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Power Politics and the Empire of Economics: An Introduction

Power Politics and the Empire of Economics: An Introduction

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By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

27 May 2015

The following is a sample chapter from an upcoming book.

You can download a pdf version here: Power Politics and the Empire of Economics 

The President sat and listened to his closest adviser as they plotted a strategy to maintain Western domination of the world economy. The challenge was immense: divisions between industrial countries were growing as the poor nations of the world were becoming increasingly united in opposition to the Western world order. From Africa, across the Middle East, to Asia and Latin America, the poor (or ‘developing’) countries were calling for the establishment of a ‘New International Economic Order,’ one which would not simply serve the interests of the United States, Western Europe, and the other rich, industrial nations, but the world as a whole. It was on the 24th of May 1975 when President Gerald Ford was meeting with his Secretary of State and National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger, easily the two most powerful political officials in the world at the time. Kissinger told the President: “The trick in the world now is to use economics to build a world political structure.”[1]

Ford and Kissinger agreed that the United States could not accept a new ‘economic order’ that would undermine American and Western power throughout the world. Uprisings, revolutions and liberation movements across Africa, Asia and beyond had largely thrown off the shackles of European colonial domination, establishing themselves as independent political nation-states with their own interests and objectives. Chief among those goals was for economic independence to follow political independence, to take control of their own resources and economies from the Europeans and Americans, to determine their own economic policies and help to redistribute global wealth along equal and just lines.

The problem for the Western and industrial nations, with the United States at the center, was that formal colonial domination was no longer considered acceptable. In previous decades and centuries, the rich and powerful nations would directly colonize and control foreign societies, establishing puppet governments and protectorates, extracting resources, exploiting labour and expanding their own national power and international prestige. Following the end of World War II, such practices were no longer politically or publicly acceptable. The era of decolonization had taken hold, and the people of the world were failing to remain passive and obedient in the face of great injustices and inequality. War had become a bad word, colonialism was no longer en vogue, and belligerent political bullying by the rich countries increasingly risked a major backlash, threatening to unite the entire world against the West.

A new strategy for global domination had to be constructed. The West could not afford a direct political or ideological confrontation with the developing world, with many top American officials, including Henry Kissinger, acknowledging that if they were to pursue such a strategy they would be isolated and lost, with even the Europeans and Japanese abandoning them. Foreign ministers and heads of state could not appear to be attacking or seeking to dominate the developing world.

It was decided that the war would have to be waged largely in the world of economics and finance, where the conversation would change from that of colonialism and imperialism to the technical details of economic policy. The imperial interests and objectives of the powerful nations that had existed for centuries could no longer be articulated in a direct way. But those same interests and objectives would not vanish. Instead, they would be hidden behind bland, vague and technical rhetoric. The language of economics provides the appearance of impartiality, backed up by pseudo-scientific-sounding studies and ideologies, accessible only to those with the proper training, education and experience, otherwise inaccessible and incomprehensible to the general public. Empire was a thing of the past. In its place rose a new global economy, built by banks not bombs, expanding the reach of corporations not colonies, managing debt not dominions.

The “world political structure” which Kissinger described would not, however, make militaries and foreign ministers and diplomats irrelevant. They would still have a role to play in maintaining and expanding empire, though never calling it by its proper name, instead using words like ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’ and ‘markets’. But the role of such officials would often become secondary to that of the financial and economic diplomats, who would increasingly become the first line of offense in constructing the “world political structure,” the Empire of Economics.

Two days after Kissinger articulated this strategy to President Ford, another meeting was held at the White House with several more high-level cabinet officials. The discussion was a follow-up on the U.S. strategy to construct such a system. Stressing that political diplomats and foreign ministers could not take on the developing world directly, Kissinger told the assembled officials, “it is better to have the Finance Ministers be bastards, that’s where I want it.”[2]

This book is the story of how financial diplomats, politicians, bankers, billionaires, family dynasties and powerful nations have used economics to build a “world political structure,” engaging in a constant game of power politics with and against each other and the rest of the world to construct and maintain their Empire of Economics for the benefit of a small ruling class, the global Mafiocracy: a super-rich, often criminal cartel of global oligarchs and family dynasties.

It is a brutal, vicious world of secret meetings, behind-the-scenes intrigue, financial warfare and coup d’états, economic colonization and debt domination. It is the unforgiving world of empire, an immense concentration of global wealth and power, a parasitic system of world domination built on the impoverishment and exploitation of billions. And it is a world obscured and hidden behind the dry, dull and seemingly empty rhetoric of economics. It is a language in need of translation, a reality in need of elucidation, and an empire in need of opposition.

Power Politics and Empire

It was the largest and most powerful empire the world had ever known. It spanned the globe, across oceans and seas, countries and continents, enveloping much of the known world – and the people throughout it – within the domineering shadows of its political, economic, social, cultural and financial institutions and ideologies. Those who ruled were the wealthy and war-like family dynasties, individual oligarchs, kings of coin, titans of industry, and a religious priesthood of proselytizing propagandists. These rulers would engage in a constant game of ‘power politics’ with and against each other in the quest to gain title, money and influence.

They lie, cheat, steal, kill and conquer; they plant their flags and preach their gospels, serve their interests and those of their unknown (or sometimes) masters. It requires a constant cunning, managing an endless lack of trust for all those around you, fearful that on your way up, others might seek to cut you down. To play the game of power politics in the age of empires is to be pragmatic, strategic and ruthless; it requires no less, but frequently more. It is a practice passed down through families, institutions and ideologies. No, this is not ‘Game of Thrones’, but rather, the Game of Globalization in the Empire of Economics: power politics of the 21st century.

But the game itself has been with humanity as long as empire, and was always seen at the center of the system of power within every empire. Human systems – that is, what we call ‘civilization’ and ‘society’ – are, ultimately, human creations with humans in control. Thus, power – at its center – is always dependent upon the interactions, relationships and emotions of the few individuals and families who rule. When such people get angry or throw a tantrum – because the neighbor boy stole his toy (or Russia annexed Crimea, for example) – wars are waged, and the poor are sent to go murder or be murdered, cities burn to the ground, nations crumble into dust.

The game is not known to many, save for those who play it. The masses are left with simple images, rumours and speculation, if anything at all. A public persona of the more visible rulers must be carefully constructed so as to legitimize their authority. The people must be satisfied to the bare minimum, so that they do not rise up in resentment and fury against the few who live in the most obscene opulence and imperial impunity. If the consent of the population is not maintained, a ruler must seek to control them in other ways, which generally means seeking to crush them, to punish them into submission and subservience. Kill and conquer at home and you can kill and conquer abroad.

Control is based upon a mixture of consent and coercion. The people must be either willing to let the rulers rule, to accept their position in society without question, or they must be made to fear the reach and wrath of the rulers, to be punished and persecuted, segregated and isolated, beaten, raped and murdered. The rulers must be vicious, but appear virtuous. If, however, a choice must be made between acting ruthless and appearing righteous, it is better for the rulers to be wretched and murderous, for the game of power politics is never won by virtue alone, but being vicious can get you far enough without assistance.

Niccolo Machiavelli wrote his book The Prince more than 500 years ago as an examination of power politics and methods through which one can achieve and maintain power within the old warring Italian city-states. Having long served as an adviser and strategist to various rulers, including princes, popes and dynasties, Machiavelli asserted that “it is desirable to be both loved and feared; but it is difficult to be both and, if one of them has to be lacking, it is much safer to be feared than loved.” He explained that this was so because “love is sustained by a bond of gratitude which, because men are excessively self-interested, is broken whenever they see a chance to benefit themselves.” On the other hand, “fear is sustained by a dread of punishment that is always effective.”[3] Machiavelli has long been accused of being a cynic or pessimist in his interpretations of human nature, but this misses the point.

Machiavelli’s work was examining the attitudes, nature and actions of those who wielded significant power, which was always a small minority of the population. Indeed, far from a cynical interpretation, The Prince is rather a pragmatic and accurate interpretation of a deeply cynical world where every institution and individual wielding significant influence engages in a constant game of power politics designed to benefit themselves, maintaining or expanding their own power, often at the expense of others. It is a world where every relationship, title, position and even marriage holds strategic significance. For those individuals and families who rule, every decision must be made as a calculated attempt to preserve and expand their power. If this is not done, they will not remain rulers long, for this is how the game is played and won, and if one does not play by the rules, others will. Thus, the more cunning and ruthless a strategist, the more likely they are to elevate through the hierarchy because they will do what others will not, acting without hesitation to manipulate or crush others in order to rise higher.

It is a game – like that of all empires past – in which the few compete and cooperate with one another in the advancement of their own individual, familial, national or global interests, expanding their empires. It is a game in which the vast majority of humanity are – as they have long been – left to suffer the consequences, fight the wars, drown in debt, poverty, hunger and misery. On occasion, and increasingly often, groups of people – segments of the population – rise up in resistance, riot, revolt or even revolution. This is when the people are able to engage more directly in the game of power politics, because they change the game. Suddenly, all the key players at the top notice the building fury of the masses and so the game itself is put at risk. The key players will almost always – even in spite of their frequent competition and opposition to each other – work together if it means protecting the game itself.

A useful comparison is that of a Mafia crime network, in which the various heads of families may sit at the same table though they often feud with one another, working together to mutual benefit when possible, though occasionally whacking one another off when the competition grows fierce. It is a delicate balancing act of competition and cooperation, but when the criminal network is itself threatened, perhaps through the efforts of an ambitious district attorney or crackdown on organized crime, the various families will seek to unite in their efforts to protect the racket which benefits them all. If they remain divided in the face of growing opposition and potential external threats, they increase the risk that they will be conquered. When the game is threatened, the players must stand together or fall apart.

For successful rulers, the balance of competition and cooperation – vicious and virtuous – is present both in their relationships with other rulers, and with the larger populations. And so the rulers themselves – the oligarchs and dynasties – span both private and public realms: they are presidents and prime ministers, kings, queens and sultans, corporate chiefs, billionaires and bankers, consultants and advisers, academics and intellectuals, technocratic tyrants and plutocratic princelings. Their world is not our world. But it rules, wrecks and ravages our world and the people and life within it. It is a game that steers humanity toward certain extinction resulting from excessive environmental devastation, guided by that ever-present drive within those who have the most for more, more, more.

The game is little more, at its core, than basic gangsterism, its players little more than petty tyrants. Such personalities, egos and interests populate all sectors of society, all institutions, frequently appearing in inter-personal relationships. The more power they have, the greater the repercussions of the game. At the top of the global power structure are the personalities and families of immense wealth, political influence and prestige. With the same basic principles of a Mafia structure, the individuals and institutions that play the game of power politics in the age of globalization – in the Empire of Economics – are perhaps best understood as a global Mafiocracy. It makes no difference whether a nation is ruled by a monarchy, a dictatorship or democracy: the Mafiocracy is ever-present, and ever-expanding in its wretched reach.

The State of Empire

The world is defined and dominated largely by institutions, individuals and ideologies. The institution of the nation-state is perhaps the most obvious example, best represented by the world’s most powerful country, the United States of America. The government of the United States is composed of three separate branches (or institutions): the executive (President and Cabinet), legislative (Congress/Senate) and judiciary (the Supreme Court). The executive leads the government, while the role of the legislative and judiciary is (theoretically) designed to keep a check on executive power, preventing it from accumulating too much authority in one branch, threatening the potential for tyranny.

Since World War II, the executive branch has accumulated increased powers within the U.S. government, with a wide mandate to manage foreign and economic policies specifically, with little oversight and few checks from the legislative and judiciary branches. The executive is composed of a wide array of institutions itself, each with their own specific mandates, interests, and varying degrees of influence. These include the many cabinet departments, such as the Treasury Department, Defense Department (Pentagon), State Department, CIA, National Security Council (NSC), Department of Homeland Security, and many more. In addition, since 1913, the Federal Reserve has functioned as the central bank of the United States, operating with a large degree of independence from the other branches of government, including political independence from the executive branch (apart from the President’s ability to appoint the Chairman and Board of Governors), and no oversight from Congress (though the Fed chairman will occasionally testify to Congress).

Individually and collectively, these government departments and institutions manage hundreds of billions and even trillions of dollars in assets and funds, making them individually larger than most multinational corporations and banks in the world. These departments within the U.S. government are largely responsible for the maintenance and expansion of the American imperial system. Since the time of ancient Nubia and Egypt thousands of years ago, much of the world has been dominated by empires, rising, expanding and collapsing over centuries and millennia, running through ancient Greece, Rome, China, Aztec and Inca, Persian, Ottoman, and in the past five hundred years with the rise and demise of the European empires whose reach expanded the globe. For the most part, imperial systems have been dominated by families, often called royalty, sultanates, emperors or emirs. The essential interest and priority of all empires has been to protect and expand their empire, largely for the benefit of its ruling class or groups, with the imperial family at the center of power.

It is only a phenomenon of the post-World War II period that denial of the existence of empire is commonplace. Through the two World Wars of the 20th century, empires collapsed and faded into history. World War I led to the collapse of the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. World War II led to the collapse of the Japanese and Nazi empires, and its aftermath resulted in the erosion of European colonial domination, as the British, French, and other European colonial powers had to adjust to a new global order under American hegemony. It was in the post-World War II period that the United States had achieved unprecedented economic and political power. With just over 5 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. controlled roughly half the world’s wealth. Citing this very statistic, the U.S. State Department (responsible for managing diplomacy and foreign policy) published a policy paper in which top officials acknowledged that the global inequality that existed between the U.S. and the rest of the world would lead to “envy and resentment.” The “real task” of the United States was “to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security,” doing away with “the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction.”[4]

Europe was devastated by the war, and the United States occupied the West with the Soviet Union occupying the East of the continent. The European empires were crumbling, and the process of decolonization had begun to take the world by storm, with the U.S. attempting to manage the process on behalf of its Western European allies. In its strategy for world domination, the United States sought to rebuild its former war-time enemies – Germany and Japan – into economic powerhouses, with West Germany acting as the locomotive for European integration (into what is now the European Union) and Japan acting as a counterweight to the spread of Communism in East Asia. Western Europe, Japan and other allies depended upon the United States military to protect their ‘security’ interests around the world, arming favorable dictators, supporting coups, fuelling civil wars, undertaking large occupations and counter-insurgency operations targeting independence, anti-colonial and revolutionary movements around the world.

Despite the imperial realities of this system, there was an overwhelming tendency within the United States and its industrial allies to deny the existence of imperialism altogether. Instead, these nations were merely economically and technologically advanced democracies who sought to protect ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ around the world in a largely ideological confrontation with the Soviet Union, which presented itself as the image of socialism and communism in a struggle against the capitalist imperial powers of the West. The Soviet Union’s influence was dominant in Eastern Europe, with a few close allies scattered across the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. The United States and its Western allies, however, were the dominant powers across much of the rest of the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America. The only real sense in which the Soviet Union presented a challenge for the United States was in its military and nuclear capabilities. This was the period known as the ‘Cold War’, though despite its confrontational rhetoric dividing East and West, communist states from capitalist democracies, it was largely a struggle waged against the rest of the world, the ‘Third World’, otherwise known as the developing world or ‘Global South’. It was in the poor, colonized nations and regions of the world where the majority of the world’s resources were located, and thus, where the Western imperial powers needed to maintain control.

While the United States rebuilt Germany and Japan into economic locomotives, becoming the second and third richest countries in the world, American economic power experienced a relative decline. This created strong allies for the United States, and while they remained militarily dependent upon their imperial patron, their growing economic power gave them increased leverage. With their increased economic power came increased potential to act independently of the U.S. and other rich nations. Competition between the great powers increased during the same period that newly independent nations of the developing world were increasingly uniting in opposition to a Western-dominated world order.

On May 1, 1974, the vast majority of the world’s nations voted in favour of the U.N. Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order (NIEO), proclaiming that “the greatest and most significant achievement during the last decades has been the independence from colonial and alien domination of a large number of peoples and nations which has enabled them to become members of the community of free people.” Among the ‘principles’ adopted in forming the NIEO were “equality of States, self-determination of all peoples,” and the outlawing of war, seeking “the broadest co-operation” of all nations of the world in banishing the “prevailing disparities” and securing “prosperity for all.”[5]

Each nation of the world would have the right “to adopt the economic and social system that it deems the most appropriate for its own development,” and establish control over their own natural resources. The people who continued to live under colonial domination, racial oppression and foreign occupation had a right “to achieve their liberation and the regain effective control over their natural resources and economic activities.” In 1974, this would include Israeli-occupied Palestine, South African apartheid, and U.S.-occupied Vietnam. The last line in the document stated that the Declaration should “be one of the most important bases of economic relations between all peoples and all nations.”[6]

But Henry Kissinger had other plans. As Secretary of State and National Security Adviser, Kissinger was the chief imperial strategist in the United States, and remains one of the most influential foreign policy strategists in the nearly four decades since he left office. Kissinger’s “trick” to use economics in building a “world political structure” would largely be pursued through the finance ministries, central banks and international organizations (such as the IMF and World Bank) which are controlled by the rich and powerful nations. In the face of a growing threat, the rich nations banded together in various forums, conferences and diplomatic gatherings, the most notable of which came to be known as the Group of Seven, bringing together the U.S., Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Canada. Through these various institutions and initiatives, a “world political structure” would be incrementally constructed as the Empire of Economics.

A Family Affair

Empires don’t just happen; they are constructed, protected, expanded and destroyed. Empires need imperialists, even if they don’t refer to themselves as such. In the Empire of Economics, the imperialists are a diverse group, including the obvious presidents, prime ministers, chancellors and other heads of state; foreign, military and intelligence officials and ministries; finance ministers, central bankers and the heads of international organizations; the large banks, corporations and institutions that control the world’s wealth and resources, and the powerful individual oligarchs and family dynasties that lie behind these institutions.

As with most empires through history, the central unit of power is often that of a ‘family’, be it royal, financial, corporate or crime. After all, the first institution into which people are born and raised is very often that of the ‘family unit’. Power becomes hereditary, passed down through generations of children raised to take the place of their fathers and mothers in expanding the influence and protecting the legacy of the family. As with any imperial – or dynastic – family structures, they are plagued with rivalries, power struggles, tragedies, divisions and declines. The modern imperial family in the Empire of Economics – emanating from the vast industrial, corporate and banking fortunes established over past centuries – is no exception to the drama and decadence of earlier imperial dynasties.

Every nation has their dynasties, some better known than others. In the United States, over the past century, several names have become synonymous with wealth, power and prestige: Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Morgan, Harriman, Astor and Rockefeller. In 2006, roughly a third of the Fortune 500 companies (that is, the largest corporations in America) were family-run businesses, often performing better than ‘professionally’ managed companies. Among them is one of the largest corporations in the world, Wal-Mart, run and largely owned by the Walton family.[7] In 2010, six of the top ten richest individuals in the United States had inherited wealth, meaning that the richest of the rich in America were not self-made billionaires, but members of wealthy dynasties.[8]

Rich families are often able to preserve their dynastic wealth through a family ‘trust’, which allow the super-rich to provide for future generations of the family largely free of taxes and outside claims. The proliferation of family trusts has led to what one commentator in the New York Times referred to as “an American aristocracy.”[9] Perhaps the most recognizable family trust – and most ‘royal’ of the American dynasties – is that of the Rockefeller family. In the 19th century, John D. Rockefeller amassed a vast fortune monopolizing the oil industry into Standard Oil. In the early 20th century, the company was broken up by the government into multiple smaller companies, some of which are known today as Exxon Mobil and Chevron, among others. The Rockefeller fortune expanded into other industries and banking, and with that came an increased role in founding universities, foundations and think tanks, which were central to the process of generating the institutional and ideological foundations for American imperialism in the 20th century.

