Friday, July 20, 2012

Petras: From Welfare to Police State

Central to any real understanding of what's going on in the US today (with inevitable repercussions for the rest of us) is the deep and searching analysis of James Petras. Here's the conclusion to his latest essay The Great Transformation: From the Welfare State to the Imperial Police State. Do yourselves a favour and read the whole thing at And yes, Israel has a starring role:

"The conversion of a welfare state into a police state is the result of a militarized imperialism abroad and the ascendancy of finance capital at home, as well as the proliferation of security state agencies and related private industries and the strategic role of rightwing Zionists in top positions of the police state apparatus.

"This convergence of international and domestic structural changes took hold during the 1980s and 1990s and accelerated during the first decade of the 21st century. The downgrading of the vast public services of the welfare state was covered up by a massive government propaganda campaign to promote the 'global war on terror' together with a fabricated widespread domestic 'terrorist threat' involving the most hapless of suspects (including oddball Haitian millenarianists entrapped by FBI agents). The supporters and beneficiaries of the welfare state found themselves on the margins of any national debate. The mass media/regime propaganda campaign demanded and secured massive increases in centralized powers of domestic policing, surveillance, provocations, disappearances and arrests. Throughout the past decade, what the welfare state lost in support and funding, the police state gained. The rise of finance capital and the deregulation of the financial system crowded out any public subsidies to promote and sustain the competitiveness of the US manufacturing sector. This has led to a major break in the links between industry, labor and the welfare state. Huge tax write-offs to big business, combined with the growth in expenditures for a non-productive police state bureaucracy and a series of costly overseas wars, has led to unsustainable budget and trade deficits, which then became the pretext for the further savaging of the welfare state.

"Significant political, cultural and ideological shifts have aided the rise of the police state over the welfare state. The success of prominent American Zionists in securing power within key media propaganda mills and obtaining appointments to critical positions in the top echelons of the police state apparatus, judiciary, and imperial state bureaucracy (Treasury and State Department) has put Israel's colonial interests and its police state apparatus at the center of US politics. The US police state has adopted Israeli-style repression targeting US citizens and residents.

"US society is now split into two sectors: the 'winners' linked to the expanding and lucrative finance-security complex embedded in the police state while the 'losers', tied to the manufacturing-welfare sector, are relegated to an increasingly marginalized 'civil society'. The police state purges dissidents who question the 'Israel-First doctrine' of the US security-military apparatus. The finance sector, embedded in its own luxurious 'cocoon' of private services, demands the total gutting of public services directed toward the poor, working and middle classes. The public treasury has been taken over in order to finance bank bailouts, imperial wars and police state agencies while paying the bondholders of US debt. 

"Social security is on target to be privatized. Pensions are to be reduced, delayed and self-financed. Food stamps, access to affordable health care and unemployment support will be slashed. The police state cannot pay for glitzy new repressive technologies, greater policing, more intrusive surveillance, arrests and prisons while financing the existing welfare state with its vast education, health and human services and pension benefits.

"In sum, there is no future for social welfare in the US within its powerful financial-imperial-police state system. Both major political parties nurture this system, support serial wars, appeal to the financial elites and debate the size, scope and timing for further cuts in social welfare.

"The American social welfare system was a product of an earlier phase of US capitalism where US global industrial supremacy allowed for both military spending and welfare support, and where US military spending was constrained by the demands of the domestic socio-economic sectors of manufacturing capital and 'labor'. In an earlier phase Zionist influence was based on wealthy individuals and their congressional 'lobby' - they did not occupy key federal policy-making positions setting the agendas for war in the Middle East and a domestic police state.

"Times have changed for the worse: a police state, linked to militarism and perpetual imperial wars in the Middle East has gained ascendancy and now impacts our everyday lives. Underlying both the growth of the police state and the erosion of the welfare state is the rise of an interlocking 'financial-security power elite', held together by a common ideology, unprecedented private wealth and a relentless drive to monopolize the public treasury to the detriment of the vast majority of Americans. A confrontation and full exposure of all the self-serving propaganda which underpins the power elite is an essential first step [to change]. The enormous budgets for imperial wars are the greatest threat to US welfare. The police state erodes real public services and undermines social movements. Finance capital pillages the public treasury, demanding bailouts and subsidies for the banks. Israel Firsters, in key decision-making positions, serve the interests of a foreign police state against the interests of the American people. The state of Israel is the mirror opposite of what we Americans want for ourselves and our children: a free and independent secular republic without colonial settlements, clerical racism, and destructive self-serving militarism.

"Today the fight to restore the advances in citizens' welfare, established through public programs of the recent past, requires that we transform an entire structure of power: true welfare reform requires a revolutionary strategy and, above all, a grass-roots mass movement breaking with the entrenched 'two party' regime tied to the financial-imperial-internal security system."

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