattle Keith 2/21/05


As a radical left dissident, I tend to associate with people who are advocates for change. Most of these people would agree that the United States is a capitalist country. Frequently, I perceive an undercurrent of anti-capitalist bias, at least at the rhetorical level.

Although I am anti-capitalist (as I define capitalism), I nonetheless have several problems with what I am seeing and hearing. For starters, I doubt that you could get much agreement on a common definition of capitalism (mine is somewhat unique) , hence, everyone thinks that they are talking about the same thing when in reality significant differences are hidden by conceptual vagueness.

Another problem I have with vague capitalism bashing is that I get the impression that many lefties suffer from the delusion that getting rid of "capitalism" (however defined) will solve most of our problems and usher in some vaguely perceived Golden Age. Capitalism didn’t invent war, empire, slavery, exploitation, subjugation, etc. Simply getting rid of capitalism guarantees nothing.

Additionally, many on the left tend to discuss the issues utilizing a sort of shop worn Marxism. Bourgeois. Unearned rents. Rentier class. Profits are evil. That sort of thing. In short, many seem conceptually stuck in a 150 year old intellectual cul-de-sac of dubious (at best) validity. The problem with this is that it inhibits serious intellectual discussion of social organizational dynamics.

Marxism’s fatal flaw is that it is primarily based upon economic theory. Capitalist economic theory developed in response to the onset of the Industrial Revolution and the rising power of the business/financial elites. At its most fundamental level, it evolved into a complex ideology which rationalizes and justifies the concentration of economic power (money) in the hands of the captains of industry and commerce. This economic power roughly translates into effective social control. Capitalist economic theory serves to facilitate and camouflage this social control.

Marx manipulated standard economic concepts to produce an alternative economic ideology. He hoped to unite the factory workers as a class (proletariat) in order to overthrow the capitalist elites and replace them with a communist dictatorship (of the proletariat, of course). Out with the oligarches, in with the commissars. Like capitalist economic theory, Marxism rationalizes and misrepresents the power relationships of the social system it seeks to justify. Marxism and capitalism have more in common than either would care to admit. Both rely on a vocabulary ill suited to describing or analyzing current social reality.

It’s not just that some of the vocabulary turns many people off, but that the vocabulary itself tends to pigeonhole the thought process. The vocabulary was developed to advance a different version of hierarchical domination and control. To understand what is really going on, we need to develop our own social organizational theory, and to understand the crucial role that money and finance play in modern society. Money is power. Economic power in fluid form. The primary instrument of social control. One cannot even begin to fathom the nature of corporate globalization by talking about worker control of the means of production. Nor can one deal with the reality that imperialism preceded and transcends capitalism by chanting slogans about socialist solidarity. In short, we need to make a conscientious effort to emphasize non-ideological straight-talk. We need more understanding, not ideology masquerading as theory.

Seattle Keith 6/6/04


The United States is a fascist nation. The transition to fascism occurred during and immediately following World War II. No, we are not a fascist dictatorship like Germany or Italy was. Rather, we are covertly fascistic. A corporate dominated national security state.

The essence of fascism is governmental control of the economy through the military-industrial complex. Benito Mussolini once said that "Modern fascism should be properly called corporatism, since it is the merger of state, military and corporate power." In the U.S., military spending provides the essential government spending which underpins the economy. Also, it provides the subsidized R&D that the high-tech sectors of the economy rely upon. Without massive military spending, the government would have to redirect spending to socially beneficial things (currently unacceptable to the ruling elites) or the economy would crash due to lack of demand.

The Great Depression was a wake-up call to the ruling elites. It became obvious to most of the corporate leadership that, rhetoric aside, advanced capitalism required massive government intervention in the economy. Obvious, direct quasi-socialist intervention could lead to citizen involvement in economic decision making and was totally unacceptable to American economic elites. Fascism, on the other hand, provided indirect control responsive to elite pressure and insulated from popular involvement. Additionally, fascism was mutually congruent with and supportive of empire.

For a country mired in a great depression, economic stimulation through military spending had great appeal. Prior to World War II, both Hitler and Mussolini received considerable favorable press coverage in the U.S.. FDR himself referred to Mussolini as "that fine Italian gentleman." In the 1930s, Henry Ford was honored to receive a medal from Hitler’s Germany. Charles Lindbergh was a frequent guest of the Third Reich, who downplayed the negative aspects of Nazi Germany. Before the war, American business found much to admire in Germany and Italy.

