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Terrorism: Normalizing the Global Cop

With the emergence of the age of globalization, war has increasingly taken on a character that may be described as “policing”: that is to say, it has become increasingly normalized. Thus, while systemically necessary, war in the past has generally been viewed as an abnormal event, a scourge to be avoided. The same can be said of violence in general. However, there is one type of violence that in our society takes place as part of the normal social routine: policing. The situation where the police violently disable and apprehend a “suspect” is not generally viewed as problematic or abnormal, and in fact is considered desirable. The war on terror takes up and expands this principle in a process leading to the establishment of a global police state.

The term police state is well known, but it is not immediately clear what specific characteristics distinguish such a state from other possible states. The term is generally associated with a situation in which a policing agency of the state acts outside the law to arbitrarily punish or kill innocent people, in order to intimidate or otherwise subdue the population in accordance with the repressive political requirements of the government. This formulation, however, seems to more closely describe the activity of “criminals” rather than “policemen”. As we shall see, the two in principle cannot be clearly delineated.

Alternatively, we may view a police state as a state in which the laws are excessively repressive and entail gross enforcement activity that violates the rights and freedoms which people would otherwise have. At bottom, though, whether the police state apparatus enforces laws or violates them makes no difference: the essential characteristic is the manner in which the laws are enforced or violated. The defining characteristic of a police state is the use of violence or threats of violence for political purposes. This, not coincidentally, is also what is generally taken to be the definition of terrorism.

The distinction between violent crime and terrorism differs primarily in the purposes for which the violence is used: “personal” enrichment in the former case and “political” enrichment in the latter. The phenomenon of “terrorism” is emerging within the global capitalist system in the role that was previously played by “crime”. For example, the recent efforts by certain segments of the US ruling class to include the copying of copyrighted intellectual property within the definition of terrorism is but one piece of circumstantial evidence that backs up this assertion. That it would make sense at all to seek to expand the coverage of the term “terrorism” in this manner is underpinned by the systemic role which the phenomenon of terrorism is to play in the emerging global capitalist order.

The Capitalist System

For the purposes of this article, a system may be incompletely defined as a set of distinct and superficially independent entities, the behavior of which is determined by essential connections and interrelations between them, which cannot be observed when observing the district entities. A defining characteristic of a system is that it is hidden from (cannot be affected by) the entities which form part of that system.

A living body is an example of a system, comprising distinct elements such as organs. If an observer were to stay within the limits of a living body, observing the various organs, fluids, etc. that can be found within it, it would be altogether opaque what the nature of a living body as such is. A living body becomes recognizable as a living body only when viewed within the context of the broader environment in which it exists, such as the system of nature, or the system of the universe. In other words, a system can be recognized as such only when seen in the context of some greater system of which it in turn is part. Consequently, the greatest system, i.e. the universe, must necessarily remain fundamentally opaque to us. By the same token, we have no way of changing the universe as a whole. The system of the universe defines and delimits the range and nature of actions which we can take or conceive of taking.

The system which we shall consider here is the currently existing system of human socioeconomic relations, frequently referred to as the capitalist system. It should be noted that capitalism here refers not to an ideology or belief, but to a mode of production or a system of economic organization, where by economy we mean the set of practices, devices and arrangements by which people secure whatever is necessary for them to live. The term capitalist is also used to denote a certain set of people within this economic system; for the sake of clarity, such people will be referred to here as the (capitalist) ruling class.

What role does the phenomenon known as the “war on terror” play within the capitalist system? It should be noted that when we speak of the objectives, needs, etc. of the capitalist system, we are not speaking about the objectives, etc. of any group of people. While it may make sense to say that the capitalist ruling class has a certain commitment to, or interest in, maintaining the capitalist system, whereas other groups of people may not have, or may have less of, such commitment or interest, the capitalist system includes the ruled class as much as the ruling class, and is a product of the activities of the ruled class no less (and in certain respects much more so) than those of the ruling class. Likewise, while the interests of the system and of certain groups within the system may appear to coincide in some respects, the interests of the capitalist system are distinct from the interests of the capitalist ruling class.

There may be some lack of clarity here as to what, if anything, the system per se actually constitutes beyond a theoretical construct. There is no simple answer to this question. The system is not a separate entity that is comparable to the various entities that are components of that system. However, at the most concrete level, the system can be conceived of as the set of relationships that results from the totality of the actions of all the components of the system, and which substantially determine the subsequent actions of those components.

Thus, when a given component, say a person or a nation, takes a certain action which has certain consequences, those consequences of that action which affect the overall status or operation of the system can be seen as being actions of the system. When such consequences in turn cause a member of the system to take a certain action, that action can be viewed as an action of the system. It follows from this that we cannot act outside of the system; however, this does not preclude the possibility of taking actions that will substantially modify the subsequent behavior of the system, even to such an extent that the system could be said to pass out of existence.

Feeding the System

Next, let us briefly (and no doubt incompletely) examine the mode of operation of the capitalist system, particularly with respect to its most recent trends.

The dynamic of competition is a requirement for the capitalist system. The goal pursued by the players in this competition is generally characterized as being the accumulation of capital (that which has value). Since capital itself is the feedstock for further accumulation of capital (“it takes money to make money”), the process of competition for accumulation necessarily leads to increasing concentration of capital.

But since capital is the primary requisite for participating in capitalist competition, increasing concentration of capital reduces the field of players on which the dynamic of competition depends. The increasing concentration of capital consequently threatens the possibility for further competition, and thus the capitalist system itself. This can be seen as being an inherent contradiction of capitalism.

The need for more fodder for the system — more things of value to compete for — has brought about what is often referred to as the process of globalization. However, as the capitalist system globalizes, the sphere of competition — what is available to compete over — necessarily shrinks: the inherent contradictions of capitalism that drive globalization are not resolved by it, but merely expand to a global scale. This process creates pressure on the system to create situations that will promote the dynamic by which the system is sustained.

The primary objective of the capitalist system as such, or of any system, for that matter, is self-preservation: ensuring the continued existence of the system, insofar as possible. To this end, an operative objective of the capitalist system is that it remain opaque to its members. That is to say, the capitalist system, as a system, must conceal itself from any action that could terminate the operation of the system, and thus from any critical insight that could lead to such action.

Insofar as the interests of the capitalist ruling class lie in preserving the capitalist system, they consist likewise in preventing the possibility of any critical insight on the system: the relationships that define and are defined by the capitalist system must be submerged and dissipated in other relationships, the opposition to or overturning of which will not disable the operation of the system itself. That is to say, given its nature, the capitalist system is bound to produce substantial discontent among many of its members.

Such discontent can in turn serve, directly or indirectly, as a motivation to develop critical insight or take critical action against the source of that discontent. The goal of the system is to channel that discontent into some other, sub-systemic sphere, in which it may be dissipated without impinging on the continued existence of the system. As we shall see, the “war on terror” is one such sphere.

The competitive capitalist system necessitates economic growth, either through the increase in the number of individuals living under the capitalist system, or through an increase in the economic needs of an individual. A capitalist system cannot be sustained in a world with a stable population of materially sated individuals.

An inevitable result of the need for growth is that, under the capitalist system, it is essentially a requirement that all persons seek to accumulate capital — given as that is one of the two possible sources of growth. The dynamic of the capitalist system relies on this drive on the part of its participants. While the effort to accumulate capital may not prominently characterize the behavior of absolutely all people today, it is an objective of the capitalist system to make it so. The process of globalization represents an effort in this direction. At a systemic level, it is this requirement of the system itself that underlies the often forced and violent nature of the imposition of globalization measures. This systemic requirement underlies the imposition of policies by the advanced capitalist powers on the “developing” regions (i.e. those where people have not been making enough effort to accumulate).

The process of globalization thus has two sides: the accumulation of “developing” capital by the ruling classes of advanced capitalist powers, and the furtherance of accumulation efforts on the part of “developing” people. The claim often proffered by proponents of globalization, to the effect that “we just want to make them rich”, is thus not entirely false. However, the dual nature of globalization can often lead to the opposite, but systemically not undesired, result. Indeed, given the fact that capital accrues from prior capital, such a result is to be expected.

By this very same process, globalization, which seeks to expand the capitalist economy, inevitably ends up shrinking the dynamic or motivating source for that expansion. As the process of capitalist competition globally sorts itself out into winners and losers, the excitement of the game naturally dissipates. To reinvigorate its essential dynamic above and beyond what the natural limits to the process of expansion will allow, the capitalist system employs the technique of abnormal conflict, i.e. war.

Shifting Sources of War

Such conflict is abnormal not in the sense that it is unusual, but rather in the sense that it deviates from the primary modality of conflict, i.e. market competition. Traditionally, war was waged by one state actor, or a group of state actors, against another. There are, however, certain constraints as to the sort of war the capitalist system can allow. This stems from the fact that war, while serving to reinvigorate the economic processes of capitalism, can also potentially destabilize the capitalist order sufficiently to create an opening for critical insight and action against that order. The allowable scale of destruction is thus substantially constrained.

We may gain insight to this at the systemic level by observing that, under globalization, with the shrinking dynamic of capitalist competition that it inevitably brings about, the possibility for traditional war likewise shrinks. This is not to say that such a possibility has been eliminated: rather, the point here is that the demand for war under advanced global capitalism exceeds the supply that can be offered by the traditional war model. Thus, the need for new sorts of wars emerges. Most recently, this has manifested in the form of the war on terror.

In the early stages of capitalism, the primary modus operandi in the military sphere was conquest and colonization, sometimes accompanied by extermination of the conquered peoples. The United States itself was created by this very mechanism. With further development of the capitalist system, as more sophisticated modalities of control emerged, conquest per se largely ceased to be appropriate.

The process here is analogous, for instance, to the transition from slave labor to wage labor that occurred in the US domestically around the time of the Civil War. The newer modalities of control are more sophisticated in the sense that they are more difficult to discern or oppose. In this regard it may also be mentioned that any such modality can be effective only for so long, as eventually it becomes identified and opposition to it emerges, for instance the anti-imperialist or anti-colonial tendency that led to the dissolution of the various European colonial empires and the emergence of independent nations states dominated by the various European states and subsequently by the United States and other global players. The liberation here was not a liberation from domination, but a transition from one form of domination to another, just as in the case of the transition from slave labor to wage labor. Whether such transitions constitute an increase in freedom or not depends on the metric that one uses to measure it, and no obvious single metric suggests itself as being particularly appropriate. The overall process, however, can be characterized as a process of the reduction in overt domination and increase in covert domination.

