Sunday, November 17, 2013

Corporatism Isn't Just a North American Scourge

America is the heartland of corporatism.  It's highest court is an agency of corporatism.  It has a "bought and paid for" Congress.  It even has a supposed populist in the White House who doesn't dare stir things up.  Corporatism has captured America's political process.

Canada dutifully follows in trail.   As a petro-state, Stephen Harper is the gun bearer of the Fossil Fuelers, especially Big Oil.  He's even gone on bended knee to become the indentured servant of the Beijing politburo.   Mulcair and Trudeau wait anxiously to fill his shoes.

Apparently it's ditto all round in Britain.  The Guardian's George Monbiot says it's business that rules Britons now.

It's the reason for the collapse of democratic choice. It's the source of our growing disillusionment with politics. It's the great unmentionable. Corporate power. The media will scarcely whisper its name. It is howlingly absent from parliamentary debates. Until we name it and confront it, politics is a waste of time.

The political role of business corporations is generally interpreted as that of lobbyists, seeking to influence government policy. In reality they belong on the inside. They are part of the nexus of power that creates policy. They face no significant resistance, from either government or opposition, as their interests have now been woven into the fabric of all three main political parties in Britain.

Most of the scandals that leave people in despair about politics arise from this source. On Monday, for instance, the Guardian revealed that the government's subsidy system for gas-burning power stations is being designed by an executive from the Dublin-based company ESB International, who has been seconded into the Department of Energy. What does ESB do? Oh, it builds gas-burning power stations.

On the same day we learned that a government minister, Nick Boles, has privately assured the gambling company Ladbrokes that it needn't worry about attempts by local authorities to stop the spread of betting shops. His new law will prevent councils from taking action.

...This policy becomes explicable only when you recognise where power really lies. The role of the self-hating state is to deliver itself to big business. In doing so it creates a tollbooth economy: a system of corporate turnpikes, operated by companies with effective monopolies.

And where, beyond the Green party, Plaid Cymru, a few ageing Labour backbenchers, is the political resistance? After the article I wrote last week, about the grave threat the transatlantic trade and investment partnership presents to parliamentary sovereignty and democratic choice, several correspondents asked me what response there has been from the Labour party. It's easy to answer: nothing.

That the words corporate power seldom feature in the corporate press is not altogether surprising. It's more disturbing to see those parts of the media that are not owned by Rupert Murdoch or Lord Rothermere acting as if they are.

Since Blair, parliament operates much as Congress in the United States does: the lefthand glove puppet argues with the righthand glove puppet, but neither side will turn around to face the corporate capital that controls almost all our politics. This is why the assertion that parliamentary democracy has been reduced to a self-important farce has resonated so widely over the past fortnight.

So I don't blame people for giving up on politics. I haven't given up yet, but I find it ever harder to explain why. When a state-corporate nexus of power has bypassed democracy and made a mockery of the voting process, when an unreformed political funding system ensures that parties can be bought and sold, when politicians of the three main parties stand and watch as public services are divvied up by a grubby cabal of privateers, what is left of this system that inspires us to participate?

Is it really that hard to see the parallels between Monbiot's lament and the situation we've allowed to take hold in Canada among all the major parties in our Parliament?   Can we not see it or is it that we work tirelessly to always look the other way?

If your party isn't going to address Canada's democratic deficit, including the restoration of a genuine, free press in our country and the need to fearlessly implement measures to staunch and then reverse our growing problem of inequality, then, face it, you're backing a corporatist party.


Owen Gray said...

Unfortunately, Mound, there are still enough members of "Ford Nation" to swing the balance.

Rene said...

The observation is valid, and you do have a few bloggers such as Graeme Decarie who address the issue of corporate rule of our political institutions.

The choices we have are between a criminal, barbaric corporatism and a "civilized" somewhat critical corporatism. Reformers represent the barbaric component, the dregs of society, the bane of civilization, they eagerly lick the boots of their corporate masters and angrily howl at any who offer criticism, ignore and excuse the criminal behavior of their leaders but rejoice at any cruelty inflicted upon the welfare poor, petty thieves, drug addicts. These are the voices currently rejoicing in media comments at the news a Boeing aircraft crashed in Kazan, Russia with mass fatalities, as presumably Muslims were on board.

But you are correct in your observation that the Liberals, and the NDP as well, can scarcely be deemed adversaries of corporate interests such as the Petro economy. They offer "critical" support to such interests. The Reformers, in their zeal to enthusiastically serve their masters, focus on the opposition's criticism but fail to take note of the support for such interests. Which is why much of our current political discourse is an exercise in demagoguery.....

The Mound of Sound said...

Owen, we're always going to have a significant minority that can be manipulated by fear and appeals to baser instinct. Some of those don't see alternatives being presented.

Rene, what are we to do if the choices you lay out are both unacceptable?

Purple library guy said...

What are we to do?
Well, first of all, push for proportional representation. It's a tough slog, but there are constituencies in all the parties that back it. Thing about proportional representation is it seriously weakens lesser-evilism.

Second, what many are doing now: Blog, blog against the dying of the light. Find ways to communicate that loosen, if only slightly, the death grip of the corporate media.

Third, pursue local politics. Smaller scale venues seem to offer more possibilities for radical upsets. Success at that level could lead to growth.

Fourth, bottom-up organizing, not necessarily directly political in nature. I want more co-ops, for instance. Build things that are useful for people at a down-to-earth level and operate in a progressive structure. People who have a say in the way their workplaces are run, in the way organizations they're involved in every day are run, will be less likely to hold still when told that the government has to do things the way the lobbyists or "the market" want instead of the way the citizens want. In this connection I have been lately trying to push
They've got this (open source) software for doing open, horizontal decision making, not just in terms of everyone getting a vote but everyone getting to set the agenda. I don't usually tout my own blog posts (partly because I'm far more defatigable than our esteemed MoS and so have few to tout), but I have a little spiel about the importance of how decisions are made and of things like what Loomio is doing here:

The Mound of Sound said...

Thanks for the link. I'll follow it through a bit more later.