zaterdag 11 mei 2013

American Terrorism 7

Guatemalan Ex-Dictator Found Guilty of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity

Saturday, 11 May 2013 09:15By Tim JohnsonMcClatchy Newspapers | Report
Mexico City - A three-judge panel Friday convicted former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt of genocide, saying his military regime used “extreme terror” in an effort to wipe out a Mayan minority ethnic group in the early 1980s.

In a packed courtroom in Guatemala City, Judge Yassmin Barrios said investigators had proven that the regime led by Rios Montt, who is 86, used starvation, mass homicide, dislocation, rape and aerial bombardment as tactics to exterminate the Ixil minority, which it believed to harbor leftist guerrillas.
Barrios gave Rios Montt a 50-year jail term for genocide and an additional 30 years for crimes against humanity...

At the time of Rios Montt’s rule, the United States was engaged in proxy war across Central America in an effort to turn back Cuban-backed leftists in the region. In December 1982, President Ronald Reagan said after meeting with Rios Montt in Honduras that the Guatemalan dictator got a “bum rap” as a human rights violator.

Further reading:

Tales of Reagan’s Guatemala Genocide

April 16, 2013

By Robert Parry
The first month of the genocide trial of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt has elicited chilling testimony from Mayan survivors who – as children – watched their families slaughtered by a right-wing military that was supported and supplied by U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
As the New York Times reportedon Monday, “In the tortured logic of military planning documents conceived under Mr. Ríos Montt’s 17-month rule during 1982 and 1983, the entire Mayan Ixil population was a military target, children included. Officers wrote that the leftist guerrillas fighting the government had succeeded in indoctrinating the impoverished Ixils and reached ‘100 percent support.’”

