Michael Parenti

Michael
Parenti
1933

American Political Scientist, Writer, Historian and Culture Critic

Author Quotes

In the last eight years alone, while vast fortunes accrued at record rates, an additional six million Americans sank below the poverty level; median family income declined by over $2,000; consumer debt more than doubled; over seven million Americans lost their health insurance, and more than four million lost their pensions; meanwhile homelessness increased and housing foreclosures reached pandemic levels. It is only in countries where capitalism has been reined in to some degree by social democracy that the populace has been able to secure a measure of prosperity; northern European nations such as Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark come to mind. But even in these social democracies popular gains are always at risk of being rolled back. It is ironic to credit capitalism with the genius of economic prosperity when most attempts at material betterment have been vehemently and sometimes violently resisted by the capitalist class. The history of labor struggle provides endless illustration of this. To the extent that life is bearable under the present U.S. economic order, it is because millions of people have waged bitter class struggles to advance their living standards and their rights as citizens, bringing some measure of humanity to an otherwise heartless politico-economic order.

A huge national security state has developed in the United States since World War II. Its function is to buttress anticommunist, pro-capitalist governments and undermine and destroy popular movements whenever possible.

In the United States, came the multi-billion-dollar plunder perpetrated by corporate conspirators at Enron, WorldCom, Harkin, Adelphia, and a dozen other major companies. Inside players like Ken Lay turned successful corporate enterprises into sheer wreckage, wiping out the jobs and life savings of thousands of employees in order to pocket billions. These thieves were caught and convicted. Does that not show capitalism?s self-correcting capacity? Not really. The prosecution of such malfeasance? in any case coming too late?was a product of democracy?s accountability and transparency, not capitalism?s. Of itself the free market is an amoral system, with no strictures save caveat emptor. In the meltdown of 2008-09 the mounting financial surplus created a problem for the moneyed class: there were not enough opportunities to invest. With more money than they knew what to do with, big investors poured immense sums into nonexistent housing markets and other dodgy ventures, a legerdemain of hedge funds, derivatives, high leveraging, credit default swaps, predatory lending, and whatever else.

About a century ago, US labor leader Eugene Victor Debs was thrown into jail during a strike. Sitting in his cell he could not escape the conclusion that in disputes between two private interests, capital and labor, the state was not a neutral arbiter. The force of the state?with its police, militia, courts, and laws?was unequivocally on the side of the company bosses. From this, Debs concluded that capitalism was not just an economic system but an entire social order, one that rigged the rules of democracy to favor the moneybags. Capitalist rulers continue to pose as the progenitors of democracy even as they subvert it, not only at home but throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Any nation that is not ?investor friendly,? that attempts to use its land, labor, capital, natural resources, and markets in a self-developing manner, outside the dominion of transnational corporate hegemony, runs the risk of being demonized and targeted as ?a threat to U.S. national security.?

Official Washington cannot tell the American people that the real purpose of its gargantuan military expenditures and belligerent interventions is to make the world safe for General Motors, General Electric, General Dynamics, and all the other generals.

After the overthrow of communist governments in Eastern Europe, capitalism was paraded as the indomitable system that brings prosperity and democracy, the system that would prevail unto the end of history. The present economic crisis, however, has convinced even some prominent free-marketeers that something is gravely amiss. Truth be told, capitalism has yet to come to terms with several historical forces that cause it endless trouble: democracy, prosperity, and capitalism itself, the very entities that capitalist rulers claim to be fostering.

Often the term conspiracy is applied dismissively whenever one suggests that people who occupy positions of political and economic power are consciously dedicated to advancing their elite interests. Even when they openly profess their designs, there are those who deny that intent is involved. In 1994, the officers of the Federal Reserve announced they would pursue monetary policies designed to maintain a high level of unemployment in order to safeguard against overheating the economy. Like any creditor class, they preferred a deflationary course. When an acquaintance of mine mentioned this to friends, he was greeted skeptically, Do you think the Fed bankers are deliberately trying to keep people unemployed? In fact, not only did he think it, it was announced on the financial pages of the press. Still, his friends assumed he was imagining a conspiracy because he ascribed self-interested collusion to powerful people.