Normalization of Terror

The role or criminals — transgressors against the established social order — is more or less analogous to the role of war as discussed above. In this regard, the police have served the role not so much of fighting and eliminating, but rather of normalizing crime (where “normalizing” can be understood to mean “allowing it to occur within the normal course of social events”, i.e. without fundamentally destabilizing the social order). Crime, in turn, serves to normalize the policing apparatus which superficially fights it. The fact that police forces can and often do themselves engage in crime is, from a systemic point of view, neither surprising nor problematic, as police and criminals both serve the same operative purpose of the capitalist system.

The role of the criminal within this operative purpose is now passing to the post of terrorists, and to be arrayed against them is the global police state. Much as the local police state has served to normalize crime, the global police state will serve to normalize terror. By the same token, it will serve to normalize the “war on terror”, which systemically serves the same purpose as the terror which it purports to fight. This purpose, at bottom, is to sustain the global capitalist order by stimulating the dynamic that is to motivate its participants, providing a controlled sphere into which discontent with the system can be released, concealing the system that is the source of that discontent, and neutralizing any activity that may threaten the continued existence of that system.

The project for the creation of a global police state that is being pursued through the mechanism of the war on terror entails other elements. Notable among these is “National Missile Defense”, i.e. the creation of space-based weapons platforms that would enable the global ruling class to instantaneously neutralize threats within what is to become the normal course of affairs under a global policing regime. Biotechnology or genetic engineering is another pillar in this edifice, which aims to allow the ruling class to shape the genetic structure of beings within its domain in accordance with the requirements of the global capitalist system. Discontent with the global system that cannot be allayed through technologies of psychological control, such as the media, entertainment and religion industries, is to be channeled into and neutralized under the category of terrorism.

Nothing is Eternal

While more can be said about the details and mechanisms of this emerging order, what is perhaps most notable about it is the fact that it is utterly incapable of resolving the substantive problems which people face today. In its advanced phase, the capitalist system becomes most dangerous. Nothing is eternal, and as the capitalist economic system nears the end of its evolutionary potential and its ability to sustain life degrades, it becomes most blinding as to the possibilities of resolving the problems which the system presents. The war on terror is but the latest if not the last manifestation of this blinding effect. It is not inconceivable, given the means of destruction we have deployed to safeguard our “freedom” from each other, that the human race, absorbed in fighting the terror and mass destruction of its own making, will forego the avenues for its continued existence and expire along with the failing system of socioeconomic relations under which it has most recently lived. But neither is it inevitable.

The changes that would have to be made in the human economy, that is, the human way of life, in order to continue living, are substantial and beyond the scope of any individual’s cognitive capacity. While we can reasonably say that such changes would have to be radical and revolutionary, we cannot draw up a complete blueprint of exactly how this process of change should or would take place, nor should we delude ourselves in trying to do so. While social revolution is frequently conceived of as a political or institutional transition, the sort of change that is needed here can perhaps be more aptly described as civilizational. The revolution that transformed the feudal system to the modern capitalist order was a long, tumultuous process that altered nearly all aspects of life. There is no reason to believe that the next revolution will fulfill itself through some quick and painless exercise.

It is proposed here that, in approaching the nontrivial task of our survival in the face of collapse of the system by which we live, we must begin by gaining insight into the operation of that system. If we understand the problems facing us to be systemic, our analysis of those problems must likewise be systemic. While the capitalist system is not directly visible to us in itself, we can discern it by observing it within the context of other systems, such as the system of nature, or the system of human history. Such analysis is significant not as an intellectual exercise, but as a basis for action which we may take in accordance with our findings. Those findings must be substantially correct, as our life depends on them; and thus our analytical approach must be highly reliable.

With respect to the war on terror, we conclude that, for those who value life, this is not the right war to fight. Ultimately, supporting, opposing or otherwise participating in the war on terror is immaterial and can do little to change the reality of terror, the source of which lies elsewhere.

In putting forward the necessity for proper analysis as a basis for valid action, we do not preclude the engagement in actions which, under such an analysis, would not be fully valid. Little of what we do will be fully valid or fully effective in achieving the goals which we should like to pursue. The validity and utility of such actions emerges in what we can learn from them, and in the progress that we can make based on such lessons. Thus, we must engage in such actions, including political actions, in the manner of experimenters and students, not professors and priests. More importantly, we must not, in engaging in such actions, abrogate the search for yet more valid action. In making vague denunciations of the capitalist order as bad, we must not deceive ourselves that we must thus be any better.

While some may see the task before us as being primarily a matter of enlisting enough people in an anticapitalist movement, we conclude here that the primary task is discovering the paths that will lead us toward solutions to the problems of global capitalism. The reason global capitalism persists to this day is precisely because the solutions to its problems have so far not been discovered. The process of discovery of such solutions is in itself a necessary and sufficient condition for resolving those problems.

National Missile Defense

Visions of a global police state

On May 1st, as people around the world celebrated International Worker’s Day and the coming of spring, George W. Bush, speaking at the National Defense University in Washington, conducted a ceremonial opening of a different sort of celebration. It was to be a celebration of capitalist triumph, of the exercise of power and the expansion of dominion. After wistfully reminiscing about the Cold War and the ultimate triumph of capitalism over the Soviet Union, Bush reassured his audience that the party was not over. Even today there are tyrants out there, “tyrants gripped by an implacable hatred of the United States of America”, tyrants who, like their Soviet predecessors, “hate democracy, freedom and individual liberty”.

The centerpiece of this new celebration was to be the development of a military system termed national missile defense, which was to be achieved by funneling billions of dollars to corporations of the US military-industrial complex-the beacons and bottom-line guarantors of freedom and democracy. The older triumph was achieved through a game of stockpiling weapons of mass destruction-weapons which both sides unfortunately had to withhold from using due to the uncontrollable magnitude of mutual destruction which would otherwise ensue. Now, through the technological regime of missile defense, that annoying limitation could finally be overcome, freeing the holders of power to exercise the full power which they hold. The same corporate entities whose hard work and Yankee ingenuity secured victory in that cold, static struggle, far from becoming Cold War dinosaurs, would be granted a new lease on life in this heroic bid to make weapons of mass destruction safe for democracy.

A brief history of missile defense

The concept of missile defense is not new. In the wake of World War II, the US Army conducted studies, code-named Thumper and Wizard, which suggested the possibility of using interceptor missiles or directed energy weapons to counter ballistic missiles such as the V-2 rockets which were deployed by Hitler’s forces against London in the closing days of their Aryan empire. In 1956, development of a complex anti-ballistic missile system known as “Nike-Zeus” was initiated, with Western Electric Corporation as the prime contractor. The system was to employ a variety of radar subsystems to guide an interceptor missile which would deliver a megaton-range nuclear explosive to destroy the reentry vehicle of an incoming ballistic missile at high altitude. After some initial successful tests, the system was deemed impractical and was never deployed. Development of other systems continued into the 1960′s, when “Sentinel”, an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system of limited capacity, went through initial stages of deployment under Johnson. This system was renamed “Safeguard” under Nixon and redesigned to defend US missile silos against a preemptive strike.

Overall, with the technology available at the time, ABM systems and development efforts proved costly, and their effectiveness remained highly uncertain. As enthusiasm waned, in 1972 the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was signed, which limited each side to two ABM installations with no more than 100 weapons each (reduced to one installation each in a 1974 amendment to the treaty). The Safeguard program continued on a more limited scale, and an ABM facility went into full operation 1 October 1975 in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The next day, Congress voted to shut down the program, and the facility was decommissioned after less than 5 months of operation. While its operational track record may be underwhelming, the Safeguard program did make one significant achievement: namely, the transfer of 21 billion dollars to the military-industrial complex. This achievement-one that had been made with various related programs in the past and would be repeated in the future-embodied the establishment of a pattern crucial to the continued operation of the military-industrial complex and the world system which it safeguards.

Star Wars

In September 1982, Edward Teller, the father of the H-bomb and the godfather of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (the US ruling class’s main advanced weapons research facility), visited Ronald Reagan in a private meeting arranged by right-wing business interests acting through the Heritage Foundation. Teller informed Reagan of a device he had been working on-a nuclear bomb-pumped X-ray laser-which he claimed could be deployed in space and used to shoot missiles out of the sky. In March of the following year, Reagan announced the launching of a comprehensive program that would protect free people from the Evil Empire by rendering nuclear weapons “impotent and obsolete”. This complex program, known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), was to be centered around Teller’s X-ray laser system. As he had done in the past when it came to big-ticket research items, Teller and his team had deliberately falsified and exaggerated their technological prowess: after 12 years of effort, the proposed laser system proved unfeasible.

In the meanwhile, the Army had continued work on hit-to-kill (HTK) vehicles-kinetic energy weapons that would knock a missile out of the sky. After several unsuccessful tests of the system, built primarily by Lockheed, the developers, desperate for a show of success and for continued funding, resorted to rigging the test procedure to ensure the desired results. “The test achievements vividly demonstrate the undergirding technical genius resident in our society”, opined SDI Organization director James Abrahamson. He was right, in a sense: as long as the money keeps flowing, you’re in business.

In 1988, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory shifted focus to the development of what was called “Brilliant Pebbles” – a network of orbiting HTK interceptors. “Lasers may be useful someday, but meanwhile we must destroy missiles as David slew Goliath”, quipped Teller. This program picked up on an earlier project from the 60′s known as BAMBI (Ballistic Missile Boost Intercept), and was finally terminated in 1996 after failing every test.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the urgency and rationale for SDI was substantially weakened, and with the temporarily reduced US defense budget, the scope of the project was pared down. The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization was downgraded to Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, and the emphasis of its work shifted to theater missile defense (TMD).

A boon for TMD came in Operation Desert Storm-the US-led attack against Iraq during which modified Patriot surface-to-air missiles were publicized as knocking down Iraqi Scuds missiles. The military establishment proudly issued claims of 100% effectiveness. An analysis by some MIT academicians of several celebratory videos showing the victorious feats of US military technology revealed that the footage which television viewers were led to believe showed successful intercepts was deceptive, since the Patriot missiles were designed to explode in mid-air, whether or not they hit or were near the intended interception target. In a subsequent report by the General Accounting Office, the effectiveness was downgraded to “unknown”. Subsequently, the development of missile defense-related programs continued quietly, receiving some $4 billion in annual funding.