The patriarch of the family today, David Rockefeller, is currently in his 100th year. On the occasion of his 90th birthday in 2005, then-President of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he said, “it’s fair to say that there has been no other single family influence greater than the Rockefeller’s in the whole issue of globalization.”[10]

As of 2014, Rockefeller Financial Services, the family investment company, held over $100 million in investments in several large American and foreign corporations, including JPMorgan Chase, Chevron, Microsoft, Oracle, Merck & Co., TD Bank, and Wells Fargo. Rockefeller Financial also maintains significant holdings in Honeywell International, Capital One Financial Corporation, Google, Exxon Mobil, Comcast, eBay, Wal-Mart, VISA, and Royal Dutch Shell, BP, IBM, McGraw Hill Financial, PepsiCo, McDonald’s, UPS, General Electric, Ford Motor Company, Apple, Intel, Boeing, Pfizer, The Walt Disney Company, Coca-Cola, Halliburton, U.S. Bancorp, Verizon and Goldman Sachs, among many others.[11]

Not only does the Rockefeller family office invest in major banks and corporations (on behalf of the family and its clients), but some major banks have also invested in the family office itself. In 2008, one of France’s largest banks, Société Générale, purchased a 37% stake in Rockefeller & Co. In 2012, that stake was sold to another major financial dynasty, the Rothschilds, who purchased it through RIT Capital Partners, the investment arm of the London branch of the Rothschild family, overseen by Lord Jacob Rothschild. As Barron’s magazine noted at the time, the union of these financial dynasties “should provide some valuable marketing opportunities” in which “new wealth” around the world would want “to tap the joint expertise of these experienced families that have managed to keep their heads down and their assets intact over several generations and right through the upheavals of history.”[12]

The Rothschild banking dynasty, which has its roots in late 18th century Europe, had established several branches of the family spread throughout major European nations and capitals, with two of the most prominent being the London and Paris arms. In 2012, the French and British Rothschild banks were planning to merge their assets into a single entity, under the name of Paris Orléans, headed by David de Rothschild. Upon the announcement of the merger, David de Rothschild explained that its purpose was to “allow the bank to better meet the requirements of globalization… while ensuring my family’s control over the long term.”[13] David, one of the richest Rothschilds today, noted in a 2010 interview with Ha’aretz that as a member of the Rothschild family, “We have an obligation to continue the dynasty.”[14]

The Rothschilds have a long history, marred with tragedies and rivalries so common to historical dynastic clans. In the 1990s, as the French and British branches of the family were increasing their cooperation under the leadership of Baron David de Rothschild and Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, respectively, Sir Evelyn commented that, “The first important strength of the family is unity.” Evelyn viewed Jacob Rothschild – another member of the British family branch – as a potential rival in control over the British bank, N.M. Rothschild, but Jacob went off to found RIT Capital Partners. Jacob’s half-brother, Amschel Rothschild, was pressured by his father to join the family business, despite his lack of interest and talent for it. Shortly after the death of his mother in 1996, Amschel attended a business meeting in Paris, after which he went to his hotel room and hung himself at the age of 41. With his death, a crisis was seen in the future of the family dynasty, which prompted the closer connections between the British and French branches.[15]

Sir Evelyn de Rothschild and his wife, Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild (an American), count two prominent dynasties among their close friends: the Clintons and the British Royal Family. Lynn has long-standing ties to the Clintons, and considers Hillary to be “the woman she most admires,” while Sir Evelyn served as an usher at Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding. The couple spends occasional weekends with the Queen at Windsor Castle, and would also be frequent guests at the White House during the Clinton administration.[16]

In Italy, the Agnelli family – presided over today by the young patriarch, John Elkann – has been considered Italian royalty for the past century. The previous patriarch, Giovanni (‘Gianni’) Agnelli, ruled the family empire from the 1960s until his death in the early 2000s. The Agnelli empire controlled the large auto-company Fiat, as well as managing a wide array of companies and investments “in shipping, oil refining, armaments, banking, insurance, retailing and manufacturing.”[17] When the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, visited Italy, he singled out Gianni in a room filled with several Italian cabinet ministers and took the patriarch aside. “I want to talk to you,” said Khrushchev, “because you will always be in power.” The Soviet leader signaled to the cabinet ministers, adding, “That lot will never do more than just come and go.”[18] By the late 1990s, the Fiat group was the largest employer in Italy, accounting for roughly 5 percent of the country’s gross national product (GNP), and, when combined with the other family’s holdings, the Agnelli family controlled roughly a quarter of the entire capitalization of the Milan stock market.[19]

The Wallenberg family has dominated banking and industry in Sweden for over 200 years.[20] In the mid-1990s, the New York Times referred to the Wallenbergs as “one of the most powerful business families in the world” and “Sweden’s answer to the Rockefellers.”[21] For the post-war period, the business was under the leadership of Marcus Wallenberg Jr., who died in 1982 and had established “an industrial and financial empire of unprecedented scope,” with the family having controlling or influential shares in half of Sweden’s largest corporations, including Electrolux, L.M. Ericsson, Saab, and the Skandinaviska Enskilda Bank (SEB), one of Sweden’s largest multinational banks. By the mid-1980s, the family’s business empire accounted for roughly 30 percent of Sweden’s gross national product.[22]

By the mid-1990s, the Wallenberg empire controlled companies accounting for 40 percent of the Swedish stock market, just as the fifth generation of the family was taking over the reins. Jacob and his cousin, Marcus Wallenberg, were to take over the business from Jacob’s father, Peter, determined on “making the empire a global one.” The family’s holding company, Investor AB, was valued at $6.4 billion, which was in turn owned by a foundation trust controlled by the Wallenberg family.[23] As The Economist noted in 2006, “There is little that happens in Swedish business that does not involve the Wallenbergs,” with one prominent Swedish hedge fund manager commenting, “They are a bit like royalty.”[24] Jacob Wallenberg told the Financial Times in 2014 that, “I think our family is very strong on tradition, it is very strong on responsibility, it is very strong on nation, and I should say family.”[25]

In Canada, a quiet dynasty rules behind the scenes, with “undeniable” influence on provincial and federal politics, according to former U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson, who discussed the Desmarais family in a diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks.[26] The family’s economic empire goes by the name Power Corporation, based in the French-speaking province of Quebec and the city of Montreal. Through its various subsidiaries and shareholdings, the corporate and financial influence of the family reaches to all significant sectors of corporate Canada, as well as Europe, Asia and the United States.

The family was presided over by Paul Desmarais, Sr. from the time he began the business in the 1950s and 60s until his death in 2013, at which time the family empire was passed on to his two sons, Paul, Jr. and André Desmarais. As the Globe & Mail reported upon the patriarch’s death in 2013, “he knew and influenced, in small ways or large, every Canadian prime minister and Quebec premier over the past five decades.” Desmarais helped Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau open relations with China in the 1970s, and established the Canada China Business Council in 1978. Prime Ministers Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin also maintained very close connections with Desmarais and the Power Corp. empire. Jean Chrétien’s daughter, France Chrétien, even married Paul’s son, André. Paul Martin worked for Desmarais at Power Corp. for 13 years before entering politics, eventually becoming finance minister and Prime Minister. Brian Mulroney, a close friend for nearly five decades, said of Desmarais, “I loved him like a brother… He was one of the most significant players in Canadian economic history.”[27]

The Wall Street Journal referred to Desmarais as “one of Canada’s wealthiest and most powerful businessmen” who “was closely involved in the nation’s politics.” Canada’s current Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised Desmarais for his “leadership, integrity, global vision, and profound attachment to his country.” Among the patriarch’s friends were former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.[28]

Asian nations are not to be outdone, with long traditions and new manifestations for family rule with powerful dynasties in the political and economic sphere, as well as a host of monarchs. As The Australian reported in 2014, “the big family business in Asia today is not running companies, but controlling countries,” noting that apart from the obvious in North Korea, many of Asia’s nations were “permeated with political leaderships that keep governance in the family.” The newly installed Chinese President, Xi Jinping, was a ‘princeling’ – a child of the Communist Party founders and bosses – whose father was a former Vice Premier. Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, comes from a prominent political family. His grandfather was a Member of Parliament, his father was a foreign minister, and his mother’s father was a former Prime Minister. The President of Korea, Park Geun-hye, was the daughter of a previous president.[29]

This pattern was repeated in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Singapore, Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka, their own versions of names like Kennedy, Bush and Clinton in the United States. An associate professor at the University of Queensland, David Martin Jones, commented, “The rise of dynasticism within democracy is little understood, and fits with a loss of popular support for mainstream parties, while these dynastic figures fit with the media/celebrity culture and spin that has undermined politics as a mode of persuasion.”[30]

Japan was, for many years, the world’s second largest economy after the United States. Today, it stands in third place, with China picking up the mantle at second. China began its economic ‘opening’ in 1978 under the leadership of Party leader Deng Xiaoping. As the world’s most populous nation increasingly embraced Western forms of ‘capitalism’, the Communist Party leadership which dominated the country acted as patrons and subsequently profiteers of China’s economic development. The highly efficient mixture of a single-party technocratic dictatorship and state-capitalism led to rapid economic growth and immense riches being accumulated by the nation’s new oligarchy. The princelings have become a rich and powerful class, using their political contacts to study at prestigious schools in Europe and America, taking control of large businesses inside China and rising up the Party apparatus.[31] As Bloomberg reported, in China, “wealth and influence is concentrated in the hands of as few as 14 and as many as several hundred families.”[32]

In Turkey, two families largely dominate the economy, Koc and Sabanci, having reached their third generations with interests in banking, energy, automobiles, retail and other markets. Together, Koc Holding and Sabanci Holding – and their various subsidiaries – “make up more than a quarter of the market capitalization of the Istanbul stock market.” The U.S.-based credit ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s, gave Koc Holding a higher credit rating than Turkey.[33]

In another ‘emerging market’ economy, South Africa, one family reigns supreme: Oppenheimer. Harry F. Oppenheimer, who died in 2000, was known as the “king of diamonds,” with an empire controlling most of South Africa’s diamonds, gold, uranium and copper, “wielding extraordinary power over some of the world’s strategic metals and minerals.” Through a complex web of corporate subsidiaries and shareholdings, the Oppenheimer family controlled the supply of the world’s diamonds through their monopoly of De Beers, which also held “vast holdings in banking, real estate, pulp and paper, bricks and pipe, coal and potash, locomotives and beer.” As head of Anglo American Corporation, Harry Oppenheimer spent twenty-five years as “the most powerful figure in his country’s economy as well as one of the richest men in the world,” noted the New York Times.[34]

India, the world’s largest ‘democracy,’ second most populous country and one of the fastest-growing economies, is yet another example of a family business. Politically, India has long been dominated by the Gandhi and Nehru families, but behind the scenes, the families of old and new industrialists dominate the economy. Among India’s largest and most respected conglomerates is the Tata family, which has run the Tata Group for nearly 150 years. Ratan Tata took over the Tata Group in 1991, with its more than 100 companies operating in everything from steel to software. The Tata family had run the company for over a century, but was based almost entirely in India, which began opening its economy up to the West the same year Ratan took over the company. He turned the Tata Group into a global conglomerate, acquiring major British companies, including Tetley Tea, Jaguar Land Rover and Corus, a steelmaker. Ratan became, in the words of the Financial Times, “a pioneer in the country’s move toward globalization,” and both he and the Group “came to embody India’s own emergence as a world economic player over the course of the past decade.”[35]

Germany, the second largest exporter in the world (after China) and the fourth largest economy in the world (after the U.S., China and Japan) is also no stranger to family dynasties and business empires. According to a 2012 study cited by Forbes, roughly 43% of all German exports in 2011 were accounted for by the country’s 4,400 largest family-owned firms. Many of the large companies that are not directly owned by families are often owned by foundations, which are in turn owned by prominent families.[36] The archetypal head of a German business empire, the Financial Times explained in 2007, is “very wealthy but low-profile and frugal.” In other words, they’re rich, cheap and stay behind the scenes.[37] Some of Germany’s wealthiest families and individuals stay so far out of the spotlight that there are few known photographs of them in existence. Susanne Klatten, daughter of the German industrialist Herbert Quandt, who built the BMW empire, is the 44th richest person in the world, with a very low public profile, even spending parts of her life operating under false names.[38]

One reason for the publicity-shy nature of Germany’s corporate, industrial and financial elite could be due to the fact that many of them date back to Germany’s industrialization and prospered immensely through the Nazi era, where they frequently collaborated with Hitler’s murderous regime. Just as the Japanese industries and families of the imperial age were re-established to manage Japan’s post-war industrialization, so too was German industry rebranded after the Nazi era to lead Germany’s reindustrialization and rapid economic growth. The Quandt family behind BMW had collaborated heavily with Nazi Germany, with one German historian, Joachim Scholtyseck, noting, “The Quandts were linked inseparably with the crimes of the Nazis,” using some 50,000 concentration camp slave laborers at the company’s factories, building weapons for the Nazi war machine. “The family patriarch was part of the regime,” Scholtyseck added. The Quandt family also took over dozens of businesses which were seized from Jewish families.[39]

Since the early 1970s, the Arab dictatorships – virtually all run by political dynasties – have accumulated massive wealth and influence, and have invested that wealth into Western banks and corporations. Saudi Arabia is the best example, but the Gulf monarchs include the families that run the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait. One such individual who has made a name for himself in the world of finance is the Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who has been referred to as the “Arabian Warren Buffett,” having become one of the largest shareholders in Citicorp by the early 1990s. In 1999, the Economist noted that while the Saudi royals were “secretive, venal and backward,” Prince Alwaleed was “open, intelligent and successful.”[40]

As of 2013, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was worth an estimated $27 billion, and was the second largest shareholder in the global media conglomerate, News Corp. (after the principal shareholders and owners, the Murdoch family), and is also a stockholder in Apple, TimeWarner, Citigroup, Motorola, Saks, AOL, eBay and EuroDisney, and even owns part of Twitter. Further, the Prince owns several luxury hotels in London, New York and elsewhere, partnering up with major banks and other billionaires like Bill Gates. The Prince has a fleet of some 300 cars, a 280-foot yacht which was originally built for a world famous Saudi arms dealer (Adnan Khashoggi), and a fleet of jets, one of which includes a golden throne. He became the subject of minor scandal when it was reported that at his desert encampment in Saudi Arabia, one of the Prince’s past-times is, literally, “dwarf-tossing.” But the Prince’s defenders were quick to reassure an American audience of “his great beneficence,” noting that dwarves were “outcasts” in the Saudi Kingdom, and so the Prince simply hired them as jesters, providing them with “a work ethic,” which included having them “dive for $100 bills in bonfires.”[41]

Russia and several countries in Eastern Europe (notably Ukraine) are dominated by a handful of oligarchs, who concentrated control of resources and the economy in their hands following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

There are also individual oligarchs all across the world, and if they pass their fortunes on to their children they could establish new financial and corporate dynasties. One example in the United States is Warren Buffett, a billionaire investor who founded Berkshire Hathaway, which is a major shareholder in American Express, Coca-Cola, Exxon Mobil, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Moody’s Corporation, Munich Re, Procter & Gamble, U.S. Bancorp, Wal-Mart and Wells Fargo, among others.[42] Buffet’s friend, fellow billionaire oligarch Bill Gates, is also a major shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway, through his own holding company, Cascade Investment.[43]

These are just a few of the world’s major dynasties and oligarchs in the Empire of Economics, cooperating and competing with one another in what could be interpreted as globalization’s Game of Thrones. Individually, these family dynasties and oligarchs are able to exert significant and varying degrees of control over their respective national economies. Collectively, they wield immense global financial and economic power, largely unknown to outsiders. As banks and corporations became increasingly global in scope and size, so too did the interests of the individuals and families behind many of the world’s major companies. The world’s top banks and corporations, in turn, collectively own each other through shareholdings, as well as much of the rest of the network of global corporations.

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich published a study in 2011 of the ownership structure of the world’s largest 43,000 multinational corporations. The researchers traced the shareholdings of the companies to a small network ‘core’ of the largest 1,318 corporations, which collectively accounted for roughly 80 percent of the global revenues of the entire sample of 43,000 corporations. Within the ‘core’ is what the researchers called the ‘super-entity’, a grouping of roughly 147 closely knit companies – mostly banks and insurance companies – who own each other and collectively control 40 percent of the entire network of 43,000 companies.[44] Thus, a global economic order in which less than 150 of the world’s top banks and financial institutions control not only each other but a large percentage of the world’s remaining corporations can hardly be said to be a “free market” of competition. In truth, the “super-entity” more closely resembles a cartel, the global financial mafia.

Among the top 50 companies of the ‘super-entity’ (as of 2008), were: Barclays, Capital Group Companies, FMR Corporation, AXA, State Street Corporation, JPMorgan Chase, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Bank of New York Mellon, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Société Générale, Bank of America, Lloyds TSB, ING Group and BNP Paribas, among others.[45] As of late 2014, the list of top institutions within the super-entity has changed slightly, with some previous banks merging or collapsing as a result of the financial crisis, and with the rise of asset management firms such as BlackRock.

BlackRock is the world’s largest asset management company, with roughly $4 trillion of assets under management, standing as the single largest shareholder in one out of every five corporations in the United States, owning at least 5 percent of almost half of all corporations in the country. As the New York Times noted in 2013, BlackRock has “tremendous influence.”[46] As the Financial Times noted in 2012, when one includes the assets which BlackRock advises on (on top of managing), the total sum that the company monitors amounts to roughly $12 trillion, almost the same size as the entire U.S. economy, putting the company “in an extraordinarily influential position.”[47] Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock who started his career as “a prince of Wall Street,” rose to what the Financial Times called “the pinnacle of US finance,” where he “slips in and out of the offices of the world’s financial and political elite with ease.” Fink and BlackRock have extensive influence with the major American and European banks and corporations, as well as sovereign wealth funds in the Arab world and Asia.[48]

Fink turned BlackRock from a virtually unknown entity in 2008 to “a global colossus” with its $13.5 billion purchase of Barclays Global Investors in 2009. Vanity Fair referred to Fink in 2010 as “the leading member of the country’s financial oligarchy.” Throughout the financial crisis, Fink and BlackRock played a role as key adviser to all of Wall Street’s top CEOs, as well as the heads of the Federal Reserve System, Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the U.S. Treasury Department, playing a central role in the major bailouts and mergers that marked the crisis. One senior bank official referred to BlackRock as “almost a shadow government.” Another bank executive commented, “Larry has always wanted to be important… And now that he’s more important than he ever dreamed of, he’s loving it.” Fink also maintained very close ties to the two U.S. Treasury Secretaries who served tenures during the financial crisis, Hank Paulson (former CEO of Goldman Sachs) and Timothy Geithner (former President of the New York Fed), whom Fink referred to as “two of our best Treasury secretaries.”[49]

This interconnected and interdependent network of the global financial mafia is in turn controlled by the shareholdings of individual oligarchs and family dynasties. After all, most mafias are ultimately family businesses, and the world of finance is no exception. But there are other key players as well, including sovereign wealth funds (state-run investment companies), central banks, and other investment vehicles. The use of the term ‘mafia’ or Mafiocracy is not simply rhetorical, as the banks and corporations which sit at the heart of this network – the “super-entity” – are repeatedly caught, fined and slapped on the wrist for excessive criminal behavior, including massive fraud and the formation of illegal cartels designed to manipulate prices and increase profits.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the financial sector, plagued by multiple scandals since the financial crisis, including the role of banks in creating the crisis in the first place. In addition to that, however, a small network of banks has been found to function as a criminal cartel in manipulating interest rates (specifically, the LIBOR rate) and the foreign exchange (forex) market. In addition, the world’s major banks also reap immense profits (and commit grave crimes) through the laundering of billions of dollars in drug money, terrorist financing and providing other services to organized crime.[50] And this is to say nothing of the economic and financial support that corporations and banks provide for dictators, tyrants, mass murderers, war mongering and state violence, environmental degradation and the physical plundering of the planet for short-term profit.

But the global financial mafia – and the oligarchs and dynasties who sit at its core – cannot wield significant influence without the political legitimacy that comes with state power. Successful financial dynasties (with the Rockefellers as perhaps the best example) establish complex networks of influence, building institutions and supporting ideologies that in turn influence the state and shape the minds and careers of those who rise through it. The Rockefeller family established the University of Chicago and have long been patrons of Harvard. They created philanthropic foundations which provided strategic funding to universities, research centers, think tanks and international forums, having a lasting impact on the shaping of the social sciences (notably Political Science and Economics). The Rockefeller name has made its imprint on some of the most influential American and international think tanks and forums, including the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg meetings and the Trilateral Commission, which was founded by David Rockefeller in 1973 in an effort to encourage cooperation between the ‘trilateral’ regions of North America, Western Europe and Japan.

The effect of these networks – which are replicated to varying degrees by members of the global financial mafia in their respective nations – was to create a new elite class of technocrats and professionals, strategists and policymakers whose ideologies and interests aligned with that of the Mafiocracy. For dynasties and oligarchs to exert influence over economic and political policies and society at large, they need much more than a large economic share of corporate, banking and stock market capitalization. More than anything, they need access to policymakers: presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers, finance ministers, central bankers, technocrats and the leaders of international organizations.

In short, they need to engage and integrate actively with the world of economic and financial diplomacy, interacting and building relationships with the policymakers of the rich and powerful nations, those who have the political authority necessary to implement policies that affect the Mafiocracy. Together, policy-makers, technocrats, financial diplomats and the Mafiocracy of oligarchs and dynasties are the central players in the game of global power politics, and are the key architects in the system of global economic and financial governance, the Empire of Economics.

Machiavelli to the Mafiocracy

Dynastic control of corporations and banks, while supporting long-term influence and interests, has obvious downsides, since talent and skills are not hereditary, and thus, there is no guarantee that family members and descendants will be as savvy or effective in their management of the family business. For this reason, many oligarchs and dynasties turn to individuals outside of the family to manage their companies, advise on their wealth management strategies, and run the day-to-day business of the family empire. Such advisers, confidantes and interlocutors exist in the world of financial dynasties well beyond the scope of the family business, but help to manage the family’s social and political interests and relationships as well.

Some five hundred years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli advised Popes, princes and other rulers, writing The Prince as a dedication to the first modern financial dynasty, the Medici family of Florence. If Machiavelli were writing The Prince today, he would likely still dedicate it to the major family dynasties, Rockefeller, Rothschild, Wallenberg or perhaps the Agnelli family of Italy and other modern Medicis. With few exceptions, however, the modern imperial families of finance do not directly control the state or political apparatus as they did in past centuries. So for the Machiavellis of the modern era, they must establish close relationships not simply with the top families, but the top political authorities as well.

They act as ‘friends’ and networking agents to the major dynasties while sitting as advisers and cabinet ministers to the world’s major presidents and prime ministers. They run consulting firms, outsourcing their strategic insight and networks of contacts to the highest bidder. They sit on the boards of corporations, think tanks and foundations, fostering the development of future generations of advisers and strategists, regularly appearing in the media to voice their own “independent” analysis of world events and strategic advice. They are the Machiavellis to the global Mafiocracy, moving in and out of government but always remaining in the upper echelons of the ruling institutions. They attend international conferences, forums, professional and social events. They are essential to the global Mafiocracy, with extensive experience in the highest positions of power, understanding how state power is wielded and shaped, they know the key policy-makers at home and abroad, and are able to open doors with their recognizable names, yielding endless benefits to their dynastic patrons and friends.

Perhaps the most recognizable and “respected” consigliere to the Mafiocracy is none other than Henry Kissinger. A German émigré to the United States in the late 1930s, Kissinger became a noted academic at Harvard University, where he became acquainted with the politics of academic life, preparing him “for world politics.” With the help of his academic mentors, he established a seminar and an academic journal which effectively expanded his network of contacts with other young leaders in government, business, media and finance.[51]

In the mid-1950s, Kissinger was invited to join the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the premier U.S.-based think tank focusing on foreign policy, long considered a type of training ground (or rite of passage) for any top future foreign policy officials in the United States government. The Council, founded in 1921, also happened to be an institution which was dominated by Rockefeller men and money. Kissinger was appointed as a staff director of a study group on nuclear weapons and foreign policy on behalf of the Council, out of which he wrote a book that advocated for “limited nuclear war” with the Soviet Union. From there, Kissinger was appointed as the director of a Special Studies Project run by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. At this time, Kissinger developed a close relationship with Nelson Rockefeller, who would become the young Henry’s patron.[52] Kissinger later recalled first meeting Nelson Rockefeller, noting that he and the other young ‘experts’ who formed a study group under Rockefeller’s patronage were “intoxicated by the proximity of power” and sought to impress Nelson in offering “tactical advice on how to manipulate events.”[53]

Kissinger received tenure at Harvard in 1959, and served as a part-time consultant to Nelson Rockefeller, who became the Governor of New York State in 1959 (a position he would hold until 1973). He did part-time consulting with the Kennedy administration in the early 1960s, and with the Lyndon Johnson administration that followed Kennedy’s assassination. When Richard Nixon became president in 1969, Henry Kissinger joined the administration as National Security Adviser, and took on the additional role as Secretary of State in 1973. When Kissinger joined the Nixon administration, Nelson Rockefeller gave Henry a ‘gift’ of $50,000.[54] When Nixon resigned in disgrace in August of 1974, replaced by Gerald Ford, Kissinger remained as National Security Adviser until 1975 and as Secretary of State until the end of the Ford administration in early 1977. Nelson Rockefeller, who had long sought the presidency, was appointed Vice President in the Ford administration.