President Ronald Reagan meeting with Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt.
So, everyone was targeted in these scorched-earth campaigns that eradicated more than 600 Indian villages in the Guatemalan highlands. But this genocide was not simply the result of a twisted anticommunist ideology that dominated the Guatemalan military and political elites. This genocide also was endorsed by the Reagan administration.
A document that I discovered recently in the archives of the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, revealed that Reagan and his national security team in 1981 agreed to supply military aid to the brutal right-wing regime in Guatemala to pursue the goal of exterminating not only “Marxist guerrillas” but people associated with their “civilian support mechanisms.”
This supportive attitude toward the Guatemalan regime’s brutality took shape in spring 1981 as President Reagan sought to ease human-rights restrictions on military aid to Guatemala that had been imposed by President Jimmy Carter and the Democratic-controlled Congress in the late 1970s.
As part of that relaxation effort, Reagan’s State Department “advised our Central American embassies that it has been studying ways to restore a closer, cooperative relationship with Guatemala,” according to a White House “Situation Room Checklist” dated April 8, 1981. The document added:
“State believes a number of changes have occurred which could make Guatemalan leaders more receptive to a new U.S. initiative: the Guatemalans view the new administration as more sympathetic to their problems [and] they are less suspect of the U.S. role in El Salvador,” where the Reagan administration was expanding support for another right-wing regime infamous for slaughtering its political opponents, including Catholic clergy.
“State has concluded that any attempt to reestablish a dialogue [with Guatemala] would require some initial, condition-free demonstration of our goodwill. However, this could not include military sales which would provoke serious U.S. public and congressional criticism. State will undertake a series of confidence building measures, free of preconditions, which minimize potential conflict with existing legislation.”
The “checklist” added that the State Department “has also decided that the administration should engage the Guatemalan government at the highest level in a dialogue on our bilateral relations and the initiatives we can take together to improve them. Secretary [of State Alexander] Haig has designated [retired] General Vernon Walters as his personal emissary to initiate this process with President [Fernando Romeo] Lucas [Garcia].
“If Lucas is prepared to give assurances that he will take steps to halt government involvement in the indiscriminate killing of political opponents and to foster a climate conducive to a viable electoral process, the U.S. will be prepared to approve some military sales immediately.”
But the operative word in that paragraph was “indiscriminate.” The Reagan administration expressed no problem with killing civilians if they were considered supporters of the guerrillas who had been fighting against the country’s ruling oligarchs and generals since the 1950s when the CIA organized the overthrow of Guatemala’s reformist President Jacobo Arbenz.
Sympathy for the Generals
The distinction was spelled out in “Talking Points” for Walters to deliver in a face-to-face meeting with General Lucas. As edited inside the White House in April 1981, the “Talking Points” read: “The President and Secretary Haig have designated me [Walters] as [their] personal emissary to discuss bilateral relations on an urgent basis.
“Both the President and the Secretary recognize that your country is engaged in a war with Marxist guerrillas. We are deeply concerned about externally supported Marxist subversion in Guatemala and other countries in the region. As you are aware, we have already taken steps to assist Honduras and El Salvador resist this aggression.
“The Secretary has sent me here to see if we can work out a way to provide material assistance to your government. … We have minimized negative public statements by US officials on the situation in Guatemala. … We have arranged for the Commerce Department to take steps that will permit the sale of $3 million worth of military trucks and Jeeps to the Guatemalan army. …
“With your concurrence, we propose to provide you and any officers you might designate an intelligence briefing on regional developments from our perspective. Our desire, however, is to go substantially beyond the steps I have just outlined. We wish to reestablish our traditional military supply and training relationship as soon as possible.
“As we are both aware, this has not yet been feasible because of our internal political and legal constraints relating to the use by some elements of your security forces of deliberate and indiscriminate killing of persons not involved with the guerrilla forces or their civilian support mechanisms. I am not referring here to the regrettable but inevitable death of innocents though error in combat situations, but to what appears to us a calculated use of terror to immobilize non politicized people or potential opponents. …
“If you could give me your assurance that you will take steps to halt official involvement in the killing of persons not involved with the guerrilla forces or their civilian support mechanism … we would be in a much stronger position to defend successfully with the Congress a decision to begin to resume our military supply relationship with your government.”
In other words, though the “talking points” were framed as an appeal to reduce the “indiscriminate” slaughter of “non politicized people,” they amounted to an acceptance of scorched-earth tactics against people involved with the guerrillas and “their civilian support mechanisms.” The way that played out in Guatemala – as in nearby El Salvador – was the massacring of peasants in regions considered sympathetic to leftist insurgents.
The newly discovered documents – and other records declassified in the late 1990s – make clear that Reagan and his administration were well aware of the butchery underway in Guatemala and elsewhere in Central America.
According to one “secret” cable also from April 1981 — and declassified in the 1990s — the CIA was confirming Guatemalan government massacres even as Reagan was moving to loosen the military aid ban. On April 17, 1981, a CIA cable described an army massacre at Cocob, near Nebaj in the Ixil Indian territory, because the population was believed to support leftist guerrillas.
A CIA source reported that “the social population appeared to fully support the guerrillas” and “the soldiers were forced to fire at anything that moved.” The CIA cable added that “the Guatemalan authorities admitted that ‘many civilians’ were killed in Cocob, many of whom undoubtedly were non-combatants.” [Many of the Guatemalan documents declassified in the 1990s can be found at the National Security Archive’s Web site.]
Dispatching Walters
In May 1981, despite the ongoing atrocities, Reagan dispatched Walters to tell the Guatemalan leaders that the new U.S. administration wanted to lift the human rights embargoes on military equipment that Carter and Congress had imposed.
The “Talking Points” also put the Reagan administration in line with the fiercely anticommunist regimes elsewhere in Latin America, where right-wing “death squads” operated with impunity liquidating not only armed guerrillas but civilians who were judged sympathetic to left-wing causes like demanding greater economic equality and social justice.
Despite his aw shucks style, Reagan found virtually every anticommunist action justified, no matter how brutal. From his eight years in the White House, there is no historical indication that he was morally troubled by the bloodbath and even genocide that occurred in Central America while he was shipping hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to the implicated forces.
The death toll was staggering — an estimated 70,000 or more political killings in El Salvador, possibly 20,000 slain from the Contra war in Nicaragua, about 200 political “disappearances” in Honduras and some 100,000 people eliminated during a resurgence of political violence in Guatemala. The one consistent element in these slaughters was the overarching Cold War rationalization, emanating in large part from Ronald Reagan’s White House.
Despite their claims to the contrary, the evidence is now overwhelming that Reagan and his advisers knew the extraordinary brutality going on in Guatemala and elsewhere, based on their own internal documents.
According to a State Department cable on Oct. 5, 1981, when Guatemalan leaders met again with Walters, they left no doubt about their plans. The cable said Gen. Lucas “made clear that his government will continue as before — that the repression will continue. He reiterated his belief that the repression is working and that the guerrilla threat will be successfully routed.”
Human rights groups saw the same picture. The Inter-American Human Rights Commission released a report on Oct. 15, 1981, blaming the Guatemalan government for “thousands of illegal executions.” [Washington Post, Oct. 16, 1981]
But the Reagan administration was set on whitewashing the ugly scene. A State Department “white paper,” released in December 1981, blamed the violence on leftist “extremist groups” and their “terrorist methods” prompted and supported by Cuba’s Fidel Castro.
What the documents from the Reagan Library make clear is that the administration was not simply struggling ineffectively to rein in these massacres – as the U.S. press corps typically reported – but was fully onboard with the slaughter of people who were part of the guerrillas’ “civilian support mechanisms.”
U.S. intelligence agencies continued to pick up evidence of these government-sponsored massacres. One CIA report in February 1982 described an army sweep through the so-called Ixil Triangle in central El Quiche province.
“The commanding officers of the units involved have been instructed to destroy all towns and villages which are cooperating with the Guerrilla Army of the Poor [the EGP] and eliminate all sources of resistance,” the report said. “Since the operation began, several villages have been burned to the ground, and a large number of guerrillas and collaborators have been killed.”
The CIA report explained the army’s modus operandi: “When an army patrol meets resistance and takes fire from a town or village, it is assumed that the entire town is hostile and it is subsequently destroyed.” When the army encountered an empty village, it was “assumed to have been supporting the EGP, and it is destroyed. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of refugees in the hills with no homes to return to. …
“The army high command is highly pleased with the initial results of the sweep operation, and believes that it will be successful in destroying the major EGP support area and will be able to drive the EGP out of the Ixil Triangle. … The well documented belief by the army that the entire Ixil Indian population is pro-EGP has created a situation in which the army can be expected to give no quarter to combatants and non-combatants alike.”
On Feb. 2, 1982, Richard Childress, one of Reagan’s national security aides, wrote a “secret” memo to his colleagues summing up this reality on the ground:
“As we move ahead on our approach to Latin America, we need to consciously address the unique problems posed by Guatemala. Possessed of some of the worst human rights records in the region, … it presents a policy dilemma for us. The abysmal human rights record makes it, in its present form, unworthy of USG [U.S. government] support. …
“Beset by a continuous insurgency for at least 15 years, the current leadership is completely committed to a ruthless and unyielding program of suppression. Hardly a soldier could be found that has not killed a ‘guerrilla.’”
The Rise of Rios Montt
However, Reagan remained committed to supplying military hardware to Guatemala’s brutal regime. So, the administration welcomed Gen. Efrain Rios Montt’s March 1982 overthrow of the thoroughly bloodstained Gen. Lucas.

