UK families are fleeing to Ireland as social workers continue to use false allegations and vague definitions of abuse to forcibly remove children from their parents and boost adoption statistics. RT’s documentary crew spoke to several of those families.
The UK is just one of two countries in Europe (the other is Croatia) where adoption without the consent of a child’s biological parents – known as ‘forced adoption’ – is practiced.
Despite international law calling it an emergency measure, “there were over 2,000 children forcibly taken from one family to another” last year, MP John Hemming told RT’s documentary channel (RTD). Every year, some 11,000 children are taken into local authority care without the consent of their parents.
According to the MP, social workers are instructed by their managers to advise the court to get the child adopted – even if they’re been taken care of by a competent family.
With Britain’s children’s minister, Edward Timpson, proudly announcing a 63 percent rise in adoptions since 2011, children are being removed from their families “merely to satisfy government target,” Hemming said.
UK legislation provides several reasons for removing a child from their parents, with “risk of future emotional harm” being the most widely used – and the most controversial.
“Now how do you quantify that? It’s almost impossible to quantify, but a lot of people lose their children because the social services and the courts say there’s a risk of future emotional harm,” human rights activist Yolande Lindbridge said.
It’s very difficult for parents to get their children back after a final hearing in court, because “the appeal system isn’t set up for people to win,” she stressed.
If the court rules that the forced adoption was a mistake, it often still decides to leave the child with their new family, so as “not to upset the child again,” said Bridget Robb, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers.
There are also cases when parents – especially those with complications in mental development – are told that their children will be removed even before they’ve given birth.
With limited tools to fight the system, many UK families are choosing to flee to neighboring Ireland or other foreign countries to keep their children.
Ireland is willing to provide support to those parents, unlike England, which “may identify that there may’ve been a problem, but is not willing to help you solve that problem,” according to John Paskell, a parent who fled the UK with his child.
The documentary ‘Forced Adoption: UK,’ premiering on RT and RTD on March 23, tells the story of several UK families who have experienced forced adoption and are now fighting to keep their children or have them returned.
Legislators in the U.S. state of Virginia voted Thursday to allow compensation for victims of forced sterilization, though few survivors are alive today.
“I think it’s a recognition when we do something wrong we need to fix it as a government,” said Democrat delegate Patrick Hope. “Now we can close this final chapter and healing can begin.”
Close to US$400,000 is available in a fund earmarked for compensation payments, though only around 11 sterilization victims in the state are known to be alive today. However, Hope stated if any new victims come forth, they too could be eligible for compensation.
From 1924 to 1979, over 8,000 people were forcibly sterilized in Virginia. The victims ranged from people with psychiatric disorders to people considered social misfits. While most victims were patients at state mental institutions, some were homeless people who were sterilized to reduce poverty figures. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 22 percent of victims were African-Americans, and 66 percent were women. At the time of sterilization, most victims were misled, being told they were undergoing surgical procedures for miscellaneous health issues.
Virgina’s program has often been credited with inspiring the Nazis, who used the state’s methods as a model for their own eugenics project.
Yet the program was just part of a broader and often state -sanctioned eugenics movement that flourished across the United States in the first half of the 20th Century. Like the Nazis, U.S. eugenics advocates believed they were improving the genetic purity of the population by sterilizing those with traits deemed undesirable, such as the impoverished. In some states, ethnic minorities were also targeted. No federal law existed to cover sterilization in the first half of the century, meaning states were left to regulate the practice. While most states only allowed for surgical sterilization aimed at making reproduction impossible, some went as far as allowing male victims to be castrated.
At the height of the movement, over 30 U.S. states practiced some form of forced sterilization. An estimated 65,000 people were sterilized before the practice ended nationally in the early 1980s.
Call it the reverse Robin Hood tax strategy: Republican governors in several states want to rob from the poor through higher taxes and give to the rich by cutting their taxes.
GOP Governors Paul LePage of Maine, John Kasich of Ohio, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and several others are considering raising so-called consumption taxes, such as those imposed on sales of cigarettes, gasoline, even haircuts and movie tickets, to generate more revenue for their state budgets.
At the same time, they want to slash income taxes, which would benefit wealthy taxpayers the most.
This strategy would, they argue, stimulate business creation and job growth.
But increasing sales taxes usually hurts lower income earners more than the wealthy because the former has to spend more of their earnings on food and necessities.
The report cites two national studies to support its claim. One is from the Economic
Policy Institute, which revealed that “one percent of people at the top now claim at least one sixth of all personal income in 38 states, while incomes for the middle class have remained flat,” according to the Keystone report. The second study cited is from The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, which found that “in 20 states, the top one percent pay less than half the tax rate of the middle class,” noted Keystone. “On average across the 50 states, the top one percent pay only 60 percent as much in taxes as the middle fifth.”
The report’s warnings may have come too late for several states that have already put the controversial tax juggle into practice.
“The strategy of shifting from income taxes to consumption taxes has caused huge budget shortfalls in Kansas and, more recently, North Carolina, which announced a budget shortfall of nearly half a billion dollars,” Shaila Dewan wrote at The New York Times.
To Learn More:
States Consider Increasing Taxes for the Poor and Cutting Them for the Affluent (by Shaila Dewan, New York Times )
Tax Fairness: An Answer to State Budget Problems (Keystone Research Center and Good Jobs First) (pdf)
Under the Radar, Payroll Tax Increase Hits the Working Poor (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov )
Louisiana Gov. Jindal Proposes Raising Taxes for 80% of State’s Citizens(by Matt Bewig, AllGov )
Kansas Tax Committee Approves Bill to Raise Taxes for Poor and Lower Taxes for Rich (by Matt Bewig, AllGov )
This week Britain is commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill. Millions of people worldwide watched his state funeral on television in 1965, and thousands of people lined the streets of London to pay their last respects as his cortege slowly passed. But I somehow doubt that President Obama will be adding his own warm words of remembrance for the iconic British wartime leader.
After all, his own paternal grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was one of 150,000 rebellious Kikuyu “blackamoors” forced into detention camps during Churchill’s postwar premiership, when the British government began its brutal campaign to suppress the alleged “Mau Mau” uprising in Kenya, in order to protect the privileges of the white settler population at the expense of the indigenous people. About 11,000 Kenyans were killed and 81,000 detained during the British government’s campaign to protect its imperialist heritage.
Suspected Mau Mau insurgents were subject to electric shock, whippings, burning and mutilation in order to crush the local drive for independence. Obama’s grandfather was imprisoned without trial for two years and tortured for resisting Churchill’s empire. He never truly recovered from the ordeal.
Africa was quite a playground for young Winston. Born into the privileged British elite in in 1874, educated at Harrow and Sandhurst, brought up believing the simple story that the superior white man was conquering the primitive, dark-skinned natives, and bringing them the benefits of civilisation, he set off as soon as he could to take his part in “a lot of jolly little wars against barbarous peoples,” whose violence was explained by a “strong aboriginal propensity to kill”.
In Sudan, he bragged that he personally shot at least three “savages”.
In South Africa, where “it was great fun galloping about,” he defended British built concentration camps for white Boers, saying they produced “the minimum of suffering”. The death toll was almost 28,000.
When at least 115,000 black Africans were likewise swept into British camps, where 14,000 died, he wrote only of his “irritation that Kaffirs should be allowed to fire on white men”.
(On his attitude to other races, Churchill’s doctor, Lord Moran, once said: “Winston thinks only of the colour of their skin.”
Churchill found himself in other British dominions besides Africa. As a young officer in the Swat valley, now part of Pakistan, Churchill one day experienced a fleeting revelation. The local population, he wrote in a letter, was fighting back because of “the presence of British troops in lands the local people considered their own,” – just as Britain would if she were invaded.
This idle thought was soon dismissed however , and he gladly took part in raids that laid waste to whole valleys, destroying houses and burning crops, believing the “natives” to be helpless children who will “willingly, naturally, gratefully include themselves within the golden circle of an ancient crown”.
But rebels had to be crushed with extreme force. As Colonial Secretary in the 1920s, Churchill unleashed the notorious Black and Tan thugs on Ireland’s Catholic civilians, making a hypocritical mockery of his comment:
“Indeed it is evident that Christianity, however degraded and distorted by cruelty and intolerance, must always exert a modifying influence on men’s passions, and protect them from the more violent forms of fanatical fever, as we are protected from smallpox by vaccination.”
His fear-mongering views on Islam sound strangely familiar:
“But the Mahommedan religion increases, instead of lessening, the fury of intolerance. It was originally propagated by the sword, and ever since, its votaries have been subject, above the people of all other creeds, to this form of madness.”
“On the subject of India,” said the British Secretary of State to India: “Winston is not quite sane… I didn’t see much difference between his outlook and Hitler’s.”
When Mahatma Gandhi launched his campaign of peaceful resistance against British rule in India, Churchill raged that Gandhi:
“ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi, and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back. Gandhi-ism and everything it stands for will have to be grappled with and crushed.”
In 1931 he sneered: “It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer of the type well-known in the East, now posing as a fakir, striding half naked up the steps of the Viceregal palace to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor.”
As Gandhi’s support increased, Churcill announced:
“I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”
In 1943 a famine broke out in Bengal, caused by the imperial policies of the British. In reply to the Secretary of State for India’s telegram requesting food stock to relieve the famine, Churchill wittily replied:
“If food is scarce, why isn’t Gandhi dead yet?”
Up to 3 million people starved to death. Asked in 1944 to explain his refusal to send food aid, Churchill jeered:
“Relief would do no good. Indians breed like rabbits and will outstrip any available food supply.”
Just after World War I, approximately one quarter of the world’s land and population fell within the spheres of British influence. The Empire had increased in size with the addition of territories taken from its vanquished enemies.
As British Colonial Secretary, Churchill’s power in the Middle East was immense. He “created Jordan with a stroke of a pen one Sunday afternoon”, allegedly drawing the expansive boundary map after a generous lunch. The huge zigzag in Jordan’s eastern border with Saudi Arabia has been called “Winston’s Hiccup” or “Churchill’s Sneeze”.
