The West’s Tragedy of Capital


Pepe Escobar – Al Jazeera

While Rome burns citizens should not fiddle, but believe another world may be possible and work together for that world.

Here’s a crash course on global finance 2.0. The debt is in the Atlanticist, wealthy North. The resources are in the global South. And the (reluctant) supreme banker of the last resort is the Middle Kingdom, as personified by the Almighty Hu (Jintao).

The name of the game – Marx revisited by Occupy the World – is class struggle. It’s casino capitalism, aka finance turbo-neoliberalism, as practiced by a liquid modernity elite of one per cent, versus the have-a-little-something, have-nots and have-nothing, aka the 99 per cent.

There could not be a more graphic demonstration than last week’s Greek tragedy takeover of the Cannes debt festival of Slavoj Zizek’s thesis that the marriage of capitalism and democracy is over.

If there is something capable of terminally terrorising the European Union (EU) oligarchy it is the concept of a popular referendum.

How dare you consult the “rabble” about our Austerity Forever policy, the only one capable of satisfying the financial markets!

This is enough to make unelected zombies such as European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi (formerly vice-president of Goldman Sachs International), European Council President Herman van Rompuy (member of the Trilateral Commission and the Bilderberg club) and European Commission (EC) head Joao Manuel Barroso to dream of a drone-heavy, Special Forces-filled, NATO no-fly zone to enforce their will.

Surrender or else

The made in Frankfurt ECB screenplay is brought to you by the TINA (“there is no alternative”) school. The dull, monochromatic action predictably mixes savage privatisations with social devastation.

“Democratic” Europe functions just like in good old Brezhnev times; a troika – IMF, ECB, UE – exercising totalitarian rule, even if in a shambolic way.

“Merkozy” – that mongrel/robotic cross-pollination of German Prime Minister Angela Merkel and neo-Napoleonic French President Nicolas Sarkozy – can emit only a baleful cry: “Coon …. traaact”. “Coon … traaaact” – as in EU-prescribed endless monetary and fiscal contraction.

It doesn’t matter that Italy has a primary surplus. It doesn’t matter that Italy’s combined private and public debt is 250 per cent of its GDP – much lower than France, the UK, the US and Japan.

Italy is now under the volcano because the EU “Cooon … traaact” monster has thrown it into recession.

And regime change won’t make it any less different.

No wonder the top candidate for succeeding Prime Minister Silvio “bunga bunga” Berlusconi is Mario Monti; a former top director at the EC, European president of the Trilateral Commission and a member of the Bilderberg group. Yet another quintessential one per cent luminary.

“Europe” – as in a sub-sect of Franco-German oligarchies – thought the eurozone could be saved by the Orwellian-named European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF).

But now even that blob – which is nothing but a bunch of “guarantees” lavished on a shell company in Luxembourg – is about to be devoured by the Supreme Zombie, the God of the Market.

So a monster bailout fund set up as a Goldman Sachs-style racket now risks being in dire need of a bailout itself. You can’t make this stuff up – even in Hollywood.

Meanwhile, the IMF’s bag lady, the sartorially irreprehensible Christine Lagarde, is currently hitting BRICS members Russia and China for some pocket money.

But Madame Lagarde, mired in soliloquy with her Dior buttons, knows very well this won’t fly, and it won’t be enough to “save” the model the IMF, the ECB and “Merkozy” insist on applying.

Look South, young man

The global indignados – from Greece and Spain to the US and beyond – at least are very much aware of the one per cent’s machinations.

As in learning about the astonishing performance of Goldman Sachs’ commodities index – the top traded across the world. This quintessential one per cent index doubles and even triples the cost of wheat, rice and corn, thus plunging hundreds of millions among the 99 per cent across the globe into terminal hunger.

How not to think that another world must be possible?

The Occupy the World 99 per cent are dreamers in a very May 1968 sense – “be realist, demand the impossible”. Dreamers in a refreshingly horizontal – not vertical or pyramidal – way.

They want to rescue politics – when politicians have lost all legitimacy – as a debate of ideas, not egos or ideology. The pathetic G20 farce last week showed once again they’re right.

They want a Republic of common sense. They want a popular assembly in every neighbourhood and every village. Against money as a moral value and casino finance as an irate God, they want to rescue the power of collective intelligence.

What they need now is to reach critical mass all across the world.

In a sense, it’s as if there’s been a collective reading of Albert Camus’s The Rebel, published six decades ago. The one per cent of the time very much despised what they saw as a little Algerian, son of a domestic worker and without a diploma, posing as a philosopher.

But way before the Google and Twitter generation Camus showed how revolt inevitably migrates from the individual to a collective response, enshrined in his beautiful formulation “I revolt, therefore we are”.

Yet make no mistake. Turbo-capital’s one per cent counter-revolution is already on – and it will be beyond ruthless. History shows that every crisis of capitalism is “solved” by outright repression.

What’s pressing is the search for effective strategies. This includes everything from calls for a general strike to the debate preceding the creation of new political groups.

We are all responsible

South America, which has outlived torrents of IMF’s dreadful “structural adjustments” and is now slowly forging its integration and independence, always denied by the neocolonial one per cent and their local satraps, can be quite helpful.

In a very enlightening discussion with leaders of the Brazilian MST – the Landless Peasant Movement, one of the most important social movements in the world – they explained to me how they have adjusted from fighting for an agrarian reform to fighting a much more nuanced battle against the current, powerful transnational agro-business interests who have forged an intricate alliance with the Lula government.

This shows how even a broad social movement with an enormous popular base has to be constantly calibrating its strategic struggle.

On a parallel front, there must be an urgent English translation of La Potencia Plebeya (“The Plebeian Power”), a collection of essays by Bolivian vice-president Alvaro Garcia Linera, one of the most crucial intellectuals at work in Latin America.

Linera essentially charges how the one per cent and its minions have “sold” the concept of public interest as a separate sphere of civil society. And how civil society can only exist as political if subordinated to mediators or political priests.

This, Linera argues, is an archaism that goes back to Hobbes and Montesquieu. And the 99 per cent should be aware of it – and fight it.

Linera coins the concept of “irresponsible citizenship” to describe the discombobulated voting masses under the spell of a neoliberal farce.

For the “irresponsible citizenship”, the “exercise of political rights is just a ceremony of renouncing political will, and will to govern, to place it in the hands of a new caste of private proprietors of politics, which attribute to themselves the knowledge of sophisticated and impenetrable techniques of ruling and governing”.

So the crucial fight is against these “private proprietors of politics” – and their one per cent masters, be it in Cairo or Manhattan, Madrid or Lahore. G20? Forget it; it’s more like G7 billion. If we are truly indignados towards a system that must be toppled, we are all responsible.


Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His latest book is named Obama Does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

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