Andrew Gavin Marshall

Home » Posts tagged 'crisis of democracy'

Tag Archives: crisis of democracy


Student Strikes, Debt Domination, and Class War in Canada: Class War and the College Crisis, Part 4

Student Strikes, Debt Domination, and Class War in Canada: Class War and the College Crisis, Part 4

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Part 1: The “Crisis of Democracy” and the Attack on Education

Part 2: The Purpose of Education: Social Uplift or Social Control?

Part 3: Of Prophets, Power, and the Purpose of Intellectuals

Part 5: Canada’s Economic Collapse and Social Crisis

Part 6: The Québec Student Strike: From ‘Maple Spring’ to Summer Rebellion?

There is a process under way in Canada, led by the corporate and financial elite, and directed against the general population, the poor, and the young, intending to provide for the rich and powerful, to punish the poor and steal from the rest, to plunge into poverty, to repress, control, and dominate: this process is called ‘Class War’ and it’s waged by the super-rich against the supposedly superfluous rest. It’s objective is simple: to preserve, protect, and expand the control and domination of the wealthy over the majority.

In Quebec, where the class warfare has taken on a specific assault on the students and youth, there are finally growing signs and actions that the youth are starting to fight back. The provincial government of Quebec – the French-speaking province of Canada – has decided to double the costs of tuition over the next few years. These moves have prompted hundreds of thousands of students across Quebec to go on strike in protest of the increased fees. Since Quebec currently has the lowest tuition costs in Canada for residents, a great deal of the media and commentary on the issue is related to lambasting Quebecers for their concept of “entitlements” and for “complaining” that they have to pay what others pay. The debate is focused around the ‘need’ for the government of Quebec to reduce its debt – balance its budget – framing increased tuition costs as a necessity to be accepted, and when resisted, to dismiss the protesters as unrealistic and petty.

So is it true that Quebec has the lowest tuition fees in Canada? Yes. However, Quebec residents also pay the highest income taxes in all of Canada.[1] One of the major claims by the Quebec government as to why tuition must be increased is the claim that Quebec’s universities are among the most “under-funded” in Canada, and therefore they need to increase their funding so as to increase their “competitiveness.” However, according to the Quebec government itself, total government spending on education (in 2008-2009) amounted to 1.94% of GDP, compared to 1.76% for Ontario, and 1.65% for Canada as a whole. At the same time, total university spending per student in Quebec was at $29,242, compared to $26,383 in Ontario, and $28,846 for Canada as a whole.[2] Thus, Québec’s universities are funded to a greater degree than the rest of Canada, so that argument does not hold weight.

Quebec’s universities are funded more than other Canadian universities, while Quebec residents pay more in taxes than the rest of Canada, so why the increase in tuition? As tuition fees for universities increase, government spending on education decreases. As the Canadian Federation of Students notes:

In the past fifteen years, tuition fees in Canada have grown to become the single largest expense for most university and college students. The dramatic tuition fee increases during this period were the direct result of cuts to public funding for post-secondary education by the federal government and, to a somewhat lesser extent, provincial governments. Public funding currently accounts for an average of approximately 57% of university and college operating funding, down from 84% just two decades ago. During the same period tuition fees have grown from 14% of operating funding to over 34%.[3]

This marks a move “away from a publicly funded model and towards a privatised user fee system,” which has caused “post-secondary education to become unaffordable for many low- and middle-income Canadians.” In the mid-1960s, nearly all of Canada’s university funding was provided by the federal and provincial governments, and tuition fees were either incredibly minimal or non-existent. This process began to change in the early 1980s, with the rise of neoliberalism in the global political economy, which saw moves toward cutting social spending by governments. As government funding decreased, tuition costs rose, and as a result, between the early 1980s and the early 1990s, tuition fees in Canada nearly doubled. In 1995, the Liberal federal government of Canada cut $7 billion in spending for the provinces, leading to “the largest tuition fee increases in Canadian history.” Quebec had, however, resisted the push toward making students pay more, which was taking place in all the other Canadian provinces. In the early 1990s, average undergraduate tuition fees in Canada were $1,464; today the average has more than tripled to $5,138.[4]

So why is this process taking place? Why must government spending on education (and other social programs) be reduced, while personal costs for all of these services be increased? The answer is not in “efficiency” or “balancing budgets,” but rather, in class warfare.

In April of 2007, TD Bank (one of Canada’s ‘big five’ banks which dominate the economy) released a “plan for prosperity” for the province of Quebec, which recommended, among other things, raising the cost of tuition: “by raising tuition fees but focusing on increased financial assistance for those in need, post secondary education (PSE) institutions will be better-positioned to prosper and provide world-class education and research.”[5] In one Canadian province, Nova Scotia, the government hired a former chief economist from the Bank of Montreal, Tim O’Neill, to assess higher education finances, and unsurprisingly, advocated higher tuition fees.[6] Banks, of course, have a major interest in promoting increased tuition costs, because they provide student loans and profit off of the interest on student debt, like some malevolent ever-growing succubus draining the life force and potential of future generations which are doomed to debt slavery. So naturally, our governments take the advice of the banks, because they know whom their real masters are.

It should be noted, as well, that this is not merely a problem in Quebec or Canada. Tens of thousands of students in the United Kingdom are planning a walk out in protest of increasing tuition fees, which “are pricing students out of education.”[7] The Occupy Movement in the United States is moving into universities, as campuses in California experienced demonstrations and protests against “state budget cuts to education and the resulting hikes in tuition.”[8] In Spain, more than 30,000 students took to the streets of Barcelona protesting the ‘austerity cuts’ to education, and were then of course met with state repression.[9] Perhaps most impressive is a mass student movement that has developed in Chile over the past year.

The College Crisis

What is the ‘college crisis’? It’s quite simple: our society is producing more educated, professionalized youths than ever before, who are then graduating into a jobless market, and what’s more, they are graduating with extensive debt. The professional education students receive, in combination with the heavy overbearing debt load and the immense dissatisfaction with the lack of opportunities for them, creates a large, mobile, educated, activated, and very pissed off group of people. This is what is referred to as a ‘poverty of expectations,’ whereby the inculcated expectations of a group or sector of society cannot be met by the society in which they live. In any society, in any period of history, this is a recipe for social unrest, resistance, rebellion, and, potentially, Revolution.

Naturally, the elites of any society fear such a scenario, so they always come up with various methods of managing these increasingly problematic conditions. The solutions, invariably, are always aimed at finding methods and means for undermining the ability and effectiveness of the target group to mobilize and organize for their cause; in this case, students. Cutting education budgets and increasing tuition fees is a very effective means to create more ‘desirable’ conditions for elites. How so? Any form of ‘austerity’ is essentially an act of class war, waged by the upper class against the rest. Austerity means that budgets will be cut and costs will be increased, whether through taxation, direct prices for services and necessities, or more often, both. The stated purpose of ‘austerity measures’ is to reduce debt (spending) and increase profitability (or revenue), with the purported aim of eliminating the debt over time. This is, however, not the true purpose of austerity, and appropriately so, it is never the result. The result is actually to increase debt, and impose a regimen of what amounts to ‘social genocide’: increasing the burden, costs, taxes, and hardships upon the wider population. For the poor, it means despair; for the middle class, it means poverty; and for the rich, it means prosperity and power.

The current crisis stems from developments that took place in the 1960s which saw an increase in activism and engagement among the general population, and especially the youth. Universities were breeding grounds for activism and movements which sought to create social uplift. The elite response to this scenario, in the United States specifically but also across the Western world as a whole, was to declare a “Crisis of Democracy” in which too many people were making too many demands upon the system, in which all forms of authority were under attack, and the legitimacy of those authorities were called into question. Elites of both the left and right saw this acceleration of democratic participation and activism as an assault upon their conception of what “democracy” should be – namely, a state that serves their interests alone. From the right, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – and from the liberal internationalists, the Trilateral Commission – launched a major national and global attack upon the surge of democratic activism in what the Trilateral Commission referred to as an “excess of democracy.” The result of this attack: neoliberalism and debt. The two documents that were most influential in this attack on democracy were the “Powell Memo” of 1971 sent to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which outlined a detailed program for how big business could reorganize society for its own interests, and the Trilateral Commission’s 1975 report, “The Crisis of Democracy,” which outlined an elite ideology which saw the problem of society being in an “excess of democracy” and that what is required is to correct the balance in favour of elites and increase apathy and passivity among the population. The Chamber of Commerce represents all the major business interests in the United States, while the Trilateral Commission (founded in 1973 by banker David Rockefeller), represents roughly 350 elites in the areas of academia, finance, business, government, foreign policy, media and foundations from North America, Western Europe, and Japan.

The result of this was to decrease government funding for education, increase tuition and other costs, increase debt for students and the general population as a whole (through credit cards, mortgages, loans, etc.), and to merge higher education and big business: the corporatization and privatization of universities.

As part of this process, knowledge was transformed into ‘capital’ – into ‘knowledge capitalism’ or a ‘knowledge economy.’ Reports from the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the 1990s transformed these ideas into a “policy template.” This was to establish “a new coalition between education and industry,” in which “education if reconfigured as a massively undervalued form of knowledge capital that will determine the future of work, the organization of knowledge institutions and the shape of society in the years to come.”[10]

Knowledge was thus defined as an “economic resource” which would give growth to the economy. As such, in the neoliberal era, where all aspects of economic productivity and growth are privatized (purportedly to increase their efficiency and productive capacity as only the “free market” can do), education – or the “knowledge economy” – itself, was destined to be privatized.[11]

Solving the ‘College Crisis’

In February of 2011, it was reported that the average debt for a Canadian family had reached over $100,000, spending 150% of their earnings. Thus, for every $1,000 in after-tax income, the average Canadian family then owes $1,500. The debt figures include mortgages, student loans, credit card debts, and lines of credit. In 1990, the average Canadian family was able to put roughly $8,000 into savings, in 2012, that number was at $2,500. So while the public is constantly told that the ‘recession’ is over, this is simply not true for the general population, though it may appear to be true in the quarterly reports of Canada’s multinational corporations and banks. A 2011 report indicated that, “17,400 households were behind in their mortgage payments by three or more months in 2010, up by 50 per cent since the recession began. Credit card delinquencies and bankruptcy rates also remain higher than before the recession.”[12]

By February of 2012, this rate of income-to-debt had not only failed to improve, but even got slightly worse, hitting a new record.[13] The state for Canadian families is indeed getting worse. More than half of the jobs created since the “end” of the “recession” went to those aged 55 and older, leaving the youth struggling to find jobs, while older workers have to either stay working longer, return from retirement because they can’t survive off of their pensions, and thus, young people are living at home longer and staying in school longer. The slight increases in hourly earnings has not kept up with inflation, and thus amounts to a loss of earnings, and income inequality continues to grow between the super-rich and everyone else.[14]

Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada (Canada’s central bank), is also Chairman of the Financial Stability Board, run out of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel, Switzerland – the central bank to the world’s central banks – and which operates under the auspices of the G20. Carney had previously served as Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada, the Canadian Department of Finance, and spent thirteen years with Goldman Sachs prior to that.

The Bank of Canada, like all central banks, serves the dominant elite interests of the nation, but also of the international financial elite more broadly. The board of directors of the Bank of Canada includes William Black, former CEO of Maritime Life, who sits on the boards of Dalhousie University, the Shaw Group, Standard Life of Canada, and Nova Scotia Business, Inc.; Philip Deck, CEO of Extuple, Inc. (a technology finance corporation), former managing partner with merchant banking company HSD Partners, and is on the board of a major Canadian think tank, the C.D. Howe Institute; Bonnie DuPont, former Vice President at Enbridge Inc., former director of the Canadian Wheat Board, a current director of agribusiness firm Viterra Inc, UTS, on the board of governors of the University of Calgary, member of the Institute of Corporate Directors, and is past president of the Calgary Petroleum Club; Jock Finlayson, Vice President of the Business Council of British Columbia, former Vice President of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (an interest group made up of Canada’s top 150 CEOs), and a member of the Canada West Foundation; Daniel Johnson, a director of Bombardier, IGM Financial, Mackenzie Financial Corporation, Investors Group, and former Minister of Industry and Commerce in the Province of Quebec; David Laidley, Chairman Emeritus of Deloitte & Touche LLP, on the boards of Nautilus Indemnity Limited, ProSep Inc., EMCOR Group, Aviva Canada Inc., the Cole Foundation, and on several boards at McGill University. The rest of the directors of the Bank of Canada are almost exclusively businessmen or former government officials (two women in total), and all of them are white; so, naturally, they truly represent the struggling Canadian family.

In March of 2012, the Bank of Canada warned that household debt “remains the biggest domestic risk” to Canada’s economy. While part of the Bank’s role is to set interest rates, it has kept interest rates very low (at 1%) in order to encourage lending (and indeed, families have become more indebted as a result). Yet, the Bank says, interest rates will have to rise eventually. Economists at Canada’s major banks (CIBC, RBC, BMO, TD, and ScotiaBank) naturally support such an inevitability, as one BMO economist stated, “while rates are unlikely to increase in the near term, the next move is more likely to be up rather than down, and could well emerge sooner than we currently anticipate.” The chief economist at CIBC stated that, “markets will pick up on the slightly improved change in tone on the economy, and might move forward the implied date for the first rate hike.” This translates into: the economy is doing well for the big banks, therefore they will demand higher interest rates on debts, and plunge the Canadian population into poverty; the “invisible hand of the free market” in action.[15] Increased interest rates mean increased payments on debts, which means increased suffering for the indebted, who make up the general population.

As the Bank of Canada warns that interest rates will increase, perhaps as soon as this year, the Canadian people – heavily indebted – will suffer immensely and will likely fail to meet their interest payments. Since such a large majority of the debt and interest is in mortgages, this would potentially cause a major housing crisis, which is already at bubble proportions (especially in Vancouver, now the most expensive city to live in within North America), and will drag the middle class and the rest of the Canadian economy down with it. Even TD Bank has said the housing market is over-valued (i.e., artificially inflated), and warned of a coming “correction” (i.e., economic crisis).[16]

As the gap widens between the rich and everyone else in nearly every OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) country, Canada is no exception. The top 10% of Canadian earners make ten times as much as the bottom 10%. The top 1% in Canada saw their share of total income increase from 8.1% in 1980 to 13.3% in 2007, while the top 0.1% saw their share increase from 2% to 5.3%. Tax policies in Canada strengthen the wealth gap. In 1981, the tax rate for the top margin of earners was 43%, and in 2010, it was 29%. As the Secretary General of the OECD stated in December of 2011, “The social contract is starting to unravel in many countries… This study dispels the assumptions that the benefits of economic growth will automatically trickle down to the disadvantaged and that greater inequality fosters greater social mobility.” Thus, “inequality will continue to rise.”[17]

In a 2008 OECD study, Canada was singled out as one of the countries with the worst rates of widening inequality, stating that, “In the last 10 years, the rich have been getting richer, leaving both middle and poorer income classes behind.” The top 3.8% of Canadian households controlled 66.6% of all financial wealth by 2009, with rates set to increase. As the Conservative government in Canada continues to implement corporate tax cuts, this disparity will increase, with the Harper government providing $60 billion in corporate tax breaks, while maintaining a $30 billion budget deficit (public debt). Despite all the tax cuts for corporations, the money that is not spent on taxes tends to go to shareholders and very little goes toward investments or job creation, meaning that the benefits do not “trickle down,” but rather, as to be expected, trickle up. For Prime Minister Harper’s tax policies and programs, “The higher the income, the bigger the tax break.” The senior economist at the International Trade Union Confederation stated that, “The growing gap between the rich and the rest of us has many causes, including higher remuneration for top earners, much higher profits as a share of the economy, less bargaining power for workers, and less progressive taxes… Conservative tax policies will clearly aggravate the problem.”[18]

The Conference Board of Canada released a study in the fall of 2011 which stated that, “income inequality has been rising more rapidly in Canada than in the U.S. since the mid-1990s,” and on a global scale, “Canada has had the fourth-largest increase in income inequality among its peers.” The President of the Conference Board explained, “Even though the U.S. currently has the largest rich-poor income gap among these countries, the gap in Canada has been rising at a faster rate.”[19]

Among the OECD countries, the one with the highest rates of inequality was none other than the Petri-dish experiment of neoliberalism, Chile, followed by Israel, Italy, Portugal, the U.K., and the United States. While the top 10% of Canadian earners had an average income of $103,500, the bottom 10% had an average annual income of $10,260.[20]

While Canada is often hailed as the most promising nation to come out of the economic-financial crisis of 2008, since its banks were largely left out of the housing derivative market (and thus, were protected), the facts on the ground represent a different reality. As the Economist reported in 2010, of the 31 OECD nations, Canada ranked as the 22nd worst country in terms of child poverty, with one in ten Canadians (roughly 3 million) being poor, 610,000 of them being children. In November of 2010, it was reported that roughly 900,000 Canadians were dependent upon food handouts, a 9% increase from the previous year, with roughly 300,000 homeless people. The majority of the poor are single mothers, immigrants, aboriginal and disabled Canadians. Through the 1980s and 1990s (with the implementation of neolibral policies), welfare payments to these groups were slashed, with British Columbia as the most enthusiastic supporter of exacerbating child poverty, which stood at 10.4% by 2010.[21]

The cost of poverty is quite extensive:

* By 2011, poverty was said to cost the government between $72-86 billion per year;

* In the city of Hamilton, Ontario, there is a 21 year-difference in life expectancy between those who live in high and low-income neighborhoods;

* In March of 2010, nearly 900,000 Canadians had to go to food banks for food, 38% of them being children, an increase of 28% since March of 2008, the “highest level of food bank use ever”;

* In 2010, there were between 150-300,000 “visible” homeless in Canada, with another 900,000 “hidden” homeless, and 1.5 million families in “core housing need” and 3.1 million families in unaffordable housing;

* In 2010, 59% of Canadians (over 20 million Canadians) lived from paycheck to paycheck, “saying they would be in financial difficulty if their paycheque was delayed by a week”;

* In 2009, the average annual income of Canada’s best paid CEOs was $6.6 million, “155 times higher than the average worker’s income ($42,988);

* A third of all income growth in Canada over the past two decades has gone to the richest one percent of Canadians.”[22]

Canada’s Youth: A “Bankrupted Generation”

By January of 2009, Canadian students had a debt to the federal government of over $13 billion, with student loan debt increasing by $1.2 million every day. The Canadian Federation of Students said the obvious answer to this growing crisis was to make education “affordable.” Studies show the effects of student debt, reducing “the ability of new graduates to start families, work in public service careers, invest in other assets, volunteer, or even just take a lower paying job in their own field to get a foot in the door.” On top of the $13 billion owed to the Federal Government, Canadian students owed an additional $5 billion to provincial governments, and the figures do not include debt owed to banks, credit card companies or parents.[23] In short, Canada’s student youth are a “lost generation.”

