Who are the neoliberals?
The robber barons of old ruled their world. Today’s robber barons
are much more powerful than those earlier titans, and they appear to be all
The planet is owned and ruled by the same people; not the heads of
State, but the owners of the capital. State governments, if unyielding
to the superior power of the capitals, run the risk of becoming figureheads
in the claws of the neoliberals. Do what we tell you to do or we will unmask
the vacuum behind your façade. Some leaders try courageously to prove
their freedom of action, up to a point, but even socialists have turned towards
what is to be seen as the new socialism – Gerhard Schröder, or the
New Labour – Tony Blair. There is no real ‘left’ any more
Europe is regressing towards the feudal era when individuals had no rights.
They were work horses for the lords who owned the land and later, in the industrial
era, for those who owned the factories. Once again, individual rights are seen
as having no raison d’être, since invincible market forces dictate
the state of the planet. According to the neoliberal predators, considering
individuals and their needs, except as pawns in their planetary game of creating
obscene wealth for the very few, is unscientific and unreasonable.
The men and women seated at the top of the world are ruthless gamblers who
don’t hesitate to destroy each other and all the people dependent on them
for their livelihood, if it’s in the interest of profit. The gambling
instinct rules the planet though the dice are heavily loaded.
Reasonable and innocent people scream about rights to food, to water, to a
decent living. The gamblers couldn’t care less; they are totally deaf
to cries of despair. These latter day robber barons buy and sell, promote and
demote with a perfectly cold hand. They laugh at the losses of their adversaries
as they continue building their own edifices of global power, insensitive to
the needs of the pawns who get crushed in the predators’ paths to glory.
These men and women have no souls. They are a different species who could be
rooted out from the earth with no lasting damage and several huge gains for
Their claim is that market forces are unbeatable because they are rigorously
scientific. Neoliberalism is not an ideology, it’s a force of nature and
the ‘laws of the market’ are unbeatable, because of their inevitability.
These people claim to be rigorously rational. The world is closed and immune
to changes since market forces are ruled by strict reason, not by human laws
or haphazard ideology. The ‘natural laws’ that the neoliberals claim
are guiding the capital of the world can not be contained. Economic forces must
be let loose without constraint or control.
Pierre Bourdieu defines it in this way: “Neo-liberalism is a weapon of
conquest. It announces an economic fatality against which all resistance is
vain. Neo-liberalism is similar to AIDS: it destroys the immunity system of
its victims. (1) … “Of all forces of clandestine persuasion, the
most implacable is the one that is exercised simply because of ‘the order
Bourdieu continues to prove that neo-liberalism is not the ‘order of
things’: “Everything that falls under the descriptive and normative
name of ‘globalization’ is not the effect of an economic fatality,
but of a conscious and deliberate policy, the one that has made liberal or even
social-democratic governments of a group of economically advanced countries
dispossess themselves of the power to control the economic forces.”(3)
How can this cruel scam continue?
This system is seemingly unbeatable because the power players, the gamblers,
own the politicians. Even more important, they own the mainstream media. When
you add to that the powerful mind-bending of advertising, television, political
sloganeering and propaganda, you get a citizenry that is ignorant, subdued and
numbed into a form of semi-consciousness where they try to keep up a façade
of normality while trying to survive in a hostile world.
It certainly doesn’t help the people’s cause in their fight against
these imperial masters that administrations like Bush & Co ‘starve
the beast’ by cutting off more and more money for education, healthcare
and social programs across his nation. The finance lords have the administration,
and seemingly the majority of both parties in Congress, so well in hand that
there is no real opposition to all this cutting of essential funds. The individual
citizens have been rendered helplessly unarmed for such a vitally important
fight. And this is, sadly, a trend spreading throughout Europe as well. Even
the most basic funds have to be cut to make it possible for the predators to
amass their obscene fortunes.
Who are the victims?
Ordinary people from all strata of society are feeling the heat of the battle
for survival. But it’s primarily poor people in the rich countries and
all but a few callous opportunists in developing countries who bear the heavy
burden of suffering from hunger and deprivation. Heartless and mindless dictators
who enrich themselves at the expense of their poverty-stricken countrymen will
always be a fact of life. But the incredible arrogance and seeming invincibility
of the corporate lords seems to be a twist that was born with neo-liberalism.
