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Nederlog

Jun 13, 2016

Crisis: Hedges on Corporate Power + Chomsky on The World
Sections 
Introduction

1.
We Must Understand Corporate Power to Fight It
2. Noam Chomsky, Tick... Tick... Tick...
3. Noam Chomsky on the Breakdown of American Society
     and a World in Transition

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday, June 13, 2016.

This is a crisis log. (Yes, they still exist.) There are three items in it: Item 1 is about an article by Chris Hedges; item 2 is about a part of Chomsky's recent book "Who Rules The World"; and item 3 is also about Chomsky, but treats only one bit from a much longer interview.

1. We Must Understand Corporate Power to Fight It

The first item today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This contains the following, after an introduction about 1941 in Poland, when it started to become clear that the Nazis were aiming at murdering all the Jews (which they tried to keep secret).

I will say something about that as well, but start with this passage:

The aims of the corporate state are, given the looming collapse of the ecosystem, as deadly, maybe more so, as the acts of mass genocide carried out by the Nazis and Stalin’s Soviet Union.

The reach and effectiveness of corporate propaganda dwarfs even the huge effort undertaken by Adolf Hitler and Stalin. The layers of deception are sophisticated and effective. News is state propaganda. Elaborate spectacles and forms of entertainment, all of which ignore reality or pretend the fiction of liberty and progress is real, distract the masses.

Education is indoctrination. Ersatz intellectuals, along with technocrats and specialists, who are obedient to neoliberal and imperial state doctrine, use their academic credentials and erudition to deceive the public.

The first paragraph has the setback that "[t]he aims of the corporate state" are not known, I think, at least not beyond the "neoliberal" aims of helping the rich to get richer, and namely for the most part by making the poor poorer.

About this last fact there cannot be much discussion, at least not with the following numbers on the median net worth of the various kinds of US households that was provided by The Young Turks (there is more here):

     

The brief of it is that the 10% of the richest gained 75% in their incomes since 1998 (and therefore are very optimistic, mostly), while the remaining 90% lost between 19% and 53% (rounded). The 90% are quite pessimistic
but then they also don't have much or almost any access to the main media.

But - to return to "[t]he aims of the corporate state" - I have made my guesses about its aims (most clearly here, I think), but I stressed then and now these are guesses and not knowledge.

I mostly agree with the other two quoted paragraphs: Corporate propaganda
and deception are far stronger than they were in the 1930ies, and are also
far more sophisticated and far less honest, while I also agree that most education is little more than indoctrination, and teaches really little about the foundations of civilization, science, art, society and mankind. [1]

Here is the next bit, about the promises and the realities of the corporate state and its propaganda machines (which are basically public relations offices):

The promises made by the corporate state and its political leaders—we will restore your jobs, we will protect your privacy and civil liberties, we will rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, we will save the environment, we will prevent you from being exploited by banks and predatory corporations, we will make you safe, we will provide a future for your children—are the opposite of reality.

The loss of privacy, the constant monitoring of the citizenry, the use of militarized police to carry out indiscriminate acts of lethal violence—a daily reality in marginal communities—and the relentless drive to plunge as much as two-thirds of the country into poverty to enrich a tiny corporate elite, along with the psychosis of permanent war, presage a dystopia that will be as severe as the totalitarian systems that sent tens of millions to their deaths during the reigns of fascism and communism.

As to the promises: I don't know where or whether I have seen those in italics in the first paragraph, but I agree that lying is extremely easy for leading politicians, and they do it a lot, and when they do they generally make some sort of promise that they know they are not going to keep, and that merely
serves to mislead the voters.

And Hedges is mostly right in the second paragraph: There is no real privacy left; everybody is constantly monitored, in secret; and 90% of the Americans have less and less income, while 10% grows richer and richer (see above).

Next, I said above that I would say something about the Jews.

Here are two successive paragraphs of Chris Hedges, in fact mostly about Polish Jews between 1939 and 1945, followed by my comments:

Jews in ghettos, awaiting deportation to the death camps, were divided by those who worked for the Nazis and therefore had certain privileges, and those who did not. This division effectively pitted the two groups against each other until the final deportations. And collaborating with the killers, in the vain hope that they would be spared, were Jews themselves, organized into Jewish Councils, or Judenrat, and formed into units of the Jewish police, along with what Lubetkin called “their cronies, the spectators and profiteers, the smugglers.”

