Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Of coffer and labour

DESPITE standing opposed to each other labour and capital are linked closely. Labour with its power depends on the latter while it reproduces capital and the first one is needed by the latter one for its ever expansion. Capital carries on its operation for reproduction, accumulation, and aggrandisement, and thus creates its crisis that fails to deter it from the process of crisis creation. Recent profit data and related aspects are evidence of this.
   ‘A large share of the increase in profits has accrued to the financial sector,’ says the World of Work Report 2009: The Global Jobs Crisis and Beyond (International Institute for Labour Studies, Geneva, ILO). The financial sector’s share of total corporate profit in advanced economies reached 42 per cent in 2007, up from about 25 per cent in the early 1980s, it says. In Australia, Italy and Japan, it doubled in 1970-2005, increased by a factor of 1.5 in Spain and France, and in Germany, it has levitated around 44 per cent since the 1990s. The UK had the most ‘amazing’ rise from the 1980s to the 2000s, an increase by a factor of three. In the emerging and developing economies it has increased a little. Banks, etc, although the report has not mentioned, in some aspiring-middle income economies also reaped profits by getting engaged in speculation, a symptom of a complex disease in the economy of those societies.
   Profits primarily accumulated through financial channels instead of trade and commodity production, as has been mentioned by G Krippner (‘The financialization of the American economy’, Socio-Economic Review, vol. 3, 2005). Finance is now no more a supporter of real economy in the advanced capitalist countries. ‘The financial explosion in the US and other advanced capitalist economies since the 1960s’, as Foster and Magdoff argue in their The Great Financial Crisis (Monthly Review Press, 2009), ‘is symptomatic of the underlying stagnation tendency that has its roots in the whole pattern of accumulation under monopoly-finance capital.’
   Stagnation in the whole capitalist economy for decades has propelled a protracted growth of the financial sector in the advanced capitalist countries reducing the scope for development of the real economy. ‘The search by capital for profitable outlets for its surplus despite the stagnation of investment opportunities within production, coupled with the belief that asset prices as a whole went only one way – up – generated a secular financial explosion’ (ibid.) Share of finance in GDP among the advanced economies has increased tremendously in the last 30 years: in the US, it raised to 20 per cent in 2007 from 13 per cent in 1970, and in the European Union, it went to 30 per cent in 2007 from 15 per cent in 1970. Dividend recapitalisation, leveraged buyouts, hedge funds, loved by bankers and investors turned speculators for higher and quicker profits, are only a few of monopoly-finance capital’s many speculation tactics fuelling financialisation.
   Dividend recapitalisation, planned and carried out very quickly, sometimes within days, is practiced to boost returns and recoup a private equity firm’s initial investment within a very short time. A targeted? firm is bought out ?on ?additional ?debt, ?then ?used ?to ?pay ?its ?buyout ?sponsor ?a ?dividend.? In the US, the ILO cited in its above mentioned report, 188? companies ?issued ?more? than? $75 billion ?in ?debt? that? was ?used ?to pay? dividends? in 2003-2007. In the first seven months of 2007, 129 dividend recapitalisations amounting to ?$47 billion were carried out. In? Europe, ?of ?the ?19 ?recapitalisations ?in ?the first ?half ?of ?2007, ?buyout ?firms ?paid ?out ?€6.1 billion,? more than ?80 per? cent ?of ?private ?equity firms’? initial? investment,? and for? the ?same period ?in ?2006, ?the? total ?payout ?was ?€5.3 billion ?for ?28 ?deals.?
   Similarly, leveraged buyout, acquisition of a firm or division of a firm by private equity firms or other investors, Stromberg informs, increased almost all over the world: in the US, it grew eightfold in 2003-2007. Buyout activity outside the US has grown more rapidly in the past few years than that of the US (‘The new demography of private equity’, 2007, http: // It has more than quadrupled over the past seven years compared to the previous 30 years in Africa and the Middle East while it has more than doubled in Asia and increased by more than five times in Eastern Europe in the same period. About 70 per cent of all leveraged buyouts, amounting to the tune of $2.7 trillion, were made in post-2001 period. The daily trading on the world currency markets, as Foster and Magdoff brought to notice in November 2006, went ‘to the current average of $1.8 trillion a day’ from $18 billion a day in 1977. ‘That means that every twenty-four days the dollar volume of currency trading equals the entire world’s annual GDP!’ (TGFC).
   The financial markets’ increasing important role in the operation of the non-financial sector, the perverse effects of financialisation, has been mentioned by the ILO report. Financialisation has reduced the scope for development of the real economy. Operational investment has been ‘crowded out’ as non-financial corporations earn higher returns from financial investments than non-financial investments. Rising profits, the ILO report said, have not translated into commensurate increases in real investment. The share of investment as a percentage of operating surplus between the 1980s and the 2000s declined in almost all the advanced economies: for the EU, it declined from 47 per cent to 40 per cent, for the US from 44 per cent to 39 per cent. In Europe, the sharpest declines were experienced by Austria (from 50 to 44 per cent), Finland (from 57 to 36 percent), Germany (from 48 to 35 per cent) and Ireland (from 44 to 28 per cent). In the majority of advanced economies, investment as a percentage of GDP has declined since the 1980s. In the high-income OECD countries, it declined by 3.1 percentage points from 1980 to 2006. In the Euro areas, it declined by 3.1 percentage points in the same period; in Germany, by 6.3 percentage points; in Japan, by 8.7; and in the UK and US by a little over a percentage point.
   The profits of non-financial firms, according to the report, were used more to pay dividends instead of investing in the real economy, a major aspect of the character of monopoly-finance capital. In all advanced economies, as the report mentioned, dividend payouts increased: in Germany, Italy and the UK, between 1995 and 2000 it was more than 50 per cent; in Austria and France above 40 per cent. In France, Italy and the Netherlands, the marginal payout in 2001–05 (change in dividends between 2001 and 2005 divided by the change in profits between 2001 and ’05) exceeded 70 per cent, more than 40 per cent in Finland and Spain and about 30 per cent in Australia, Austria, Denmark and Japan. The report said: ‘During the 2000s, less than 40 per cent of profits of non-financial firms in developed countries were used to invest in physical capacity, which is 8 percentage points lower than during the early 1980s.’ Dividend distribution pattern is an important indicator of the capital markets’ growing influence in the real economy. In the US, as the report informed, dividend as a percentage of total profits was 22.8 per cent in 1946–1979 while it rose to 46.3 per cent in 1980–2008. The share of profits distributed to shareholders increased from 30 per cent of corporate profits before tax in 1990 to 48 per cent in 2002.
   The financial sector’s profit, as the report told, as a share of total wages and salaries of all private sector workers increased from 24 per cent to 40 per cent in 1990–2005. It attained an amazing rise within a span of only 15 years. The financial sector’s sky rocketing profit and ever increasing greed for more returns have adversely affected wages and job stability in the real economy. Economies with more pervasive risky financial practices experienced bold decline of wages as a per cent of GDP, the report said. This reality pushed it to comment: ‘It has long been claimed that today’s profits would be tomorrow’s investments and more jobs later on. But reality has not kept to the promise.’ This is the character of monopoly-finance capital: it declines to make productive investment as it finds higher and quicker profit in speculation. The gravity of economy moves to speculation instead of productive investment.
   According to Wirtschaftswoche, the German business weekly, the price-earnings ratio — comparing the market value per share to the annual earnings per share of the respective enterprise — has reached a historic maximum of 133. A price-earnings ratio of 14 or more is considered to mean shares are valued excessively. In Germany, the 30 largest enterprises listed on the DAX plan to transfer over 20 billion euros to their shareholders in the spring of 2010. That is 71 per cent of their net profits. In the previous record year, 2007, the corresponding figure was only 45 per cent.
   There is the other side of the coin. Labour worldwide suffered while capital increased its profit. Real wages in the non-financial sector stagnated over the past 15 years. In the five most financialised countries, the ILO report found, wage share declined by 3.6 per cent over the period 1989 to 2005 while in the case of five least financialised countries, it was a decline by 2 per cent. Leveraged buyouts have a negative impact on employment as has been shown by the majority of recent studies on such buyouts in the US. ‘[T]he jobs crisis is much larger in size than unemployment figures suggest.’ ‘[I]n the 51 countries for which data are available [for the report], at least 20 million jobs have been lost since October 2008 when the financial crisis started. But unemployment is only one dimension of the jobs crisis: about 5 million workers are at risk of losing jobs now.’ The report estimated that about 43 million workers were at risk of exclusion from the labour market. This risk is acute for the low-skilled, migrant and old workers. Two-thirds of the countries for which data for the report were available did not have unemployment benefits. ‘Only one-third of developing countries provide some form of social protection to informal sector workers and the self-employed.’ About 5.5 billion people are at risk while only 20 per cent of the world’s population is covered by social security. These facts are only tips of iceberg, sufferings of labour around the world, and tell nothing but a class war waged by capital against labour. The present Great Financial Crisis and the Great Recession have worsened labour’s condition.
   The mounting economic and social imbalances almost around the world are now recognised even by the mainstream. The World of Work Report 2008 of the ILO discussed this stark global fact. Within-country income inequality grew excessively (by a factor of almost three) in both developed and developing countries since the early 1980s.
   Labour is not only suffering from lost jobs, risk of unemployment, inequality, etc. In mid-May, 2009, the ILO in The Cost of Coercion report on the patterns of forced labour worldwide, said: the ‘opportunity cost’ of coercion to the workers affected reaches over $20 billion annually. The report elaborated the growing number of unethical, fraudulent and criminal practices leading people into situations of forced labour. ‘Most forced labour is still found in developing countries, often in the informal economy and in isolated regions with poor infrastructure, labour inspection and law enforcement.’
