Bulletin N° 343
Subject: ON THE PAST AND POSSIBLY FUTURE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF FASCISM.
20 February 2008
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
European fascism some historians have suggested can best be understood as a historically specific phase of a wider right-wing movement, whose birth occurred during the French Revolution. Conservatives militating against "The Rights of Man" have operated in small groups led by able leaders since 1815 and, according to L'Écho de Paris journalist André Géraud (who was a political refugee in the U.S.A. during the German occupation of France), "this is the system."
During the fascist period of history, there were different levels of collaboration, wrote the author of Les Fossoyeurs : men like Charles Maurras, Philippe Pétain, Pierre Laval, and François Darlan were conservative theoreticians and activists after the Nazi seizure of power in Germany, and after June 1941 they hooked their dreams to the German star. These people were bigger than reality; they lived not a life, but a destiny.
The heavy-handed nationalist propaganda that they produced imitated that of the Nazis. They scorned public opinion, as something irrelevant because it was so easily manipulated. As the movers and shapers of French public opinion, they were venal opportunists, vain and brutal --in a word, they were French versions of Hitler's Übermenschen. Their ends were self-aggrandizement, and their means were usually justified with glib nationalist slogans. To hell with the universal rights of humankind, and to hell with rationality; their nationalism was exclusive, and they thought that they could count on French public opinion as one more instrument under their control. Ultimately they were wrong.
Others went along with the European fascist program, according to Gérard, not so much because it offered new advantages, but because everyone else went along, and keeping their jobs required that they conform and continually demonstrate "a good attitude".
Still others were levered into supporting their oppressors by the fact that family members or friends were among the 1.5 million French prisoners in Germany. Their good behavior was perceived as protecting their loved ones who had been taken to Nazi Germany. [A. Géraud, "The Titanic Struggle Inside France," in France Since 1930 (New York, 1972).]
Ultimately, public opinion did not reflect reality, and like some natural disaster the system buckled and the social forces of outrage came to the surface. The accumulation of abuses collapsed many of the structures that had constrained the population, and historical materialism began to replace nationalism as a theory with more explanatory power.
The 5 items below address the issues of collaboration and social class consciousness in the democratic struggle for justice and equality.
Item A. is an announcement by NYU Professor Bertell Ollman on next weeks National Teach-in in New York City on "Academic Freedom At Risk."
Item B. is a report by Mike Whitney on Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to earth: "You are all Dead Ducks !"
Item C. is an article by Warren Richey on "Employer Retaliation" and the legal struggle against it.
Item D. is a report by Sharon Johnson on the growing number of women now joining the U.S. labor movement..
And finally, item E. is a sober warning by Bruce Marshall that Phase II of U.S. political reforms may well mean another historic shift still further away from democratic controls over the institutions which govern most Americans.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3
from Bertell Ollman :
Date: 16 February 2008
Subject: NYU Teach-in: In Defense of Academic Freedom.
Could you put on your weekly Bulletin an invitation to the FIRST NATIONAL TEACH-IN ON FREEDOMS AT RISK IN AMERICA (Saturday, Feb. 23 - All Day), which is be sponsored by the Student Council of NYU? It includes a PLENUM as well as two all day teach-ins, one on FREEDOM AT RISK IN POLITICS, and the other on FREEDOM AT RISK IN THE ACADEMY. There are also several of your friends involved in one way or another.
This is not only for the CEIMSA people who live in and around NY and might come (and/or help us by sending the invitation out to their email lists), but for everyone who gets your Bulletin and might get inspired to do a similar event where they work and study, which has been one of the main aims and hopes of our effort here at NYU. Early Spring can (and should) be Teach-In time in both of our countries.
We cordially invite you to attend the FIRST NATIONAL TEACH-IN ON FREEDOMS AT RISK IN AMERICA, hosted by the College of Arts and Science (CAS) Student Council of New York University on Saturday, February 23, 2008.