The war itself convinced elite skeptics that a war-driven economy was the way to go. I doubt that they thought of themselves as fascists or would have described the evolving system as fascism. The term fascism is usually used to describe overt fascist dictatorships, not the covert fascism of the national security state the U.S. became. In any event, World War II served to jump start the economy out of the Great Depression. Republicans are fond of saying that the war brought us out of the depression, not Roosevelt’s New Deal. True. And more significant than most people realize.

After the war, the business elites feared a return of the depression if normal demobilization occurred. The spending splurge of the returning troops bought some time as the elites frantically sought ways to justify the military Keynesianism that they had come to depend upon. Thus, the Red Menace was born as Americans were told that it would be suicidal to disarm and leave ourselves defenseless against the ruthless onslaught of International Communism. The onset of the Korean war provided the government with a pretext to rally the public in favor of massive military spending. A permanent war economy became the norm.

The transition to a national security state dovetailed nicely with elite imperial ambitions. After the war, the U.S. waged an unrelenting and successful effort to restore the pre-war conditions of western dominance and Third World subservience and exploitation. The key difference being that the industrial nations would no longer compete and war with each other over who gets to plunder what. Rather, Uncle Sam, acting as planetary mafia don, engaged in non-stop aggression against the entire Third World to keep them in their place and ensure cheap raw materials for the west, and open markets for western manufactures. Uncle Sam enforced order and called the shots, the western allies gave support and got a piece of the action. All of this was sold to the public as defense against communism.

A key to understanding current U.S. foreign policy is to understand the impact of American fascism. It has been said that the business of America is business. Following World War II, it would be more appropriate to say that the business of America is war. Not war against other industrial powers which would be mutually destructive and possibly suicidal, rather, war against some defenseless Third World country, justified by some flimsy pretext with the support of the doctrinal system. War on terror, war on drugs, humanitarian intervention, whatever.

Uncle Sam is always looking for some excuse to get involved in a war, although "war" isn’t accurate when applied to U.S. aggression against the Third World. If a mafia don were to send some goons to beat up some hapless shopkeeper, would you call that a fight? How many millions of Third World people have died because of U.S. imperial interventions? The sad truth is that the last thing our elite rulers want is peace on earth, goodwill to all. Our economy would have to change or collapse, and they don’t want either to occur.

The critically important point is that the massive U.S. military budget is not a response to any military threat, rather, the emphasis on military might leads to U.S. aggression and terrorist retaliation. Our excessive military spending doesn’t buy security, it promotes conflict. And profits for corporate America. It is imperative that we work to dismantle the American empire and roll back the national security state. No easy task with virtually every congressional district receiving significant money from "defense" spending. An essential first step is to relentlessly attack the patriotic, jingoistic mythology which provides the ideological justification for our warmongering insanity.

Seattle Keith 1/2/05

Monday, June 06, 2005


Even though we live in what most would agree is a capitalist nation, there seems to be much confusion as to what capitalism is. To a degree, that is understandable. Part of the function of capitalist economic theory is to obscure the power relationships and social organizational dynamics behind a facade of self-serving ideology. The essence of capitalism is the control of society by the economic elites. Money (capital) rules.

Giant corporations and the super-rich constitute an oligarchy which exercises effective social control both through their domination of economic decision making and through their indirect control of our totally corrupt political system. It is this unwholesome concentration of economic power which is the essence of capitalist control. Talk about ownership of the means of production is an archaic misrepresentation of reality. It’s the money.

In discussing social organizational reality, we must at all times be aware of the social dynamics of power. When the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia, did they usher in a worker’s paradise? Of course not. They consolidated their power and ruled through centralized bureaucratic control, justified by ideological misrepresentations of reality (dictatorship of the proletariat, etc). The main point is that the concentration of power in any form is the key problem to be dealt with in trying to transform any society from the way it is to be more like the way it ought to be. In our society, money is the key. It is pointless to advocate replacing a Fat Cat with a Fat Bureaucrat, and cooperatives have only limited application. We need to clear our minds of ideological baggage in order to understand and deal with the consequences of organizational hierarchy.

One of the critical features of capitalism is the use of market control mechanisms to achieve efficient social control. The giant corporations have created a system whereby the average person needs to accommodate himself to powerful corporate controlled market forces in order to survive. The market has expanded to the point where virtually every adult must work for wages to obtain the money to buy the essentials of life. There is nothing wrong with working for wages, however, the nature of our economy is that most are forced to take whatever employment they can get. The corporations and the rich decide whether there will be a demand for teachers or a demand for munitions workers. The decisions which profoundly effect our economic well-being and quality of life are made in corporate boardrooms and most of us have no say and little choice but to go along.