He is the man who invented Iraq, another arbitrary patch of desert, which was awarded to a throneless Hashemite prince; Faisal, whose brother Abdullah was given control of Jordan. Sons of King Hussein, Faisal and Abdullah had been war buddies of Churchill’s pal, the famous “T.E. Lawrence of Arabia”.
But the lines drawn in the sand by British imperialism, locking together conflicting peoples behind arbitrary borders were far from stable,and large numbers of Jordanians, Iraqis, Kurds and Palestinians were denied anything resembling real democracy.
In 1920 Churchill advocated the use of chemical weapons on the “uncooperative Arabs” involved in the Iraqi revolution against British rule.
“I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas,” he declared. “I am strongly in favor of using poison gas against uncivilized tribes. It would spread a lively terror.”
As Colonial Secretary, it was Churchill who offered the Jews their free ticket to the ‘Promised Land’ of ‘Israel’, although he thought they should not “take it for granted that the local population will be cleared out to suit their convenience.” He dismissed the Palestinians already living in the country as “barbaric hoards who ate little but camel dung.”
Addressing the Peel Commission (1937) on why Britain was justified in deciding the fate of Palestine, Churchill clearly displayed his white supremacist ideology to justify one of the most brutal genocides and mass displacements of people in history, based on his belief that “the Aryan stock is bound to triumph”:
“I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.”
In fact, many of the views Churchill held were virtually Nazi. Apart from his support of hierarchical racism, as Home Minister he had advocated euthanasia and sterilisation of the handicapped.
In 1927, after a visit to Rome, he applauded the budding fascist dictator, Mussolini:
“What a man! I have lost my heart!… Fascism has rendered a service to the entire world… If I were Italian, I am sure I would have been with you entirely from the beginning of your victorious struggle against the bestial appetites and passion of Leninism.”
(“The Bestial Appetites and Passions of Leninism”, eh? Where can I get a copy?)
But years later, in his written account of the Second World War (Vol. 111), fickle-hearted Winston applauded the downfall of his erstwhile hero:
“Hitler’s fate was sealed. Mussolini’s fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder.”
Britain’s American allies saw to that in Hiroshima and Nagasaki when they dropped their atomic bombs and killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Churchill had ordered the saturation bombing of Dresden, where, on February 13 1945, more than 500,000 German civilians and refugees, mostly women and children, were slaughtered in one day by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Army Air Force (USAAF), who dropped over 700,000 phosphorus bombs on the city.
Prime Minister Churchill had said earlier:
“I do not want suggestions as to how we can disable the economy and the machinery of war, what I want are suggestions as to how we can roast the German refugees on their escape from Breslau.”
In Dresden he got his wish. Those who perished in the centre of the city could not be traced, as the temperature in the area reached 1,600 degrees Centigrade. Dresden’s citizens barely had time to reach their shelters and many who sought refuge underground suffocated as oxygen was pulled from the air to feed the flames. Others perished in a blast of white heat strong enough to melt human flesh.
Instead of being charged with being responsible for ordering one of the most horrific war crimes of recent history, in which up to half a million people died screaming in his firestorms, Churchill emerged from the war as a hero. An unwavering supporter of the British monarchy throughout his life, he was made a knight of the Order of the Garter, Britain’s highest order of knighthoods, by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
“The monarchy is so extraordinarily useful. When Britain wins a battle she shouts, “God save the Queen”; when she loses, she votes down the prime minister,” he once said.
Shortly after the Second World War was won, however, Churchill’s Conservative government was voted down by a Britain tired of battle, austerity, and hungry for change.
“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it,” said Churchill, and to a certain extent he succeeded. ‘Winnie’ became Britain’s great national icon, with his trade-mark cigar and V-sign, remembered for leading Britain through her finest hour (we won’t mention his eccentric habit of pacing about the office in the nude while dictating to secretaries!) The fat cigar clamped in his mouth a symbol of cocky British defiance, Churchill was a genial courageous Big Brother figure, revered by the media. His stirring wartime speech:
“We shall fight them on the beaches! We shall never surrender!” makes no mention of “We shall bomb them in their cities! We shall make them suffer!”
Churchill’s brutality and brutishness have been ignored, but he never reckoned on the invention of the internet, or its power to allow authors to question his view of history and expose the cruelty and racism of the man.
When George W Bush moved out of the White House he left a bust of Winston Churchill in the Oval office. He’d used it to inspire him on his ‘war against terrorism’. Barack Obama had it removed. I wonder if he found the bust offensive? Was it out of respect for the pain and distress his Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, suffered on Churchill’s orders?
Removing a bust is a fairly simple matter, but toppling a statue is quite another. In Westminster Square in front of Parliament in London there are several statues of deceased politicians and dignitaries, one of which I find particularly distasteful. Hands clasped behind back, the jodphur-clad figure striding purposely forward is that of Jan Christian Smuts racist forefather of the Apartheid system in South Africa.
As for Churchill, who, as Home Secretary, said:
‘I propose that 100,000 degenerate Britons should be forcibly sterilized and others put in labour camps to halt the decline of the British race.’
His hulking toadish statue stands tall on a granite plinth, clutching a walking stick, his unblinking bulldog gaze on the Houses of Parliament where he reigned twice as a Conservative Prime Minister.
If I were Prime Minister of Great Britain, one of the first things on my list would be the removal of memorials to facist-minded racist imperialists. The statues of Smuts and Churchill in Parliament Square would be the first to come down.
Michael Dickinson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
January 28, 2015 Posted by aletho | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Supremacism, Social Darwinism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | UK, Winston Churchill | 1 Comment
The world’s wealthiest 1 percent are expected to own more than 50 percent of the world’s wealth by 2016, the UK-based charity Oxfam International reported Monday.
“The richest people in the world have seen their share of global wealth increase to 48 percent in 2014 from 44 per cent in 2009,” Oxfam said in the 12-page report entitled “Wealth: Having it all, and wanting more.”
The average wealth per adult in this group is $2.7 million (2.3 million euros), Oxfam said.
“At this rate, it will be more than 50 percent in 2016,” the report read.
The majority of the remaining 52 percent of global wealth shared between the other 99 percent is owned by the richest 20 percent, leaving just 5.5 percent for the remaining 80 percent of people in the world — the equivalent of $3,851 (3,330 euros) per adult.
“Do we really want to live in a world where the 1 percent own more than the rest of us combined? The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering,” Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, warned.
In 2010, the richest 80 people in the world had a net wealth of $1.3 trillion, according to the report. By 2014, the 80 people who top the Forbes rich list had a collective wealth of $1.9 trillion, an increase of $600 billion in just 4 years.
Byanyima said failure to tackle inequality will set the fight against poverty back decades.
“The poor are hurt twice by rising inequality — they get a smaller share of the economic pie and because extreme inequality hurts growth, there is less pie to be shared around.”
Economists say extreme income inequality has consequences for economic growth and on development.
“Income inequality has a negative and statistically significant impact on subsequent growth. In particular, what matters most is the gap between low income households and the rest of the population,” economist Federico Cingano wrote in a study published by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in June 2014.
Rising inequality is estimated to have knocked more than 10 percentage points off growth in Mexico and New Zealand. In the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland and Norway, the growth rate would have been more than one fifth higher had income disparities not widened, the study shows.
“On the other hand, greater equality helped increase GDP per capita in Spain, France and Ireland prior to the crisis,” Cingano wrote.
It also has an effect on human capital: “Increased income disparities depress skills development among individuals with poorer parental education backgrounds, both in terms of the quantity of education attained (e.g. years of schooling), and in terms of its quality (i.e. skill proficiency),” Cingano said.
Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz agreed.
“The extreme inequalities in incomes and assets we see in much of the world today harms our economies, our societies, and undermines our politics. Whilst we should all worry about this it is of course the poorest who suffer most, experiencing not just vastly unequal outcomes in their lives, but vastly unequal opportunities too,” Stiglitz said on Oxfam’s website.
Oxfam called upon states to tackle tax evasion, improve public services, tax capital rather than labor, and introduce living minimum wages, among other measures, in a bid to ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth.
The consequences of policies to reduce income inequality could be significant, the Oxfam report said. If India stopped inequality from rising, 90 million more men and women could be lifted out of extreme poverty by 2019, according to the report.
(Anadolu, Al-Akhbar, AFP)
The head of a major Jewish organization in the EU is calling upon lawmakers to revise European gun control laws to allow Jews to begin arming themselves–presumably for self protection.
“The Paris attacks, as well as the many challenges and threats which have been presented to the European Jewish community in recent years, have revealed the urgent need to stop talking and start acting,” says Rabbi Menachem Margolin, General Director of the European Jewish Association.
“We hereby ask that gun licensing laws are reviewed with immediate effect to allow designated people in the Jewish communities and institutions to own weapons for the essential protection of their communities,” he adds.
Margolin made the remarks in a letter, which can be viewed in PDF format here, and while he does not specifically call for Jews to be exempted from laws barring citizens from carrying weapons in public, concealed or otherwise, that does seem to be the interpretation that RT, as well as the Jewish website Arutz Sheva, are giving it.
“A prominent European rabbi has called on governments to relax gun-licensing legislation to allow Jews to carry firearms for self-defense, following last week’s deadly Paris attacks and amid rising anti-Semitism on the continent,” says Arutz Sheva.
“The biggest Jewish association in the EU has called on lawmakers in Brussels to let Jewish people carry guns ‘for the essential protection of their communities’ in the aftermath of Paris shootings,” reports RT.
The letter is dated January 13, and seems to have given rise to public confusion in one other aspect as well. A “clarification” posted on January 17 does not clear up the question of whether Margolin and the EJA are asking for Jews to be exempted from certain gun regulations–but it does address the matter of whether the rabbi was issuing a general call-to-arms for all Jews, or perhaps only some. Apparently there were those who construed his remarks as advocating for pistols in the purses, waistbands and holsters of every single Jew in Europe.
