By Elliot Sperber

Because social classes develop out of, and are contingent upon, division, exploitation, and strife, the term “class war” is redundant (as much as the converse, “class peace,” is oxymoronical). As such, we really ought to bury the euphemism – and call it what it is: civil war.

I

For those who haven’t heard, a major offensive is being planned in the ongoing war between the classes. While the poor, and what remains of the middle and the working classes, suffer defeat after defeat, the wealthy are hammering out yet another “free trade agreement.” Memorably described by Global Trade Watch Director Lori Wallach (after portions of it were leaked to the public) as “NAFTA on steroids,” the Trans-Pacific Partnership – or TPP – is the largest such agreement to come along since the creation of the WTO in 1995.

Negotiated in secret between the US and 11 other Pacific nation-states (including Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Japan), the deal is regarded as central to Obama’s economic agenda (as well as ancillary to his “pivot to Asia”). And yet, despite its list of horrors (which include the predictable assaults on labor, and the further desecration of the global environment, along with the virtual enclosure and privatization of the public domain via patent and copyright protections), the further aggrandizement of corporate power, and the further privatization of the commons, doesn’t seem too novel; perhaps because corporations already pretty much run the political-economic show.

After all, though those objecting to the TPP warn that its passage will weaken governments’ ability to regulate corporations and constrain corporate abuses, as it presently stands the corporate interests behind the TPP are already powerful enough to keep the agreement’s contents virtually secret. The few politicians privy to the deal’s contents are effectively banned from discussing its substance with their constituencies. And, as we’ve time and again witnessed, widespread public dissent is simply ignored. In other words, so-called “national sovereignty” (which many TPP protesters fear is being undermined) in many respects does not risk taking a backseat to corporate interests – for the very reason that they aren’t distinct to begin with.

Let’s not forget, although many of us have had it hammered into our heads that we live in a democracy, the fact of the matter is that we live in a “representative democracy” – one that represents the wealthy – in which money is equated with political speech – i.e. a plutocracy.

In addition to the fact that the Democratic and Republican parties are corporate parties through and through (who represent the interests of the rich nearly exclusively), those decrying the loss of national sovereignty sound particularly absurd considering the fact that they echo throughout a political context characterized by extreme abuses of sovereign power – abuses such as Obama’s “disposition matrix” (which, for those who haven’t been paying attention, allows the Executive to assassinate anyone s/he likes, without any meaningful due process of law). In light of this, perhaps, we should take a moment to briefly examine the concept of sovereignty.

As Carl Schmitt, the notorious Nazi jurist – whose thoughts on sovereignty are among the most influential of the past century – pithily put it: “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception.” That is, the sovereign is the person able to decide what the law is by deciding what and where the law’s exceptions reside, and has the capacity to declare a “state of exception,” suspending the law entirely.

The sovereign is s/he “who decides on the exception.” Given this, it is highly revealing that, in discussing his official function, George W. Bush described himself as “the decider” – the one who decides. And when Obama assumed Bush’s office, this baton of sovereignty – this power to decide – passed on to him. Now Obama decides. He decides, for instance, that certain practices (targeting people for assassination without due process of law, or indefinitely detaining people without charging them with a crime, or killing people with drones throughout the world) are exceptions to the law. As such, demands for the protection of sovereignty (of “the ultimate power to command”) sound confused at best.

Rather than lamenting the loss or diminution of national sovereignty to corporate hegemony, then, we should instead consider the thoughts of the late Zapatista Comandante Ramona who maintained that, instead of seizing power, emancipatory political movements ought to break power into little pieces so that all can exercise some degree of (noncoercive) power – and that none will be subject to (coercive) power. That is, corporate sovereignty ought to be rejected, but not in favor of national sovereignty. National sovereignty ought to be rejected too.

II

In light of the above, some of those protesting the TPP to some degree (to me, at least) resemble the subculture of people obsessed with so-called “chemtrails.” This, of course, should not be construed to mean that TPP protesters are conspiracy theorists. What’s commensurable is just the utter superfluousness of their respective concerns.

