“Jeff Bezos and his ilk have used their political power to create an economic order of near absolute worker insecurity.”
Two unfolding developments show the stark choices faces humanity.
In China, president Xi Jinping laid out the Communist Party’s 30-year grand plan to become “a moderately prosperous country” by 2020 and “a modern prosperous society” by 2049. The roadmap was both detailed and realistic, based on the world’s most populous nation’s steady -- but nevertheless breathtaking -- growth over more than three decades. As Eric Li noted in The World Post, “China has led improvements in health, education, science and overall standard of living at a speed and scale that is unprecedented in human history,” even as most of the rest of the world economy caught “the American disease” with the meltdown of 2008. The Party’s vision for building socialism with Chinese characteristics is stunning in its specificity on the whole range of developmental issues, “including housing, health, science, defense, artificial intelligence and the sharing economy.”
“The same ‘command economy’ that fouled the air and water now leads the world in renewable energy and technology.”
Unless this trajectory is interrupted by war with the United States, there is no reason to doubt that China will surpass the U.S. as the planet’s most important economic center long before 2049, having already overtaken the U.S. in purchasing parity power (PPP). Chinese society is being transformed at dizzying speed, with 60 million people emerging from poverty in just the past five years. In recent years there has even been significant progress in stemming the horrific environmental damage that has accompanied China’s breakneck growth. The same “command economy” that fouled the air and water now leads the world in renewable energy and technology and has decreed that electric cars are the wave of the future.
In foreign policy, China is the global vector of voluntary, non-coercive “connectivity” among nations, by far the biggest international investor in infrastructure development. The Chinese build African ports and railroads, while the U.S. builds drone bases.
U.S. rulers also have grand plans -- not for raising domestic or global living standards, but for war. As servants of the Lords of Capital, both corporate political parties promise their citizenry nothing but austerity. The political hegemony of the oligarchs is so complete -- especially since the Clinton years in the White House -- the very idea of governmental intervention on the side of the non-rich has become foreign to much of the public, including the Black political class. Corporate media define “left” and “right” based mainly on so-called “social,” non-economic issues, as if the argument over economic justice has already been settled -- in the oligarchs’ favor.
“The Chinese build African ports and railroads, while the U.S. builds drone bases.”
The people’s representatives grovel at the feet of the rich, begging for crumbs that might fall from on high. As of last week, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world with a net worth of $90 billion, has received 238 proposals from local governments across North America begging for a chance to host a second headquarters for his Seattle-based corporation. Nearly every city worthy of name recognition, and some you’ve never heard of, has positioned itself booty-up for Bezos and the prospect of 50,000 jobs. The only states from which no applications have been received are North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Vermont, Arkansas and Hawaii.
Bezos is an extortionist. Amazon has already gotten more than $1 billion in local and state subsidies for its warehouse centers around the country, where workers are paid 15 percent less, on average, than other warehouses in the region. According to a recent study, Amazon’s business model has destroyed nearly 150,000 more jobs in retail stores than have been created in its warehouses. Author Simon Head writes that Amazon’s “system of employee monitoring is the most oppressive” he has ever come across -- even worse than Walmart. However, the whole point of establishing an austerity regime is to starve working people and their communities into submission to employers like Walmart and Amazon – and to make governments pay for the privilege of hosting the extortionist.
“The very idea of governmental intervention on the side of the non-rich has become foreign to much of the public, including the Black political class.
Greg LeRoy, of Good Jobs First, says Bezos has gotten tax break extraction down to a science. Amazon is shameless in its pursuit of public subsidies. “Most companies — 99.9 percent of them — go to great lengths to keep their search a secret, so this is a very unusual, highly public episode. What we’re about to see is a textbook auction for tax breaks.”
Amazon’s grand auction will doubtless become the model for further corporate predation, just as Walmart led the retail industry’s race to the bottom. Both evil behemoths deploy high-tech systems to extract every possible advantage from employees and suppliers. But, advanced technology is not the villain -- capitalism is.
Amazon is allowed to prey on workers and communities because Jeff Bezos and his ilk have used their political power to create an economic order of near absolute worker insecurity. Austerity enforces insecurity; that’s why it is always on the capitalist politician’s menu, in good times or bad.
Jeff Bezos is already in heaven. Late stage capitalism has concentrated wealth like never before in history, so that Bezos and seven guys like him are as rich as the poorest half of the rest of humankind. The Lords of Capital have no vision of a “modern prosperous society” – in American, Chinese or any other terms. They are concerned only with eliminating every threat to their wealth and power. That is the extent of their vision.
China -- or rather, the global movement towards connectivity and peaceful relations at which China is at the center -- will inevitably overwhelm Bezos’ world, unless the process can be halted by war.
That’s why, if you are anti-war, you must be anti-capitalist.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].