“He never claimed that every Jew should carry a gun,” the clarification states, additionally reaffirming that guns would be issued only to “designated personnel that will undergo thorough investigation and training by local authorities.” But in a statement to Newsweek, the rabbi also said he felt that “as many people within the Jewish community as possible” should carry weapons.
In either event, what Margolin does clearly seem to be calling for is that Jews be given special consideration over Gentiles in the issuance of gun permits.
“There are too many Jewish people who feel insecure in Europe,” Margolin told RT.
“What I am asking is that the good people, those who live under danger, will be able to protect their life. Otherwise we might be again in the situation and we won’t be surprised if another time an attack against a Jewish institution is going to happen, people will be dead without any possibility to protect their life,” he added.
Can European political leaders, who seem abjectly servile to Jewish lobbies (possibly even more so these days than are American leaders), be expected to go along with the EJA’s request? Will we see the “designated” Jews freely carrying weapons as they walk about the streets of European cities, entering stores and cafes with them, while Gentiles remain strictly subject to current restrictive gun regulations? If so, how do you suppose this will effect the level of anti-Semitism in Europe? Will it cause it to go down… or up?
One can imagine that getting EU politicians to “stop talking and start acting” would not be a terribly hard trick for a well-funded Jewish lobby to pull off.
I find myself torn these days between two lines of thought: a) that Jewish leaders, through their words and actions, deliberately stoke anti-Semitism in order to achieve certain objectives they see as beneficial; and, b) that Jewish leaders–blinded maybe by their sense of supremacy and chosenness–remain essentially oblivious to how they are perceived by others, making resultant rises in anti-Semitism simply the inevitable byproduct of their words and actions.
Of course the human mind certainly operates on more than one level of consciousness, particularly when in the grip of psychosis, so perhaps the answer is it’s both.
The Five Points district of lower Manhattan, painted by George Catlin in 1827. New York’s first free Black settlement, Five Points was also a destination for Irish immigrants and a focal point for the stormy collective life of the new working class. Cops were invented to gain control over neighborhoods and populations like this.
In England and the United States, the police were invented within the space of just a few decades—roughly from 1825 to 1855.
The new institution was not a response to an increase in crime, and it really didn’t lead to new methods for dealing with crime. The most common way for authorities to solve a crime, before and since the invention of police, has been for someone to tell them who did it.
Besides, crime has to do with the acts of individuals, and the ruling elites who invented the police were responding to challenges posed by collective action. To put it in a nutshell: The authorities created the police in response to large, defiant crowds. That’s
— strikes in England,
— riots in the Northern US,
— and the threat of slave insurrections in the South.
So the police are a response to crowds, not to crime.
I will be focusing a lot on who these crowds were, how they became such a challenge. We’ll see that one difficulty for the rulers, besides the growth of social polarization in the cities, was the breakdown of old methods of personal supervision of the working population. In these decades, the state stepped in to fill the social breach.
We’ll see that, in the North, the invention of the police was just one part of a state effort to manage and shape the workforce on a day-to-day basis. Governments also expanded their systems of poor relief in order to regulate the labor market, and they developed the system of public education to regulate workers’ minds. I will connect those points to police work later on, but mostly I’ll be focusing on how the police developed in London, New York, Charleston (South Carolina), and Philadelphia.
* * * * *
To get a sense of what’s special about modern police, it will help to talk about the situation when capitalism was just beginning. Specifically, let’s consider the market towns of the late medieval period, about 1,000 years ago.
The dominant class of the time wasn’t in the towns. The feudal landholders were based in the countryside. They didn’t have cops. They could pull together armed forces to terrorize the serfs—who were semi-slaves—or they could fight against other nobles. But these forces were not professional or full-time.
The population of the towns was mostly serfs who had bought their freedom, or simply escaped from their masters. They were known as bourgeois, which means town-dweller. The bourgeoisie pioneered economic relations that later became known as capitalism.
For the purposes of our discussion, let’s say that a capitalist is somebody who uses money to make more money. At the beginning, the dominant capitalists were merchants. A merchant takes money to buy goods in order to sell them for more money. There are also capitalists who deal only with money—bankers—who lend out a certain amount in order to get more back.
You could also be a craftsman who buys materials and makes something like shoes in order to sell them for more money. In the guild system, a master craftsman would work alongside and supervise journeymen and apprentices. The masters were profiting from their work, so there was exploitation going on, but the journeymen and apprentices had reasonable hopes of becoming masters themselves eventually. So class relations in the towns were quite fluid, especially in comparison to the relation between noble and serf. Besides, the guilds operated in ways that put some limits on exploitation, so it was the merchants who really accumulated capital at that time.
In France, in the 11th and 12th centuries, these towns became known as communes. They incorporated into communes under various conditions, sometimes with the permission of a feudal lord, but in general they were seen as self-governing entities or even city-states.
But they didn’t have cops. They had their own courts—and small armed forces made up of the townsmen themselves. These forces generally had nothing to do with bringing people up on charges. If you got robbed or assaulted, or were cheated in a business deal, then you, the citizen, would press the charges.
One example of this do-it-yourself justice, a method that lasted for centuries, was known as the hue and cry. If you were in a marketplace and you saw somebody stealing, you were supposed to yell and scream, saying “Stop, thief!” and chase after the thief. The rest of the deal was that anybody who saw you do this was supposed to add to the hue and cry and also run after the thief.
The towns didn’t need cops because they had a high degree of social equality, which gave people a sense of mutual obligation. Over the years, class conflicts did intensify within the towns, but even so, the towns held together—through a common antagonism to the power of the nobles and through continued bonds of mutual obligation.
For hundreds of years, the French carried an idealized memory of these early commune towns—as self-governing communities of equals. So it’s no surprise that in 1871, when workers took over Paris, they named it the Commune. But that’s jumping a little farther forward than we should just yet.
* * * * *
Capitalism underwent major changes as it grew up inside feudal society. First of all, the size of capital holdings grew. Remember, that’s the point—to make smaller piles of money into bigger piles of money. The size of holdings began to grow astronomically during the conquest of the Americas, as gold and silver were looted from the New World and Africans were kidnapped to work on plantations.
More and more things were produced for sale on the market. The losers in market competition began to lose their independence as producers and had to take wage jobs. But in places like England, the biggest force driving people to look for wage work was the state-endorsed movement to drive peasants off the land.
The towns grew as peasants became refugees from the countryside, while inequality grew within the cities. The capitalist bourgeoisie became a social layer that was more distinct from workers than it used to be. The market was having a corrosive effect on solidarity of craft guilds—something I’ll take up in more detail when I talk about New York. Workshops got bigger than ever, as a single English boss would be in command of maybe dozens of workers. I’m talking about the mid-1700s here, the period right before real factory industrialization began.
There still weren’t cops, but the richer classes began to resort to more and more violence to suppress the poor population. Sometimes the army was ordered to shoot into rebellious crowds, and sometimes the constables would arrest the leaders and hang them. So class struggle was beginning to heat up, but things really began to change when the Industrial Revolution took off in England.
* * * * *
At the same time, the French were going through a political and social revolution of their own, beginning in 1789. The response of the British ruling class was to panic over the possibility that English workers would follow the French lead. They outlawed trade unions and meetings of more than 50 people.
Nevertheless, English workers put together bigger and bigger demonstrations and strikes from about 1792 to 1820. The ruling class response was to send in the army. But there are really only two things the army could do, and they’re both bad. They could refuse to shoot, and the crowd would get away with whatever it came to do. Or they could shoot into the crowd and produce working-class martyrs.
This is exactly what happened in Manchester in 1819. Soldiers were sent charging into a crowd of 80,000, injuring hundreds of people and killing 11. Instead of subduing the crowd, this action, known as the Peterloo Massacre, provoked a wave of strikes and protests.
Even the time-honored tactic of hanging the movement’s leaders began to backfire. An execution would exert an intimidating effect on a crowd of 100, but crowds now ranged up to 50,000 supporters of the condemned man, and the executions just made them want to fight. The growth of British cities, and the growth of social polarization within them—that is, two quantitative changes—had begun to produce qualitatively new outbreaks of struggle.
The ruling class needed new institutions to get this under control. One of them was the London police, founded in 1829, just 10 years after Peterloo. The new police force was designed specifically to inflict nonlethal violence upon crowds to break them up while deliberately trying to avoid creating martyrs. Now, any force that’s organized to deliver violence on a routine basis is going to kill some people. But for every police murder, there are hundreds or thousands of acts of police violence that are nonlethal—calculated and calibrated to produce intimidation while avoiding an angry collective response.
When the London police were not concentrated into squads for crowd control, they were dispersed out into the city to police the daily life of the poor and working class. That sums up the distinctive dual function of modern police: There is the dispersed form of surveillance and intimidation that’s done in the name of fighting crime; and then there’s the concentrated form of activity to take on strikes, riots, and major demonstrations.
That’s what they were invented for—to deal with crowds—but what we see most of the time is the presence of the cop on the beat. Before I talk about the evolution of police in New York, I want to explore the connection between these two modes of police work.
I’ll begin with the more general topic of class struggle over the use of outdoor space. This is a very consequential issue for workers and the poor. The outdoors is important to workers
— for work
— for leisure and entertainment
— for living space, if you don’t have a home
… and for politics.
First, about work. While successful merchants could control indoor spaces, those without so many means had to set themselves up as vendors on the street. The established merchants saw them as competitors and got the police to remove them.
Street vendors are also effective purveyors of stolen goods because they’re mobile and anonymous. It wasn’t just pickpockets and burglars who made use of street vendors this way. The servants and slaves of the middle class also stole from their masters and passed the goods on to the local vendors. (By the way, New York City had slavery until 1827.) The leakage of wealth out of the city’s comfortable homes is another reason that the middle class demanded action against street vendors.
The street was also simply where workers would spend their free time—because their homes were not comfortable. The street was a place where they could get friendship and free entertainment, and, depending on the place and time, they might engage in dissident religion or politics. British Marxist historian EP Thompson summed all this up when he wrote that 19th century English police were
impartial, attempting to sweep off the streets with an equable hand street traders, beggars, prostitutes, street-entertainers, pickets, children playing football and freethinking and socialist speakers alike. The pretext very often was that a complaint of interruption of trade had been received from a shopkeeper.