The control of the flow of money is a remarkably efficient means of social control. Most people respond to monetary inducement so unthinkingly that the social control aspects of monetary power go unnoticed. The attention usually falls on governmental actions (strongly influenced by the economic elites) while our corporate rulers wheel and deal in the shadows, the true nature of our political economy largely unexamined and misunderstood.

What to do? In theory, the transition from a corporate-capitalist controlled society to a more wholesome, balanced and more or less democratic society is fairly straight-forward (implementation is another story). The two keys are 1) governmental control of the financial system and 2) breaking up concentrated economic power. In regards to the second item, it should be noted that we have been relentlessly moving in the opposite direction for at least the last fifty years. The ongoing reduction in taxation on the corporations and super-rich have concentrated economic power as never before. The net effect has been the creation of a transnational corporate oligarchy controlled by the wealthy elite.

The way to break up concentrated economic power is through taxation. We need realistically progressive taxation on income and accumulated wealth for individuals and organizations (dealing with non-profit organizations may be difficult). The intent is to drastically reduce the concentration of economic power under elite control. In the case of corporations, it would tend to make massive size uneconomic, hence, to shrink the size of the big corporations and spread the wealth around. Many more smaller businesses competing is better than a few large businesses dominating. Oligarchy requires sufficiently small numbers to permit efficient coordination and control.

This is not a return to the past where many small capitalists vigorously engaged in cutthroat competition. That would be a disaster. Rather, it is a means to wrest the political system from the control of concentrated corporate and financial power. In any advanced industrial economy, the government plays an active role, however, now it would be open and above board and subject to at least some democratic decision making. It would not be difficult to take appropriate measures to ameliorate any adverse consequences to increased local business competition. This would be far preferable to the current race to the bottom caused by corporate globalization. When businessmen rule, society suffers.

In addition to dis-empowering the monster corporations and super-rich through taxes, we need to empower the people through income redistribution and entitlements. Poor people need more money to spend and we all need universal health care. The minimum wage needs to be significantly increased. Higher education should be free and widely available. The social safety net needs to be expanded and strengthened, not destroyed. In short, an economic bill of rights to give meaning to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As for control of the financial system, there is simply no way that private control of the fundamental driving force of social control (money) is going to facilitate socially desirable, sustainable development. For starters, banks in competition with other banks need to offer attractive rates of return to depositors which requires attractive rates of return on loans. This, in turn, requires investing in market friendly activities which reinforce market domination and control, and also in the more lucrative socially dysfunctional types of business: oil exploration, big dams, roads, airports, luxury hotels, shopping malls, financial speculation, money laundering, etc. Allowing private control of the economy for private gain is insane. Private business is fine, but overall control of the political economy must be in the public domain through the political system.

In order to implement these or any other socially beneficial changes it will be necessary to break free from the tyranny of global capital. All of the financial and trade agreements are designed to facilitate global economic domination and control by the economic elites. This unrestricted private financial intrusion into local economies renders popular democratic economic reform impossible. The cross-border flow of money needs to be severely restricted and controlled.

Also, international trade, far from being the key to universal prosperity, is another means of economic domination and social control. In the international market, as everywhere else, the economically powerful dominate the economically weak. International market interdependencies ensnare the Third World in a web of First World financial and corporate control. Control, I might add, that is backed by US military power, ready to punish weak and defenseless nations that resist playing by our rules. Additionally, the global trade in goods requires massive use of fossil fuels and is inherently anti-environmental. To the greatest degree possible, international trade should be discouraged and local autonomy encouraged.

A final point needs to be emphasized. In any society, the political system needs to be the overarching system of coordination and control. In our society, the economic system has totally overwhelmed the political system with disastrous consequences. That needs to be corrected. However, it is essential to keep in mind that the government and the political system are not synonymous. Even as we use the political system to gain control of the economic system through financial control, taxation and economic rights, we need to guard against giving governmental officials too much discretionary power. We need a political system which safeguards against all forms of concentrated power.