Chemtrail enthusiasts, let us recall, who are disturbed by lingering condensation trails left in the sky by passing jets, believe that a government plot to control the weather is poisoning the world with various pollutants. Yet, while chemtrail theorists excite themselves over what may not even exist, mountains of firmly established factual reports point to the prevalence of actual pollutants in the environment causing epidemic rates of cancer, not to mention global warming, and the acidification and death of the ocean, among other actual, factual problems. Why don’t chemtrail obsessives concern themselves with these firmly documented harms?

Likewise, TPP protesters (like Ralph Nader, and other liberals) ought to recognize that though the harms expected to accompany the TPP are projected to exceed those that accompanied NAFTA, the TPP is itself just a symptom, a product, of the capitalist system subtending it. For even if the TPP is defeated, capitalism will just produce more trade agreements like it. That’s just what capitalism does. In addition to producing high-tech gadgetry – not to mention wars, ecocide, and widespread poverty, along with extreme concentrations of wealth – capitalism produces these inequitable trade agreements. So why not just go to the root of the problem – the radix (from which the word radical – as well as the word rational – derives)?

Some, of course, may object to this characterization of capitalism as an economic system that (re)produces poverty. But capitalism is hardly the efficient system its profiteers, and their minions, insist that it is. Just consider the relation capitalism has to the most basic economic product there is: food.

Most would probably agree that an economy’s purpose is the production of basic services and goods. Within capitalism, however, this is not exactly the case. The primary purpose within capitalism is the extraction of profits. Goods, or commodities, are produced for exchange (exchange-value) rather than for use (use-value). And since goods are produced not for their own sake, but as a means to acquire money, one encounters a fundamental conflict of interest in the capitalist production process. For instance, farmers who produce enough crops to feed their communities ultimately find themselves forced out of business in a capitalist system. Though successful in the sense that they produce a large amount of food, and provide sustenance, in a capitalist system this very productiveness renders them failures. For, within the upside-down logic of capitalism, a too-productive farmer, by lowering demand (by satisfying a need) leads the price of his or her product to drop. And the more the farmer produces, the less valuable the food becomes. This valuation/devaluation ultimately renders the farmer both unable to pay her debts and forced out of business. This is why millions of tons of perfectly good food are intentionally destroyed each year – not only is food sacrificed to profit, in a commodity economy food items become instruments of a low-burning civil war. (Of course, by decommodifying food – by treating it as a commons – this problem could be corrected. Yet, decommodification is anathema to capitalism. Capitalism runs in the opposite direction, attempting to privatize and commodify – and thereby profit from – everything).

Rather than meeting human needs directly, then, capitalism meets (some of) these needs incidentally – actively undermining human well being in the process, by artificially maintaining scarcity. This is why Henry Ford, faced with the problem of having new models of cars to sell to a public unwilling to trade in their perfectly functioning Model-Ts, contributed to the development of what has come to be known as planned obsolescence. That is, he developed cars that would break down and need to be replaced after awhile. Commodities (like computers) that aren’t rendered obsolete by technological advances are designed to break in a capitalist society. To be sure, manufactured scarcity, as well as planned obsolescence, and other strategies designed to create demand and profit, are integral to capitalism; these do little, however, to provide goods and services.

Capitalism’s general tendency to deprive (some degree) of goods and services from all but the wealthy is illustrated by another example. Due to the rising price of real property, the owner of a senior residence home in Brooklyn – which provides housing for vulnerable members of the community – is evicting this population, rendering them homeless. Why? In order to transform this necessary housing into luxury condominiums, of course. In other words, necessary housing for a vulnerable population of elderly people is valued less than, and subordinated to, luxury housing (which by definition is unnecessary). It is this upside-down system of values (which is anti-democratic – subordinating basic housing for the many to luxury housing for the few, for instance) that needs to be corrected.

While it may be counter to the reigning ideology, it is nevertheless the case that, rather than being a democratic political-economy (animated by a concern for the well being of all) capitalism is actually a highly aristocratic economic form, concerned with what is best for those it considers the aristos, the best (which, within a system that values things according to their monetary worth, turns out to be the rich). This is precisely the aristocratic logic undergirding “trickle down” theories. What is in the interest of the best, the theory holds, is in the interest of the many as well – as it will “trickle down” to the rest.