On both sides of the Atlantic, most arrests were related to victimless crimes, or crimes against the public order. Another Marxist historian Sidney Harring noted: “The criminologist’s definition of ‘public order crimes’ comes perilously close to the historian’s description of ‘working-class leisure-time activity.’”
Outdoor life was—and is—especially important to working-class politics. Established politicians and corporate managers can meet indoors and make decisions that have big consequences because these people are in command of bureaucracies and workforces. But when working people meet and make decisions about how to change things, it usually doesn’t count for much unless they can gather some supporters out on the street, whether it’s for a strike or a demonstration. The street is the proving ground for much of working-class politics, and the ruling class is fully aware of that. That’s why they put the police on the street as a counter-force whenever the working class shows its strength.
Now we can look at the connections between the two major forms of police activity—routine patrols and crowd control. The day-to-day life of patrolling gets police accustomed to using violence and the threat of violence. This gets them ready to pull off the large-scale acts of repression that are necessary when workers and the oppressed rise up in larger groups. It’s not just a question of getting practice with weapons and tactics. Routine patrol work is crucial to creating a mindset among police that their violence is for the greater good.
The day-to-day work also allows commanders to discover which cops are most comfortable inflicting pain—and then to assign them to the front lines when it comes to a crackdown. At the same time, the “good cop” you may meet on the beat provides crucial public-relations cover for the brutal work that needs to be done by the “bad cops.” Routine work can also become useful in periods of political upheaval because the police have already spent time in the neighborhoods trying to identify the leaders and the radicals.
* * * * *
Now we can jump back into the historical narrative and talk about New York City.
I’ll begin with a couple of points about the traditions of crowds before the revolution. During the colonial period, people got rowdy sometimes, but it was often formalized in ways that the colonial elite would approve or at least tolerate. There were various celebrations that fell in the category of “misrule,” in which social positions were reversed and the lower orders could pretend that they were on the top. This was a way for the subordinate classes to blow off steam by satirizing their masters—a way that acknowledged the right of the elite to be in charge on every other day of the year. This tradition of symbolic misrule was especially prominent around Christmas and New Year’s. Even slaves would be allowed to participate.
There was also a yearly celebration of Pope Day, in which members of the Protestant majority would parade around with effigies, including one of the Pope—until they burned them all at the end. A little sectarian provocation, “all in good fun,” all approved by the city fathers. At that point, Pope Day didn’t usually lead to violence against actual Catholics because there were only a few hundred in New York and not a single Catholic church before the revolution.
These crowd traditions were loud and even riotous, but they tended to reinforce the connection between the lower orders and the elite, not to break that connection.
The lower orders were also bound to the elite by constant personal supervision. This applied to slaves and house servants, of course, but apprentices and journeyman craftsmen also lived in the same house with the master. So there were not a lot of these subordinate people roaming around the streets at all hours. In fact, there was a colonial ordinance for a while that said that working people could be on the streets only when they were going to and from work.
This situation left sailors and day laborers as the city’s rowdiest unsupervised elements. But sailors spent most of their time near the waterfront, and the laborers—that is, the class of regular wage workers—were not yet a large group.
Under these circumstances where most people were already supervised during the day, there was no need for regular police force. There was a night watch, which tried to guard against vandalism and arrested any Black person who couldn’t prove that s/he was free. The watch was not professional in any way. All of them had day jobs and rotated into watch duty temporarily, so they didn’t patrol regular beats—and everybody hated doing it. The rich bought their way out of it by paying for substitutes.
During the day, a small number of constables were on duty, but they didn’t patrol. They were agents of the court who executed writs like summonses and arrest warrants. They did not do detective work. In the 1700s and well into the 1800s, the system relied almost entirely on civilian informants who were promised a portion of any fine that the offender might have to pay.
* * * * *
The revolutionary period changed a few things about the role of crowds and the relation between classes. In the 1760s, beginning with the agitation against the Stamp Act, the elite of merchants and property-holders endorsed new forms of popular mobilization. These were new loud demonstrations and riots that borrowed from existing traditions, obviously in the use of effigies. Instead of burning the Pope, they’d burn the governor, or King George.
I don’t have time to go into detail about what they did, but it’s important to note the class composition of these crowds. Members of the elite might be there themselves, but the body of these crowds was the skilled workers, collectively known as the mechanics. That means that a master would be out in the crowd with his journeymen and apprentices. People of higher social rank tended to view the master craftsmen as their lieutenants for mobilizing the rest of the mechanics.
As the conflict with Britain intensified, the mechanics became more radicalized and organized themselves independently from the colonial elite. There was friction between the mechanics and the elite, but never a complete breach.
And, naturally, when the British were defeated and the elite set up their own government, they had had enough of all this street agitation. There continued to be rebellions and riots in the new independent United States, but they were taking new shapes—partly because economic development was breaking up the unity of the mechanics themselves.
* * * * *
I’ll turn now to those developments that followed the revolution—changes that produced a new working class out of a conflicted hodgepodge of social elements.
Let’s start with the skilled workers. Even before the revolution, the division between masters and journeymen had sharpened. To understand this, we should look more closely at the lingering influence of the guild system; formal guilds did not exist in United States, but some of their traditions lived on among skilled workers.
The old guilds had essentially been cartels, unions of workers who had a monopoly on a particular skill that allowed them to manage the market. They could set customary prices for their goods and even decide beforehand how big the market was going to be.
The managed market allowed for some customary stability of relations among workers of the same trade. A master acquired an apprentice as an indentured servant from his parents in return for a promise of teaching him a skill and giving him room and board for seven years. Apprentices graduated to become journeymen, but often continued to work for the same master as long as there is no slot for them to become masters themselves. Journeymen received customary wages with long-term contracts. This meant that pay would keep coming in despite seasonal variations in the amount of work. Even without the formal structure of guilds, much of this customary set of relations was still in place in the pre-revolutionary period.
From about 1750 to 1850, however, this corporative structure within the skilled trades was falling apart because the external relation—the tradesmen’s control of the market—was also beginning to break down. Trade that came from other cities or from overseas would undermine the masters’ ability to set prices, so workshops were thrown into competition with each other in a way that’s familiar today.
Competition drove the masters to become more like entrepreneurs, seeking out labor-saving innovation and treating their workers more like disposable wage workers. Enterprises became larger and more impersonal—more like factories, with dozens of employees.
In the first decades of the 19th century, employees were not only losing their long-term contracts, but they also were losing their place to live in the masters’ households. The apprentices found this to be a liberating experience, as young men got out from under the authority of their parents and their masters. Free to come and go as they pleased, they could meet young women and create their own social life among their peers. Working women were employed mostly in household service of various types unless they were prostitutes.
Outdoor life became transformed as these young people mingled with the other parts of the population that comprised the developing working class.
The mingling wasn’t always peaceful. Irish Catholic immigration expanded after 1800. By 1829, there were about 25,000 Catholics in the city—one person out of eight. The Irish were segregated by neighborhood, often living alongside Blacks, who themselves were now about 5 percent of the population. In 1799, Protestants burned an effigy of St. Patrick, and the Irish fought back. These battles recurred over the next few years, and it was clear to the Irish that the constables and the watch were taking sides against them.
So, before there were even modern police forces, the lawmen were doing racial profiling. The city’s elite took note of the Irish lack of respect for the watch—their open combativeness—and responded by expanding the watch and making its patrols more targeted. This went along with increasing police attention to Africans, who lived in the same areas and often had the same attitude toward the authorities.
Underlying the sectarian and racial divisions were economic competition, since Irish workers were generally less skilled and drew lower wages than craft workers. At the same time, masters were trying to de-skill the jobs in the workshops. In this way, Anglo apprentices became part of a real labor market as they lost their long-term contracts. When this happened, they found themselves just a rung above Irish immigrants on the wage scale. Black workers, who performed domestic service or worked as general laborers, were a further rung or two down the wage scale from the Irish.
At the same time, the older unskilled part of the wage-working class, centered around the docks and building construction, was expanding because trade and construction both expanded after the Revolution.
Overall, population expanded rapidly. New York was 60,000 in 1800, but it doubled in size by 1820. In 1830, New York had more than 200,000 people—and 312,000 by 1840.
* * * * *
That’s a rough profile of New York’s new working class.
In these decades, all sections of the class went into collective action on their own behalf. It’s quite a complicated story, because of the number of actions and the fragmentation of the class. But we could start with a generalization that the most common form of struggle was also the most elementary—the riot.
Now some specifics. From 1801 to 1832, Black New Yorkers rioted four times to prevent former slaves from being sent back to their out-of-town masters. These efforts generally failed, the watch responded violently, and the participants received unusually harsh sentences. White abolitionists joined in the condemnations of these riots. So these riots illustrate popular self-activity despite elite disapproval—not to mention racial disparity in the application of the law.
There was also white harassment of black churches and theaters, sometimes rising to the level of riots. Poor immigrants were involved, but sometimes rich whites and the constables themselves took part. One anti-Black riot raged for three days in 1826, damaging Black houses and churches—along with houses and churches of white abolitionist ministers.
But there wasn’t just conflict between Black and white workers. In 1802, white and Black sailors struck for higher wages. As with most strikes during this period, the method was something that historian Eric Hobsbawm called “collective bargaining by riot.” In this case, strikers disabled the ships that were hiring at the lower wages. Dockworkers also united across racial and sectarian lines for militant strikes in 1825 and 1828.
Job actions by skilled workers like journeymen didn’t usually need to resort to such physical coercion, because they possessed a monopoly on the relevant skills. Journeymen nevertheless became more militant in these years. Strikes in the skilled trades happened in 3 waves, starting in 1809, 1822 and 1829. Each wave was more militant and coercive than the previous—as they targeted other skilled workers who broke solidarity. In 1829, the journeymen led a movement to limit the workday to 10 hours and created the Workingmen’s Party. The party collapsed in the same year, but it led to the founding the General Trade Union in 1833.