In September of 2010, the Canadian Council on Learning published a report which indicated that, “students who graduate from college and university with high debt loads are putting off buying a house, having children or investing for the future.” The average debt load of a Canadian university graduate in 2009 was $26,680, and the average debt for college graduates was $13,600. These figures, it should be noted, do not take into account mortgages, credit card debt, lines of credit, or car loans.[24] This represented a doubling in the amount of student debt from 1990, and in 2005, the number of Canadian students needing loans to pay for their education had increased to 57%.[25]

In October of 2011, it was reported that Canadian student debt (to the Federal Government) will surpass $15 billion by 2013, which is the current ceiling set by the government in student loans. Thus, if it reaches the ceiling, the government will no longer (in theory) be able to provide student loans. The solution, according to the Canadian Federation of Students, does not mean eliminating the debt ceiling, which will only make the problem worse, but rather, in reducing the costs of education itself. As the national chairperson of the CFS stated, “The reality is that the job market is grim and students are facing their first interviews with a mortgage-sized debt.” Thus, once they begin work, they do not contribute to the economic growth of the country, but rather merely have to focus on paying interest and repaying debts. The cost of university education in Canada is estimated to be at $60,000, and some studies suggest that this will rise to $140,000 for those born in 2011. The average yearly undergraduate tuition fees were a 4.3% increase from the previous year, reaching $5,366.[26]

In 2011, almost two million Canadians had a student debt totaling $20 billion, and as the chairman of the Canadian Federation of Students stated, “We have an entire generation of people who now more than ever have to complete some form of post-secondary education just to get a job interview, with more than 70% of all new jobs requiring some degree or diploma. We are on the verge of bankrupting a generation before they even enter the workplace.” As job losses continue, and especially as the youth job market continues to decline, the number of full-time students tends to increase, and the availability of part-time work for students continues to decline. A post-secondary education no longer increases a “return on investment” through a lifetime, as it was once assumed. The overall student debt is not the most pressing immediate problem, but rather the “crippling interest rate attached to these government loans” which plunge youth into a deep crisis. So while interest rates are very low (in other lending, as set by the Bank of Canada at 1%), the government is charging 8% interest on student loans. Margaret Johnson, president of Solutions Credit Counselling Service Inc. in Vancouver stated that, “When the loan goes into default, the interest starts to compound. And then you have an absolute nightmare. The average debt I’m seeing is anywhere between $30,000 and $60,000. The payments are so high on some of these loans that the young person cannot live and make a payment. Instead of lowering the interest rate — or eliminating it, which I think is the best solution — the government extended the repayment term to 14 years. The fact that so many loans are in arrears proves this isn’t the answer.”[27]

Some things are worth repeating: the average debt for every Canadian household is over $100,000 and the average debt for a university graduate in Canada is over $26,000; nearly one million Canadians depend upon food banks for their food, poverty and inequality are increasing, homelessness is increasing; the rich are getting richer and everyone else is getting poor or poorer, and there is a horrible job market with few jobs available, let alone available to youth. So the “solution” – we are told – to the supposed “problem” of “competitiveness” in our universities… is to increase the burden, the cost, and the debt of students, families, and the general population; to increase tuition and student debt, to increase interest rates on all debts, and to plunge the population into abject poverty. It seems then, that Canadians, and the Western world in general (as these policies are being pushed throughout the G8 nations on the whole) are about to get a hard lesson in what our countries of the industrialized and supposedly “democratic” north have been doing to the rest of the world (Africa, Asia, Latin America) for decades and, indeed, centuries. What has been done abroad is now coming home to roost.

The conditions, restrictions, programs and policies that our nations have imposed upon Africa, Asia, and Latin America for the past four decades have plunged those countries into poverty, allowed for the unhindered control and extraction of their resources for our corporations, put their nations into the debt of our banks, exploited their populations for cheap labour, and propped up ruthless dictators to repress the people if they ever get wise and want to change their society. While our nations of course continue in their raping and pillaging of the world, now they have also turned their attention – and absolute disregard for humanity – to their domestic populations. The same banks, international institutions, nations, organizations and even individuals who promoted the policies which led to the impoverishment and punishment of much of the world’s population are now telling us that these same policies are the “solutions” to our current crises, just as they told the populations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. If we listen to these same people, submit to the same policies, and accept the same ideologies which have caused so much destruction and devastation around the world, and expect different results at home, we deserve what we get. Naturally, then, we must stop accepting and consenting to the hegemony and power of our elites and their institutions and ideologies. This means that we have to actively create alternatives, not simply protest against their programs, or demand reforms, rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. The boat is sinking, it doesn’t matter how it looks on the way down. It’s time for a new system altogether. One cannot demand from others to create a new system, but must actively create it themselves.

In the next part of this series, “Class War and the College Crisis,” I will be discussing the coming economic crisis for Canada, which has thus far been hailed as the “safest” nation emerging from the 2008 “recession,” a myth that will soon be broken. As Canada, and much of the rest of the world, begin their rapid descent into an economic depression, the above-mentioned statistics regarding debt, poverty, and inequality will get worse. As the social and economic crisis deepens, our governments will continue to show in whose interests they truly rule: with batons, tear gas, beatings, mass arrests, detention camps, and the growth and development of a police state surveillance society, our governments will reveal that they rule for bankers, corporations, and oligarchs. The democratic façade will wash away. It is within these circumstances that Canadians, and the wider world in general, must seek to create a true democratic system. First, however, we must recognize and understand the system in which we live for what it is: a State-Capitalist society ruled by a power-mad oligarchy. The next part of this series will be taking a look at what this power-mad oligarchy is doing and will be doing to Canada’s economy and society in the coming years. Here’s a hint: it doesn’t benefit YOU!

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on


[1]            CRA, What are the income tax rates in Canada for 2012? Canada Revenue Agency:

[2]            Finances Québec, “A Fair and Balanced University Funding Plan: To Give Québec the Means to Fulfill its Ambitions,” The Government of Québec, 2011-2012 Budget, page 7.

[3]            CFS, Tuition Fees, The Canadian Federation of Students:

[4]            Ibid.

[5]            Press Release, “TD Economics outlines plan for prosperity in Quebec report,” Newswire, 10 April 2007:

[6]            CNW, “Déjà Vu: O’Neill Report Recycles Dated, Discredited Tuition Fee Myths,” Newswire, 17 September 2010:

[7]            Alison Kershaw, “Thousands of students to stage walkout protest,” The Independent, 12 March 2012:

[8]            Carla Rivera and Larry Gordon, “Occupy protests bring small yet intense crowds to state campuses,” Los Angeles Times, 1 March 2012:

[9]            Giles Tremlett, “Fighting breaks out in Barcelona as students protest over education cuts,” The Guardian, 29 February 2012:

[10]            Mark Olssen and Michael A. Peters, “Neoliberalism, Higher Education and the Knowledge Economy: From the Free Market to Knowledge Capitalism,” Journal of Education Policy (Vol. 20, No. 3, May 2005), page 331.

[11]            Ibid, pages 338-339.

[12]            CTV News Staff, “Average Canadian family debt hits $100,000,” CTV News, 17 February 2011:

[13]            Why are Canadian families falling further into debt?, The Globe and Mail, 14 February 2012:

[14]            Tavia Grant, “Financial security ‘elusive’ for many Canadian families,” The Globe and Mail, 22 March 2012:

[15]            Gordon Isfeld, “Bank of Canada says household debt ‘biggest risk’ to economy,” The Leader Post, 9 March 2012:

[16]            John Morrissy, “Household debt a mounting concern as rates appear set to rise,” The Montreal Gazette, 23 March 2012:

[17]            CBC, Wealth gap widens to 30-year high, CBC News, 5 December 2011:

[18]            Les Whittington, “Tax policies may aggravate gap between rich and poor,” Toronto Star, 27 May 2011:–tax-policies-may-aggravate-gap-between-rich-and-poor

[19]            Tavia Grant, “Income inequality rising quickly in Canada,” The Globe and Mail, 13 September 2011:

[20]            CTV News Staff, “OECD report finds income inequality rising in Canada,” CTV News:

[21]            Poverty in Canada: Mean Streets, The Economist, 25 November 2010:

[22]            CTV News Staff, “Canada Student Loan debt tops $13B, figures show,” CTV News, 21 January 2009:

[23]            CTV News Staff, “Canada Student Loan debt tops $13B, figures show,” CTV News, 21 January 2009:

[24]            CBC, “Student debt limits post-grad options,” CBC News, 22 September 2010:

[25]            QMI Agency, “Student debt doubled over 20 years: Study,” Toronto Sun, 22 September 2010:

[26]            Sharon Singleton, “Action needed on student debt: CFS,” Toronto Sun, 17 October 2011:

[27]            Mary Teresa Bitti, Student debt bankrupting a generation, The Financial Post, 4 June 2011:


Article Translation: “La ‘Crisis de la Democracia’ y el ataque a la educación”

Thanks to Verdad Ahora for translating a recent article of mine into Spanish: “Class War and the College Crisis: The Crisis of Democracy and the Attack on Education.”

Note: If you have any access to or have written translations of any of my articles (into any language), please send me the links so that I can re-post them on my website! Thanks.

Por Andrew Gavin Marshall

Hoy en día, somos testigos de una incipiente rebelión global masiva, liderada principalmente por los jóvenes educados y desempleados del mundo, en contra de los poderes institucionalizados y establecidos que tratan de privarlos de un futuro digno. En Chile durante el año pasado, un masivo movimiento estudiantil y huelgas se convirtieron en una fuerza poderosa en el país contra un sistema educativo cada vez más privatizado (que sirvió de modelo para el resto del mundo) con el apoyo de la inmensa mayoría de la población; en Quebec, Canadá, una huelga de estudiantes ha llevado a cientos de miles de jóvenes a las calles para protestar contra la duplicación de sus tasas de arancel; estudiantes y otros se fueron a huelga en España contra las medidas de austeridad; están desarrollándose y creciendo protestas lideradas por o con fuerte participación de los jóvenes en el Reino Unido, Grecia, Portugal, Francia, y en los Estados Unidos (por ejemplo, con el Movimiento Occupy), luchando contra las medidas de austeridad, la corrupción abierta de la clase capitalista, y la colusión del gobierno con los banqueros y las corporaciones. Estudiantes y jóvenes llevaron a los levantamientos en Túnez y Egipto el año pasado que condujeron al derrocamiento de los dictadores que habían gobernado a esas naciones durante décadas.

En todo el mundo, cada vez más, los jóvenes están saliendo a las calles para protestar, agitar y atacar los abusos de poder, los fracasos del gobierno, los excesos de la codicia, el saqueo y la pobreza. La juventud educada, en particular, está desempeñando un papel activo, un papel que crecerá dramáticamente durante este año y los próximos. La juventud educada está graduándose en un mercado de desempleo con una deuda enorme y pocas oportunidades. Ahora, así como hace varias décadas, los jóvenes están volcándose al activismo. ¿Qué pasó en el intervalo para que el activismo se desbaratara cuando había sido tan amplio en la década del 60? ¿Cómo nuestro sistema educativo llegó a su situación actual? ¿Qué implica esto para el presente y el futuro?

La “Crisis de la Democracia”

En el período comprendido entre los años 50 y 70, el mundo occidental, y especialmente Estados Unidos, experimentó una oleada masiva de resistencia, rebelión, protesta, activismo y acción directa de sectores enteros de la población en general que estuvieron durante décadas, si no siglos, en mayor medida oprimidos y olvidados por las estructuras de poder institucional de la sociedad. El movimiento de derechos civiles en Estados Unidos, el surgimiento de la Nueva Izquierda – radical y activista – en Europa y América del Norte, como en otras partes, el activismo contra la guerra, en gran parte impulsado en oposición a la guerra de Vietnam, la Teología de la Liberación en América Latina (y en Filipinas), el movimiento ecologista, el movimiento feminista, los movimientos de derechos de los homosexuales, y todo tipo de otros activistas y movimientos movilizados de la juventud y de vastos sectores de la sociedad se organizaron y agitaron activamente en favor del cambio, la reforma e incluso, la revolución. Cuando el poder se resistió más a sus demandas, los movimientos se radicalizaron más. Mientras más lento actuó poder, más rápido reaccionó el pueblo. El efecto, en esencia, es que estos movimientos buscaron, y en muchos casos consiguieron, empoderar a vastas poblaciones que habían sido de otro modo oprimidas e ignoradas, y por lo general hicieron despertar a las masas de la sociedad ante injusticias tales como el racismo, la guerra y la represión.

Para la población en general, estos movimientos fueron una etapa instructiva, civilizadora, y llena de esperanza en nuestra historia moderna. Para las élites, fueron terribles. Así, en la década del 70 tuvo lugar un debate dentro de la élite intelectual, sobre todo en los Estados Unidos, ante lo que se conoció como la “Crisis de la Democracia.” En 1973 fue creada la Comisión Trilateral, por el banquero y oligarca global David Rockefeller y el intelectual elitista Zbigniew Brzezinski. La Comisión Trilateral reúne a las élites de América del Norte, Europa Occidental y Japón (ahora incluye varios estados de Asia Oriental), en los ámbitos de la política, finanzas, economía, negocios, organizaciones internacionales, organizaciones no gubernamentales, académicos, militares, inteligencia, medios de comunicación, y círculos de política exterior. Actúa como un importante think tank internacional, diseñado para coordinar y establecer un consenso entre las potencias imperiales dominantes del mundo.

En 1975, la Comisión Trilateral publicó un importante informe titulado “La Crisis de la Democracia”, donde los autores se lamentaron por la “oleada democrática” de la década del 60 y la “sobrecarga” que impuso a las instituciones de autoridad. Samuel Huntington, politólogo y uno de los principales autores del informe, escribió que la década del 60 vio un crecimiento de la democracia en Estados Unidos, con un repunte de la participación ciudadana, a menudo “en forma de marchas, manifestaciones, movimientos de protesta, y organizaciones por “causas”.” Además, “la década del 60 vio también una reafirmación de la primacía de la igualdad como un objetivo en la vida social, económica, y política.” Por supuesto, para Huntington y la Comisión Trilateral, fundada por el amigo de Huntington, Zbigniew Brzezinski, y el banquero David Rockefeller, la idea de “la igualdad como un objetivo en la vida social, económica y política” es una perspectiva terrible y aterradora. Huntington analizó la forma de cómo en parte de esta “oleada democrática”, mostraban las estadísticas a lo largo de las décadas del 60 y el 70, hubo un dramático aumento en el porcentaje de personas que sentían que Estados Unidos estaba gastando demasiado en defensa (del 18% en 1960 al 52% en 1969, principalmente debido a la guerra de Vietnam). [1]

Huntington escribió que la “esencia de la oleada democrática de la década del 60 fue un desafío general a los sistemas existentes de autoridad, públicos y privados”, y que “La gente ya no sentía la misma compulsión a obedecer a aquellos a quienes habían considerado previamente superiores a sí mismos en edad, rango, estatus, experiencia, carácter, o talentos”. Huntington explicó que en la década del 60, “jerarquía, experiencia y riqueza” se encontraban “bajo ataque”.” El uso del lenguaje aquí es importante, colocando al poder y la riqueza como si estuviesen “bajo ataque”, lo que implica que aquellos que lo “atacan” son los agresores, lo que se opone al hecho de que estas poblaciones (como los estadounidenses negros) habían sido atacadas por el poder y la riqueza durante siglos, y que solo entonces habían comenzado a luchar. Por lo tanto, la autodefensa del pueblo contra el poder y la riqueza es vista como un “ataque”. Huntington afirmó que las tres cuestiones clave que son fundamentales en el aumento de la participación política en la década del 60 fueron:

cuestiones sociales, como el uso de las drogas, las libertades civiles y el papel de la mujer; cuestiones raciales, como integración, movilidad, ayudas gubernamentales a grupos minoritarios, y disturbios urbanos; cuestiones militares, que implican principalmente, por supuesto, la guerra en Vietnam, pero también proyectos, gasto militar, programas de ayuda militar y el papel del complejo militar-industrial en general. [2]

Huntington presenta estos problemas, en esencia, como la “crisis de la democracia”, en que aumentara la desconfianza en el gobierno y la autoridad, lo que llevó a la polarización social e ideológica, y derivó en una disminución “de la autoridad, el estatus, la influencia y la eficacia de la presidencia.” Huntington concluyó que los problemas de gobernabilidad en Estados Unidos derivaron de un “exceso de democracia”, y que “el funcionamiento eficaz de un sistema político democrático por lo general requiere cierto grado de apatía y de no participación por parte de algunos individuos y grupos”. Huntington explicó que la sociedad siempre ha tenido “grupos marginales” que no participan en la política, y si bien reconoce que la existencia de “marginalidad por parte de algunos grupos es inherentemente antidemocrática”, también “permite que la democracia pueda funcionar con eficacia”. Huntington identifica a “los negros”, como uno de esos grupos que se habían vuelto políticamente activos, lo que representaba un “peligro de sobrecarga del sistema político con demandas.” Por supuesto, esto implica directamente una versión elitista de la “democracia” donde el Estado mantiene la estética democrática (voto, separación de poderes, estado de derecho), pero sigue estando exclusivamente en manos de la rica élite de poder. Huntington, en su conclusión, afirmó que la vulnerabilidad de la democracia, particularmente la “crisis de la democracia”, deriva de “un alto nivel de educación, movilización, y sociedad participativa”, y que lo que se necesita es “una existencia más equilibrada” donde existan “límites deseables a la extensión indefinida de la democracia política”. [3] En otras palabras, lo que se necesita es menos democracia y más autoridad.

La Comisión Trilateral luego explicó su visión respecto de la “amenaza” a la democracia y por lo tanto, la forma en que el sistema “debería” funcionar:

En la mayoría de los países de la Trilateral [Europa Occidental, Norteamérica, Japón] en la última década ha habido un descenso en la confianza que el pueblo tiene en el gobierno… La autoridad ha sido cuestionada no sólo en el gobierno, sino en sindicatos, empresas comerciales, escuelas y universidades, asociaciones profesionales, iglesias y grupos cívicos. En el pasado, las instituciones que habían jugado el papel principal en el adoctrinamiento de los jóvenes en sus derechos y obligaciones como miembros de la sociedad habían sido la familia, la iglesia, la escuela, y el ejército. La eficacia de todas estas instituciones como un medio de socialización ha disminuido severamente. (Énfasis añadido) [4]

El “exceso de democracia” implicaba generar un supuesto “aumento de las demandas” al gobierno, justo en un momento en que la autoridad del gobierno estaba siendo socavada. La Comisión Trilateral asustó crecientemente a la comunidad de la elite intelectual, discutiendo la amenaza de los “intelectuales orientados a los valores” que se atreven a “hacer valer su disconformidad con la corrupción, el materialismo y la ineficacia de la democracia y con la sumisión de los gobiernos democráticos al “capitalismo monopolista”.” Para los miembros y componentes (las élites) de la Comisión Trilateral, no se retractaron de la evaluación de esa amenaza, afirmando que, “este desarrollo constituye un desafío a un gobierno democrático que es, al menos potencialmente, tan grave como los planteados en el pasado por las camarillas aristocráticas, los movimientos fascistas, y los partidos comunistas”. [5] Este es un uso muy típico de retórica elitista donde a la hora de identificar cualquier amenaza a los intereses de la élite, esta es presentada en casi términos apocalípticos. La implicación, por lo tanto, es que los intelectuales que desafían a la autoridad son presentados como una amenaza tan grande a la democracia como lo fueron Hitler y el fascismo.