During these years, Henry Kissinger was the most influential figure shaping U.S. foreign policy, and he did so with a ruthlessly pragmatic understanding of power and its uses. He oversaw the war in Vietnam, the illegal bombing of Cambodia, killing several million civilians during the Nixon administration alone. In addition to his many war crimes in Indochina (for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973), Kissinger supported Pakistan’s genocide in Bangladesh, killing several million, after which he congratulated the dictator of Pakistan for his “delicacy and tact.” He was also central in the CIA coup to overthrow the democratically elected government of Chile in 1973, of which he said, “The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.” The result was the establishment of a U.S.-supported dictator, Augusto Pinochet, who murdered many thousands and tortured many tens of thousands more.[55]

Kissinger also supported the murderous Argentine military regime which killed tens of thousands, along with the Indonesian dictator, Suharto, in his genocide in East Timor, killing several hundred thousand civilians. He supported the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, and the war against the government of Angola, which ultimately killed millions in southern Africa. These are but a few examples of Kissinger’s influence on foreign policy, resulting in the deaths of many millions of people around the world, in addition to the displacement, torture and suffering of many millions of others. With the blood of so many innocent people on his hands, Kissinger had acquired the status of a highly respected “statesman.”[56]

When Kissinger left the government, he did not lose much influence. He remained a central figure within the foreign policy establishment. The ‘Establishment’, as it was known to many, had consisted of prominent Wall Street bankers and lawyers who effectively monopolized the key foreign-policy positions within the government in the decades leading up to and following World War II. By the 1970s, the ‘Establishment’ had given way to what Leslie Gelb (currently a president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations) called the “foreign policy community,” which functions as “an aristocracy of professionals.” This community consisted of roughly 300 professors, lawyers, businessmen, think tank ‘experts’, foundation officials and journalists (though today it is likely a far greater number). Whereas previous leaders in the foreign policy establishment were primarily bankers who took time off to manage foreign policy, members of the community tend to focus on foreign policy as “a full-time job.” The community had “first infiltrated, then subsumed the older and familiar establishment,” and by the 1970s it was “monopolizing the top foreign and national security posts in any administration.”[57]

Gelb, writing in the New York Times, noted that members of the earlier Establishment “were insiders, who knew the right persons to telephone, meeting quietly, avoiding publicity.” The Community, on the other hand, “operate far more openly,” noting that, “unlike the Rockefellers, they cannot pick up the phone and speak to the President. They talk to the President indirectly, through the articles they write in journals such as Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy or in the op-ed pages of [the New York Times] and other newspapers, or in testimony to Congressional committees, through attending conferences with high Government officials at the Brookings Institution in Washington or the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.” Citing Kissinger as one of several examples, Gelb wrote that “the professors had moved to the center of power.” The members of the foreign policy community, explained Gelb, “sometimes actually make the decisions, usually define what is to be debated and invariably manage the resulting policies.”[58]

This foreign policy community links together major universities (particularly the Ivy League schools), philanthropic foundations (Rockefeller, Ford, Carnegie), think tanks, international conferences and forums. Among the most important think tanks in the foreign policy community are the Council on Foreign Relations, the Brookings Institution and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), among many others. These think tanks are typically dominated by boards and trustees who are former high level government officials, top corporate executives, bankers, university professors and chancellors, foundation officials, media barons, and of course, individual oligarchs and members of financial dynasties. In addition to major national think tanks, there are a host of international think tanks and forums that bring together the members of the global Mafiocracy with policy-makers and other influential individuals. The three most important and influential of these international forums are the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission and the World Economic Forum.

The Bilderberg meetings began in 1954 as a conference of high-ranking government officials, bankers, corporate executives, European royalty, media barons, military and intelligence chiefs, academics and think tank officials drawn almost exclusively from North American and Western European nations. The meetings take place once a year, drawing roughly 130 participants who meet for a long weekend in a four-star hotel to engage in off-the-record, secret discussions behind closed doors. The meetings are governed by a Steering Committee of roughly forty individuals who are responsible for inviting other participants from their respective nations. Families such as the Rockefellers, Rothschilds, Agnellis and Wallenbergs have long been represented at Bilderberg meetings.

The Trilateral Commission, which was founded by David Rockefeller, functions as an international think tank and series of conferences uniting the policy-oriented, political, academic, corporate and financial elites of Western Europe, North America and Japan (having expanded since its founding in 1973 to include more Asian nations, notably China and India). David Rockefeller still sits as honorary chairman of the Commission, which consists of roughly 350 members who hold a full membership meeting once yearly, while holding regional meetings separately, of the North America, European and Japanese/Asian groups respectively.

The annual meetings of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, bring together thousands of the world’s top corporate executives, bankers and financiers with leading heads of state, finance and trade ministers, central bankers and policymakers from dozens of the world’s largest economies; the heads of all major international organizations including the IMF, World Bank, World Trade Organization, Bank for International Settlements, UN, OECD and others, as well as hundreds of academics, economists, political scientists, journalists, cultural elites and occasional celebrities.

Henry Kissinger is a regular fixture at these various think tanks, forums and conferences. He currently sits as a trustee and counselor of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a member (and former board member) of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the Trilateral Commission, a participant in World Economic Forum meetings, and as a participant (and former Steering Committee member) of the Bilderberg Group.

After he left government in 1977, Kissinger remained an important figure in foreign policy and establishment circles, making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year as an author, lecturer, academic and consultant, notably for NBC and Goldman Sachs.[59] In 1982, Kissinger founded his own consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, which for a fee of roughly $250,000 per year, advises its clients on “strategic planning.” To help with the consultancy, Kissinger brought in his former deputy national security adviser in the Nixon administration, Brent Scowcroft, as well as a former British Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington.[60]

Kissinger Associates was headquartered on the corner of Park Avenue and 52nd Street in New York City, located in the same office building as the First American Bank of New York and Chase Private Banking International. Among the client list for Kissinger’s firm are several big names, including H.J. Heinz, Arco, American Express, Shearson Lehman, as well as FIAT (Agnelli), Volvo, Fluor Corporation, International Energy Corporation, Midland Bank, and L.M. Ericsson of Sweden (controlled by the Wallenbergs). As the New York Times noted in 1986, “Kissinger and his associates are by all accounts the most successful of this new breed of former senior Government officials who have decided to advise big businesses rather than join them,” noting that Defense Secretaries, State Secretaries and Treasury Secretaries had overseen millions of people and enormous budgets with which most multinational conglomerates cannot compete, and thus, “big business is too small for many of the new generation of Government superstars.”[61]

As Kissinger himself explained, “I think that in the modern world, if you don’t understand the relationship between economics and politics, you cannot be a great statesman. You cannot do it with foreign policy and security knowledge alone.”[62] In 2002, Leslie Gelb, a top official at the Council on Foreign Relations, commented that, “Within the foreign policy world, and among many corporate CEOs, Henry Kissinger carries more weight than any senior individual in the world today.”[63]

Kissinger has long functioned as a glorified errand boy for the ruling global Mafiocracy. Among his close friends and associates are many of the world’s most powerful dynasties, including his original patrons, the Rockefellers, as well as the Agnelli family of Italy, the Rothschilds of Europe, the Oppenheimer family in South Africa, and a whole coterie of ruling elites in China. Sir Evelyn de Rothschild was introduced to his present wife, Lynn Forester, by their “mutual friend” Henry Kissinger at a 1998 meeting of the Bilderberg Group.[64] Of the late patriarch of Italy’s ruling family, Kissinger said that in “the last two decades of his life, no one was closer to me than Gianni Agnelli,” noting that they spoke on the phone roughly twice a week and would visit each other “every month or so.” Kissinger described Agnelli as “the uncrowned king of Italy” and a “powerful personality who was the most influential Italian of his era.”[65] Kissinger even helped to rebuild ties between the diamond and gold empire headed by Harry Oppenheimer and the South African president.[66]

Kissinger has known the many powerful leaders of China over the past four decades, since he led the diplomatic ‘opening’ of U.S. relations with China in the early 1970s. As he officially established relations with Mao Zedong’s China in 1973, David Rockefeller’s Chase Manhattan Bank became the first U.S. bank to get into the country since the Communists came to power in 1949. Chase Manhattan became the “correspondent” for the Bank of China in the United States, for the purposes of financing commerce. The deal was reached following a 10-day visit by Rockefeller to China in the summer of 1973.[67] Some four decades later, China would be the second largest economy in the world, governed by an elite new class of ‘Princelings’ and technocratic tyrants. China’s economic growth has increasingly translated in growing political power in the international arena. But behind the dry, technocratic exterior of Chinese politics lies a brutal world of factional power politics, in-fighting, scandal, corruption and a struggle for control.

China: Globalization’s Gangster State

Following Mao and Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping would become China’s most powerful leader from 1979 until 1989. Henry Kissinger described Mao as “a prophet who was consumed by the objectives he had set,” and Zhou Enlai as a “most skillful diplomat.” But Deng Xiaoping, for Kissinger, was “a greater reformer,” adding, “I certainly met no other Chinese who had the vision and the courage to move China into the international system and… in instituting a market system.”[68]

Deng Xiaoping was first among the ‘Eight Immortals’ of modern China, and principal architect of modern China.[69] The Immortals were those who supported Deng Xiaoping’s leadership of the Communist Party, believing that only by “opening China to the outside world” would they be able to “raise living standards” and avoid “social upheaval that would threaten the Communist Party’s grip on power.” A Bloomberg special report on the influence of the descendants of the Eight Immortals noted that they ultimately “sowed the seeds of one of the biggest challenges to the Party’s authority,” by entrusting major state assets to their children, “many of whom became wealthy.” This marked “the beginning of a new elite class, now known as princelings.” Over the decades, the emergence and growth of the princeling class would increasingly fuel “public anger over unequal accumulation of wealth, unfair access to opportunity and exploitation of privilege – all at odds with the original aims of the communist revolution.”[70]

The Deng Xiaoping era lasted roughly from 1978 until 2012, when the first princeling came to take the highest seat of power in China, with the rise of Xi Jinping. Prior to that, Deng and the Eight Immortals “towered over China,” first through Deng’s rule, and then “through Deng’s hand-chosen successors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao,” noted a special report in The Diplomat.[71] Deng Xiaoping’s China also saw the rapid rise of the factional backroom power politics that dominate the Chinese Communist Party, and by extension, the government and society. Deng articulated the strategy for China to take in its global rise: “hide your brightness; bide your time.”[72]

The Chinese state has always presented an image of itself to its domestic population and a foreign audience as one of being united with a well-oiled political system. But since the era of Deng, the Party system – which determines who rises to the top positions of power in the country – has been governed not by a visible and public structure, but by “back-room patronage and shadowy negotiations among party elders.” The “problem” with this system, suggested the New York Times in 2012, was that “the power of those elders have diminished with each generation,” noting that then-President and party chief, Hu Jintao, who ruled from 2003 until 2013, was “weaker than his predecessor, Jiang Zemin,” who had ruled China from 1989 until 2002, “who was much weaker than Mr. Deng,” who was paramount from 1978 until his death in the 1990s.[73]

In Chinese factional power politics, the top leaders and former top leaders establish their own networks of patronage, passing benefits and favors to others in exchange for various support, making deals, trades, negotiations and much deeper intrigues. These powerful factions occasionally go to battle with each other, orchestrating all sorts of technocratic coups (the removal of top officials loyal to one boss over the other).[74] The large party factions, headed by their respective party bosses (sitting and former top Chinese leaders) would hold conclaves and secret meetings in which they would negotiate and horse-trade over the appointments to be made to the top ruling body in China, the Politburo Standing Committee.[75]

In 2010, the two main party factions led by then-president Hu Jintao and former president Jiang Zemin decided upon a successor to be president of China, Xi Jinping, with Li Keqiang chosen to be the future prime minister, Hu’s first choice for president.[76] Xi Jinping, who was allied with the Jiang Zemin faction, was ultimately considered to be a compromise candidate between the major faction leaders.[77] Another fast-rising official in the Chinese state apparatus was Bo Xilai, allied with Jiang’s faction, and touted as a possible member of the next Politburo Standing Committee. Bo was viewed by many as “dangerous” and “capable of anything,” creating powerful enemies among top-level Chinese officials.[78]

Bo Xilai was well known both within China and internationally among ruling circles, having risen to the position of party boss in Chongqing City in central China. Under his leadership, Chongqing built strong ties to corporate America and he even won the endorsement of none other than Henry Kissinger, who met with Bo in 2011, after which Kissinger said, “I saw the vision for the future by the Chinese leaders.”[79]

Within a year, Bo Xilai would become the subject of a major scandal which provided a glimpse into the backroom power politics waged by China’s ruling elite and its influential factions and personalities. In a spectacular tale worthy of the palace intrigue of ancient imperial China, Bo went from rising star to serving a life sentence in prison. After making himself a powerful enemy in the form of then-Chinese president Hu Jintao, Bo and his police chief – and long-time confidante – Wang Lijun, became the targets of a quiet corruption investigation designed to prevent his rise to the Politburo Standing Committee.[80]

In January of 2012, Wang Lijun went to his patron, increasingly worried about his own future as the investigation clamped down, hoping to secure the protection of Bo. Instead, Bo decided to toss Wang to the wolves and save himself. Bo fired him from his official post and put a police tail on him. When Wang managed to elude his unwanted entourage, he fled to the American consulate in a nearby city where he asked for asylum, claiming his life was under threat and providing evidence that Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai, had murdered a British banker (and possible spy) with cyanide in a hotel room a few months before, which he subsequently helped cover up. Suddenly, the quiet backroom attempt to remove Bo as a threat to the Party leadership became a very public scandal revealing the gangster-state nature of China’s power politics.[81]

In a seemingly bizarre twist, the scandal even had repercussions in Canada, as Bo Xilai was “Canada’s closest ally in China’s power structure.” Specifically, Bo had close connections to Canada’s imperial family of finance, the Desmarais family of Montreal, who own Power Corporation. The Desmarais clan had close relations with Bo since the 1970s, when Bo’s father, the Chinese vice premier, Bo Yibo, established a connection with Paul Desmarais, Sr. As Bo’s power within China grew, so too did the market access of the Desmarais economic empire. Through the Desmarais network, Canada’s political elite also established close connections with Bo Xilai. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was one of the last foreign officials to have visited Bo before he was arrested on corruption charges. In fact, André Desmarais, son of Paul, Sr., was accompanied by his father-in-law, former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, on a trip to China on behalf of the Canada China Business Council. A mere eight days after Bo’s wife murdered a British banker in a hotel room in Bo’s fiefdom of Chongqing, Bo Xilai smiled and shook the hands of Desmarais and Chrétien, greeting them “like old friends.”[82]

A Financial Times article from 2014 explained that many top Chinese leaders, including former vice-premier of finance and current Standing Committee member, Wang Qishan, are fans of the Netflix original show, House of Cards. The show depicts a politician (Frank Underwood) and his wife, who, through their back-room deals, secret machinations, lies, deception and even murder, are able to rapidly ascend through the ranks of political power in Washington, D.C., first as a top Congressional official making his way to become Vice President and ultimately, President.[83]

Kurt Campbell, writing in the Financial Times, noted that one possible reason for the popularity of shows like House of Cards among the Chinese leadership was that they may view the portrayal of politics in the show “as quintessentially American – perhaps even an accurate depiction of workings of U.S. government.” It was “widely believed” in China, he wrote, that “beneath the surface, America’s vaunted democracy is rife with injustice and corruption.” Not to be discounted, of course, was that the show also provided a parallel in the scandal surrounding Bo Xilai and his wife, Gu Kailai, with their rapid rise and dramatic downfall from the near-heights of Chinese political power. The scandal was “eerily reminiscent of the dirty political deeds perpetrated by Underwood in his quest for power.” Even U.S. President Barack Obama had commented that he was fascinated with the show, though he “confessed a pang of envy for the ‘efficiency’ with which things get done in the fictional Washington of its creation.”[84]

Indeed, House of Cards more closely resembles the realities of power politics exercised at the highest levels than is reflected in most other television and cinematic productions. While often criticized as being highly ‘cynical’ (much like Machiavelli’s The Prince), the truth is that it is a more accurate interpretation of a deeply cynical power structure. The Netflix show was an American adaptation of an earlier British television miniseries of the same name, which was itself based upon a series of books written by Michael Dobbs, a former adviser to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and chief of staff to the British Conservative Party. Dobbs was once dubbed “Westminster’s baby-faced hit man,” with the British press noting that many of his political enemies said that he was “as calculating and conceited as some of his fictional characters.”[85]

Dobbs, in fact, wrote the original book, House of Cards, following “a blazing row” with Margaret Thatcher, in which she delivered upon him “a verbal hand-bagging” and subsequently fired him. After that, Dobbs sat down to write his book, which was “inspired by the shenanigans he’d seen and been involved in.” In a recent interview, Dobbs told a journalist, “All of the wickedness you see on House of Cards, I’d seen or even been responsible for.”[86] In a 2015 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Dobbs, who is now a member of Britain’s House of Lords, said, “I don’t think it matters whether it’s in Westminster or Washington – it could be in Beijing or Moscow – because it’s the story about passions, ambitions, weaknesses and wickedness, which I think is universal and almost timeless.”[87]

It is a rarity for power to be accurately portrayed in art and cultural media. Its complexities can hardly be summarized in simple and short journalistic prose, and television news stands as an obscene testament to intellectual infantilism in modern society. Some 500 years ago, when Machiavelli was writing about the realities of power in his era, he could get away with a deliberate and direct approach since he was writing during a time where the vast majority of the population was illiterate, where those who would potentially read his text were the wealthy and powerful, those to whom it would be useful.

Over the past several centuries, with the spread of technology, education, mass communication and democracy, the global political world has become far more complex, with more players, interests, rivals and potential problems than ever before. As a corollary, the “passions, ambitions, weaknesses and wickedness” – as Dobbs described it – have become more global, impactful and entrenched. Whereas Machiavelli wrote about warring city-states, today we have competing continents and large economies, the global system of nation-states, banks and corporations. In addition, the public – the populations of nations and regions – have become literate, better educated, with more access to more information than ever before. They have become more active participants in their respective political systems than they were in past centuries and millennia.

At once, the tools of control and conquest are more advanced and efficient than ever, while the ability to exercise and justify the use of power politics and empire-building is at an historic low. The realities of mass culture and communication, largely a product of the 20th century, have changed the rhetoric and presentation of power in the modern world, though not necessarily the realities and priorities of power. The exercise of power has thus increasingly become coupled with and dependent upon the public use of vague, euphemistic, obscure and often incomprehensible language.

It is a language spoken and understood by those who are invested and involved with the world of high-powered politics, in which the key leaders and players must be able to speak publicly and purposefully in an effort to expand their interests, build their empires and play their games, but which also requires enough obscurity and evasion in order to ensure that the mass publics and populations of the world remain in the dark about the realities playing out behind the scenes. “Political language,” wrote George Orwell in a 1946 essay, “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” In his essay, written two years prior to the publication of his famous book, 1984, Orwell explained some of the many uses of political language, writing:

It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different.[88]

Orwell suggested that political language was most often used to defend the indefensible, citing examples of maintaining British rule in India, Russian purges, and the use of nuclear bombs in Japan. Such things, he wrote, “can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties.” Thus, he noted, “political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.” When poor villages are bombed by foreign militaries, its residents machine-gunned and murdered, homes destroyed and survivors scattered, this, wrote Orwell, “is called pacification.” Political leaders cannot publicly state that they intend to murder and destroy entire communities and nations all for the benefit of imperial ambitions, so they claim instead that they must pacify the population, to secure ‘order’ and ‘stability’. The term “pacification” is never actually defined, but the policies and effects which occur under the cloaking of that rhetoric provides as clear a definition as one will get. Orwell continued:

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms… All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia… But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can be spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better.[89]

Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language, is perhaps more relevant today than it was when it was written in 1946. One journalist, Matt Schiavenza, discussed the uses of political language in an article he wrote for The Atlantic discussing modern politics in China. With names of powerful institutions and conferences such as the Politburo Standing Committee, the Plenum and Plenary sessions of the Party Congress which promise a host of undefined ‘reforms’, Shiavenza wrote, “for lovers of clear, concise language, Chinese politics are a nightmare.” But he acknowledged its purpose: “If this language seems vague and boring, well, that’s the point: Chinese politics are designed to attract as little attention as possible.”[90]

The same can and should be said for American, European, Japanese and other modern, advanced political societies. China is an extreme case, but by no means the exception. Chinese politics has a heavily technocratic element, in which ‘experts’ (engineers, economists, academics) frequently rule the political apparatus and manage the public debate, designing and implementing large-scale social engineering projects; reshaping, en masse, the nature and structure of society, defining purpose for the population, steering the direction and managing the many crises that result from the totalitarian domination of 1.3 billion people.

In 2010 alone, China experienced 180,000 protests, riots and mass demonstrations, an average of 500 per day, and this was in the midst of an economic ‘boom’ for the country.[91] In such circumstances it is necessary for the Chinese elite to present an image of themselves not as in-fighting, factional, power-mad, super-rich oligarchs competing for domination, but as highly-qualified ‘experts’ who are able to make decisions and implement policies through ‘consensus’ in the interests of China and its population as a whole. Obviously, this is a fantasy world, behind which is a totalitarian system that controls the media, education, communication, transportation, and with all the necessary tools of violent repression.

Technocracy – that is, rule by experts – establishes the institutional ideology, and communicates through the technical language of Chinese politics. Only other ‘experts’ have the technical skills to understand what is being said and to participate in the process of decision-making. The public is left with obscure generalizations, flashy distractions, empty sound-bites and pre-packaged conclusions. But perhaps even worse than the “nightmare” of Chinese politics and its “vague and boring” language, is that of the global financial structure and economic diplomacy. It is within this world where the ideologies, individuals and institutions of global governance have constructed and advanced the architecture and interests of the global Empire of Economics.