   The Working Time around the World: Trends in working hours, laws and policies in a global comparative perspective, another ILO study (2007), said: an estimated 22 per cent of the global workforce, or 614.2 million workers, are working ‘excessively’ long hours. That means that more surplus labour is squeezed out of labour to gain more profit. The report, spotlighting working hours in 50 countries, estimated that one in five workers around the world or over 600 million persons were still, so many years after adopting universal working hour, working more than 48 hours a week, often merely to make ends meet. And, merely making ends meet means consuming only to reproduce capital. Finding of the study on married couples with children was: men’s paid working hours tend to increase while women’s paid working hours decrease. But women are also to bear the burden of unpaid work, longer working hours. The study noted the possibility of underemployment of a considerable number of short-hours-workers in developing and transition countries. The possibility made them more likely to fall into poverty, the cursed domain that capital creates.
   Informal employment, a nice way out for the responsibility-shedding mainstream, and the expanding service sector are major sources of longer working hours. The report said that, generally speaking, laws and policies on working time had a limited influence on actual working hours in developing countries, especially in terms of maximum weekly hours, overtime payments and their effect on informal employment. In the informal economy with about three-fifths of it self-employed, about 30 per cent or more of all self-employed men work more than 49 hours a week. That means that it is one hour less than the universally recognized 8-hour working day if a proud self-employed fellow forsakes the weekly day-off and works for seven days a week. The average working hours in manufacturing sector in a number of developing countries are significantly longer, the report said.
   The global financial system went close to collapse, a product of speculation monopoly-finance capital engaged in. It is still reeling with the wheels of the crisis. Political crises are emerging within countries, among countries and within blocks. But the systemic problems are still not being adequately addressed. Actually, addressing the systemic problems is beyond the capacity of monopoly-finance capital. ‘If the status quo prevails’, the World of Work Report 2009 said, ‘the dominance of finance over the real economy will continue and, in all likelihood, become even stronger in the future.’ That means that there will be more seeds for crises, more inequality and more deprivation. This crises-ridden future will not only be for labour, but for all the peoples.
   But the dynamics of crisis creates countervailing forces. Merkel, the German chancellor, Schäuble, the German finance minister, Jean-Claude Trichet, the European Central Bank president, in separate discussions, etc, months ago expressed fear that the shameless enrichment of the financial oligarchy could unleash an uncontrollable social rebellion. This fact, told by establishment, highlights (1) the eternal and unsaturated hunger for profit, and (2) the establishment’s fear of rebellion. Related processes determine the path to change and development that mechanical forces fail to subvert. Recent developments, sometimes like wildfire, in many societies are showing the trend.

Labour robbed, labour in chains

‘WHAT do flight attendants, autoworkers, college professors, clerical workers, and public employees have in common?’ asks Peter Rachleff, teaching US history at Macalester College in St Paul, Minnesota. ‘We … all over the world … are under the gun, the gun of “neo-liberalism”,’ he provides the answer. ‘Neo-liberalism’, a form of class war unleashed against labour by capital, has robbed labour blind with intensity much more than ever before: wages cut, real wages decreased, and other forms of wage theft, labour regulations ‘liberalised’, unions corrupted, deactivated and muzzled down, state support withdrawn, and many others resulting in increased appropriation of surplus value.
   The assertions of the British iron lady Margaret Thatcher on the role of government and economy were part of this class war. The rise of the neo-liberals was from the same class source. Reganomics carried the same standard. SAP, the structural adjustment programme, imposed on countries languishing in poverty, came from the same concept of class war, a global phenomenon. Automation and information technology have increased the speed and widened the sphere of appropriation. Labour around the world is bearing the wrath of capital: increased productivity but decreased real wages, and increased blame on the ordinary people. ‘The economy is doing fine, but the people are not,’ was the ‘famous’ observation made in 1971 by General Emilio Medici, the military-dictator of Brazil.
   ‘Billions of dollars in wages’, Kim Bobo, executive director, Interfaith Worker Justice, writes, ‘are being illegally stolen from millions of workers each and every year. The employers range from small neighbourhood business to some of the nation’s [US] largest employers – Wal-Mart, Tyson, McDonald’s, Target, Pulte Homes, federal, state, and local governments and many more.’ She defines wage theft as all the wages not paid, overtime denied, violation of law by employer, depriving workers from legally mandated wages. A number of surveys in the US found wage theft in 60 per cent of nursing homes, 89 per cent of non-monitored garment factories in Los Angeles and 67 per cent in New York, 78 per cent of restaurants in New Orleans, 100 per cent in poultry plants, by 25 per cent of tomato producers, 35 per cent of lettuce producers, 51 per cent of cucumber producers, 58 per cent of onion producers, 62 per cent of garlic producers, of almost half of day labourers in construction work. Companies around the US, according to the Economic Policy Foundation, the business funded think-tank, ‘annually steal $19 billion in unpaid overtime.’ Wal-Mart, the world famous retailer, paid, before 2006, 12.4 per cent below the average wage for retail workers. A survey by Arindrajit Dube and Steve Wertheim, economists at the Institute of Industrial Relations of the University of California found this fact. The famous retailer’s ‘wages are nearly 15% below the average wage of workers at large retailers and about 30% below the average wage of unionized grocery workers,’ wrote John Miller, economics teacher at Wheaton College. Then, is it now known from where the wealth comes in?
   The burden of bread buying has fallen on the ‘heavy’ shoulders of females ‘liberated’ by capital, ‘a task made more challenging since women typically earn only 78 cents compared to the male dollar,’ wrote Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Centre for American Progress. Citing data from the Bureau of Labour Statistics’ Current Establishment Survey for March 2009, Boushey wrote that since the Great Recession began in December 2007 in the US men have lost 75 per cent of non-farm jobs and 72.7 per cent of all private-sector jobs. Capital has liberally been allowed to perform these ‘liberal’ acts: a full grown liberalism!
   Unpaid work is not only an American reality, and not only a Great Recession reality now ravaging the land of opportunity. A Canada government survey documenting the time men and women spent on unpaid work in 1992, referred to by Lena Graber and John Miller, found: the Canadian women performed 65 per cent of all unpaid work. They shouldered ‘an especially large share of household labour…’ They also referred to Great Britain, where ‘unpaid labour hours are high for an industrialized country. The British Office for National Statistics found, using the opportunity-cost method, unpaid work was 112% of Britain’s GDP in 1995! With the specialist-replacement method, British unpaid labor was still 56% of GDP – greater than the output of the United Kingdom’s entire manufacturing sector for the year. In Japan … paid workers put in longer hours, and women perform over 80% of unpaid work…. [T]he value of unpaid labor …equaled at least half of Japanese women’s market wages.’ A reader may tell: at least one of the sources of wealth is identified.
   This reality is not confined only to the centre of the centre of the present world system, the US, or in the centre. In China, now a country far from periphery and nearer to the centre, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the biggest trade union in the world, plays a significant role in the lives of the Chinese workers. According to Ellen David Freidman, a visiting lecturer at the School of Government at Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China, ‘many trade union cadres at the district level are investors or beneficiaries of the enterprise’s profitability.’ This ‘achievement’ could be made possible ‘[o]wing to its neoliberal legacy.’ These phenomena, she wrote, ‘undermine the union’s ability to independently defend workers’ interests when in conflict with management… Now linked by a profound market failure, workers in the United States can no longer buy, while workers in China can no longer produce. In the context of the current global crisis, it has become clear that union leaders in both countries have failed to anticipate and challenge the dangers of the unregulated market, and failed to organise workers to protect themselves against its ravages.’ Plundering economies not dependent on export to US may find an easy solace.
   The periphery reality is not different. In the shadows of Buenos Aires, a city with tango clubs, in ‘the city’s nearly 400 clandestine shops…around 100,000 undocumented [Bolivian] immigrants work … with an average wage – if they are paid at all – of $100 per month,’ wrote Marie Trigona, an independent journalist based in the Argentine capital. In these sweatshops, they work in slave-labour condition. ‘[T]op clothing companies have turned small warehouses or gutted buildings into clandestine sweatshops. Locked in, workers are forced to live and work in cramped quarters with little ventilation and, often, limited access to water and gas.’ A labour union reported more than 8,000 cases of labour abuse in 2006. Quoting two workers she reported, ‘[Y]ou work from 7 a.m. until midnight or 1 a.m. Many times they don’t pay the women and they owe them two or three years’ pay. … You don’t have rights to rent a room or to work legally.’ ‘For two years I worked and slept in a three-square-meter room along with my two children and three sewing machines my boss provided. They would bring us two meals a day. For breakfast a cup of tea with a piece of bread and lunch consisting of a portion of rice, a potato, and an egg. We had to share our two meals with our children because according to my boss, my children didn’t have the right to food rations because they are not workers and don’t yield production.’ The woman worker was fired as she divulged the truth. The workers manufacture garments for brands including Lacar, Kosiuko, Adidas and Montage. There are times, infamous acts adorn famous names!
   This is the present-day labour reality, almost universal, a part of which has been recorded and analysed with hard facts and data in the Real World Labor (eds Immnuel Ness, Amy Offner, Chris Sturr, and the Dollars & Sense collective). The real life of labour partly referred above from the pages of the Real World Labor, depressing and irrational to human brain, are overwhelming in the present context, but not or least discussed by the mainstream, and the truth behind these is presented partially, in a tilted way, distorted, methodically and with regularity, and even killed. Fabrication and falsification goes on as capital-controlled media and academia try to colour the reality. These acts are done with ‘misinformation, false arguments, faulty analysis,’ as Michael Yates, associate editor, Monthly Review, puts while discussing the Real World Labor, ‘so common in the mainstream media and among orthodox economists.’