The missile defense lobby continued its efforts, centered around the Center for Security Policy, a “non-partisan educational corporation” funded by weapons contractors and headed by former Reagan Assistant Secretary of Defense Frank Gaffney, which succeeded in getting missile defense inserted as a plank in Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Contract With America platform. A report issued in 1998 by the Rumsfeld Commission, which was tasked with identifying ballistic missile threats to the US, found such a danger emanating from “rogue states”. The following year, Clinton signed the National Missile Defense Act, mandating the deployment of a missile defense system.

Work continues on an NMD system based on Raytheon’s EKV (exoatmospheric kill vehicle), a variant of the HTK technology. Controversy has again surfaced regarding the veracity of the testing. “It’s not a defense of the United States. It’s a conspiracy to allow them to milk the government. They are creating jobs for themselves for life”, said former TRW engineer Nira Schwartz, who was promptly fired for her opinion. (TRW, along with Boeing, Lockheed-Martin and Raytheon, are the primary contractors for the current NMD system).

Critiquing NMD

Over 100 billion dollars has been spent so far on missile defense programs-with nothing to show for it, some would say. Now, G. W. Bush is pushing for a 240 billion dollar NMD program. This effort, just as those which preceded it, has not been without its critics and detractors.

One popular form of critique of this conservative program heard within the liberal establishment is the “briefcase critique” (a.k.a. poor man’s nuke). The briefcase theory, while taking any missile defense system to be unworkable, holds that, even if by some miracle it did work, it still wouldn’t do any good, since supporters of rogue states or terrorist organizations would bring their nuclear bomb into the US inside a briefcase anyhow. This theory and its analogues and variants stand in the long line of the “boondoggle” critique tradition, which holds that, whether it be well-meaning or sinister, the military is above all hopelessly bumbling and incompetent.

This line of criticism is often combined with concerned calls to the effect that an NMD program would spark a new arms race, as other nations would feel the need to counter the advantages which an NMD shield would provide to the United States. It is not generally made clear by the advocates of these critiques why other nations would feel this need, when NMD itself is claimed to be unworkable and ineffective.

A third point of criticism deals with the corporate welfare angle. Given that an NMD project would channel large sums of money to weapons contractors, it is suggested that perhaps this is the main, if not only, motivation behind the project. This is often combined with concerns regarding the honesty of the contractors and strategists behind the project: since what they are after is personal gain (financial and/or psychological), they would naturally have a propensity to falsify the supposed threat and/or the capacity of their systems to deal with it.

These critiques all have some truth behind them, yet they seem more to circle around, rather than penetrate, the questions at hand.

The question of the feasibility or workability of an NMD program is a technically complex one, and more to the point is a question which cannot be answered without first delineating what the program is supposed to achieve. To cite a banal truth, what may not have been possible ten or twenty years ago may indeed be possible with today’s technology or become possible with future development. It is likewise obvious that what has and continues to fuel such development is the channeling of enormous funds and other resources for the purpose. In attempting to implement something organizationally and technologically complex and new, even with the most sincere intentions, one cannot know with certainty that any given line of effort will produce a specific result, or what the whole significance of that line of effort will be. Thus, to carry on such efforts, the ability to “bilk the taxpayers” becomes more of a necessity than a luxury. Being able to maintain momentum and dignity-which under capitalism above all means profit-in the organizations pursuing such efforts is likewise essential.

However, these facts of military-industrial necessities cannot be presented to the public directly, as doing so could lead to a disclosure of the full range of purposes behind the efforts. To put it another way, if the potential (and inevitable) critics knew exactly what they were criticizing, their criticism could become penetrating and effective, thereby seriously undermining the efforts in question. But, lacking an effective critique capable of changing the object of its criticism, people collectively adapt to the situation by channeling their criticism and dissipating their forebodings to a straw bogeyman. The image of the terrifying ugliness of a society that even partially finds the development and deployment of systems of world-wide annihilation necessary and essential to its continued existence and the promotion of its moral values is subsumed in the comic-book pastel colors of a fumbling and bumbling, ever so slightly risqué, king-with-no-clothes type figure.

Though it may occasionally appear to protest in proud and righteous indignation against this infringement on its dignity, this figure of the military-industrial complex of technofascist domination is in truth quite happy with having been cast in this clownish role-a role which it carefully helped to craft through its subordinates in the mind-control industry. For this typecasting effectively relegates any fundamental criticism of its activities that may be presented in the public sphere to the realm of fringe paranoiacs, thereby neutralizing it.

In the end, the difference between a solid technical system that protects “the lives of Americans” and an ill-conceived boondoggle, between hard-earned profits for the valiant defenders of freedom and corporate welfare, is a semantic subtlety. Thus, for instance, some liberal critics of NMD have sought to bolster their position by announcing how NMD does not live up to free-market discipline (“If this program were in the corporate world, everyone associated with it would be fired”, states political columnist Molly Ivins). Yet the dynamic of the “corporate world”-in today’s New Economy more than ever-reveals precisely the opposite of what such statements as the above seem to imply: so long as you manage, by hook or by crook, to keep the cash flowing in and the stock value (actual or anticipated) up, you are golden. And if you keep it up long enough, eventually you will have something real, whether as a fruit of your own work or through absorption of others’ work on the capital markets. The market value of your stock is, however, a nominal value, defined solely in terms of market relations: thus, some ultimately disastrous consequence in the future, even if it is already more or less known, need not nullify your current stock value, any more than, say, the cataclysmic consequences of pollution nullify the market value of polluting enterprises. In this context, what protects the lives of Americans is whatever the relevant Americans believe protects the lives of Americans. The relevant Americans in this case are the institutionalized military – industrial – corporate – governmental – technocratic complex-what some call the ruling class.

Seen in this light, the situation may indeed appear somewhat surreal. It is telling in this regard to note that the cited facts and statements presented here have hardly been kept secret-many have appeared in prominent establishment organs such as the New York Times. Also published in said organ was a 1987 Joint Chiefs of Staff memorandum stating “The Pentagon should improve and update deception plans covering the missile defense program’s costs and abilities”. The intended overt effect of such publications is to verify people’s suspicions by substantiating the limited liberal critiques-the “yes, there was indeed some wrongdoing, but shucks…” type of thing. However, corroborating and thus rationalizing such suspicions in such a context produces the covert effect of de-rationalizing any substantive criticism which may go beyond the narrow confines of the corroborated suspicions and which could challenge the existing institutions and hierarchies of power.

The publication of such critiques thus serves the purpose of facilitating a psychological catharsis, releasing and thus effectively draining people’s pent-up negative (critical) energy, which becomes subsumed in a dialogue that, in the end, can do no more than reaffirm the rightness and inevitability of the target of its critique. To put it another way: feeling so much better now from the catharsis process, the reader can more or less go back to normal-”normal” being in this case an ultimate acceptance of the existing reality of capitalist power relations of hierarchical domination and exploitation, both in the general sense and in the specific context in question (in this case, NMD).

It should be emphasized here that the problem with such critiques as the above is not so much their intellectual or analytical (in)adequacy per se, nor their truth value, but rather their susceptibility or conduciveness to psychological warfare. This entails, among other things, an inability to consistently maintain the insights gained and apply them in one’s life activity. The thinking becomes compartmentalized into atomistic micrologies, and as such can be easily channeled into a controlled release. Having been shat out (cathartically discharged), the critical energy and insight is dissipated and turns to shit. Politically, for many people, this fecal character takes the form of the operational belief that there is no problem caused by Republicans that cannot be remedied by Democrats. This can be observed in the case of NMD, which has been portrayed and understood by many people as yet another crazed right-wing Republican militarism. Now, simply exposing such people to the fact that, e.g., NMD was signed into law by a popular beloved Democrat, would not generally shake them of their conviction. They likely have already been apprised of such facts, but are operationally unable to remember or process them. The image of the stupid American, insofar as there is some relative truth in it, is not due to a genetic defect, but is rather the result of exposure to high concentrations of these psychological warfare operations, the global end point of which is the eradication of objectivity.

The line of argument that presents the military as bumbling idiots and revels in pronouncements of Bush’s stupidity in the end constitutes no more than a defeatist psychology, an expression of an ill-conceived vain wish to resist on one hand what one knows on the other hand to be all too inevitable. In a way, the advocates of this critique of NMD seek to broach the positivistic divide, to go beyond assertions that NMD is a bad move to a critical understanding that it is part of a bad game. However, under the immense pressure of existing reality, they fail to do so, thereby reverting ultimately to a celebration of the very world system which continues to bring forth the objects of their critique.

Rogue states

The debate over NMD as a whole shows little coherence, with various parties claiming whatever suits their particular political angle and interests. But one point which nearly all arguments seem to accept is the concept of the rogue state. The rogue state (now renamed “state of concern”) is the entity which poses the threat which NMD is to defend against. The questions of when, how and why it will pose a threat and what is the best way to deal with it are widely disputed.

The primary stated task of the currently proposed NMD system is to defend against a small number of ballistic missiles launched by a rogue state. It has been noted in this connection that a rogue who has gone to the trouble of developing a ballistic missile would certainly develop countermeasures against NMD (such as having the missile release multiple decoy balloons, one of which would contain the warhead). One of the elements of the Pentagon deception strategy referred to above is downplaying the potential significance of such countermeasures, such as by eliminating or minimizing the number and effectiveness of countermeasures used during testing. This has the overt effect of making the NMD system look better and thus easing the obtaining of further funding, etc. At the same time, it covertly suggests that, since we went to all this trouble to misrepresent how well our NMD system can deal with a rogue state’s missile and all, that must indeed be the whole purpose of the system-thereby obscuring and shifting attention away from what that purpose may really be, while simultaneously providing a locus for people’s critical apprehensions and concerns to be dissipated through the external confirmation of their validity. The concerned liberal can find release for his concerns that there is something bad about NMD in the confirmation that there is indeed something bad about it-it can’t deal with countermeasures, or barring that, that the warhead is really in a briefcase-thus freeing himself from the need to delve deeper into the matter. For what is deeper is darker.

While an NMD system is a theoretically possible way to counter a rogue missile, given the diplomatic, political, financial and technical difficulties involved in its implementation, as well as the uncertainty of its performance, it would hardly be the most effective or plausible way to achieve such a task. Traditional methods such as diplomatically cajoling or economically incentivizing the rogue, or else delivering a preemptive strike against his facility, would be more likely employed for such a purpose. Thus, in this respect as well, the rogue state theory appears implausible as a substantive explanation for NMD.