While workers grew more conscious of themselves as a class, they also began to engage in more and more “run-of-the-mill” riots wherever crowds gathered, in taverns or in theaters or in the street. Such riots may have had no clear economic or political objective, but they were still instances of collective self-assertion by the working class—or by ethnic and racial fractions of the class. In the opening decades of the century, there was one of these riots about four times a year, but in the period from 1825 to 1830, New Yorkers rioted at a rate of once per month.
One of these riots in particular alarmed the elite. Known as the Christmas riot of 1828, it actually happened at New Year’s. A noisy crowd of about 4,000 young Anglo workers brought out their drums and noisemakers and headed toward Broadway where the rich lived. On the way, they busted up an African church and beat the church members. The watch arrested several of the rioters, but the crowd rescued them and sent the watch running.
The crowd picked up some more numbers and turned toward the commercial district, where they busted up the stores. At the Battery, they broke windows in some of the city’s richest homes. Then they headed back up Broadway because they knew that the rich were having their own celebration at the City Hotel. There the crowd blocked the coaches from exiting.
A large contingent of the watch showed up, but the leaders of the crowd called a five-minute truce. This allowed the watch to think about the fight that they were about to get into. When the five minutes were up, the watch stepped aside, and the deafening crowd marched past them up Broadway.
This spectacle of working-class defiance took place in full view of the families that ran New York City. Newspapers immediately began calling for a major expansion of the watch, so the Christmas Riot accelerated a set of incremental reforms that finally lead to the creation the New York City Police Department in 1845.
The reforms of 1845 enlarged the police force, professionalized them, and centralized them with a more military chain of command. The watch was expanded to 24 hours, and policemen were forbidden from taking a second job. The pay was increased, and police no longer received a portion of the fines that were extracted from offenders.
This meant the cops were no longer going out on patrol looking for how they were going to make a living, a process that could lead to a strange selection of prosecutions. Eliminating the fee system gave commanders greater freedom to set policy and priorities—and thus made the department more responsive to the shifting needs of the economic elite.
That’s how the New York police got started.
The story of police in the South is a bit different, as you might expect.
One of the first modern-type police forces came in Charleston, South Carolina, in the years before New York force became fully professional. The precursor of the Charleston’s police force was not a set of urban watchmen but slave patrols that operated in the countryside. As one historian put it, “throughout all of the [Southern] states [before the Civil War], roving armed police patrols scoured the countryside day and night, intimidating, terrorizing, and brutalizing slaves into submission and meekness.”
These were generally volunteer forces of white citizens who provided their own weapons. Over time, the system got adapted to city life. Charleston’s population did not explode like New York’s. In 1820, there were still less than 25,000 people—but half of them were Black.
The only way that the South could pull off any real industrialization was to allow slaves to work in wage jobs in the cities. Some slaves were owned directly by factory owners, especially in the South’s most industrial city, Richmond. Most urban slaves, however, were owned by white town-dwellers who used them for personal service and “rented them out” to wage-paying employers.
At first, the masters found the jobs for their slaves and took all of the wages for themselves. But they quickly found it most convenient to let their slaves find their own jobs while collecting a flat fee from the slave for the time spent away from the master.
This new set of arrangements fundamentally altered the relation between slaves and their masters—not to mention among the slaves themselves. For long stretches of time, the slaves got out from under the direct supervision of their masters, and slaves could make cash for themselves above and beyond the fees they paid their masters. Many African Americans could even afford to live outside their masters’ households. Slaves could marry and cohabit independently. By the first decades of the 19th century, Charleston had a Black suburb, populated mostly by slaves alongside some freedmen.
The South’s white population, both in town and country, lived in constant fear of insurrection. In the countryside, however, Blacks were under constant surveillance, and there were few opportunities within the grueling work regime for slaves to develop wide social connections. The dramatically freer circumstances in the cities meant that the state had to step in to do the job of repression that the slavemasters had usually taken care of themselves.
The Charleston Guard and Watch developed by trial and error into a recognizably modern city-run police force by the 1820s, performing both day-to-day harassment of the Black population and staying on call for rapid mobilization to control crowds. It received a big push toward professionalization in 1822 when plans for a coordinated slave insurrection were discovered. They crushed the insurrection, and then they bulked up the force.
The Southern force was more militarized than in the North, even before professionalization. Mounted police were the exception in the North, but they were the rule in the South. And Southern police carried guns, with bayonets.
The specific history of police forces varied in all American cities, but since they were facing similar problems in repressing urban workers and the poor, they all tended to converge on similar institutional solutions. The Southern experience also reinforces the point that was already clear in the North: Anti-Black racism was built into American police work from the very first day.
* * * * *
Toward the end, I’ll say a few words about Philadelphia, but before that, I’m going to draw out some themes that apply to all of these cases.
First of all, we need to put policing in the context of a bigger ruling-class project of managing and shaping the working class. I said at the beginning that the emergence of workers’ revolt coincided with a breakdown of old methods of constant personal supervision of the workforce. The state stepped in to provide supervision. The cops were part of that effort, but in the North, the state also expanded its programs of poor relief and public schooling.
Police work was integrated with the system of poor relief, as constables worked on registration of the poor and their placement in workhouses. That’s even before the police were professionalized—the constables were sorting out the “deserving poor” from the “undeserving poor.” If people were unemployed and unable to work, constables would direct them toward charity from churches or the city itself. But if folks were able to work, they were judged to be “idlers” and sent off to the horrors of the workhouse.
The system for poor relief made a crucial contribution to the creation of the market for wage labor. The key function of the relief system was to make unemployment so unpleasant and humiliating that people were willing to take ordinary jobs at very low wages just to avoid unemployment. By punishing the poorest people, capitalism creates a low baseline for the wage scale and pulls the whole scale downward.
The police no longer play such a direct role in selecting people for relief, but they do deliver a good deal of the punishment. As we know, lots of police work has to do with making life unpleasant for unemployed people on the street.
The rise of modern policing also coincides with the rise of public education. Public schools accustom children to the discipline of the capitalist workplace; children are separated from their families to perform a series of tasks alongside others, under the direction of an authority figure, according to a schedule ruled by a clock. The school reform movement of the 1830s and 40s also aimed to shape the students’ moral character. The effect of this was supposed to be that students would willingly submit to authority, that they would be able to work hard, exercise self-control, and delay gratification.
In fact, the concepts of good citizenship that came out of school reform movement were perfectly aligned with the concepts of criminology that were being invented to categorize people on the street. The police were to focus not just on crime but on criminal types—a method of profiling backed up by supposedly scientific credentials. The “juvenile delinquent,” for example, is a concept that is common to schooling and policing—and has helped to link the two activities in practice.
This ideology of good citizenship was supposed to have a big effect inside the heads of students, encouraging them to think that the problems in society come from the actions of “bad guys.” A key objective of schooling, according to reformer Horace Mann, should be to implant a certain kind of conscience in the students—so that they discipline their own behavior and begin to police themselves. In Mann’s words, the objective was for children to “think of duty rather than of the policeman.”
Needless to say, an analytic scheme for dividing society between good guys and bad guys is perfect for identifying scapegoats, especially racial ones. Such a moralistic scheme was (and is) also a direct competitor to a class-conscious worldview, which identifies society’s basic antagonism as the conflict between exploiters and exploited. Police activity thus goes beyond simple repression—it “teaches” an ideology of good and bad citizenship that dovetails with the lessons of the classroom and the workhouse.
The overall point here is that the invention of the police was part of a broader expansion of state activity to gain control over the day-to-day behavior of the working class. Schooling, poor relief and police work all aimed to shape workers to become useful to—and loyal to—the capitalist class.
* * * * *
The next general point is about something we all know, and that’s this:
There is the law … and then there’s what cops do.
First, a few words about the law: Despite what you may have learned in civics class, the law is not the framework in which society operates. The law is a product of the way society operates, but it doesn’t tell you how things really work. The law is also not a framework for the way that society should operate, even though some people hold out that hope.
The law is really just one tool among others, in the hands of those who are empowered to use it, to affect the course of events. Corporations are empowered to use this tool because they can hire expensive lawyers. Politicians, prosecutors and the police are also empowered to use the law.
Now, specifically about cops and the law. The law has many more provisions than they actually use, so their enforcement is always selective. That means that they are always profiling what part of the population to target and choosing which kinds of behavior they want to change. It also means that cops have a permanent opportunity for corruption. If they have discretion over who gets picked up for a crime, they can demand a reward for not picking somebody up.
Another way to see the gap between the law and what cops do is to examine the common idea that punishment begins after conviction in a court. The thing is, anybody who’s dealt with the cops will tell you that punishment begins the moment they lay hands on you. They can arrest you and put you in jail without ever filing charges. That’s punishment, and they know it. That’s not to mention the physical abuse you might get, or the ways they can mess with you even if they don’t arrest you.
So the cops order people around every day without a court order, and they punish people every day without a court judgment. Obviously, then, some of the key social functions of the police are not written into the law. They’re part of police culture that cops learn from each other with encouragement and direction from their commanders.
This brings us back to a theme that I started with at the very beginning. The law deals with crimes, and individuals are charged with crimes. But the police were really invented to deal with what workers and the poor had become in their collective expressions: Cops deal with crowds, neighborhoods, targeted parts of the population—all collective entities.
They may use the law as they do this, but their broad directives come to them as policy from their commanders or from their own instincts as experienced cops. The policy directives frequently have a collective nature—say, to gain control of an unruly neighborhood. They decide to do that, and then they figure out what laws to use.
That’s the meaning of “zero tolerance” policies, “broken windows” policies—policies that, in the past, might have been frankly termed “uppity nigger” policies. The aim is to intimidate and assert control over a mass of people by acting on a few. Such tactics have been built into police work from the very beginning. The law is a tool to use on individuals, but the real goal is to control the behavior of the larger mass.
* * * * *
I’ll use my last few minutes to talk about some alternatives.
One of them is a justice system that existed in the United States before the rise of the police. It’s well documented for Philadelphia, so that’s the place I’ll discuss. Colonial Philadelphia developed a system called the minor courts in which most criminal prosecutions took place. The mayor and the aldermen served as the judges—the magistrates. Poor people would save up money so they could pay a fee to the magistrate to hear a case.