El informe de la Comisión Trilateral explica – a través de un razonamiento económico – cómo una mayor democracia es sencillamente insostenible. La “oleada democrática” dio a los grupos desfavorecidos nuevos derechos y los hizo políticamente activos (como los negros), y esto se tradujo en aumento de las demandas sobre el mismo sistema cuya legitimidad había sido debilitada. ¡Un escenario terrible para las elites! El informe explicó que mientras la votación disminuyó a lo largo de las décadas del 60 y el 70, la participación política activa en los campus aumentó, los grupos minoritarios estaban exigiendo sus derechos (¡cómo se atreven!), y no sólo exigían derechos humanos básicos, sino también “oportunidades, posiciones, recompensas y privilegios, que no habían considerado como derechos propios anteriormente.” Es decir, no como los ricos, que se han considerado con derecho a todo, por siempre y para siempre. Por lo tanto, el gasto público en bienestar social y una mayor educación se incrementó, explica el informe: “A principios de los 70 los estadounidenses se volvieron progresivamente exigentes y recibieron más beneficios de su gobierno y sin embargo tenían menos confianza en su gobierno de la que tenían hace una década.” La mayoría de las personas se refieren a ello como un logro de la democracia, pero para los “intelectuales” de la Trilateral se trataba de un “exceso de democracia”, y, de hecho, una amenaza. [6]

Samuel Huntington, por supuesto, asume que el declive de la confianza en el gobierno era irracional, y no tenía nada que ver con la guerra de Vietnam, la represión policial y estatal de los movimientos de protesta, el escándalo Watergate y otros delitos evidentes. No, para Huntington, la pérdida de confianza está ligada mágicamente a las “mayores expectativas” de la población, o, como Jay Peterzell explicó en su crítica al informe, “la causa de la desilusión pública se remonta constantemente a expectativas poco realistas alentadas por el gasto del gobierno.” Huntington justificó este mito absurdo en su análisis sesgado del “giro a la defensa” y el “giro al bienestar”. El “giro a la defensa”, que tuvo lugar en la década del 50, describe un período en el que el 36% del aumento del gasto en el gobierno fue a la defensa (es decir, al complejo militar-industrial), mientras que el bienestar se redujo como proporción del presupuesto. Luego vino el “giro al bienestar” de la década del 60, en el que entre 1960 y 1971, sólo un ínfimo 15% del aumento del gasto fue al complejo militar-industrial, mientras que el 84% del aumento se destinó a programas nacionales. Por lo tanto, para Huntington, el “giro al bienestar” básicamente destruyó a Estados Unidos y arruinó la democracia. [7]

En realidad, sin embargo, Jay Peterzell desglosó los números para explicar los “cambios” en un contexto más amplio y más racional. Si bien es cierto que los porcentajes de aumento o disminución que muestra Huntington eran, después de todo, un porcentaje de “aumento” en el gasto, no lo eran en el porcentaje global del gasto Así que, cuando uno mira el conjunto del gasto público en 1950, 1960 y 1972, el porcentaje de “defensa” fue de 44, a 53, a 37. En esos mismos años, el gasto en bienestar ascendió de 4%, a 3% y a 6%. Así, entre 1960 y 1972, la cantidad de gasto en defensa disminuyó del 53 al 37% en el gasto total del gobierno. En los mismos años, el gasto en bienestar aumentó un 3-6% en el gasto total del gobierno. Cuando se ve como porcentaje del total, difícilmente puede ser legítimo afirmar que el escaso aumento del 6% de los gastos del gobierno para el bienestar era ni de lejos tan “amenaza” a la democracia como lo fue el 37% invertido en el complejo militar-industrial [8].

Así que, naturalmente, como resultado de estas terribles estadísticas, la élite intelectual y sus amos financieros tuvieron que imponer más autoridad y menos democracia. No se trataba simplemente de que la Comisión Trilateral abogara por tales “restricciones” a la democracia, ya que fue un debate importante en la élite de los círculos académicos en la década del 70. En Gran Bretaña, de esta discusión surgió la “tesis de la gobernabilidad” – o tesis de la “sobrecarga” – democrática. “Las Contradicciones Económicas de la Democracia” de Samuel Brittan en 1975, explicó que, “La tentación de animar falsas expectativas entre el electorado se vuelve abrumadora para los políticos. Los partidos de oposición están obligados a prometer hacerlo mejor y el partido de gobierno debe participar en la oferta.” En esencia, se trataba de una repetición de la tesis de la Trilateral de que demasiadas promesas generan demasiadas demandas, los cuales crean demasiada tensión para el sistema, e inevitablemente lo derrumbarán. Anthony King se hizo eco de esto en su obra, “Sobrecarga: Problemas de la Administración en la Década del 70”, y King explicó que gobernar se estaba volviendo “más difícil”, porque “a uno y al mismo tiempo, la gama de problemas que el gobierno espera y tiene que enfrentar ha aumentado considerablemente y su capacidad para hacer frente a los problemas, incluso muchos de los que tenía antes, ha disminuido.” El politólogo italiano Giovanni Sartori se hizo la pregunta: “¿La Democracia mata a la Democracia?”:

Estamos persiguiendo objetivos que están fuera de proporción, demasiado aislados y perseguidos ciegamente y que, por lo tanto, están en el proceso crear… una sobrecarga totalmente inmanejable y siniestra… Estamos empezando a darnos cuenta en las prósperas democracias que estamos viviendo por encima de nuestras necesidades. Pero estamos igual y más gravemente viviendo por encima y más allá de nuestra inteligencia, por encima de la comprensión de lo que estamos haciendo. [9]

King explicó que, “Los politólogos se han ocupado tradicionalmente de mejorar el desempeño del gobierno.” Un error evidente, concluyó King, quien sugirió que, “Tal vez en los próximos años deberían preocuparse más por cómo el número de tareas que el gobierno espera llevar a cabo pueda reducirse.” El “remedio” para toda esta “sobrecarga” de las sociedades democráticas es, en primer lugar, poner “fin a la política de las “promesas”,” y la segunda, “intentar reducir las expectativas de los votantes y los consumidores” en el proceso político. [10]

La “amenaza” de la juventud educada era especialmente pronunciada. En 1978, el Management Development Institute (una importante escuela de negocios de la India) publicó un informe en el que afirmaba:

Quizá la tendencia más perniciosa de la nueva década es el abismo creciente entre una mano de obra crecientemente mejor educada y el número de ofertas de trabajo que pueden hacer uso de esas habilidades y calificaciones… El potencial de frustración, alienación y disrupción resultante de la disparidad entre el nivel educacional alcanzado y el trabajo apropiado no puede ser menospreciado. [11]

En estos comentarios, estamos tratando con dos definiciones diametralmente opuestas de democracia: popular y elitista. La democracia popular es el gobierno del, por y para el pueblo, la democracia elitista es el gobierno de los, por y para los ricos (pero con la estética exterior de las democracias), canalizando la participación popular en la votación en lugar de la toma de decisiones o de la participación activa. La democracia popular implica que las personas participan directamente en las decisiones y las funciones y el mantenimiento de la “nación” (aunque no necesariamente del Estado), mientras que la democracia elitista implica la participación pasiva de la población lo suficiente como para permitir que se sientan como si desempeñaran un papel importante en la dirección de la sociedad, mientras que las élites controlan todas las palancas importantes de poder y las instituciones que dirigen y se benefician de las acciones del Estado. Estas diferentes definiciones son importantes porque al leer los informes por escrito y publicados por los intereses de la elite (como el informe de la Comisión Trilateral), cambia la sustancia y el significado del propio informe. Por ejemplo, tomemos el caso de Samuel Huntington, lamentándose por la amenaza a la democracia que representa la participación popular: desde la lógica de la democracia popular, esta es una afirmación absurda que no tiene sentido, desde la lógica de la democracia elitista, esa afirmación es correcta y profundamente importante. Si las élites entienden esta diferenciación, también debe hacerlo el público.

El Memo Powell: Protegiendo a la Plutocracia

Mientras las élites se lamentaban por el aumento de la democracia, sobre todo en la década del 60, no se quedaron sólo quejándose por el “exceso de democracia”, sino que fueron planeando activamente la reducción de la misma. Cuatro años antes del informe de la Comisión Trilateral, en 1971, fue publicado el infame y secreto Memo Powell, escrito por un abogado corporativo y miembro directivo de una compañía de tabaco, Lewis F. Powell, Jr. (a quien el presidente Nixon colocó en la Corte Suprema dos meses después), el cual fue dirigido al Presidente del Comité de Educación de la Cámara de Comercio de Estados Unidos, que representa los intereses empresariales estadounidenses.

Powell estipula que “el sistema económico estadounidense está bajo un amplio ataque” y que “el asalto al sistema empresarial tiene una base amplia y es perseguido constantemente… ganando impulso y conversos.” A pesar de que las ‘fuentes’ del ‘ataque’ fueron identificadas como amplias, incluyen a la multitud habitual de críticos, comunistas, la Nueva Izquierda, y “otros revolucionarios que quieren destruir todo el sistema, tanto político como económico.” Además de esto existían “extremistas” que eran cada vez “más bienvenidos y alentados por otros elementos de la sociedad, más que nunca antes en nuestra historia.” La verdadera “amenaza”, sin embargo, eran las “voces que se unen al coro de críticas [que] vienen de elementos perfectamente respetables de la sociedad: desde el campus de la universidad, el púlpito, los medios de comunicación, las revistas intelectuales y literarias, las artes y las ciencias, y de los políticos”. Aun reconociendo que en estos mismos sectores, los que hablan en contra del “sistema” son todavía una minoría, Powell señaló que “estos son a menudo los más elocuentes, y los más prolíficos en su escritura y expresión oral”. [12]

Powell, discutió la “paradoja” de cómo los líderes empresariales parecen estar participando – o simplemente tolerando – los ataques contra el “sistema de libre empresa”, ya sea por dar voz a través de los medios de comunicación que les pertenecen, o a través de las universidades, a pesar del hecho de que “los consejos de administración de nuestras universidades están compuestos mayoritariamente de hombres y mujeres que son líderes en el sistema”. Powell lamentó las conclusiones de los informes que indican que desde las universidades se estaban graduando estudiantes que “desprecian el sistema político y económico”, y por lo tanto, que estarían dispuestos a entrar en el poder y generar un cambio, o directamente cuestionar el sistema desde la cabeza. Esto marcó una “guerra intelectual” librada contra el sistema, de acuerdo a Powell, quien citó a continuación al economista Milton Friedman de la Universidad de Chicago (y ‘padre’ del neoliberalismo), quien declaró:

Está muy claro que los fundamentos de nuestra sociedad libre son objeto de ataques extendidos y poderosos – no por comunistas o cualquier otra conspiración, sino por personas equivocadas que cacarean como loros el uno al otro y sin darse cuenta que sirven a fines que nunca promoverían intencionalmente [13]

Powell, incluso identificó específicamente a Ralph Nader como una “amenaza” para el empresariado estadounidense. Powell se lamentó más por los cambios y el “ataque” que se realiza a través de los tribunales y el sistema legal, que comenzaron a atacar a la evasión de impuestos y los vacíos legales, con los medios de comunicación apoyando este tipo de iniciativas ya que ayudan a “los pobres”. Powell, por supuesto, se refiere a la noción de ayudar a “los pobres” a expensas de los ricos, y la formulación del debate como tal, como “demagogia política o analfabetismo económico”, y que la identificación de políticas de clase – los ricos contra los pobres – “es la más barata y más peligrosa clase de política.” Lamentablemente la respuesta del mundo empresarial ante este “amplio ataque”, según Powell, era “el apaciguamiento, la ineptitud e ignorar el problema.” Powell, sin embargo, explicó en simpatía a la “ineptitud” del empresariado y las elites financieras que, “hay que reconocer que los empresarios no han sido entrenados ni equipados para llevar a cabo una guerra de guerrillas como la de los que hacen propaganda contra el sistema”. [14]

Mientras que el “papel tradicional” de los empresarios ha sido el de obtener beneficios, “crear empleos”, para “mejorar el nivel de vida”, y por supuesto, “en general, ser buenos ciudadanos”, lamentablemente han demostrado “poca habilidad efectiva en el debate intelectual y filosófico.” Por lo tanto, declaró Powell, los empresarios primero deben “reconocer que el tema final puede ser la supervivencia – la supervivencia de lo que llamamos sistema de libre empresa, y todo lo que esto significa para la fuerza y la prosperidad de Estados Unidos y la libertad de nuestro pueblo.” Como tal, “la gestión [corporativa] debe estar igualmente preocupada der proteger y preservar el sistema en sí mismo”, en lugar centrarse en los beneficios. Las sociedades anónimas, reconoció Powell, estaban involucradas en este tiempo en las “relaciones públicas” y los “asuntos gubernamentales” (léase: propaganda y política pública), sin embargo, el ‘contraataque’ debe ser más amplio:

Pero la actividad independiente y no coordinada de las empresas individuales, por muy importante que sea, no será suficiente. La fuerza reside en la organización, en una cuidadosa planificación y aplicación a largo plazo, en la coherencia de la acción durante un periodo indefinido de años, en la escala de financiamiento disponible sólo a través de un esfuerzo conjunto, y en el poder político disponible sólo a través de la acción conjunta y las organizaciones nacionales. [15]

Si bien el ‘asalto’ contra el sistema se desarrolló a lo largo de varias décadas, Powell declaró que, “existe razón para creer que el campus de la [universidad/educación] es la fuente individual más dinámica”, ya que “las facultades de ciencias sociales suelen incluir miembros que son indiferentes al sistema empresarial”. Estos académicos, explicó Powell, “no tienen que ser mayoría”, ya que “son personalmente atractivos y magnéticos; son profesores estimulantes, y su controversia atrae a los estudiantes que los siguen; son prolíficos escritores y profesores, además de autores de muchos de los libros de texto, y ejercen una influencia enorme – muy desproporcionada para su número – ante sus colegas y en el mundo académico.” Esta situación es, por supuesto, ¡terrible y deplorable! ¡Imagina la clase de horror y desesperación que traería al mundo tener profesores atrayentes, estimulantes y prolíficos!

Pretendiendo que muchos politólogos, economistas, sociólogos e historiadores “tienden a ser más liberales”, Powell sugirió que “la necesidad de un pensamiento liberal es esencial para un punto de vista equilibrado”, pero que el “equilibrio” no existe, con “unos pocos miembros de la [facultad] conservadores o [de] poca persuasión… y siendo menos articulados y agresivos que sus colegas opuestos.” Aterrorizados por las perspectivas de que estos jóvenes potencialmente revolucionarios lleguen a posiciones de poder, Powell dijo que cuando lo hacen, “la mayoría de ellos rápidamente descubre las falacias de lo que se les ha enseñado”, esto, en otras palabras, quiere decir que se transforman rápidamente al socializar con las estructuras, las jerarquías y las instituciones de poder que demandan conformidad y sumisión a los intereses de la élite. Sin embargo, todavía existen muchos que podrían aparecer en “posiciones de influencia donde podrían moldear la opinión pública y a menudo dar forma a la acción gubernamental.” Por lo tanto, recomienda Powell, la Cámara de Comercio debe convertir en “tarea prioritaria de los empresarios” y sus organizaciones afines “abordar el origen de esta hostilidad en el campus.” Puesto que la libertad académica era vista como algo sacrosanto en la sociedad estadounidense, “sería fatal atacarla como un principio”, lo que por supuesto implica que debe ser atacada indirectamente. En cambio, sería más eficaz utilizar la retórica de la “libertad académica” contra el principio de libertad académica misma, utilizando términos como “apertura”, “equidad” y “equilibrio” como puntos de crítica que darían “una gran oportunidad para la acción constructiva.” [16]

Por lo tanto, una organización como la Cámara de Comercio debería, recomienda Powell, “considerar el establecimiento de un equipo de especialistas altamente calificados en ciencias sociales que crean en el sistema… [incluyendo] varios de reputación a nivel nacional cuya autoría sea muy respetada – incluso cuando no se esté de acuerdo con ellos.” La Cámara también debe crear “un equipo de oradores de la más alta competencia”, que “podrían incluir estudiosos”, y establecer una “Oficina de Oradores” que “incluya a los defensores más capaces y más eficaces de los niveles más altos del empresariado estadounidense.” Este equipo de investigadores, que subraya Powell, debe ser conocido como “investigadores independientes”, deben participar en un programa continuo de evaluación de “los libros de texto de ciencias sociales, especialmente en economía, ciencias políticas y sociología.” El objetivo de esto sería “orientarse a restablecer el equilibrio esencial para la libertad académica genuina”, lo que significa, por supuesto, la implantación del adoctrinamiento ideológico y la propaganda del mundo empresarial, que Powell ha descrito como nuestra garantía “de un trato justo y objetivo de nuestro sistema de gobierno y sistema empresarial, sus logros, su relación básica con los derechos y libertades individuales, y la comparación con los sistemas del socialismo, el fascismo y el comunismo.” Powell se lamentó que el “movimiento de derechos civiles insista en reescribir muchos de los libros de texto en nuestras universidades y escuelas”, y que “los sindicatos insistan en lo mismo [ó] que los libros de texto sean justos con los puntos de vista de los trabajadores organizados.” Por lo tanto, Powell sostuvo, dentro el mundo empresarial el intentar reescribir los libros de texto y la educación, el proceso “debe ser considerado como una ayuda hacia una auténtica libertad académica y no como una intrusión en ella.” [17]

Además, Powell sugirió que la comunidad empresarial debía promover oradores en las universidades y ciclos de conferencias “que parecieran ir en apoyo del sistema norteamericano de gobierno y empresa.” Aunque explicó que los grupos de estudiantes y profesores no son susceptibles de estar dispuestos a dar la palabra a la Cámara de Comercio o a líderes empresariales, la Cámara debía “insistir agresivamente” en ser escuchada, exigiendo “tiempos iguales”, lo que sería una estrategia efectiva debido a que “los administradores de la universidad y la gran mayoría de los grupos y comités de estudiantes no estarían en posición púbica de rechazar un foro para diversos puntos de vista.” Los dos ingredientes principales de este programa, explicó Powell eran, primero, “tener oradores atractivos, articulados y bien informados”, y en segundo lugar, “ejercer cierto grado de presión – pública y privada – que pueda ser necesario para asegurarse la oportunidad de hablar.” El objetivo, escribió Powell, “siempre debe ser el de informar e iluminar, y no simplemente hacer propaganda.” [18]

El mayor problema en los campus, sin embargo, era la necesidad de “equilibrar” las facultades, lo que significa simplemente que el mundo empresarial debía trabajar para implantar portavoces y apologistas de la élite económica y financiera en las facultades. La necesidad de “corregir” este desequilibrio, escribió Powell, “es de hecho un proyecto a largo plazo y difícil”, que “debe llevarse a cabo como parte de un programa general”, incluyendo la aplicación de presión “para mantener el equilibrio de la facultad sobre los administradores de la universidad y los consejos de administración.” Powell reconoció que tal esfuerzo es un proceso delicado y potencialmente peligroso, lo que requiere “una reflexión cuidadosa”, ya que la “presión indebida sería contraproducente.” Enfocarse en la retórica del equilibrio, la equidad y la “verdad” crearía un método “difícil de resistir, si se presenta al consejo de administración.” Por supuesto, todo contraataque del mundo empresarial no sólo debía dirigirse a la educación universitaria sino que, como sugirió Powell, también “a las escuelas secundarias”. [19]

En tanto Powell abordada el “ataque” desde – y el “contraataque” propuesto hacia – el sistema educativo por la élite empresarial y financiera, sugirió que, si bien se trataba de una estrategia a más largo plazo, en el corto plazo, sería necesario hacer frente a la opinión pública. Para ello:

El primer elemento esencial es el de establecer un personal de prominentes académicos, escritores y oradores, que piensen, analicen, escriban y expongan. También será esencial contar con personal que esté muy familiarizado con los medios de comunicación, y la manera más eficaz de comunicarse con el público. [20]

Los medios de comunicación con el público incluyen el uso de la televisión. Powell recomendó monitorear la televisión de la misma manera que se vigila los libros de texto, con objeto de mantener los medios de comunicación bajo “vigilancia constante” ante la crítica del sistema empresarial que, asume Powell, se deriva de una de dos fuentes: “la hostilidad o la ignorancia económica.” Se trata simplemente de asumir que las críticas al empresariado y al “sistema” no están justificadas, se derivan de un odio fuera de lugar o de la ignorancia de la sociedad. Este punto de vista es consistentemente regurgitado a lo largo del memo. Para “corregir” adecuadamente a los medios, Powell sugirió que la vigilancia presentara quejas tanto a los medios de comunicación como a la Comisión Federal de Comunicaciones, y al igual que en ciclos de conferencias universitarios “debe ser exigido el mismo tiempo [para los oradores empresariales]”, especialmente en “programas con formato de foro” como Meet the Press o el Today Show. Por supuesto, la radio y la prensa escrita también debían controlarse y “corregirse”. [21]

La “facultad de los eruditos”, establecida por la Cámara de Comercio o por otros grupos empresariales, debe publicar especialmente artículos académicos, ya que tales tácticas han sido efectivas en el “ataque” al sistema empresarial. Por lo tanto, estos “investigadores independientes” deben publicar en revistas populares (como Life, Reader ‘s Digest, etc.), revistas intelectuales (como The Atlantic, Harper’s, etc.) y revistas profesionales. Además, se deben publicar libros, ensayos y panfletos que promuevan “nuestro postura” para “educar al público.” La publicidad pagada también debe ser utilizada crecientemente para “apoyar el sistema”. [22]

Powell se volvió su atención a la arena política, a partir de la suposición básica de que la idea de que las grandes empresas controlan los gobiernos occidentales es simplemente “doctrina marxista” y “propaganda izquierdista”, que lamentablemente, informa Powell, “tiene un amplia recepción del público entre los estadounidenses.” Afirmó inmediatamente después que “todos los ejecutivos de negocios saben… que pocos elementos de la sociedad estadounidense de hoy en día tienen tan poca influencia en el gobierno como el hombre de negocios estadounidense, la corporación, o incluso los millones de accionistas de las empresas.” Powell afirma que, increíblemente, en términos de influencia en el gobierno, el pobre y desafortunado hombre de negocios y el ejecutivo corporativo estadounidense son “el hombre olvidado”. [23]

Olvídate de los sectores pobres, negros, y de los marginados de la sociedad, olvida las personas con discapacidad, los estereotipados, y los encarcelados, olvídate de los que dependen del bienestar social, los cupones de alimentos, o dependen de los servicios sociales o de caridad locales, y olvídate de toda la población de los Estados Unidos, que sólo consiguió el reconocimiento y apoyo del gobierno después de años de lucha, protestas constantes, represión policial, asaltos, reducción de sus derechos humanos y dignidad, esas luchas que sólo buscan conseguir un verdadero estatus de ser humano, el ser tratados de forma igualitaria y justa … no, ¡olvídate de esas personas! Los verdaderos “olvidados” y “oprimidos”, son los ejecutivos de Union Carbide, Exxon, General Electric, General Motors, Ford, DuPont, Dow, Chase Manhattan, Bank of America, y Monsanto. Ellos, en verdad, son los marginados… Por lo menos, al menos según Lewis Powell.