This all-day event will be an interactive forum featuring numerous renowned academics and intellectuals both from within and outside of the NYU faculty, and will be open to the public and to the press throughout the day.
FREEDOMS AT RISK will be kicked off in the morning with two classic-style teach-ins: our TEACH-IN ON FREEDOMS AT RISK IN POLITICS, and our TEACH-IN ON FREEDOMS AT RISK IN ACADEMIA. Both will begin at 10:00 a.m. and continue through 5:00 p.m. Following a two-hour recess, FREEDOMS AT RISK will resume with our evening PLENUM, which is set to run from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
At FREEDOMS AT RISK, student, professional, and public attendees will be encouraged to take an active role in the Conference by posing questions on the topics covered and engaging in discussion and debate with our guest speakers.
Those guests who have so generously agreed to join us and speak at our PLENUM include: NORMAN FINKELSTEIN, whose academic controversy at DePaul University in Chicago has made several headlines over the last year. He has held faculty positions at numerous higher-learning institutions, and is the author of five books including international best-seller The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering; LYNNE STEWART, a political activist and attorney who is noted for representing unpopular clients, and has experienced extensive recent political oppression. An advocate of the constitutional right to due process of law, she fights to see that right extended to anyone who is tried within the American legal system; ELLEN SCHRECKER, an outspoken advocate of academic freedoms and a professor of American history at Yeshiva University who has also taught at a number of other institutions. A successful author, she has written such books as Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America; MARK CRISPIN MILLER, a professor of Media Studies at NYU who actively supports democratic media reform. He is also an accomplished author, having written Fooled Again, How the Right Stole the 2004 Elections and Seeing Through Movies; and MICHAEL SMITH, a New York City Attorney and author who sits on the Executive Board of the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-hosts the WBAI radio program Law and Disorder with Michael Ratner and Heidi Boghosian. He recently edited William Kunstler's noteworthy piece, "The Emerging Police State."
And for the TEACH-INS, we welcome among others: JOHN GERASSI, a renowned professor of political science at Queens College, who has written several books on politics and international affairs including an official biography of Jean-Paul Sartre; PETER N. KIRSTEIN a professor of history and author from Chicagoâ€šs Saint Xavier University, and a nationally recognized advocate of academic freedom and free-speech rights. He has been profiled in conservative writer David Horowitz‚s book, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academmics in America; and LORIE VAN AUKEN, a â€œJersey Girlâ€ and winner of Glamour Magazineâ€™s 2004 Woman of the Year Award for her work with the other â€œJersey Girlsâ€ in successfully lobbying for an independent investigation into the events of September 11th, 2001. She has been interviewed several times on national television and appears in the documentary 9/11 Press for Truth.
These and other notable speakers are sure to make the TEACH-IN ON FREEDOMS AT RISK IN AMERICAthe first of its kind in the nationa truly monumentental and memorable event.
FREEDOMS AT RISK will be hosted on the 4th floor of the Helen and Martin Kimmel Center for University Life at 60 Washington Square South, New York, NY. An entire floor has been reserved, and refreshments will be provided for all. We are excited and honored to have the occasion to host this TEACH-IN Conference, and we sincerely hope to have you join us for what promises to be an intellectually stimulating and precedent-setting event!
PLEASE PASS THIS INVITATION ON TO ALL PARTIES WHO YOU THINK WOULD BE INTERESTED! SEND IT TO YOUR WHOLE EMAIL LISTS!!!
Jenny Shen, President
Matt Van Auken, Student Relations Chair (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Meni Marinakis, Secretary
College of Arts and Science
New York University
from Information Clearing House:
Date: 16 February 2008
Subject: The Deepening Economic Crisis.
NEWS YOU WON'T FIND ON CNN
Bernanke's State of the Economy Speech:
"You are all Dead Ducks"
by Mike Whitney
Even veteran Fed-watchers were caught off-guard by Chairman Bernanke's performance before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday. Bernanke was expected to make routine comments on the state of the economy but, instead, delivered a 45 minute sermon detailing the afflictions of the foundering financial system. The Senate chamber was stone-silent throughout. The gravity of the situation is finally beginning to sink in.
