Here’s my speech from the conference in Havana. I wrote a million pages more but was up against a time limit, so understand that if anything seems underdeveloped it’s because I don’t have an answer or didn’t have the space to discuss it here. In the case of both, I’m working on it. Email me if you want the 20 page version, it’s better and more in depth. For the sake of just getting it out there, here’s my speech…
You Can Run but You Can’t Hide (Dealing with Global Class War)
By M.H. Abouzelof
A billionaire, a loyalist, and a laborer all sit down at a table. On the table are 12 cookies. The billionaire picks up 11 of the cookies and shoves them in his pocket. He then turns to the loyalist. “Keep an eye on that guy,” the billionaire says, pointing his finger at the laborer. “He’s gonna steal your cookie.”
Nowadays when people bring up class war in the United States, it’s often dismissed as rhetoric spewed by radicals who are more interested in tearing down the status quo than rebuilding a healthy economy. Concepts like the redistribution of wealth and social welfare programs are treated like utopian dreams conjured up by idealists, and class warfare is shrugged off as a divisive term used by a highly impractical fringe.
But, as the wealthy investor Warren Buffett noted, “There’s class warfare all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
Globalization has transformed the socio-economic landscape since it took off in the 1970s. One result of this shift has been the rise of a global ruling class known in economics as the Transnational Capitalist Class. Just so we’re clear, “transnational” refers to forces, processes and institutions that cross national borders without directly deriving power from one nation or another. An example would be Shell, a company who operates on nearly every continent. They’re Dutch, but they’re more than Dutch—they’re transnational.
This distinctive class has the ability to coordinate capitalist ventures on a worldwide level. They fragment and decentralize modes of production before consciously reinserting them into a structure created around making money. It’s a system often portrayed as an impersonal force that ordinary people (and in some cases, entire nations) can do nothing to stop, but in reality the system thrives on mass consent, and there are identifiable actors driving it. Included are:
*Transnational corporations and financial institutions
*Privately owned mass media conglomerates
*Powerful political entities
*Supranational economic planning agencies like the IMF and World Bank
Combined, these elements work together to maintain and extend upper class dominance. Let me briefly touch on a few of them.
Transnational corporations are at the forefront of capitalist expansion, making them a central factor for discussion. Their main characteristic is the ceaseless pursuit of maximum return on capital investment. They have no intrinsic loyalty to any of the locations where they conduct business, but move from place to place as profits dictate. All other components actively support these corporations; without them, a global ruling class could not exist.
Nations still exist in the new transnational world, but more as political representatives. Some countries are imperialist in appearance, but the true imperialists are the wealthy and powerful elements within each country, regardless if the nation claims to be communist or capitalist. They maintain it is the duty of the people to sacrifice for the state, but what good is it if the state neglects the people? Shouldn’t the state be obliged to sacrifice for its citizens?
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
I reject this on fundamental terms. We do not exist for the state—the state exists for us. It acts as a representative of the people, and if it fails to represent the people justly with the good of overall society in mind, then there is no reason to defend it.
A state where political power is sold to the highest bidder is one that represents those who can afford representation. The wealthy and corporations purchase political power through lobbyists and campaign contributions, and promote interests that rest well outside of national wellbeing. They then use privately owned media outlets to disseminate their message, stoking divisions with smoke and mirrors that conceal what’s really going on. That’s not much of a surprise; the mainstream media is owned and operated almost exclusively by members of the upper class
This is part of the reason why the poor in America tend to vote along party lines that are often against the people’s best interests. They’re so busy defending so-called American values that they fail to recognize that in actuality they’re defending an erosion of the ideals they profess to stand for. Everyone wants access to healthcare, food, housing, and education, yet a large portion of the population votes for politicians who actively restrict those basic needs. The weirdest part is, these restrictions are made in the name of American prosperity.