And here we are back at the beginning. As Pierre Bourdieu says, it’s the
“economic fatality against which all resistance is vain”, the implacable
force of this system comes from the fact that it’s set up to appear simply
as ‘the order of things’. It can’t be any different because
that’s the way finance works in order to optimize profit, the only thing
that counts in the world of the neoliberals.
The most dangerous propaganda is perhaps the theory these predators put forth
that neoliberalism is going to get rid of the immense poverty that is destroying
Africa and which renders life almost unlivable in many other parts of the world.
It is going to raise the standard of living all over the world, according to
the lords of global finance. Well, we have already seen how that theory is working.
In fact, in the multiple cases where the most essential public services having
been transferred to the private sector in countries in both the North and South,
we are seeing the quality of services consistently going down as prices consistently
rise. A country submitting its public services to the maximization of profit
leads to what Eric Hobsbawm designates ‘a failed state’.
As for the quality of life which is in grave danger when job security is lost,
Jean Ziegler says: “A citizen delivered without any protection to major
social risks loses his quality as a citizen. A man who is constantly afraid
of losing his job, his salary and his benefits is not a free man.”
Is there a way we can beat this system?
Since neoliberalism works only for immediate gain and has no long-term view,
no vision of a sustainable future, no goals of survival for the people or the
environment, it cannot last. But so long as they continue ruining the planet,
there will not be a future to count on. That makes their downfall or their overthrow
Fortunately there have been movements afoot ever since the great debacle in
Seattle at the WTO meetings in 1999. The are forces furiously set upon destroying
this insidious system of plunder. Since Seattle, the WTO meetings have been
seriously interrupted in Montréal in 2003, in Cancun in September 2003,
as well as multiple G7 & G8 meetings, the World Economic Forum and EU summits
(Genoa, Barcelona, Gothenburg, Geneva). The meetings have mostly ended with
a total fiasco. The protests were always met with violent police force and numerous
demonstrators were imprisoned and treated by the mainstream media as violent
criminals. There is hope, however, that there will also be serious protests
in the streets during the upcoming WTO meetings in Hong Kong in December 2005.
The World Social Forum held its second gathering in Porto Alegre, Brazil in
2002 (in protest against the World Economic Forum in New York City taking place
at the same time) when more than 60,000 men and women from more than 2000 social
movements on five continents came together in opposition to the inhuman forces
of the neoliberal monster. Civil society is up in arms against the predators
and is demanding the abolition of the WTO and the IMF, the elimination of tax
havens, the canceling of the Third World debts, introduction of a tax on transactions
of capital movement (the Tobin tax). These are just a few of the demands that
civil society is putting forth. The next World Social Forum will take place
in Caracas, Venezuela, in January 2006. Prominent civil rights leaders give
high-profile talks at each of these forums and corrupt world leaders will soon
learn civil society is a powerful force.
The heads of state are helpless tools in the claws of the predators since their
countries would suffer loss of investment and capital flight in the face of
their non-cooperation. The world thus depends on civil society and the strength
of the masses of lucid and humane people, the power of the streets, to defeat
the colossus that is eagerly devouring the world. Corruption and greed can ultimately
be defeated if we the people see the truth and act in accordance with our common
sense and human instincts.
1. Pierre Bourdieu, « Politik ist entpolitisiert »,
interview in Der Spiegel, Hamburg, 2001 ; Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) was one
of the foremost sociologists of French society and the modern world; author
of 25 books. His later years were marked by increasingly public engagement with
issues of globalization and state power.
2. Pierre Bourdieu, Contre-feux ; vol.2, Paris, Publisher:
Raison d’agir (2001)
4. British Marxist historian of great renown (b. 1917)
5. Jean Ziegler : Les nouveaux maîtres du monde, Editions
Fayard, 2002 ; Jean Ziegler, UN Spécial Rapporteur on the Right to Food
(author of l’Empire de la Honte, éditions Fayard, 2005)
6. In Genoa in July, 2001 (G-7 meeting), in Barcelona in November,
2001 (EU summit), in Gothenburg in June, 2001 (EU summit) and in Geneva on various