Mar 6, 2014
The Corporate State and the Subversion of Democracy
Posted on May 31, 2008
By Chris Hedges
So what do we do? Voting is not enough. If voting was that effective, to quote the activist Philip Berrigan, it would be illegal. And voting in an age when elections are stolen by rigged ballot machines and a stacked Supreme Court willing to overturn all legal precedent to make George Bush president, will not work. I am not saying do not vote. We should all vote. But that has to be the starting point if we want to reclaim America. We must lobby, organize and advocate for the dissolution of the World Trade Organization and NAFTA. The WTO and NAFTA have handcuffed workers, consumers and stymied our efforts to create clean environments. These agreements are beyond the control of our courts and have crippled our weakened regulatory agencies. The WTO forces our working class to compete with brutalized child and prison labor overseas, to be reduced to this level of slave labor or to go without meaningful work. We need to repeal the anti-worker Taft-Hartley law of 1947. The act obstructs the organization of unions. We need to transfer control of pension funds from management to workers. If these pension funds, worth trillions of dollars, were in the hands of workers the working class would own a third of the New York Stock Exchange.
The working class has every right to be, to steal a line from Obama, bitter with liberal elites. I am bitter. I have seen what the loss of manufacturing jobs and the death of the labor movement did to my relatives in the former mill towns in Maine. Their story is the story of tens of millions of Americans who can no longer find a job that supports a family and provides basic benefits. Human beings are not commodities. They are not goods. They grieve, and suffer and feel despair. They raise children and struggle to maintain communities. The growing class divide is not understood, despite the glibness of many in the media, by complicated sets of statistics or the absurd, utopian faith in unregulated globalization and complicated trade deals. It is understood in the eyes of a man or woman who is no longer making enough money to live with dignity and hope.
George Bush, who will be here on Saturday, has done more to shred, violate or absent the government from its obligations under domestic and international law. He has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, backed out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, tried to kill the International Criminal Court, walked out on negotiations on chemical and biological weapons, and defied the Geneva Convention and human rights law. He has set up offshore penal colonies where we deny detainees basic rights and openly engage in torture. He launched an illegal war in Iraq based on fabricated evidence we now know had been discredited even before it was made public. And if we as citizens do not hold him accountable for these crimes, if we allow the Democratic majority in Congress to get away with its refusal to begin the process of impeachment, which appears likely, we will be complicit in the codification of a new world order, one that will have terrifying consequences. For a world without treaties, statutes and laws is a world where any nation, from a rogue nuclear state to a great imperial power, will be able to invoke its domestic laws to annul its obligations to others. This new order will undo five decades of international cooperation—largely put in place by the United States—destroy our own constitutional rights and thrust us into a Hobbesian nightmare. We are one, maybe two, terrorist attacks away from a police state. Time is running out.
We have blundered into nations we know little about. We are caught between bitter rivalries and competing ethnic groups and leaders we do not understand. We are trying to transplant a modern system of politics invented in Europe characterized, among other things, by the division of earth into independent secular states based on national citizenship in a land where the belief in a secular civil government is an alien creed. Iraq was a cesspool for the British when they occupied it in 1917. It will be a cesspool for us as well. We can either begin an orderly withdrawal or watch the mission collapse.
Hope, St. Augustine wrote, has two beautiful daughters. They are anger and courage. Anger at the way things are and the courage to see they do not remain the way they are. We stand at the verge of a massive economic dislocation, one forcing millions of families from their homes and into severe financial distress, one that threatens to rend the fabric of our society. We are waging a war that devours lives and capital, and that cannot ultimately be won. We are told we need to give up our rights to be safe, to be protected. In short, we are made afraid. We are told to hand over all that is best about our nation to those like George Bush and Dick Cheney who seek to destroy our nation. A state of fear only engenders cruelty; cruelty, fear, insanity, and then paralysis. In the center of Dante’s circle the damned remained motionless. If we do not become angry, if we do not muster within us the courage, indeed the militancy, to challenge those in the Democratic and Republican parties who herd us towards the corporate state, we will have squandered our courage and our integrity when we need it most.
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