Unlike (aristocratic) capitalism, however, a society aspiring to actually democratic social relations ought to concern itself not with what is in the interest of the “best,” or even with the “majority,” but with the flourishing of all people. As long as an economy functions according to the demands of exchange-value, instead of use-value, though, we will wind up not only subordinating the well-being of all to the luxury of some, we will continue to produce avoidable harms such as global warming, famine, and poverty, along with trade agreements like the TPP. Rather than narrowly focusing on the TPP, then, we ought to direct our attention to developing an actually egalitarian, critical democracy. Unlike the capitalistic system, which regards everything as alienable (i.e., for sale), such a project would not only recognize, for instance, that political rights must be inalienable (not for sale); it would recognize that the preconditions for these rights (such as food, and housing, among other conditions necessary for human flourishing) must be decommodified and inalienable as well. Humankind may yet have time to recognize this.

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1 comments
David E.H. Smith
David E.H. Smith

SECRET TPPartnership, CETA & C-CIT TRIBUNALS are INSIDER TRADING; SHAREHOLDERS & global corporate leaders VS. NON SHAREHOLDERS. NON Shareholders HAVE TO PAY the arranged PENALTIES. Repatriating off-shore; profits, goods & services contracts, financing, etc. and co-manufacturing still not on the table? LINE UP to "PRE" IPOs SHOrtens. What the TREATY of VERSAILLES was to the 20th century PALES in COMPARISON to the TPP, CETA, C-CIT, NAFTA, et al, in the 21st. (CAN) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's attempts to maintain the secrecy provisions in the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Canada - China Investment Treaty (C-CIT; FIPPA) & the Canada - European Union CETA may be unravelling by way of the threatened Canadian Senate, et al. There are several reasons for the secrecy ("omerta") of the dispute resolution tribunals. 1) To Protect the parties to the treaty, &/or, agreement, ie. corporate sponsors, from having to reveal to the non shareholding tax payers the existing arrangements that it has with its own government. For instance, the Canadian W.A.D. Accord suggests that corporate Canada's lobbyists pay considerations to the executives of the political parties for two main reasons: A) to promote corporate Canada's agenda with governing party(ies) by: i) reducing its taxes & thus, the "net increase" in taxes for non shareholders & ii) increase its funding for "economic development" which covers the cost of, among other things, the present & future advocacy, ie. lobbying & the cost of the considerations that corporate Canada pays out, etc. It may be regrettable that given the source of the accessed "economic development" funds, ie. those 95% - 99% of Canadians who are non shareholding tax payers there is a great deal of room for discretionary spending & its abuse and to protect corporate Canada's agenda by paying the other (non governing) political parties considerations in order to limit the scope of the "opposition" to manageable issues that can be compromised in order that "opposing" parties can claim victories (at least a limited victory) for their constituents. Under this arrangement both, the politicians & the lobbyists' clients are protected from scrutiny by the role of the parties' executives. 2) To Protect the parties to the treaty, &/or, agreement, ie. corporate sponsor from having to reveal to the each others' corporate sponsors their existing arrangements that it has with its own government & thus, each counties' corporate sponsors are not obliged to share the benefits & considerations (& future considerations) that they receive from their respective governments ie. their non shareholding taxpayers. Often the benefits are shared as an inducement to conduct business together in the more convenient jurisdictions. 3) To Protect the parties to one treaty, &/or, agreement (referred to as the "original" treaty/agreement) from having to reveal to third parties the nature, &/or, details of their "original" arrangements to other third parties who may want to enter into a treaty, &/or, agreement with either of the parties to the "original" agreement/treaty.That is to say, that acquiring & having privileged information of an outsiders treaties, &/or, agreements will cause contention as the third party will undoubtedly insist upon more favorable terms & conditions to a new treaty/agreement than the original treaty/agreement. For example; "You did this with them, so I insist upon more, or, I'll deal with them, or, others". The European Union is particularly interested in preventing the Canada - European Union CETA from becoming divisive whereby individual EU member countries may be enticed, &/or, coerced into making preferential, but, "very