The rogue state is more sensibly interpreted as functioning primarily as a conceptual device to provide some ground for rationalizing NMD, just as it has been used for rationalizing and justifying other unsavory aspects of US policy. Thus, arguments for and against NMD dealing with the extent of such states’ roguishness are essentially no different than the boondoggle theory analyzed above: they ultimately can only justify and rationalize the object of their critique.

Along the lines of the briefcase critique, it has furthermore been suggested that rogue states, if they wanted to deliver a weapon of mass destruction, would not use a missile even if they had one, since that would reveal where it came from and thus subject the rogue state to annihilation by the US. This line of reasoning assumes that rogue states or the despots who rule them are essentially rational in their behavior. While such an assumption is indeed borne out by the facts, it does not seem to jibe well with the concept of a rogue state, which is often understood as being run by a crazed evil tyrant gripped by an implacable hatred of the United States.

The crazed, tyrannical, implacable, irrational character of the rogue state on one hand and a pattern of rational behavior on the other suggests that the concept may have a double meaning. It has been noted that a person’s self-identity-what somebody means by “I”-is not necessarily coterminous with the entire psychical entity making up the person. Certain aspects of one’s personality, thoughts and behaviors, in particular those aspects deemed bad, may be externalized and effectively understood as being the property of something or someone else, of another entity distinct from “me” (extreme cases of this are observed in schizophrenia). In this way, it is possible that the concept of the rogue state, while being a designation for certain insubordinate third-world countries such as Iran, Iraq and North Korea, at the same time functions as a sort of geopolitical alter-ego of the United States, allowing the United States to externalize certain aspects of its activity and reinterpret them as being done (caused) by somebody else. This analysis would seem to agree with the widely observed situation whereby the United States unreservedly continues to view itself as good and righteous, despite the fact that it has and continues to unreservedly commit acts which in themselves it proclaims to be evil.

The rogue state, or some such other rogue entity, emerges as a shadow to the glory of the democratic capitalist order, revealing the dark chaos within that order. The holders of power seek to silence the rogue, to deny any validity or objectivity to his viewpoint. Only the technological systems of surveillance deployed by the global rulers of capitalism must be allowed to speak. And if they say ballistic missile attack, then democracy itself has spoken: let the annihilation begin.

Military-industrial globalization

NMD is a technologically complex weapons system consisting of many subcomponents deployed around the world as well as in space. As such, it is by nature a global system. Prior to giving his May 1st missile defense speech (which never mentioned the word national), the Bush administration sent out teams around the world in a major marketing effort to sell the US NMD to other world leaders. Despite accusations of US unilateralism and reports of steadfast opposition from around the world, there is little ground to conclude that other national ruling classes are fundamentally opposed to the NMD concept. A better interpretation would be to say they are playing hard-to-get in hopes of getting a better deal.

There is little question that NMD is going to be expensive, no doubt eventually exceeding the already high cost estimates. To spread out these costs, the US ruling class wishes to get support from other national ruling classes. In conjunction with this, there have already been proposals to rename the system Allied Missile Defense (AMD), which right-wing columnist William Safire has argued would be a preferable alternative to the European Rapid Reaction Force (a new Western European transnational military force, the formation of which was spurred by European concerns over US domination as experienced in the attack on Yugoslavia, during which the US used its satellite reconnaissance superiority to call all the shots while keeping its European “junior partners” in the dark).

The calls to withdraw from or amend the 1972 ABM treaty that stands in the way of the proposed NMD system, which has evoked concern in some circles (“it will ignite a new arms race”), are not an isolated effort intended solely to promote NMD, but rather form part of a greater shift toward military globalization. Thus, for instance, the Defense Science Board Task Force on Globalization and Security, a division of the Department of Defense, asserting that “globalization is largely irresistible”, has found traditional arms control regimes to be no longer effective, and instead has advocated the need for “a new approach to maintaining military dominance” based on “transnational defense industrial collaboration and integration” through a “fully globalized commercial sector”. Such “deregulation” of the arms industry would allow US weapons manufacturers to merge with and absorb their national rivals and freely deliver armaments around the globe in a manner consistent with free-market profit maximization. In this context, accusations of profit-seeking vs. concern for US national security interests become largely moot: US national security interests become institutionally intertwined with continued profits and expanding markets for US military-industry corporations. Consequently, such accusations can be freely published in the New York Times, as they no longer serve as anything more than harmless diversions.

Warnings of a new arms race are likewise deceiving, in that they shift critical attention away from-and thus affirm-the reality of the existing arms race. Across the world, in this “age of peace and prosperity”, there are calls being issued and efforts made towards increased militarization, while wars continue to rage on an unprecedented scale. Thus, more so than sparking a new arms race, development of the NMD system will serve as a justification for continuing the existing and already increasing trend of militarization. This is of course a desirable outcome for the system’s proponents in the ruling class, one which would support their quest for globalized systems of power relations that favor their continued domination. In the meanwhile, to diffuse apprehensions of a new arms race, Bush has announced unilateral arms reductions to be linked with NMD, following a strategy outlined by the Heritage Foundation, which suggests that “BMD proponents should begin to stress nuclear disarmament as a new end point” and thereby “disarm BMD opponents by stealing their language and cause”.

Already, would-be competitors to the US project have emerged, with Russian President V. Putin making an offer last year of a joint Russian-European missile defense system in an effort to preempt and derail any future US proposals. Russia possesses a limited operational missile defense system as provided under the ABM Treaty. The response by the Bush administration has been to propose a US-Russian collaboration in the sphere of missile defense, a theme which was a central topic of Bush’s meeting with Putin this June. The initial proposal, echoing a similar offer made 15 years ago by Reagan during the early stages of SDI, has been received rather unenthusiastically. Historically, Russia has been loath to rely on foreign technology for its defense-related needs, and will no doubt demand substantial concessions if it is to go along with this proposal. The proposal also included a US offer to purchase relatively obsolete Russian S-300 missiles.

Continued in Part II

National Missile Defense (part II)

This move comprises several aims. First, by collaborating with Russia, the US military-industrial complex stands to benefit from possible advances in Russian technology. Russia has a been making a fairly strong, if underfunded, research effort in NMD-related fields, and has already transferred some directed energy weapon technology to the US. However, regardless of what specific technological advantages are gained from such a partnership, the very fact and precedent of having such a partnership is significant. Geopolitically, military-industrial collaboration with Russia would have the effect of preventing a potential anti-US alliance between Russia and China, both of which have an interest in countering US domination. After a series of talks, the formation of such an alliance has not made substantial progress, but the potential for it is there. Moreover, such collaboration would open up the Russian military industry for absorption into the better-funded US transnational arms corporations, thereby extending their market penetration and eliminating potentially troublesome competitors.

Seen in this light, the NMD program signifies the end of the Cold War era and the emergence of a new world order. The Cold War order was based on bipolar opposition of two competing systems of holding power, and militarily was characterized by a thermonuclear standoff stabilized under the doctrine of mutually assured destruction. The new world order, on the other hand, is characterized by the global penetration of a single system of domination and the drive towards totalization of that system, and in the military sphere is driven by the need to enforce and protect that system through the institutions and technologies of a global police state. The NMD program represents an effort towards the development and deployment of the technological and organizational arrangements necessary for implementing such a global policing regime.

Elements of a global police state

G. H. W. Bush’s declaration of a new world order at the time of Operation Desert Storm was well timed, as that operation in a way showcased the features of the emerging world system, particularly its military aspects: a multinational coalition totally dominated by the United States intervening to restore order (i.e. secure the interests of the transnational corporate ruling class and shift the regional balance of power in a direction favorable to continued US domination), completely unopposed and facing no ramifications, with its chosen viewpoint being delivered unquestioned and in real time through the corporate media into the brains of a spellbound home audience cheering in awe at the images of violent destruction. A key factor enabling the United States to dominate the situation was its control of information, including reconnaissance satellite data, media channels, monitoring and disruption of communication systems, etc.

However, this operation also revealed some inadequacies of the existing enforcement system. Thus, for instance, while the US was able to secure international funding for this intervention and assemble a broad multinational coalition, the process created substantial tension with various “junior partners”, such as France, who didn’t like being junior partners and being forced to do things they did not necessarily find in their best interest, and who would think twice before doing this sort of thing again-especially after Kosovo. The operation likewise strained relations with more distant partners such as Russia and China, who stood aside this time, but in the end were rather troubled by the affair (and all the more so after Kosovo). Furthermore, assembling the military forces in theater was both logistically and politically complicated and time-consuming, increasing the chances for domestic opposition, especially if there should be casualties or a protracted conflict.

The first set of difficulties can be seen as stemming from the ad hoc nature of the operation, the parameters of which had not been adequately institutionalized-who is to say what the proper way to intervene against a rogue state is-and thus inevitably prone to be a source of contention. The implementation of an NMD system would remedy such problems by providing an established technological and organizational framework within which an intervention is to be carried out, thereby codifying the intervention process and eliminating the need to deal with the same problems each time an intervention is made.

The second set of problems of crossing national boundaries and airspaces and of complex troop deployment can be substantially alleviated under an NMD program by moving the weapons platform into outer space. The militarization of space is a direct and primary goal of the NMD program. “…the means by which the placement of space-based weapons will likely occur is under a second US space policy directive-that of ballistic missile defense”, writes J. Oberg in Space Power Theory, a manual published by the US Space Command, the agency in charge of NMD operations (the first directive being to “ensure freedom of action in space and, if directed, deny such freedom of action to adversaries”). “DOD [Department of Defense] must have the appropriate capabilities to deny when necessary an adversary’s use of space systems”, noted Defense Secretary William Cohen in a 2000 posture statement. According to a study commissioned by the Pentagon, to gain such capability, “DOD must develop the means to control and destroy space assets (both in space and at ground level)”.

Much of the confusion and incoherent argumentation regarding NMD as a program for defending against missiles stems from the fact that NMD is not essentially a means of missile defense. NMD is a program for the development and deployment of space weaponry, which may or may not be useful for countering certain ballistic missile attacks. Given the controversial, classified, and often uncertain nature of space weapon technologies, many of which may not yet be fully developed, missile defense provides a convenient political, fiscal and ideological cover for promoting and conducting the program. Thus, for example, in 1998 Clinton cut all funding for the KEAsat kinetic energy antisatellite weapon being developed by Boeing, while pouring billions into the NMD program, for which Boeing is the primary contractor and which includes development of the essentially the same weapon technology.