In the death camps, Jews, to stay a live a little longer, worked in the crematoriums as sonderkommandos. There are always those among the oppressed willing to sell out their neighbor for a few more crusts of bread. As life becomes desperate, the choice is often between collaboration and death.

As to the first paragraph, on the Jewish Councils: There is a lot more evidence about these in "The Holocaust Encyclopedia", edited by Walter Laquer. The brief of it is that some were good and some were bad (and most were bad, it seems, though indeed some were good).

The one I know the most about is the Dutch Jewish Council, led by David Cohen and Abraham Asscher. I think it is fair to say that they actively collaborated with the Nazis in the hope to save some of the rich Jews (like themselves), by handing over many of the poor Jews.

This they did, and over 100.000 Dutch Jews were murdered. Then again, it is
difficult or impossible to say what would have happened if they had refused to collaborate (which probably would have killed them), while it is very probably true that they did not know that most of the Jews were to be murdered outright.

Then again, most of the evidence for what they did is much lied about in Holland, in part because neither Cohen nor Asscher even had to face a judge, ever. For more see yesterday's note [1], that is about the Dutch Jews, and also see the English (!) Wikipedia lemma Judenrat (which is German for "Jewish Council"). [2]

Here is the last bit that I quote from Chris Hedges' article:

It is time to step outside of the establishment. This means organizing groups, including political parties, that are independent of the corporate political machines that control the Republicans and Democrats.

It means carrying out acts of sustained civil disobedience. It means disruption.

Our resistance must be nonviolent. The Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, condemned to imminent death and alienated from a Polish population steeped in anti-Semitism, had no hope of appealing to the Nazi state or most of the Poles.

But we still have options. Many who work within ruling class structures understand the corruption and dishonesty of corporate power. We must appeal to their conscience. We must disseminate the truth.

I agree in general terms, though I should add that in the present situation I don't have much faith in either resistance or in those who know about corrupt- ion and work "within ruling class structures". (But indeed I am not an American and I do not live in the USA.)

2. Noam Chomsky, Tick... Tick... Tick...

This is by Noam Chomsky, from his recent book "Who Rules The World?".
It is on TomDispatch.com:
I will quote two bits from this. The first is about the American Democrats and Republicans:
Both parties have moved to the right during the neoliberal period of the past generation. Mainstream Democrats are now pretty much what used to be called “moderate Republicans.” Meanwhile, the Republican Party has largely drifted off the spectrum, becoming what respected conservative political analyst Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein call a “radical insurgency” that has virtually abandoned normal parliamentary politics. With the rightward drift, the Republican Party’s dedication to wealth and privilege has become so extreme that its actual policies could not attract voters, so it has had to seek a new popular base, mobilized on other grounds: evangelical Christians who await the Second Coming, nativists who fear that “they” are taking our country away from us, unreconstructed racists, people with real grievances who gravely mistake their causes, and others like them who are easy prey to demagogues and can readily become a radical insurgency.
I certainly agree both important parties in the USA have shifted a lot towards the right, and that the Democrats now are "“moderate Republicans”, while the
Republicans have "
virtually abandoned normal parliamentary politics".

But I am rather doubtful whether "
its actual policies" - those of the Repu- blicans - "could not attract voters", simply because Trump and Clinton (who are now, most probably at least, the Republican and the Democratic contenders for the presidency) pulled around the same number of votes (very recently), even though Trump is an evident lunatic (I'd say) who (anyway) hardly has a serious program.

The second bit that I'll quote is this, about public opinion in the USA, and about what I think are two kinds of capitalism:

A companion story in the New York Times reports that “two-thirds of Americans support the United States joining a binding international agreement to curb growth of greenhouse gas emissions.” And by a five-to-three margin, Americans regard the climate as more important than the economy. But it doesn’t matter. Public opinion is dismissed. That fact, once again, sends a strong message to Americans. It is their task to cure the dysfunctional political system, in which popular opinion is a marginal factor. The disparity between public opinion and policy, in this case, has significant implications for the fate of the world.