   An antidote to this is the Real World Labor (2009, Economic Affairs Bureau, Boston) that also provides information and analysis on resistance by labour: in 2008-09, sit-down strikes in Europe and North America ranged from 24 hours to 51 days. In 1971-2007, Australian and European sit-down strikes ranged from 5 days to 2 years. Labour’s resistance is not only in the interest of workers themselves though often sections of media controlled by lumpen interests equate raising workers’ grievances to harming national interests. Workers’ unions, as David Bacon, journalist and photographer covering labour, immigration, and the impact of global economy on labour wrote, ‘are the main opposition to the occupation’s economic agenda, and the biggest obstacle to the agenda’s centerpiece – the privatization of Iraq’s oil.…[U]nions have become the only force in Iraq trying to maintain at least a survival living standard for the millions of Iraqis who still have to earn a living somehow in the middle of the … war’ (‘Iraq’s Workers Strike to Keep Their Oil’, Real World Labor).
   People in many countries including Canada, Argentina, Brazil and US are organising ‘solidarity economy’ in response to capitalist globalisation’s inability to provide employment. The forms and activities of these emerging initiatives vary. In 2005, ‘there were over 6,000 social solidarity economy enterprises in Quebec employing over 65,000 people. …In Argentina…over 180 factories have reopened under worker control, providing jobs for over 10,000 workers…. As of 2005, [Brazil’s] solidarity sector comprised almost 15,000 enterprises employing over 1.2 million workers, along with 1,120 support organizations…’ (Julie Matthaei and Jenna Allard, Real World Labor) Drawing from the pages of Dollars & Sense and WorkingUSA the collection of 70 authoritative essays by leading authors, economists, teachers, scholars, and journalists, the Real World Labor discusses issues confronting labour on a global level including neo-liberalism, free trade, offshore outsourcing and shows the level of discourse in the sphere of labour and capital a few societies are having while a few societies are not engaging in. Bankruptcies of the streams, main and the other, in lumpen elite dominated societies stand out starkly while one goes through the Real World Labor, and this reflects the influence lumpen elites inflict with its money power. Significant information even does not reach the concerned audience. Underlings and hatchlings corrupt and capture union leadership. Debates are shaped by interests related to capital. Promising initiatives are decapitated with lofty sounding soft tactics. While one section dreams of organising labour with donor money the other hatches plan to muzzle down the voice of labour. A la lumpen reality!

Labour in recent times

LABOUR around the world is under pressure as capital, broadly, is going through a crisis that it itself has created. Capital, adhering to one of its classic approaches, is increasingly putting the burden of its sin on labour: decreasing or stagnant real wages, squeezing out more and more from labour in the name of higher productivity, bringing unions under the sway of capital, decline in collective bargain, deunionisation, changes in work rules, and others. As a rule of science, capital’s craftsmanship created reaction: action acharnae, action desperate. There have been many protests by labour since the Chicago factory seizure by workers that reflect the reality. The Philadelphia transportation workers’ strike early November was one of the many.
   The Global Wage Report 2008/09 of the International Labour Organisation predicts that ‘difficult times lie ahead for workers.’ Economic growth, slow or negative, and volatile prices, the report says, ‘will erode the real wages of many workers, particularly the low-wage and poorer households.’ The report estimates based on wage data for 83 countries, representing about 70 per cent of the world’s population, that in 2009 wages would grow at best by 0.1 per cent in industrial countries and by 1.7 per cent globally. Revised figures, however, released after the preparation of the report suggested that wages in 2009 would in fact decline by 0.5 per cent in industrial countries and grow by no more than 1.1 per cent globally. The base for this estimation was IMF estimates and forecasts of global economic growth and wages. The report says: ‘Estimates for African and Middle Eastern countries are less robust and are therefore not reported.’ In many countries, it says, the middle classes will also be seriously affected. While discussing the major trends in wages in 1995–2007, the report says there was low wage growth in the majority of countries. During the period 2001–07, it estimates real average wages grew by 1.9 per cent per year or less in half of all countries. Among developed countries, ‘wages in the median country grew by about 0.9 per cent per year. Comparable figures were 0.3 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean, 1.7 per cent in Asia, and a much higher 14.4 per cent in the Confederation of Independent States and non-EU Central and South-Eastern European countries…’ Globally, according to the report, wage employment accounts for about half of total employment and this share is growing almost everywhere for both women and men.
   Real wages growth, the report says, was close to 0 per cent in Japan, Spain and the US, but reached 10 per cent per year or more in China, Russia and Ukraine. Wage growth close to the median of about 2.0 per cent per year was observed in countries as diverse as India, Mexico, Poland and South Africa. It says: In 1995-2007, when GDP per capita grew by an extra 1 percentage point, average wages only increased by an extra 0.75 percentage points. The so-called ‘wage elasticity’ of 0.75 confirms that wage growth has lagged behind GDP per capita, and suggests that the growth in real wages lagged behind productivity growth. Over time, this elasticity has declined from 0.80 per cent during 1995–2000 to 0.72 per cent since 2001. Almost three-quarters of countries experienced a downward trend in the share of GDP distributed to wages, compared to profits and other forms of income. While wages are less than perfectly responsive during times of economic expansion, they tend to become overly responsive in times of economic decline. Typically each extra 1 per cent decline in GDP per capita leads to a fall in wages of 1.55 per cent, the report observes. Since 1995, inequality between top wages and bottom wages has increased in more than two-thirds of the countries for which data were available. Among the developed countries, Germany, Poland and the US witnessed the most rapid increase in gap between top and bottom wages. Other regions, particularly Argentina, China and Thailand, also had sharp increase in inequality. A number of countries including Brazil, France, Indonesia and Spain succeeded in reducing wage inequality although inequality remained at a high level in Brazil and Indonesia. The pay gap between genders was also high. In the majority of countries, women’s wages represented on average between 70 per cent and 90 per cent of men’s, but it was not uncommon to find much lower ratios in other parts of the world, particularly in Asia, the report says.
   Income inequality
   INCOME inequality grew dramatically in most regions of the world and was expected to increase due to the ongoing financial crisis, according to the World of Work Report 2008: Income inequalities in the age of financial globalisation. The report by the ILO’s International Institute for Labour Studies notes that ‘a major share of the cost of the financial and economic crisis will be borne by hundreds of millions of people who haven’t shared in the benefits of recent growth.’ The income gap between poorer and richer households, it says, widened significantly between the early 1990s and 2007. Moreover, ‘workers obtained a smaller share of the fruits of economic growth as the share of wages in national income declined in the vast majority of the countries for which data was available.’ ‘The ongoing global economic slowdown’, the report says, ‘is affecting low-income groups disproportionately. This development comes after a long expansionary phase where income inequality was already on the rise in the majority of countries.’ A joint study by the ILO and the World Trade Organisation secretariat recognises the concerns about the effect of international trade on wage inequality (M Jansen and E Lee, Trade and Employment: Challenges for Policy Research, ILO, and WTO, 2007).
   ‘In countries with unregulated financial innovation,’ the World of Work Report found, ‘workers and their families became increasingly indebted… to fund housing investment and consumption. With stagnant wages, this was key to sustain domestic demand. However the crisis has underlined the limits to this growth model. Between 1990 and 2005, approximately two thirds of the countries experienced an increase in income inequality. The incomes of richer households have increased relative to those of the middle class and poorer households. Likewise, during the same period, the income gap between the top and bottom 10 per cent of wage earners increased in 70 per cent of the countries for which data are available. The gap in income inequality is also widening – at an increasing pace – between top executives and the average employee.... [I]n the United States in 2007, the …CEOs of the 15 largest companies earned 520 times more than the average worker. This is up from 360 times more in 2003. Similar patterns, though from lower levels of executive pay, have been registered in Australia, Germany, Hong Kong (China), the Netherlands and South Africa.’
   In 2007, on the basis of a survey finding Reuters reported from Boston: 64 per cent of top executives even view CEO compensation as excessive. Today the salaries and bonuses of top executives are opposed by the common people in advanced capitalist countries. The bank employees’ unions organised protests against high bonuses. The AFL-CIO joined in at least one such protest in Chicago.
   Excessive income inequalities, the World of Work Report notes, could be associated with higher crime rates, lower life-expectancy, and in the case of the poor countries malnutrition and an increased likelihood of children dropping out of schools for the purpose of earning for families. ‘Even in those countries where wages are likely to increase in aggregate,’ the Global Wage Report notes, ‘some workers will suffer from real wage declines. In particular, the impact of food price inflation will be greater for poor workers and households in developing countries as these groups spend a much higher proportion of their incomes on purchase of food.’ It was found that expenditure for food was less than 20 per cent of total expenditure in Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland while it was more than 60 per cent in many developing countries. The ratio exceeds 70 per cent in a number of countries including Armenia, Niger and Romania. The increase in food prices in these countries threatens the health of poor households. ‘Higher food prices’, the report says, ‘will not only translate into worse diets for poor households, they will also lead to cuts in the purchasing of other goods and services that are vital for the well-being of family members. Women, especially pregnant women and nursing mothers, as well as children, are likely to be worst hit.’ To cope with the situation, the less earning women ‘take on more paid work – often informal and casual – lengthening further their already long working days.’