With current military operations already heavily dependent on satellite-based services, the development and deployment of antisatellite capabilities constitutes an immediate objective of NMD. Antisatellite weapon systems would furthermore enable a credible first-strike capability by allowing the operator to disable or delay an adversary’s response, thereby giving greater leverage to the US’s arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and freeing it up from the Cold-War era constraints of mutually assured destruction.

NMD furthermore envisions the development of space-based unmanned bombers, airborne and space-based laser platforms, and various other directed energy weapons, which, in addition to possible uses against satellites and ballistic missiles, can be deployed against ground targets, allowing the more rapid and fine grained sort of response required for a global policing regime. “…space offers us the prospects…of inflicting violence-all with great precision and nearly instantaneously, and often more cheaply”, expounded NMD advocate Sen. Bob Smith.

In addition to the annihilation of targets, directed energy weapons also hold the promise of more sophisticated aggression, including weather modification and manipulation of living organisms. Such technologies could be deployed covertly, reducing the risk of public scrutiny. Furthermore, they would provide the ability to dissuade, degrade, torture or otherwise neutralize opponents without raising the moral and political controversy attendant to directly killing or maiming them.

The recently unveiled Vehicle Mounted Active Denial System (VMADS)-which the Air Force Times heralded as “the biggest breakthrough in weapons technology since the atomic bomb”-is an example of the fruits of NMD research. Marketed as a non-lethal crowd dispersal weapon, VMADS, which emits a wide electromagnetic beam, is intended to disperse and neutralize through inflicting burn-like pain, allowing torture without a trace, as well as degrading human targets through long-term side effects, and dissuading through the fear of the already widely published concerns about such side effects or of “the amount of time the weapon must be trained on an individual to cause permanent damage or death”, which is “classified”.

Full Spectrum Dominance

NMD is the primary program for attaining capabilities of “Global Engagement”, which the US Space Command defines as “the application of precision force from, to, and through space”. This is an essential component for achieving the overall US military vision of “Full Spectrum Dominance”, which together with other technologies and institutions of control, such as biotechnology and free-market democracy, is to secure the global dominion of a corporate master race. The logic of this machine of domination is insatiable: it can never have enough, and must continue to expand its systems of control into all spheres where power can be exercised. And therein lies its terminal weakness: beyond total dominion, there is only oblivion.

NMD beguiles with the promise of a capability to strike instantly against any rogue element that dares to oppose the institutions of global capitalism. Yet the binary image of the rogue as a mad, evil tyrant to be neutralized and destroyed or an unfortunate victim of circumstance to be incentivized and reformed-mirroring the nature vs. nurture, educate vs. incarcerate, liberal vs. conservative pseudo-debate of bourgeois society-fails to disclose the significance of the rogue state in relation to NMD and the world system which it is to secure.

Collectively and individually, we externalize our violence, our evil-the ugliness inherent in our way of life, in the structure of our society and world. How else could we go on living, taking ourselves to be good, upright people, feeling good about ourselves, when the world is the way it is? That ugly spirit falls upon those most susceptible, and they give vent to it through what we call an evil act. We say it is their fault, prosecute and punish them with a righteous zeal of denial, that we may go on feeling good about ourselves.

The image of the rogue state, above all, starkly discloses the failures of the world system, tearing open the façade of its advanced godly civility to reveal the hollowness of its claimed superiority and the barbaric chaos that permeates its order. In view of this, the theatrical struggle against the rogue becomes above all a struggle to protect the relevance of the systems of power which in their totalizing quests of delusional godliness can achieve no more than a lowly absurdity of contradictions. The rogue or criminal as such neither threatens nor resists the superstructures of the police regime-he exists orthogonally to them, mirroring the very power relations of the systems which he is accused of violating.

Once we see the real character and content of an NMD program, it becomes clear that the race to establish an NMD regime of global surveillance and punishment is fundamentally not an effort to fend off rogue states or achieve any other specific practical purpose: the purpose of NMD is NMD. Thus, rational arguments and critiques about why NMD would not work or how it is not the best way to achieve a given purpose necessarily fail to get to the heart of the matter. NMD is not rational, or rather, it is rational or makes sense only in the context of the historical unfolding of global capitalism, which itself is not rational insofar as it is driven by the systemic inevitability of institutions rather than by the ideation or work of rational actors. And the nature of the institutions of global capitalism-of the free market-is such that whenever an opportunity presents itself, you have to take it, regardless of how idiotic, destructive or substantively useless it may be. It is the logic of inexorable, cancerous growth.

Thus, when the course of technological and organizational development becomes such as to enable the implementation of a global policing regime, it is institutionally inevitable that “players” will step forward to fulfill that role, to occupy that market segment-the only question is, who will get there first. In this case, the US ruling class has stepped forward, leveraging its lead in the fields of surveillance, punishment and incarceration and in the technologies of destruction and violent domination-even as its would-be competitors chomp at its heels, plying their own analogous wares. Given the global scope of the product, whoever is able to bring an NMD product to market first stands to capture overwhelming if not total market share, thereby squeezing out the competition and establishing monopoly control. In this context, any party that for whatever reason is willing and able to develop and deploy competing products threatens the monopoly. In this respect, the distinction between rogue and non-rogue states is spurious.

One such category of products is of course ballistic missiles. While NMD is promoted as a defense against ballistic missile threats to you, what ballistic missiles threaten most of all is NMD itself, both in the sense that they represent a competing technology, a competing paradigm of domination, and even more so in the sense that the successful use or threat of use of a ballistic missile would greatly undermine the credibility of an NMD program, which has been marketed as a ballistic missile stopper, and possibly generate demand for a different approach, such as diplomacy. But given the present lack of a substantial ballistic missile threat from those states most likely to come under US aggression, an NMD program becomes plausibly marketable. The marketing of NMD, like that of other capitalist products, instantiates the psychology of commodity fetishism-creating a perceived need and offering a product perceived to meet that need.

Which brings us back to the briefcase critique. Although technically, using a briefcase could be a means for the terrorist delivery of a weapon of mass destruction surreptitiously and in circumvention of any missile defense system, such a delivery would not generally be effective as a counteraction or direct challenge to the system of global enforcement provided under the NMD program, unless it specifically targeted and destroyed components of the NMD system. This, however, would for the most part be rather difficult to do with a briefcase, since those components are in outer space-which is indeed a major reason why they need to be in outer space: to protect them from briefcases. To put this in more general terms, a critical requirement for systems of enforcement or domination is that they be designed such that persons subjected to the system will, for technological, financial, organizational, intellectual or other reasons, be unable to disrupt or subvert the operation of the system. Such denial of subversion capabilities is to a large extent effected by creating a situation whereby persons wishing to go against the system, will act in such as way as to reproduce the power relations inherent in the system being resisted.

The enforcement of a global police regime may thus mean that such surreptitious deployments of weapons of mass destruction may come to make sense to some people as a viable thing to do, thereby reinforcing the global order of domination. In this respect the briefcase critique is valuable: it reveals that a regime based on the rule of violence cannot provide security from violence. Yet in its appeals to the regime, this critique belies a dangerous assumption: that the capitalist ruling class fundamentally does not attend mass destruction. This assumption, which buys into the hypocrisy of democratically elected leaders, is baseless. The market does not fundamentally value life, unless sold under patent as a market product.

The failing of the briefcase critique and other micrological arguments about the relative merits of systems of domination is that they reinforce the sense of inevitability of some such system. And while the fascist police program of NMD is correctly viewed as an inevitable extension of the institutions that blindly drive the machine of global capitalism, those institutions themselves are not inevitable.

Resistance, when misdirected in accordance with the requirements of existing power hierarchies, is futile. Such resistance is allowed and even encouraged under capitalist democracy. Yet resistance guided by radical insight is effective: such resistance is outlawed and brutally persecuted through technocratic enforcement systems. We must understand the nature of our freedom, that we may become free. Our freedom is a system, floating in space…

The paradigm of policing necessarily entails a counter-element which is to be policed, prosecuted and punished: an offender, a criminal, a rogue state. The contradictions of such a paradigm reveal that crime cannot be prevented by policing, educating, or through any other special measure, but only by creating the conditions under which it need not occur: a healthy, cohesive community living in harmony with its environment and thus with itself. Many such diverse communities can collectively form a healthy, cohesive, peaceful global community of people. At all cost, we must not lose sight that such a community is possible.

Yet such a vision can be valid only insofar as it reveals and implements the historical process of its attainment-otherwise, it devolves into an illusion. The epitome of capitalism is the eradication of objectivity-of people’s objective history-making capabilities. It has no vision of a community of people and offers as its end point only the subordination of all human activity to a violent institutionalized hierarchy of market relations enforced by a global police state apparatus.

So do we need NMD? In our public dialogue, the question seems to be answered by focusing on some aspect of what NMD is, what it can or cannot do, what its ramification will be. Yet in some ways, the answer depends more on who “we” are. If we are the US capitalist ruling class, which seeks above all to propagate and perpetuate its dominion, we need it badly. To say no to NMD, we must say no to capitalism. Otherwise, our voice has no meaning.

Invisible Hands

With the upcoming Summit of the Americas and its central agenda of establishing the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), we again face the neoliberal specter-vicious, ferocious, relentless in its drive to enforce a world capitalist order.

Through its various institutions, public and private, national and transnational, this neo-liberal capitalist order seems to be extending itself everywhere, into all domains. It becomes increasingly global-total, complete-and thus exclusive, uncompro-mising, all-powerful. It allows no alternative, nothing different from itself, and will let nothing stand in its way. It seems unconcerned and unphased by what-ever damage it may do-supremely confident and untouchable.

Proponents of this globalization claim it to be a rightful triumphant march into eternity of the victorious capitalist mode of production. Opponents call it a corrupt aberration, a re-versal of the achievements of the many for the sake of the sinister greedy designs of the few. Neither questions the overwhelming power of this increasingly global system.

But in the shadows of this triumphant global march of power, unspoken and unspeakable, lies a profound weakness.

The neoliberal project plays out a dynamic which in its conceptual and world-historical content differs substantially from the popular presentations of globalization, whether by its promoters or opponents. Here, to delineate the conceptual and historical space of neolib-e-ralism, or \”new liberalism\”, we must first ascertain what \”old liberalism\” is. In particular, we must look at whether neoliberalism, insofar as it is new, is new because it is something essentially different from old liberalism, or if it is \”new\” only in the sense that it is a more recent stage or part of the same \”old\” liberal-ism.