For the most part, the pedantic Bernanke looked uneasy; alternately biting his lower lip or staring ahead blankly like a man who just watched his poodle get run over by a Mack truck. As it turns out, Bernanke has plenty to worry about, too. Consumer confidence has dropped to levels not seen since the 1970s recession, real estate has gone off a cliff, credit-brushfires are breaking out everywhere, and the stock market continues to gyrate erratically. No wonder the Fed-chief looked more like a deck-hand on the Lusitania than the monetary-czar of the most powerful country on earth.
Bernanke's prepared remarks were delivered with the solemnity of a priest performing Vespers. But he was clear, unlike his predecessor, Greenspan, who loved speaking in hieroglyphics.
Bernanke: "As you know, financial markets in the United States and in a number of other industrialized countries have been under considerable strain since late last summer. Heightened investor concerns about the credit quality of mortgages, especially subprime mortgages with adjustable interest rates, triggered the financial turmoil. However, other factors, including a broader retrenchment in the willingness of investors to bear risk, difficulties in valuing complex or illiquid financial products, uncertainties about the exposures of major financial institutions to credit losses, and concerns about the weaker outlook for the economy, have also roiled the financial markets in recent months.”
Yes, of course. The banks are ailing from their subprime investments while Europe is sinking fast from $500 billion in unsellable asset-backed garbage. The whole system is clogged with crappy paper and deteriorating collateral. Now there are problems popping up in auction rate sales and the normally-safe municipal bonds. The whole financial Tower of Babel is cracking at the foundation.
Bernanke continues: "Money center banks and other large financial institutions have come under significant pressure to take onto their own balance sheets the assets of some of the off-balance-sheet investment vehicles that they had sponsored. Bank balance sheets have swollen further as a consequence of the sharp reduction in investor willingness to buy securitized credits, which has forced banks to retain a substantially higher share of previously committed and new loans in their own portfolios. Banks have also reported large losses, reflecting marked declines in the market prices of mortgages and other assets that they hold. Recently, deterioration in the financial condition of some bond insurers has led some commercial and investment banks to take further markdowns and has added to strains in the financial markets."
Bernanke sounds more like an Old Testament prophet reading passages from the Book of Revelations than a Central Banker. But what he says is true; even without the hair-shirt. The humongous losses at the investment banks have forced them to go trolling for capital in Asia and the Middle East just to stay afloat. And, when they succeed, they're forced to pay excessively high rates of interest. The true cost of capital is skyrocketing. That's why the banks are protecting their liquidity and cutting back on new loans. Most of the banks have also tightened lending standards which is slowing down the issuance of credit and threatens to push the economy into a deep recession. When banks cramp-up; the overall economy shrinks. It's just that simple; no credit, no growth. Credit is the lubricant that keeps the capitalist locomotive chugging-along. When it dwindles, the system screeches to a halt.
"DOWNSIDE RISKS TO GROWTH HAVE INCREASED"
Bernanke again: "In part as the result of the developments in financial markets, the outlook for the economy has worsened in recent months, and the downside risks to growth have increased. To date, the largest economic effects of the financial turmoil appear to have been on the housing market, which, as you know, has deteriorated significantly over the past two years or so. The virtual shutdown of the subprime mortgage market and a widening of spreads on jumbo mortgage loans have further reduced the demand for housing, while foreclosures are adding to the already-elevated inventory of unsold homes. Further cuts in homebuilding and in related activities are likely.....Conditions in the labor market have also softened. Payroll employment, after increasing about 95,000 per month on average in the fourth quarter, declined by an estimated 17,000 jobs in January. Employment in the construction and manufacturing sectors has continued to fall, while the pace of job gains in the services industries has slowed. The softer labor market, together with factors including higher energy prices, lower equity prices, and declining home values, seem likely to weigh on consumer spending in the near term."