What’s good for GM is good for America…
The upper class acts as if the reason jobs are leaving the country is due to it being unfriendly to business. They advocate making the country more attractive for free enterprise, which ultimately comes down to a base argument for “lower taxes and less regulations.” From their perspective, they’re correct. Lower taxes definitely allow the wealthy to keep more of the profits, and paying living wages costs more than using slave labor. Business, which is more concerned with money than people, isn’t attracted to places where they have to put people ahead of profits. As for environmental protection mandates, having to care about what you dump in rivers and pump in the air is a burdensome task, and one that rarely increases profits.
Sure, it hurts the individual workers as well as the environment, but let’s face it, loose regulations are great for business.
So, after briefly addressing who’s doing what, let’s move on to what the working class can do about it. But first, let’s take a step back and talk about what’s really at stake. If there is a war, it seems reasonable to identify what it means to win.
What are we fighting for?
In previous times, the goal was social equality, or at the very least, a higher level of overall wellbeing. Now, the looming environmental crisis brought on by climate change adds a new element to the discussion. The upper class advocates generally advocates delaying any attempts to curb excesses until it becomes more profitable.
Because of this, and along with the recognition of how drastically climate change will affect the planet, there is a growing call for reengineering the earth. Companies like Monsanto, Bayer, BASF and Exxon Mobile have been patenting technologies made to combat the side-effects of environmental change, all the while promoting policies that add to the problem.
The climate crisis shows how the wealthy assume they are in control, but in reality, they only have illusory control. We live in a closed ecosystem, and the livelihoods of the rich exist alongside those of the poor. Humanity has to take a long honest look in the mirror. We can’t over consume in some parts of the world and overpopulate in others—it’s simply not sustainable.
We need to reevaluate our goals as a species.
As far as I can tell, only education and/or catastrophe can bring about the necessary paradigm shift. Since a catastrophe appears to be the suboptimal solution, we’re left with education as the soundest approach. Nonetheless, education is often treated as an ever-present afterthought instead of a major concern, especially when compared to economic austerity and military spending.
A dumber population is easier to control—but only to a point. It’s really a false sense of security. I’d council the rich to remember the lessons learned from the French Revolution. Do they really want an uneducated, violent mob running through the streets wrecking havoc on anything they view as a target? If and when people start screaming for blood, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s simply a matter of the hen coming home to roost.
Still, it’s not a shock that education is always the first thing to get cut during budget woes. Education for the people is not a major concern for the transnational capitalist class, and that is something that should be a major concern for everyone.
This brings up the question: How can we make the powers that be recognize education as a priority?
We could try to rely on voting, but the political system is so slanted that it would be a slow, arduous process at best. I think we need to use movements like Occupy Wall Street to force their hand. Resistance to global capitalism is only effective through local disruptions at the moment, but there is nothing inherently prohibiting local movements from going global.
The dialectics of global capitalist expansion has created the conditions for its own destruction.
Some countries can try to stay isolated, but in reality, nobody is insolated, not even the wealthy. I applaud the Cubans for undertaking such a progressive approach to running a country, but I think it’s a mistake to limit access to information and communication. There’s a lot of fuzz out there, and it’s understandable why the country wouldn’t want misinformation flooding the island, but the key isn’t limiting access as much as teaching people to see through the garbage. It’s like trying to shield a child from the realities of life. At some point, they’re going to find out anyway, so it’s better to prepare them to understand the world than to try to hide it away from them.
It’s all about education and communication.
At the moment, indigenous tribes in South America are using Skype to coordinate mass resistance against outside encroachments. They recognize how important technology is. They know that if they set themselves apart from one another, they’re never going to get anywhere. They realize communication is a key, not a lock.
As people who are aware and in positions to discuss what’s really happening in the world, it’s our job to disseminate clear thoughts to the masses. It’s not enough to just talk about it—we have to live what we preach. I call on all those present to push towards making our message accurate, relatable and accessible to everyone. We have to use out-of-the-box approaches, with the goal of reaching those both inside and outside of academia. The future of mankind has yet to be decided. We need to stand up and make a difference while we still can.