The Language of Empire

The language of economics and finance is designed to be incomprehensible to those who are not ‘experts’ or experienced in the fields of economics and finance. The language reflects an ideology that is heavily institutionalized in modern ‘industrial’ society, obscuring realities behind its vague and undefined terms and concepts. We are presented with a world of trained economists, experts in the economic ‘science’ of society; politicians, presidents, prime ministers, chancellors and other heads of state who speak and decide on important matters; the finance ministers and central bank governors who meet, speak, plan and implement the world’s major economic and financial policies; the heads of acronym-named international organizations and their technocratic administrations; the banks, corporations, institutions and individuals who control most of the wealth, resources, trade and ‘financial markets’; the universities, think tanks and foundations who shape the education and training of future financial diplomats, who define the debate and discussion, who determine the policy-options and objectives; and the journalists and news publications who disseminate the economic and financial ‘news’ of the day, whose primary audience is composed of the diplomats and key players in the world of finance and economics.

It is a world little understood to outsiders, obscure and unknown even to most trained economists. Like their counterparts in political science, economists are ‘educated’ (aka: trained, indoctrinated) so that they know just enough to be active participants and administrators of the political (or economic) system, but not enough to understand its actual structure and purpose, nor question its legitimacy. Mired and focused on the technical details, ‘specialized’ in their education to focus and only understand specific sectors of the economic and financial system, the experts are segregated, knowledge is divided and divisive. With a tunnel vision focus on the technical details, most economists and experts are incapable of seeing the larger, institutional, ideological and indeed, the deeply political nature and realities of the financial and economic system.

The economic and financial system is designed this way, precisely because – much like Chinese politics – behind its technical terms, opaque objectives, and insurmountable institutions lies a world of brutal power politics, national and transnational factional battles between rivals and regions, engineering empire, enforcing state tyranny and violence, undertaking dramatic coup d’états and maintaining dynastic dominance. The world of financial power politics stands at the core of the Empire of Economics.

Economic and financial diplomacy is concerned with the design and construction of the Empire of Economics. Diplomats, by definition, hold political authority. Their job is to represent the interests of their nation, their ministry or government department, their embassies, outposts and ‘missions’. In the realm of economic and financial diplomacy, the key participants and players, those with the most political authority, are the central bankers, finance ministers, treasury secretaries, the leadership of international organizations, trade negotiators, economic advisers and of course, the presidents, prime ministers and chancellors – the heads of state.

Foreign diplomacy and international relations present itself with the public image of a convoluted and never-ending attempt at failing to help others around the world, to advance democracy, freedom, human rights, civilization and the ‘common interest’. But behind the media, the rhetoric of diplomacy, the coded language and confused causes, is an unforgiving world of empire. This world erupts in wars, coups, civil conflicts, dictators taking power or falling from it, bombs, bullets and occupation.

The famed linguist and prolific social critic, Noam Chomsky (one of the most cited intellectuals in history), has accurately described the world of ‘international relations’ between nations as functioning according to ‘Mafia principles.’ For decades, Chomsky has been one of the best known, most articulate and well-researched critics of U.S. and Western foreign policy and empire. He has spoken and written consistently that since World War II, regardless of political party or affiliation, successive presidents and their administrations were guided in their foreign policy by the “godfather principle, straight out of the mafia: that defiance cannot be tolerated.” Countries that defy the United States or its allies must be “punished” before “the contagion spreads.”[92] Chomsky elaborated on the ‘Mafia principle’ of international relations, writing, “The Godfather does not tolerate ‘successful defiance,’ even from a small storekeeper who fails to pay protection money. It is too dangerous. It must therefore be stamped out, and brutally, so that others understand that disobedience is not an option.” This principle has been “a leading doctrine of foreign policy for the US during the period of its global dominance.”[93]

Economic diplomacy has its parallels as the most powerful nations compete and cooperate for influence within the global Empire of Economics, also adhering to ‘Mafia principles’ in the exercise of financial power.

Diplomacy and Design of the “World Political Structure”

The Empire of Economics had been long in the making, but its modern manifestation – the various institutions, ideologies and interests that comprise the global economic and financial system – is largely a product of the 1970s. It was an era of profound monetary (currency) and economic crises and transformations. The global currency system that had existed in managing the monetary and economic relations between nations from the end of World War II was abandoned by the United States in 1971. Thereafter, the world of economic diplomacy was thrown to the center of the storm. Decisions of immense political importance had to be made and a new global monetary and financial system needed to be constructed. This task was handed to the central bankers and finance ministers of the rich and powerful nations of the world, first and foremost, the United States, followed by West Germany, France, Britain, Japan, Italy, Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Nordic nations.

Suddenly, finance ministers and central bankers were pushed to the forefront of advancing the global imperial interests of the rich, powerful nations, at times even eclipsing foreign and state ministers responsible for managing the nation’s foreign policy. It is through the frequent private meetings, international forums, conferences, social events and state visits where the finance ministers, central bankers and other technocrats engage in the very long and incremental process of negotiating the construction and evolution of the global economic and financial system. This was what Kissinger defined as the “trick” to use in creating “a world political structure.”

Banks, financial institutions, corporations and global markets were reaching far beyond the nation-state, becoming transnational in character, objectives and ideology. Political power had to follow financial and corporate power, to provide the political legitimacy necessary to advance the interests of the Mafiocracy. A bank can make a loan, but only powerful nations can force compliance to pay, to demand policies be changed, and to enforce the repercussions of failure. It was in the finance ministries and central banks of the powerful nations where state power and authority was to be exercised in closer coordination with other influential nations, and where they would consult and cooperate with concentrated transnational financial power.

Since the early 1930s, central bankers from the rich and powerful Western nations would meet in secret (usually in Basel, Switzerland) at the headquarters of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the central bank to the world’s major central banks. These meetings of central bankers take place behind closed doors every two months, in off-the-record conversations, after which no communiqué or press release is issued, no reporters informed. The cooperation of central bankers was in turn supported and enhanced through the establishment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1944, which brought in not only central bankers, but also finance ministers from the member nations of the Fund.

Liaquat Ahamed is a widely read and respected author within the economic world, and particularly among financial diplomats. He has worked at the World Bank, with banks, hedge funds, asset managers and is currently on the board of trustees of the Brookings Institution, an influential American think tank. In 2009, he published Lords of Finance about the major Western central bankers during the early 20th century, winning multiple awards, including the 2010 Pulitzer Price for History. In 2014, he published another work, Money and Tough Love: On Tour with the IMF, looking at the history and workings of the International Monetary Fund, interviewing many IMF officials and even attending several meetings and travelling with IMF missions to various nations.

Ahamed noted that from its origins at the end of World War II, the annual meetings of the IMF (usually taking place in September or October), consisted primarily of top financial diplomats from the founding 29 members of the Fund, which “functioned as a sort of conclave of the cardinals of capitalism, intent on rebuilding the Western financial system after thirty years of war and depression.” The annual meetings of the IMF were “grand affairs,” as most of the “financial statesmen of the era had either been bankers at the tail-end of the Gilded Age or, in the case of the British, colonial administrators.” In the late 1950s, the IMF membership had grown to sixty-eight, with several hundred officials showing up to the annual meetings.[94]

The IMF, BIS and other international institutions such as the World Bank, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) would play central roles in the management and expansion of the global Empire of Economics. But a great deal of power was organized often outside of these institutions, by relatively smaller groups of nations who would meet in private as ad hoc groups of finance ministers, central bankers their deputies and other technocrats and international organization officials. Together, as representatives of the rich and powerful nations and institutions, they would seek to forge a consensus between themselves, which they could then extend through the various other (larger) forums and institutions.

The first of these ad hoc groups was known as the Group of Ten (G-10), established in 1962. The G-10 would periodically bring together the central bankers and finance ministers of ten rich nations: Belgium, Canada, France, [West] Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. Very soon after its establishment, Switzerland was invited, yet it continued to call itself the Group of Ten. Through this forum, these nations would “consult and co-operate on economic, monetary and financial matters.”[95]

Over the first half of the 1970s, a series of committees would be formed to further coordinate policies and strategies among the powerful nations. The Group of Ten agreed to form a special group at the IMF in 1972 known as the Committee of 20 (C-20), bringing together the finance ministers and central bankers from the key constituencies represented on the IMF’s executive board, coming together at the annual and spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank in order to function as a type of steering committee for the Fund, providing strategic direction the Board of Governors.[96]

In 1973, a separate group was formed, known as the Group of Five (G-5), bringing together the finance ministers (and occasionally the central bankers) from the United States, West Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and France.[97] The following year, the IMF’s C-20 was institutionalized as the Interim Committee of the IMF, and would later become known as the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), which still exists and meets today. It has a parallel group that provides strategic advice to the World Bank, known as the Joint Development Committee.[98]

A hierarchy of these groups began to emerge, with the richest five countries holding their secretive meetings of the Group of Five, where they would seek to establish a consensus among themselves and subsequently push their agreements through the wider G-10, from where they would then advance their collective interests through the Interim Committee of the IMF. The era of ad-hoc committees to run the world had begun. The IMF’s own publication, Finance & Development, would later describe these groups as “a steering committee for the world economy,” driving the process of global governance.[99] In 1975, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, William E. Simon, wrote to President Ford, “I believe that bringing together finance ministers from time to time in these forums is a useful way of getting decisions on difficult and technically complex financial issues.”[100]

A few months later, Henry Kissinger would explain to President Ford the strategy “to use economics to build a world political structure.” Two days after Kissinger made that statement to the President, a larger meeting was held at the White House which included all of the top financial diplomats and economic advisers in the Ford administration, where the strategy was further discussed. As Kissinger told the other ministers during the meeting, “it is better to have the Finance Ministers be bastards, that’s where I want it.”[101]

Before the end of the year, the Group of Five would meet for the first time at the level of heads of state, holding their inaugural meeting in Rambouillet, France, where Italy was also invited as an additional member. The following year, Canada would be invited to join, thus crowning the annual meeting as the Group of Seven (G7), which continues to meet to this very day, functioning as “an informal Western directorate,” as the New York Times described it in 1975.[102] The ministers and central bankers of the G5 would continue to function as the primary forum for economic coordination until the mid-1980s, when the G7 ministers and central bank governors would officially replace it.

The financial and corporate power that was concentrated in the G-7 nations began to expand across the world, and so too did major economic, financial and debt crises. The powerful nations would then have to come to the rescue of their own banks by providing bailouts for foreign nations who owed the banks money and were too poor to pay. In return for financial ‘aid’, largely channeled through the IMF, the Group of Seven nations would demand strict conditions to be met, including sweeping changes to the economic, political and social structure of the nation getting the bailout. Their economies would be forced to reform to the ‘market system’, benefitting domestic oligarchs and elites, as well as large banks and corporations in the G-7 nations. A financial or debt crisis would manifest as a form of financial warfare, while the bailout programs would function as economic occupations designed to advance the interests of the Empire.

From the early 1980s to the early 2000s, these debt crises spread from Latin America to Africa, Eastern Europe, East Asia, Russia and back to Latin America. The International Monetary Fund functioned like an imperial management facility, controlling entire nations and regions like an occupying power. As early as 1977, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Michael Blumenthal, wrote to President Jimmy Carter discussing the importance of the IMF, while acknowledging that many nations of the world were complaining about the harsh conditions attached to IMF loans. Blumenthal wrote, “The IMF for years served as a kind of whipping boy,” noting that countries that were in crisis and needed to take drastic measures to solve their financial situations (usually in the form of painful austerity measures) would “often need an external source to blame. The IMF is an ideal candidate and is accustomed to being in that position.” Further, he wrote, “If we didn’t have the IMF, we would have to invent another institution to perform this function.”[103]

In the early 1990s, the IMF was managing ‘programs’ in over 50 countries around the world, which “helps explain why it has long been demonized as an all-powerful, behind-the-scenes puppeteer for the third world,” in the words of the New York Times.[104] In 1992, the Financial Times noted that the fall of the Soviet Union “left the IMF and G7 to rule the world and create a new imperial age,” which “works through a system of indirect rule that has involved the integration of leaders of developing countries into the network of the new ruling class.”[105] When Russia was invited to these special meetings, they would be known as the Group of Eight (G-8), but the G-7 still served as the core of global governance.

In the late 1990s, a new committee was formed, known as the Group of Twenty (G-20), which consisted of the finance ministers and central bankers of the G-7 nations, the European Union and twelve major “emerging market” economies: Russia, China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, Argentina, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Australia and South Korea.[106] It would not be until the global financial crisis of 2008 that the G-20 would meet at the level of heads of state, when it held its first meeting in Washington, D.C. on November 15.[107] By September of 2009, the G20 had effectively become “the new global economic coordinator” and “steering committee” for the world economy.[108] From 2011 onwards, the G7 would only meet “informally,” with the G20 finance ministers and central bankers gathering prior to the IMF and World Bank spring and annual meetings in order to coordinate strategy and policies.[109]

Despite the dry and uninspiring names of the groupings, the reality is that they function as conclaves of empire, where ministers and governors align in their respective cliques – such as advanced versus emerging market economies – and pursue their individual national and collective interests. The emerging market economies push for greater representation and authority in international organizations such as the IMF, attempting to increase their own power within the apparatus of global governance and empire. Power struggles and financial warfare between nations are left to behind-the-scenes negotiations and discussions, kept largely out of the public eye.

In 2010, the then-chairman of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (formerly the Interim Committee of the IMF) was Youssef Boutros-Ghali, the finance minister of the Egyptian dictatorship, widely respected in financial circles, though much hated among Egyptians as a representation of the dictatorship’s extreme corruption. That year, a currency war had erupted between the rich nations and the emerging market economies, in which countries like China and Brazil were seeking to make their currencies more competitive than Western currencies, thus making their exports cheaper and more attractive. Financial diplomats began to fret about the potential implications of the currency warfare. The issue was to be taken up at the IMFC meeting, though Boutros-Ghali stressed that the subject “will not be on the public agenda” during the IMF meetings. “These are issues that you solve in closed rooms,” he said, and needed “to be handled quietly and in a spirit of cooperation.” Such important issues were not for public discussion, as it could frighten markets and accidentally reveal to the public the true nature of the global economic system. Instead, Boutros-Ghali explained, “It is something that needs quiet discussions, quiet diplomacy to get things moving.”[110]

The “quiet diplomacy” of “closed room” meetings of finance ministers and central bankers is one of the defining characteristics of the modern imperial system. There is no better example of this system today than that of the European Union and its debt crisis, which began in 2010.

Europe Under Empire

One of the most important institutions in Europe is called the ‘Eurogroup’, consisting of the finance ministers of the 19 nations that use the euro as their common currency within the 28-nation European Union. From the time that Europe’s debt crisis began in early 2010, the Eurogroup would hold meetings at least once a month, with top officials from the IMF, the European Commission (the executive body of the EU) and the European Central Bank (ECB) also participating. The Eurogroup was presided over by a president, Jean-Claude Juncker, who also served as the Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Luxembourg.

The Eurogroup functions as a type of board of directors for the eurozone economies, meeting behind closed doors at various locations across Europe where they negotiate and attempt to establish a consensus in managing the debt crisis, forcing countries in crisis (such as Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Italy and Spain) to impose austerity measures, cutting social spending and increasing unemployment and poverty for the benefit of banks and financial markets. The future of the European Union and its 500 million citizens is decided in these “secret meetings” of finance ministers, central bankers and transnational technocrats.[111]

In April of 2011, Jean-Claude Juncker was speaking at a conference of European elites when he said, “Monetary policy is a serious issue. We should discuss this in secret, in the Eurogroup.” Juncker explained that throughout his more than two decades as prime minister of Luxembourg, making him the longest-sitting head of state in the E.U. at the time, he often “had to lie” in order to prevent financial markets from panicking. Just as monetary policy had long been discussed and decided in secret meetings of central bankers, Juncker felt that all major economic decisions should be discussed and agreed upon in the same way. “I’m ready to be insulted as being insufficiently democratic, but I want to be serious,” he explained, “I am for secret, dark debates.”[112] The following month, he lived up to his reputation and became the target of criticism after he lied to the press about a secret meeting of the Eurogroup that was taking place in a Luxembourg castle to discuss a second possible bailout for Greece.[113]

Presented to the public as an essentially economic issue, Europe’s debt crisis is discussed and debated through the use of financial rhetoric and terminology in all its bland and vague varieties: fiscal discipline, structural reform, austerity, labour flexibility, budget and trade deficits, external imbalances, internal adjustments, strict conditionality and deficit reduction strategies. Many of these terms are interchangeable, and while they all provide the appearance of technical expertise and understanding, they have profoundly important meanings and implications.

For example, the main policy pushed on countries in crisis is to demand that they cut all forms of social spending, including health care, education, welfare, social services, firing large amounts of public-sector workers, dismantling government programs and policies which benefit the majority of the population, creating mass unemployment and poverty. This systematic impoverishment of the population is a brutal process that results in mass misery, increased suffering, hunger, disease, skyrocketing suicide rates and social devastation. To describe this process in these terms, however, would be to prevent the policies from ever being implemented. Instead, these policies and programs are described with the following terms: austerity, fiscal discipline, fiscal adjustment, belt-tightening, deficit reduction, balancing the books, and budget consolidation.

The brutality of the European and global economic empires remains hidden behind these bland terms. But the truth is revealed in the countries and on the streets of those nations most affected by the debt crisis, in Greece and Spain, Italy, Ireland and Portugal. Unemployment has soared, particularly among youth, of whom more than 50 percent remained unemployed in Greece and Spain by 2015. Poverty and suffering under the E.U.’s economic colonization programs have prompted social unrest, resistance, riots and rebellions, new social movements, anti-austerity political parties and even the rapid rise of fascism. Germany dominates Europe and its major institutions, as the largest economy on the continent, second-largest exporter in the world after China, and fourth largest economy in the world as a whole (following the U.S., China and Japan). Its economic weight makes it the most powerful nation influencing and directing the apparatus of the European Union, including the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the Eurogroup, with significant influence (especially alongside other rich EU nations) in the IMF and Bank for International Settlements (BIS).

Germany leads a bloc of rich nations within the European Union who are the strongest advocates of “fiscal discipline” and “austerity,” among them the Netherlands, Finland, Luxembourg and Austria, generally referred to as the northern bloc or creditor countries. France, the second-largest economy in the European Union, generally leads a bloc consisting of the ‘southern’ nations, the debtor nations. The rich countries provide the majority of funding to the E.U.’s institutions, and thus wield the greatest influence.

Germany and France were the two most influential countries in constructing the European Union over the course of the previous six decades, with consistent cooperation and support among the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg), and occasionally the United Kingdom, though its influence has dramatically decreased in recent years. As a result of this process, the rules that were written were done so in such a way as to benefit this ‘core’ group of nations more than any others. Despite the fact that there are 28 nations in the European Union, the collective weight of a core group consisting of a handful of rich nations is able to direct the process of integration and force the other member nations to change their policies and transform their societies.

As financial markets began to punish countries for having high debt levels, plunging them into crisis, the European Union, its key institutions and leaders began to mobilize to provide large ‘bailouts’ to these countries. Big banks, most notably those based in Germany and France, had lent large amounts of money to several nations, including Greece, and wanted their interest payments to be made on time. The banking systems in the rich countries were thus under threat of potentially facing the consequences of their own bad loans. To prevent the banks from having to suffer, the rich nations agreed to establish bailout programs which would be managed by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These three institutions, collectively known as the Troika, would provide the money for the bailouts and in turn would set the conditions demanded by the core nations for the bailout countries to implement, namely, austerity and impoverishment. The Troika institutions are entirely unaccountable to voters and publics, representing unelected and anti-democratic technocratic tyrannies, yet they wield unprecedented power over entire populations and societies.

The European Commission functions as the executive branch of the E.U., writing legislation and managing roughly two dozen governmental cabinet departments, headed by individual Commissioners, the most influential and important of which is the Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs. For much of the debt crisis, this individual was Olli Rehn, a Finnish politician who served in that position from 2009 to 2014. Coming from Finland, Rehn was closely aligned with the core group of rich nations and was among the strongest individual proponents of austerity throughout the crisis. The Commission itself was presided over by a President, personified in the former Portuguese Prime Minister, José Manuel Barroso, who served in the role from 2004 to 2014.

The European Central Bank (ECB) manages the monetary policy for the 19 member nations of the eurozone who share a common currency. The ECB is run by a president, a role held from 2003 to 2011 by a Frenchman, Jean-Claude Trichet, a former governor of France’s central bank, the Banque du France. From late 2011 on, the role of president was held by an Italian, Mario Draghi, previously the governor of the Bank of Italy. The ECB is further managed by an Executive Board, consisting of the president, vice president and four other members appointed from different EU countries. In addition, the ECB has a Governing Council made up of the governors of the national central banks of the eurozone economies, collectively comprising what is called the Eurosystem. The German Bundesbank and its president is the most powerful individual central bank in the ECB, often allied with its Dutch, Finnish and Austrian counterparts.[114] Both the Executive Board and Governing Board are responsible for making the major decisions in the central bank’s policies and play a highly influential role in managing the European debt crisis, especially in crisis-hit countries.

Technically speaking, the ECB is an independent institution, meaning that it is given political independence from the nation states of the European Union, serving its mandate as a technocratic institution interested only in a stable monetary policy, free of interference from political leaders. The core countries of the EU, however, wield significant influence on the ECB, and not only through their appointments to the Executive Board and their respective national central banks, but in behind-the-scenes negotiations and secret meetings. As the heads of state of the core eurozone nations frequently formed an allied bloc in their negotiations and management of the European debt crisis, these blocs were reflected inside the ECB and other EU institutions,[115] and Germany remained the most influential of all.[116]

The behind-the-scenes power politics between nations was also reflected in the Eurogroup of finance ministers, where Germany and France would have to negotiate an agreement, with Germany leading the group of countries demanding harsh measures, alongside the Netherlands and Finland.[117] This has allowed Germany, the Netherlands and Finland to have some of the most influential finance ministers in managing the entire process and policies of reform and deeper integration in the European Union.[118] Many of these policies and programs are agreed through the “secret, dark debates” of the Eurogroup meetings, to borrow Jean-Claude Juncker’s phrase.