Geert Mak en de Kroning van 2013 (13)

Eens was de mens Gods schepping, een creatuur met een tragisch lot die verlossing behoefde. Dit eenzame wezen werd door het ideologische totalitarisme eerst tot een massa gekneed, daarna tussen de muren van een gesloten staatssysteem opgesloten en vervolgens tot een levenloos van zijn machinerie gedegradeerd. Nu heeft het geen verlossing meer nodig, want het draagt geen verantwoordelijkheid meer voor zichzelf. De ideologie heeft hem zijn kosmos ontnomen, maar ook zijn eenzaamheid, de tragische dimensies van het menselijk lot. Het werd in een gedetermineerd bestaan geperst, waar zijn lot bepaald wordt door zijn afkomst, zijn indeling bij een ras of een klasse. Samen met zijn lot werd hem ook de menselijke werkelijkheid ontnomen, evenals de pure ervaring van het leven... Het is de taak van de kunst om de menselijke taal tegenover de ideologie te stellen, om de verbeeldingskracht te herstellen en de mens te herinneren aan zijn herkomst, zijn werkelijke situatie en het menselijk lot. De keuze van de kunstenaar kan daarom niet anders dan radicaal zijn.
Imre Kertesz. De verbannen taal. 2005

De bundel essays van deze Hongaar, die als jood Auschwitz overleefde, verscheen in zijn eigen taal in hetzelfde jaar als Geert Mak's In Europa. Kertesz kreeg de Nobelprijs voor Literatuur 'for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history,' Mak werd voor zijn 'Europese inzet' door de Franse staat beloond middels zijn verheffing tot 'Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.’ Kertesz's werk vertegenwoordigt de stem van het menselijk verzet, en is dus  radicaal, daarentegen is Mak's stem die van de conformistische en opportunistische mainstream. Een voorbeeld van het laatste was zijn tamelijk recente betoog op Radio I over het oproer op de Kroningsdag van 33 jaar geleden.