   Minimum wages and collective bargaining
   Minimum wages, the Global Wage Report observes, have been reactivated in recent years ‘to reduce social tensions resulting from’ the increasing ‘inequalities in the lower half of the labour market.’ Globally, in 2001-07, minimum wages were raised by an average of 5.7 per cent per year, in real terms. This contrasts with some previous periods when the real value of the minimum wage had declined. Real gains for minimum wage earners, according to the report, were substantial both in developed countries and the EU (+3.8 per cent) and in developing countries (+6.5 per cent). Minimum wages have also increased relative to average wages, from 37 per cent in 2000–02 to 39 per cent in 2004–07, a 2 percent gain up to 2007. Then, the Great Financial Crisis came in with its heavy hands that almost bankrupted Iceland, Greece and Italy. Without credible enforcement mechanism, according to the report, provisions for ‘minimum wages too often remain a “paper tiger” rather than an effective policy.’ There are evidences from a number of countries that ‘non-compliance can be extremely high, especially in developing countries.’
   Collective bargaining coverage, according to the report, has declined. In many countries it is low and decreasing as a consequence of a number of factors including the increase in the number of workers in smaller firms or under atypical forms of contracts. It remains high in a few countries including Denmark, Finland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. European countries recently experienced decline in collective bargaining coverage and the increase in the number of ‘working poor’ in the unregulated part of the labour market, and these have created strong social tensions. A few countries including Argentina and South Africa have stimulated collective bargaining.
   ‘[F]reedom of association’, the Global Wage Report says, ‘remains a challenge.’ Capital, by contrast, is free to get united, speculate, create havoc, submerge, and have the privilege to get bailed out. ‘Government intervention in trade union activities’, it says, ‘remains a recurrent problem and the number of complaints received by the ILO concerning acts of anti-union discrimination and interference has increased. Several countries also continue to exclude important categories of workers from the right to collective bargaining, particularly domestic workers, agricultural workers, seafarers and public servants. In some countries, murder of trade unionist also remains a serious concern.’ The ground reality in many poor countries, faced by trade unionists there, is much more difficult, and full of cruelties.
   The report recommended ways should be negotiated ‘to prevent a further deterioration in the share of wages relative to the share of profits in GDP… [T]he levels of minimum wages should be increased wherever possible to protect the purchasing power of the most vulnerable workers.’

In the centre of the centre
Long working hours, squeezing of necessary labour time, capital’s increased appropriation of labour even during labour’s hard time could very well push workers in increasing number to defend and advance their interest and will bring in audacity to fight, writes Farooque Chowdhury in conclusion of an essay serialised in two parts

THE overall reality of inequality and poverty in the centre of the centre of the world system is no exception. It is the labour that is under pressure. With wave of layoffs and devastated household budgets the recession has widened the gap between the richest and poorest in the US. While poverty jumped sharply to 13.2 per cent, an 11-year high, income at the top 5 per cent households, those making $180,000 or more, was 3.58 times the median income, the highest since 2006. The wealthiest 10 per cent, those making more than $138,000 each year, earned 11.4 times the roughly $12,000 made by those living near or below the poverty line in 2008. That ratio was an increase from 11.2 in 2007. On the basis of newly released census figures AP reported on September 29:
   Pharr, Texas, and Flint, Michigan each had more than a third of its residents on food stamps, at 38.5 per cent and 35.4 per cent, respectively. Use of food stamps jumped 13 per cent last year to nearly 9.8 million US households, led by Louisiana, Maine and Kentucky. The increase was most evident in households with two or more workers, highlighting the impact of the recession on both working families and unemployed single people. HH income declined across all groups, but at sharper percentage levels for middle-income and poor Americans. Median income fell last year from $52,163 to $50,303, wiping out a decade’s worth of gains to hit the lowest level since 1997. Large cities such as Atlanta, Washington, New York, San Francisco, Miami and Chicago had the most inequality. …Declining industrial cities with pockets of well-off neighbourhoods, such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Buffalo, N.Y., also had sharp disparities. Tampa-St. Petersburg, Orlando, Bradenton and Palm Bay experienced gains in the share of poor residents. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia had higher poverty rates than the national average. These include Mississippi (21.2 percent), Kentucky, Arkansas and Louisiana (each with 17.3 percent). In 2007, it was 19 states and the District of Columbia that ranked above US poverty.
   This reality was identified long ago by John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff. Referring to Longer Hours, Fewer Jobs (Monthly Review Press, 1994) by Michael D Yates and to The Confiscation of American Property (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) by Michael Perelman, Foster and Magdoff write in their The Great Financial Crisis: ‘Stagnation in the 1970s led capital to launch an accelerated class war against workers to raise profits by pushing labor cost down. The result was decades of increasing inequality.’ Citing the Economic Report of the President, 2008 Foster and Magdoff said: ‘[R]eal wages of private nonagricultural workers in the United States (in 1982 dollars) peaked in 1972 at $8.99per hour, and by 2006 had fallen to $8.24 (equivalent to the real hourly wage rate in 1967), despite the enormous growth in productivity and profits over the past few decades.’ They, referring the correspondents of the New York Times, Class Matters (Times Books, 2005) and International Perspectives on Household Wealth (Edward N Wolff, ed., 2006), said: ‘This was part of a massive redistribution of income and wealth to the top. Over the years 1950 to 1970, for each additional dollar made by those in the bottom 90 per cent of income earners, those in the top 0.01 per cent received an additional $162. In contrast, from 1990 to 2002, for each added dollar made by those in the bottom 90 per cent, those in the uppermost 0.01 per cent (today around 14,000 households) made an additional $18,000. In the United States the top 1 per cent of wealth holders in 2001 together owned more than twice as much as the bottom 80 per cent of the population. If this were measured simply in terms of financial wealth, i.e. excluding equity in owner occupied housing, the top 1 per cent owned more than four times the bottom 80 per cent. Between 1983 and 2001, the top 1 per cent grabbed 28 per cent of the rise in national income, 33 per cent of the total gain in net worth, and 52 per cent of the overall growth in financial worth.’
   ‘The glaring increase,’ writes Yates, ‘in economic inequality evident in the United States over the past thirty years has finally made it into the pages of the major media. … The growing economic divide has also caught the attention of a few prominent economists, like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman. Even Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has admitted that inequality is on the rise….Since the mid-1970s the owners of the means of production have waged unrelenting warfare against workers and their unions, and the results are everywhere apparent – workingmen and women have become more and more subservient to the vagaries and cruelties of marketplace’ (Introduction to Yates edited More Unequal: Aspects of Class in the United States, Monthly Review Press). The state of labour in the periphery and near-periphery of the world system is no less miserable.
   Long working hours
   AN EXAMPLE will show the pressure on middle class family in the centre of the centre of the world system, and will help understand the suffering of the working class families earning less or are laid off. A family in New Richmond, Wisconsin, had more than $100,000 debt five years ago. ‘Through frugality, determination and hard work,’ they are now – other than a mortgage – debt-free. The family’s lifestyle was not lavish living, with twin daughters, in a rented 1,000 square foot town home. The husband worked as a chemist with an environmental testing laboratory, and the wife, a stay-at-home mom, home-schooled their daughters. ‘The accumulation of day-to-day expenses left the family going a bit more into debt each year.’ They had to eliminate discretionary spending, begin buying generic food and frequent thrift stores for clothing purchases, stop exchanging Christmas and birthday gifts with each other and their relatives. Even with the drastic cutbacks, they could not cover the $2,000 they were sending each month to be distributed to their creditors. The sum amounted to about half of the take-home pay. So the husband took on a second job cleaning a local grocery store several nights a week from midnight to 4:30am. He would arrive home from his day job, eat dinner, catch a few hours of sleep and head to work. After his shift, he would go back home, sleep a few more hours and then get up for his day job. The work schedule for one was gruelling while the other managed just about everything at home on own.
   The example tells the realities of: (1) long working hours, (2) squeezing of necessary labour time, (3) capital’s increased appropriation of labour even during labour’s hard time. And, the ILO reports show: (1) growth in productivity does not increase real wages, (2) while wages experience a downward trend and turn responsive to economic decline profit declines to share sufferings.
   This gradually emboldening reality will push workers in increasing number to defend and advance their interest and will bring in audacity to fight. As Frank Brinkman, a Philadelphia union member said. ‘We have to stand up for our rights.’ It is, as history suggests, actually part of capital’s journey ad finem, to the end.

Is the empire in decline?

IS TIME telling an ongoing tale of a declining empire, the largest empire the world has witnessed ever? The academia and media in the metropolis of the world system are increasingly focusing on the reality the lone superpower is facing in its body-politic, within its society, in the economy it operates and in geopolitics. The opinion is getting loud: decline of the empire has set in.
   Colin Powell, a former US secretary of state, said at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa: ‘The American soul has always harboured a deep desire to help people build better lives for themselves and their children. We have always understood that our own well-being depends on the well-being of our fellow inhabitants of this planet Earth.’ But, like an irony, that ‘deep desire’ is failing to find friends around the globe. At home, the days with latent discontent are not happy ones.
   Charles Kupchan, professor of international affairs at Georgetown University and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, commented in The Washington Post in its April 3, 2005 issue: ‘A common theme unites several new books: eroded America’s international standing… left the country dangerously isolated.’ The books are: Kishore Mahbubani’s Beyond the Age of Innocence: Rebuilding Trust between America and the World (PublicAffairs), Alan Wolfe’s Return to Greatness: How America Lost Its Sense of Purpose and What It Needs to Do to Recover It (Princeton University), Nancy Soderberg’s The Superpower Myth: The Use and Misuse of American Might (Wiley) and David Rieff’s At the Point of a Gun: Democratic Dreams and Armed Intervention (Simon & Schuster).
   Madhubani writes: ‘Average Americans are “blithely ignorant” of how profoundly such choices affect others leading to a country that makes much of the globe feel disenfranchised and resentful.’ Nancy urged ‘the United States to find the right balance between isolationism and global dominion…’ Fareed Zakaria, editor, Newsweek, writes in his The Post-American World (WW Norton and Co, 2008): ‘At the politico-military level, we remain in a single-superpower world. The world will not stay unipolar for decades and then suddenly, one afternoon, become multipolar. On every dimension other than military power – industrial, financial, social, cultural – the distribution of power is shifting, moving away from U.S. dominance. But we are moving into a post-American world, one defined and directed from many places and by many people.’