Para Powell, la educación y las campañas de propaganda son necesarias, pero los pobres ejecutivos marginados de una empresa estadounidense deben darse cuenta de que “el poder político es necesario”, y que tal poder debe ser “utilizado agresivamente y con determinación – sin vergüenza y sin la resistencia que ha sido tan característica en el empresariado estadounidenses”. Además, no es sólo en las ramas legislativa y ejecutiva del gobierno donde los líderes empresariales deben tomar el poder “agresivamente”, sino también en la rama judicial – los tribunales – que “pueden ser el instrumento más importante para el cambio social, económico y político”. Asegurando que tanto los “liberales” como la “extrema izquierda” han sido “explotadores del sistema judicial” – como la American Civil Liberties Union, los sindicatos y las organizaciones de derechos civiles – los grupos empresariales como la Cámara de Comercio tendrían que establecer “un personal altamente competente de abogados” para explotar el poder judicial en su propio beneficio. [24] Powell pasó a jugar un papel muy importante en este proceso; fue nombrado a la Corte Suprema de Justicia casi inmediatamente después de haber escrito este memo, tomando muchas decisiones importantes con respecto a los “derechos corporativos”.

Al abogar por un impulso agresivo en beneficio de sus propios intereses, Powell alentó a la comunidad empresarial “a atacar a los [Ralph] Nader, los [Herbert] Marcus y otros que abiertamente buscan la destrucción del sistema”, así como “sancionar políticamente a los que se oponen a éste”. La “amenaza para el sistema empresarial” no debe ser meramente presentada como una cuestión económica, sino que debe ser presentada como “una amenaza a la libertad individual”, lo que Powell describió como una “gran verdad”, que “debe ser reafirmada, para que este programa tenga sentido”. Por lo tanto, las “únicas alternativas a la libre empresa” son presentadas como “distintos grados de regulación burocrática de la libertad individual – desde que el socialismo moderado hasta el talón de hierro de la dictadura de derecha o de izquierda.” El objetivo era vincular la propia concepción individual promedio de los estadounidenses de su libertad personal a los derechos de las empresas y líderes empresariales. Por lo tanto, afirmó Powell, “la contracción y la negación de la libertad económica es seguida inevitablemente por restricciones gubernamentales sobre otros derechos preciados.” Este es el mensaje preciso, Powell explicó, “que por encima de todos los demás, debe ser llevado a los hogares del pueblo estadounidense”. [25] Así, según esta lógica, si hoy Monsanto y Dow son regulados, mañana, tu mamá y tu papá estarán en una dictadura.

La Nueva Derecha: Neoliberalismo y Educación

El Memo Powell es reconocido en mayor medida como una especie de “Constitución” o “documento fundacional” de la aparición de think tanks derechistas en los años 1970 y 1980, de acuerdo con sus recomendaciones para el establecimiento de “un equipo de especialistas altamente calificados en ciencias sociales que crean en el sistema.” En 1973, apenas dos años después de que el documento fuese escrito, fue fundada la Heritage Foundation como una “organización de expertos agresiva y abiertamente ideológica”, que adquirió gran influencia durante la administración Reagan. [26]

La página web de la Heritage Foundation explica que la misión del think tank “es formular y promover políticas públicas conservadoras basadas en los principios de libre empresa, gobierno limitado, libertad individual, valores tradicionales estadounidenses, y una defensa nacional fuerte.” Después de su fundación en 1973, la Heritage Foundation comenzó a “entregar investigación convincente y persuasiva al Congreso proveyendo hechos, datos y argumentos sólidos a favor de los principios conservadores.” En 1977, Ed Feulner se convirtió en presidente de la fundación y estableció “un nuevo personal directivo superior” y una ” banco de recursos” para “destronar al establishment liberal y establecer una red nacional de grupos políticos y expertos conservadores” en última instancia, un total de más de 2.200 “expertos en política” y 475 “grupos políticos” en Estados Unidos y en otros lugares. En 1980, Heritage publicó un “modelo de política pública”, titulado “Mandato para el Liderazgo”, que se convirtió en “la biblia política de la recién electa administración Reagan para todo, desde los impuestos a la regulación a la delincuencia y la defensa nacional.” En 1987, Heritage publicó otro plan de política, “Fuera de la Trampa de la Pobreza: Una Estrategia Conservadora para la Reforma del Bienestar”, que, según su página web afirma jactanciosamente, “cambió la mentalidad de las obligaciones en Estados Unidos, sacando a miles fuera de los subsidios [bienestar] y hacia la responsabilidad personal”, o, en otras palabras, a una mayor pobreza. [27]

El modelo de la Heritage Foundation llevó a la rápida proliferación de think tanks conservadores, de 70 a más de 300 en más de 30 años, que “a menudo trabajan juntos para crear múltiples redes a nivel local, estatal y federal y usan medios masivos y alternativos de comunicación para promover la agenda conservadora.” El objetivo final, al igual que con todos los think tanks y fundaciones, es “difundir la ideología”. [28]

El Cato Institute es otro think tank conservador – o “libertario” -, como se describe a sí mismo. Fundado en 1974 como la Charles Koch Foundation por Charles Koch (uno de los multimillonarios más ricos de Estados Unidos y principal financista del movimiento del Tea Party), así como por Ed Crane y Murray Rothbard. En 1977, había cambiado su nombre por el de Instituto Cato, después de las “Cartas de Catón”, una serie de ensayos escritos por dos escritores británicos del siglo dieciocho, bajo el seudónimo de Catón, que era un senador romano que se opuso firmemente a la democracia, y luchó contra la sublevación de esclavos dirigida por Espartaco. Fue idolatrado en el período de la Ilustración como progenitor y protector de la libertad (para unos pocos), lo que se reflejó en la ideología de los Padres Fundadores de los Estados Unidos, en particular, de Thomas Jefferson y James Madison, lo que para el Cato Institute justificó el cambio de nombre. Mientras que los pensamientos y pensadores de la Ilustración son idolatrados – muy especialmente en la formación de la Constitución de Estados Unidos – como defensores de la libertad y los derechos individuales, era el “derecho” de “propiedad privada” y para aquellos que poseían la propiedad (que, en ese momento, incluían a los propietarios de esclavos) la forma última de la sacrosanta “libertad”. Una vez más, una concepción claramente elitista de la democracia que se conoce “republicanismo”.

Estos think tanks derechistas se ayudaron en la era del neoliberalismo, reuniendo a “eruditos” que apoyaban el llamado sistema de “libre mercado” (sí, una falacia mítica), y que se burlan y se oponen a todas las formas de bienestar social y apoyo social. Los think tanks generaron la investigación y el trabajo que apoyó el dominio de los bancos y las corporaciones por sobre la sociedad, y los miembros de los think tanks conseguían que sus voces fueran escuchadas a través de los medios de comunicación, en el gobierno, y en las universidades. Se facilitó el cambio ideológico en los círculos de poder y la política hacia el neoliberalismo.

El Memo Powell y la “crisis de la democracia” establecieron una circunstancia política, social y económica donde el neoliberalismo emergió para administrar el “exceso de democracia.” En lugar de un enfoque más amplio en el neoliberalismo y la globalización en general, me centraré en sus influencias sobre la educación en particular. La era de la globalización neoliberal marcó un rápido declive de los estados de bienestar liberales que habían surgido en las décadas anteriores, y como tal, la educación se vio directamente afectada.

Como parte de este proceso, el conocimiento se transformó en “capital” – dentro del “capitalismo del conocimiento” o de una “economía del conocimiento”. Los informes del Banco Mundial y la Organización para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Económico (OCDE) en la década de 1990 transformaron estas ideas en una “plantilla directiva.” Esta buscaba establecer “una nueva coalición entre la educación y la industria”, donde “la educación una vez reconfigurada aparecería como una forma de capital del conocimiento masivamente subvalorado que determinará el futuro del trabajo, la organización de las instituciones del conocimiento y la forma de la sociedad en los próximos años.” [29]

El conocimiento se define así como un “recurso económico”, lo que llevaría al crecimiento de la economía. Por lo tanto, en la era neoliberal, donde todos los aspectos de la productividad y el crecimiento económico se privatizan (supuestamente para aumentar su eficiencia y capacidad productiva, ya que sólo el “libre mercado” lo puede hacer), la educación – o la “economía del conocimiento” – sí, estaba destinada a ser privatizada. [30]

En el modelo educativo de revisión neoliberal, “se vio que la productividad económica no proviene de la inversión pública en educación, sino de transformar la educación en un producto que podría ser comprado y vendido como cualquier otra cosa – y en un mercado globalizado, la educación occidental puede ser vendida como una mercancía valiosa en los países en desarrollo.” Por lo tanto, dentro de la propia universidad, “el significado de “productividad” se apartó de un bien social y económico generalizado hacia un valor en dólares ficticios para determinados productos y prácticas designadas por el gobierno”. Davies et. al. explica:

Cuando estos productos son estudiantes graduados, o investigaciones publicadas, el gobierno podría ser interpretado como financista de la labor académica, como siempre. Cuando los ‘productos’ que se financiarán son investigación con dólares de subvención, con mecanismos para fomentar la colaboración con la industria, puede interpretarse como la manipulación directa de los académicos para volverse autofinanciados y prestar servicios a los intereses de las empresas y la industria. [31]

La nueva “gestión” de las universidades implica una disminución de los fondos estatales al mismo tiempo que aumenta las “pesadas (y costosas) demandas en materia de contabilidad de la forma en que se utilizan los fondos”, y por lo tanto, “la confianza en los valores y prácticas profesionales ya no fue la base de la relación” entre las universidades y el gobierno. Se argumentó que los gobiernos ya no eran capaces de pagar los costos de la educación universitaria, y que la “eficiencia” del sistema universitario – definida como “hacer más con menos” – iba a requerir un cambio en el sistema de liderazgo y la gestión interna hacia “una forma de gerencia pública inspirada en la del sector privado” de la estructura universitaria. El “objetivo principal” de este programa neoliberal, sugiere Davies:

no era simplemente para hacer más con menos, ya que los sistemas de vigilancia y auditoría son extraordinariamente costosos e ineficaces, sino volver a las universidades más gobernables y de aprovechar sus energías en apoyo de las ambiciones programáticas del gobierno neo-liberal y las grandes empresas. Un cambio hacia la economía como la única medida de valor sirve para erosionar la situación y actividades de aquellos académicos que encuentran valor en ámbitos sociales y morales. Por el contrario, los tecnócratas de orientación política de los círculos académicos, que sirven a los fines del capital corporativo global, son alentados y recompensados. [32]

Si la década del 60 vio un crecimiento de la democracia y la participación popular en un grado significativo, emanando de las universidades, los intelectuales disidentes y los estudiantes, la década del 70 vio la articulación y actualización de los ataques de la élite contra la democracia popular y el propio sistema educativo. Desde la Cámara de Comercio de Estados Unidos y la Comisión Trilateral, que representan los intereses de la élite financiera y corporativa, el principal problema fue identificado como la participación activa y popular del público orientada a la sociedad. Esa era la “crisis de la democracia.” La solución para las élites era simple: menos democracia, más autoridad. En el ámbito educativo, esto significó un mayor control de la élite sobre las universidades, menos libertad y activismo de intelectuales y estudiantes. Las universidades y el sistema educativo de manera más amplia era crecientemente privatizado, corporativizado, y globalizado. La época de la militancia llegó a su fin, y las universidades iban a ser meras plantas de ensamblaje de unidades económicamente productivas que apoyasen el sistema, no que lo impugnasen. Uno de los métodos clave para asegurarse que esto funcione fue a través de la deuda, que actúa como un mecanismo disciplinario en el que los estudiantes se ven limitados por el peso de la servidumbre por deudas, y por lo tanto, su propia educación debe orientarse hacia una carrera específica y una expectativa de ingresos. El conocimiento se busca para obtener beneficio personal y económico más que por el bien del conocimiento como tal. Graduarse con una gran deuda implica entonces la necesidad de entrar inmediatamente al mercado de trabajo, si es que no se había entrado ya al mercado de trabajo a tiempo parcial mientras se estudiaba. Por lo tanto, la deuda disciplina a los estudiantes hacia un propósito diferente en su educación: hacia un puesto de trabajo y a los beneficios financieros en lugar de hacia el conocimiento y el entendimiento. El activismo entonces, es más un impedimento que un partidario del conocimiento y la educación.

En la siguiente parte de esta serie, voy a analizar el propósito y el papel de la educación y los intelectuales en un contexto histórico, diferenciando entre los propósitos de “bien social” y “control social” de la educación, así como entre los intelectuales orientados a la política (de elite) y los orientados a los valores (disidentes). A través de una mirada crítica de los fines de la educación y los intelectuales, podemos entender la crisis actual en la educación y la disidencia intelectual, y por lo tanto, entender los métodos y orientaciones positivas para el cambio.

Andrew Gavin Marshall es un investigador independiente y escritor residente en Montreal, Canadá, que escribe sobre una serie de cuestiones sociales, políticas, económicas e históricas. También es Project Manager del The People’s Book Project y presenta un programa semanal de podcast, “Empire, Power and People”, en


[1] Michel J. Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington and Joji Watanuki, The Crisis of Democracy, (Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, New York University Press, 1975), pages 61-62, 71.
[2] Ibid, pages 74-77.
[3] Ibid, pages 93, 113-115.
[4] Ibid, page 162.
[5] Jay Peterzell, “The Trilateral Commission and the Carter Administration,” Economic and Political Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 51, 17 December 1977), page 2102.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Wayne Parsons, “Politics Without Promises: The Crisis of ‘Overload’ and Governability,” Parliamentary Affairs (Vol. 35, No. 4, 1982), pages 421-422.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Val Burris, “The Social and Political Consequences of Overeducation,” American Sociological Review (Vol. 48, No. 4, August 1983), pages 455-456.
[12] Lewis F. Powell, Jr., “Confidential Memorandum: Attack of American Free Enterprise System,” Addressed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 23 August 1971:
[13-25] Ibid.
[26] Julie E. Miller-Cribbs, et. al., “Thinking About Think Tanks: Strategies for Progressive Social Work,” Journal of Policy Practice (Vol. 9, No. 3-4, 2010), page 293.
[27] The Heritage Foundation, “The Heritage Foundation’s 35th Anniversary: A History of Achievements,” About:
[28] Julie E. Miller-Cribbs, et. al., “Thinking About Think Tanks: Strategies for Progressive Social Work,” Journal of Policy Practice (Vol. 9, No. 3-4, 2010), pages 293-294.
[29] Mark Olssen and Michael A. Peters, “Neoliberalism, Higher Education and the Knowledge Economy: From the Free Market to Knowledge Capitalism,” Journal of Education Policy (Vol. 20, No. 3, May 2005), page 331.
[30] Ibid, pages 338-339.
[31] Bronwyn Davies, et. al., “The Rise and Fall of the Neo-liberal University,” European Journal of Education (Vol. 41, No. 2, 2006), pages 311-312.
[32] Ibid, page 312.

Podcast: The College Crisis

Empire, Power, and People with Andrew Gavin Marshall

The College Crisis


We are in the midst of a major college crisis: more students than ever before are graduating with professional educations and immense debt into a jobless market with no opportunities. The result of such a scenario, as any historian would warn, is the development of social unrest, dissatisfaction, rebellion, and potentially, revolution. As over 100,000 students on strike protested last week in Quebec against increased tuition costs, with the government stating its intent to dismiss and ignore them, student movements and protests are developing all over the world: Egypt, Tunisia, Chile, Taiwan, Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. Where did this college crisis come from?

It helps to look back at the activism of the 1960s which saw a “surge in democracy” among the population, and which created a terrifying scenario for elites. The response of elites to this “crisis of democracy” was to reduce democracy. In a secret memo to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a 1975 Trilateral Commission report, the “crisis” of popular participation in politics was identified, and the groundwork was laid for a counter-attack: neoliberalism, debt, and discipline. Today, we are seeing a further attack upon the population and democracy, and the students are beginning to stand up.

Listen to the podcast show here (Subscribers only):

Also see:

Class War and the College Crisis: The “Crisis of Democracy” and the Attack on Education”

Class War and the College Crisis: The “Crisis of Democracy” and the Attack on Education

Class War and the College Crisis: The “Crisis of Democracy” and the Attack on Education

The following is the first part of a series of articles, “Class War and the College Crisis.”

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Part 2: The Purpose of Education: Social Uplift or Social Control?

Part 3: Of Prophets, Power, and the Purpose of Intellectuals

Part 4: Student Strikes, Debt Domination, and Class War in Canada

Part 5: Canada’s Economic Collapse and Social Crisis

Part 6: The Québec Student Strike: From ‘Maple Spring’ to Summer Rebellion?