Als de luisteraar het allemaal goed begrepen heeft dan is volgens Geert Mak door de democratisering in de jaren zestig de Kroningsdag van 30 april 1980 in een oproer geeindigd, waardoor er een 'backlash' ontstond die politici als Fortuijn en Wilders voortbracht, en dat mede daardoor vandaag de dag er een 'evenwicht is gevonden.'  Tegelijkertijd meent hij dat het 'grootkapitaal' de macht heeft gegrepen en de democratie daardoor is uitgehold. Deze tegenstrijdigheid verklaart hij niet, hij weet wel dat iedereen die een beetje bij zinnen is moet nadenken over vormen waarmee je je' tegen de onevenwichtigheid van de neoliberale macht van het 'grootkapitaal' kunt keren. Het is een warrig verhaal vol paradoxen, maar dat belet Mak niet om alvast te verklaren dat 'stenen gooien naar een paar jonge agenten die er ook niks aan kunnen doen,' in 1980 niets anders was dan zinloos 'amok' maken. Als er al sprake was geweest van sociale oorzaken, dan was dat volgens Mak een 'heel dun politiek-ideologisch laagje,' de 'hoofdzaak' was gewoon 'knokken om het knokken' geweest. Dit is het aloude standpunt waarmee door de geschiedenis heen de gevestigde orde altijd haar macht legitimeerde, tot het onrecht zo ondraaglijk werd dat de burgers het niet meer pikten en de hoofden van de elite en hun spreekbuizen begonnen te rollen.

De baby boom generatie die zichzelf zo graag prijst.

Geert Mak die nooit deel heeft uitgemaakt van het actief verzet tegen wat dan ook behoort, net als ik, tot de gepriviligieerde baby-boom-generatie die in een welvaartsstaat zonder oorlog is opgegroeid. Mijn generatiegenoten en ik hebben een geweldige mazzel gehad, en dat geluk verplicht ons, noblesse oblige, om in verzet te komen tegen het onrecht die ons syteem veroorzaakt. De terreur van de armoede en onderdrukking, waarvoor wij mede verantwoordelijk zijn, mag niet beantwoord worden met de houding van après moi le déluge. Het criminaliseren, zoals Mak doet, door de woede, walging en verontwaardiging af te schilderen als het 'knokken om het knokken,' getuigt van een minachting voor het verzet van mensen die hun 'maatschappelijke onvrede' op dat moment alleen nog via het gooien van stenen wisten te uiten. Waarom via stenen? Omdat hun woorden zoals altijd genegeerd werden door degenen die het voor het zeggen hebben, die altijd doen wat ze willen, en bepalen wie aan het 'debat' mogen deelnemen en op welke voorwaarden. Geert Mak hoeft niet met stenen te gooien, die wordt maar al te graag en vaak uitgenodigd door het regentendom, want de elite kan ervan op aan dat hij nooit iets controversieels zal zeggen. Dat is ook de voornaamste reden dat Mak door de macht geridderd wordt en bijvoorbeeld Imre Kertesz niet. 'Wie ooit met de macht heeft gespeeld of zich vrijwillig als speelgoed van de macht heeft laten gebruiken, is nooit meer in staat over iets anders te denken, te dromen, te praten en te zedenpreken dan over de macht,' zoals Kertesz de Mak-achtigen treffend typeert. En deze joodse Hongaar weet wat hij zegt, want hij heeft als slachtoffer drie totalitaire systemen over zich heen gekregen, het nationaal socialisme, het communisme en het neoliberale kapitalisme. Het is een gotspe dat Mak zich thans opwerpt als de autoriteit die kan bepalen hoe het verzet zich niet dient te manifesteren. Nog afgezien van het feit dat hij zelf nooit in verzet is gekomen, kent hij het verzet ook alleen maar van de buitenkant en heeft hij zich niet verdiept in de kritische literatuur, als we uitgaan van hetgeen hij in zijn vuistdikke boeken bijeen schreef. Wat heeft Geert Mak ons te bieden? De chaos van de officieel gesanctioneerde mainstream versie van de realiteit, de werkelijkheid zoals de macht die ziet. Centraal in hun oppervlakkige veronderstelling staat de Vooruitgangsideologie, het geloof dat in een eindige wereld de materiele vooruitgang tot in de oneindigheid zal voortduren. Iedere serieuze waarnemer weet door om zich heen te kijken dat die ideologie op niets is gebaseerd. De Britse auteur van A Short History of Progress, Ronald Wright, wees na het begin van de kredietcrisis van 2008 op het volgende:

Faith in progress has become a kind of religious faith, a sort of fundamentalism, rather like the market fundamentalism that has just recently crashed en burned. The idea that you can let markets go their way is a delusion, just as the idea that you can let technology go, and that it will solve the problems created by itself in a slightly earlier fase. That has become a belief very similar to the religious delusions that caused some societies to crash and burn in the past.

Wat is materiele vooruitgang in feite? In the filmdocumentaire Surviving Progress zegt daarover een voormalige Wall Street-consultant, de Amerikaanse hoogleraar Economie, Michael Hudson:

Written records go back about 4000 years, and from 2000 B.C. to the time of Jesus it was normal for all of the countries in the world to periodically cancel the debts when they became too large to pay. So you have Sumer, Babylonia, Egypt and other regions all proclaiming these debt cancellations, and the effect was to make a clean slate so that society would begin all over again. This was easy to do in a society were most debts were owed to the state. It became much harder to do when enterprise and credit passed out of the hands of the state into private hands, and into the hands of an oligarchy,

precies zoals vandaag de dag het geval is. Het resultaat is dat daardoor de macht in handen van een rijke elite is gekomen, die maar ėėn drijfveer kent: nog rijker en nog machtiger worden, terwijl de gemeenschap inmiddels de mogelijkheid heeft verloren dit alles vernietigende egoisme in te perken. Michael Hudson over de oligarchie:

The last thing they wanted was to have a king who would actually cancel the debts and restore equality. Rome was the first country of the world not to cancel the debts. It went to war with Sparta in Greece to overthrow the government and the king who wanted to cancel the debts.

The Roman wars of the first century B.C. ended up stripping the countries of everything they had. Not only that it stripped the tempels of gold, it stripped the public buildings, it stripped the economies of their reproductive capacities, it stripped them of their water-works, it made a desert out of the land, and it said: a debt is a debt.

In Surviving Progress merkt Ronald Wright op over de ineenstorting van het Romeinse Rijk:

The collapse seems to have been closely linked to ecological devastation which led to all sorts of social and economic and military problems. In the early stages of the Roman Republic you had a fairly egalitarian land owning system. The peasants had acces to public land, but as the Roman State became more powerful and the lords and the generals began to appropriate public land for their own private estates more and more peasants became landless. All the same time erosion was a serious problem, so bad that some of the Roman ports silted up with all the topsoil that got washed down from the fields into the rivers. And archeologists have been able to establish how badly degraded much of Italy was by the fall of the Roman Empire, and how it took a thousand years for the much reduced population during the Middle Ages to rebuild their fertilty.

Michael Hudson:

What was absolutely new in the Roman Empire was irreversible concentration of wealth at the top of the economic pyramid. And that has meant progress ever since. Progress is meant that you will never get back what we take from you. That was what brought on the Dark Ages and that is what threatens to bring in the Dark Ages again, if society does not realize that if it let's the wealth concentrate in the hands of the financial class this class is not going to be any more intelligent on the long term in disposing of the wealth as their predecessors were in Rome and other countries,