   Roger C Altman, former US deputy treasury secretary (1993-94), wrote in Foreign Affairs (Jan/Feb 2009): ‘[T]he United States’ global power, as well as the appeal of US-style democracy, is eroding.’ William Engdahl, the German author and economist, said in May 2009: ‘We are also looking at the end of the American century.’ Martin Jacques, senior visiting research fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, wrote in The Guardian (March 28, 2006) that ‘the process of the decline of the US as a global power has already started. The Bush administration stands guilty of an extraordinary act of imperial overreach which has left the US more internationally isolated than ever before, seriously stretched financially … Iraq was supposed to signal the US’s new global might: in fact, it may well prove to be a harbinger of its decline.’
   There are also voices outside the mainstream. Their opinions and observations are emphatic and specific. Gabriel Kolko, author of The Age of War (March 2006), wrote: ‘The world is escaping the US.’ Analyses and opinions convey similar messages: The world is witnessing the decline of the US, the most powerful empire since the Roman Empire.
   The United States stood unrivalled on the world stage, with the fall of the USSR, for the past two decades. Since the end of the Cold War the world with a few exceptions followed diktats from the US. The oligopoly in the US reaped the dividend of the World War II and of the Cold War. It then tried to do the same from the ‘war on terror’, an adventure growing out of military-Keynesianism in the US economy, an effort to impose an world order designed by neo-cons in the Washington DC, a tactical initiative to increase military presence in areas considered strategic in the context of the peak oil situation, a striving to widen fold by winning over or coercing allies, a dual with the demonised self-shadow. The world was made to believe that the shadow could outwit, as Professor Michel Chossudovsky in his 2002 bestseller America’s ‘War on Terrorism’ showed, the $40 billion-a-year intelligence apparatus. Or, it, if the fact told was factual, exposed the inner weakness of the state in command of military might unprecedented in human history as it showed that a non-state actor, one man, Osama bin Laden, could appear as a threat to the world order that stands on the peerless finance power supported by smart technologies the world has never before generated.
   History is replete with similar moments in empires. The ‘war on terrorism’, according to Chossudovsky, is a war of conquest. Only the military expenditure will tell it. Citing information from The Centre for Defence Information, ‘World Military Expenditures’, ‘Deployment Information’, Dr Chip Gagnon, assistant professor, Department of Politics, Ithaca College, said: ‘US military spending in 2000 was more than combined spending of next 25 countries; US spending represented 36 per cent of all military spending globally.’ In the words of the Department of Defence, ‘The US military is currently deployed to more locations than it has been throughout history’; 226 countries have US military bases and /or US troops on their soil. Only 46 countries have no US military presence.”
   On the basis of the National Income and Product Accounts (OMB) Foster, Holleman and McChesney calculated that the actual US military spending in 2007 came to $1 trillion. The military might, however, does not reflect the vitality of any empire. It, on the contrary, exhibits a globe slipping out of the grip of the world power. The forces of decay are active, evident in incidents and processes handed down by history, in its spheres and structures. These spheres and structures include the politico-ideological leadership, geopolitics, society, politics and economy encompassed by and manifested in values and culture which have grown out of economy.
   Eroding politico-ideological leadership
   ALL ruling systems including empires impose own ideology based on interests of the dominating class in the respected society and these ideologies loose appeal and momentum, in a slow process, before the machines of rule rust and goes into oblivion. Loss of ideological dominance and leadership is a symptom of decline. The present empire is losing that ground. Neither the neo-cons nor the neo-liberals possess that appeal now throughout the world. Gone are the days of the Iron Lady and the Great Communicator. The Empire with its ideology is not showing the path to progress, neither in the area of peace nor in the area of justice, neither in the area of distribution of wealth nor in the area of resource uses, neither in the area of management nor in the area of efficiency.
   Dominance of an ideology is forfeited by the forces of contradiction embedded in the production system as its acceptability is eroded, as its validity and rationale are questioned, as it fails to bring welfare to the vast majority upon whom the ideology is imposed and whose non-reluctance the political system needs. All empires with all their might strive hard, maintain retinue of ideologues, build up formal and informal institutions, spend large amounts of money, try to show benevolence to impose their ideology, to imbibe the ruled with their ideology for consolidating and safeguarding regimen. All rulers, brute kings and brutal emperors, merciless mercenaries and shameless underlings spend energy to this end only to be appropriated by history. They all try to get acceptance by their subjects. But all their efforts stand hapless victim once these lose ground in the psyche of their subjects, once the ideological hollowness is exposed by ruthless reality, once the ruling creed turn laughingstock to the subjects, once the process of decline spreads its wings of decadence over the palaces of power.
   The present empire is experiencing the same historical process. Its calls for democracy and peace, its calls for fighting injustice and inequality, its calls for fighting despots and corruption turn hollow promises as people the world over find no grain of truth in the propaganda against weapons of mass destruction, as the people come to know CEOs’ scheming, false ratings by companies entrusted with the job, facilitation of fatal speculation under the name of deregulation, widening income gap in the name of market liberalism. The myth of market has been blown out by the system itself, not by any competing class of the rulers.
   Roger Altman wrote: ‘This damage has put the American model of free-market capitalism under a cloud. The financial system is seen as having collapsed; and the regulatory framework as having spectacularly failed to curb widespread abuses and corruption.’ Now, searching for stability, the US government and some European governments have nationalised their financial sectors to a degree that contradicts the tenets of modern capitalism. ‘[A]nother ideology has failed,’ said Mark Blyth, professor of international political economy at Brown University and author of Great Transformations: Economic Ideas and Political Change in the Twentieth Century. ‘The belief that markets are uniquely good and self-regulating entities, while states are always and everywhere bad and over-regulating monstrosities, is a recurring nightmare in the history of capitalism,’ he wrote.
   Francis Fukuyama’s new book After the Neocons mercilessly criticises Bush’s foreign policy and the school of thought that lay behind it. The all promising neo-liberalism, free market, smallest possible role of state, structural adjustment programmes, free trade and free-wheeling profit, the promises of imposing democracies and to uphold human rights have gone lost by the failure of market economy, by the bursting of asset bubble, by the speculation with ‘exotic’ financial instruments with names like CDOs, CMOs, hedge funds, by the non-democratic decision making process in the Bretton Woods institutions, by the leaking out of the news of interrogation method. Now, the model does not appeal the people. The trustworthiness of the promises has been lost and the promises appear propaganda. Now, to many it appears fascism as Gerald Celente, founder of the Trends Research Institute and publisher of Trends Journal, said in an interview in April 2009: the merger of corporate and government power in modern America is plain and simple fascism.
   US corporations’ role and acts around the world including Bechtel’s involvement, as was told by William Finnegan in The New Yorker (April 8, 2002), in the forcible privatisation of water systems in Bolivia, Enron’s bullying tactics against governments in India, Croatia, and many other countries, US involvement in politics in countries around the globe have created an image of the US. ‘The other view is of the United States,’ Edward Said stated in an interview in The Progressive (November 2001), ‘the United States of armies and interventions.’ Chomsky had the similar view: people in the rest of the world ‘like Americans and admire much about the US, including its freedoms. What they hate is official policies that deny them the freedoms to which they too aspire’ (The Guardian, September 9, 2002).
   Reagan’s support to Saddam in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war, Colonel North’s ‘heroic’ Iran-Contra fiasco, Halliburton’s support to Saddam in the 1990s, and Bush’s negotiations with the Taliban in 2001 have eroded credibility of US propaganda. Saddam’s WMD story spread by the neo-cons at the helm of the state stands as a show of playing with lies by a powerful politico-propaganda machine. Hamilton Fish Armstrong, former editor of Foreign Affairs, wrote decades ago: ‘The methods we have used in fighting the [Vietnam] war have scandalised and disgusted public opinion in almost all foreign countries. Not since we withdrew into comfortable isolation in 1920 has the prestige of the US stood so low.’
   There were many polls covering many countries throughout the later parts of the last century and at the beginning of the present millennium and the overwhelming results of those reflected people disgust and hatred to, and mistrust upon the US. The business and political scandals in the pre- and post-Enron periods have increased these mistrusts. Most of the allies and proxies the US chose over the decades, Shah, Marcos, Duvelier, Noriega, Pinochet, Suharto, to name a few, were corrupt and venal, and lost acceptability in respective countries and those friends of the US in turn weakened US standing among the citizens of those countries.
   The world now understands the US history more than any time in the past. The world now knows that many of the policies and legislations the US ruling elites followed over the past centuries and are following now including the Homestead Act, signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 and the ‘bailout’ measures being taken now would have been termed ‘socialist’ by the US establishment and the corporate media had those were followed by other countries. This has done nothing but has put another stroke on the mask named hypocrisy and has undermined the moral standing of the state.
   A Pew Research Centre survey found the US’s approval ratings plummeted throughout the world between 2000 and 2006. Majorities in 33 of the 47 countries surveyed by Pew expressed dislike for the American ideas of democracy. John Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina, also cited this survey finding (Foreign Affairs, September-October 2007). The voidance in the empire’s ideology and political standing is exposed not only among the people around the world but at home also.