The German Finance Ministry is located in Berlin, housed in a Nazi-era building which previously served as the headquarters for the Nazi air force, the Luftwaffe, from which Hitler’s second-in-command, Herman Goering, plotted the bombing campaigns across Europe. Today, the same building serves as the main center for managing Germany’s economic empire in the EU and the Troika occupations of crisis countries. The building “is a monument to both the Nazis’ ambition and their taste,” noted Vanity Fair, though the statues of eagles sitting atop large swastikas have been removed.[119]

In late 2011, Europe’s debt crisis was reaching new heights, with financial markets waging a vicious assault against Greece and Italy for their failure to impose brutal austerity measures on their populations. It was at the Old Opera House in Frankfurt, Germany, where a farewell party was being held for Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the ECB, resigning from his post at the end of the month (to be replaced by Mario Draghi). Nearly all of Europe’s key policymakers were present at the party, but as the crisis escalated, a small group of top officials held an “explosive” behind-the-scenes meeting to try to come to an agreement on forming a response. Nicolas Sarkozy squared off against Trichet, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel coming to the central banker’s side. But the real significance of the meeting was that it established the formation of a small ad hoc group of eight individuals at the top of the EU’s power structure who would be able to collectively steer the course of Europe.[120]

They called themselves the ‘Frankfurt Group’, though the media dubbed them Europe’s new ‘Politburo’, reflecting the similar functions of China’s top ruling body. The group consisted of the German Chancellor, French President, the head of the ECB, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, the Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn, the President of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the Managing Director of the IMF, former French finance minister Christine Lagarde.[121]

Within the following three weeks, the Frankfurt Group would orchestrate coup d’états in both Greece and Italy, removing democratically-elected prime ministers and political parties from power, replacing them with economists and central bankers, technocratic tyrants whose sole purpose was to impose the brutal austerity measures demanded by banks and financial markets. One of the key battlegrounds in the war waged by the Frankfurt Group was in the lead-up to and during the G20 summit of leaders and ministers at Cannes, France in early November of 2011.[122]

Less than a week before the G20 summit, Greece’s prime minister, George Papandreou, surprised members of his own cabinet and infuriated Europe’s rulers when he decided to hold a referendum asking Greek citizens if they were willing to follow the conditions set by the bailout agreement with the Troika. Sarkozy went “ballistic” and summoned Papandreou to Cannes for a meeting with several officials of the Frankfurt Group in order “to put Papandreou against the wall, in the corner,” in the words of one person present at the meeting. Over the following weeks, the Group would orchestrate the removal of Papandreou from power, replacing him with Lucas Papademos, the former Vice President of the European Central Bank from 2002 to 2010, prior to which he was the governor of the central bank of Greece from 1994, simultaneously sitting as a member of the ECB’s governing council from its creation in 1998 until 2002. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso had played a central role in removing Papandreou from power, operating secretly from hotel rooms with his close aides and without the knowledge of Merkel or Sarkozy.[123]

When the world’s major leaders headed to Cannes in early November for the G20 summit, President Obama was given an inside look into the inner workings of European power politics, even attending a meeting of the Frankfurt Group. The European debt crisis took international headlines and was the main topic of discussion at the summit. The Obama administration, with Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary, had for months been working quietly through financial diplomacy to encourage a more comprehensive solution to Europe’s crisis, attempting to balance the interests of global financial markets with those of Germany. Obama told Chancellor Merkel and other leaders, “Our preference is that the ECB should act a bit like the Federal Reserve did,” referring to its role in acting as a “lender of last resort,” providing funds for states or banks that needed quick cash to avoid a crisis.[124]

The ECB’s legal mandate reflected that of its major national backer, the German Bundesbank, the chief architect and prototype of the ECB structure. Holding a far more conservative and ‘hawkish’ approach to monetary policy than most of the world’s other central banks, the mandate stressed that the central bank was not allowed to finance governments, and so instead of acting quickly to bailout governments in need, financial markets wage war against nations in need of funds while EU leaders squabble and negotiate the details of programs that require the countries to restructure their entire societies. The longer the negotiations drag out, the more vicious the assault of financial markets will be. This exacerbates the crisis and weakens the negotiating position of the crisis country, allowing the powerful countries to extract more concessions and impose more demands.

Central bankers frequently refer to the term and concept of “creative destruction,” referring to the role that financial crises play in providing the needed pressure on countries to change their policies and restructure their societies, following the orders of central bankers, finance ministers and other technocrats. Andrew Crockett was the former head of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the central bank to the world’s central banks, who was one of the most respected international monetary diplomats of his era. Crockett described “creative destruction” as a process of financial instability that “is not only inevitable but also positive.” It forces various governing and social systems “to change and adapt,” destroying old and creating new institutions and structures. This process “has to be allowed to work.”[125] Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan referred to creative destruction as the “partner” of “free-market competition,” noting that where markets go, crises follow.[126]

As financial markets creatively destroyed European countries, the Frankfurt Group held four meetings on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Cannes, with its eight ‘Politburo’ members wearing badges marked ‘Groupe de Francfort’. Obama was invited to one of the meetings where he received a “crash course” in Europe’s ruling structures and processes. One participant in the meeting referred to the American president as “a quick learner.” Obama continued to meet with other European leaders assembled at Cannes, attempting to help forge a response to the crisis. At one point, he pulled Angela Merkel aside just prior to a G20 working session and said, “I guess you guys have to be creative here.”[127]

And they got creative with Italy’s Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire media oligarch who was long a thorn in the side of EU leaders, consistently failing to impose the austerity measures demanded by Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin. Chancellor Merkel had been quietly working behind the scenes for weeks to remove Berlusconi from power.[128] On November 12, Berlusconi was forced to resign and his replacement was Mario Monti, an economist and former European Commissioner.[129] Monti was also a founder and honorary chairman of Bruegel, a Brussels-based international economic think tank. He served on advisory boards to Coca-Cola and Goldman Sachs, was a former Steering Committee member of the Bilderberg Group, and at the time of his appointment as Prime Minister, he was serving as the European Chairman of the Trilateral Commission, the transnational think tank founded by David Rockefeller in 1973. Lucas Papademos, the technocratic prime minister of Greece, was also drawn from among the membership of the Trilateral Commission.

It no doubt helped matters that Mario Monti was “an old family friend” of the Agnelli family, whose young patriarch, John Elkann, was also a Trilateral Commission member. Monti even served on the board of Fiat for some time. After Monti assumed his position as Prime Minister of Italy, he would meet regularly with John Elkann, who lobbied on behalf of Italian industry to promote reforms that benefit large companies.[130] Six months into his technocratic government, John Elkann said that there was “no doubt that Monti becoming prime minister has been positive for Italy.”[131]

Following the Frankfurt Group’s two coups, the Wall Street Journal praised the moves as “exactly the kind of game-changing display of political power euro-zone leaders have promised but failed to deliver since the start of the crisis,” adding that it was “sure to be greeted with similar jubilation in the market.” The “self-appointed Frankfurt Group,” however, lacked legitimacy and was representative of a “democratic deficit” in the European Union.[132] The Financial Times referred to technocrats as “efficient, calculating machines” who might “lack a democratic mandate but they’re fantastically well-regarded in Frankfurt.” The job of the “brilliant but bloodless functionaries” was to push through “unpopular measures” without concern for citizens.[133]

The New York Times referred to the technocratic coups as “the cold reality of 21st-century politics,” in which Greek and Italian citizens “have just watched democratically elected governments toppled by pressure from financiers, European Union bureaucrats and foreign heads of state.” Democracy and national sovereignty might be pleasant concepts, but when it comes to a crisis, “it’s the technocrats who really get to call the shots,” with stability for the euro and the European Union pursued “at the expense of democracy.” Real power in the European Union “would pass permanently to the forces represented by the so-called Frankfurt Group.”[134]

Roger Altman is the chairman of Evercore Partners, a major U.S. investment bank, and a former top U.S. Treasury Department official during the Clinton administration, having served a long career between Wall Street and Washington. Altman also happens to be a member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg meetings, as well as writing regular columns in the financial press. In December of 2011, Altman reflected on the events of previous months in an article for the Financial Times, concluding that financial markets were “acting like a global supra-government” which is able to “oust entrenched regimes where normal political processes could not do so,” and “force austerity, banking bail-outs and other major policy changes.”

Their influence “dwarfs” that of institutions like the IMF, and apart from “unusable nuclear weapons,” financial markets “have become the most powerful force on earth.” When their power is “flexed,” he wrote, “the immediate impact on society can be painful,” with growing unemployment and the collapse of governments. Whether the power of financial markets was “healthy” for the world was not important, he suggested, but their power “is permanent.” Altman concluded, “above all, there is no stopping the new policing role of the financial markets. There may be more frequent market crises. We should not rush to conclude that they will end in tears.” At least, not in tears for those who run large banks.[135]

Financial markets, technocrats, central bankers, finance ministers and the top political leaders of the dominant nations have wreaked havoc on Europe. The process of economic colonization of the ‘periphery’ nations of the E.U. has advanced year after year. Nations were repeatedly put under Troika occupation, with policies dictated by technocrats and politicians in Brussels, Frankfurt, Berlin, Paris and Washington. The policies create mass suffering as austerity destroys the countries, impoverishes their populations, while the various ‘structural reforms’ open up the economy to be plundered cheaply by foreign banks and corporations. Commentators in the press, however, began to increasingly warn about Europe’s “democratic deficit” and its crisis of legitimacy in the eyes of its 500 million citizens.[136]

One of the world’s largest banks, JPMorgan Chase, published a report on Europe’s debt crisis in May of 2013, stating that the process of “adjustment” in the eurozone was “about halfway done on average,” and warning that austerity would need to continue “for a very extended period” and that leaders would need to deal with “deep seated” political problems. The bank identified what it viewed as the main problems, embedded in the constitutions and political systems of many of the countries in crisis, including the “constitutional protection of labor rights” and “the right to protest if unwelcome changes are made to the political status quo.”[137]

There was, of course, a reason why the EU’s technocratic, political and financial elite were growing increasingly worried about “democratic legitimacy” and people exercising “the right to protest.” The citizens of Europe, especially the ‘periphery’ nations under various forms of Troika and financial market pressure, had been increasingly involved in social unrest, protests, urban rebellions and the emergence of new, populist, anti-austerity and increasingly revolutionary movements. These processes were not confined to Europe, however, as resistance movements were taking place with increased frequency and ferocity around the world in the wake of the global financial crisis.

The Age of Rage

It was in late 2010 and early 2011 that the world witnessed the start of a new phase of global uprisings, with the Arab Spring erupting and spreading across much of the Middle East and North Africa, leading to the removal of long-time U.S. and European-supported dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen, with protests spreading across many more nations, upsetting the established order. The Saudis, along with the other Gulf Arab dynastic dictatorships, led the counter-revolution against the move to democracy, spreading violence, chaos and civil war from Libya to Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and beyond.

In the European Union, the year 2011 also turned out to be a very dramatic one in terms of protests, social unrest and anti-austerity movements. Protests of tens of thousands in Greece would erupt in violent confrontations with the police,[138] as a new anti-austerity movement began spreading across the country, going by the name, ‘I Won’t Pay’ (for someone else’s crisis).[139] As Portugal was strong-armed into a bailout program, the “desperate generation” of youth, inspired by the Arab Spring protests, sparked a new social movement organized via social media, struggling against the “wasted aspirations of a whole generation,” with more than 30 percent of youth unemployed across the country.[140] Even Brussels experienced instances of riot police turning water cannons and tear gas on protesters who were opposing the E.U.’s policies and increased powers.[141]

The protests in Portugal in turn inspired a new protest movement in Spain, where thousands of youth occupied the Puerto del Sol square in Madrid in opposition to the main political parties and austerity. Known as the ‘Indignados’ (the indignant ones), the movement spread across much of the country as unemployment among youth soared to 45 percent.[142] The Guardian noted that, “a youth-led rebellion is spreading across southern Europe.”[143] Thousands of protesters turned up to voice their opposition to the Group of 8 (G-7 plus Russia) summit in May of 2011.[144] At the end of that month, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across Europe, from Spain to Germany, France, Greece, Portugal and beyond, answering the call for a “European Revolution” in over one hundred cities across the continent.[145] Spain’s Indignados paved the way for similar movements to be replicated in several other countries, notably including Greece.[146]

In the pages of the Financial Times, Gideon Rachman wrote that “2011 is turning into the year of global indignation,” from the Arab world, to Europe, India, China, Chile and even Israel. “Many of the countries hit by unrest,” he noted, “have explicitly accepted rising inequality as a price worth paying for rapid economic growth.”[147] Protests and social unrest spread across Europe throughout the summer, particularly in Greece and Italy. In September, a protest following the examples set in the Arab world and Europe began in New York City, starting what would later be known as the Occupy Wall Street Movement.[148] The occupation continued through the month, facing increased police repression countered with growing numbers of supporters.[149] At the same time, Greece was facing growing domestic unrest as the Troika auditors were in Athens pressuring the government to meet ‘reform’ targets.[150]

By October of 2011, thousands were on the streets in Portugal,[151] over 700 Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge,[152] and the Occupy Movement began spreading across the United States to dozens of other cities.[153] Tens of thousands of protesters continued to take to the streets of Athens, where they were met with the oppressive state apparatus in the form of riot police tear gassing Greek citizens.[154] In mid-October, Occupy Wall Street had become international, igniting Occupy protests and encampments across Europe and Canada.[155] On a global day of protest on October 15, there were demonstrations in roughly 951 different cities across 87 different countries.[156] Roughly 150,000 people marched in Rome, thousands marched toward Angela Merkel’s Chancellery office in Berlin, with several thousand more marching on the European Central Bank headquarters in Frankfurt,[157] as Germany experienced protests bringing out roughly 40,000 people in 50 different cities.[158] The German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schauble, told the media that he was taking the protests “very seriously.”[159]

The Financial Times noted that protesters were “united in their loathing of bankers on both sides of the Atlantic,” and despite their different circumstances, they “find common ground in their outrage at the lack of economic opportunities and their alienation from mainstream politics.” The editorial warned politicians not to ignore the protests, as “failure to address these concerns would risk reinforcing the protesters’ sense of disengagement, transforming their alienation into a dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy.” The demands of most protesters were not “yet a rejection of capitalism,” many were simply expressing that they wanted “a more equitable share” in the benefits of the system. “It is therefore in everyone’s interest,” noted the editorial, “that their energy be directed into making capitalism work better rather than overturning it.”[160]

Martin Wolf in the Financial Times suggested that protesters were “raising some big questions,” but “for this to be the beginning of a new leftwing politics” there must be the emergence of “a credible new ideology.” In discussing the issue of inequality which was raised by the protests, Wolf wrote that while it would be “impossible to define an acceptable level of inequality,” it is ultimately “corrosive if those with wealth are believed to have rigged the game rather than won in honest competition.” Thus, with growing inequality, “the sense that we are equal as citizens weakens” while “democracy is sold to the highest bidder.” Wolf concluded: “The left does not know how to replace the market. But pro-marketeers still need to take the protests seriously. All is not well.”[161]

An Empire Under Threat

In 2012, Dominic Barton, the CEO of McKinsey & Company, the world’s largest consulting firm, wrote and published a small essay entitled, “Capitalism for the Long-Term”. Barton described the world since the global financial crisis began three years earlier, in which dramatic changes in power were taking place between the West and East (with the growth of Asia and the emerging market economies), as “a rise in populist politics and social stresses” combined with “significant strains on global governance systems.” These combinations would likely result in “increased geopolitical rivalries”, “security challenges”, and other “rising tensions.” The most important consequence of the crisis for the corporate oligarchy, however, was “the challenge to capitalism itself.” Barton noted that the crisis had “exacerbated the friction between business and society,” forcing leaders to confront “rising income inequality” and “understandable anger over high unemployment” as well as “a host of other issues.”[162]

A March 2013 report by the large Swiss bank, UBS, referred to social unrest as “a systemic phenomenon” which “is highly uncertain, complex and ambiguous,” warning that “it is highly likely to generate ripple effects into other sectors of the economy and society, possibly leading to the toppling of governments, or even political systems.”[163] A July 2013 report from the French insurance giant, AXA, reflected on protests and urban rebellions erupting in what were previously considered ‘stable’ emerging market nations, such as Turkey and Brazil. AXA’s Investment Managers report noted that many emerging market nations were “currently experiencing a surge in political risk due to social unrest,” the main cause of which “is the rise of the middle class in these countries.”[164]

The World Economic Forum published its report on Global Risks in 2014 just in time for its annual meeting, having prepared the report in collaboration large insurance giants and prestigious universities. The report noted that “the generation coming of age in the 2010s faces high unemployment and precarious job situations, hampering their efforts to build a future and raising the risk of social unrest.”[165] In general, it wrote, “the mentality of this generation is realistic, adaptive and versatile,” and while they are “full of ambition to make the world a better place,” they feel “disconnected from traditional politics and government.”[166]

The report cited a recent global opinion survey of youth which noted that young people “think independently” of past generations, and that this “points to a wider distrust of authorities and institutions.” Having witnessed the response of governments in the wake of the financial crisis, as well as the NSA Internet spying scandals, youth populations are increasingly alienated from authorities. “Anti-austerity movements and other protests give voice to an increasing distrust in current socio-economic and political systems,” said the report, as youth populations accounted for an “important” segment of the population which expressed their “general disappointment” with both “regional and global governance bodies such as the EU and the [IMF].” The report noted that the “digital revolution” had provided youth around the world with “unprecedented access to knowledge and information worldwide,” allowing them “to build abstract networks addressing single issues and place less importance on traditionally organized political parties and leadership.”[167] This youth population represented a “lost generation” who could fuel social unrest, “vulnerable to being sucked into criminal or extremist movements.”[168]

The global Mafiocracy was so concerned with growing unrest, protests and the potential for revolution, that the Rothschild banking dynasty itself organized a special conference on the subject. Hosted by Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, wife of Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, the ‘Conference on Inclusive Capitalism’ was held in the very exclusive Mansion House in London’s financial district, closed to the public and press. The May 2014 conference was exclusively for the world’s super-rich oligarchs, institutions and dynasties. Some 250 individuals were invited, collectively responsible for managing more than $30 trillion in assets, accounting for roughly one-third of the world’s investable wealth located in one room. As NPR noted, “If money is power, then this is the most powerful group of people ever to focus on income inequality.”[169]

Among the speakers at the Conference were Prince Charles; former President Bill Clinton (a close friend of Jacob and Lynn de Rothschild); Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF; Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England and a top international central banking official; Lionel Barber, an editor at the Financial Times; Dominic Barton of McKinsey & Co., as well as top executives from Honeywell, UBS, BlackRock, The Dow Chemical Company, Unilever, Google, GlaxoSmithKline and Prudential.[170]

“Now is the time to be famous or fortunate,” said the central banker Mark Carney. He told the assembled members of the Mafiocracy, “just as any revolution eats its children, unchecked market fundamentalism can devour the social capital essential for the long-term dynamism of capitalism itself.” In other words, the capitalist system was eating itself. “Capitalism loses its sense of moderation,” said Carney, “when the belief in the power of markets enters the realm of faith.” This kind of religious “radicalism came to dominate economic ideas and became a pattern of social behaviour,” and in the decades leading up to the global financial crisis, “we moved from a market economy to a market society.”[171]

Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF, began her speech by discussing Karl Marx, “who predicted that capitalism, in its excesses, carried the seeds of its own destruction,” as “the accumulation of capital in the hands of a few” would lead “to major conflicts, and cyclical crises.” Lagarde warned that capitalism has increasingly “been associated with high unemployment, rising social tensions, and growing political disillusion.” Among the “main casualties,” she said, “has been trust – in leaders, in institutions, in the free-market system itself,” citing a recent poll which revealed that only one in five people “believed that government or business leaders would tell the truth on an important issue.” This, she explained, “is a wakeup call,” adding, “in a world that is more networked than ever, trust is harder to earn and easier to lose.”[172]

As the global Mafiocracy grows increasingly worried about the potential revolutionary implications of the “lost generation” of youth around the world, struggling to make their parasitic planetary system of Empire legitimate in the eyes of the citizens of the world, the youth are left behind, already written off as “lost.” Youth and young adults are better educated and have more access to information and communication than ever before in human history, yet their prospects for jobs, social elevation and opportunities appear increasingly grim and uneasy. Frustrated and furious youth have been the leading force behind the resistance movements, riots, rebellions and revolutions that have spread across much of the world in the wake of the global financial crisis, from Eastern Europe to the Middle East and North Africa, the European Union, to the streets of Ferguson and Baltimore in the United States.

Western ‘democratic’ society is becoming increasingly closed. It is evolving into a high-tech police and surveillance state. The United States government continues to wage a race war against the minority black population who are treated as an internally colonized population, with high rates of police repression and imprisonment. The political system is visibly ruled by parasites, with all the pomposity of the Roman Senate. The plutocrats have lavish and distant lives, segregated in their obscene wealth and unseen influence. The middle class is a debt-slave class, fueling consumption through credit, now in the slow and painful process of being exsanguinated of their economic vitality and opportunities. Some will rise to the higher ranks, but the rest will be pushed down to where the poor have always been. Increasingly, much larger segments of the American population will find themselves in similar circumstances as their fellow black, Hispanic, Indigenous and immigrant neighbours.

In this environment, the United States still sits at the center of global monetary, financial, economic and corporate power. The U.S. dollar remains the world’s reserve currency, and the country is still the largest economy. Through the process of integrating the increasingly rich and powerful nations of Latin America, the Middle East and Asia into the Empire of Economics, the stakes have become higher and the challenges greater, as the U.S. seeks to maintain its dominant position, and thus its ability to shape the changing global order. With many new players in the game of global power politics, there are more negotiations, consultations, forums for cooperation and frequent confrontations. As the United States and Europe increasingly aggravate Russia by expanding their empire to its border, the threat for economic competition to break out into actual warfare grows.

The human species is in a deeply precarious situation. As the Empire of Economics increasingly benefits the comparatively small global Mafiocracy at the expense of most of the world’s remaining 7 billion people, the economic and military structures of global empire are rapidly accelerating their devastation of the natural environment and ecosystem upon which all life on the planet depends. Human beings are confronted with a profound question: As we soar forward on our current path toward increased poverty, exploitation and environmental destruction, at what point do we begin to more directly question the legitimacy of the existing global system which determines the fate and direction of the species? As we face the increasing possibility of a mass extinction of our species over the coming century, as the democratic facades of modern society crumble and high-tech totalitarian police states rise in their place, there has perhaps never been a time in history where it was more essential for the people of the world to begin to create alternatives to the existing global system.