We should, of course, have no illusions about a past “golden age.” Nevertheless, the developments just reviewed constitute significant changes. The undermining of functioning democracy is one of the contributions of the neoliberal assault on the world’s population in the past generation. And this is not happening just in the U.S.; in Europe the impact may be even worse.

The main point of the first paragraph is "[p]ublic opinion is dismissed" - and indeed it is, as shown by the examples. This is also new: While "public opinion" also was not a strong force before 1980 or before 2000, it was not
simply dismissed, discarded, not listened to, and not answered, as is the case now, and - at least - since 2001.

The second paragraph discusses the "
significant changes", such as the - indeed quite intentional - "undermining of functioning democracy". I think Chomsky is also right here, but I take it a bit further than he does (and he may disagree - I don't know):

I think that from 1945-1980 we lived - in the USA and in Western Europe - in a capitalist climate that I (who has no illusions to loose about capitalism [3]) call capitalism-with-a-human-face, while I call the capitalism that started with the neoconservatives Thatcher and Reagan
capitalism-with-a-inhuman- face (which is a lot more like 19th century capitalism, and is - like its 19th century predecessor - much more unregulated).

And I think the differences between the two are many, and especially because the second kind is based on deregulation: All kinds of laws that protected the non-rich from the depredations of the rich were deregulated on purpose, and indeed to the extent that rich bankers can
now do as they please without anyone prosecuting them "because" - the lie goes - "they are too big to fail".

I don't think both systems are the same, even though both are capitalistic. To give an analogy, consider boxing: The difference between the two kinds of capitalism is that the first is like boxing with rules and regulations, while the second is like boxing without virtually any rule or regulation. Both may be called boxing, but they really differ rather a lot.

3. Noam Chomsky on the Breakdown of American Society and a World in Transition

The final article today is by C.J. Polychroniou on Truth-out:
This is the start of a fairly long rather good interview with Noam Chomsky:

CJ Polychroniou: Noam, you have said that the rise of Donald Trump is largely due to the breakdown of American society. What exactly do you mean by this?

Noam Chomsky: The state-corporate programs of the past 35 or so years have had devastating effects on the majority of the population, with stagnation, decline and sharply enhanced inequality being the most direct outcomes. This has created fear and has left people feeling isolated, helpless, victims of powerful forces they can neither understand or influence. The breakdown is not caused by economic laws. They are policies, a kind of class war initiated by the rich and powerful against the working population and the poor. This is what defines the neoliberalism period, not only in the US but in Europe and elsewhere.
I agree.

First, for the "devastating effects" "neoliberalism" had on "
the majority of the population" see the numbers above: 90% of the American population lost a great amount of money, though 10% gained a lot. (The numbers are quite convincing.)

Second, Chomsky is quite right that "[t]
he breakdown is not caused by economic laws". It is indeed a deliberate policy by the rich and the powerful, and one aim of this policy was to benefit the rich by stealing from the poor, that was initialized in 1979 and 1980 by Thatcher and Reagan, and was mostly implemented by successive deregulations.

My third and last remark about the quotation is that I think "neoliberalism" is a mistaken term: It is a kind of fascism - robbing from the poor, to make the rich even richer; letting the rich pay less tax than what remains of the middle class; having the secret services break into any computer they can get into; etc. etc., and see
the numbers above - that is also quite deliberate, and therefore is better called neofascism.

You may disagree, and while I agree that the "neoliberal" propaganda is quite different from fascism or neofascism, I also know that propaganda is lying, and that lying is very easy, and especially if it is difficult or impossible to be found out.

There is a lot more in the article, that I leave to your interests.

---------------------

Notes

[1] I agree that most education is little different from indoctrination. I did not until 1982 (!), but then I learned that about 5% of the students in the University of Amsterdam did support the plans of the NASA (a student- organization I had started with a few others) to get a real scientific education.

This also means that I think that 19 out of 20 students in Amsterdam, at that time, were satisfied with the intellectual rot they were offered, and were only
interested in getting an M.A. because this would increase their personal earnings.

In other words: Most preferred indoctrination because this was a lot simpler than real studying. And that is what most got, in most studies.