Then, as now, most crime was committed by poor people against poor people. In these courts, the victim of assault, theft, or defamation would act as prosecutor. A constable might get involved in order to bring in the accused, but that’s not the same thing as a cop making an arrest. The whole action was driven by the victim’s desires, not the state’s objectives. The accused could also counter-sue.
There were no lawyers involved on either side, so the only expense was the fee to the magistrate. The system wasn’t perfect, because the judge might be corrupt, and the life of the poor didn’t stop being miserable when they won a case. But the system was quite popular and continued operating for some time even after a system of modern police and state prosecutors developed in parallel.
The rise of the police, which came along with the rise of the prosecutors, meant that the state was putting its thumb on the scales of justice. In court, you might hope to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. Before you get to court, though, you have to pass through the hands of the cops and prosecutors who certainly don’t treat you like you’re innocent. They have a chance to pressure you or torture you into a confession—or nowadays a confession in the form of a plea bargain—before you ever get to court.
However unfair the system came to be as it was dominated by cops and prosecutors, the minor courts had shown Philadelphians that an alternative was possible that looked a lot more like dispute resolution among equals.
That’s the key—we can make an alternative available again if we abolish the unequal social relations that that police were invented to defend. When the workers of Paris took over the city for two months in 1871, they established a government under the old name of the Commune. The beginnings of social equality in Paris undercut the need for repression and allowed the Communards to experiment with abolishing the police as a separate state force, apart from the citizenry. People would elect their own officers of public safety, accountable to the electors and subject to immediate recall.
This never became a settled routine because the city was under siege from day one, but the Communards had the right idea. In order to overcome a regime of police repression, the crucial work was to live up to the name of the Commune—that is, to build a self-governing community of equals. That’s still pretty much what we need to do.
* * * * *
This is an edited text of a talk I gave in Chicago in late June 2012 at the annual Socialism conference. Audio of the talk is available at wearemany.org, but the text here corrects some mistakes I made back then.
* * * * *
On law and order in the European Middle Ages:
Tigar, Michael. Law and the Rise of Capitalism. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000.
On the working class and the police in England:
Thompson, E. P. The Making of the English Working Class. Vintage, 1966.
Farrell, Audrey. Crime, Class and Corruption. Bookmarks, 1995.
For some history in the US and insight into the functions of the police:
Williams, Kristian. Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America. Revised Edition. South End Press, 2007.
Silberman, Charles E. Criminal Violence, Criminal Justice. First Edition. New York: Vintage, 1980.
The key source on the evolution of the police in the major cities of the US:
Bacon, Selden Daskam. The Early Development of American Municipal Police: A Study of the Evolution of Formal Controls in a Changing Society. Two volumes. University Microfilms, 1939.
Specific sources on New York, Philadelphia and the South:
Gilje, Paul A. The Road to Mobocracy: Popular Disorder in New York City, 1763-1834. The University of North Carolina Press, 1987.
Steinberg, Allen. The Transformation of Criminal Justice: Philadelphia, 1800-1880. 1st edition. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1989.
Wade, Richard C. Slavery in the Cities: The South 1820–1860. Oxford University Press, 1964.
On the early years of public schooling in the US:
Bowles, Samuel, and Herbert Gintis. Schooling In Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life. Reprint. Haymarket Books, 2011.
Despite, or because of, the fallout from the 2007 Great Recession, annual earnings between the richest Americans and everybody else have exploded to record levels. Meanwhile middle- and lower-class wealth growth remains stagnant.
The median wealth for high-income families hit $639,400 last year, a whopping 7 percent jump from three years earlier and seven times greater than middle-class incomes, which stood at $96,500 according to Pew Research Center, citing data from the Federal Reserve.
Middle-class median wealth, which Pew defines as the difference between the value of a household’s total assets and debts, has not advanced since 2010.
The financial chasm now separating the rich and everybody else is the widest since the Fed began tracking earnings 30 years ago, which became even more pronounced following the 2008 global financial crisis.
“The latest data reinforces the larger story of America’s middle-class household wealth stagnation over the past three decades,” Pew said. “The Great Recession destroyed a significant amount of middle-income and lower-income families’ wealth, and the economic ‘recovery’ has yet to be felt for them.”
Pew defines middle-income households – a broad grouping – as those earning between two-thirds of and double the median income, after adjusting for the number of family members living under one roof.
For example, a single individual living alone was ranked as middle income if his/her earnings last year were between $22,000 and $66,000. For a family of four to qualify as middle-income, earnings would have to be between $44,000 and $132,000.
According to this standard, 46 percent of US households last year fell into the middle-income category, while about 33 percent were considered lower income, and 21 percent high income.
Perhaps the most shocking bit of information skimmed from the data is the poor performance of the American middle- and lower-class wealth accumulation over the last 30 years.
For middle-income families, Pew reported “practically no change in wealth over the 30-year period.” The median wealth for the middle class was $94,300 in 1983. That peaked at $158,400 in 2007 and has since fallen back to $96,500.
At the same time, the wealth of lower-income families jumped to a high of $19,100 in 2001, but has since plummeted to $9,300 last year. Median wealth for this group stood at just $11,400 in 1983.
It should perhaps come as no surprise that the wealthiest US families showed the smallest percentage drop of wealth from the outbreak of the 2007 crisis to 2010.
Due in large part to their “disproportionately large stock holdings,” the upper-income class recovered a “substantial part” of losses sustained during the crisis – primarily due to government bailout packages that injected trillions of dollars into the market to shore up the financial system – while lower-income families saw no recovery.
Over the longer period, the average wealth of upper-income families recorded last year was about double what it was in 1983, when it stood at $318,100 to $639,400 in 2013, it reported.
Pew ventured to speculate that the wide wealth disparity between the classes “could help explain why…the majority of Americans are not feeling the impact of the economic recovery, despite an improvement in the unemployment rate, stock market and housing prices.”
In October, just 20 percent of Americans rated the country’s economic conditions as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’, the polling agency said, an increase from the 8 percent who said that four years ago, but far from an optimistic outlook.
UK employers responsible for flagrant exploitation of migrant workers by violating their rights, paying them paltry wages and offering them poor working conditions, could face jail sentences under a Labour government, Ed Miliband warned on Monday.
During a speech in Norfolk, the Labour leader pledged to introduce a new law to tackle unsatisfactory and inhumane working conditions, which many migrants face in Britain. Legislation change would also help curb wage cuts for local workers, he said.
The proposed law would hold to account those that exploit migrants’ difficult situations. It would focus on criminalizing servitude, slavery, bonded labor, and toughen sentencing for those who force their staff to work under conditions that breach UK requirements. Offenders could face up to 10 years in jail, Miliband said.
To illustrate the acute crisis many migrant workers in Britain face, the Labour chief highlighted a damning case, where immigrants’ human rights were badly violated on British soil.
Some 29 immigrants claimed their wages had been stolen, and they were forced to live in cramped, unsanitary conditions. The immigrants said they were beaten, attacked by dogs and incarcerated in a van for 6 days.
Miliband pledged to clamp down on such rogue employers, particularly those who engage in slave labor or lure workers to Britain under false pretenses.
“This new criminal offence will provide protection to everyone. It will help ensure that when immigrants work here they don’t face exploitation themselves and rogue employers are stopped from undercutting the terms and conditions of everyone else,” he said.
Slave labor in Britain
Earlier this year, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) published research that revealed forced labor is a “significant” problem in Britain. The anti-poverty NGO’s report entitled ‘Forced Labour in the UK’ found the phenomenon was largely hidden, but most likely on the increase in Britain.
Drawing from a wide body of evidence, the JRF said the number of those experiencing forced labor in Britain “may run into thousands.” More recent estimates suggest the figure is even higher.
Some 10,000-13,000 victims are thought to be scratching a living in the UK, a review of police sources, the UK Border Force, charities and other bodies revealed in November.
This sobering statistic outweighs last year’s figure by the National Crime Agency’s Human Trafficking Centre, which put the number at 2,744, including 600 children.
“Likely elements within forced labor include low-skill manual and low-paid work; temporary agency work; specific industrial sectors; and certain non-UK migrant workers,” the report stated.
While the JRF’s research acknowledged the criminalization of forced labor in Britain would signal progress, the paper warned it was not a viable substitute for “an effective multi-agency, cross-departmental strategy” that includes measures to address the link between forced labor and human trafficking.
While Miliband’s speech in Norfolk addressed social and ethical concerns about immigration in Britain, reports surfaced on Sunday evening that Labour MPs had received a pre-electoral strategy paper saying they should simply “move the conversation on,” should voters express explicit fears about Britain’s border control policies.
Labour aides dismissed the leaked quotes, however, arguing they were taken out of context from a strategic document focusing on how to minimize the threat of Nigel Farage’s Euroskeptic UK Independence Party (UKIP).
But the document leaks, published by the Telegraph, suggested members of the Labour party were instructed not to dispense pamphlets on immigration to all electoral voters, as such a move risked “undermining the broad coalition of support we need to return to government.”
Miliband gave his speech in the Norfolk district of Great Yarmouth. While Labour lost its seat there in 2010, with the constituency now considered a Conservative Party stronghold, it has been identified in recent times as increasingly UKIP-friendly.
In a pre-electoral bid to sway voters to back Labour in 2015, Miliband warned on Monday neither the Tories nor UKIP were prepared to address the underlying causes of immigration.
“They turn a blind eye to exploitation and undercutting because it is part of the low-skill, low-wage, fast-buck economy they think Britain needs to succeed,” he said.
But in light of Sunday’s leaked document, questions have arisen over Labour’s smoke-and-mirrors stance on immigration. Whether Miliband’s pledge is a manifestation of clever electioneering or a solid mandate remains to be seen.
In a recent article about Shirley Jackson, the president since 1999 of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)–a private university located in Troy, New York–the Chronicle of Higher Education revealed that, in 2012 (the latest year for which statistics are available), she received over $7 million from that institution. Like many modern campus administrators, President Jackson was also given a large mansion, first class air travel, and a chauffeured luxury car to transport her around the campus.