   One of the ideological cornerstones of the empire was the capitalist system that has generated inequality and dominance of profit-based interests. So, writes John Kozy, professor of philosophy and logic, ‘the broken healthcare system can’t be rebuilt fundamentally, it can only be patched. Failed foreign policy practices cannot be altered fundamentally, they can only be patched. The political system that allows deep-pocketed lobbyists to corrupt the system cannot be reformed, it can only be patched. And most importantly, the capitalist economic system, capitalisme sauvage, cannot be transformed, it can only be patched. The more things are patched, the more things stay the same. What passes for a society continually unravels, no social problems are ever solved, the people are abandoned for the sake of institutions founded on erroneous beliefs, and eventually the nation collapses.’
   He continues: ‘There is empirical evidence for this view—all the promises politicians have made to get elected that have never been fulfilled.’ Time made similar comments during the US Congress voting on the bailout plan: ‘Washington went to the well once more. But the well of trust had long run dry. [Washington’s] own credibility crisis might take longer to repair.’ Fareed Zakaria, one of the voices of the mainstream, opines: ‘The United States has serious problems. By all calculations, Medicare threatens to blow up the federal budget. The swing from surpluses to deficits between 2000 and 2008 has serious implications. Growing inequality … has become a signature feature of the new era.’ And, Obama’s healthcare proposal was termed ‘socialism’ by Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican Party, as an AP report said in the last days of July 2009. An exhibition of ideological confusion among the ruling elites indeed!
   Gerald Horne, contributing editor, Political Affairs found ‘The declining prestige of Washington’ in the rebukes of the human rights watchdog of the United Nations for US violations of international law at home and abroad. What really captured attention were, he wrote, ‘the sharp criticisms of US domestic policy, Washington’s draconian asylum and immigration policies, the promiscuous deployment of the death penalty and life imprisonment and police brutality, were all condemned in no uncertain terms.’ An ideology with all its hollowness produces these pictures of reality.
   Imposition of the US designed democracy, as part of its capital-driven strategic goals with coat of ideology, in the countries in the second or near to third, third, and fourth worlds is one of the politico-ideological tools used by Washington. But, it is not working. The Caribbean Basin Initiative with huge fund and the Contra, the vigilantes and military aid could not halt the emergence of Chavez, Lula, Evo Morales and many others. They signify the failure of the US-designed democracy now being questioned by many, even from the mainstream.
   About three years ago, Republican Congressman Henry Hyde argued on US export of democracy around the world as deeply misguided and potentially dangerous: ‘A broad and energetic promotion of democracy in other countries that will not enjoy our long-term and guiding presence may equate not to peace and stability but to revolution ... There is no evidence that we or anyone can guide from afar revolutions we have set in motion. We can more easily destabilise friends and others and give life to chaos and to avowed enemies than ensure outcomes in service of our interests and security.’ He concluded: ‘A few brief years ago, history was proclaimed to be at an end, our victory engraved in unyielding stone, our pre-eminence garlanded with permanence. But we must remember that Britain’s majestic rule vanished in a few short years, undermined by unforeseen catastrophic events and by new threats that eventually overwhelmed the palisades of the past.’
   Strategic setbacks and geopolitical gulch
   STRATEGIC failures boldly dot the map of the Empire. There are failures in the spheres of military doctrine, in geostrategy and in the financial system. One of the keystones of the US military doctrine was: Europe and its control would determine the future of world power. But the US had to fight in Korea and Vietnam, and is now fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Should not Pakistan be mentioned? There were smaller, in terms of the size of military involvement, engagements in Cambodia, Grenada, Haiti, Panama, and Somalia. The bombings in former Yugoslavia have not ensured peace in that shattered land. The stakes of power in these theatres of war/interventions were not smaller and all of these involvements have not ensured US dominance in those regions. There was no scope to use the NATO arsenal in a few of these conflicts. Now, the Warsaw Pact has disappeared. But, NATO still has to keep itself busy in Europe with its military exercise. Despite initiatives to expand NATO there is a process of breaking up of the alliance and going the way of SEATO, CENTO, etc. The 1999 war against Serbia made its demise much more likely and the US-led alliance disagreed profoundly over the Iraq war.
   The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is a big setback for the US. In pointing out one of the reasons behind its formations, Professor Michael Hudson says: ‘When the US payments deficit pumps dollars into foreign economies, these banks are being given little option except to buy US Treasury bills and bonds which the Treasury spends on financing an enormous, hostile military build-up to encircle the major dollar-recyclers: China, Japan and Arab OPEC oil producers. Yet these governments are forced to recycle dollar inflows in a way that funds US military policies in which they have no say in formulating, and which threaten them more and more belligerently. That is why China and Russia took the lead in forming the SCO a few years ago.’
   The SCO have other geostrategic considerations also. Geopolitical observers are assuming that some more European countries will join the SCO. The critical energy alliance Russia and China have formed in Central Asia, in the Caucasus, in Africa and even in South America are challenges to the US. The dollar’s viability is being questioned not only by Russia and China. Other countries are also there. In 2006 the United Arab Emirates announced that it has moved 10 per cent of its $29 billion in foreign exchange reserves into euros. The same year China and Japan developed an ‘unusual consensus’ in support of an Asian currency unit, as the Financial Times said, ‘to reduce their reliance on a weaker dollar.’ This consensus is significant though the ACU has a long way to go.
   The failures are increasing and allies are not always responding positively. The Iraq war has accelerated the process which is going on. Professor James Petras in Global Research (May 21, 2009) summarised recent US major failures in the international arena: Washington’s attempt to push for a joint economic stimulus programme among the 20 biggest economies at the G-20 meeting in April 2009; (2) Calls for a major military commitment from NATO to increase the number of combat troops in conflict zones in Afghanistan and Pakistan to complement the additional 21,000 US troop build-up (Financial Times, April 12, 2009); and (3) Plans to forge closer political and diplomatic relations among the countries of the Americas based on the pursuit of a common agenda, including the continued exclusion of Cuba and isolation of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador (La Jornada, April 20, 2009).
   The most striking indicator of the US’s declining economic presence and political influence in Latin America, according to Petras, is found in the trade figures of Brazil, Latin America’s biggest and most industrialised country. In April 2009 total trade between Brazil and China amounted to $3.2 billion, while its trade with the US was $2.8 billion (Telegraph, May 10). This was the second straight month that China surpassed the US as Brazil’s biggest trading partner, ending 80 years of US primacy. Just as the US pours hundreds of billions of dollars into military-driven empire building, China is steadily pursuing its overseas economic empire via billion dollar trade and joint investment agreements with Brazil in oil, gas, iron ore, soya and cellulose.
   China has already displaced the US as Chile’s primary trading partner, and is increasing its share of trade with Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina – and even with staunchly US clients like Colombia, Peru and Mexico. The re-vitalisation of the International Monetary Fund via injection of $750 billion was not welcomed by the ‘emerging market’ countries because of the IMF’s harsh conditions. The NATO summit spurned Washington’s demands for more combat troops to Afghanistan. The Summit of the Americas was a fiasco for Washington. The US was completely isolated in its defence of its policy toward Cuba, the Cuban embargo and its designation of Cuba as a ‘state supporter of terrorism’. At the same time, the Latin American countries turned elsewhere – to Iran and China, as well as within the region, for opportunities to stimulate their economies.
   Gradual loosening of the grip of the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary is now a stark fact in Latin America. The initiative to isolate Cuba by the US is now coming back as a boomerang. The US now increasingly finds it there in an isolated position. Mercosur, the regional trade agreement instituted to promote free trade throughout South America (similar to NAFTA), is gaining supporters and seeks to give Latin America the same economic clout that the US and the EU have. There are ALBA, the Bolivarian alternative, and the Bank of the South under the leadership of Venezuela also, which seek to provide viable alternatives to the hegemony of the empire.
   Political equation in Nepal compelled the US to withdraw support from Gyanendra, the ousted king, that helped Prachanda-led Nepali Maoist to put the master stroke on the Nepali political scene. The emergence of the Maoists in the Nepali political arena as a dominating force has far-reaching geopolitical and ideological implications.
   Altman said: ‘The financial and economic crash of 2008 … is a major geopolitical setback for the United States and Europe. Over the medium term, Washington and European governments will have neither the resources nor the economic credibility to play the role in global affairs that they otherwise would have played. These weaknesses will eventually be repaired, but in the interim, they will accelerate trends that are shifting the world’s centre of gravity away from the United States.’ In an essay titled ‘The Great Crash, 2008, A Geopolitical Setback for the West’, he said: ‘Indeed, rising economic powers are gaining new influence. No country will benefit economically from the financial crisis over the coming year, but a few states – most notably China – will achieve a stronger relative global position” Quoting the US National Intelligence Council’s Global Trend 2025 report news agencies said: US economic and political power is set to decline over the next two decades and the world will grow more dangerous as the battle for scarce resources intensifies. ‘The unipolar world is over, [or] certainly will be by 2025”, said Thomas Fingar, the NIC’s deputy director, at a press conference in Washington DC.
   As there is unity of the opposites in the material world the sole superpower could not impose tranquillity in all the lands torn with strife and conflicts generated by the competition for accumulation. It had to rely on the UN as, John Hughes, former editor, The Christian Science Monitor and former UN assistant secretary-general (1995), wrote in the Monitor: ‘UN peacekeeping is also relatively cheap that costs less worldwide in a year than the combined budgets of the New York City fire and police departments…’ It demonstrates the limits of the global power: in terms of mobilisation, fund, and, most important, imposing consensus on all the contending parties, either the front organisations or the underlying interests, multinational companies, states, unfulfilled aspirations of nationalities, tribes, all the stakeholders. A stark reality of limitation the collapsed Kremlin Empire had not experienced during its midday but had to be wrestled with by all the empires during their days of decadence.