So, let's summarize. The banks are battered by their massive subprime liabilities. Housing is in the tank. Manufacturing is down. Food and energy are up. Unemployment is rising. And consumer spending has shriveled to the size of an acorn. All that's missing is a trumpet blast and the arrival of the Four Horseman.
How is it that Bernanke's economic post-mortem never made its way into the major media? Is there some reason the real state of the economy is being concealed from 'we the people'?
Bernanke continues: "On the inflation front, a key development over the past year has been the steep run-up in the price of oil. Last year, food prices also increased exceptionally rapidly by recent standards, and the foreign exchange value of the dollar weakened. ...(If) inflation expectations to become unmoored or for the Fed's inflation-fighting credibility to be eroded could greatly complicate the task of sustaining price stability and reduce the central bank's policy flexibility to counter shortfalls in growth in the future."
Right. So, if the Fed's rate-cutting strategy doesn't work and the economic troubles persist (and prices continue to go through the roof) then we're S.O.L. (sh** out of luck) because the Fed has no more arrows in its quiver. It's rate cuts or death. Great. So, we can expect Bernanke to hack away at rates until they're down to 1% or lower (duplicating the downturn in Japan) hoping that the economy shows some sign of life before it takes two full wheelbarrows of greenbacks to buy a quart of milk and a few seed-potatoes.
Sounds like a plan!
We don't blame Bernanke. He's been remarkably straightforward from the very beginning and deserves credit. He's simply left with the thankless task of mopping up the ocean of red ink left behind by Greenspan. It's not his fault. He should be applauded for dispelling the decades-long illusion that a nation can borrow its way to prosperity or that chronic indebtedness is the same as real wealth. It's not; and the bill has finally come due.
Of course, now that the low-interest speculative orgy is over; there's bound to be a painful unwind of hyper-inflated assets, falling home prices, tumbling stock markets, increased unemployment, and a generalized credit-contraction throughout the real economy. Ouch. Who said it was going to be easy?
"At present, my baseline outlook involves a period of sluggish growth, followed by a somewhat stronger pace of growth starting later this year as the effects of monetary and fiscal stimulus begin to be felt....It is important to recognize that downside risks to growth remain, including the possibilities that the housing market or the labor market may deteriorate to an extent beyond that currently anticipated, or that credit conditions may tighten substantially further."
(Editor's translation) "Discount everything I've said here today if the economy blows up---as I fully-expect it will---from decades of regulatory neglect and the myriad multi-trillion dollar Ponzi-schemes which have put the entire financial system at risk of a major heart attack".
Bernanke's candor is admirable, but it is little relief for the people who will have to soldier-on through the hard times ahead. Perhaps, next time he could spare us all the lengthly oratory and just forward a brief cablegram to Congress saying something like this:
"We are deeply sorry, but we have totally fu**ed up your economy with our monetary hanky-panky. You are all in very deep Doo-doo. Prepare for the worst."
our sincerest regrets,
from Truth Out :
Date: 20 February 2008
Subject: Protection from Employer Harassment.
The Christian Science Monitor's Warren Richey writes: "Employers, managers, and supervisors wield enormous power in the workplace over the lives and well-being of their employees."
from Truth Out :
Date: 6 February 2008
Subject: Women join organized labor.
Writing for Women's eNews, Sharon Johnson says, "The first increase in union membership in a quarter of a century was recorded in 2007 with employment sectors traditionally dominated by women driving the turnaround."
from Information Clearing House :
Date: 18 February 2008
Subject: An Economic Profile of the Future President of the United States.
Since 9/11 America has certainly turned into a top-down police state, but true post-modern fascism requires a popular movement to usher it into power. Bush has created a dictatorship out of the Presidency, now the next step towards fascism is being marketed to exploit the desire for change.
Swindle - What Change Really Means
By Bruce Marshall