Postulates of power

Liberalism is primarily a social and eco-nomic philosophy, though it encompasses other aspects and thus can be characterized as a complete world view. As the term itself implies, a central concern of liberalism is liberty or freedom: liberalism can thus be defined as a philosophy of or belief in free-dom as the essential or primary \”thing\” in life-the essential principle from which all others follow, the essential value upon which all others are built, the essential goal through which all others are attained, and in particular, the fundamental guiding value of political economy.

While it may not generally be known under that term, liberalism is in fact a very familiar notion. It is, in a slightly modified localized version, the official ideology of the United States, as well as other \”Western Democra-cies\”. The notion of human rights or civil rights is one of the basic elements of the liberal ideology. Freedom of speech, associa-tion, conscience, occupation, etc., are all typical values or desiderata of liberalism. The sepa-ration of church and state, equality before the law, checks and balances are all classic lib-eral constructs. Representative democracy is the basic liberal form of government. Individu-alism is a liberal mantra. Choice is a liberal obsession.

But how is this freedom to be imple-mented and secured? The liberal solution is simple: Liberty = Property. Only through the free disposition of private property can all other freedoms ultimately be secured. The free disposition of property can be broadly under-stood as the freedom to own whatever one desires and do with it whatever one sees fit, and in particular involves the freedom to deploy and control one\’s existing private property to increase one\’s property holdings (accumulation of capital). The freedom (right) of property is thus the fundamental freedom and one which must be defended at all costs, since all other freedoms depend upon it. Note that in this context, private property refers not so much to one\’s personal effects-the things one uses in the course of daily life-but rather to ownership of things beyond one\’s personal effects, things which other people may need or use. In particular, it refers to private owner-ship of the means which oth-ers need for their economic activity, i.e. the means of produc-tion.

As a corollary to the basic principle of lib-erty, a fundamental liberal principle is that any restrictions on liberty must be justified. While certain real or perceived infringements on the \”rights of others\” may serve as such causes for restriction within the context of social in-stitutionalization of human relations, when it comes to securing the continuation of the private-property profit system, liberalism pro-vides for absolute liberty in imposing restric-tions (up to and including total annihila-tion) on those who would stand in that sys-tem\’s way. No degree of cruelty, no level of destruction, nothing is unjustified in defense of the right of private property.

Furthermore, when the rights of two prop-erty holders collide, the holder of the greater property prevails. When rights in property collide with other rights, the property rights must prevail (thus, for example, from a liberal point of view, the genocide of the indigenous population of North America, while perhaps unseemly and maybe even unfortunate, is certainly not unjustified: their right to live stood in the way of the right to accumulate property by the colonial capitalist ruling class, which is a higher right). The system of private property is complex in all its details, but it\’s basic logic is simple.

Liberal ideologues are not unaware of the potential (and indeed inevitable) problems of such an arrangement, and have suggested various ways of curbing its excesses so as to ensure its stability: however, they do not question the desirability or even the inevitabil-ity of the basic arrangement itself. This is not surprising, for as the history of its emergence and development makes clear, liberalism is the ideology of capitalism.

Liberal ideology, rather than presenting a single coherent world picture, fractures on many points into apparently contradictory views, which in summary may be reduced to the issue of positive versus negative liberty. Positive liberty refers to the view that liberty is something that needs to be enabled and em-powered, while negative liberty indicates that liberty requires the absence of interfer-ence. With reference to the function of gov-ernment (the guarantor of liberty), the princi-ple of posi-tive liberty is expressed in the ideological and functional constructs of the welfare state, while negative liberty is identi-fied with liber-tarian notions of laissez-faire, free-market capitalism. In the United States, this opposi-tion is often understood in terms of Democrat vs. Republican. This apparent inter-nal conflict or contradiction is important for the function of the liberal system.

Now, it requires no great feat of the imag-ination to see that freedom, insofar as it has any reality, comprises both positive and nega-tive aspects, and simply emphasizing one over and against the other per se, either in degree or in toto, is not a fundamental argu-ment of principle: what is required for freedom de-pends inextricably upon the act for which one seeks to secure freedom, upon the spe-cific conditions and requirements which make the given exercise of \”freedom\” possible. As an abstraction, a disembodied concept, free-dom means nothing.

By shifting the dialogue on freedom into this rarefied, disembodied realm, the liberal ideo-logical machine guts the notion of free-dom, emptying it of precisely that which makes freedom meaningful, and thereby elimi-nates the concern with freedom as an obstacle to total domination by the coercive institutions of free-market capitalism. This sort of shift and redirection from essential substance to rare-fied abstractions and institutional arrange-ments is a fundamental liberal technique for the implementation of the repressive hierar-chies of capitalist power relations.

The primary institution which supports the implementation of the core liberal principle of private property is the free market. Much like the marketplace of old which served as a gathering place for the community, this free market defines the space of interaction be-tween people. However, unlike the market-place of old, the function of which was strictly subordinated to the customs and traditions of the community, this free market is controlled by entrepreneurs. The market system defines the transactional economic relations through which capital may be accumulated by various individuals and entities of the bourgeois ruling class, as well as ensuring that those who own no or insufficient capital be free to sell their labor to the holders of capital. The primary freedoms enshrined in the market are the freedom to exploit and to profit.

The behavioral model of the market is one of competition. Market participants are to be guided by greed and self-interest, with those most aggressive in their quest for profit emerging on top in a hierarchy of domination. The full expression of self-interest (i.e. free-dom) as demanded by this competition is seen as being conducive to the greatest good. The market is a primary modality for deter-mining the variable aspects of socioeconomic organi-zation, such as wealth distribution.

Within the liberal ideological apparatus, the market is primarily viewed as a self-con-tained perpetual machine; however, like all ma-chines, it is subject to malfunctions and thus may require repair or intervention. The inter-vention is traditionally provided by the state, which through its overwhelming coer-cive force is able to function as an arbiter of market relations, facilitating smooth function-ing of inter-capitalist competition, ensuring the availability of workers for exploitation, and enforcing their subservience to the require-ments of the capitalist ruling class.

Again, within the liberal dialogue, the in-volvement versus non-involvement of the state in market processes is treated like a point of contradiction, with two sides favoring either one or the other position, along the lines of positive vs. negative liberty as dis-cussed above. However, from the point of view of the functioning of the system, these two sides are not in any fundamental contra-diction to each other: the nature and degree of involvement of the state (as well as the relative dominance of one of these two sides in any given period) is dictated by specific historical conditions. In the end, the modality of the market is an unquestioned postulate of liberal societies.

Implementing a new world order

Toward the end of the 19th century and extending well into the 20th, a new trend emerged in the dominant economic ideology. This trend reached its peak in the wake of the Great Depression, with the as-cendancy of Keynesianism. Basically, this new trend in-volved increased government intervention (particularly in the realm of fiscal policy) and policies of the welfare state, and stood in contrast to the traditional laissez-faire free market notions dominant in earlier liberal thought. Against a backdrop of increasing instability in international financial and money markets, British economist John Maynard Keynes proposed the formation of a perma-nent organization to oversee and guide the economic operation and interaction of the various capitalist states. An agreement on this was signed in July 1944 by forty-four nations at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. The name of the newly formed organization was the Inter-national Monetary Fund (IMF).

The International Monetary Fund and its related institutions are often seen as the van-guard in promoting and imposing neoliberal policies-policies which are viewed as being diametrically opposed to the Keynesian eco-nomics upon which those institutions were founded. As globalization critic Susan George states in A Short History of Neo-Liberalism, \”In 1945 or 1950, if you had seriously pro-posed any of the ideas and poli-cies in today\’s standard neo-liberal toolkit, you would have been laughed off the stage or sent off to the insane asylum… The idea that the market should be allowed to make major social and political decisions; the idea that the State should voluntarily reduce its role in the econ-omy, or that corporations should be given total freedom, that trade unions should be curbed and citizens given much less rather than more social protection-such ideas were utterly foreign to the spirit of the time.\” So why the sudden change?

As should be clear from the preceding dis-cussion, the \”left-wing\” Keynesian econom-ics are not in fact diametrically opposed to the \”right-wing\” liberal/neoliberal economic poli-cies. Both are part of the standard liberal tool-kit. They are the left and right hand of the capitalist ruling class. Depending on the \”spirit of the time\” (the objective historical condi-tions), either one approach or the other (or some combination thereof) will be used.

The point that the IMF, World Bank, etc. were Keynesian in origin is telling-but it is easy to be misled as to just what it tells. The very notion that there should be something like the IMF (a coordinating and regulating agency) goes against the supposed spirit of neoliberalism, of the free market unfettered by intervention. Yet there is no question that neoliberalism is precisely what the IMF pro-motes. Unraveling this apparent contradiction is crucial to understanding the dynamic of capitalism.

The liberal economic order which devel-oped in the context of the industrial revolution took its root in the area of economic activity which was the first to be industrial-ized-agri-culture-and can be traced back to the enclo-sure acts, thousands of which were passed in England in the late 18th and early 19th cen-tury. During the middle ages, the primary form of economic organization was what is known as the manorial system, which consisted of self-sufficient economic units (manors) or-ganized and governed largely by local cus-tom. In England, under the manorial open field system, most of the land was held in common. Families were allotted strips of land to cultivate and had access to common land (the commons or meadow) which could be used for pasture, collecting firewood, gather-ing fruit, public celebrations, etc. The lord of the manor received certain services or pay-ments in kind from the tenants. The mano-rial (feudal) system was above all a static system: while you could not do or live differ-ently from the way you and your ancestors had lived, you could also not be prevented from doing and living in that ancestral way. Tenant farm-ers, generally speaking, could not be evicted and their rents could not be raised.

With the rise of imperialism and the revival of commerce, large landowners and members of the gentry discovered new oppor-tunities for increasing their wealth, which first of all took the form of producing wool for export, and later expanded to large-scale agriculture to supply urban markets. To facili-tate this process, which began in the 16th century, it was necessary for the would-be entrepreneur to secure large contiguous tracts of land for his exclusive use-what today would be called privatization. While at first this process was carried out through local arrangements be-tween major landholders, it encountered much resistance from the tenant farmers and small freeholders, and so the incipient bour-geois class sought and received assistance from the increasingly powerful central gov-ernment, which legislated and enforced their business interests in the form of Enclosure Acts.

The Enclosure Acts repartitioned and di-vided up common land into large private es-tates, revoked the traditional gleaning rights which allowed poor peasants to scavenge ungathered crop on their lord\’s fields, gave the small farmers the poorest pieces of land or expelled them outright, and required that costly fences and gates, which small farmers could not afford, be built around all such re-divided landholdings.