   Social subsidence
   FORCES of decline work more actively in the inner body, in the society and economy [these two do not live in two airtight compartments], but less visible in the initial days. With each passing day these appear gradually and then, boldly. The society in the empire is no exception. Clyde Prestowitz, author of Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Wealth and Power to the East (Basic Books, NY, 2005), has exposed the myth of American efficiency. The Russians were considered military peers during the Cold War, but not as economic. Now the US is experiencing this. Prestowitz said: In fact, the US is starting to be pressed hard on not just one but several economic fronts, including those of whose very existence most Americans have not been aware. One would have to look closely at American society, its education, government and business to see that many of these segments have become ossified bureaucratic structures that work with exceptional inefficiency and are shielded from any control from market or government. In many ways, the US has become similar to the USSR in the last decade of its existence, when the Soviet Union had only one first-class and efficient organisation – its military force.
   The new image of the US is not of the soap opera Dallas, but of foreclosed homes, tent cities, lengthening soup kitchen lines, sheriffs evicting countless thousands including the old and the young from their homes, once prosperous towns descending into an eerie stillness and an increasingly disillusioned populace, of bankruptcies ranging from hockey team to Obama’s suit maker. ‘Hidden homeless’ is not a term unknown now in the land of plenty as the empire was once known. The number of homeless people in the United States is rising. Global Research, referring to Reuters, reported on March 26 from Sacramento, California: ‘Emergency shelters brimming with homeless people in California’s capital are quietly turning away more than 200 women and children a night is a sign of deteriorating US economy.’
   Obama recognised the trend in a televised news conference, saying ‘the homeless problem was bad even when the economy was good.’ An estimated 2.8 million children live on city streets, a third of whom are lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home. Familial prostitution is also common and involves the selling of a family member for drugs, shelter, and/or money. Citing the US Department of Agriculture figures Kate Randall, Global Research, (November 21, 2008) wrote: ‘Child hunger in the US rose by 50 per cent in 2007.’ The number of children who went hungry in America in 2007 was about 691,000. It was ‘a rise of 50 per cent over the previous year, while one in eight Americans overall struggled to feed themselves.’ The figures were reported in a study on food security conducted annually by the US Department of Agriculture. Citing a report by the National Centre on Family Homelessness the news agency AFP said: ‘One in 50 American children is homeless and the economic crisis hitting the United States will make the problem worse.’
   ‘Without a voice, more than 1.5 million of our nation’s children go to sleep without a home each year,’ says the ‘America’s Young Outcasts’ report by the NCFH. The child homelessness crisis is the worst since the Great Depression, says the report, which looked at the years 2005-06 – or before the economic slump had fully hit the US. Children without homes are twice as likely to go hungry, more than twice as likely as middle-class children to have health problems, and run twice the risk of other children of repeating a grade at school, being expelled or suspended or not finishing high school, the report adds. ‘At least 25 per cent have witnessed violence, and 22 per cent have been separated from their families,’ the report says of homeless children. ‘About half of all school-age children experiencing homelessness have problems with anxiety and depression, and 20 per cent of homeless preschoolers have emotional problems that require professional care,’ it says.
   The report looks only at homeless families with children under the age of 18. Runaways are not included in the statistics, even if some are minors. ‘It is unacceptable for one child in the United States to be homeless for even one day,’ it says, slamming the US government and media for ignoring the plight of homeless children while doling out huge sums of money to help ‘grossly overpaid bankers, captains of industry and carmakers’ in 2008. ‘What does it say about our country that we are willing to bail out banks but not our smallest most vulnerable citizens?’ the report asks. The economic slump which hit the US last year ‘will surely add to the legions of children who are homeless,’ and failure to act against child homelessness would have consequences that will play out for years. ‘It is virtually impossible to reclaim the life of a child who has spent his childhood without a home,’ the report warns.
   This glittering side of the coin carries more marks. According to the Union of Needle Trades and Industrial Textile Employees, 75 per cent of New York garment factories are sweatshops. The US Department of Labour says over 50 per cent of all US-based ones are, the majority in the apparel centres of New York, California, Dallas, Miami, and Atlanta but others located offshore as well in American territories like Saipan, Guam and American Samoa where merchandise produced is labelled ‘Made in the USA’. Stephen Lendman wrote: ‘Human trafficking or forced labour, modern slavery thrives in America, largely below the radar’ (‘Modern Slavery in America’, Global Research, March 6).
   A 2004 UC Berkeley study cites it mainly in five sectors: prostitution and sex services: 46 per cent, domestic service: 27 per cent, agriculture: 10 per cent, sweatshops or factories: 5 per cent, restaurant and hotel work: 4 per cent; with the remainder coming from sexual exploitation of children, entertainment, and mail order brides. Thousands are trafficked annually in the US in over 90 cities. The accounts of poor and poverty in the US are old. But these are told in the socioeconomic study circles with much force and with more frequency nowadays. The media is no exception. Michael D. Yates writes: ‘[I]n the last two years, there have been entire series in our major newspapers devoted to the growing income divide.’ (Monthly Review, January 2008) He wrote in the same journal: ‘It is difficult to overstate the power of fear and poverty…. Fear of losing a job. Fear of not finding a job.’ (July-August 2006) The Great Financial Crisis has aggravated this situation with 6.5 million jobless, loss of business, bankruptcies.
   Vocal voices
   THE financial crisis is creating social crisis and protests across the United States. Associated Press and Reuters informed that auction of foreclosed properties in the New York metropolitan area …was protested by picketers who chanted: ‘Evictions are a crime! It could be your house next!’ One of the protesters, Sharon Black, said she was in bankruptcy and hoping to save her Baltimore home. ‘These folks are profiting off the people’s misery,’ she said. The protesters blamed banks for an epidemic of home losses and called for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. On tax day, April 15, thousands of people joined in ‘anti-tax’ protests held all over the US. Occupation of a Chicago factory by a group of laid-off workers, unimaginable in the US, made international news. Protests by citizens in Sacramento also made news. These are, actually, creating challenges to the legitimacy of centres of power.
   All sections of the American society, other than the top minority, have been affected by this financial crisis which is unfolding protests latent below the surface of the society and which will follow the dynamics of the society. The establishment is aware of the possibility and is taking preparatory measures to curb social unrest. In the words of Rep Ron Paul: ‘With the phoney debt-based economy getting worse and worse by the day, the possibility of civil unrest is becoming a greater threat to the establishment. One need only look at Iceland, Greece and other nations for what might happen in the United States next.’ (Daily Paul, September 2008)
   Zbigniew Brezezinski, former national security adviser, has not ruled out the possibility of civil unrest in America as the US is ‘going to have millions and millions of unemployed, people really facing dire straits.…’ ‘[T]here is public awareness of this extraordinary wealth that was transferred to a few individuals at levels without unprecedented in America’, he said, “…hell, there could be even riots.” It seems that America itself is not immune from ‘regime-threatening instability’ as the Pentagon and the American intelligence community terms it. It is likely that the US establishment has not dismissed the worst-case scenario as reports come out in the media.
   Problems in the political setup
   PROBLEMS in political machinery describe problems in society, the opposite also. A confusing relationship among the ruling elites gets reflected in confusion and skirmishes in a political arrangement for rule. These problems do not jump in at the initial stage. They creep into and creep up. Incidents with political significance show this trend: (1) The Bush-Gore election stalemate and the legal mess that had to be untangled by a court verdict and the level of debate including the type of perforated hole in the butterfly ballot papers, as the Time and Newsweek (November 20 and 27, 2000) reported ‘hanging chad’, ‘swinging chad’, ‘dimpled’ or ‘pregnant chad’. What would have been the comment by poll and political observers had similar incident occurred in a third or fourth world country? (2) The way one colonel carried on, obviously in collusion with a section of the political leadership at the top, the Iran-Contra business. How can an individual ignore a state policy? (3) The incident known as ‘the revolt of the generals’ in 2006, in which half a dozen retired US commanders came out publicly against the management of the Iraq war. Does this speak of civilian leadership and its relationship with the military? (4) The recent budget problem in California during which government offices were ordered to keep closed for a certain number of days. (5) Does the Palme incident involving political leadership at the top show an extent of erosion? (6) Does the first time House rejection of the bailout plan show failures in cohesion among all segments of the ruling elites? (7) What does the surfacing up of the big corruption in New Jersey tell? What would have been the comments/observation by a first or second world pundit in case of similar single incident in any of the underdeveloped country? The pundit would first have quoted Shakespeare: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark and then: the state is in a state of decay. The incidents, a few of many, are symptoms of decay.
   A caustic tone could not escape Fareed Zakaria: ‘The problem today is that the US political system seems to have lost its ability to fix its ailments… The US political system has lost the ability to accept some pain now for great gain later on… As it enters the twenty-first century, the United States … has developed a highly dysfunctional politics. What was an antiquated and overly rigid political system to begin with (now about 225 years old) has been captured by money, special interests, a sensationalist media, and ideological attack groups.” Three questions, however, appear: Why a political system in an advanced capitalist country with a few centuries of history and experience shows these and why today? Do these carry any significance? The ruling system is failing to resolve opposite pushes or pulls from within and from outside, from below.
   Igor Panarin, a leading Russian political analyst and professor at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the economic turmoil in the United States has confirmed his long-held view that the country is heading for collapse, and will divide into six parts: the Pacific coast, with its growing Chinese population; the South, with its Hispanics; Texas, where independence movements are on the rise; the Atlantic coast, with its distinct and separate mentality; five of the poorer central states with their large Native American populations; and the northern states, where the influence from Canada is strong. The reasons he cited for the break-up were: ‘The financial problems in the US will get worse. Millions of citizens there have lost their savings. Prices and unemployment are on the rise. General Motors and Ford are on the verge of collapse, and this means that whole cities will be left without work. Governors are already insistently demanding money from the federal centre. Dissatisfaction is growing, and at the moment it is only being held back by the elections and the hope that Obama can work miracles. But by spring, it will be clear that there are no miracles.’