Thanks to the fact that Jackson also serves on at least five corporate boards, including those of IBM and Marathon Oil, she supplements this income with more than a million dollars a year from these sources.
Despite repeated complaints about Jackson from faculty and students, RPI’s board of trustees has invariably expressed its total confidence in her. Indeed, the board chair recently declared that she is worth every penny of her substantial income. This unwavering support appears to be based not only upon Jackson’s fundraising prowess, but upon the corporate approach that she and the board share.
A key component of this corporate approach is embodied in Jackson’s development and implementation of the Rensselaer Plan, a venture that includes an enormous construction program at a staggering cost. Worried about their institution falling behind rivals in the race to build a high-powered, modern campus, trustees found this university expansion deeply satisfying. But it also meant that RPI ran up its debt to $828 million–over six times its level when Jackson took office. As a result, Moody’s downgraded RPI’s credit rating twice, and describes the financial outlook for RPI as “negative.”
Of course, when operating as a business, there are many ways to pay a top executive’s hefty salary and recoup huge financial losses. As is the practice on other campuses, RPI employs a considerable number of adjunct faculty members–part-timers paid by the course, with pitiful salaries, no benefits, and no guarantee of employment beyond the semester in which they are teaching. One of these adjuncts, Elizabeth Gordon, was paid $4,000 a course–about $10 an hour by her estimates. “Because the pay was so low,” she recalled, “it was like being a volunteer serving the community.” But, as the size of her RPI writing classes grew, she became concerned that the pace of grading, student meetings, and course preparation was undermining her health, which she lacked the insurance to cover. So she quit. Many other adjuncts, however, are still at RPI, scraping by on poverty-level wages and enriching President Jackson.
RPI’s adjuncts once had a voice on campus, as some of them served on RPI’s Faculty Senate. But that came to an end in 2007, when Jackson abolished that entity. From the administration’s standpoint, the abolition of the Senate had the welcome effect of not only depriving adjuncts of their minimal influence, but of crippling the power of regular faculty, as well. The previous year, a faculty vote of no confidence in Jackson’s leadership had been only narrowly defeated. Thus, the administration’s abolition of the Faculty Senate served as a pre-emptive strike. Asked by irate faculty to investigate the situation, the American Association of University Professors condemned the administration’s action as violating the basic principles of shared governance. The administration responded that RPI “has never recognized the role of the AAUP in what we regard as an internal issue.” Ultimately, faculty resistance collapsed, leaving faculty powerlessness and demoralization in its wake.
The Jackson administration, using what union organizers charged were tactics of intimidation, also succeeded in defeating efforts to unionize RPI’s downtrodden campus janitors and cafeteria workers. During one union campaign among janitors, the lead organizer recalled, security guards threw him off campus and the administration fired a janitor on the organizing committee.
In a further effort to cover the administration’s costly priorities, student tuition was raised substantially during the Jackson years. In 2013-14, it reached $45,100–$25,608 above the average tuition at New York’s four-year colleges. Of course, beyond tuition, there are expenses for college fees, room, board, and books, placing RPI’s own estimate of student costs for attendance in 2014-2015 at $64,194. Perhaps to soften the blow to students of this enormous price tag or to signal them about what type of school this is, the RPI web page remarks helpfully that “many of our professors have close ties with top global corporations.”
Having created the very model of an undemocratic, corporate university, President Jackson is appropriately imperious. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, she has a series of rules that are clear to everyone. These include: 1) Only she is authorized to set the temperature in conference rooms; 2) Cabinet members all rise when she enters the room; 3) If food is served at a meeting, vice presidents clear her plate; and 4) She is always to be publicly introduced as “The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson.” Falling into rages on occasion, she publicly abuses her staff and frequently remarks: “You know, I could fire you all.” In 2011, RPI’s Student Senate passed a resolution criticizing her “abrasive style,” “top-down leadership,” and the climate of “fear” she had instilled among administrators and staff. It even called upon RPI’s board of trustees to consider Jackson’s removal from office. But, once again, the board merely rallied in her defense.
Perhaps, though, the response of the board of trustees is not surprising. After all, developments at RPI are very much in line with trends at institutions of higher education: inflating administration salaries; exploiting adjunct faculty, regular faculty, and other workers; strengthening administration power; raising tuition to astronomical heights; and, above all, running colleges and universities like modern business enterprises. RPI actually presents us with a glimpse of the future of higher education―a future that we might not like very much.
Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is “What’s Going On at UAardvark?” (Solidarity Press), a satirical novel about campus life.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says the gap between rich and poor in most of its member countries has reached its highest level in 30 years.
The organization released a report on Tuesday saying most of its 34 member states have seen a widening inequality gap.
Among its members are both developed and developing nations, including countries from the European Union, the US, Turkey, Mexico and Japan. However, China, Brazil and India are not members of the OECD.
According to the report, the richest 10 percent of people in the OECD area earn 9.5 times the income of the poorest 10 percent. The ratio stood at 7:1 in the 1980s.
The finding also showed that in the couple of decades leading up to the global financial crisis which erupted in 2007, the average household income increased for all OECD member states by around 1.6 percent annually.
However, in recent years, the average household income has stagnated or fell in most OECD member states.
The organization said the expanding inequality gap has negatively affected member states’ economies, with estimates showing that it has slashed more than 10 percentage points off growth in Mexico and New Zealand.
This is while growth rates in the US, UK, Sweden, Finland and Norway would have been more than a fifth higher if there had not been widening inequality.
The organization called for a number of measures to tackle the widening gap, including anti-poverty programs and increased access to high-quality education, training and healthcare.
Over the past 30 years, wealth has grown exponentially and has become increasingly concentrated foremost in the upper .01%, then the .1%, followed by the 1% and the upper 10% – 20%.
The large scale, long-term concentration of wealth has continued through booms and busts of the real economy, the financial and IT crises. Wealth grew despite long-term economic recessions and stagnation, because the so-called recovery programs imposed austerity on 80% of the households while transferring public revenues to the rich.
The so-called ‘crises of capitalism’ have neither reversed nor prevented the emergence of an international class of billionaires who acquire, merge and invest in each other’s activities. The growth of wealth has been accompanied by the pillage of accumulated profits from productive sectors which are stored as wealth not investment capital.
The dispossession of capital and its conversion to private wealth subsequently led to the rapid expansion of the financial and real estate sector. Capital accumulation of profits has been the source of private accumulation of wealth at the expense of wages, salaries, public welfare, and state revenues.
The growth of private wealth at the expense of productive investments is a world-wide phenomenon which has been facilitated by an international network of banks, political leaders and ‘regulators’ centered in the United States and England.
The single most important aspect of private wealth accumulation on a world-scale is criminal behavior by the elites in multiple locations and involves the violation of multiple laws and regulations.
The Chain of Illegality: From Exploitation of Labor to the Pillage of the Nation
The original source of private wealth is the exploitation of labor by capital, of which a small percentage of the profits are reinvested in expanding production in the ‘home market’ or overseas. The bulk of the profits are transferred into financial networks which in turn illicitly channel the funds into overseas accounts.
The movements of profits ‘overseas’ takes multiple forms (transfer pricing, phony invoices, etc.) and they are primarily converted to private wealth. These ‘international movements’ of profits are largely composed of mega-thievery or plunder by political and business leaders from ‘developing countries’. According to the Financial Times (17/11/14, p2) “Up to $1 trillion (dollars) is being taken out of developing countries every year through a web of corrupt activities involving anonymous shell companies that typically hide the identity of their true owners”. (my emphasis)
The $1 trillion of stolen profits and revenues from the ‘developing countries’ (Africa, Asia, South America) are part of a “corruption chain” which is organized, managed and facilitated by the major financial institutions in the US and UK. According to a World Bank report in 2011 “70 percent of the biggest corruption cases between 1980 and 2010 involved anonymous shell companies. The US and UK were among the jurisdictions most frequently used to incorporate legal entities that held proceeds of corruption” (Financial Times, 17/11/14, p2.).
This process of “taking out” or pillage of developing countries feeds into rent seeking, conspicuous consumption and other non-productive activity in the ‘developed countries’ or more accurately the imperialist states. The principle beneficiaries of the pillage of ‘developing countries’ by the local elites are their counterparts in the top 1% of the imperial countries, who control, direct and manage the financial, real estate and luxury sectors of their economies.
The very same financial institutions in the imperial countries (and their related accountancy, legal and consultancy arms) facilitate the pillage of trillions from the ‘developed’ countries to offshore sites, via massive tax evasion operations, hoarding wealth instead of investing profits or paying taxes to the public treasury.
Long-term, large scale pillage and tax evasion depends on the central role, at both ends of the world economy, of the financial sector. This results in the ‘imbalance of the economy’ – predominance of finance capital as the final arbiter on how ‘profits’ are disposed.
The extremely narrow membership in the dominant financial sectors means that its growth will result in greater inequalities between classes. A disproportionate share of wealth will accrue to those who pillage the revenues and profits of the productive sector. As a result so-called ‘productive capitalists’ hasten to join and lay claims to membership in the financial sector.
The links between ‘productive’ and ‘fictitious’ capital or financial swindle capital, defy any attempt to find a progressive sector within the dominant classes. But the effort to enter the charmed circle of the dominant financial 1% is fraught with dangers and risks . . . because the financial sector has a very dynamic and super-active capacity for swindles.
The entire process of de-capitalizing the economy is underwritten in the US by the financial elite’s controls over the executive branch of government, especially the ‘regulatory’ and enforcement agencies -Security Exchange Commission, the Treasury and Justice Departments.
Financial institutions facilitate the inflow of trillions of dollars from the kleptocrats in the developing countries as well as the outflow of trillions of dollars by multi-nationals (MNC) to off-shore tax havens. In both instances the banks are key instruments in the process of dis-accumulation of capital by dispossessing nations and treasuries of revenues and productive investments.