The concept of a truly global, transformative revolution in the organization of human society, power relations and purpose must be contemplated in a more serious, deliberate effort. This book hopes to encourage this discussion through an expanded understanding of the realities of global power politics, the ruling Mafiocracy and the Empire of Economics. A genuine global revolution is an absolute necessity. But far from promoting a mere ideological or philosophical alternative, this text hopes to encourage a more pragmatic approach to organizing resistance both outside and within the existing global order and its various institutions.

A dual strategy is required in operating outside the global hierarchy, experimenting with creative alternatives constructed from the bottom-up, while simultaneously playing the game of power politics to directly challenge the Empire of Economics in its own arena. Instead of dividing these efforts between those who advocate for revolutionary alternatives and those who encourage reformist initiatives, a more coherent and organized strategy should be invoked, establishing alternative forums, organizations and avenues of cooperation between revolutionaries and reformers. This serves multiple purposes, as it would allow for revolutionary movements to maintain contact and provide direction to reformers and new political parties, instead of leaving them to engage only with the existing power structures, thus increasing the chances that they may be co-opted by the Empire and undermine the efforts of revolutionary groups. Instead, revolutionary movements would be encouraged to co-opt and even control the direction and efforts of reformist groups and political parties.

Strategic thinking and planning should become commonplace among revolutionary movements and efforts. Debate, discussion, coordination and creative construction among opposition groups must increasingly come to replace division, derision, co-optation and ‘creative destruction’. For this to emerge, the initiative must be taken by revolutionary groups to create the organizations and opportunities to engage with each other and reformist groups, to create a space for cooperation and provide the impetus for strategic direction. Just as the Mafiocracy has created forums and institutions through which they engage and influence policy-makers, educational and media structures, so too must revolutionary groups form parallel systems with similar functions, but opposing objectives.

This task can effectively be pursued by the “lost generation” of global youth who can become capable of finding their own way, charting their own path, imagining and creating their own world. It could be a world in which the human species has a higher purpose beyond that of contributing to “economic growth,” with greater prospects beyond that of probable extinction. Nothing less than everything we have and everyone we know is at stake.

What is frightfully clear is that the Empire of Economics does not serve the collective interests of humanity and the planetary system upon which life depends. We must do this ourselves, individually and collectively. The worst that could happen is to try and fail, remaining where we currently stand. The best that could happen is nothing if not unknown and unforeseeable, but altogether possible, if we wish and work to make it so. The future may yet belong to the people of the world, but only if we empower ourselves in the present. So perhaps it is time to become properly acquainted with the unforgiving, brutal realities of power politics, empire and resistance.

Notes

[1] Memorandum of Conversation, 24 May 1975: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1973-1976, Vol. XXXI, Foreign Economic Policy, Document 292:

http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76v31/d292

[2] Memorandum of Conversation, 26 May 1975: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1973-1976, Vol. XXXI, Foreign Economic Policy, Document 294:
http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76v31/d294

[3] Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince (Cambridge University Press, 1988), page 59.

[4] Memo by George Kennan, Head of the US State Department Policy Planning Staff. Written February 28, 1948, Declassified June 17, 1974. George Kennan, “Review of Current Trends, U.S. Foreign Policy, Policy Planning Staff, PPS No. 23. Top Secret. Included in the U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1948, volume 1, part 2 (Washington DC Government Printing Office, 1976), 509-529:

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Memo_PPS23_by_George_Kennan

[5] General Assembly, “Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order,” Resolution adopted by the General Assembly, United Nations, Resolution 3201 (S-VI), 1 May 1974:

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[6] General Assembly, “Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order,” Resolution adopted by the General Assembly, United Nations, Resolution 3201 (S-VI), 1 May 1974:

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Voice of Access: The People’s Foundation

Voice of Access: The People’s Foundation

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Originally published in: The Spanda Journal, Vol. 5, No. 1, Innovation & Human Development, 2014, pages 69-80

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The Voice of Access: The People’s Foundation is a new initiative to establish a counter-hegemonic foundation – built upon an understanding of the hegemonic foundations that have been so pivotal in the construction and maintenance of the present social order – to effectively challenge and help to make obsolete the existing social order. Through the formation of new educational, research and media initiatives and organizations, the construction and dissemination of knowledge, connecting people and ideas from activists, intellectuals and groups around the world, The People’s Foundation hopes to aid in the multi-generational struggle of constructing a new – and fair – world order, to help lay the foundation for a future worth striving towards.

‘Voice of Access: The People’s Foundation’ is an initiative of myself and three other friends and associates, forming it as a non-governmental organization to act as a facilitator – and, when possible – a patron of organizations, activists, knowledge and social movements that seek to challenge and change the world order under which humanity now lives and struggles. From our backgrounds in research, writing, publishing, media, computer science and technology, and our experience with non-governmental organization and think tanks, we are seeking to channel our efforts into the operations of an organization dedicated to facilitating and supporting the efforts of others around the world. While we hold opposing views and philosophies to those that pervade the hegemonic foundations, our understanding of them and their successes in shaping the present global order helps us focus on methods with which we can challenge and seek to change that order.

In discussing the ways in which ‘The People’s Foundation’ would seek to operate and work toward achieving its objectives, it would first be useful to briefly outline some of the ways in which the major dominant foundations have operated in working toward their own objectives. As a case in point, I will focus on the Rockefeller Foundation, founded in 1913 by John D. Rockefeller “to promote the well-being of mankind,” as its original mission statement postulated.

The Rockefeller Foundation: Social Engineering for Social Control

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the United States – and much of the industrializing world – was in the midst of profound transformation and turmoil. Successive economic crises created growing uncertainty among an increasingly distrustful middle class, as the rich ‘Robber Baron’ industrialists (Rockefeller chief among them) grew ever more rich and powerful. Social unrest by the poor, workers, immigrants and others was threatening the prevailing social order. Those who sat atop the social hierarchy – notably, the ‘Robber Barons’ themselves – grew increasingly nervous at the prospect of the threat of revolution from below, as well as the growing restlessness of the middle classes. Actions and initiatives needed to be taken to safeguard powerful financial, economic, political and social interests.

It was a time not only of economic and social crises, of growing unrest, revolutionary fervor and industrial and financial consolidation into huge concentrations of economic power, but, simultaneously, was also a period of increasingly expansionist and imperialistic foreign policies. These were most notably on the part of the United States, which was extending its hegemony throughout the Caribbean and Central America, and reaching across the Pacific, with the most noteworthy example being in the Philippines, and with growing interests in China and Japan.

Changes in technology and communication were facilitating the spread of more information to more people than ever before, and the concept of ‘the public’ – and specifically, how to manipulate the public – moved to the forefront of elite intellectual discussion. It was an era that gave birth to the modern university, the advertising and public relations industries, the consumer society, and the modern philanthropic foundations.

The foundation functioned – and continues to function – as an institution dedicated to the process of social engineering with the objective of social control. In short, the foundation’s purpose was to identify major issues and areas of contention in the existing social order, and to subsequently find methods of promoting ‘reform’ and changes so as to manage the process of adaptation, undermine radical efforts at transformation and promote more moderate forces, integrating them within the existing social hierarchy and order. The goal, ultimately, was to maintain the social hierarchy itself.

Foundations would achieve these objectives by acting as major patrons of universities and the social sciences, to seek to find ‘scientific’ solutions to social problems, which were seen as technical – not structural; channeling intellectual efforts into finding ways to reform and adapt the social order instead of opposing or challenging it; sponsoring research organizations and think tanks, which bring together prominent individuals from academia, politics, finance, industry and the media in an effort to promote consensus between society’s dominant institutions and those who run them; and providing funding to social movements and initiatives so as to gain significant financial leverage over the direction of social movements, increasing support for reform-oriented and legalistic approaches to resolving social issues, and thus undermining and ostracizing more radical alternatives.

Foundations sought to manufacture ideology and consensus between elites, to institutionalize these ideologies within the existing and evolving dominant social structures, and to ‘engineer the consent’ of the governed. Over the course of the 20th century, major foundations – with the Rockefeller Foundation being perhaps the most prominent – exerted an immense, if not largely unknown, influence on the development and evolution of the United States. By virtue of the United States being an outwardly expansive and imperialistic society, that influence extended to much of the world.

Early on in their development, the U.S. Congress investigated the major foundations with a wariness of the intentions and functions they established under their extremely powerful and wealthy ‘Robber Baron’ patrons. In 1914, the Walsh Commission was formed, noting that the establishment of the Rockefeller Foundation – among others – “was the beginning of an effort to perpetuate the present position of predatory wealth through the corruption of sources of public information” and that if these foundations were left unchecked, they would “be used as instruments to change the form of government of the U.S. at a future date, and there is even a hint that there is a fear of monarchy,” noting that many of the foundations represented the interests of powerful industrial and financial dynasties. In the final report of the Walsh Commission in 1916, it was concluded that foundations represented so “grave a menace” to society that “it would be desirable to recommend their abolition.” Obviously, this did not take place.

As anthropologist David Nugent documented, the development of the modern social sciences by Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations (and later, with other foundations joining) was directly linked to the expanding global interests of the United States in becoming an imperial power and in managing domestic unrest at home. Foundation boards consisted not only of the dominant industrial and financial interests, but also of prominent intellectuals and foreign policy figures, all of whom together were well aware of the effects that industrialization and imperialism were having on people at home and abroad, and sought to find new ‘scientific’ ways of managing these changes without undermining their own social positions. This required a very careful, incremental and adaptive approach to social engineering. As a top Rockefeller philanthropy official, Wicliffe Rose, wrote in 1923, “All important fields of activity… from the breeding of bees to the administration of an empire, call for an understanding of the spirit and technique of modern science,” which “determined the mental attitude of a people, affects the entire system of education, and carried with it the shaping of civilization.”

The Rockefeller Foundation sought to establish “institutional centers of social research” in key nations around the world, facilitating exchange and collaboration between these various institutions which would ultimately “serve as a model for the development of the social sciences generally.” The initial focus was in the United States and Europe, aiming – in the 1920s – to establish roughly 12-15 major centers of social science research, one of the most important of which was the London School of Economics. Through fellowship programs sponsored by foundations, students from around the world would be taken to schools in the United States where the foundation influence over the development of the social sciences had already become significant.

Edmund Day, who ran the Rockefeller Foundation’s Social Sciences Division, wrote in 1930 that the social sciences were to engage in “human engineering” and that, “the validation of the findings of social science must be through effective social control.” Over the following years, the Foundation increasingly looked to establish within the social sciences a greater emphasis on ‘International Relations’ as well as – in the wake of the stock market crash and the start of the Great Depression – a greater emphasis on “the planning and control of economic structures and economic process.”

Max Mason, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, wrote in 1933 that the policies of the Foundation “were directed to the general problem of human behavior, with the aim of control through understanding,” noting specifically that the “social sciences, for example, will concern themselves with the rationalization of social control,” whereas the natural and medical sciences would be concerned with “personal understanding and personal control.” Control, it seemed, was always the ultimate objective.

Concurrent with the development of the social sciences and major universities in the United States and Europe, Rockefeller and Carnegie philanthropies, among others, sought to construct an ‘educational’ system for black Americans in the South, which was deemed so successful that it was exported to several British colonies as a means of exerting colonial domination over subject populations. Beginning with a series of conferences between Wall Street bankers and northern industrialists in the late 19th century, an educational system for southern black Americans was sought in such a way as to ensure that the hierarchy which slavery had established between races would remain relatively unchanged. As one conference participant put it at the time, “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.” Conference participants agreed, on the other hand, that “the negro” was “best fitted to perform the heavy labor in the Southern states,” as, it was suggested, “he will willingly fill the more menial positions, and do the heavy work, at less wages.”

These conferences concluded with the establishment of what was known as the ‘Tuskegee educational philosophy,’ agreed upon in 1901, where attendees agreed on the need to “train a Negro leadership cadre” as “a strong professional class,” requiring a strengthening of certain ‘Negro colleges’, while the majority of education for black Americans was to remain “vocational and agricultural in focus… to be directed toward increasing the labor value of his race.” In time, the major foundations became involved in this endeavor, and the Phelps-Stokes Fund in particular took up this objective with a great deal of fervor, establishing schools dedicated to training black men in vocational and agricultural trades and black women in “home economics.”

In 1917, the Phelps-Stokes Fund published a two-volume survey on Southern Negro education, in which they maintained that academic and literary education was “dysfunctional for the black man” because it would create unrealistic expectations for black Americans in a segregated society. It claimed furthermore that would not provide the skills deemed necessary to become a “productive” worker, and, ultimately, it would undermine white dominance of society itself.

British colonialists took note of the success of the Tuskegee educational philosophy, and missionary educators from British colonies in Africa began cooperating with the American foundations and schools in replicating the Tuskegee educational system in several British colonies, including in Kenya and even South Africa, where it helped in the construction of the apartheid system. The education of black South Africans, in the words of a prominent Phelps-Stokes Fund official, was to keep the blacks as “junior partners in the firm.”

Not unrelated, in the early 20th century, the major American foundations – and the vast fortunes of ‘Robber Barons’ – contributed to the acceptance, institutionalization, and exportation of the eugenics movement (sometimes referred to as ‘scientific racism’). Eugenics was an extremely dangerous and destructive pseudo-science (or, rather, in truth, a religious orthodoxy in search of legitimacy) which was focused on the objective of refining the social engineering of the species, itself, to take ‘evolution’ into their own hands. This philosophy suggested that concepts such as poverty, crime, race, disabilities, mental suffering and lack of intelligence were products not of social conditions – or the social order and its devastating effects – but rather, they were inherent, genetic ‘defects’ experienced by the ‘unfit’. As a corollary, those who had risen to the top of the social hierarchy, the rich, white men of property and privilege, were considered to be the most intelligent, the racially superior, the “fit.” Thus, it was not avarice, crime, manipulation, expropriation, enslavement, theft and domination that made them their riches; it was their ‘genetic superiority’. This – conveniently – was an ideology which justified the enormous wealth and power held by a small minority, presenting it with scientific language that aimed to ground the social order as being one constructed through “natural selection” and evolution. As such, it was considered ideal for the “fit” to breed with each other (and thus, in theory, create a type of super-species), while the “unfit” were to be encouraged to stop breeding altogether.

When the eugenics movement reached the United States from Britain in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it garnered the attention of elites in America. And very quickly, the vast fortunes of the Harrimans, Carnegies and Rockefellers – among many others – were mobilized to support the movement. As the foundations were established, eugenics became a major area of interest for their operations. The eugenics movement was arguably more successful in the United States than any other nation in the early 20th century, and in fact, it was from the United States that it was exported around much of the industrialized, western world. Eugenics affected the development and evolution of major institutions and ideologies of the era, such as the educational system, mental health, hygiene, medicine, psychology and psychiatry, migration, the criminal justice system, biology and the natural sciences. Between 1907 and 1927, twenty-three U.S. states enacted eugenic sterilization laws for the “genetically unfit,” ultimately leading to the forced sterilization of tens of thousands of people.

In fact, with the help of the Rockefeller Foundation, eugenics was exported to Weimar Germany, pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into institutions dedicated to studying “race biology” and psychiatry. The German eugenics movement proved to be very successful, and when the Nazis came to power in 1933, eugenicists found a political movement espousing and embracing their ideas of racial inferiority and superiority. The Rockefeller Foundation continued its funding for Nazi ‘race science’ and psychiatry until the outbreak of World War II in 1939, by which time the impact had been profound. In fact, one of the most notorious Nazi war criminals, the “Angel of Death” – Dr. Josef Mengele, the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp doctor – had previously done research which was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, whose money supported experimentation done at various concentration camps.

Of course, following World War II, the eugenics movement had been largely discredited after the world witnessed the repercussions of such institutionalized and ideological hatred and racism, as revealed by the extent of atrocities in the Holocaust – as well as those committed by the Japanese in the Pacific. Thereafter, the major proponents and patrons of the eugenics movement sought to rebrand themselves in various forms. In fact, a 1943 edition of Eugenical News – the most widely-read publication of the eugenics movement – published an article by one of the ‘fathers’ of the eugenics movement, Charles Davenport, who advocated a vision of “a new mankind of biological castes with master races in control and slave races serving them.” A 1946 edition of Eugenical News stated that following the War, “population, genetics, [and] psychology, are the three sciences to which the eugenicist must look for the factual material on which to build an acceptable philosophy of eugenics and to develop and defend practical eugenics proposals.”

One of the more prominent efforts at rebranding eugenics emerged as the ‘population control’ movement. Largely an initiative of the Rockefellers, John D. Rockefeller III established the Population Council in 1954, designed to “provide solid science to guide governments and individuals in addressing population questions.” Six of the ten founding members of the Population Council were well-known eugenicists. Matthew Connelly has written the most definitive account of the origins and evolution of the population control movement, based largely upon the internal records of the various international and private organizations involved in promoting population control, including the Rockefeller Foundation and Population Council. The primary fear of the elites behind the population control movement was the great mass of civilization that fell outside the western world: the largely non-white, poor populations of the world, seeking to toss off the chains of colonialism and chart their own way in the world.

The population control movement – with the Population Council as its “nexus” – relied on extensive funding from the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, and became quickly institutionalized in United Nations organizations, as well as in the ideology of ‘development’ for the ‘Third World’. The result was measures designed to encourage population control becoming embedded within ‘aid’ agencies and development agencies. During the Eisenhower presidency, the issue of population had become “a national security issue” in the mind of the foreign policy establishment. The Population Council, Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, and UN agencies began working with USAID, the World Bank and other organizations in placing population control as a central element of U.S. and Western foreign policy concerns and actions, especially in countries like India, with large and largely poor populations.

As the population control movement was exported around the world, it resulted in a great deal of tragedy and repressive actions by governments, such as in India and China, where forced abortions and forced sterilizations had become rampant at various times. The movement had, however, garnered significant opposition from many countries and regions around the world, and its institutional and ideological structure experienced major setbacks going into the 1990s. However, it has never wandered far from the minds of the super-rich oligarchs and patrons of major foundations.

In 2009, a secret meeting was organized among some of the world’s richest billionaires, organized by David Rockefeller, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Invited guests included billionaires such as Ted Turner, George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, and even Oprah Winfrey. The meeting was designed to discuss the future of philanthropy, “what motivated their giving, the areas of focus, lessons learned and thoughts on how they might increase giving going forward.” Each guest was given 15 minutes to discuss and promote their personal favourite ‘cause,’ but after a great deal of discussion, they sought to establish an “umbrella cause” which could “harness their interests.” Apparently with Bill Gates leading the call, the billionaires agreed that “overpopulation was a priority… in which population growth would be tackled as a potentially disastrous environmental, social and industrial threat.”

Out of this meeting, a new effort was begun – largely driven by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet – to encourage billionaires and the super-rich around the world to join in giving their enormous ill-gotten wealth to ‘philanthropy’, in what is referred to as ‘The Giving Pledge’, to try to get the rich to pledge 50% of their net worth to charity during their lifetimes or after death.

At the end of World War II, the United States emerged as the dominant global power, and its institutions became oriented toward finding ways to use, maintain and extend that power. Foundations played a key role in the development of think tanks and the educational system, with a focus on creating consensus among elites on the need for empire and in training future managers of the imperial system.

The Rockefeller Foundation played a key role in transforming the United States into a global empire. One of the most influential think tanks in the United States is the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), founded in 1921. Early on, the CFR relied upon Rockefeller Foundation funding for a great deal of its operations. Between 1927 and 1945, the Rockefeller Foundation provided the Council on Foreign Relations with more than $443,000 in funding for “study group” research, which would subsequently be implemented in official policy of the U.S. government. The Council has extensive ties to the foreign policy establishment of the United States, most notably with the U.S. State Department. In fact, during the early years of World War II, the CFR established a “strictly confidential” project in cooperation with the U.S. State Department to plan for U.S. entry into the war as well as to outline a post-war blueprint for a U.S.-dominated world. The project was entirely funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

The results of the project outlined the areas of the world which the United States would need to control in order to maintain and expand its global power, referred to as the ‘Grand Areas’, which included, “Latin America, Europe, the colonies of the British Empire, and all of Southeast Asia.” The world was divided into four main blocs: the U.S.-dominated Western hemisphere, the British Empire and its colonies, a German-dominated continental Europe, and a Japanese-dominated East and Southeast Asia. As the war went on, slowly the ‘Grand Area’ plans changed to the point where U.S. planners decided that America ultimately had to dominate all of these regions, noting that, “as a minimum, American ‘national interests’ involved free access to markets and raw materials in the British Empire, the Far East, and the entire Western hemisphere.”

The Rockefeller Foundation took it upon itself to develop educational systems at elite universities which would be dedicated to the study of ‘International Relations’ and ‘Area Studies’ programs. Along with the Carnegie Corporation and the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation helped to establish Soviet Studies and Area Studies programs at multiple universities around the country, focusing on providing an education which could inform the application of policy. The Ford Foundation – with considerable financial resources – moved to the forefront of this endeavor. In 1967, a survey by the U.S. State Department noted that out of 191 university centers of foreign affairs research in the United States, 107 depended primarily upon funding from the Ford Foundation. Between 1950 and 1973, the Ford Foundation contributed roughly $278 million to the development of ‘area studies’ programs at major American universities. While ‘International Relations’ was designed to focus on the study of a “realistic” approach and understanding of power (and how to apply it), ‘area studies’ programs focused on the study of the non-Western world.

The large foundations also provided financing and networking connections to aid in the establishment of other large international think tanks, such as the Bilderberg Group – which was founded in 1954 as a forum for Western European and North American elites to meet privately on an annual basis – as well as the Trilateral Commission in 1973, to bring the Japanese elite into the fold of the Western European and North American hegemonic class.

So while the major foundations were shaping the education of elites, socializing them in think tanks where they sought to establish consensus with domestic and international elites in other powerful nations and to manufacture and institutionalize dominant, imperial ideologies, they also worked to try to manage the ‘unwashed masses’ of the world. Just as these foundations had constructed an education to keep black Americans and Africans as “junior partners in the firm” in the early 20th century, in the latter half of the 20th century they sought to export the Western-style educational system – and notably the foundation-influenced social sciences – to other regions and nations around the world in order to help develop domestic elites within those societies that would ultimately serve the interests of Western hegemony and empire.