aldus deze Amerikaanse hoogleraar Economie die zijn praktische scholing op Wall Street kreeg. Hetzelfde historische proces zien we al meer dan een halve eeuw zich in de VS en Europa voltrekken, zonder dat al die tijd de westerse opiniemakers zich hierover druk maakten. Pas recentelijk heeft nu ook Geert Mak ontdekt dat er zoiets bestaat als het 'grootkapitaal.' Maar als mainstream opiniemaker heeft hij, plotseling overvallen door de werkelijkheid, geen enkel idee hoe deze macht die volgens hem de democratie heeft uitgehold, bestreden kan worden. Al die tijd heeft Mak dat 'grootkapitaal' niet opgemerkt terwijl hij druk doende was vuistdikke bestsellers te schrijven over Amsterdam, het Friese platteland, Europa, de VS. Tegelijkertijd kwalificeerde hij kritische intellectuelen uit grote cultuurlanden als pessimisten die 'de plank missloegen.' Een auteur als bijvoorbeeld Hans Magnes Enzensberger betitelde hij als een ‘grumpy old,’ man die ‘alles heeft opgegeven.’ Ook deze Duitse schrijver behoort tot Mak's categorie van 'doemdenkers,' omdat hij, in tegenstelling tot de gelauwerde bestseller auteur, veel sceptischer is over de zogeheten ‘Europese Eenwording.’ Zo schreef hij met betrekking tot de EU over opiniemakers als Geert Mak:

In de ogen van haar pleitbezorgers wordt het lot niet, zoals Napoleon nog dacht, door de politiek, maar door de economie bepaald. Die presenteert zichzelf als een hogere macht die door niets wordt tegengehouden, en zeker niet door de eeuwenoude tradities, mentaliteiten en constituties van de Europese landen.

Maar nu blijkt Enzensberger volgens Mak zelf dus wel degelijk gelijk te hebben; de macht is inderdaad in handen van het 'grootkapitaal,' zoals hij de plutocraten noemt in het voorheen door hem zo verafschuwde Marxistische jargon. Enzensberger mag dan helemaal geen 'grumpy old' man zijn, maar wat betekent dit voor de geloofwaardigheid van Gert Mak?

En al die tijd dat de alom geprezen Geert Mak enthousiast beweerde dat 'Europa als economische eenheid ook een eind op weg [is]' had hij totaal niet door wat de consequenties voor het avondland zouden zijn van de ontwikkelingen in de VS:

The American Dream of upward mobility is dead, thanks to the neoliberal ministrations of capital and government. But a new dream could rise from the mess left by globalization, off-shoring and austerity.

The continuation of the economic crisis of 2008 up to the present has driven home a social trend that has been evident since the late 1970s, the decline of what is usually called "the middle class" and the accompanying American Dream.

The American Dream is the belief that if you work hard, if you are blessed with at least a modicum of ability and have a little luck, you can succeed. That is, you can rise in society no matter how humble your origin to something better in the way of material well-being, economic security, a settled life and social prestige. It is the dream of upward mobility for oneself, or at least for one's children.
As Richard Wolff has pointed out in Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to do About it, this upward mobility was a reality for most citizens of the United States for several generations, from 1820 to 1970. For 150 years, real wages rose. In the quarter century from 1947 to 1973, average real wages rose an astounding 75 percent. But that shared prosperity came to a halt in the mid '70s. In the next 25 years, from 1979 to 2005, wages and benefits rose less than 4 percent. The sustained rise in standards of living had been made possible by a conjunction of historical circumstances, circumstances that began to reach exhaustion by the mid 1970s.

Post WWII prosperity was based on 1. the global economic dominance of the United States; 2. pent up consumer demand from the depression and war years; 3. supportive social programs; 4. some political clout due to a strong union movement that could demand a share of the prosperity; and 5. Keynesian stimulus (military spending, infrastructure development like the interstate highway system, etc.).

Fixing an Overaccumulation Crisis

By the mid 1970s, an overaccumulation crisis emerged, reflected in stagflation, which is simultaneous inflation and lack of economic growth. There were insufficient places to profitably invest all the surplus capital that had accumulated during the years of prosperity. The situation was set forth with unusual candor by former IMF Director Jacques de Larosière. In a 1984 policy address, he said:

Over the last four years the rate of return on capital investment in manufacturing in the six largest industrial countries averaged only half the rate earned during the late 1960s.  . . . Even allowing for cyclical factors, a clear pattern emerges of a substantial and progressive long-term decline in rates of return on capital. There may be many reasons for this. But there is no doubt that an important contributing factor is to be found in the significant increase over the past 20 years or so in the share of income being absorbed by compensation of employees . . . This points to the need for a gradual reduction in the rate increase in real wages over the medium term if we are to it restore adequate investment incentives. - Quoted by William I. Robinson in "A Theory of Global Capitalism: Produc­tion, Class, and State in a Transnational World." 