Today, we are witnessing an emerging massive global revolt, led primarily be the educated and unemployed youth of the world, against the institutionalized and established powers which seek to deprive them of a future worth living. In Chile over the past year, a massive student movement and strike has become a powerful force in the country against the increasingly privatized educational system (serving as a model for the rest of the world) with the support of the vast majority of the population; in Quebec, Canada, a student strike has brought hundreds of thousands of youth into the streets to protest against the doubling of tuition fees; students and others are on strike in Spain against austerity measures; protests led by or with heavy participation of the youth in the U.K., Greece, Portugal, France, and in the United States (such as with the Occupy Movement) are developing and growing, struggling against austerity measures, overt corruption by the capitalist class, and government collusion with bankers and corporations. Students and youth led the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt last year which led to the overthrow of the dictators which had ruled those nations for decades.

All around the world, increasingly, the youth are taking to the streets, protesting, agitating, and striking against the abuses of power, the failures of government, the excesses of greed, plundering and poverty. The educated youth in particular are playing an active role, a role which will be increasing dramatically over the coming year and years. The educated youth are graduating into a jobless market with immense debt and few opportunities. Now, just as several decades ago, the youth are turning back to activism. What happened in the intervening period to derail the activism that had been so widespread in the 1960s? How did our educational system get to its present state? What do these implications have for the present and future?

The “Crisis of Democracy”

In the period between the 1950s and the 1970s, the Western world, and especially the United States, experienced a massive wave of resistance, rebellion, protest, activism and direct action by entire sectors of the general population which had for decades, if not centuries, been largely oppressed and ignored by the institutional power structure of society. The Civil Rights movement in the United States, the rise of the New Left – radical and activist – in both Europe and North America, as elsewhere, anti-war activism, largely spurred against the Vietnam War, Liberation Theology in Latin America (and the Philippines), the environmental movement, feminist movement, gay rights movements, and all sorts of other activist and mobilized movements of youth and large sectors of society were organizing and actively agitating for change, reform, or even revolution. The more power resisted their demands, the more the movements became radicalized. The slower power acted, the faster people reacted. The effect, essentially, was that these movements sought to, and in many cases did, empower vast populations who had otherwise been oppressed and ignored, and they generally awakened the mass of society to such injustices as racism, war, and repression.

For the general population, these movements were an enlightening, civilizing, and hopeful phase in our modern history. For elites, they were terrifying. Thus, in the early 1970s there was a discussion taking place among the intellectual elite, most especially in the United States, on what became known as the “Crisis of Democracy.” In 1973, the Trilateral Commission was formed by banker and global oligarch David Rockefeller, and intellectual elitist Zbigniew Brzezinski. The Trilateral Commission brings together elites from North America, Western Europe, and Japan (now including several states in East Asia), from the realms of politics, finance, economics, corporations, international organizations, NGOs, academia, military, intelligence, media, and foreign policy circles. It acts as a major international think tank, designed to coordinate and establish consensus among the dominant imperial powers of the world.

In 1975, the Trilateral Commission issued a major report entitled, “The Crisis of Democracy,” in which the authors lamented against the “democratic surge” of the 1960s and the “overload” this imposed upon the institutions of authority. Samuel Huntington, a political scientist and one of the principal authors of the report, wrote that the 1960s saw a surge in democracy in America, with an upswing in citizen participation, often “in the form of marches, demonstrations, protest movements, and ‘cause’ organizations.” Further, “the 1960s also saw a reassertion of the primacy of equality as a goal in social, economic, and political life.” Of course, for Huntington and the Trilateral Commission, which was founded by Huntington’s friend, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and banker David Rockefeller, the idea of “equality as a goal in social, economic, and political life” is a terrible and frightening prospect. Huntington analyzed how as part of this “democratic surge,” statistics showed that throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s, there was a dramatic increase in the percentage of people who felt the United States was spending too much on defense (from 18% in 1960 to 52% in 1969, largely due to the Vietnam War).[1]

Huntington wrote that the “essence of the democratic surge of the 1960s was a general challenge to existing systems of authority, public and private,” and further: “People no longer felt the same compulsion to obey those whom they had previously considered superior to themselves in age, rank, status, expertise, character, or talents.” He explained that in the 1960s, “hierarchy, expertise, and wealth” had come “under heavy attack.” The use of language here is important, in framing power and wealth as “under attack” which implied that those who were “attacking” were the aggressors, as opposed to the fact that these populations (such as black Americans) had in fact been under attack from power and wealth for centuries, and were just then beginning to fight back. Thus, the self defense of people against power and wealth is referred to as an “attack.” Huntington stated that the three key issues which were central to the increased political participation in the 1960s were:

social issues, such as use of drugs, civil liberties, and the role of women; racial issues, involving integration, busing, government aid to minority groups, and urban riots; military issues, involving primarily, of course, the war in Vietnam but also the draft, military spending, military aid programs, and the role of the military-industrial complex more generally.[2]

Huntington presented these issues, essentially, as the “crisis of democracy,” in that they increased distrust with the government and authority, that they led to social and ideological polarization, and ultimately, to a “decline in the authority, status, influence, and effectiveness of the presidency.” Huntington concluded that many problems of governance in the United States stem from an “excess of democracy,” and that, “the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups.” Huntington explained that society has always had “marginal groups” which do not participate in politics, and while acknowledging that the existence of “marginality on the part of some groups is inherently undemocratic,” it has also “enabled democracy to function effectively.” Huntington identifies “the blacks” as one such group that had become politically active, posing a “danger of overloading the political system with demands.” Of course, this implies directly an elitist version of “democracy” in which the state retains the democratic aesthetic (voting, separation of powers, rule of law) but remains exclusively in the hands of the wealthy power elite. Huntington, in his conclusion, stated that the vulnerability of democracy – the ‘crisis of democracy’ – comes “from the internal dynamics of democracy itself in a highly educated, mobilized, and participant society,” and that what is needed is “a more balanced existence” in which there are “desirable limits to the indefinite extension of political democracy.”[3] In other words, what is needed is less democracy and more authority.

The Trilateral Commission later explained its views of the “threat” to democracy and thus, the way the system ‘should’ function:

In most of the Trilateral countries [Western Europe, North America, Japan] in the past decade there has been a decline in the confidence and trust which the people have in government… Authority has been challenged not only in government, but in trade unions, business enterprises, schools and universities, professional associations, churches, and civic groups. In the past, those institutions which have played the major role in the indoctrination of the young in their rights and obligations as members of society have been the family, the church, the school, and the army. The effectiveness of all these institutions as a means of socialization has declined severely.(emphasis added)[4]

The “excess of democracy” which this entailed created a supposed “surge of demands” upon the government, just at a time when the government’s authority was being undermined. The Trilateral Commission further sent rampant shivers through the intellectual elite community by discussing the perceived threat of “value-oriented intellectuals” who dare to “assert their disgust with the corruption, materialism, and inefficiency of democracy and with the subservience of democratic government to ‘monopoly capitalism’.” For the members and constituents (elites) of the Trilateral Commission, they did not hold back on the assessment of such a threat, stating that, “this development constitutes a challenge to democratic government which is, potentially at least, as serious as those posed in the past by the aristocratic cliques, fascist movements, and communist parties.”[5] This is a very typical elitist use of rhetoric in which when identifying any perceived threat to elite interests, they are portrayed in near-apocalyptic terms. The implication, therefore, is that intellectuals who challenge authority are presented as much of a threat to democracy as Hitler and fascism were.

The Trilateral Commission report explained – through economic reasoning – how increased democracy is simply unsustainable. The “democratic surge” gave disadvantaged groups new rights and made them politically active (such as blacks), and this resulted in increased demands upon the very system whose legitimacy had been weakened. A terrible scenario for elites! The report explained that as voting decreased throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, active political participation on campuses increased, minority groups were demanding rights (how dare they!), and not only were they demanding basic human rights, but also “opportunities, positions, rewards, and privileges, which they had not considered themselves entitled to before.” That is, unlike the rich, who have considered themselves entitled to everything, always, and forever. Thus, government spending on social welfare and education increased, explained the report: “By the early 1970s Americans were progressively demanding and receiving more benefits from their government and yet having less confidence in their government than they had a decade before.” Most people would refer to that as the achievement of democracy, but for the Trilateral “intellectuals” it was an “excess of democracy,” and indeed, a threat.[6]

Samuel Huntington, naturally, assumed that the decline of confidence in the government was irrational, and had nothing to do with the Vietnam War, police and state repression of protest movements, the Watergate Scandal or other obvious crimes. No, for Huntington, the decline in confidence is tied magically to the “increased expectations” of the population, or, as Jay Peterzell explained in his critique of the report, “the root cause of public disillusionment is consistently traced to unrealistic expectations encouraged by government spending.” Huntington justified this absurd myth on his skewed analysis of the “defense shift” and “welfare shift.” The “defense shift,” which took place in the 1950s, described a period in which 36% of the increase in government spending went to defense (i.e., the military-industrial complex), whereas welfare declined as a proportion of the budget. Then came the “welfare shift” of the 1960s, in which between 1960 and 1971, only a paltry 15% of the increase in spending went to the military-industrial complex, while 84% of the increase went to domestic programs. Thus, for Huntington, the “welfare shift” basically destroyed America and ruined democracy.[7]

In reality, however, Jay Peterzell broke down the numbers to explain the “shifts” in a larger and more rational context. While it was true that the percentages increased and decreased as Huntington displayed them, they were, after all, a percentage of the “increase” in spending, not the overall percentage of spending itself. So, when one looks at the overall government spending in 1950, 1960, and 1972, the percentage on “defense” was 44, to 53, to 37. In those same years, spending on welfare amounted to 4%, 3% and 6%. Thus, between 1960 and 1972, the amount of spending on defense decreased from 53-37% of the total spending of government. In the same years, spending on welfare increased from 3-6% of the total government expenditure. When viewing it as a percentage of the overall, it can hardly be legitimate to claim that the meager increase to 6% of government expenditures for welfare was anywhere near as “threatening” to democracy as was the 37% spent on the military-industrial complex.[8]

So naturally, as a result of such terrifying statistics, the intellectual elite and their financial overlords had to impose more authority and less democracy. It was not simply the Trilateral Commission advocating for such “restraints” upon democracy, but this was a major discussion in elite academic circles in the 1970s. In Britain, this discussion emerged on the “governability thesis” – or the “overload” thesis – of democracy. Samuel Brittan’s “The Economic Contradictions of Democracy” in 1975, explained that, “The temptation to encourage fake expectations among the electorate becomes overwhelming to politicians. The opposition parties are bound to promise to do better and the government party must join in the auction.” Essentially, it was a repetition of the Trilateral thesis that too many promises create too many demands, which then create too much stress for the system, and it would inevitably collapse. Anthony King echoed this in his piece, “Overload: Problems of Governing in the 1970s,” and King explained that governing was becoming “harder” because “at one and the same time, the range of problems that government is expected to deal with has vastly increased and its capacity to deal with problems, even many of the ones it had before, has decreased.” The Italian political scientist Giovanni Sartori asked the question, “Will Democracy Kill Democracy?”

We are pursuing targets which are out of proportion, unduly isolated and pursued blindly, and that are, therefore, in the process of creating… a wholly unmanageable and ominous overload… We are beginning to realize in the prosperous democracies that we are living above our means. But we are equally and more grievously living above and beyond our intelligence, above the understanding of what we are doing.[9]

King explained that, “Political scientists have traditionally been concerned to improve the performance of government.” An obvious mistake, concluded King, who suggested that, “Perhaps over the next few years they should be concerned more with how the number of tasks that government has come to be expected to perform can be reduced.” The “remedy” for all this “overload” of democratic societies was to, first, bring “an end to the politics of ‘promising’,” and second, “attempt to reduce the expectations of voters and consumers” on the political process.[10]

The “threat” of educated youth was especially pronounced. In 1978, the Management Development Institute (a major business school in India) released a report in which it stated:

perhaps the most pernicious trend over the next decade is the growing gap between an increasingly well educated labor force and the number of job openings which can utilize its skills and qualifications… The potential for frustration, alienation and disruption resulting from the disparity between educational attainment and the appropriate job content cannot be overemphasized.[11]

In these commentaries, we are dealing with two diametrically opposed definitions of democracy: popular and elitist. Popular democracy is government of, by, and for the people; elitist democracy is government of, by, and for the rich (but with the outward aesthetic of democracies), channeling popular participation into voting instead of decision-making or active participation. Popular democracy implies the people participating directly in the decisions and functions and maintenance of the ‘nation’ (though not necessarily the State); whereas elitist democracy implies passive participation of the population so much as to allow them to feel as if they play an important role in the direction of society, while the elites control all the important levers and institutions of power which direct and benefit from the actions of the state. These differing definitions are important because when reading reports written and issued by elite interests (such as the Trilateral Commission report), it changes the substance and meaning of the report itself. For example, take the case of Samuel Huntington lamenting at the threat posed to democracy by popular participation: from the logic of popular democracy, this is an absurd statement that doesn’t make sense; from the logic of elitist democracy, the statement is accurate and profoundly important. Elites understand this differentiation, so too must the public.

The Powell Memo: Protecting the Plutocracy

While elites were lamenting over the surge in democracy, particularly in the 1960s, they were not simply complaining about an “excess of democracy” but were actively planning on reducing it. Four years prior to the Trilateral Commission report, in 1971, the infamous and secret ‘Powell Memo’ was issued, written by a corporate lawyer and tobacco company board member, Lewis F. Powell, Jr. (whom President Nixon nominated to the Supreme Court two months later), which was addressed to the Chairman of the Education Committee of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, representing American business interests.

Powell stipulated that “the American economic system is under broad attack,” and that, “the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued… gaining momentum and converts.” While the ‘sources’ of the ‘attack’ were identified as broad, they included the usual crowd of critics, Communists, the New Left, and “other revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic.” Adding to this was that these “extremists” were increasingly “more welcomed and encouraged by other elements of society, than ever before in our history.” The real “threat,” however, was the “voices joining the chorus of criticism [which] come from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians.” While acknowledging that in these very sectors, those who speak out against the ‘system’ are still a minority, Powell noted, “these are often the most articulate, the most vocal, the most prolific in their writing and speaking.”[12]

Powell discussed the “paradox” of how the business leaders appear to be participating – or simply tolerating – the attacks on the “free enterprise system,” whether by providing a voice through the media which they own, or through universities, despite the fact that “[t]he boards of trustees of our universities overwhelmingly are composed of men and women who are leaders in the system.” Powell lamented the conclusions of reports indicating that colleges were graduating students who “despise the American political and economic system,” and thus, who would be inclined to move into power and create change, or outright challenge the system head on. This marked an “intellectual warfare” being waged against the system, according to Powell, who then quoted economist Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago (and the ‘father’ of neoliberalism), who stated:

It [is] crystal clear that the foundations of our free society are under wide-ranging and powerful attack – not by Communists or any other conspiracy but by misguided individuals parroting one another and unwittingly serving ends they would never intentionally promote.[13]

Powell even specifically identified Ralph Nader as a “threat” to American business. Powell further deplored the changes and “attack” being made through the courts and legal system, which began targeting corporate tax breaks and loop holes, with the media supporting such initiatives since they help “the poor.” Powell of course referred to the notion of helping “the poor” at the expense of the rich, and the framing of the debate as such, as “political demagoguery or economic illiteracy,” and that the identification of class politics – the rich versus the poor – “is the cheapest and most dangerous kind of politics.” The response from the business world to this “broad attack,” Powell sadly reported, was “appeasement, ineptitude and ignoring the problem.” Powell did, however, explain in sympathy to the ‘ineptitude’ of the corporate and financial elites that, “it must be recognized that businessmen have not been trained or equipped to conduct guerilla warfare with those who propagandize against the system.”[14]

While the “tradition role” of business leaders has been to make profits, “create jobs,” to “improve the standard of living,” and of course, “generally to be good citizens,” they have unfortunately shown “little skill in effective intellectual and philosophical debate.” Thus, stated Powell, businessmen must first “recognize that the ultimate issue may be survival – survival of what we call the free enterprise system, and all that this means for the strength and prosperity of America and the freedom of our people.” As such, “top [corporate] management must be equally concerned with protecting and preserving the system itself,” instead of just focused on profits. Corporations, Powell acknowledged, were long involved in “public relations” and “governmental affairs” (read: propaganda and public policy), however, the ‘counter-attack’ must be more wide-ranging:

But independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.[15]

While the ‘assault’ against the system developed over several decades, Powell elaborated, “there is reason to believe that the campus [university/education] is the single most dynamic source,” as “social science faculties usually include members who are unsympathetic to the enterprise system.” These academics, explained Powell, “need not be in the majority,” as they “are often personally attractive and magnetic; they are stimulating teachers, and their controversy attracts student following; they are prolific writers and lecturers; they author many of the textbooks, and they exert enormous influence – far out of proportion to their numbers – on their colleagues and in the academic world.” Such a situation is, naturally, horrific and deplorable! Imagine that, having magnetic, stimulating and prolific teachers, what horror and despair for the world that would surely bring!

