Posts Tagged ‘David Cobb’

Let’s Get Fascist with Neoliberal Corporatism

August 1, 2016

By which I certainly don’t mean supporting racism, xenophobia, genocide and the destruction of democracy, or vile, strutting dictators.

British and American politics are now dominated to an overwhelming extent by the interests of corporations and big business. Corporations in America sponsor and donate handsomely to the campaign funding of congressmen and -women, who return the favour, passing legislation and blocking other acts to the benefit of their corporate sponsors. I put up a piece a little while ago from the radical internet news service, Democracy Now!, reporting on how funding by the Koch brothers has resulted in policies that massively favour the oil industry, against the Green movement and efforts to combat climate change. Hillary Clinton, the wife of former President Bill Clinton, is also part of this corrupt web. She sits a number of leading American companies, and was paid something like a quarter of a million dollars for speeches she made to Wall Street. This has had a demonstrable effect on her policies, which strongly favour big business and, naturally, the financial sector. This corruption of American democracy ultimately goes back to the 1970s, when a court ruled that sponsorship by a corporation constituted free speech under the law, thus undermining the legislation that had existed for over 150 years against it. After about forty years of corporate encroachment on the res publica, the result is that America is no longer a democracy. A recent report by Harvard University concluded that the nation had become an oligarchy. This is reflected by the low rating of Congress in polls of the American public. These have shown that only about 14% of Americans are happy that their parliament represents them.

This situation is no different over here, although the corruption has been going on for much longer. ‘Gracchus’, the pseudonymous author of the 1944 book, Your MP, detailed the various Tory MPs who were the owners or managers of companies. Earlier this evening I posted piece about the recent publication of a book, Parliament Ltd: A Journey to the Dark Heart of British Politics, which revealed that British MPs have about 2,800 directorships in 2,450 companies. It’s blurb states that MPs are not working for the general public. They are working for these companies. Nearly a decade or so ago, George Monbiot said pretty much the same in his book, Corporate State, as he investigated the way outsourcing, privatisation and the Private Finance Initiative meant that the state was increasingly in retreat before the encroachment of corporate power, which was now taking over its functions, and official policies were designed to support and promote this expansion. This has meant, for example, that local councils have supported the construction of supermarkets for the great chains, like Sainsbury’s, despite the wishes of their communities, and the destructive effects this has on local traders, shopkeepers and farmers.

In America, there is a growing movement to end this. One California businessman has set up a campaign, ‘California Is Not For Sale’, demanding that Congressmen, who are sponsored by corporations, should wear sponsorship logos exactly like sportsmen. In my last blog post, I put up an interview between Jimmy Dore, a comedian with The Young Turks, and David Cobb, the Outreach Officer with Move to Amend, a campaign group with 410,000 members across America, working to remove corporate sponsorship.

As I’ve blogged before, we desperately need a similar campaign in Britain. But it would be strongly resisted. Tony Blair’s New Labour was notorious for its soft corruption, with Peter Mandelson’s notorious statement that the party was ‘extremely relaxed about getting rich’. The Tories are no better, and in many ways much worse. When this issue was raised a few years ago, a leading Tory dismissed it with the statement that the Tory party was the party of business. David Cameron pretended to tackle the problem of political lobbying, but this was intended to remove and limit political campaigning by charities, trade unions and other opposition groups, leaving the big lobbying companies and the Tories’ traditional corporate backers untouched.

This corporate domination of politics and the legislature has been termed ‘corporatism’. This also harks back to the corporate state, one of the constitutional changes introduced in Italy by the Fascists under Mussolini. This was partly developed from the Italian revolutionary syndicalist tradition. The corporations were supposed to be a modern form of the medieval guilds. They consisted of both the employer’s organisations and the trade unions for particular industries, and were responsible for setting terms and conditions. Parliament was abolished and replaced with a council of corporations. Mussolini made much of this system, arguing that it had created social peace, and that it made Fascism a new political and economic system, neither Socialist nor capitalist.

In fact, the corporate state was nothing more than ideological camouflage to hide the fact that Fascism rested on brute force and the personal dictatorship of Mussolini. The power of trade unions was strictly subordinated to the control of the industrialists and the Fascist party. The Council of Corporations had no legislative power, and was really just there to rubber stamp Musso’s decisions.