In other words, in order to ensure "adequate" profits to capital, workers' incomes had to be curtailed.

The policies that made this suppression of incomes possible came to be called neoliberalism, a public ideology represented by President Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in England. It involved a withdrawal of government from directing the economy, leaving it instead to market forces. This meant deregulation, privatization of the commons and free trade. And that required weakening the collective hand of workers by an assault on unions and social benefits so as to strengthen the hand of capital.

"Free trade" policies of our political elite were a key part of the neoliberal offensive against labor. Trade agreements like NAFTA promoted the export of entry-level jobs to low-wage countries of the global South. With globalization, beginning in the 1980s, those entry-level industrial jobs that had made mobility into middle-income levels possible were the first jobs to be sent offshore, where they could be performed by low-wage workers in the Third World. For instance, hourly compensation costs in manufacturing (wages plus benefits) amount to $1.50 or less in China, compared with $33.50 in the United States. The Economic Policy Institute has recently calculated that in the last decade alone, US trade with China has cost us 2.7 million jobs. 

Globalization was "the fix"

The globalization of capital was the fix that was found for the crisis of overaccumulation. Investment was sent abroad to low-wage areas of the global South where goods could be produced cheaply and then sold to higher-income consumers in the North. By 2008, 48 percent of all sales by the top 500 US corporations were items produced abroad, as can be readily verified by looking at the "Made in . . ." labels on clothing, electronics, automobiles and myriad other consumer goods. Even more ominously, opportunities for investment were opened up by free-trade agreements like NAFTA and later the World Trade Organization (WTO). At the same time, the bargaining power of US labor was curtailed by capital's threat to move production abroad along with a government-endorsed campaign against unions. This restored corporate profits, but stagnated working Americans' wages. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) now reports that the United States has the lowest rate of upward mobility of all industrialized countries. It is even seeing downward mobility.

Witness the decline in entry level wages. From 2001 to 2008, entry-level pay for high school graduates declined by 4 percent. For college graduates, the decline was 7 percent. For example, when my son graduated in computer networking from a community college in 1997, his first job was with Sylvan learning Center. Fifteen years later, his son graduated from a university, and a classmate got the very same job - at exactly the same salary of $37,000! Allowing for inflation, Sylvan now gets a university graduate for less than it used to pay for a graduate of a two-year program.

In recent decades, the economy has grown, and there was a gain in total wealth. But where did it go? From 1983 to 2008, total GDP grew from $6.1 trillion to $13.2 trillion in constant 2005 dollars. The unequal distribution of the total wealth gain during this period is revealing. The wealthiest 5 percent of American households captured 81.7 percent of the gain. The bottom 60 percent of households not only failed to share in the overall increase, they suffered a 7.5 percent loss. Some of what the top 1 percent gained came directly from that bottom 60 percent.

Het argument dat Geert Mak als eenvoudige jurist deze economische wetmatigheden onmogelijk had kunnen begrijpen, gaat niet op. Hij had voor slechts 7,95 euro Maarten Toonder's, in 1963 verschenen, strip De Bovenbazen kunnen lezen. Daarin wordt het voor gemakzuchtige praatjesmakers allemaal in slechts 7 zinnen eenvoudig uitgelegd:

wat men hier ziet gebeuren was het gevolg van een oude natuurwet die de meer geschoolde lezertjes wel zullen kennen: Geld trekt geld aan. Als men weinig heeft, zal men het kwijtraken aan iemand die meer heeft; en als men veel heeft, komt er steeds meer bij… Zo gaan die gingen; minvermogenden vinden nog wel eens geld op straat en rapen het op, zonder te begrijpen dat het waarschijnlijk door een bovenbaas verloren is, die het terug wil hebben. Ach ja, het leven van de Bovenste Tien is een voortdurende strijd om het hoofd boven water te houden.

Meer over dit alles, later. 


  S.L. Kanthan @Kanthan2030 Western politicians are absolute clowns, but they have no self-awareness. “Iran’s actions are reckless!” Surpr...