In purporting that political scientists, economists, sociologists and many historians “tend to be liberally oriented,” Powell suggested that “the need for liberal thought is essential to a balanced viewpoint,” but that the ‘balance’ does not exist, with “few [faculty] members being conservatives or [of] moderate persuasion… and being less articulate and aggressive than their crusading colleagues.” Terrified of the prospects of these potentially revolutionary youths entering into positions of power, Powell stated that when they do, “for the most part they quickly discover the fallacies of what they have been taught,” which is, in other words, to say that they quickly become socialized to the structures, hierarchies and institutions of power which demand conformity and subservience to elite interests. However, there were still many who could emerge in “positions of influence where they mold public opinion and often shape governmental action.” Thus, recommended Powell, the Chamber of Commerce should make the “priority task of business” and its related organizations “to address the campus origin of this hostility.” As academic freedom was held as sacrosanct in American society, “It would be fatal to attack this as a principle,” which of course implies that it is to be attacked indirectly. Instead, it would be more effective to use the rhetoric of “academic freedom” itself against the principle of academic freedom, using terms like “openness,” “fairness,” and “balance” as points of critique which would yield “a great opportunity for constructive action.”[16]

Thus, an organization such as the Chamber of Commerce should, recommended Powell, “consider establishing a staff of highly qualified scholars in the social sciences who do believe in the system… [including] several of national reputation whose authorship would be widely respected – even when disagreed with.” The Chamber should also create “a staff of speakers of the highest competency” which “might include the scholars,” and establish a ‘Speaker’s Bureau’ which would “include the ablest and most effective advocates form the top echelons of American business.” This staff of scholars, which Powell emphasized, should be referred to as “independent scholars,” should then engage in a continuing program of evaluating “social science textbooks, especially in economics, political science and sociology.” The objective of this would “be oriented toward restoring the balance essential to genuine academic freedom,” meaning, of course, implanting ideological indoctrination and propaganda from the business world, which Powell described as the “assurance of fair and factual treatment of our system of government and our enterprise system, its accomplishments, its basic relationship to individual rights and freedoms, and comparisons with the systems of socialism, fascism and communism.” Powell lamented that the “civil rights movement insist[ed] on re-writing many of the textbooks in our universities and schools,” and “labor unions likewise insist[ed] that textbooks be fair to the viewpoints of organized labor.” Thus, Powell contended, in the business world attempting to re-write textbooks and education, this process “should be regarded as an aid to genuine academic freedom and not as an intrusion upon it.”[17]

Further, Powell suggested that the business community promote speakers on campuses and lecture tours “who appeared in support of the American system of government and business.” While explaining that student groups and faculty would not likely be willing to give the podium over to the Chamber of Commerce or business leaders to espouse their ideology, the Chamber must “aggressively insist” on being heard, demanding “equal time,” as this would be an effective strategy because “university administrators and the great majority of student groups and committees would not welcome being put in the position publicly of refusing a forum to diverse views.” The two main ingredients for this program, Powell explained, was first, “to have attractive, articulate and well-informed speakers,” and second, “to exert whatever degree of pressure – publicly and privately – may be necessary to assure opportunities to speak.” The objective, Powell wrote, “always must be to inform and enlighten, and not merely to propagandize.”[18]

The biggest problem on campuses, however, was the need to “balance” faculties, meaning simply that the business world must work to implant spokespeople and apologists for the economic and financial elite into the faculties. The need to “correct” this imbalance, wrote Powell, “is indeed a long-range and difficult project,” which “should be undertaken as a part of an overall program,” including the application of pressure “for faculty balance upon university administrators and boards of trustees.” Powell acknowledged that such an effort is a delicate and potentially dangerous process, requiring “careful thought,” as “improper pressure would be counterproductive.” Focusing on the rhetoric of balance, fairness, and ‘truth’ would create a method “difficult to resist, if properly presented to the board of trustees.” Of course, the whole counter-attack of the business world should not simply be addressed to university education, but, as Powell suggested, also “tailored to the high schools.”[19]

As Powell had addressed the “attack” from – and proposed the “counterattack” on – the educational system by the corporate and financial elite, he then suggested that while this was a more long-term strategy, in the short term it would be necessary to address the public in the short-term. To do so:

The first essential is to establish the staffs of eminent scholars, writers and speakers, who will do the thinking, the analysis, the writing and the speaking. It will also be essential to have staff personnel who are thoroughly familiar with the media, and how most effectively to communicate with the public.[20]

The means of communicating with the public include using television. Powell recommended monitoring television in the same way that they monitor textbooks, with an aim to keep the media under “constant surveillance” for criticism of the enterprise system, which, Powell assumed, was derived from one of two sources: “hostility or economic ignorance.” It is simply assumed that the critiques of business and the ‘system’ are unjustified, derived from a misplaced hatred of society or from ignorance. This point of view is consistently regurgitated throughout the entire memo. To more properly “correct” the media, Powell suggested that surveillance would then prompt complaints to both the media and the Federal Communications Commission, and just as in university speaking tours, “equal time [for business spokespeople] should be demanded,” especially on “forum-type programs” like Meet the Press or the Today Show. Of course, the radio and print press were also to be monitored and “corrected.”[21]

The “faculty of scholars” established by the Chamber of Commerce or other business groups must publish, especially scholarly articles, as such tactics have been effective in the “attack” on the enterprise system. Thus, these “independent scholars” must publish in popular magazines (such as Life, Reader’s Digest, etc.), intellectual magazines (such as the Atlantic, Harper’s, etc.) and the professional journals. Furthermore, they must publish books, paperbacks and pamphlets promoting “our side” to “educate the public.” Paid advertising must also increasingly be used to “support the system.”[22]

Powell then turned his attention to the political arena, beginning with the base assumption that the idea of big business controlling Western governments is mere “Marxist doctrine” and “leftist propaganda,” which, Powell sadly reports, “has a wide public following among Americans.” He immediately thereafter asserted that, “every business executive knows… few elements of American society today have as little influence in government as the American businessman, the corporation, or even the millions of corporate stockholders.” Powell amazingly claimed that in terms of government influence, the poor unfortunate American businessman and corporate executive is “the forgotten man.”[23]

Forget the poor, black, and disenfranchised segments of society; forget the disabled, the labeled, and the imprisoned; forget those on welfare, food stamps, dependent upon social services or local charity; forget the entire population of the United States, who can only incite government recognition and support after years of struggle, constant protests, police repression, assault, curtailment of basic human rights and dignity; those struggles which seek only the attainment of a genuine status of human being, to be treated equal and fair… no, forget those people! The true “forgotten” and “oppressed” are the executives at Union Carbide, Exxon, General Electric, GM, Ford, DuPont, Dow, Chase Manhattan, Bank of America, and Monsanto. They, truly, are the disenfranchised… At least, according to Lewis Powell.

For Powell, education and public propaganda campaigns are necessary, but the poor disenfranchised American corporate executive must realize that “political power is necessary,” and that such power must be “used aggressively and with determination – without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.” Further, it is not merely in the legislative and executive branches of government where business leaders must seize power “aggressively,” but also in the judicial branch – the courts – which “may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.” Charging that both “liberals” and the “far left” have been “exploiters of the judicial system” – such as the American Civil Liberties Union, labor unions and civil rights organizations – business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce would need to establish “a highly competent staff of lawyers” to exploit the judiciary for their own benefit.[24] Powell went on to play a very important role in this process as he was appointed to the Supreme Court almost immediately after having authored this memo, where he made many important decisions regarding “corporate rights.”

In advocating aggression in pushing their own interests, Powell encouraged the business community “to attack the [Ralph] Naders, the [Herbert] Marcuses and other who openly seek destruction of the system,” as well as “to penalize politically those who oppose it.” The “threat to the enterprise system” must not be merely presented as an economic issue, but should be portrayed as “a threat to individual freedom,” which Powell described as a “great truth” which “must be re-affirmed if this program is to be meaningful.” Thus, the “only alternatives to free enterprise” are to be presented as “varying degrees of bureaucratic regulation of individual freedom – ranging from that under moderate socialism to the iron heel of the leftist or rightist dictatorship.” The aim was to tie the average American’s own individual conception of their personal freedom and rights to that of corporations and business leaders. Thus, contended Powell, “the contraction and denial of economic freedom is followed inevitably by governmental restrictions on other cherished rights.” This is the precise message, Powell explained, “above all others, that must be carried home to the American people.”[25] So, by this logic, if today Monsanto and Dow are regulated, tomorrow, your Mom and Dad will be in a dictatorship.

The New Right: Neoliberalism and Education

The Powell Memo is largely credited with being a type of ‘Constitution’ or ‘founding document’ for the emergence of the right-wing think tanks in the 1970s and 1980s, as per its recommendations for establishing “a staff of highly qualified scholars in the social sciences who do believe in the system.” In 1973, a mere two years after the memo was written, the Heritage Foundation was founded as an “aggressive and openly ideological expert organization,” which became highly influential in the Reagan administration.[26]

The Heritage Foundation’s website explains that the think tank’s mission “is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.” Upon its founding in 1973, the Heritage Foundation began to “deliver compelling and persuasive research to Congress providing facts, data, and sound arguments on behalf of conservative principles.” In 1977, Ed Feulner became President of the foundation and established “a new senior management staff” and a ‘resource bank’ in order “to take on the liberal establishment and forge a national network of conservative policy groups and experts,” ultimately totaling more than 2,200 “policy experts” and 475 “policy groups” in the U.S. and elsewhere. In 1980, Heritage published a “public policy blueprint” entitled, “Mandate for Leadership,” which became “the policy bible of the newly elected Reagan administration on everything from taxes and regulation to crime and national defense.” In 1987, Heritage published another policy plan, “Out of the Poverty Trap: A Conservative Strategy for Welfare Reform,” which, as their website boastfully claimed, “changed the entitlement mentality in America, moving thousands off the dole [welfare] and toward personal responsibility,” or, in other words, deeper poverty.[27]

The model of the Heritage Foundation led to the rapid proliferation of conservative think tanks, from 70 to over 300 in over 30 years, which “often work together to create multi-issue networks on the local, state, and federal level and use mainstream and alternative media to promote conservative agendas.” The ultimate objective, like with all think tanks and foundations, is “spreading ideology.”[28]

The Cato Institute is another conservative – or “libertarian” – think tank, as it describes itself. Founded in 1974 as the Charles Koch Foundation by Charles Koch (one of America’s richest billionaires and major financier of the Tea Party movement), as well as Ed Crane and Murray Rothbard. By 1977, it had changed its name to the Cato Institute, after “Cato’s Letters,” a series of essays by two British writers in the 18th century under the pseudonym of Cato, who was a Roman Senator strongly opposed to democracy, and had fought against the slave uprising led by Spartacus. He was idolized in the Enlightenment period as a progenitor and protector of liberty (for the few), which was reflected in the ideology of the Founding Fathers of the United States, particularly Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, for which the Cato Institute credits as the reasoning for the re-naming. While Enlightenment thought and thinkers are idolized – most especially in the formation of the U.S. Constitution – as advocates of liberty, freedom and individual rights, it was the ‘right’ of ‘private property’ and those who owned property (which, at the time, included slave owners) as the ultimate sacrosanct form of “liberty.” Again, a distinctly elitist conception of democracy referred to as ‘Republicanism.’

These right-wing think tanks helped bring in the era of neo-liberalism, bringing together “scholars” who support the so-called “free market” system (itself, a mythical fallacy), and who deride and oppose all forms of social welfare and social support. The think tanks produced the research and work which supported the dominance of the banks and corporations over society, and the members of the think tanks had their voices heard through the media, in government, and in the universities. They facilitated the ideological shift in power and policy circles toward neoliberalism.

The Powell Memo and the general “crisis of democracy” set out a political, social, and economic circumstance in which neoliberalism emerged to manage the “excess of democracy.” Instead of a broader focus on neoliberalism and globalization in general, I will focus on their influences upon education in particular. The era of neoliberal globalization marked a rapid decline of the liberal welfare states that had emerged in the previous several decades, and as such, directly affected education.

As part of this process, knowledge was transformed into ‘capital’ – into ‘knowledge capitalism’ or a ‘knowledge economy.’ Reports from the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the 1990s transformed these ideas into a “policy template.” This was to establish “a new coalition between education and industry,” in which “education if reconfigured as a massively undervalued form of knowledge capital that will determine the future of work, the organization of knowledge institutions and the shape of society in the years to come.”[29]

Knowledge was thus defined as an “economic resource” which would give growth to the economy. As such, in the neoliberal era, where all aspects of economic productivity and growth are privatized (purportedly to increase their efficiency and productive capacity as only the “free market” can do), education – or the “knowledge economy” – itself, was destined to be privatized.[30]

In the revised neoliberal model of education, “economic productivity was seen to come not from government investment in education, but from transforming education into a product that could be bought and sold like anything else – and in a globalised market, Western education can be sold as a valuable commodity in developing countries.” Thus, within the university itself, “the meaning of ‘productivity’ was shifted away from a generalized social and economic good towards a notional dollar value for particular government-designated products and practices.” Davies et. al. elaborated:

Where these products are graduating students, or research published, government could be construed as funding academic work as usual. When the ‘products’ to be funded are research grant dollars, with mechanisms in place to encourage collaboration with industry, this can be seen as straightforward manipulation of academics to become self-funding and to service the interests of business and industry.[31]

The new ‘management’ of universities entailed decreased state funding while simultaneously increasing “heavy (and costly) demands on accounting for how that funding was used,” and thus, “trust in professional values and practices was no longer the basis of the relationship” between universities and government. It was argued that governments were no longer able to afford the costs of university education, and that the “efficiency” of the university system – defined as “doing more with less” – was to require a change in the leadership and management system internal to the university structure to “a form of managerialism modeled on that of the private sector.” The “primary aim” of this neoliberal program, suggests Davies:

was not simply to do more with less, since the surveillance and auditing systems are extraordinarily costly and ineffective, but to make universities more governable and to harness their energies in support of programmatic ambitions of neo-liberal government and big business. A shift towards economics as the sole measure of value served to erode the status and work of those academics who located value in social and moral domains. Conversely, the technocratic policy-oriented academics, who would serve the ends of global corporate capital, were encouraged and rewarded.[32]

As the 1960s saw a surge in democracy and popular participation, to a significant degree emanating from the universities, dissident intellectuals and students, the 1970s saw the articulation and actualization of the elite attack upon popular democracy and the educational system itself. From the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Trilateral Commission, both of which represent elite financial and corporate interests, the key problem was identified as active and popular participation of the public in the direction of society. This was the “crisis of democracy.” The solution for elites was simple: less democracy, more authority. In the educational realm, this meant more elite control over universities, less freedom and activism for intellectuals and students. Universities and the educational system more broadly was to become increasingly privatized, corporatized, and globalized. The age of activism was at an end, and universities were to be mere assembly plants for economically productive units which support the system, not challenge it. One of the key methods for ensuring this took place was through debt, which acts as a disciplinary mechanism in which students are shackled with the burden of debt bondage, and thus, their education itself must be geared toward a specific career and income expectation. Knowledge is sought for personal and economic benefit more than for the sake of knowledge itself. Graduating with extensive debt then implies a need to immediately enter the job market, if not already having entered the job market part time while studying. Debt thus disciplines the student toward a different purpose in their education: toward a job and financial benefits rather than toward knowledge and understanding. Activism then, is more of an impediment to, rather than a supporter of knowledge and education.

In the next part of this series, I will analyze the purpose and role of education and intellectuals in a historical context, differentiating between the ‘social good’ and ‘social control’ purposes of education, as well as between the policy-oriented (elite) and value-oriented (dissident) intellectuals. Through a critical look at the purpose of education and intellectuals, we can understand the present crisis in education and intellectual dissent, and thus, understand positive methods and directions for change.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on


[1]            Michel J. Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington and Joji Watanuki, The Crisis of Democracy, (Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, New York University Press, 1975), pages 61-62, 71.

[2]            Ibid, pages 74-77.

[3]            Ibid, pages 93, 113-115.

[4]            Ibid, page 162.

[5]            Jay Peterzell, “The Trilateral Commission and the Carter Administration,” Economic and Political Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 51, 17 December 1977), page 2102.

[6]            Ibid.

[7]            Ibid.

[8]            Ibid.

[9]            Wayne Parsons, “Politics Without Promises: The Crisis of ‘Overload’ and Governability,” Parliamentary Affairs (Vol. 35, No. 4, 1982), pages 421-422.

[10]            Ibid.

[11]            Val Burris, “The Social and Political Consequences of Overeducation,” American Sociological Review (Vol. 48, No. 4, August 1983), pages 455-456.

[12]            Lewis F. Powell, Jr., “Confidential Memorandum: Attack of American Free Enterprise System,” Addressed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 23 August 1971:

[13-25]                        Ibid.

[26]            Julie E. Miller-Cribbs, et. al., “Thinking About Think Tanks: Strategies for Progressive Social Work,” Journal of Policy Practice (Vol. 9, No. 3-4, 2010), page 293.

[27]            The Heritage Foundation, “The Heritage Foundation’s 35th Anniversary: A History of Achievements,” About:

[28]            Julie E. Miller-Cribbs, et. al., “Thinking About Think Tanks: Strategies for Progressive Social Work,” Journal of Policy Practice (Vol. 9, No. 3-4, 2010), pages 293-294.

[29]            Mark Olssen and Michael A. Peters, “Neoliberalism, Higher Education and the Knowledge Economy: From the Free Market to Knowledge Capitalism,” Journal of Education Policy (Vol. 20, No. 3, May 2005), page 331.

[30]            Ibid, pages 338-339.

[31]            Bronwyn Davies, et. al., “The Rise and Fall of the Neo-liberal University,” European Journal of Education (Vol. 41, No. 2, 2006), pages 311-312.

[32]            Ibid, page 312.

An Empire of Poverty: Race, Punishment, and Social Control

An Empire of Poverty: Race, Punishment, and Social Control

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

NOTE: The following is a brief sampling of some of the concepts, ideas, issues, and events that are to be thoroughly researched and written about in two chapters of The People’s Book Project which will be funded through The People’s Grant, of which the objective is to raise $1,600 from readers and supporters. If you find the information in the following sampling of interest, please donate to the People’s Book Project and help facilitate expanded research on these and other related subjects into constructing two significant chapters for the book. For a look at what other information will be included in these chapters, see the latest information on The People’s Grant.

Contribute to The People’s Grant:

Slavery and the Social Construction of Race

Between 1619 and 1860, the American legal system, from that imposed by the British Empire to that constructed following the American Revolution, “expanded and protected the liberties of white Americans – while at the same time the legal process became increasingly more harsh as to the masses of blacks, with a steady contraction of their liberties.” This process marked the ‘social construction’ of race and with it, racial superiority and inferiority, delegated to whites and blacks, respectively.[1] Interesting to note was that between 1619 and the 1660s, the American colonial legal system was “far more supportive for blacks; or, phrased differently, the early legal process was less harsh.” Georgia’s original charter, in fact, had three prohibitions: no alcohol, no free land titles, “and no Negro slaves.” In Virginia, as late as 1672 and 1673, there were legal records of some slaves “serving limited terms as indentured servants rather than being sentenced to the eternity of slavery.”[2]

The colonies in the Americas required a massive labour force, “Between 1607 and 1783, more than 350,000 ‘white’ bond-labourers arrived in the British colonies.”[3] The Americas had both un-free blacks and whites, with blacks being a minority, yet they “exercised basic rights in law.”[4] Problems arrived in the form of elites trying to control the labour class. Slaves were made up of Indian, black and white labourers; yet, problems arose with this “mixed” population of un-free labour. The problem with Indian labourers was that they knew the land and could escape to “undiscovered” territory, and enslavement would often instigate rebellions and war:

The social costs of trying to discipline un-free native labour had proved too high. Natives would eventually be genocidally eliminated, once population settlement and military power made victory more or less certain; for the time being, however, different sources of bond labour had to be found.[5]

Between 1607 and 1682, more than 90,000 European immigrants, “three-quarters of them chattel bond-labourers, were brought to Virginia and Maryland.” Following the “establishment of the Royal African Company in 1672, a steady supply of African slaves was secured.” Problems became paramount, however, as the lower classes tended to be very rebellious, which consisted of “an amalgam of indentured servants and slaves, of poor whites and blacks, of landless freemen and debtors.” The lower classes were united in opposition to the elites oppressing them, regardless of background.[6]

Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676 was of particular note, as bond-labourers, black and white, rebelled against the local elites and “demanded freedom from chattel servitude.” For the colonialists, “[s]uch images of a joint uprising of black and white, slave and bondsman, proved traumatic. In the face of a united rebellion of the lower orders, the planter bourgeoisie understood that their entire system of colonial exploitation and privilege was at risk.”[7]

In response to this threat, the landed elite “relaxed the servitude of white labourers, intensified the bonds of black slavery, and introduced a new regime of racial oppression. In doing so, they effectively created the white race – and with it white supremacy.”[8] Thus, “the conditions of white and black servants began to diverge considerably after 1660.” Following this, legislation would separate white and black slavery, prevent “mixed” marriages, and seek to prevent the procreation of “mixed-race” children. Whereas before 1660, many black slaves were not indentured for life, this changed as colonial law increasingly “imposed lifetime bondage for black servants – and, especially significant, the curse of lifetime servitude for their offspring.”[9]

A central feature of the social construction of this racial divide was “the denial of the right to vote,” as most Anglo-American colonies previously allowed free blacks to vote, but this slowly changed throughout the colonies. The ruling class of America was essentially “inventing race.” Thus, “[f]reedom was increasingly identified with race, not class.”[10]

The ‘Reconstruction’ of Slavery in Post-Civil War America

Important to note has been the ways in which slaves were used as the main labour force, and thus blacks were identified and being sustained as a lower-class labour force. Following the Civil War, abolition of slavery and the Reconstruction Period, there were coordinated moves – a ‘compact’ – between the North and South in the United States, to devise a way of keeping blacks as a submissive labour force, and one which was confined to a new form of slavery: penal slavery. Thus, we see emerging in the 1870s and into the 20th century, a rapid expansion of prisons, and with that, of southern penal systems using prisoners as forced labour. This new legal system, which was “far less rigid than slavery,” had been referred to as “involuntary servitude,” and, wrote one scholar, “was a fluid, flexible affair which alternated between free and forced labor in time to the rhythm of the southern labor market.”[11]