Foundation officials were extremely concerned about changes taking place across the developing world, where revolutionary and radical movements were attempting to rid their societies of European colonial domination. Foundation officials worked with members of the business and financial elite, alongside the foreign policy establishment, to attempt to manage the process and objectives of change in the ‘third world’. While acknowledging that the era of formal colonialism was at an end, these individuals were not eager to see people and nations chart their own individual paths to independence and freedom. Instead, formal colonial structures needed to be replaced with informal imperial structures. A consensus was formed between the foreign policy-makers, business class and foundation-academic officials that changes in places like Africa “must be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.” As a top Carnegie Corporation official noted: “American industry could ill-afford the loss of cheap sources of raw materials which could only be secured in the nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.”

With this in mind, the Rockefeller, Carnegie and Ford Foundations undertook ambitious programs in Africa, Asia and Latin America which sought to create prominent universities and programs of social science research “in areas considered of geo-strategic and/or economic importance to the United States.” These would include the training of public administrators, teachers, the development of curriculums, and exchange programs that would have young academics in these nations come to the United States to receive training and education at prominent U.S. schools like Harvard or Yale. The objective was to channel the intellectual talents of these nations away from support for radical ideologies and revolutionary movements, and push them instead into the social sciences and the construction of domestic, technocratic elites that would see social problems as ‘technical’ issues requiring reforms and slow, evolutionary change. As noted in the book Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism:

The power of the foundation is not that of dictating what will be studied. Its power consists in defining professional and intellectual parameters, in determining who will receive support to study what subjects in what settings. And the foundation’s power resides in suggesting certain types of activities it favors and is willing to support. As [political theorist and economist Harold] Laski noted, “the foundations do not control, simply because, in the direct and simple sense of the word, there is no need for them to do so. They have only to indicate the immediate direction of their minds for the whole university world to discover that it always meant to gravitate to that angle of the intellectual compass.”

As political scientist Joan Roelofs wrote, foundations exert their influence in multiple ways:

[By] creating ideology and the common wisdom; providing positions and status for intellectuals; controlling access to resources for universities, social services, and arts organizations; compensating for market failures; steering protest movements into safe channels; and supporting those institutions by which policies are initiated and implemented… [F]oundations like Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford have a corrosive influence on a democratic society; they represent relatively unregulated and unaccountable concentrations of power and wealth which buy talent, promote causes, and, in effect, establish an agenda of what merits society’s attention.

Further, foundations play a role in providing extensive funding for social movements and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Their funding for such social movement organizations typically follows years of organic and slow development of social movements from the ground up. Foundations typically move in to provide funding when a social movement is seen as a potential threat to the prevailing social order. Their funding subsequently focuses on supporting the more reform-oriented, legalistic and ‘evolutionary’ (as opposed to revolutionary) organizations, with an objective of helping them to become the dominant organizations in the movement and steer social movements in directions safe for those who own and operate the foundations themselves (representing the political, industrial and financial elites).

With this in mind, it is noteworthy that the Ford, Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations all provided extensive funding to many civil rights organizations in the 1960s and 1970s, “as a response to the threat posed by the generation of a mass-based social movement.” These foundations channeled their funding into support of “moderate civil rights organizations.” Foundation funding for civil rights groups did not become common until the early 1960s, some five years after the Birmingham bus boycott, and the peak of foundation support was in the early 1970s, roughly five years following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. As more militant movements emerged in the later 1960s, such as the Black Power movement and the Black Panther Party, among many others, the foundations increased their support for more moderate organizations like the NAACP and the National Urban League.

This strategy of co-optation also explains the heavy funding and support by major foundations for the environmental and conservation movements, which originally – and still in their more radical arms – represent very direct, fundamental threats to the existing social order. Thus, today the environmental movement is dominated by large institutions like the World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, Resources for the Future, World Resources Institute, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), and the Nature Conservancy, among others. Most of these institutions at some point depended upon financial support from major foundations, and today their boards are largely dominated by representatives from the corporate and financial world. Most of their funding comes from corporations, with whom they engage in “strategic relationships.”

Such has also been the relationship between major foundations and the so-called ‘anti-globalization’ movement. As globalization became the dominant force of the world from the 1990s onward, new movements began to spring up all around the world, opposing various policies, programs, institutions and ideologies embedded within the process of globalization. Major targets for anti-globalization activists and organizations had been the World Trade Organization, the G7/G8 meetings, the World Bank and IMF, among others. Major protests at the annual gathering of these institutions – notably at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle – began to strike fear into the minds of the global elite. As The Economist noted in 2000, despite the differing views and backgrounds of activists and protesters in Seattle, what they “have in common is a loathing of the established economic order, and of the institutions – the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO – which they regard as either running it or serving it.” This ‘new kind’ of protest, noted the magazine, “is more than a nuisance: it is getting in the way.”

A reaction to this development was seen in the formation of the World Social Forum, an annual meeting of NGOs and various civil society organizations acting as an alternative to more radical, protest-oriented and revolutionary movements and advocacy, and instead promoting the discussion of “reforms” to globalization. Funding for the World Social Forum has been provided by many governments and political parties, and, notably, the Ford Foundation. As Lisa Jordan of the Ford Foundation explained: “Government, business and civil society cannot solve problems separately. There must be dialogue between and amongst these three groupings. The WSF is an attempt to support a vast and complex array of public space for an integrating world.” Again, the objective is to ‘integrate’ the opposition to the existing social order within the social order, to give the ‘rebels’ a seat at the table, and thus, undermine the rebellion itself.

While reforms and evolutionary change can produce good and real results, they do not keep pace with the ever-expanding militarism, war, environmental degradation, economic and financial destruction, corporate colonization, manipulation and devastation of biodiversity, impoverishment and exploitation of the world’s masses, and the ever-growing concentration of wealth and power in the hands of very few institutions and individuals at the global level. The human species – and the planet itself – do not have the time to await the slow changes begrudgingly afforded by the institutions of empire, exploitation and domination. Reform has its place, but radical – transformative – change is of the utmost necessity in order to not only challenge the existing order, but to create alternatives to it – and to help make the existing order obsolete, so that humanity may chart a path that does not lead to eventual extinction, as our current trajectory indicates.

This is where ‘Voice of Access: The People’s Foundation’ – and organizations like it – can play a much-needed role.

A ‘Voice’ for the People, a ‘Foundation’ for Change

The establishment of ‘Voice of Access: The People’s Foundation’ represents an attempt to create a counter-hegemonic foundation, to follow familiar patterns of facilitation, patronage, exchange and interaction, the formation of new organizations, the construction of knowledge, support for social movements, connecting intellectuals, activists and communities. The objective and methods of these efforts will counter those of the dominant hegemonic foundations, however, in a few pivotal ways.

First, the People’s Foundation does not have a substantial financial base upon which to leverage projects and steer the focus of other organizations. In fact – at present – the financial standing of the People’s Foundation is non-existent. Currently, it is still in the starting stages of constructing a legal entity, and those of us who are working to create the foundation are attempting to look into various methods of financing, including approaching the traditional grant procedures, as well as exploring alternatives for specific project financing via crowd-funding measures through social media, and also encouraging donations from supporters around the world. Financial considerations – at present – aside, The People’s Foundation does not expect to ever match the financial resources of the large foundations created and operated by the world’s financial oligarchs. As such, our focus is to be more on facilitation as opposed to funding, though we do hope to increase the amounts of money we can put into projects over time.

What is the role of a facilitator foundation?

To describe the role envisioned for the foundation, it would be best to give some examples of projects that are being planned over the coming years. One key project with which there is a great interest and necessity is in building connections around the world between activists and organizations seeking to promote transformative changes in the social order, whether domestically or internationally. An example of this type of engagement is a project to work with the Mpambo Afrikan Multiversity based out of Uganda.

The founding president of Mpambo Afrikan Multiversity is Paulo Wangoola, an indigenous scholar and intellectual in East Africa. As Wangoola wrote, “The Multiversity is a post-colonial concept of higher learning of the oppressed, by the oppressed and for the oppressed, in pursuit of their community cognitive autonomy and security,” further noting that, “when Europeans colonized the world, they also colonized other people’s knowledge,” which continues under the concept of the modern university (which, I might add, was exported to Uganda and East Africa through efforts by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations). In contrast, the ‘university’ has extended from the West into Africa “as a colonial/neocolonial design” which has advanced Western hierarchical knowledge structures at the expense of “the total eclipse of Afrikan indigenous thought, scientific knowledge, philosophy, spirituality, wisdom and epistemology; that is, the knowledge base developed over millennia, by the Afrikan Black Nation, as a self-determined people.”

The concept of the ‘Multiversity’ – on the other hand – “is based on the proposition that the people of the world and their knowledges, cultures, language and epistemologies are horizontally ordered, such that each of the knowledges is valid in itself.” This understanding of people and knowledge “is derived from Afrikan spirituality, worldview, scientific thought and ontology; by which all being and phenomena, spiritual and material, natural and supernatural, manifests itself complementally in sets of twos, female and male… balance, harmony and reciprocity.” Thus, wrote Wangoola, “each one of the world’s knowledges deserves some ample and adequate space, and resources to be advanced to its farthest frontiers, as well as to be enriched by, as it itself enriches, other knowledges, through cross-fertilization.” The Multiversity is focused on “creating some democratic intellectual space and elbow room for oppressed peoples to make and demonstrate a case for a MULTIplicity of epistemologies, thought and knowledge to blossom, as a necessity to vitalize each of the world’s knowledges, as well as the totality of human knowledge as a whole.”

Mpambo Afrikan Multiversity, more specifically, “is a community-based institution of mother tongue higher learning, centered around persons who are considered by their peers and community to be compelling experts: wise men and wise women, philosophers, sages, scientists, scholars, innovators and the highly talented. They may be primarily indigenously trained or primarily Western-trained, but both are embedded in their community, have emerged out of their people’s struggles to be free… organic intellectuals, scholars and scientists.” The word Mpambo – in the Lusoga dialect spoken by the Basoga people at the Source of the Nile in Uganda – means ‘the best seed, the most potent seed selected at the time of harvest for safe custody, for propagation in subsequent good seasons’. Mpambo Afrikan Multiversity aims “to help raise and nurture a critical mass of a world class of itself of intellectuals and scholars to three principal goals: to create capacity for a people’s socially necessary knowledge to be created close to that people and amidst themselves; to help render people to be both creators and consumers of knowledge; and to build effective capacity for Afrikan peoples to learn from themselves, and on that basis to learn intellectually, philosophically, scientifically and technically from and with the other world’s spiritual, philosophical, scientific and academic traditions and practices.”

I was fortunate enough to have spent a little time in Uganda with Mpambo Afrikan Multiversity roughly seven years ago, when I was given the responsibility by Paulo Wangoola of recruiting some young Westerners to return to Uganda in order to study and work with Mpambo, and to build up connections between the young, emergent leadership of Mpambo, so that these connections may last for generations to come. This is where there is great potential for The People’s Foundation to engage in facilitation and the construction of new knowledge networks, to provide a forum and means of exchange. Our initial project is to go to Uganda and spend roughly two months learning from the organization, documenting and discussing the activities, objectives, and establishing a means for advancing future cooperation and interaction between Mpambo and The People’s Foundation.

Unlike hegemonic foundations, which approach social movement organizations and centers of knowledge with an objective to steer such organizations in a specific direction, to act as patron and paterfamilias, the People’s Foundation approaches Mpambo Afrikan Multiversity with an objective to learn, to receive guidance, to listen, and to mutually discuss and agree upon methods and purposes of future cooperation and support. This represents a horizontal approach to facilitation and support, as opposed to the vertical (and hierarchical) approach undertaken by hegemonic foundations. We will of course be approaching Mpambo with ideas of potential cooperation – including the possibility of facilitating exchanges between African and Western intellectuals and other Indigenous peoples and communities from around the world. Ultimately, this is the type of role as facilitator that the Foundation envisions for itself among many different organizations and communities.

Hegemonic foundations have achieved immense success in providing forums for the establishment of consensus between elites, both nationally and globally, so as to effect a more precise, permanent and stable system of domination and control. The counter-hegemonic People’s Foundation aims – in the long-term – to help facilitate interaction, communication, cooperation and coordination between groups of activists, intellectuals and other counter-hegemonic groups around the world.

The world is in the midst of powerful transformations and changes. Power is globalizing like never before, with more wealth than ever previously existed being concentrated in fewer hands than ever before, with structures and ideologies of dominance and governance being institutionalized not only at national, but also regional and global levels. A corollary of this process is that of the ‘globalization of resistance and revolt.’ From Tunisia to Egypt, Israel to Turkey, Greece to Spain, Indonesia to China, South Africa to Brazil, Chile and the Canadian province of Quebec, to the Indigenous movements across North and South America, Africa and Asia, to peasant and labour resistance and militancy, the world is in the early stages of forming a truly global resistance to the processes, institutions and ideologies of domination (which have, in no small part, been constructed and institutionalized through the efforts of hegemonic foundations).

While these protests, movements and methods of resistance around the world appear disparate and often disconnected, there is enormous potential for mutual understanding, cooperation, coordination and support. The People’s Foundation hopes to play a role in attempting to connect and facilitate interactions, exchanges, conferences, and creating supporting organizations to help turn the concept of ‘solidarity’ into a solid practice. For example, imagine the possibilities of holding an international conference of activists, intellectuals and organizations involved in resistance movements to meet, discuss their respective struggles and objectives, and to find meaningful possibilities of collaboration and coordination, to establish new organizations – think tanks, media centers, educational organizations, etc. – which would represent the combined interests and activities of these seemingly-disparate groups.

The other major aspect of the People’s Foundation – the Voice of Access – reflects a priority in making information readily available to the broadest possible audience, through collaboration and publication of texts in multiple languages, offering reduced rates to schools, community groups, low-income organizations and researchers and finding ways of distributing the information – particularly through digital formats – as well as in print. The ‘Voice of Access’ moniker and meaning reflects a focus on expanding and facilitating access to information, communication and interaction. This will necessitate an increasing focus on access to and utilization of technology itself. While we take for granted our information and communications technology in the West, much of the world continues to lack access to these materials. Voice of Access would seek to find ways of helping to improve and facilitate increased access to such forms of technology, let alone the information and communication they help facilitate.

Student activism and militancy has been on the rise across much of the world, including notable examples in recent years from Greece to the United Kingdom, Chile and Quebec. In each case, students have been mobilized in opposition to the ever-expanding process of the neoliberal restructuring of the educational system: increased privatization, corporatization, leading to increased tuition and debt for prospective students, which has the dual effect of making education harder to attain, and for those who do pursue education, the effect is to shackle them through debt servitude to the social order itself; focusing their energies – upon graduation – to getting jobs so that they can pay off their debt, instead of channeling their intellectual capacities and energies into finding alternatives to the existing system.

One long-term objective of The People’s Foundation would be to help facilitate the development of connections and coordination between student movements and struggles around the world. A good starting place would be to invite not simply leadership but also participants and supporters of various student movements to participate in a conference where they could discuss their respective experiences, successes and failures, prospects and potential. Through such interaction and the development of interpersonal relationships, new ground could be broken on building support between student movements around the world, new organizations could be established to promote the sharing and development of knowledge between students and youth movements, with cooperative thinks tanks, media centers and similar organizations with a focus on advancing understanding, public awareness, and coordination about and between youth/student movements.

The People’s Foundation would have an equal interest in promoting, supporting and encouraging similar processes for activists and movements around the world. Our objective is not to be at the center of these processes, nor to become a ‘hegemonic’ institution in its own right, but rather, to attempt these initiatives and projects – and to learn from their various successes and failures – in the hope that others may build upon this and attempt similar, parallel and mutually-supportive projects. In short, it would be far more effective and beneficial to all if there were a multiplicity of similar organizations to the Voice of Access pursuing similar and parallel objectives, as opposed to simply one. These are ultimately long-term objectives, and the reality of current non-existent funds means that our initial steps will have to be small and slow. Thus, our primary aims in this area will be toward establishing channels of communication and informal relationships with activists, intellectuals and social movements locally, nationally, regionally and globally, slowly and steadily.

The People’s Foundation will look to the world with a focus on attempting to understand and share knowledge regarding the true nature and structure of our global socio-political and economic order: the institutions and ideologies of power and domination, as well as the methods and movements of resistance. We will look to this situation with a focus on examining what appears to be missing, what appears to be needed, and to try to provide what we can to address these concerns. As such, the educational and media endeavours of the People’s Foundation are essential.

In this regard, there are two organizations that the People’s Foundation has an interest in helping to establish. One – tentatively named the General Research Association for the Study of Power (or GRASP) – would be focused on bringing together young scholars and intellectuals into a cooperative organization functioning like a think tank, which would be dedicated to the study of institutions and ideologies of power and domination: the State, corporations, banks, investment facilities, international organizations/bodies, hegemonic think tanks and foundations, universities/schools, the media, military, public relations/advertising industry, etc. GRASP would aim to undertake extensive and rigorous research and study of these and other institutions and the ideologies that pervade them, historically, presently, and with a focus on trends and transformations in their future development. We are, ultimately, a society dominated not by a single institution but by many, each with their own hierarchies, structures, histories, evolution and ideologies. Yet the institutions which dominate society as whole do so on a largely cooperative basis.

For example, the educational system supports the development of intellectuals who are channeled into think tanks and foundations, where they engage in the construction of knowledge, development of strategies, social engineering, and the formation of foreign policy; from there they are channeled into the state apparatus to enact policies. Corporations and financial institutions, in turn, dominate the governance structures of universities, think tanks and foundations, and participate in the development of strategies, policies and ideology. Thus, while theoretically these are separate institutions, functionally they are interconnected and interdependent. The purpose of GRASP and its research would be to study the historical evolution of these various institutions, and their interconnections and interdependencies with other institutions, including by mapping out their shared leadership with other institutions. The objective is to establish a think tank which may ultimately provide a source of knowledge-generation promoting a more comprehensive and coordinated understanding of our present global order.

The People’s Foundation would simultaneously seek to support the dissemination of knowledge produced by GRASP, through building connections with alternative media sources, as well as pushing the knowledge into the mainstream, or, if necessary, helping to establish new media organizations or groups dedicated to the dissemination of this knowledge. GRASP would be an incredibly useful resource for scholars, researchers, journalists and interested individuals and groups around the world. Its focus would primarily be on studying and understanding the principal Western institutions of domination, and thus provide a valuable source of knowledge for others to consult.

A parallel organization to this would be a similar think tank/research organization, which would be dedicated to the study and discussion of social movements and methods of resistance around the world, historically and presently. The aim, once again, would be to connect young scholars and intellectuals in a cooperative organization, which would initially establish a regional focus-approach to the study of social movements. For example, it would be the job of one (or a few) of the scholars to focus exclusively on analyzing the present social movements, rebellions, revolutions, riots and methods of resistance across sub-Saharan Africa; others would be focused on North Africa and the Middle East, Continental Europe, East and Southeast Asia, North and South America, etc. Monthly reports could be prepared by the young scholars, examining the current state of a ‘world of unrest.’ Such an organization could become an immensely useful resource for researchers, intellectuals, journalists and interested individuals, seeking to provide a single source whose primary focus is on studying the various social/resistance movements around the world.

This is a needed resource in the world today. There are several media and research groups that focus exclusively on studying social/resistance movements, but the focus is often inconsistent, and the sheer scope of global unrest and resistance is monumental. However, an organization with a focus on studying not simply what protests are ‘popular’ and in the press more frequently than others, but rather, on examining the multiplicity of resistance movements around the world, is a needed resource to both expand understanding of the current state of global unrest, as well as supporting those social and resistance movements. How can the people of the world – especially those actively engaged in resistance – support each other if they don’t even know about each other’s respective struggles? This organization would be dedicated to the construction and dissemination of knowledge regarding the methods and movements of resistance taking place around the world, presently and historically. Here, the Voice of Access could play a part in helping to provide a voice for those who frequently go unheard in the Western world.

Such an organization would greatly help our understanding of resistance and revolution itself. With such a large focus and source of knowledge, we would be able to see larger patterns and processes, gain a better understanding of the conditions and ‘sparks’ that lead to differing social movements; to better understand the successes and failures of resistance movements; and through the raising of public awareness – to encourage active and future support for resistance movements.

For both GRASP and the as-yet unnamed research organization focused on studying global resistance, the objective for the People’s Foundation would be to bring different scholars, activists and related organizations together, in a cooperative and horizontal (i.e. non-hierarchical) structure, with a focus on undertaking extensive and rigorous research (held to academic standards), to produce research reports, articles for dissemination, books, host meetings/conferences, media consultations, educational seminars and gatherings, providing a source of important and needed knowledge to be shared as widely as possible, to undertake the dual task of advancing human understanding of the social order which dominates our world, and of the people around the world who are resisting that order’s various manifestations.

For ‘Voice of Access: The People’s Foundation’, the methods would be geared towards reaching out to young scholars and interested individuals and organizations, to begin a process of communication and consultation on the formation of these two organizations, to connect these individuals and organizations and hopefully – if possible – to provide the initial funding needed to establish the organizations.

Problems and Prospects

There are, of course, many present barriers to all the current objectives – short and long-term – of Voice of Access: The People’s Foundation. The most obvious is the financial impediment. While the People’s Foundation ultimately seeks to function as a counter-hegemonic presence with an aim towards building alternatives to the existing global social order (making present power structures obsolete), the Foundation must still operate within the existing social order. That means that, internally and legally, it must establish itself as a non-governmental organization (NGO), with its own internal hierarchy and legal structure, and, more problematic, it must seek to accumulate funds to support projects, as well as to build up a financial base capable of supporting the Foundation’s staff itself, so that we may dedicate our time and resources to the activities of the Foundation. These are obstacles which we have yet to overcome in any meaningful sense, but, through the articulation of some of our short and long-term goals and objectives, we hope to encourage support – both material/financial and otherwise – to helping Voice of Access: The People’s Foundation establish itself and begin its important work in the world.

The major hegemonic foundations have been essential and effective institutions in the process of shaping education, constructing knowledge, disseminating information, creating institutions, establishing consensus between elites – nationally and globally – and institutionalizing ideology for the benefit of the hegemonic financial and corporate interests of the world. They have operated through long-term social engineering projects to try to establish social control: to connect elites, to co-opt and deflect resistance, to promote reform and slow adaptation, so as to ultimately secure the stability of the existing social order, and the hierarchies of inequality and oppression which dominate it.