   He also cited the ‘vulnerable political setup’, ‘lack of unified national laws’, and ‘divisions among the elite, which have become clear in these crisis conditions.’ He said in an interview with the daily Izvestia last year: ‘The dollar is not secured by anything. The country’s foreign debt has grown like an avalanche, even though in the early 1980s there was no debt. By 1998, when I first made my prediction, it had exceeded $2 trillion. Now it is more than $11 trillion. This is a pyramid that can only collapse.’ The paper said Panarin’s dire predictions for the US economy, initially made at an international conference in Australia 10 years ago at a time when the economy appeared strong, have been given more credence by this year’s events.
   The changing environment – economic, social, political, geopolitical and ideological – is putting impression on the psyche of the people. A new US poll taken in early April astonishingly shows that US adults under 30 are approximately evenly divided on the question of socialism-versus-capitalism. According to a telephone poll by Rasmussen, 33 per cent of the under-30s prefer socialism, 37 per cent prefer capitalism, and 30 per cent are undecided. In the population as a whole, the poll found that 53 per cent believe capitalism is better than socialism; twenty per cent opt for socialism and 27 per cent are undecided. The significant aspect of these results is that they have appeared in a society which for decades has been bombarded on a daily basis with anti-communist and anti-socialist propaganda from virtually every major radio, television, newspaper, and political source. Is it the sign of a changing mass psychological map?
   Failures in finance
   TOM Philpott informs (Global Research, February 1): Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ranks the financial crisis as a higher priority and greater risk to security than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. ‘The scope of it is, to me, mind-boggling,’ said Mullen in an interview with Military Update just hours before President Barack Obama made his first visit to the Pentagon as commander-in-chief. The amount [of the bailout plan] nearly matched last year’s defence budget, Mullen noted, contrasting the speed of that action to the long, detailed process of setting military requirements, debating programmes and passing a defence budget. ‘I’ve been concerned and remain concerned about the impact of this on security,’ he continued. ‘It’s a global crisis. And as that impacts security issues, or feeds greater instability, I think it will impact on our national security in ways that we quite haven’t figured out yet.’
   It is only one aspect. The ‘story’ of the financial crisis is now much told: mountains of liquidity seeking higher profit, lack of profitable outlet other than speculation, and thus flow of huge amounts of capital into the sub-prime mortgage and toward weak borrowers of all types in the United States, in Europe, and, to a lesser extent, around the world. The average US home appreciated at 1.4 per cent annually over the 30 years before 2000, the appreciation rate roared forward at 7.6 per cent annually from 2000 through mid-2006. From mid-2005 to mid-2006, amid rampant speculation in the housing market, it was 11 per cent. The US manufacturing was twice as large as the financial sector of the US GDP in 1970. This reversed: the financial sector turned 21 per cent of the US GDP, while manufacturing was just 12 per cent, and was shrinking.
   What was the mantra behind the growth of the financial sector to such juggernaut size? Capital was not happy with the profit from the manufacturing job. So, it went to speculation. Trillions of dollars were playing around. Then came the meltdown. The victims were in the Main Street, not the CEOs or the billionaires. The full magnitude have been expressed by Barry Ritholtz who states that the bailout plan amounts to a sum of money that is superior to the Louisiana Purchase, the New Deal, the Marshall Plan, the Apollo Lunar Project, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the invasion of Iraq and other large government expenditures – combined.
   Milton Friedman and Anna Jacobson Schwartz argued in A Monetary History of the United States: 1867-1960: the underlying cause of the Great Depression was not the stock-market crash but a ‘great contraction’ of credit due to an epidemic of bank failures. In late 1930, 608 banks failed. By January 1932, 1,860 banks had failed. The present financial crisis is not of that type, even if their argument is accepted for the time being for the sake of a comparison. The capital involved in the present crisis is different from that of the 1930s; the present one is monopoly-finance capital, as Sweezy, Magdoff and Foster showed in their works done since long, with its own characteristics. On the other hand, the US current account deficit is at dangerous level – which in 2007 reached $800 billion, or seven per cent of GDP and was supposed to be unsustainable at four per cent of GDP. The income gap, an act of the monopoly-finance capital, is increasing.
   Why the economy, the basic structure that shapes the superstructure including politics, society, diplomacy, etc, produces this capital that brings catastrophe in the entire economy and in the entire world economy, and that pushes millions, not only in the US, but also all over the world, to uncertain life with shattered dreams while plays with speculation? Can an empire sustain and carry on its business throughout the empire and expand for indefinite period with the dominance of this capital while competing forces in the world stage are emerging? Answer to the question will provide the trend the empire will be having.
   Aurangzeb’s expeditions were not show of strength, were show of urgencies of the Mughal Empire that ultimately fell in great confusion before its fall, and the empire’s fall began during Aurangzeb’s reign. These two empires are not to be compared, but the pace of history is to be looked; it is not evenly paced, not always having the same speed and force. And, this is not the end of capitalism or of the empire. The present financial crisis will be over. Stock markets will turn vibrant. But, the stagnation in the economy will not leave and create bigger crisis with more force before giving way to a qualitative change.
   DESPITE all the signs of decline in the basic- and super-structures there is optimism. To Fareed Zakaria, ‘US military power is not the cause of its strength but the consequence. The fuel is the United States’ economic and technological base, which remains extremely strong. The United States does face larger, deeper, and broader challenges than it has ever faced in its history, and it will undoubtedly lose some share of global GDP. But the process will look nothing like Britain’s slide in the twentieth century, when the country lost the lead in innovation, energy, and entrepreneurship. The United States will remain a vital, vibrant economy, at the forefront of the next revolutions in science, technology, and industry.’ As example, he cites the US dominance in the fields of nanotechnology, the technology of the future, and biotechnology: the number of US ‘nanocenters’ are more than the next three nations (Germany, Britain, and China) combined and has issued more patents for nanotechnology than the rest of the world combined; … biotech revenues in the United States approached $50 billion in 2005, five times as large as the amount in Europe and representing 76 percent of global biotech revenues.’
   He continues: ‘The US military … dominates at every level … and spends more than the next 14 countries combined…. The United States also spends more on defence research and development than the rest of the world put together. And crucially, it does all this without breaking the bank. US defence expenditure as a per cent of GDP is now 4.1 per cent, lower than it was for most of the Cold War (under Dwight Eisenhower, it rose to ten per cent). As US GDP has grown larger and larger, expenditures that would have been backbreaking have become affordable. The Iraq war … will not bankrupt the United States. The price tag for Iraq and Afghanistan together – $125 billion a year – represents less than one per cent of GDP. The war in Vietnam … cost the equivalent of 1.6 per cent of US GDP in 1970, a large difference.’
   Fareed, probably, forgets that science and technology does not determine the destiny of an empire, does not specify the strength of it, rather the economy elucidates all in the superstructure; he, probably, forgets that the British colonial masters were far, far superior to their ‘native rustic’ subjects in terms of science and technology, in terms of finance power, in terms of maturity while the British Empire was making compromises with those ‘natives’ in its colonies. William Engdahl, the German author and economist said: We are looking at the end of the American century. In an exclusive interview with Russia Today in May, he said: ‘I call it in my new book the Decline of the American century. This is a terminal decline as you had with the British Empire after WWI... [B]ecause the cancer of this financial system has embedded so deeply that they’ve destroyed the industrial technology in the US. The American elite have rotted itself from the inside out over the past 30-40 years since the early 1970s.’
   As has been discussed here, very briefly, like a sketch, a gloomy picture emerges with a lot of question marks signifying undecided answers, unidentified factors, unknown speed. But, a trend is turning bold. That is the downward trend of the empire. Who knew on June 22, 1897, while, quoting Fareed Zakaria, ‘about 400 million people around the world – one-fourth of humanity’, most of whom were under the colonial boot, was commemorating ‘the 60th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s ascension to the British throne’ that these celebrations do show the signs that sun will set on the empire within half a century and a British prime minister would be presiding over the dismemberment of the empire?
   ‘The British Empire is handed over to the American pawnbroker – our only hope,’ said one member of the British parliament after the conclusion of the Lend-Lease Act and Keynes described the act as an attempt to ‘pick out the eyes of the British Empire.’ The master of the seas, the British Empire has not survived the forces of socioeconomic contradictions. History never gets repeated. Trying to find similarities, as Fareed Zakaria has tried to find in his book, will lead to nowhere other than to wrong conclusions. Does science not tell that the forces active in the basic- and super-structures follow rules of nature, ‘militarism…bears within itself the seed of its own destruction’ and ‘militarism collapses by the dialectic of its own development’, and ‘all political power is originally based on an economic and social function’? Was there anyone in the Pentagon who imagined that the same persons trained and armed to fight the USSR army would be fighting and bleeding the trainer, and the arms supplier in the same places?
   And, despite the looming darkness of the declining trend, despite the sufferings of the millions, a major portion of the corporate media gets busy with a video of a sports reporter, a female, and thus exposes the unresponsive character of the economy that controls the media; despite emerging basic questions in the hall of history lobbyists are active in Washington DC as, quoting from a news report, a consultant said: ‘The three-martini lunch is out, but the power lunch is still on.’ On the19th Street business is off ‘a little bit. Instead of a $150 wine, they might order a $100 bottle, but other than that, it’s pretty much status quo.’ But status quo is not there as socioeconomic process does not know status quo, and indulgence with power blinds empires. The world is more dangerous now as the sole superpower refuses to recognise the limits of its power, fails to address the fundamental causes of contradictions in the body politic and in the body society in the periphery because of its historical limitations, but retains the ambitions it had even in the later part of the last millennium.