secretive" side deals with corporate Canada, et al. By preventing the non shareholding taxpayers from learning about the aforementioned reasons for the tribunals' secrecy whereby the non shareholding taxpayers pay for the increase in the value of the shareholders' stocks & dividends is insider trading & stock manipulation. Therefore, corporate Canada, AFN & their traditional media outlets have more than just a vested interest in the continuation of the most vulnerable Canadians (95% - 99% of Native & non Native Canadians) deprivation of the information such as the comprehensive version of The W.A.D. Accord and the comprehensive versions of the Canada - China Investment Treaty, the Canada - European Union CET Agreement, et al, that include the mechanisms, procedures, practices used in the adjudications of the dispute resolution tribunal & its disbursement of its punitive awards. It may be regrettable that not all of the 95% - 99% most vulnerable, non shareholders are able, &/or, willing to move to a sovereign Quebec, or, other jurisdictions, in order to: 1) avoid the "unethical" & "inhumane" (see; The W.A.D. Accord), but, "legal" practices and 2) start getting the relevant & quantitative information regarding the above, et al. The issue of the secret tribunals raises some interesting questions about the relationship, ie. the"secret congress" between the lobbyists' clients & the executives of the political parties which the "congress" has absolutely no intention of answering. For instance; what do the above arrangements say about the 95% - 99% of Canadians who are non shareholding tax payers & the version of "democracy" that "they" are developing in Canada in the context of the growing "global" economy and what do the above arrangements say about the accelerating growth of the disparity of the wealth between the shareholders (1% - 5% of Canadians, et al) & the non shareholders (95% - 99% of Canadians), et al? What are you, the reader, learning about the Canada - China Investment Treaty that will help you to ascertain whether the Canada - European Union Agreement is better for you & the non shareholders, or, corporate Canada & its shareholders? What are some of the other questions that the non shareholders need to ask & who can answer, &/or, is willing to answer (as opposed to "respond" to) their questions that would make the non shareholders informed & consensual participants & direct beneficiaries of the C-CIT & the CETA? Have you & your family, friends & colleagues sent PM Harper & Mr. DAN HILTON (Executive Director of the Conservative Party), et al, your: "NOTIFICATION of Preexisting CHALLENGE to the TRANS PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP", "NOTIFICATION of Preexisting CHALLENGE to the CANADA - EUROPEAN UNION COMPREHENSIVE ECONOMIC & TRADE AGREEMENT" and "NOTIFICATION of Preexisting CHALLENGE to the CANADA – CHINA INVESTMENT TREATY", in order to enhance your opportunity to exculpate yourself from having to pay for: 1) the aforementioned Compensation that is embodied in The W.A.D. Accord & 2) the costs, penalties, punitive damages that will be derived from the C-CI Treaty, the CET Agreement, the Trans Pacific Partnership, et al? In conclusion, it may be regrettable that the C-CI Treaty & the CET Agreement has, so far, been successful at giving corporate Canada & its representatives the much higher degree of legitimacy to their aforementioned secrecy (assisted by way of the international cache) that it needs in order for them to later, & once again, claim (see; NAFTA) that they are doing/did "their best" to protect the non shareholders from the over zealousness of their foreign Treaty, Agreement, &/or, Partnership counterparts. Is it not easier & just prudent to discuss the preexisting arrangements & challenges to the Treaty, the Agreement, the Partnership, et al, prior to ratifying them in order to determine which is more egregious than the other (or, are both equally egregious) & thus, avoid any of the secret "dispute" resolutions & its "hefty" costs to the beleaguered, non shareholding taxpayers, et al? And, how much will the added costs of the C-CIT's, CETA's & TPP's infra structure, punitive penalties, etc. increase the erosion of the non shareholders health care, educational services, etc. in order to artificially increase the value of corporate Canada's shares & dividends while dramatically reducing the non shareholders' disposable income? How much has corporate Canada set aside to defend the CHALLENGES, et al, that corporate Canada & the non shareholders are anticipating? How far along are they in collecting this fund & how much more does corporate Canada & its shareholders need to set aside before the non shareholding taxpayers allow corporate Canada & its representatives to proceed? Similarly, due to a psychiatrist's previous linking of the deprivation of The WAD Accord information with the unconscionably high rates of