[2] First, here is a claim about the Jewish Councils (from "Judenrat"):
Judenräte were responsible for the internal administration of ghettos, standing between the Nazi occupiers and their Jewish communities. In general, the Judenräte represented the elite from their Jewish communities. Often, a Judenrat had a group for internal security and control, a Jewish Ordnungspolizei. They also attempted to manage the government services normally found in a city such as those named above. However, the requirements of the Nazis to deliver community members to forced labor, deportation or Nazi concentration camps placed them in the position of helping the occupiers. To resist such actions or orders was to risk summary execution or inclusion in the next concentration camp shipment, with a quick replacement.

Incidentally, since the writers of this article appear to assume that every English speaker is fluent in German: "Judenräte" is the plural of "Judenrat", which means (something like) "Jewish Council", whereas "Ordnungspolizei" was (as the German also says) a kind of police that was meant to keep order.

Next, here is a claim by Hannah Arendt (again from "Judenrat"):

Hannah Arendt stated in her 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem that without the assistance of the Judenräte, the registration of the Jews, their concentration in ghettos and, later, their active assistance in the Jews' deportation to extermination camps, many fewer Jews would have perished because the Germans would have encountered considerable difficulties in drawing up lists of Jews. In occupied Europe, the Nazis entrusted Jewish officials with the task of making such lists of Jews along with information about the property they owned. The Judenräte also directed the Jewish police to assist the Germans in catching Jews and loading them onto transport trains leaving for Nazi concentration camps.

In her book, Arendt wrote that: "To a Jew, this role of the Jewish leaders in the destruction of their own people is undoubtedly the darkest chapter of the whole dark story. [...] In the matter of cooperation, there was no distinction between the highly assimilated Jewish communities of Central and Western Europe and the Yiddish-speaking masses of the East. In Amsterdam as in Warsaw, in Berlin as in Budapest, Jewish officials could be trusted to compile the lists of persons and of their property..."
Finally, to illustrate what I meant by saying there is very much lied about the Dutch Jewish Council:

It turns out that the whole Wikipedia lemma "Judenrat" (a German term very few English speakers will know) (i) replaces
an earlier lemma called "Dutch Jewish Council" (which was a justified lemma because this Council collaborated in  helping to arrest over 100,000 Dutch Jews, and which had a proper English title), while (ii) there is nothing to be found  in the lemma "Judenrat" about either the Dutch Jewish Council or about Holland or about the fact that over 100,000 Dutch Jews (over 1% of the Dutch population then) were murdered, which was a great lot more than in nearly all other Nazi- occupied countries.

I do not think that the replacement of "Dutch Jewish Council" by "Judenrat" was accidental, and I'd guess that it probably was inspired by some Dutchmen, who succeeded - it seems - in removing all references to Holland including the fact that over 100,000 Dutch Jews were murdered.

Finally, here is some "perspective": The situation in Holland was in fact extremely dire for the Jews living there between 1940 and 1945 (since the vast majority was murdered then), but it was worse in Poland: There 3 million Jews were murdered between 1939 and 1945. See: History of the Jews in Poland.

"Incidentally": there is no similar history for the Dutch Jews on Wikipedia. Maybe over 100,000 murdered "is not a significant number"?

[3] The reason I have no illusions to loose about capitalism is mainly that my parents were communists nearly all their lives: I never believed in capitalism as the best or the only system to produce commodities and (much more importantly) to keep human freedoms, to keep and extend science and scientific education, and to generate art.

In brief, while I have been an anti-capitalist all my life, I also know that very few have had an education like I had, and that very few think rationally about the system of production of commodities they live in, or about alternatives.

I certainly do not think that capitalism is the last or the best system of economic production (if mankind lives, that is), but I don't think I will see
another system, and I do think I have lived under two different kinds of capitalism, one from 1950-1980, while the other started in 1980 and still continues.

The main difference between the two systems is that in the earlier one most things were somehow regulated by law (not always in the best possible way)
while in the later most things were deregulated, which meant that the strong
and rich could more or less do as they pleased, which they are doing now, and since circa 2000 at the latest. (And see: boxing.)


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