A Challenge to Corporate Feudalism?

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Common Dreams

A Challenge to Corporate Feudalism?

"[T]he powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences." --Prof. Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope, 1966 

For the first time in more than four decades, a militant student movement is taking shape across the country.  This movement is in direct response to the IMF-style "austerity measures" being waged against all American citizens in the form of new mandatory taxes and a range of government-imposed belt-tightening measures designed to restore "fiscal responsibility."  Students are facing astronomical increases in tuition (32% in California's famed UC system), expanding class sizes, loss of vital programs in the arts, music, technical and physical education.  19,000 California public school teachers have received pink slips and 20,000 students will be turned away from community colleges next fall.  Add in thousands more support staff facing layoffs, cutbacks, and shrunken benefit packages and you have a mass of angry students, educators, and workers.

Of course, nearly all Americans are feeling the pinch.  Nationwide, 50 million people need to use food stamps to eat.  50 million have no health care, with 60% of bankruptcies resulting from medical emergencies.  Americans have lost $5 trillion from their pensions and savings and $13 trillion in the value of their homes since the latest economic crisis began.  The real unemployment rate is over 20% with 30 million US citizens unemployed or underemployed.  Deutsche Bank predicts that the number of ‘underwater' loans may rise to 48 percent, or 25 million homes by 2011.  Every day 10,000 US homes enter into foreclosure.  60% of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck. 

But it's the students who offer the best potential to make change happen.  Unburdened by mortgages and families, young people have the least to lose and the most to gain by overcoming a trend that is turning the majority of U.S. citizens into modern day serfs.  And it's students' newfound understanding of the linkage between neoliberal economics and the collapse of public education that may push the kind of change that Barack Obama never imagined in his wildest dreams. 

As Will Parrish and Darwin Bond-Graham write in their latest column for Counterpunch titled "WE Make the University Crisis":  "Something new is afoot here."

This new student movement, informed by both the successes and failures of movements past, has the potential to probe more deeply into the inherent flaws that plague the American system and thus to achieve more in the way of establishing something closer to real democracy.  Young people are especially fed up with seeing public dollars line the pockets of the economic elites while education, and steady employment, increasingly become an unattainable dream.  Those young people tenacious and fortunate enough to make it through the system leave school saddled with crushing debt and facing a job market that is dicey at best.

Even as students in large numbers begin to pick up their placards and march, occupy offices and blockade freeway ramps, the state's machinery of repression is oiled-up and ready to roll.  A recent article in Harper's magazine titled "The Soft-Kill Solution" describes in grisly detail the expanding arsenal of non-lethal weapons being developed and tested for crowd control, mostly with government funding.  The United States now hosts on its soil battle-hardened army brigades trained in places like Fallujah to deal with civil unrest.  In a previous post to this site, we discussed HR 645, a bill to establish six command-and-control "emergency centers" under the direction of FEMA and located throughout the continental United States.  We have also pointed to the series of single-bid contracts that the Army Corps of Engineers has entered into with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) to build detention camps at undisclosed locations. ("Rule by Fear or Rule by Law," Common Dreams, 2/4/08)

The latest bombshell is the "Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010" recently reported by Marc Ambinder on The Atlantic website.  This bill, introduced by Sens. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman this month, sets out a comprehensive policy for the detention, interrogation and trial of "suspected enemy belligerents who are believed to have engaged in hostilities against the United States requiring these individuals to be held in military custody, interrogated for their intelligence value and not provided with a Miranda warning."

McCain/Lieberman, which does  not distinguish between U.S. persons-visa holders or citizens-and non-U.S. persons., appears to be a follow-up to California Rep. Jane Harman's Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act which ultimately failed in Sen. Susan Collins's Homeland Security Committee.  Obama may have rebranded Bush's War on Terror as an "overseas contingency operation," but it's clear that the war continues both on foreign lands and right here at home.  Those old enough to remember COINTELPRO and more recently, John Poindexter's Total Information Awareness (TIA) program won't be surprised at any of this.

McCain/Lieberman asks the President to determine criteria for designating an individual as a "high-value detainee" if he/she (1) poses a threat of an attack on civilians or civilian facilities with the U.S. or U.S. facilities abroad; (2) poses a threat to U.S. military personnel or U.S. military facilities; (3) has potential intelligence value; (4) is a member of al Qaeda or a terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda; or (5) is deemed such based on "other matters the President considers appropriate."  Determination of whether an individual is a "high-value detainee" is to be made by the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General after consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI and the CIA.  As Ambinder glibly notes, "The President himself doesn't get to make the call."

A very noxious brew is being cooked up here.  First, the elites, lurking in the shadows behind a neutered government, squeeze the vast majority of citizens, workers, and students, moving their jobs overseas, foreclosing on their homes, looting their savings, stealing their hopes and dreams.  When they rebel, they are gassed, tased, shot with rubber bullets, and have their nervous systems attacked with high-tech non-lethal weaponry.  If they persist in their protests, they will be jailed (according to a new report cited by David DeGraw on Alternet, "a new prison opens every week somewhere in America") without habeus corpus or rights to trial.  They can then be detained indefinitely in camps.  They can even be disappeared. 

Yes, disappeared as in murdered.  It may be hard to believe but just last month it was none other than President Obama's very own Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair who acknowledged in a congressional hearing that "the U.S. may, with executive approval, deliberately target and kill U.S. citizens who are suspected of being involved in terrorism."

This is America as it moves into the second decade of the 21st century.  All we can say is that we the people better wake up fast, before there's nothing worth waking up for. 

Lewis Seiler

Lewis Seiler is president of Voice of the Environment.

Dan Hamburg

Dan Hamburg, a former US congressman from California, is executive director of Voice of the Environment..

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