A famous American botanist and agricultural editor of the Weekly News and Courier wrote in 1865 that, “There must… be stringent laws to control the negroes, & require them to fulfill their contracts of labour on the farms.” Southern legislatures, then, began to enact what were referred to as Black Codes, “designed to preserve white hegemony.”[12] The 12-year period following the end of the Civil War, known as the ‘Reconstruction,’ saw the continued struggle of newly-freed blacks to attempt to break free from being “forced back under the political and economic domination of the large landowners,” and to do so, they were demanding land ownership rights to the tune of “40 acres and a mule.” This was, of course, unacceptable to vested interests. While the Republic Party had freed the slaves, the main core of the Party had become dominated by Northern wealthy interests, and “were unwilling to press for thoroughgoing reform, and by 1877 had become convinced that their interests were better served by an alliance with Southern white conservatives than the largely illiterate and destitute ex-slave population.” In the North at this time, the captains of industry and kings of capital (the bankers and industrialists) were waging a continued war against organized and increasingly radicalized labour. Thus, there was very little interest in seeking to enfranchise black labour in the South. As the New York Times suggested, the demands for “40 acres and a mule” hit at “the fundamental relation of industry to capital,” and “strikes at the root of all property rights in both sections. It concerns Massachusetts quite as much as Mississippi.”[13]

The legal system was used to essentially criminalize black life, without making specific references to race, laws that were passed specifically targeted blacks in attempting to limit their mobility, the price of their labour, and to make several aspects of typical black southern life to be deemed “criminal.” This process was paralleled in South Africa in the construction of the apartheid system. As one historian wrote:

Prior to the 1860s, neither the South nor South Africa had an extensive history of large-scale imprisonment or of hiring out prison labour to private contractors. Before the Civil War, slave-owners had punished their own slaves. African Americans accounted for less than 1 per cent of Alabama’s pre-war prison population; the bulk of the 200-300 inmates of the first penitentiary built in 1841 comprised, as in northern prisons, mostly of newly-arrived European immigrants.[14]

Many of the South’s prisons were destroyed during the Civil War, and thus, as the Black Codes were subsequently enacted, legislation was increasingly passed which aimed to facilitate the leasing of convicts to private contractors, and as a result, there was little need to rebuild the prison infrastructure; instead, have prisoners build the new infrastructure of an industrializing South, with the convict population from the 1870s onward largely being leased to farmers and railroad contractors, which saved state revenues from building new prisons as well as procuring revenue. In 1874, the governor of Alabama had complained about spending $100,000 on convicts, and within two years of leasing out Alabama’s inmates to private contractors, he boasted of a $15,000 profit. Thus, prisons would never “be anything but a source of immense revenue to the state.” Largely the same process was undertaken in South Africa to secure labour for the diamond mines run by the De Beers Company.[15] As William Worger wrote of the dual development of the American South and South African convict labour systems:

[C]apitalists in both areas establishing new industries and constrained by expensive capital, high fixed costs for plant and operations, and competitive struggles for market share, viewed convict labour as essential to the introduction of machine production, the defeat of organized labour, and the overall cheapening of the costs of production… [I]n both cases the state, when viewed in its local and regional rather than national and metropolitan manifestations, enthusiastically supported the leasing of convicts to private employers… because of the enormous financial benefits to their administrations of selling prison labour… and because imprisonment with hard labour in industrial enterprises offered a means to ‘discipline’ (in the discourse of the South) and to ‘civilise’ (in that of British colonialism) African Americans and Africans convicted on the basis of their race for acts – such as petty theft and burglary… that would not have resulted in lengthy terms of incarceration for whites… [In both cases] convict labour was used to divide and defeat organized labour and to enable employers to segregate the workplace on the basis of race.[16]

Migration, Housing, and Organizing Ghettos

It was no coincidence that each of these convict labour systems emerged in the context and circumstances of the development of Jim Crow segregation laws in the South and official apartheid in South Africa. At the same time as this was taking place in the South, massive migration of blacks from the South to the North began, concurrently with a period of radical labour militancy and class crisis. As such, this era saw the development of the ghettoes in major Northern cities “as a space of containment in urban areas.” The harsh legal racism, segregation, and cultural hatred of blacks in the South also spurred the migration to Northern cities. Between 1882 and 1968, there were 4,723 reported lynchings of African Americans, 90% of which took place in the Deep South. Between 1910 and 1960, roughly 5 million African Americans migrated to the North, Midwest, and Northeast. As Eduardo Mendieta wrote:

It is significant that the process of northern urbanization takes place in tandem with the process of racial gentrification. This racial gentrification is overseen by the state itself through its housing policies. These policies ensure that the poor and colored are concentrated in the dilapidated and poorly serviced urban centers while wealthy whites… are granted the license and funding to flee to the suburbs. In other words, the development of the ghetto has to be seen in tandem with the suburbanization of the US… An overview of the different agencies and acts used by Congress to regulate housing policies and availability reveals that the government conspired to segregate through its loaning practices, and actually participated in the very act of destroying housing that was and could have been available to African Americans and poor people in the inner cities.[17]

In fact, amazingly, “the government [had] destroyed more low-incoming housing than it actually built.” This process had extended right into the post-World War II period. Between 1960 and 1977, “as the number of whites living in suburbs increased by 22 million… the inner-city African-American population grew by 6 million.” Kenneth T. Jackson wrote, “American housing policy was not only devoid of social objectives, but instead helped establish the basis for social inequities. Uncle Sam was not impartial, but instead contributed to the general disbenefit of the cities and to the general prosperity of the suburbs.”[18]

Most American ghettos first came into existence just as economic inequalities were reaching “new heights” in the 1920s in the midst of the long-worn battle between industrialists and organized labour. At this time, racial segregation was increasingly a global phenomenon, when imperial and national states were implementing social and geographical forms of segregation “by equating urban problems such as ‘vice’, crime, disease and social unrest with blacks and other people of color and suggesting urban division as a means to solve these problems.” As Carl H. Nightingale wrote in the Journal of Urban History:

In the United States, this global “racial urbanism” informed the actions of the white homeowners, realtors, and banks that transformed an urban landscape marked by scattered minority-black enclaves into one of the large-scale segregated majority-black communities we know as ghettos. These first ghettos were also marked by the founding of separate black-run institutions that served their residents.[19]

The second phase of ghettoization in the United States occurred with the Great Depression, New Deal, and World War II-era, a time in which there was a continued growth of northward migration of black Americans to the industrial cities. In this context, the New Deal’s Home Owner’s Loan Corporation and the Federal Housing Administration “instituted highly discriminatory housing policies… [which] were aggravated by similarly racially biased urban renewal, public housing, and transportation policies, which not only solidified the boundaries of ghettos but also pushed them outward from downtown.”[20]

The third major phase of ghetto reform came about as a result of the Civil Rights Movement. Working with a major Civil Rights organization, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Ford Foundation sought to “organize the ghetto” through a program aimed at “making working-class blacks a decipherable and controllable constituency,” and thus:

[The Ford] foundation sought black leaders who could be brought into the establishment fold and could engineer orderly change in the ghetto. Having found a model to control the black community by containing it… the Ford Foundation would use its experience with CORE in Cleveland as a base to complete its vision for African Americans in a post-civil rights America.[21]

A national housing program, organized around new public-private partnerships which would benefit the elite class, was developed to create housing for the poor. The development of this plan – the Rockefeller Program – was the most controversial of the initiatives under the 1968 housing legislation, which placed “little emphasis on expanding homeownership opportunities,” and instead, stressed “the importance of involving private enterprises in the rebuilding of cities and make use of tax incentives to encourage such involvement.” The interesting features of the Rockefeller Program, implemented under New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, were that it contemplated “that government will sponsor, develop, construct, and possibly manage the housing project,” and while the “actual construction work will be done by private firms as contractors… it is government which is to rebuild the slums.” Thus, the “incentives to enlist the active involvement of the private sector are not directly related to the task of rebuilding the slums, except insofar as they enable private enterprise to participate in the profits which will accrue.”[22]

The Rockefeller Foundation itself had a significant impact upon the changing focus of urban design. As Peter L. Laurence wrote, “between 1955 and 1965, the Rockefeller Foundation research programme for Urban Design Studies contributed significantly to post-war urban theory and to the emergence of the new discipline of urban design out of the overlapping interests of the fields of architecture, city planning and landscape design.”[23] Rockefeller influence on city planning was thereafter established and institutionalized through the formation of the fields of urban studies and city planning.

Educating Africans to be “Junior Partners in the Firm”

In the first half of the 20th century, the Rockefeller Foundation and Carnegie Corporation undertook joint projects aimed at constructing an education system for black Americans in the South as well as for black Africans in several British colonies. In 1911, the Phelps-Stokes Fund was chartered with the purpose of managing “the education of Negroes both in Africa and the United States.” This restrictive educational system for black Americans had already been institutionalized, beginning with the ‘philanthropic’ endeavours of Wall Street bankers and northern industrialists and capitalists at several conferences in 1898. The education was constructed on the basis that, as one conference participant stated, “the white people are to be the leaders, to take the initiative, to have direct control in all matters pertaining to civilization and the highest interest of our beloved land. History demonstrates that the Caucasian will rule, and he ought to rule.” As one conference organizer stated:

Time has proven that [the ‘negro’] is best fitted to perform the heavy labor in the Southern states… He will willingly fill the more menial positions, and do the heavy work, at less wages, than the American white man or any foreign race… This will permit the Southern white laborer to perform the more expert labor, and to leave the fields, the mines, and the simple trades for the negro.[24]

The conferences resulted in what became known as the ‘Tuskegee educational philosophy,’ which was decided upon by 1901. Three major decisions were taken at the conferences. The first major decision was that “it was necessary that provision be made to train a Negro leadership cadre”:

For this purpose, then, it was concluded that certain Negro colleges would be strengthened to educate a strong professional class – doctors, lawyers, ministers – which would be responsible for raising the general physical and moral level of the race in the segregated black communities… [Second], it was decided that the Negro had been educated away from his natural environment and that his education should concern only those fields available to him. This key decision marked the formulation of the concept of a special Negro education. Third, it was decided that this special education – vocational and agricultural in focus – of the Negro had to be directed toward increasing the labor value of his race, a labor value which, not surprisingly, would see the white capitalist as chief beneficiary.[25]

Thus, in 1901 the fourth conference on the issue established the Southern Education Board. The following year, John D. Rockefeller established the General Education Board (a precursor to the Rockefeller Foundation), which “alleviated any financial concerns which the planners of southern Negro education might have experienced.”[26] The Rockefeller philanthropy had extensive influence on implementing the ‘Tuskegee educational philosophy,’ particularly through the Southern Education Board, of which it not only helped finance, but had a shared leadership. Eleven members of the Southern Education Board were also members of Rockefeller’s General Education Board. With time, other funds and philanthropies became involved, such as the Jeanes Fund, the Slater Fund, and eventually the Phelps-Stokes Fund. Again, there was significant overlap between these organizations. The first president of the Jeanes Fund was James H. Dillard, a member of the Southern Education Board, an agent of the Slater Fund, and a member of Rockefeller’s General Education Board. In 1923, Dillard became a trustee of the Phelps-Stokes Fund. The Jeanes Fund, headed by Dillard, instituted the concept of the ‘Jeanes teacher’:

a local Negro who could make contact in the rural communities as no one else could and who could adapt the school curriculum to the conditions of these communities. Hygiene, home economics, and industrial and agricultural training were to form the backbone of the curriculum for Jeanes rural schools. In 1925, the Jeanes school concept was transferred to Kenya, largely owing to the vigorous advocacy for such a transplantation by representatives of the Phelps-Stokes Fund.[27]

The Tuskegee/Phelps-Stokes educational philosophy quickly garnered the attention of British missionary educators in Africa. Two influential British missionary educators visited the Tuskegee Institute in 1912, with the idea in mind that they could adapt this educational philosophy to Britain’s colonies in Africa. One of these missionaries was J.H. Oldham, former secretary of the World Missionary Conference, and editor of the International Review of Missions, “the quasi-official journal of the Protestant missionary societies in Great Britain from its inception in 1912.” Having become well-acquainted with the American philanthropists involved in organization black education, Oldham introduced Thomas Jesse Jones to British colonial officials in charge of educational policy in Africa, and in 1924, “Oldham became the Phelps-Stokes Fund’s representative in the United Kingdom and intensified his vigorous lobbying efforts to have Phelps-Stokes Fund/Tuskegee concept incorporated into official mission and colonial educational policy.”[28]

As Kenya’s colonial secretary stated, the educational philosophy would ensure “an intelligent, cheerful, self-respecting, and generally docile and willing-to-learn African native.” In 1925, Jones successfully negotiated for financial aid from the Carnegie Corporation to finance the establishment of a Jeanes training school in Kenya. The funding from Carnegie included direct funding for the school, as well as facilitating white educators from Africa to come to the U.S. to “investigate” the Southern educational system, as well as implementing intelligence tests for Africans (just as the major philanthropies had been propagating around the United States as part of their support for eugenics programs). Jones also turned to other major foundations for support, such as Rockefeller’s International Education Board (which had Anson Phelps-Stokes as a trustee), as well as the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial, which all subsequently provided major grants to establish several schools across Africa.[29]

Jones and the major foundations further supported the development of black education in South Africa, helping cement the apartheid system that was being developed. As Jones himself stated, the education of black South Africans in the Tuskegee philosophy can maintain their subordination to the white ruling class, and keep them as “junior partners in the firm.”[30]

Managing the Poor through Social Welfare

Another major area of concern in these chapters is on the ‘moral construction’ of the poor, going beyond (but not ignoring) the ways in which the poor are ‘created’ and ‘maintained’ as a social group (i.e., noting the political, economic, and social policies and institutions that create and sustain poverty as a powerful social force), but also in looking at how the poor are, as a group, “regulated” and how society “morally constructs” views and perceptions of the poor, so that they are vilified, demonized, and politicized as “deviants.”

The origins of ‘welfare policies’ and other forms of ‘social welfare’ emerged several hundred years ago as a response to the inability of the economic system to benefit the masses of society, and thus, to prevent – often in the midst of an economic crisis – mass social unrest, rebellion, or potentially, revolution, social welfare policies were implemented as a means of social control: to alleviate some of the tensions from the gross systemic inequalities, and secondly, and often overlooked, as a means of regulating the behaviour, “work ethic” and prospects of the poor; to maintain them as a cheap labour force. This is done through the methods in which social welfare is provided: the process of applying for social services and welfare, the conditions required to be applicable, the demands which must be met by the applicant as determined by the state, the state intervention in the family and personal life of recipients (often through social workers), and other means of both expanding and detracting the amount of people on welfare as a means to sustain the labour force according to the demands of industry. As such, it is important to analyze the origins of “social work” as a means of “social control” and “managing the poor.”

Originating in the 16th century, relief giving to the poor began to be transferred from the private realm to the state. In Britain, the poor had to be registered and begging had to be authorized, and the Elizabethan Poor Laws, passed in 1572, “established a ‘poor rate’ tax and provided for secular control of the poor by justices of the peace, so-called overseers of the poor.” The poor were separated into three categories: “a) the poor by impotency, b) the poor by casualty, and c) the thriftless poor.” The third category, “thriftless poor,” were viewed as being responsible for their own condition, and thus had to “work for relief.” In the 18th century, workhouses began to emerge as a “policy innovation” to establish “worth” among the poor, to make them productive to the industrial class through contracting cheap labour in return for minor poverty relief. In the 19th century, the poorhouse “had become the official last resort for the poor.”[31]

The poorhouse and workhouse were often examined in the works of Charles Dickens. One is often reminded of the character Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, when approached by collectors seeking donations for poor relief, with the collector stating, “At this festive time of year, Mr. Scrooge, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute.” To which Scrooge replied, “Are there no prisons?”

“Plenty of prisons.”

“And the union workhouses – are they still in operation?”

“They are. I wish I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?”

“Both very busy, sir.”

“Oh, from what you said at first I was afraid that something had happened to stop them in their useful course. I’m very glad to hear it.”

Refusing to donate, Scrooge stated, “I help to support the establishments I have mentioned — they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

Scrooge replied, “If they would rather die… they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

This scene reflected the ideology and philosophy of elites in that era, and indeed, up until present day. The poorhouses of that era were terrible, where “conditions were so awful, the act of relief itself became the test of necessity.” Much like the stigma of welfare in today’s context, “[t]hose who presented themselves to the poorhouse were casting themselves outside of moral society,” as entrance into that situation “symbolized and made painfully concrete a loss of social status, citizenship, and even the right to one’s own labor and physical freedom.” The New Deal following the Great Depression in the 1930s reaffirmed, with its expanded welfare and social services, the stipulation that relief must only be in exchange for work and labour. This represents a “moral construction” of poverty and “the poor,” because they are deemed as being required to work for relief, as in, they are undeserving of relief without conditions, regardless of their circumstances. The “stigma” of poverty and welfare are such that the poor are viewed as generally undeserving of anything, of being the cause of their own poverty, and thus, if they want/need relief, they had better work for it. It was through working and labour that the poor, then, were able to provide a “social worth” in return for “poor relief.” It is thus no coincidence that social security and unemployment insurance were “restricted to individuals classified by policy as workers, that is, individuals with a relatively prolonged and steady formal work history.” As a result, this led to the exclusion of “agricultural and domestic workers as well as those in marginal jobs who moved in and out of work,” which, not coincidentally, included a significant portion of the black population in the United States.[32]

With the New Deal, the state in America moved into the realm of activity previously the focus of the philanthropic foundation. In fact, these private foundations were pivotal in the formation of the New Deal. As Barry Karl and Stanley Katz noted, “Franklin Roosevelt preferred to conceal the fact that so many of his major advisers on policy and some of his major programmes in social reform were the result of support by one of more of the private foundations,” particularly through the Rockefeller Foundation and the Social Science Research Council, funded by the Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations.[33] The support from such foundations, which represent the most elite interests within society and the capitalist class itself, founded and run by the wealthiest and most powerful bankers and industrialists of the era, represented an elite fear generated by the mass social unrest of the era brought on by the Great Depression, which was created by that very same class. Thus, social security and the New Deal were a means of securing social control.[34] The New Deal, however, also had a profoundly negative impact upon the “race question” in the United States, which broadly affected the black community. As Christopher G. Wye wrote in the Journal of American History:

[T]he New Deal public housing and emergency work programs played an important part in alleviating the problems generated by the Depression, [but] they also contributed to the preservation of perhaps the two salient components which combine to produce a caste-like Negro social structure – residential segregation and a distinctly racial occupational pattern.[35]

Civil Rights: From “Black Power” to “Black Capitalism”

The major foundations – Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller – were also heavily involved in the Civil Rights movement, but with specific aims of social control. In the 1950s, the Ford Foundation began taking an interest in the Civil Rights movement, and after convening a study on how to “improve race relations,” the Ford Foundation began giving grants to black colleges “to improve the quality of their educational offerings.”[36] By 1966, the Civil Rights movement was one of the major areas of Ford Foundation funding. Against the backdrop of the summer of 1966 in which there were 43 “urban disorders” (riots in ghettos), which had been “precipitated by confrontations between blacks and the police,” the Ford Foundation announced that it would “direct significant resources to the social justice area.” Among the aims of the Foundation were: “to improve leadership and programming within minority organizations; to explore approaches to better race relations; to support policy-oriented research on race and poverty; to promote housing integration; and to increase the availability of legal resources through support of litigating organizations and minority law students.”[37]

The Ford Foundation also sponsored the Grey Areas program in the early 1960s, which evolved into President Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” as a program for “urban renewal,” but was, in fact, concerned with issues arising out of poor people’s (and particularly poor people of colour’s) resistance to major urban growth projects undertaken by a coalition of corporations and corporatist labour unions following World War II. As Roger Friedland wrote:

Political challenge by the poor, and especially the nonwhite poor, threatened the dominance of the corporations and labor unions and the growth policies they pursued. It was the poorest neighborhoods which were displaced by urban renewal and highway construction, whose housing stock was depleted by clearance, whose employment opportunities were often reduced both by the expansion of office employment stimulated by central business district growth and by restrictive unionization on large construction projects and municipal jobs, and whose services were constrained by the enormous fiscal costs of the growth programs.[38]

It was in this context that the Ford Foundation established programs aimed at ameliorating the antagonisms within the impoverished communities, not through structural or systemic change of the causes of poverty, but through organization, institutionalization, and legalistic reform programs, thus leading to the government’s “War on Poverty.” The same approach was taken in regards to the Civil Rights movement.