despair, disenchantment, suicides, unemployment, poverty, etc., that are found in many communities across Canada,what are the various different ways that non shareholders can guarantee that corporate Canada & its shareholders have enough financial reserves set aside in order to pay for the CHALLENGES by the non shareholders and those who will be the new victims of the aforementioned deprivation of information? On the other hand, are there actually any non shareholding taxpayers who think that corporate Canada is anxious to explain to them, or, corporate China, or, corporate EU, &/or, corporate trans Pacific nations, just how effective & lucrative their, corporate Canada's, secretive relationship between: 1) lobbyists' of corporate Canada & 2) the executives of the parties that are operating in Canada, has been & is continuing to be? And, finally, without: 1) a meaningful "democratic" forum in which the non shareholders can directly question the direct beneficiaries of the Treaty & the Agreement, ie. corporate Canada & its lobbyists, without the fear of recriminations, etc., 2) a predetermined list of circumstances whereby corporate Canada can & will terminate the Treaty & the Agreement without penalties, &/or, costs to the harmless non shareholding taxpayers & 3) et al, the ratification of the C-CI Treaty & the CET Agreement will eliminate for most Canadians the last remnants of "democratically" effecting the treaty/agreement by the non shareholding taxpayers & thus, corporate Canada, et al, will finally be able to give these arrangements the luster of legitimacy that they need that is based upon the logic that "It can't be another gilded cage that will cause another economic melt down like the "derivative type conspiracy"*** that is continuing to debilitate international finance, etc., because there are just too many vanguards of industry promoting the public financing of the C-CI Treaty & CET Agreement". Regarding the secrecy of the C-CI Treaty, CET Agreement & TP Partnership arrangements, they are not dissimilar to insider trading (fraud, stock manipulation, et al). In this situation the shareholders, who are on "the inside", use secret, &/or, privileged information to make money for themselves at the expense of the group that is on the "outside", ie. the non shareholding taxpayers, who are being deprived of the aforementioned information & thus, are being deprived of the opportunity to enjoy the direct benefits of the treaty/agreement. Similarly, some of the means to counter these arrangements are also not dissimilar to those counter measures that can remedy insider trading & pay punitive damages, etc. to the harmless non shareholders. And, while it is likely that the "coveted" Chinese investor**** may have enough of the insider information regarding the more "unethical", &/or, "inhumane" arrangements in the C-CI Treaty, et al, to navigate the mechanisms of the secret dispute resolution tribunal in his favor & at the peril of corporate Canada, et al, it may be regrettable that it is highly unlikely that the European Union & the nations of the Trans Pacific have been as fortunate regarding the CETA & TPP arrangements. This disparity between China's benefits from the C-CI Treaty & the benefits that the EU, et al, may derive from their CETA will continue to be dangerously contentious. And, finally, it may also be regrettable that there is yet another vulnerability that corporate Canada, especially its Alberta chapter, is particularly desperate to be kept secret for as long as possible and it only remains to be seen when it will be most advantageous to "leak" the secret & by which party. * C-CI Treaty; Canada - China Investment Treaty (FIPA) & CET Agreement; Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement (Canada-European Union) ** The W.A.D. Accord; Reference: For those who may not be familiar with The WAD Accord, &/or, its recent developments, The Accord can be accessed on line by way of the submission entitled: "Towards a More Informed Opinion regarding the Environmental Impact & Context of the NGP (Pipeline), et al", Researched & Submitted by D.E.H.S., July 24, 2012 to the Enbridge Co.'s NGP Joint Review Panel.. Contact: Ms. Colette Spagnuolo, Gateway Process Advisor, Northern Gateway Project *** "derivative type conspiracy"; "The $58 Trillion Elephant in the Room" by Jesse Eisinger. Upstart Business Journal, October 15, 2008, 8:00am EDT. Re; the "industrialized credit derivatives" ********** For the more information that may lead the non shareholders, corporate China and corporate European Union & their shareholders & the non shareholders, et al, to a greater certainty regarding what corporate Canada may be sharing with you regarding the accessing of the aforementioned, information & Canadian natural resources, et al, see; Facebook; "David Smith, Sidney, BC" to access the List of RECENT ARTICLES, LETTERS & NOTIFICATIONS by DEHS. Then, Google; “The TITLE' from the facebook List above & David E.H. Smith".