This process of \”sensibly dividing the coun-try among opulent men\” (Adam Smith) had an important side effect: it generated a large class of landless, homeless and moneyless peasants, left to subsist as beggars and vagabonds in the cities. They would eventu-ally form the basis of the industrial proletar-iat-the wage slaves. However, the peasant class, which had never held \”jobs\” in the modern sense, was neither willing nor able to submit to the dehumanizing rigors of indus-trial slave labor. To bring it into line, the free-market entrepreneurs called upon the power of the state. Thus, as early as 1530, in a break with the Christian tradition of almsgiv-ing, a law was issued in England mandating that beggars upon a first offense be \”whipped until the blood streams from their bodies\”, whipped and incarcerated for half a year upon a second offense, and executed upon the third. Such proto-liberal policies proved suc-cessful in instilling the Protestant work ethic which Max Weber celebrated as a precondi-tion for capital-ism.

This is precisely the picture of freedom that liberal ideologues of capital envisioned. You must freely submit to the domination and ex-ploitation by the holders of private property, and being unwilling or unable to do so justi-fies the imposition of punitive restrictions upon you: \”Sloth should be punished by temporary servitude at least\”, in the words of Adam Smith\’s teacher Francis Hutcheson. Any means of gaining subsistence outside the parameters of the capitalist system as dic-tated at any given time by the bourgeois ruling class by definition infringes upon the unalien-able right of property (profit) and must be prohib-ited (criminalized).

All this of course is in essence not much different from what today we call IMF poli-cies: all the things which those policies seek to prohibit, undercut or destroy are things which for whatever reason do not correspond to the current requirements of the capitalist mode of production as practiced by the imperialist corporate ruling class-whether these things be local customs, social arrangement, labor regulations, strong local industries, even life itself. The institutionalization of that which supports the capitalist mode of production and the criminalization of that which opposes, interferes with, or differs from it, is a funda-mental precept of liberal philosophy. Killing people per se is not a violation of the much vaunted liberal principle of human rights-so long as the killing is justified by a greater good, i.e. the good of those with greater capital.

The enforcement of free-market conditions through brutal state repression may appear as a contradiction to the libertarian principles of governmental non-interference and non-regula-tion, but again, the contradiction is only appar-ent. In the end, the fact that \”freedom\” was imposed upon you makes you no less free, however brutal the mechanism of impo-sition.

This situation parallels the contradiction pointed out by observers such as Chomsky, to the effect that neoliberal policies seek to shelter the corporations and the rich while subjecting the poor to free-market discipline, which too is indeed no more than apparent, which is to say, really no contradiction at all. The point, as it were, of subjecting to or shel-tering from the vagaries of the free market should not be seen as fulfillment or failure of some sort of religious belief or ideological drive, even to the extent that such a drive does exist. Rather, such a selective applica-tion of market discipline, far from being a contradic-tion of the espoused liberal princi-ples, is in fact an essential step in their im-plementation. A king that can factually be overthrown and beheaded, however almighty and supreme he may fancy himself, cannot substantially act as such, precisely because he can indeed be beheaded and overthrown: thus, he must shelter himself behind guards and palaces like a cringing powerless coward. And it is indeed through a thorough institu-tionalization and systematization of these \”guards and palaces\”, as it were, that the king can finally ascend to the ultimate throne of power.

Totalizing domin-ion

Neoliberalism is frequently put for-ward as representing a cancellation or roll-back of various \”gains\” made under liberalism: deregu-lation, cuts in social services, loosen-ing of environmental regulations, rescinding of labor rights, infringement upon human rights, usur-pation of democracy-basically, an attack on all things good. However, such a characteriza-tion reveals a poor understanding of the rela-tionship between neoliberalism and what came before. To do so, let us examine the concept of institutionalization.

Institutionalization can be viewed as the creation of formal arrangement to control and govern some activity or set of relations in a manner disconnected from the actual content of the activity. The institutionalized set of rela-tions penetrates all specific relations under the institution, while at the same time veiling the institution behind these specifics and ren-dering it intractable by forcing a reproduc-tion of the institutional relationships whenever any specific relation is instantiated. To put it an-other way, an institutional arrangement forces people to go through certain channels and act in certain ways whenever they wish to do something about a specific set of issues or affairs, thereby guaranteeing that those insti-tu-tional arrangements persist even though that may not be what the person wants. Lib-eral institutional arrangement are put forward by liberals as being essentially neutral if not good, and thus not prejudicing any particular outcome of the institutionalized process: they are the rules for playing out the game of free-dom which liberalism posits as the ulti-mate if not only game.

The IMF, WTO, etc. are liberal institu-tions. The stock market, representative democ-racy, the existing legal system, and the like are also liberal institutions. The governing princi-ple of liberal institutions is individual free-dom: thus, you can vote for whomever you want, you can invest in whatever stock you want, you can do business with whomever you want-so long as you don\’t prevent others from doing the same. So what if you believe that profit is immoral (as the Christians did before the ad-vent of capitalism) and don\’t want to deal with profiteers in your commu-nity? Or what if you have a well-established traditional sustainable way of life and don\’t want to be serviced by corporations? Well, that is a violation of the rules of the game, because it infringes upon the freedom of the capitalist ruling class.

Liberal institutions are characterized by the use of contradictory principles (conflicts) in order to achieve an ultimate objective: allow-ing the conflicting forces which may naturally exist or arise in relation to a certain issue to play themselves out within a carefully crafted context prevents those forces from challeng-ing the interests embedded in the institution itself and reinforces the institutional frame-work. These conflicting forces may play them-selves out both in time and in space.

The incipient bourgeoisie needed to insti-tute various rights and freedom in order to destabilize and displace the preceding en-trenched feudal/manorial hierarchy. While the details differed locally, generally speaking, under the manorial system the serfs of a manor in theory had no rights at all in relation to their lord and existed solely at his whim. However, in practice, the relationship of lord and serf came to be governed by various entrenched and essentially inviolable customs which provided the serfs with a stable if mea-ger existence and practically granted them all sorts of rights which in theory they didn\’t have. The bourgeoisie sought and implemented a reversal of this order, whereby in theory the (ex-)serfs would have all sorts of rights, whereas in practice they may have none at all and exist solely at their bourgeois master\’s whim. This transformation was achieved by institutionalizing those rights.

The processes of institutionalization en-sured that the rights acquired by the bourgeoi-sie would not be challenged in the same way they were obtained, by shifting the locus of those rights away from the immediate politi-cal, economic and military power at the capitalists\’ disposal and onto a complex system of power management (government) which on the face of it would protect the rights of the bourgeoisie only insofar as it protected the rights of people in general. By providing a mechanism (democracy) for challenging the representatives of government without infring-ing upon the essential function of government itself, opposition to the tyrannical rule of capital was effectively neutralized. It made the people free to expend what for them would be enormous energy and resources in the political arena, the rules of which were crafted so as to ensure that those efforts would prove ineffec-tual.

The institutionalization is itself a pro-cess-it is not something that can necessarily be im-posed all at once in a single stroke. Thus, for instance, in the United States (\”the greatest democracy\”), the voting franchise was granted to various segments of the population in a gradual manner, once the power of the ruling class was sufficiently entrenched and institu-tionalized to ensure that it would be unchal-lenged. An underclass within the system is much less of a threat than an underclass out-side the system, because it is that much more difficult for it to challenge the system. Granting specific rights and freedoms substan-tially ensures that those rights and freedoms will be exercised in accordance with the rules of the game laid out by the grantor, and that other rights and freedoms will not be exercised at all. Such a granting or guaranteeing of these rights is precisely what is required as a pre-condition for their eventual complete revoca-tion. Your human rights, however unalienable they may be claimed to be, are vested in you not because you are human, but at the whim of the ruling class-at the whim of the ruling system.

These essential values and rights which we all supposedly cling to and uphold, and assert as being infringed upon by an unrestrained all-too-global turbocapitalism, are thus pre-cisely those rights which must be clung to and upheld for this turbocapitalism to gain motive force. And as an object or focal point for such clinging, in terms of its efficacy as means of lubricating the neoliberal trajectory, nothing beats the state.

It is in a way not surprising to see promi-nent critics of neoliberalism such as Pierre Bour-dieu put forward the state as the thing that will protect us all from capitalism gone wild. In their forlorn attachment to the nanny state, advocates of the liberal-reformist agenda have blinded themselves to the fact that the neoliberal order which they suppos-edly oppose suckled at that nanny\’s breast. This philosophy of wooing the parent to exco-riate the child is morally, philosophically, ideologically and practically bankrupt.

It is a philosophy which proffers reinforc-ing the maggot to ward of the fly, strengthen-ing the larva to protect against the moth-bliss-fully unaware that the larva begets and is the moth, and will no less become a moth for being stronger. No doubt the larva-moth entity, at least, appreciates these sorts of efforts.

By focusing on some immediate surface contradictions, liberal critics of neoliberalism find it sensible to insist upon the former as a means of warding off the later. The former, in terms of historical order, is, essentially the welfare state. But as we have seen, the wel-fare state and free market system are not in any fundamental contradiction to each other. The capitalist ruling class deploys one or the other in accordance with the specific historical conditions at any given time, in this way play-ing out a dynamic through which its power may be totalized. The structures ap-pealed to by \”progressives\” as a bulwark against further encroachment by corporate interests are thus all too often precisely the prerequisites for corporate domination.

So what is neoliberalism all about? It is all about extending, fortifying and totalizing the program of domination laid out under liberal-ism. By leveraging the technologies devel-oped and the concentration of capital achieved under the welfare state, the capital-ist ruling class is poised to extend its dominion into regions and spheres of human activity previ-ously at the periphery of or even beyond its control. The market, which served as the primary determining process of social organi-zation, is to become, as much as possible, the only process.

This is to be achieved by maximizing the number and effect of market transactions, by diversifying, extending and multiplying the number of markets and submarkets. Already we see things like the \”volume of trading\” being put forward as an important indicator of our collective well-being, although it is well known that the vast majority of such trading is purely speculative and materially useless.

Deregulation is a strategy employed in a similar vein. Deregulation should not be viewed as a move toward the absence of regulations: a given deregulated market or sphere of activity may have as many if not more regulations than the regulated one did. Rather, deregulation is a set of regulating principles intended to increase the volume of transactions and reinforce the process of accumulation of capital.