There was a transformation between 1966 and 1967 of the notion of ‘black power’, which was increasingly viewed by elites and ‘authorities’, such as J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI, as “the beginning of a true black revolution.” Many advocates of ‘black power’ saw it as the beginnings of a revolt against “white western imperialist” America.[39] The Civil Rights movement was originally “launched by indigenous leadership and primarily mobilized the southern black community.” Thus, it was essential for large foundation funding of the movement, to effectively control its direction and impetus. This “elite involvement would seem to occur only as a response to the threat posed by the generation of a mass-based social movement.” The major foundations “supported the moderate civil rights organizations in response to the ‘radical flank’ threat of the militants, while non-elites (churches, unions and small individual donors) spread their support evenly.”[40]

Elite patronage of the Civil Rights movement “diverted leaders from indigenous organizing and exacerbated inter-organizational rivalries, thereby promoting movement decay.”[41] Foundation funding for civil rights did not become significant until 1961-62, five years after the Birmingham bus boycott, and the peak of foundation support for civil rights was in 1972-73, four to five years after the assassination of King.[42] This indicated that foundation grants to civil rights were ‘reactive’, in that they were designed in response to changes in the movement itself, implying that foundation patronage was aimed at social control. Further, most grants went to professionalized social movement organizations (SMOs) and in particular, the NAACP. While the professional SMOs initiated only 14% of movement actions, they accounted for 57% of foundation grants, while the classical SMOs, having carried out roughly 36% of movement actions, received roughly 32% of foundation grants. This disparity grew with time, so that by the 1970s, the classical SMOs garnered 25% of grants and the professional SMOs received nearly 70% of grants. Principally, the NAACP and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund were the most endowed with foundation support.[43] Many of the foundations subsequently became “centrally involved in the formulation of national social policy and responded to elite concerns about the riots.”[44]

It became clear that the older, established and moderate organizations received the most outside funding, such as the National Urban League, the NAACP and the Legal Defense and Educational Fund.[45] As the black struggles of the 1960s increasingly grew militant and activist-oriented in the latter half of the 1960s, “foundation contributions became major sources of income for the National Urban League, the Southern Regional Council, and the Legal Defense and Educational Fund.”[46] The attempt was to promote reform instead of losing their vested powers and interests in the face of a growing revolution.

The NAACP and the National Urban League represent the more moderate civil rights organizations, as they were also the oldest, with membership primarily made up of middle class African Americans, leading to many, including King himself, to suggest they were disconnected from the reality or in representing poor blacks in America.[47] The radicalization of the black protest movement led to the emergence of challenges to the NAACP and Urban League in being the ‘leaders’ in civil rights, as new organizations emerged which represented a broader array of the black population. Among them were the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which Martin Luther King led. Foundations increased funding for all of these organizations, but as activism and militancy accelerated in the latter half of the 1960s, the funding declined for the more radical, militant and activist organizations and increased dramatically for the established and moderate organizations. This trend continued going into the 1970s.

In 1967, Martin Luther King’s SCLC received $230,000 from the Ford Foundation, yet after his assassination, the organization received no more funding and virtually fell to pieces. That same year, the Ford Foundation gave the NAACP $300,000, and gave the Urban League $585,000. The Rockefeller Foundation granted the League $650,000, with the Carnegie Corporation coming in with $200,000. The Ford Foundation also gave the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) $175,000 in 1967.[48]

In 1968, with the SCLC out of the picture, Ford increased funding for CORE to $300,000, increased grants to the NAACP to $378,000, and gave the Urban League a monumental grant of $1,480,000. The same year, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation gave the NAACP $500,000 and $200,000 respectively. Clearly, the foundations were supporting the older established and moderate organizations over the new, young and activist/radical organizations. For the following year, 1969, CORE received no more grants from foundations, while the Ford, Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations increased their grants to the NAACP and the Urban League. In 1974, the NAACP received grants of $950,000 from the Ford Foundation, $250,000 from the Rockefeller Foundation, and $200,000 from the Carnegie Corporation. The Urban League received grants of $2,350,000 from the Ford Foundation and $350,000 from the Rockefeller Foundation.[49] The strategic use of foundation funding helped undermine and outmaneuver the radical and militant civil rights organizations, while strengthening and institutionalizing the reform-oriented organizations.

This co-optation of the civil rights movement was so vital to these elite interests for the principle reason of the movement taking its natural course, out of an ethnic or race-based focus and into a class and global social focus. A. Philip Randolph, a civil rights leader, spoke in 1963 at an ALF-CIO convention at which he stated, “The Negro’s protest today is but the first rumbling of the ‘under-class.’ As the Negro has taken to the streets, so will the unemployed of all races take to the streets.”[50] The aim of foundation funding for the Civil Rights movement was to direct it from a potentially revolutionary position – that of ‘Black Power’ – and transform it into a reformist and legalistic movement, ostensibly to establish “Black Capitalism.” Thus, instead of changing the systemic and institutional structures of society which had created racism, segregation, and exploitation, the “success” of the Civil Rights movement (apart from the very real achievements of securing basic civil rights for black citizens) was seen by elites as the ability of blacks to rise within the institutional and hierarchical system which dominated society, not to challenge or change it fundamentally.

The “Excess of Democracy”

In the 1970s, elite intellectual discussion was dominated by what was referred to as “democratic overload,” or what the Trilateral Commission referred to in a report of the same title as, “The Crisis of Democracy.” One of the principal authors of this 1975 report was Samuel Huntington, who wrote that the 1960s saw a surge in democracy in America, with an upswing in citizen participation, often “in the form of marches, demonstrations, protest movements, and ‘cause’ organizations.”[51] Further, “the 1960s also saw a reassertion of the primacy of equality as a goal in social, economic, and political life.”[52] Of course, for Huntington and the Trilateral Commission, which was founded by Huntington’s friend, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and banker David Rockefeller, the idea of “equality as a goal in social, economic, and political life” is a terrible and frightening prospect. Huntington analyzed how as part of this “democratic surge,” statistics showed that throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s, there was a dramatic increase in the percentage of people who felt the United States was spending too much on defense (from 18% in 1960 to 52% in 1969, largely due to the Vietnam War).[53]

Huntington wrote that the “essence of the democratic surge of the 1960s was a general challenge to existing systems of authority, public and private,” and that, “People no longer felt the same compulsion to obey those whom they had previously considered superior to themselves in age, rank, status, expertise, character, or talents.” He explained that in the 1960s, “hierarchy, expertise, and wealth” had come “under heavy attack.”[54] He stated that the three key issues which were central to the increased political participation in the 1960s were:

social issues, such as use of drugs, civil liberties, and the role of women; racial issues, involving integration, busing, government aid to minority groups, and urban riots; military issues, involving primarily, of course, the war in Vietnam but also the draft, military spending, military aid programs, and the role of the military-industrial complex more generally.[55]

Huntington presented these issues, essentially, as the “crisis of democracy,” in that they increased distrust with the government and authority, that they led to social and ideological polarization, and ultimately, to a “decline in the authority, status, influence, and effectiveness of the presidency.”[56] Huntington concluded that many problems of governance in the United States stem from an “excess of democracy,” and that, “the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups.” Huntington explained that society has always had “marginal groups” which do not participate in politics, and while acknowledging that the existence of “marginality on the part of some groups is inherently undemocratic,” it has also “enabled democracy to function effectively.” Huntington identifies “the blacks” as one such group that had become politically active, posing a “danger of overloading the political system with demands.”[57]

Huntington, in his conclusion, stated that the vulnerability of democracy, essentially the ‘crisis of democracy,’ comes “from the internal dynamics of democracy itself in a highly educated, mobilized, and participant society,” and that what is needed is “a more balanced existence” in which there are “desirable limits to the indefinite extension of political democracy.”[58] Summed up, the Trilateral Commission Task Force Report essentially explained that the “Crisis of Democracy” is that there is too much of it, and so the ‘solution’ to the crisis, is to have less democracy and more ‘authority’.

To have “less democracy,” however, required careful and strategic moves and considerations. Primarily, the means through which this objective would be reached was through the disciplinary measures of the “free market” and “regulation of the poor.” This led to the neoliberal era, where this program of “reducing democracy” took place not only in the United States, but on a global scale. The disciplinary means undertaken in the ‘Third World’ nations were brought on by the 1980s debt crisis, and the World Bank and IMF “structural adjustment programs” which invariably expanded poverty, debt, and supported ruthless dictatorships which suppressed their own populations. This era also saw the “globalization of the ghetto” with the rapid development of urban slums around the world, to the point where over one billion people today live in slums. In the United States, the middle classes began to be mired in debt, particular the expansion of student debt, which served as a disciplinary feature, so that students were no longer activists or mobilized, but simply had to graduate and get jobs to pay off their debts.

A 1971 memo written by a representative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reflected the fear inherent in the Trilateral Commission report of a few years later at the problems posed to elite interests by the “excess of democracy.” It referred to these “excesses” as a “broad attack” on the American economic system. The memo noted that, “the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts.” While noting that sources of the attack include leftists and revolutionaries, it also acknowledged that the “attack” was being joined “from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians.” The author of the memo stated that, “If our system is to survive, top [corporate] management must be equally concerned with protecting and preserving the system itself.” It went on:

But independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.[59]

The memo then went on to articulate a major program of “counter attack” with an emphasis on changing the educational system, the media, and bringing the state and courts more directly into the business community’s orbit. This era saw the emergence of the major right-wing think tanks, and the expanded influence of business leaders in the media, government, and universities, crowned with the Reagan-Thatcher era of neoliberalism: privatization, deregulation, debt-expansion, impoverishment, and punishment.

Punishing the Poor

In regards to the black population, who created quite a stir among the American elites in the 1960s and into the 1970s, the response from the elite sector was similar as to what it was during the Reconstruction period following the Civil War: mass incarceration. Reagan’s “war on drugs” led to a rapid expansion of legislation purportedly aimed to reduce the problems of the illicit drug trade in the United States (while the Reagan administration secretly supported the drug trade in covert operations abroad, such as in Nicaragua, the Iran-Contra Scandal, etc.).

The growth of the prison population in the United States from 1975 onward was marked simultaneously by a decline in welfare recipients. In fact, the largest prison systems were established in states with the weaker welfare systems. Between 1980 and 2000, “the number of people incarcerated in the United States increased by 300 percent, from 500,000 to nearly 2 million.” The parole and probation population, by 2000, included 3.8 million people, and by 1998, “nearly 6 million people – almost 3 percent of the adult population – were under some form of correctional supervision.” As reported in the journal, Punishment & Society:

The impact of these developments has fallen disproportionately on young African-Americans and Latinos. By 1994, one of every three black males between the ages of 18-34 was under some form of correctional supervision, and the number of Hispanic prisoners has more than quintupled since 1980. These developments are not primarily the consequence of rising crime rates, but rather the ‘get-tough’ policies of the wars on crime and drugs.[60]

As sociologists Katherine Beckett and Bruce Western wrote, “in the wake of the Reagan revolution, penal and welfare institutions have come to form a single policy regime aimed at the governance of social marginality,” or, in other words, the management of the poor and non-white populations. Thus, reduced welfare spending as a method of social control was replaced with increased incarceration and imprisonment.[61]

The prison system itself, which had its origins in the application of social control, functioned through segregation and discrimination, has not evolved from these institutional ideologies that saw its development over several hundred years. The prison and incarceration, according to philosopher and historian Michel Foucault, was “a new form of repression, designed to consolidate the political and economic power of capitalism under the modern state,” in what he termed, “the disciplinary society.”[62]

Just as took place during the criminalization of black life following the Civil War, the criminalization of black life following the Civil Rights Movement saw not only the growth of incarceration rates for the black community, but also saw the growth of the use of the prison population as a source of cheap labour. In today’s context, with privatization of prisons, outsourcing of prison labour, and other forms of exploitation of the “punished” population, this has given rise to what is often referred to as the “prison-industrial complex.”[63]


This article was but a brief sampling of some of the information, issues, ideas, events, and processes that will be thoroughly researched and written about in two chapters for The People’s Book Project. If you found the information enlightening, interesting, or important, please contribute to the People’s Grant goal of raising $1,600 to finance the completion of two chapters on this subject, which will include a great deal more than was sampled above, deeper analysis, more detailed and documented understandings, and a much wider, global contextualization. This was but a minor fraction of what can be completed with the support of readers. Help get this important information into the public sphere. As the global economic crisis rapidly expands the global rates of impoverishment, as the middle class vanishes into debt and poverty, and as our societies are reorganized to “manage” these social, political, and economic changes, this history is vital to understanding not only the objectives, ideas and actions of elites, but also the ways in which the people may challenge them.

Contribute to The People’s Grant:

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on


[1]            A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., “Racism and the Early American Legal Process, 1619-1896,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (Vol. 407, No. 1, May 1973), page 1.

[2]            Ibid, page 6.

[3]            David McNally, Another World is Possible: Globalization and Anti-Capitalism (Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2006), page 149.

[4]            Ibid, page 150.

[5]            Ibid, pages 151-152.

[6]            Ibid, pages 152-153.

[7]            Ibid, page 153.

[8]            Ibid, pages 153-154.

[9]            Ibid, pages 154-155.

[10]            Ibid, page 155.

[11]            William Cohen, “Negro Involuntary Servitude in the South, 1865-1940,” The Journal of Southern History (Vol. 42, No. 1, February 1976), page 33.

[12]            Ibid, page 34.

[13]            Brian Kelly, “Labor, Race, and the Search for a Central Theme in the History of the Jim Crow South,” Irish Journal of American Studies (Vol. 10, 2001), page 58.

[14]            William H. Worger, “Convict Labour, Industrialists and the State in the US South and South Africa, 1870-1930,” Journal of Southern African Studies (Vol. 30, No. 1, March 2004), page 68.

[15]            Ibid, pages 68-69.

[16]            Ibid, page 85.

[17]            Eduardo Mendieta, “Plantations, Ghettos, Prisons: US Racial Geographies,” Philosophy and Geography (Vol. 7, No. 1, February 2004), page 52.

[18]            Ibid, pages 52-53.

[19]            Carl H. Nightingale, “A Tale of Three Global Ghettos: How Arnold Hirsch Helps Us Internationalize U.S. Urban History,” Journal of Urban History (Vol. 29, No. 3, March 2003), page 262.

[20]            Ibid, page 265.

[21]            Karen Ferguson, “Organizing the Ghetto: The Ford Foundation, CORE, and White Power in the Black Power Era, 1967-1969,” Journal of Urban History (Vol. 34, No. 1, November 2007), pages 69, 96.

[22]            William J. Quirk and Leon E. Wein, “Homeownership for the Poor: Tenant Condominiums, the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968, and the Rockefeller Program,” Cornell Law Review (Vol. 54, No. 6, July 1969), pages 849, 855.

[23]            Peter L. Laurence, “The Death and Life of Urban Design: Jane Jacobs, The Rockefeller Foundation and the New Research in Urbanism, 1955-1965,” Journal of Urban Design (Vol. 11, No. 2, June 2006), page 145.

[24]            Robert F. Arnove, ed., Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism: The Foundations at Home and Abroad (Indiana University Press, 1980), pages 180-181.

[25]            Ibid, page 181.

[26]            Ibid.

[27]            Ibid, page 182.

[28]            Ibid, pages 185-186.

[29]            Ibid, pages 188-190.

[30]            Ibid, page 194.

[31]            Evelyn Z. Brodkin, “The Making of an Enemy: How Welfare Policies Construct the Poor,” Law & Social Inquiry (Vol. 18, No. 4, Autumn 1993), pages 655-656.

[32]            Ibid, pages 656-658.

[33]            Barry D. Karl and Stanley N. Katz, “The American Private Philanthropic Foundation and the Public Sphere 1890-1930,” Minerva (Vol. 19, No. 2, Summer 1981), page 268.

[34]            J. Craig Jenkins and Barbara Brents, “Capitalists and Social Security: What Did They Really Want?” American Sociological Review (Vol. 56, No. 1, February 1991), page 129.

[35]            Christopher G. Wye, “The New Deal and the Negro Community: Toward a Broader Conceptualization,” The Journal of American History (Vol. 59, No. 3, December 1972), page 639.

[36]            Lynn Walker, “The Role of Foundations in Helping to Reach the Civil Rights Goals of the 1980s,” Rutgers Law Review, (1984-1985), page 1059.

[37]            Ibid, page 1060.

[38]            Roger Friedland, “Class Power and Social Control: The War on Poverty,” Politics & Society (Vol. 6, No. 4, December 1976), pages 459-461.

[39]            Robert C. Smith, “Black Power and the Transformation from Protest to Policies,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 96, No. 3, (Autumn, 1981), page 438

[40]            J. Craig Jenkins and Craig M. Eckert, “Channeling Black Insurgency: Elite Patronage and Professional Social Movement Organizations in the Development of the Black Movement,” American Sociological Review, Vol. 51, No. 6, (Dec., 1986), page 814.

[41]            Ibid, page 815.

[42]            Ibid, pages 819-820.

[43]            Ibid, page 821.

[44]            Ibid, page 826.

[45]            Herbert H. Haines, “Black Radicalization and the Funding of Civil Rights: 1957-1970,” Social Problems, Vol. 32, No. 1, Thematic Issue on Minorities and Social Movements, (Oct., 1984), page 38.

[46]            Ibid, page 40.

[47]            Martin N. Marger, “Social Movement Organizations and Response to Environmental Change: The NAACP, 1960- 1973,” Social Problems, Vol. 32, No. 1, Thematic Issue on Minorities and Social Movements, (Oct., 1984), page 22.

[48]            Ibid, page 25.

[49]            Ibid.

[50]            Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (Harper: New York, 2003), page 464.

[51]            Michel J. Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington and Joji Watanuki, The Crisis of Democracy. (Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, New York University Press, 1975), page 61.

[52]            Ibid, page 62.

[53]            Ibid, page 71.

[54]            Ibid, pages 74-75.

[55]            Ibid, page 77.

[56]            Ibid, page 93.

[57]            Ibid, pages 113-114.

[58]            Ibid, page 115.

[59]            Lewis F. Powell, Jr., “Confidential Memorandum: Attack of American Free Enterprise System,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 23 August 1971:

[60]            Katherine Beckett and Bruce Western, “Governing Social Marginality: Welfare, Incarceration, and the Transformation of State Policy,” Punishment & Society (Vol. 3, No. 1, January 2001), pages 43-44.

[61]            Ibid, page 55.

[62]            Robert P. Weiss, “Humanitarianism, Labour Exploitation, or Social Control? A Critical Survey of Theory and Research on the Origin and Development of Prisons,” Social History (Vol. 12, No. 3, October 1987), page 333.

[63]            Rose M. Brewer and Nancy A. Heitzeg, “The Racialization of Crime and Punishment: Criminal Justice, Color-Blind Racism, and the Political Economy of the Prison Industrial Complex,” American Behavioral Scientist (Vol. 51, No. 5, January 2008).