In conclusion, the essence of capitalism is the rule of money. The nature of capitalism is that the social impacts of money making activities are ignored as capitalists engage in a kind of economic warfare (competition) to increase their power (money). The tendency is for economic power to become ever more concentrated, and for oligarchic social control in which the elites intentionally dis-empower the citizenry economically and politically in order to consolidate and protect their power and privilege. The consequence is a highly dysfunctional society with a strong emphasis on the exploitation of human weakness for gain. For the majority this means a lack of development of their human potential and the degrading of their quality of life. The system seems to gravitate towards a form of National Security State (fascism), and serious social and environmental problems are not dealt with because the solutions would impinge upon elite power. Our long term goal should be the transformation of society away from the oligarchic rule of capital into a more balanced society of citizen empowerment and corporate/elite dis-empowerment that emphasizes the sustainable development of human potential rather than the unsustainable exploitation of human weakness.

Seattle Keith 4/3/05

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

No Empire (7/30/04)

The movement which began in opposition to the conquest of Iraq now continues in opposition to the occupation of Iraq. There is an awareness within the movement that Iraq is not an isolated incident and that the movement needs to address the ongoing problem of U.S. militarism. Additionally, there is a sense of the need to deal with other peace and justice issues not directly related to Iraq. These concerns need to be linked conceptually.

Structurally, all of these problems are manifestations of empire. The United States has a military presence in 153 of the 189 U.N. members, for a total of 725 overseas bases. That’s not defense, that’s empire! Additionally, over half of the world’s population live in countries whose economies are more or less run by the (U.S. controlled) World Bank and IMF. Further manifestations of empire.

Up until recently, the American empire was something of a stealth empire to most Americans. The cold war and official rhetoric provided semi-plausible pretexts for U.S. military interventionism and massive military budgets. Following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, however, the barely restrained use of military force (and threat of force) against defenseless Third World countries (justified by flimsy pretexts) has created a situation where the reality of empire is becoming obvious for all to see. This is the Achilles heel of the American empire. The American people are not likely to support Imperial wars of conquest. Once they are forced to accept reality for what it is, voluntary support for the system will collapse.

Aye, there’s the rub. Getting the American people to recognize reality in the face of massive propaganda to the contrary. Honest discussion is drowned out by the din of hundreds of media flacks, and the constant use of patriotic jingoism. Yet, if not now, when? Never has the disconnect between reality and mythology been greater. Now is the time to exploit that schism to shatter the mythology. Once people accept that America is an empire, their perception of reality will profoundly shift.

Imagery and vocabulary are critical. There is no such thing as a good empire. Empires don’t liberate, they conquer and occupy, subjugate and exploit, kill and terrorize. We don’t have a defense budget, we have a military budget. We are lied to by the corporate media. Our government mostly serves the interests of the corporate elite, whose control over the economy roughly translates into effective social control. The IMF and World Bank serve the interests of the First World corporations. The WTO, NAFTA, etc. are attempts to institutionalize world-wide corporate rule. The invasion and occupation of Iraq is an attempt to establish direct U.S. control over the Middle East oil reserves. Also, to send a message to other Third World countries to get in line and stay in line or else. Brutal Imperial aggression which all citizens have an obligation to resist.

An essential component of resisting empire is to identify the various manifestations of empire as examples of Imperial aggression, domination and control. We need to link the specific problem with the overall theme. END THE OCCUPATION and NO EMPIRE. CLOSE THE S.O.A. and NO EMPIRE. NO SPACE WEAPONS and NO EMPIRE, etc. All of these need to be visually linked through posters, bumper stickers, etc. Right now the emphasis should be END THE OCCUPATION and NO EMPIRE. We need to be creative in finding ways to break through the propaganda and discredit the mythology.

While ending the occupation of Iraq is a critically important part of opposition to empire, the end of the occupation would not signal an end to progressive attempts to roll back empire. No doubt opinions would vary as to post occupation priorities, however, I think that slashing military spending and dismantling the neo-liberal instruments of economic domination and control (IMF, WORLD BANK, WTO, NAFTA, FTAA, etc) are essential priorities. The key is to stay focused on dismantling the structural components of the American empire.

Stopping and dismantling empire will require a frontal assault on official mythology and propaganda. This can only be carried out through direct communication. Posters, bumper stickers, leaflets, whatever. The corporate mass media is an instrument of elite propaganda. Talk of media reform is a pipe dream, and a waste of time and resources. We need to find creative ways to bypass the media and, hopefully, discredit them as well. The intent is to create a network of people who are opposed to an American empire, and who share a fundamental belief in peace and justice. This could include considerable diversity of political perspective. The core unifier would be fundamental decency and opposition to empire.

Seattle Keith 7/30/04