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Is Fascism Returning to Western Civilization - Part III
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2011-08-22 08:39:55
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“If there are indeed limits to growth, the political underpinnings of our world fall apart”

                                                                      --Martin Wolf (in Financial Times, 2007)

In an article which I posted in Ovi on 20 July 2011 titled Global Neoliberal vs. Christian Economic Values and the EU Crisis I wrote that “it is often suggested that there is no alternative to the neoliberal economy. This is not true, as can be shown by thinking of the economy as either a tunnel or a fruit tree."

The tunnel represents the present process of globalization. All people and all economies are expected to go through the tunnel of growing productivity and competitiveness in the global market if they wish to reach the light at the end – a high standard of consumption for everyone. However not all traffic is welcome in the tunnel. The least efficient, least productive elements such as the unemployed and those countries not willing to adapt or modernize get in the way. The fastest vehicles have their own privileged lane. Finally, everyone must accept the stress, pollution and noise in the tunnel. The traffic has priority over the environment. A tree is quite different from a tunnel. A healthy tree is full of life and its growth is quite different from the journey through the tunnel. Firstly, all the living cells of the tree participate. Secondly, the tree does not overburden its own environment: it enriches it. Lastly, it bears fruit, both to sustain its own life and to feed others. The activity of the cells is meaningful labor, the surroundings are the global environment and the fruits, the fulfillment of all basic needs.

So how can a simple tree do what the most advanced type of tunnel economies cannot? As soon as maturity is reached the tree refrains from further vertical growth and puts its energy and resources into making fruit. Its basic rule is blossoming not expansion. Even in the richest countries the law of endless market expansion is becoming a curse: stress is growing, environmental problems are uncontrollable, and everything is under the rule of the market, which continues to demand higher productivity and competitiveness.” The pressing question is this: is the market our only economic option, as the super-rich, the financiers and our myopic political leaders would like us to believe?

Let us look take a hard look at this widespread unexamined assumption which asserts that the market and the capitalistic financial system is the only game in town and that within a market economy there are no discernible limits to economic growth and an ever rising standard of living. David Seaton, in a blog written on the 15th of September 2010 and titled Fascism is coming to the USA…Literally (no kidding) brings into the equation of the economic-political analysis of present day Western civilization, Robert Paxton, whom we have already examined, but also that of Martin Wolf via an article written by the same Wolf in 2007 for the Financial Times. I have quoted above, under the title of this article, what Seaton considers the main insight of Wolf’s article titled Living in a Zero-Sum World.

Seaton begins his analysis by pointing out, among other things, that during the brief democratic interlude between World War I and World War II in Germany (the period of the Weimar Republic) the richest industrialists of the country financed the rise of Adolph Hitler, partly motivated by their fear of communism. Some of those industrialists are still around today, as rich as ever. The question then is: what brought together the vital concerns of the super rich and those of ordinary lower middle class citizens, the ones who eventually dunned the brown shirts and did the dirty work for the rich? We have seen in the part 2 of this article that indeed the same applies to the relationship of the superrich and the Tea Party who are now in Congress to make sure that the rich are not asked to share in any way in the sacrifices demanded by an economy in trouble.

The Koch family is the US counterpart of the German super-rich of the 30s. The question arises naturally: what are those super-rich afraid of and what exactly is the role of the Tea Party in alleviating that fear? Seaton claims that the best answer to that question comes from Martin Wolf’s analysis, especially this particular one: “We live in a positive-sum world economy and have done so for about two centuries. This, I believe, is why democracy has become a political norm, empires have largely vanished, legal slavery and serfdom have disappeared and measures of well-being have risen almost everywhere. What then do I mean by a positive-sum economy? It is one in which everybody can become better off. It is one in which real incomes per head are able to rise indefinitely. How long might such a world last, and what might happen if it ends?”

What Wolf is implying with his crucial question is that we are fast coming to a point where finite energy resources and the effects of global warming need to be taken into consideration and the idea of a “positive sum” world becomes questionable. Limits to emissions may well imply limits to growth; but limits to growth may mean that the political underpinning of the brave new world we have created also fall apart. At that point, Wolf writes “intense distributional conflicts must re-emerge.” This is redolent of Marx’s taboo words “class struggle” and the disturbing thought that the world we have become accustomed to after the industrial revolution, the world of constant limitless multiplication of goods and services, limitless growth and optimism, the very faith that there will always be a technological solution to any limit that appears on the horizon, may be fast coming to an end.

To be sure, this boundless optimism in limitless growth is endemic to the left too. And here comes Wolf’s unique insight: “At this point, as the evidence of the reality of global warming piles up, most of these optimists are whistling past the graveyard or in denial. Some of them, however, may be prudently planning for the future.” In other words the super rich and the elites of the Republican party (often one and the same) are preparing for a world characterized by catastrophic conflicts and brutal repression.

The Republican Party has now entered into contradiction with itself and using Wolf's and the previous Paxton’s analysis it would appear that it is going to tear itself apart; that would explain why they are acting so weird lately by putting forward as their candidates for the Republican presidential nomination of 2012 extreme right wingers such as Bachmann and Perry, the kind of people who think that people who disagree with them are traitors.

And this brings us to the conclusion to my above mentioned article where I state that we need to muster the audacity to imagine a bold alternative to a world governed by market laws and distributive injustice. There I state what bears repeating here, that this sad situation wherein children die of hunger every day and have no roof over their head while the children of the wealthy are given play houses to play worth a quarter of a million dollar “could change if the demand for an ever rising standard of living were abolished and new patterns of production, consumption and distribution were based on caring and sharing. The material wealth of the wealthy has grown enough. Their trees are now mature and should leave space for new trees to develop and blossom. Our alternative is an orchard of blossoming economies, each bearing its own kind of fruit. The time has come for radical change if total catastrophe is to be prevented and all creation to enjoy fullness of life.”


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