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Invisible Hands: Part II

Capitalism has been geared toward and has generated great efficiency, which, taken to its logical conclusion, would in itself spell the end of capitalism, as it would mean the end of profit. Based on a systemic awareness of this state of things, neoliberalism seeks to prolong the existence of capitalist arrange-ments by generating inefficiency. A good ex-ample of this is what is known as \”overhead\”. By having resources used up in implementing various market schemes and corporate ar-range-ments and rearrangements, a need is created for acquiring and exploiting even more re-sources, thereby generating more possibility for profit. Thus, for instance, open-ing up spheres of activity to free-market com-petition and having many companies \”compete for the customer\’s dollar\” lays open that sphere of activity to agglomeration into global corporate structures. With its typical dynamic of deploy-ing conflicting forces to achieve an ultimate objective, the transna-tional ruling class touts the diversity and qual-ity of services which its free-market deregulation schemes are to pro-duce, know-ing full well that all that diversity will be soon enough absorbed into it\’s global corporate structures, if it hasn\’t been already. The em-phasis on individuality and diversity in social as well as economic spheres is a prelude to globalization-the enforcement of a single global order.

The devolution of individuals into atomis-tic consumer entities and the concomitant disso-lution of communities is important in support-ing the envisioned global order. The same vapid consumerist individualism which pro-duced a continental homogeneity in North America is to be extended across the globe. The latent threat that communities may break with the global order of domination is to be diffused and eradicated by ensuring that all human relations be systematized and chan-neled through institutions controlled by global capital.

In short, neoliberalism aims at the imposi-tion of a completely liberal (free, open) global society: a global order in which the private property rights already secured on a more limited scale by the capitalist elite will be im-posed over and above all other rights every-where worldwide. It projects a complete sup-pression and vitiation of difference and dis-sent, a totalization and standardization of existing power structures on a planetary scale. Individual freedom, the clarion call of liberal-ism, is to be fully subsumed in proc-ess-in the institutional systemic arrangement of the liberal world order. The neoliberal proj-ect is thus to be a fulfillment of the Enlighten-ment vision whereby God reunites with the world of his creation, i.e. the capitalist ruling class institutes complete global control and domin-ion. This transcendental vicarage has precedent in Jesus, but he came too early-before the development of the free market.

Fractures of world order

While ac-cumulation of capital is correctly seen as a primary goal in capitalist economic activity, the neoliberal quest for power is more than just a matter of having a lot or the most money: the power of a currency is restricted insofar as there are objects, activities and relations which cannot be purchased or con-trolled through that currency. The set of sys-temic and institutional arrangements which support the expression of money-power are known as the market, and thus extending the power and purchase of that money is effected by extending the reaches of the market sys-tem itself to cover everything. As we have seen, this sort of radical extension of the mar-ket can only be effected after a substantial concentra-tion of capital has already been achieved, and is a natural continuation of that process of concentration, which forms some-thing analo-gous to a critical mass which initi-ates a reac-tion that is new in time but not in essence. In this respect, neoliberalism is not essentially new.

What implications does this conclusion have? Insofar as the current stage in the de-vel-opment of capitalism is a necessary and natu-ral part of that development, rooted in its very inception, and is not an aberration or unfortu-nate choice made all of a sudden based on some contingent explosion of \”cor-porate greed\”, notions or attempts to \”fix\” the system are nonsensical. Whilst one can at least in principle reasonably argue about the possibil-ity of \”fixing\” something that is broken, to speak of fixing something that is not broken and is functioning just as it is supposed to, is to engage in a dialogue devoid of meaning.

Neoliberalism entails the decoupling of the market as an institution from specific concerns of production or social benefit-the totaliza-tion of market to the exclusion of all other principles. It is a shift from primacy to exclu-sivity. Its single-minded purpose is the perpet-uation of capitalist accumulation.

The fundamental, essential purpose of an economic system is to support life, not to perpetuate the system. Today, the ability of capitalism to support life is increasingly being called into question. By presenting and institu-tionalizing its own self-perpetuation as a pri-mary objective, the capitalist mind-control machine seeks to equate the preservation of the system with the preservation of life itself. The group (corporate) consciousness of the capitalist ruling class and the logic of its insti-tutions will not hesitate to fulfill this prophecy in an apocalyptic moment of global destruc-tion.

And while troubled and troubling calls have been and are being issued from all quar-ters, what with all the threats facing the planet and the human race, there is still a notable lack of critical clarity in those calls. It is as if to sug-gest that all these \”little\” things that are going on that are going to destroy the planet if they continue are all just slight oversights or inno-cent faux-pas, and well, if we just did a little more of this or a little less of that, every-thing would be just fine. The matter is how-ever much more grave than that. Perhaps people\’s unwillingness to face up to these problems is grounded fundamentally in a lack of solutions: reality is much too grim to face. However, the immediate lack of solutions to a critical con-stellation of problems more than anything indicates the need to search for and work toward those solutions.

There have been some stirrings in \”the movement\” to the effect that what we are fighting is not globalization but global capital-ism, and this is a good start. Now let us mod-ify this a step further: what we are fighting against is not globalization or global capital-ism, or neoliberalism, but capitalism, and what we are fighting for is not justice or democ-racy, but life.

In this vital struggle, it is important not to set up straw men that disperse people\’s criti-cal energy for the sake of yielding largely Pyrrhic victories. Thus, for instance, loosening environmental and labor standards is often cited as a notable component of neo-liberal policies and presented in such a way as to suggest that such loosening is somehow es-sential for the promotion of corporate power. Now, while such standards may indeed pro-tect workers and the environment to some extent and in that much are beneficial, \”corpo-rate power\” does not depend upon nor is it strengthened by the absence of such regula-tions. The loosening or looseness of regula-tions is more indicative of the weakness of capitalist structures than of their strength: thus, corporate power is much stronger in the \”First World\” than in the \”Third World\”, which is often cited as a locus for this looseness. The neoliberal wishes to loosen environ-mental regulations not because he is hell-bent on destroying the environment as an end in itself, but because he knows that \”good liber-als\” will fight him on the issue, and that is exactly the sort of avenue into which he wishes to channel all opposition to his plan of world domination. This good liberal/bad liberal game is a losing game, and it behooves us little to absorb ourselves in playing it.

Critiquing the neoliberal institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and WTO, Susan George writes: \”The common denominator of these institutions is their lack of transparency and democratic accountability. This is the essence of neo-liberalism. It claims that the economy should dictate its rules to society, not the other way around. Democracy is an en-cumbrance, neo-liberalism is designed for winners, not for voters, who necessarily en-compass the categories of both winners and losers.\” This all too common sort of analysis sets up the typically liberal division of a func-tional whole into two sides, two teams, and proceeds to attempt to play one side off against the other.

This false division between politics and economics is a division which is crucial to the rationalization and propagation of the lib-eral/neoliberal system and which it is crucial to expose and surmount in moving forward with our revolutionary struggle. This false division fosters the notion that the abuses and excesses of capitalism can be guarded against or even eliminated by a personnel change in the governing apparatus of the capitalist state-voting the corporate cronies out of office. The existing liberal democratic form of government, however, far from being a messi-anic antipode to corporate domination, is a system hand-picked to promote the conditions necessary for implementation of the very corporate takeover that it is touted as being a defense against. Democracy is the political engine of neoliberalism. \”Democratizing\” the WTO, etc. is precisely what would render it even more powerful and intractable by making its institutional dictates the \”will of the peo-ple\” (i.e. making the will of the people subor-dinate to, and expressible only in terms of, its institutional arrangements). Institutions like the WTO or FTAA must be shut down, not gus-sied up in populist trappings.

Any democracy that can be practically im-plemented under the existing socioeconomic order is a democracy subject to the ruling position of the capitalist hierarchy. The exist-ing democracy which George feels to be at odds with these neoliberal institutions in fact expresses the institutional arrangements of state power necessary to implement the power of those very neoliberal institutions. And it is all too clear that the capitalist ruling class believes there can be no democracy without capitalism, and will kill you to prove it.

Adam Smith, the liberal ideologue of capi-tal, spoke of an invisible hand that guided the free market process toward the desired re-sult-the wealth of nations, i.e. the expan-sion of the imperial power of the capitalist ruling class. In a way, he was half right. The neolib-eral free market process has two hands, the left and the right, between which it has squeezed the world to near death. These invisible hands wear many gloves: education and incarceration, regulation and de-regulation, democracy and fascism, welfare state and free market, Democrat and Republi-can, internation-alism and nationalism, public and private, peace processes and wars, envi-ronmental protection and ecological destruc-tion, humani-tarian interventions and genocide. The machin-ery of capital deploys these hands in pursuit of a grand transcendental vision of total domin-ion whereby all things in the world shall be brought under the single governing principle of the market.

Yet this vision, even as it appears imma-nent, proves elusive. In seeking to end the conflicting process of history through totaliz-ing and thereby eternalizing a supreme capital-ist world order, the would-be masters of that world face the contradiction of having to end the very dynamic which has maintained their power. Competition, conflict, strife, war are the motive forces of capitalist rule. Thus, the vision inevitably becomes apocalyptic: in eternalizing the order and thereby reuniting creation with the Creator, only by ending all life at that grand moment of union can it be ensured that life never again strays from the Creator\’s will. In the face of this, inevitably life rebels.

At its highest levels, the ruling class too be-comes aware of the fallacy of its vision, but finds itself organically incapable of radically changing that vision. Cracks and fault lines appear, fracturing the eerily beautiful vision into an ugly, decrepit facade. Neoliberalism is, in a sense, a desperate measure in an at-tempt to repair that cracking facade. This moment, when the corporate ruling class ap-pears to be at the height of its power, is si-multaneously a moment of greatest weakness-the potential of a tumultuous col-lapse. The revolutionary task is thus, in a sense, to turn that potentiality into reality.

As we face the ruling class\’s newest bid to institutionalize its hierarchical power rela-tions-the FTAA-we must bear in mind that this overt superficial display of overwhelming power belies a great underlying weakness. We must not allow ourselves to be beguiled by the false prospect of immediate access to this useless power and must not fall into the de-featism of reformist schemes. As protest and resistance mounts, and the capitalist power structures implement their repressive measures, justified and propagandized through the corpo-rate media on grounds of a need to prevent some angry kids from break-ing a window, let us remember that what they rightly fear most, is that those kids may grow up and smash the whole facade of the de-crepit bourgeois edifice that is destroying the world. We must grow up.