Almost as an article of faith, some individuals believe that conspiracies are either kooky fantasies or unimportant aberrations. To be sure, wacko conspiracy theories do exist. There are people who believe that the United States has been invaded by a secret United Nations army equipped with black helicopters, or that the country is secretly controlled by Jews or gays or feminists or black nationalists or communists or extraterrestrial aliens. But it does not logically follow that all conspiracies are imaginary.

One does not have to be a Marxist to know there is something very wrong in this society.

Archbishop Romero of El Salvador was a member of the Salvadoran aristocracy. He could not have risen to the top of the church hierarchy otherwise. But after he began voicing critical remarks about the war and concerned comments about the poor, he was assassinated.

People may like what third-party candidates say, because often they are the only ones saying anything, but they usually won't vote for someone who doesn't have a chance. Since third-party candidates are not in the news, they are considered to be not really in the race; and since they are not in the race, this justifies treating them as if they are not news.

At a World Affairs Council meeting in San Francisco, I remarked to a participant that U.S. leaders were pushing hard for the reinstatement of capitalism in the former communist countries. He said, Do you really think they carry it to that level of conscious intent? I pointed out it was not a conjecture on my part. They have repeatedly announced their commitment to seeing that free-market reforms are introduced in Eastern Europe. Their economic aid is channeled almost exclusively into the private sector. The same policy holds for the monies intended for other countries. Thus, as of the end of 1995, more than $4.5 million U.S. aid to Haiti has been put on hold because the Aristide government has failed to make progress on a program to privatize state-owned companies (New York Times 11/25/95).

Conservative pundits have a remarkable amount of free speech.

Conservatives have nothing against incumbency when it is their people who are filling the slots.

A nation as such does not give aid to another nation. More precisely, the common citizens of our country, through their taxes, give to the privileged elites of another country. As someone once said: foreign aid is when the poor people of a rich country give money to the rich people of a poor country.

The enormous gap between what US leaders do in the world and what Americans think their leaders are doing is one of the great propaganda accomplishments of the dominate political mythology.

The US government has given over $200 billion dollars in military aid to some eighty nations since World War II. US weapons sales abroad have grown to about $10 billion a year and compose about 70 percent of all arms sold on the international marketplace. Two million foreign troops and hundreds of thousands of foreign police and paramilitary have been trained, equipped, and financed by the United States. Their purpose has not been to defend their countries from outside invasion but to protect foreign investors and the ruling elites of the recipient nations from their own potentially rebellious populations.

US multilateral corporations (along with the firms of other advanced capitalistic nations) control most of the wealth, labor, and markets of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. This control does much to maldevelop the weaker nations in ways that are severely detrimental to the life chances of the common people of the Third World. The existing class structure of the Third World, so suitable to capital accumulation, must be protected from popular resistance. Through the generous application of force and terror and by cultural and political domination, the imperialist nation directly -- or through a client-state apparatus -- maintains "stability" and prevents changes in the class structure of other nations.

Capital requires protection, as do the institutions through which it operates. As capital expands its operations, the state that is associated with its protection must develop its capacity for autocratic control. Thus, the "Free World" increasingly resembles a dreary string of heartless police states.

The conquistador is inclined to put a swift sword to the natives; the capitalist finds it more profitable to work them slowly to death.

Only by establishing military supremacy were the European and North American colonizers able to eliminate the crafts and industries of Third World peoples, control their markets, extort tribute, undermine their cultures, destroy their villages, steal their lands and natural resources, enslave their labor, and accumulate vast wealth.

The first law of the market is to make the largest possible profit from other people's labor or go out of business. Profitability rather than human need is the determining condition of private investment.

No system in history [capitalism] has been more relentless in battering down ancient and fragile cultures, devouring the resources of whole regions, pulverizing centuries-old practices in a matter of years, and standardizing the varieties of human experience.

The conservative goal has been the "Third Worldization" of the United States:
an increasingly underemployed, lower-wage work-force; a small but growing moneyed class that pays almost no taxes; the privatization or elimination of human services; the elimination of public education for low-income people; the easing of restrictions against child labor; the exporting of industries and jobs to low-wage, free-trade countries; the breaking of labor unions; and the elimination of occupational safety and environmental controls and regulations.

People who think they're free in this world just haven't come to the end of their leash yet.

Author Picture
First Name
Michael
Last Name
Parenti
Birth Date
1933
Bio

American Political Scientist, Writer, Historian and Culture Critic