But if the Tories and big business want a corporate state, perhaps they should get a corporate state, though following the more radical ideas of Fascist theorists like Ugo Spirito. Spirito was a philosophy professor, teaching at a number of Italian universities, including Genoa, Messina, Pisa and Rome. At the Ferrara Congress on Corporative Studies, held in May 1932, he outraged the Fascist leadership and conservatives by arguing that the Corporate state had resulted in property acquiring a new meaning. In the corporations, capital and labour would eventually merge in the large corporations, and their ownership would similarly pass from the shareholders to the producers, who manage it based on their industrial expertise. It was attacked as ‘Bolshevik’, and Spirito himself later described it as ‘Communist’. Despite the denunciations, it was popular among university students, who wanted the Fascist party to return to its radical Left programme of 1919.

If we are to have a corporate state with industrialists represented in parliament, as so promoted by neoliberal politicians, we should also include the workers and employees in those industries. For every company director elected to parliament, there should be one or more employees elected by the trade unions to represent the workforce. And as another Fascist, Augusto Turati argued, there should be more employee representatives elected than those of the employers because there are more workers than managers.

And as the outsourcing companies are performing the functions of the state, and those captains of industry elected to parliament are also representatives of their companies, these enterprises should be subject to the same public oversight as state industries. Their accounts and the minutes of their meetings should be a matter of public record and inspection. Considerations of commercial secrecy should not apply, because of the immense responsibility they have and the importance of their duties to the public, particularly as it affects the administration of the welfare state, the health service, and the prison and immigration system.

On the other hand, if this is too ‘Socialist’, then industry should get out of parliament and stop perverting democracy for its own ends and inflicting poverty and hardship of the rest of us.

TYT’s Jimmy Dore Talks to Outreach Head of US Anti-Corporate Corruption Movement

August 1, 2016

In my last piece, I discussed Mike article on the publication of Martin Williams’ book, Parliament Ltd: A Journey to the Dark Heart of British Politics, which reveals that British MPs currently hold 2,800 directorships in 2,450 or so companies, with a combined turnover of £220 billion and a workforce of £1.2m. Although there is no wrongdoing involved, 40 per cent of these directorships are not declared, 6 per cent only partially, and 3 per cent with major flaws. The potential for corruption is immense, leaving Mike to wonder what we can do about it.

In this video by The Young Turks’ Jimmy Dore, the comedian talks to David Cobb, a constitutional lawyer and outreach director of Move to Amend, a campaign group fighting the corporatist corruption of politics. They’re at the Free Speech Zone at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Corporate sponsorship of American politicians began in the 1970s, when a court judged that it constituted ‘free speech’, and so was protected by the US constitution. Since then it’s become a national scandal. Both the Republican and Democrat parties are dominated by corporate interests, particularly Shrillary Clinton, the Democrats’ candidate for the presidency. About a year or so ago, one Californian businessman was so revolted by the corruption, that he started the ‘California Is Not For Sale’ campaign to force politicians sponsored by companies to wear corporate logos on their jackets.

Cobb explains the difference between free speech, and the basis of the American Constitution in that the people govern themselves, and what they say cannot be dictated or affected by the state. But he also states that corporations are not ‘persons’ with the same rights as people under constitutional law. ‘Money’, he states firmly, ‘is property’, and that property can be used to purchase ‘microphones, amplifiers and distribution systems to drown out the rest of us’. He makes the point that for 150 years there was legislation banning corporate sponsorship because it was recognised that this would corrupt the democratic process. When Move to Amend introduced its motions – to remove the legal ruling that corporations are persons with constitutional rights, and remove corporate sponsorship from politics – in the last Congressional session it had three sponsors. This time, it had 22, including one Republican, from North Carolina.

Move to Amend was formed in 2010, it was 12 people in a living room. Now its 410,000 people and growing. 17 states have called for a constitutional amendment, and 600 communities have passed resolutions in their city councils supporting their resolutions. They’ve also been on 350 ballots by individuals, winning in each one. This is not just in liberal strongholds, but also in Conservative towns like Salt Lake City.

We badly need similar legislation like this in Britain to clean out the corporate corruption from our politics. Don’t expect it from the Blairites in the Labour party, though. As Peter Mandelson said, they were incredibly relaxed about getting rich, and notorious for the donations and sponsorships they received from business. And don’t expect it from the Tories either. Previous attempts to get business out of parliament has been shrugged off by the Tories on the grounds that the Conservative

    is

the party of business. David Cameron made a pretence of reforming lobbying, but it was designed to clean out lobbying by charities and other organisations, including trade unions, while leaving the big corporate lobbyists untouched.