The ‘hoarding’ of MNC profits in offshore shell companies does not in any way prevent speculative activity and large scale swindles in the for-ex, equity and real estate markets. On the contrary, the boom in high-end real estate in London, New York and Paris, and the high growth of luxury goods sales, reflects the concentration of wealth in the top .01%, .1% and 1%. They are the beneficiaries of ‘no risk’ pillage of wealth in developing countries, receiving lucrative commissions and fees in laundering the illicit inflows of wealth and outflows by tax dodging multi-nationals.
The Inverted Pyramid of Wealth
A small army of accountants, political fixers, corporate lawyers, publicists, financial scribblers, consultants and real estate promoters make-up the next 15% of the beneficiaries of the pillage economies. Below them are the 30% upper and lower middle classes who experience tenuous affluence subject to the economic shocks, ‘market volatility and risks of downward mobility. Below them, the majority of wage, salaried and small business classes experience declining incomes, downward mobility, rising risks of mortgage foreclosure, job-loss and destitution among the bottom 30%.
Despite wide variations in the class structure between ‘developing’ neo-colonial and developed imperial states, the top 1% across national boundaries has forged economic, personal, educational, and social ties. They attend the same elite schools, own multiple private residences in similar high end neighborhoods, and share private bankers, money launderers and financial advisors. Each elite group has their own national police and military security systems, as well as political influentials who also co-operate and collaborate to ensure impunity and to defend the illegal financial flows for a cut of the wealth.
The investigatory authorities of each developed country tend to specialize in prosecuting rival financial institutions and banks, occasionally levying fines – never imprisonment – for the most egregious swindles that threaten the ‘confidence’ of the defrauded investors.
Yet the basic structure of the pillage economy, continues unaffected – in fact thrives – because the ‘show’ of ‘oversight’ and judicial ‘charges’ neutralizes public indignation and outrage.
The Decisive Role of Dis-Accumulation in the World Economy
While orthodox economists elaborate mathematical models that have no relationship to the operations, agencies and performance of the economy and ignore the real elite actors which operate the economy, Leftist economists similarly operate with theoretical premises about capital and labor, profits and capital accumulation, crises and stagnation, which ignore the centrality of pillage, dis-accumulation, and the dynamic growth of wealth by the international 1%.
The research center, the Capital Financial Integrity Group provides a vast array of data documenting the trillion dollar illicit financial flows which now dominate the world economy.
US MNCs have ‘hoarded’ over $1.5 trillion dollars in overseas shell companies, ‘dead capital’, to avoid taxes and to speculate in stocks, bonds and real estate.
Mexico’s ruling elite organizes massive illicit financial flows, mostly laundered by US banks, ranging from $91 billion in 2007 to $68.5 billion in 2010. The massive increase in illicit financial flows is greatly facilitated by the de-regulation of the economy resulting from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Contrary to most leftist critics the main beneficiaries of NAFTA are not Canadian mine owners or US agro-business or auto manufacturers- it is the US and Canadian financial and real estate money launderers.
From 1960 to 2010 the Brazilian 1% pillaged over $400 billion dollars. These illicit financial flows are laundered in New York, Miami, London, Switzerland and Montevideo. In recent years the rate of pillage has accelerated: between 2000 -2012 illicit financial flows averaged $14.7 billion a year. And, most recently, under the self-styled ‘Worker’s Party” (PT) regime of Dilma Rousseff, $33.7 billion in illicit outflows were laundered annually – 1.5% of the GDP. Much of the pillage is carried out by private and public “entrepreneurs” in the so-called “dynamic” economic sectors of agro-minerals, energy and manufacturing via ‘trade mispricing’, import overpricing and export underpricing invoices.
According to a study published in the Wall Street Journal, (10/15/12), China’s elite’s illicit financial flows top $225 billion a year – 3% of national economic output. China’s 1%, the business-political elite, finance their children’s overseas private education, providing them with half million dollar condos. Illicit flows allow Chinese ‘investors’ to dominate the luxury real estate markets in Toronto, Vancouver, New York and London. They hoard funds in overseas shell companies. The Chinese corporate kleptocrats are the leaders in the drive to deregulate China’s financial markets – to legalize the outflows.
The scale and scope of China’s elite pillage has provoked popular outrage that threatens the entire capitalist structure – provoking a major anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by China’s President Xi Jinping. Thousands of millionaire officials and business people have been jailed, causing a sharp decline in the sales of the world’s luxury manufacturers.
India’s capitalists- as kleptocrats – have long played a major role in de-capitalizing the economy. According to the Financial Times (11/24/14, p3) the Indian elite’s illicit financial flows totaled $343 billion dollars from 2002 to 2011. The Indian Finance Ministry immediately threw up a smoke screen on behalf of the 1%, claiming the Indian elite had only $1.46 billion in Swiss accounts. Most of India’s wealthy have taken to holing their illicit wealth in Dubai, Singapore, the Cayman and Virgin Islands as well as London.
India’s neo-liberal policies eased the illegal outflows. Massive corruption accompanied the privatization of public firms and the allocation of multi-billion dollar assets such as mobile phones, coal fields and energy.
Indonesia, – percentage-wise is the leader in the outflow of illicit flows – fully 23% of annual output. The 1% elite of foreign and domestic capitalists, plunders natural resources, timber, metals, agriculture and dis-accumulates. Profits flow to foreign accounts in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney, Los Angeles, London and Amsterdam.
Ethiopia, with per-capita income of $365 dollars, is the site of vast pillage by its ruling elite. From 2000 to 2009, over $11.7 billion dollars in illicit financial flow was laundered mostly by US banks. These outflows enriched the Ethiopian and the US 1% and provoked famine for Ethiopia’s 90%.
The illicit financial flows surpass the capital invested in productive activity. The process of dis-accumulation of capital through relocation is channeled to overseas shell corporations and private bank accounts and beyond into financial holdings and real estate. The accumulation of private wealth exceeds the sums invested in productive activity generating investments and wages. Massive perpetual tax evasion means higher regressive taxes on consumers (VAT) and wage and salaried workers, reductions in social services, and austerity budgets targeting food, family and fuel subsidies.
The past thirty years of deregulated capitalism and financial liberalization, is a product of the financial takeover of state regulatory agencies. The signing of free trade agreements has provided the framework for large scale long-term illicit financial flows.
While illicit financial flows have financed some productive activities, the bulk has vastly expanded the financial sector. The absorption of illicit flows by the financial elite has led to greater inequalities of wealth between the 1% – 10% and the rest of the labor force.
Illicit earnings via mega swindles among the largest and most respected US and EU banks, has curtailed the amount of capital which is available for production, profits, wages and taxes. The circuits of illicit capital flows militate against any form of long-term economic development – outside of the wealth absorbing elites which control both the financial and political centers of decision-making.
The growth and ascendancy of financial elites which pillage public treasuries, resources and productive activity, is the result of an eminently political process. The origins of de-regulation, free trade and the promotion of illicit flows are all made possible by state authorities.
First and foremost, finance capital conquered state power – with the cooperation of “productive capital”. The peaceful transition reflected the interlocking directorates between banks and industry, aided and abetted by public officials rotating between government and investment houses.
The entire African continent was pillaged by billionaire rulers, many former nationalist politicians (South Africa), ex-guerilla and ‘liberation leaders’ (Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau), in collaboration with US, EU, Chinese, Russian and Israeli oligarchs. Trillions of dollars were laundered by bankers in London, New York, Zurich, Tel Aviv and Paris. Growth of the commodity sector bolstered Africa’s decade long expanding GDP – and the mega-outflows of illicit earnings.
World-wide, billionaires multiplied profits ‘received’, but wages, salaries, pensions and health coverage declined! Swindles multiplied as outflows accelerated in both directions. The higher the growth in China, India, Indonesia and South Korea the bigger and more pervasive the corruption and outflows of wealth-led by “Communist” neo-liberals in China, Indian “free marketers” and Russian “economic reformers”.
The World Bank’s and IMF’s proposed “economic reforms” ‘freed’ the incipient political kleptocrats of controls and unleashed two-sided illicit financial flows – laundering funds from abroad and establishing trillion dollar offshore tax dodging citadels.
Illicit swindles dwarfed earnings from ‘capital accumulation’. The relations between capital and labor were framed by the organization and policies dictated by the directors and operators of the trillion-dollar financial networks based on the pillage of treasuries and the wealth of nations.
The center of China’s growth is shifting from manufacturing and the exploitation of labor, to real estate and “financial services”, as worker’s demand and secure double-digit increases in wages. The exploiters of labor turned predators of the national treasury. Under the pretext of “stimulating” the construction sector, real estate speculators in tow with Communist Party officials, absconded with over a trillion dollars from 2009 to 2014. According to Jonathan Anderson of the Emerging Advisors Group “over a trillion dollars” has gone missing in China in the past five years (Financial Times, 28/11/14, p 1.).
Factories still produce, agro-business still exports, the paper value of high tech companies has risen into the high billions, but the ruling 1% of the system stands or falls with the illicit financial flows drawn from the pillage of treasuries. To replenish pillaged treasuries, regimes insist on perpetual ‘austerity’ for the 90%: greater pillage for the 1%, less public revenues for health care which results in more epidemics. Less funds for pensions means later retirement– work til you die.
The plunder of the economy is accompanied by unending wars – because war contracts are a major source of illicit financial flows. Plunder oligarchs share with militarists a deep and abiding belief in pillage of countries and destruction of productive resources. The one reinforces the other in an eternal embrace – defied only by insurgents who embrace a moral economy and who proclaim the need for a total change – a new civilization.
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From the Archives
World is Africa | March 29, 2015
Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the independent nation of the Congo, was born July 2, 1925 in Onalua in Kasai province of the Belgian Congo. With just a primary education, Lumumba emerged to become one of Africa’s most vocal critics of colonialism. Early in life, he developed interests in grassroots union activities and joined the Postal Union. As secretary-general of the union, Lumumba began publishing essays critical of Belgian colonial rule, and advocating independence and a unified centralized Congo. His writings appealed beyond ethnic and regional loyalties to a national constituency. … continue
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