23 January 2004
Blair and Bush Build the Corporate Security State
We live in strange and unknown times. All the old paradigms as they say, have disappeared. The world most of us have grown up in has vanished, at least that’s the appearance of things. But have they, or is it that we have merely forgotten our history, that we have been down this route before? Perhaps it’s time to put the present in the context of the past.
When Benito Mussolini grabbed power in 1919, the world he grew up in had also disappeared. Dominated by the Bolshevik Revolution, the capitalist world lived in fear of its imminent dissolution. Moreover, Europe of the time was in dire economic straights following the end of WWI. The stage was set for a showdown. The Left in Italy was powerful, especially in the industrialised North, the unions powerful and demands for a radical re-distribution of wealth growing apace. Capitalism was faced with a crisis, either revolution or rule by force. Enter Il Duce.
The parallels between Mussolini and Tony Blair are more than simply symbolic, for Mussolini was also a former ‘socialist’ but making comparisons of this kind are dangerous, especially if based upon the quality (or otherwise) of individuals. It’s necessary therefore to explore the issues more deeply than merely the demagoguery of our ‘leaders’. Capitalism is not under threat, at least not from the an imminent socialist revolution. Nevertheless there is a threat and it’s not the ‘terrorist’ one.
Bluntly, there is a crisis of confidence in capitalism that expresses itself not only in a growing disaffection with the quality of life as it is lived, but also a deep unease brought about in no small measure by the impending climate crisis, and a sense that politically, we live in a one-dimensional state (Tory/Labour – Democrat/Republican – Social Democrat/Christian Democrat etc).
Without a viable alternative except an extreme, reactionary right that appeals only to small and fluid segments of society, citizens have retreated from political participation almost entirely. Memberships of the dominant political parties in the developed world have plummeted.
Alongside this there is a growing realisation amongst the vast majority of the planet’s population – who have been totally disenfranchised (not to say further impoverished) by the ‘neo-liberal’ counter-revolution of the 1980s and the demise of the Socialist ‘experiment’ that defined the 20th century – from sharing in the gains that the rest of us enjoy. They too, suffer from an increasing frustration and also lack a voice that can offer a viable alternative, except the equivalent demagoguery of the fundamentalist for a return to mythical ‘good times’. Indeed, the parallels between the ‘new liberal imperialism’ of Tony Blair and Osama bin Laden’s ‘purist’ Islam, were they not so tragic and dangerous would be ironic.
So although the ‘threat’ to capitalism is diffuse and composed of a number of connected strands, on the surface it would appear that there is no imminent challenge to ‘capitalism triumphant’. So why the panic? Why the headlong plunge into ‘dictatorship with a digital face’? Why the necessity to invent the ‘terrorist threat’?
Paradoxically, part of the answer would seem to lie with the very triumph of Reagan’s war on the ‘evil empire’, for bereft of an ‘enemy’ to drive capitalism forward, the dominant forces – principally the US – cast about, looking for an ‘enemy’ to justify its domination of the world’s economy, its resources and its people. Without an external enemy, the ‘logic’ of the military-industrial complex’s domination of the world’s economy was cut adrift and in danger of being demoted from determining the direction of terminal capitalism.
And course, the West’s absolute dependence on oil has been a constant thread throughout most of the 20th century and the realisation that oil supplies had peaked, added an urgency to the ‘new imperialist’ agenda. For without cheap oil to power its insatiable appetite, imperialism is doomed.
Once free however, to pursue what it saw as its only obstacle to global domination – the Soviet Union and its (nominal) allies in the developing world – the West needed a rationale to justify the continuation of its Cold War policies. An enemy even more ‘evil’ than Communism was needed, and quickly.
It’s all too easy for us to forget – especially when panicked – the relative elation felt by people when the Cold War ended. Many felt that with the lifting of the shadow of nuclear annihilation we could once more look forward with optimism to a positive future, whereby all the promises of the ‘free market’ would see opportunity for all. After all, that’s what we had been promised for over forty years.
To some this may read as a somewhat simplistic explanation and I’m not saying it was planned, in the sense that it was pre-ordained, but as ever, serendipity plays a central role in determining events, especially when all the necessary elements were present, indeed built-in to the rationale for the Cold War. And the newly invented enemies of ‘democracy’ were the West’s creation in the first place, and all handily ‘in place’ ready to be used in their new role. Moreover, there are other contributing factors, especially the revolution in production afforded by the information technology revolution that has resulted in productive power unprecedented in its scale and created deep contradictions for capitalism for which it has no solution.
To this heady mix, must be added the increasing criminalisation of the most powerful capitalist state, the US, again afforded by its Cold War policies in Asia and Central America that enabled it to build an international network of connections with organised crime for laundering money, smuggling drugs and guns, backed by the US state’s incestuous relationship with the arms and oil industries.
However, without an equivalent enemy to replace the ‘evil empire’ the West was confronted with a real dilemma – how to persuade an increasingly comfortable (and sceptical) population that it was necessary to carry on with business as usual? What of the ‘peace dividend’ now the ‘evil empire’ is no more? Instead, the imperium beats it swords into surveillance devices.
Hence for the first time, the major capitalist powers were faced with a diffuse but very real opposition to its policies and has been pointed out many times by various writers, the major ‘enemy’ of the USUK were its own populations. How to persuade them to go along with its new policy or rather, its old policy in a new guise?
The period from 1990 to the present can properly be described as an interregnum, a time during which the West formulated a new strategy to justify its theft of the planet’s resources. The Gulf War, the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, the incorporation of the former Socialist states and finally the invention of the ‘war on terror’ and the invasion of Iraq are part of a continuum. However, it has not been plain sailing in spite of what has been the most aggressive and sustained propaganda campaign ever mounted since WWII.
Critically however, the propaganda campaign has not been successful in spite of every device used to put the fear of Osama/Saddam into us. People and rightly so, remain unconvinced or at the very least, are ambivilent about the ‘war on terror’. They look for results. Instead, the scare tactics have, in a very real sense, backfired on its inventors. All the dire predictions of another, even worse 9/11 have not come to pass. The weapons of mass destruction have failed to materialise. The morale of the imperium’s centurions after a mere nine months is at a low. The US has the biggest debt in its history. Things look decidedly dodgy for the imperium.
And the overthrow of Saddam has had the opposite effect, for not only has it failed to bring a resolution to the Palestine/Israel conflict, it has revealed the real objectives of the US/Israeli axis and further destabilised the Middle East. Nor has all that oil materialised as it did in the infantile dreams of the Beltway Bandits.
Attempts to persuade Blair to go along with an extension of the war on Iraq to one on Iran and/or Syria has been met with a less an enthusiastic response, the bottom line being that the UK simply cannot afford its imperialist ambitions and as it transpires, neither can the US. Attempts to persuade the EU to go along with the imperium’s plans have also failed, and in a particularly spectacular way, again because of massive opposition from the populations of Europe.
Ultimately then, the state and big business have been forced to rely on extreme measures – the creation of the Corporate Security State – in order to pursue their policies, just as Mussolini did in 1919 in order to try and reestablish Italy as an imperial contender following the redrawing of power relations at the end of WWI and to forestall a socialist revolution.
The reality is that it is only through the creation of the Corporate Security State that the policies of the imperium have any chance of succeeding and unlike Il Duce, the USUK’s would-be imperium has resources that Mussolini could only dream of. Yet in spite of the vast array of repressive apparatus at its disposal, the outcome is far from being decided.