The counter-hegemonic People’s Foundation hopes to become an effective organization for the purpose of finding new means and processes of education, the construction and dissemination of new forms of much-needed knowledge, to connect people and communities – activists, intellectuals, individuals and groups – not elites, to support the growth and interconnections (and radicalization) of social movements – not to co-opt, but to cooperate – with the ultimate objectives of challenging the prevailing social order, and sowing the seeds for future generations to construct a new order, making the existing one obsolete. These are large objectives, but as with any goal, it all begins with small and slow steps in the right direction.

With an understanding of the role that has been played by hegemonic foundations in the preservation and propagation of the existing social order, it seems that there is a needed place for counter-hegemonic foundations seeking to challenge and make obsolete that same social order, until such a point where the Foundation itself may be made obsolete. Revolution is a process, not an event, and it requires one to operate within an existing social system while simultaneously challenging that social system. This is a multi-generational process, and we must begin thinking and acting with a focus on the short- and long-term.

Voice of Access: The People’s Foundation hopes to take such a short and long-term focus on encouraging and supporting social transformation for the benefit of humanity and the world as a whole, not simply the powerful few who rule over it. This requires building connections and facilitating support with groups and people around the world, to advance access to technology, communication and interaction, to be a ‘voice’ for those who go unheard, a foundation for people, a foundation for change.

To read the full report with citations and footnotes, please download the original from the Spanda Journal here.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based out of Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, Chair of the Geopolitics Division of the Hampton Institute, Research Director of Occupy.com’s Global Power Project and the World of Resistance Report, hosts a weekly podcast at BoilingFrogsPost.com, and is a co-founder and Vice President of Voice of Access: The People’s Foundation.

Organize, Imagine, and Act: How a Student Movement Can Become a Revolution

Organize, Imagine, and Act: How a Student Movement Can Become a Revolution

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

From the London student protests, 2010

And so it seems that the student strike in Quebec is slowing down and nearing an end, as the college – CEGEPs – in Quebec have voted to return to class, with roughly 10,000 students having voted to continue the strike, a far reduction from the 175,000 students that were on strike in late April and early May. The strike began in February of 2012 in opposition to a planned 75% increase in the cost of tuition. The students mobilized massive numbers, held mass protests, undertook picket lines at schools, expanded the issue into a wider social movement, and were consistently met with state violence in the form of riot police, pepper spray, tear gas, beatings with batons, being shot with rubber bullets, even being trampled by horses and driven into by police cars. The government enacted Bill 78, assaulting the rights to freely assemble and speak, and put a ‘pause’ on the school semester to end picket actions. Now that the school semester is starting back up again, and an election looms in the coming weeks, the students are being led away from the streets and into voting booths. The ‘Maple Spring’ has become the ‘Fall Election’.

Meanwhile, in Chile, where a student movement that began in May and June of 2011, mobilized against a highly privatized education system, is continuing with renewed energy. There had been ups and downs of actions and mobilizations within Chile over the past 15 months, but in mid-August of 2012, the resurgence was seen as students began occupying high schools, blocking streets, and undertaking mass protests. Students who took part in the occupations were threatened with having their scholarships removed. In over a year of protesting, the students have not seen any meaningful changes to their educational system, or even inclinations that those in power were listening to their demands with anything other than disdain and contempt. The students have long been met with state violence, from the oppressive apparatus of a former military dictatorship, fighting an educational system which was established near the end of the military dictatorship. Riot police would meet students with tear gas, water cannons, batons, mass arrests, and other forms of assault. Police have subsequently stormed the high schools and arrested over a hundred students participating in the occupations. This caused the university students to get more involved, and they occupied the Universidad de Chile, which had not been occupied since the beginning of the movement the previous year (often known as the Chilean Winter).

In Chile, as in Quebec, protests and marches and even the right to demonstrate are frequently declared to be illegal. In both Chile and Quebec, when protests erupted into violence (which is more often than not incited by the police themselves), these are called “riots,” and they are used in the media and public discourse to portray the movements as violent, extremist, trouble-makers, vandals, and criminals. This is designed to reduce public support for the protests (which was far more successful in Quebec than Chile), and to subsequently dismiss the demands of the students. There are, in fact, a wider variety of similarities and interesting comparisons between the Chilean Winter and the Maple Spring. Chilean students and academics have even expressed solidarity with the Quebec student movement.

We face an issue here. The student movements don’t seem to be getting anywhere substantial in terms of establishing some sort of meaningful change. This is not to say they have not achieved anything; quite the opposite, in fact. The student movements have been successful at mobilization large numbers of people, organizing protests and indeed, in politicizing a generation, which is their most sincere and important success to date. Students have suffered under propaganda campaigns, violent repression, legal intimidation, and, most of all, the determination of an elite who view any and every minor concession as the ultimate unthinkable sacrifice which would ruin all of society. In short, elites are more stubborn than students could ever seem to be, and they have the means to hold their position and tire the students out if they can’t simply scare them away or crush them down. So, while symbolic actions and political radicalization are necessary achievements, the will to continue taking actions and the hope to manifest radical ideas becomes worn down, demoralized, and sapped of its strength. This is incredibly challenging to revive if the circumstances and courses of action do not change.

So perhaps it is time for a new tactic. Instead of having radicalization follow mobilization, students could begin to have radicalization guide mobilization. For any social movement to advance, grow, and become something not simply demanding reforms, or demanding something from power, it needs to provide something to the students, to the communities, and the public at large; it needs to create. This is the difference between a reformist movement and a revolutionary movement. In this context, the word ‘revolutionary’ is not used to imply a usurping of state power and violent overthrow of authority, but rather  to transform on a radical scale our conception and participation in specific or all sectors of society. Thus, it is essential to provide new ideas for action, rather than discussing and debating the new terms of capitulation. It can make all the difference between a question of how little students will get from their demands, to a question of how much we can get from a new educational structure itself. A discussion of new ideas must replace – or coincide with – the articulation of ignored demands.

How is this possible? What might this look like?

For students, the fundamental issue is education. For the student movements, growth came from expanding the issue into a wider social one, and linking up with other organizations and causes. This expands the scope, and thus, the base of support for a student movement. However, established unions played a large role in guiding (or attempting to guide), fund, and organize in cooperation with student movements. While the cause of workers is an issue that must be engaged with, the established unions that have survived to this point, roughly thirty years into the global neoliberal era, have survived only because they function on a basis of cooperating with the established powers of society, the state and corporations. They are corporatist institutions.

Over one hundred years ago, unions were extremely radical, organized, massive, and revolutionary. The actions and ideas of radically organized labour were the impetus for 8-hour work days, weekends, pensions, job security, benefits, an end to child labour, and much more. Unions subsequently faced roughly a century of battering, violence, co-optation, and destruction. Those which remain are not radical, but only slightly reformist. I say ‘slightly’ because they do not mobilize to fight for new ideas or issues, but only to protect and preserve the reforms previously implemented as a result of radical labour agitation. Thus, union representative serve as a buffer for the blunt force of the state and organized capital and corporate interests which consistently seek to undermine and exploit labour. The major unions typically serve to soften the blow against workers as the elite bring down the hammer. Under this system, all rights, benefits, security and protections are slowly and inevitably worn down and thrown away. When the established unions provide funds and direction for the student movements, they tend to steer them away from radical or revolutionary paths, and promote a highly reformist direction, and which can only be undertaken through negotiation with and capitulation to the state and corporate interests. This gets us to where we are.

When it comes to engagement and interaction, solidarity, and cooperation with labour, it should, in fact, be the more radical – and radically organized – students who lead the unions back to a more radical direction, to take them back to their origins when they achieved successes instead of softened failures. If they refuse to follow a radical direction, then students should encourage and attempt to find means of supporting the organization of new labour organizations: provide assistance, direction, ideas and physical and moral support. Students could be mobilized into the streets for workers’ rights as well as educational rights.

The main point here is that for a movement to radicalize and become revolutionary, it must cooperate with, support, and be supported by other radical and revolutionary organizations and movements. If the more dominant force is reformist, established, and corporatist (by which I mean its functioning ideology is accepting of the state and corporate dominated society), then these organizations will attempt to co-opt, direct, and steer your movement into an area ‘safe’ for the elites, if not altogether undermined and eliminated. It is not necessarily done out of an insidious desire to destroy your student movements, but rather the result of an insidious ideology embedded within the very functions of their organizations. Thus, integration, mutual support, dependency and interaction with other social movements must take place at a radical and revolutionary level if you are to sustain that potential and desire within your own movement. It’s unfortunate, because it’s more difficult; but it’s true, all the same.

Therefore, what is required are radical ideas of organization: for the student associations and other associations they interact with to be more accountable, directly, to their constituents. Instead of elected delegates or representatives making all the decisions (which is how our governments function), the decisions must be made by the constituents, and the representatives merely carry them out and organize accordingly. The student associations in Quebec and elsewhere function more along these radical lines, while labour and other groups typically do not. If student associations do not function in this manner, that is the first issue which must be addressed: either demand the associations to change, or create new ones and thereby make the unrepresentative ones obsolete. Thus, for a student movement to become revolutionary, the first step is the radicalization of organization.

Now onto something more interesting: how to radicalize ideas and actions in education itself. This next step is about the radicalization of action. While the first step, in many instances – the radicalization of organization – had been achieved in several of the student movements, the actions themselves lacked radicalization. The actions were largely confined to mass demonstrations, picket lines, school occupations, and youth rebellion against state violence and repression. These are all important actions on their own: establishing solidarity, power in numbers, a public presence, a demonstration of will and power, the development of ‘self-esteem’ for a social movement. These are necessary, but if the actions do not evolve, the movement itself cannot evolve. Thus, what is required at this point is a discussion of new ideas of action. Typically, as is the case at the moment in Quebec, students are being told to stay out of the streets and go to the voting booth, where “real” change can be made. This is illusory and useless. Unless there is a radical party, the best that can be hoped for is to delay the inevitable assault on education, or perhaps achieve a minor concession, which would likely be more of an insult than incentive.

New ideas of action must come from the students themselves, and there are a number of initiatives that could be discussed and undertaken. Fundamentally, instead of demanding from power, create something new. If education is what you want, begin to do it yourselves. In the case of a school occupations, why should the students not simply begin to have discussions on issues, share knowledge, invite professors, academics, and others who are supportive of the movement to come talk and share their knowledge?

This does not need to only take place in occupied schools, though that would be quite symbolic, but could essentially take place in any public space. It would function as a type of grassroots educational system, designed to share and expand knowledge, not to prepare you for the workforce. Job opportunities are already vanishing everywhere for youth, and they will continue to do so as the economic crisis gets worse. These types of educational forums could potentially be designed to educate and share knowledge on issues of relevance to the student movements themselves: the history of education, protest and social movement history, political power, repression, the economic system – Capitalism, neoliberalism, etc. This could – and should – expand into much larger issues and areas of knowledge, including arts, the sciences, philosophy, etc. There are already people within society who have gained their knowledge through educational institutions, and thus, there are already people from whom to draw this knowledge from in a new forum, and in a new way.

To give an example, imagine a ‘class’ (or forum) on the history of social struggles. First, a physical space is required, so to set up in a park, public venue, rent a space, or occupy a space (such as a school lecture hall). The students should have previously discussed – likely through social media networks – which intellectuals and individuals they would like to invite to come speak to them about the issue. The invited speakers would share their knowledge on the history of social struggles, promote discussion, debate one another, and engage directly with the students. For every invited outside speaker, a student should be invited to speak also, to share their own knowledge and engage on an equal basis. The notion that students are there only to learn and not teach is an incorrect one, and it’s a misnomer that should be addressed and acted upon.

The public at large should also be accepted into these educational forums. The point should be to expand knowledge and discussion among the general population, not merely the students. But the students are the ones capable of providing this forum for the population at large. To add to this: such forums should be broadcast through social media, filmed and recorded, watched online both live and archived. Students could organize ‘subject collectives’, perhaps having a group of students organized along the lines of the larger student associations (through direct democracy), who would oversee the organization of each subject or issue: history of social movements, political economy, media studies, etc. Each ‘collective’ could establish its own website, where the wider community would be encouraged to engage, support, recommend speakers and issues and venues, watch archived or live-feed forums, debate in online forums, be notified of events and speakers, and be provided with educational material, reading sources, etc. The students could write papers which would then be posted publicly on such sites, to promote discussion and to actually use the knowledge instead of writing papers for a grade, which is a rather absurd notion. These sites could have news sections, providing relevant news and developments from around the world related to their issue. The collective itself – both within the community and online – then becomes a forum for the development and extension of knowledge to a much larger sector of society, locally and globally.

This is where the actions become even more important. For a social movement to survive and expand into a revolutionary movement, it must not isolate itself, and must engage and interact directly with the wider population. The best way to do this, and one which has the added necessary effect of increasing the movement’s support among the population, is to provide a service or need. In the case of a student movement: that need is education. Merely ‘opening up’ forums to the public may not be enough. Students or ‘subject collectives’ could individually organize smaller meetings and discussions, in neighbourhoods and venues all over the city, region, or country, where students themselves speak with and to the public on issues in which they have been getting their education.

In Quebec, where students have been consistently framed by the media and elites as “entitled brats,” this tactic would be a means to share our so-called ‘entitlements’ with the wider population, and at no cost to them. Thus, as students gain knowledge, they share knowledge with others. For example, a couple history students could hold a small forum at a cafe or in a small public location which they had promoted within the neighbourhood and on social media for people to freely come to listen and engage in a discussion about a particular history topic. Of course, knowledge in such circumstances should not simply be abstract or obtuse, but relevant to those who are engaging with it. So if the discussion is on a ‘history of social movements,’ students should share knowledge on this, but make it relevant to the current social movement, to the social conditions of the wider population, and ask questions and engage with others in the venue: to promote discussion and debate. Thus, instead of the public viewing students as ‘entitled’, they may come to view students as ’empowering.’

This type of tactic would especially have to be employed within poor communities, and oppressed communities, where students would have to be willing to listen and learn more than they would be inclined to speak and teach. This is because many student movements, simply by their position as being students, generally come from a more privileged sector of society than the really poor, minority, immigrant, or otherwise oppressed communities. These sectors largely remain in the sidelines of the student movements themselves. This must change, and for a very fundamental reason: there is a great deal to learn from these communities. Oppressed peoples have experienced and known for a much longer period of time what the majority of students are only just starting to learn and experience: the true nature and interest of power, the violent and oppressive state apparatus, the underbelly of the economic system, the reality of social existence for a great many people. In short, it would be a means through which to educate the students on deeper issues of social strife, by listening and speaking directly to and with those who exist within oppressed social spheres.

But there cannot be any taking without giving. So while oppressed communities may perhaps be willing to share their own knowledge with students and engage in discussion and debate, the students must provide something back to these communities. There is a very simple way to get this started: ask them what they need most in their communities. For example, if one community cited the cost and quality of food as a central issue, students could then leave the first meeting with the community with the intent to organize and plan around this issue. The students could hold their own discussions, meetings, debates, and share ideas on how to help resolve this specific issue within that specific community, and then propose various ideas to those community leaders. The ideas would be subject to critique, dismissal, support, etc, to go back to the drawing board with new suggestions or to get to work, putting action to the ideas.

So with the issue of food, for example, students could perhaps organize around the idea of establishing a community food garden, proposing it to the community, and, if approved and critiqued, they could find an area of land, get the support and materials they need, and work with members of that community to plant and establish such a garden, to help move toward some form of food sustainability, provided either free or cheap to those within that area. Potentially, there could be a student educational association which specialized in sharing knowledge about nutrition, horticulture, etc., and they could be brought in to share their knowledge, help in the endeavour, or even make it a staple feature of their functioning: to go to different communities to help establish food sustainability.

These are, of course, just ideas of actions, there is no reason to follow this specific outline. This is meant to merely promote the discussion of this concept: the actions, organizations, and objectives which would result from a radicalization of action are likely to be far more varied, interesting, and effective than these mere suggestions. However, I used these examples of actions and ideas to show how a student movement protesting against something (such as a tuition increase), can become a revolutionary movement for something.

These actions are revolutionary because they force people to question and reconsider their conceptions of education, its manifestation, its purpose, its institutionalization, philosophy, etc. The actions themselves engage directly with people, drawing from and providing to the population as a whole. This increases support among the population, but also greatly strengthens the ideas and actions of the students themselves. At such a conceivable point, it could not be called a ‘student movement,’ but could only be identified as a much wider social movement, which would help radicalize the wider society itself, which would in turn provide new ideas and actions to the students; solidarity in both words and actions.

These actions are revolutionary because they attempt to maneuver around power structures instead of expending all of their energy on directly battling the power structure itself. By going around the power structure – around the state, the schools, the corporations, etc. – the students would create a parallel educational structure within society, making the existing one increasingly obsolete. As this is done, the bargaining power of the state and other structures is reduced, because the students no longer rely exclusively upon them for an education. The state would most certainly attempt to repress such a movement, or perhaps even to offer much larger incentives, concessions, or even meet the previous demands of students in order to get them back in the schools and within an educational system that power controls. The state is well-established to deal with direct confrontations: that’s what police, armies, guns, badges and lawyers are for. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’re demanding, or where you are demanding it, the state can simply tear gas you, scare you, disperse you, and wait you out. But to move around the power structure, and to create and establish something new, not under the control or direction of established institutions of power, the power structures become very nervous and insecure.

It would be foolish to think that the power structures would not respond with more state violence than they have up until present, they most certainly would. The primary difference, however, would be that the public support for the movement would have conceivably exploded, and in the case of increased violence, it would explode in anger and opposition to the state. In short, while the state would be likely to increase its tactics of intimidation and violence, the public response would likely be far more powerful than anything we have seen thus far. We saw an example of this in Quebec, when the government passed the repressive Bill 78 and a much larger segment of the population was mobilized in opposition to the government. However, this has now largely faded, and again, it’s about the difference between mobilizing against something and mobilizing for something. It’s the difference between opposition and proposition, demand and action.

The fundamental idea which I am arguing is that for a student movement to become a revolutionary movement, it must transform its demands of education into actions for education. If the issue is education, the answer is education. The inability of the student movements to have their demands met reveals a deeply-ingrained flaw in our society: that an institution does not reflect or respond to the demands of its supposed constituents. This fact makes that institution illegitimate. This flaw further manifests itself across the entire society. If the government itself, which is supposedly ‘representative’ of the people, does not reflect the intentions and interests of the population, then it is illegitimate. Most institutions do not even have a means for their constituents to have a say in who runs the institutions themselves. Some, such as governments or unions, may have elections in which people can choose candidates, but then all the other decisions are taken out of their hands. Other institutions, such as schools, corporations, banks, media, etc., do not even have a means for constituents to select leadership, let alone direction and action. University boards are populated with bankers, former government officials, corporate executives, foundation officials, and other established elites. Therefore, universities are geared toward meeting elite interests under their direction. This is flawed and wrong. Though, because most institutions function in this way across wider society, it tends to go unnoticed and is simply accepted as “the way it is.”

Students must now ask: Does it have to be this way? What other way could it be? What should change? How could that change? What is the intent of education? These questions lead to other, larger questions about the society as a whole, and, as a result, they make necessary the wider radicalization, organization, and revolution of society itself. It is a rather large idea, but I think it is also a logical one. As the economic and social circumstances for most people continue to deteriorate in the near future – and perhaps rapidly so as the global economic crisis accelerates – such ideas and actions will become all the more necessary and will generate much more support.

Since the beginning of the global economic crisis in 2007 and 2008, the world has seen a rapid acceleration of resistance movements, protests, and revolutionary struggles. The world is rumbling awake from a long lost slumber of consumption and consent as the situation of crisis reveals deep flaws in the structures, ideology, and actions of power. We are witnessing the rapid proliferation of global resistance movements, but it requires much more for them to become global revolutionary movements. It has only begun, but it requires new ideas and actions to move forward. It would potentially be very challenging to begin such actions now, but in the very least, student movements should begin to advance the discussion, to debate the direction, and to incite new ideas. These are, after all, the skills that an education is supposed to provide us with.

Perhaps it is time to put our education to use.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer living in Montreal, Canada. His website (www.andrewgavinmarshall.com) features a number of articles and essays focusing on an analysis of power and resistance in the political, social, and economic realms. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, and is currently writing a book on the global economic crisis and resistance movements emerging around the world. To help this book come to completion, please consider donating through the website or on Indiegogo.

First Book To Be Done by the End of Summer!

In the past couple months I have been writing almost exclusively on the student movement in Quebec, as well as various other student/social movements around the world. As a result, my work on The People’s Book Project has been postponed, apart from continued research. In the past week, I decided to take a break from everything and re-work my plans for the Book Project and other initiatives.

For those who have been following the evolution of the Book Project since it began in October of 2011, the notion of me “reorganizing” the Project is not new; in fact, it has happened a few times. However, progress on the Project has been continuous, and I have written over 800 pages unedited. It remains disjointed and is a ways away from being a completed project, but that brings me to my current decision. Previously, I had planned to write the whole manuscript through and subsequently break it up into several smaller books, this would still take too long. The support from readers has been consistently wonderful and VERY important: I would not be where I am without you, so thank you. But I find it difficult to ask for (and to receive) additional support when I am in fact not producing a final product for a while. The support is faith-based in the expectation of a final product somewhere down the line. This is a great deal to ask of readers and supporters. This is also frustrating for me personally, as I am in need of actually producing something concrete, and better yet, something which can in turn begin to produce some extra funding for me (as small as the amount is likely to be, at least it’s something!).

So, the NEW and IMPROVED People’s Book Project:

– the focus of the Project is still on producing a series of books on a radical history and analysis of power in our world, understanding the nature of our society, how we got here, where we’re going, and what we can do to change it: a study of the evolution of power and resistance in the modern world

– I will be writing one book at a time, each will be divided according to broad subjects (political economy, imperialism and terror, social engineering and education, race and poverty, psychology and psychiatry, the scientific-technological society, and the world revolution)

– I am starting with a book that will serve as a preface/introduction to the entire Project: a look at where our global society is and how it is changing: the origin, evolution, and effects of the global economic crisis; the advanced stage of global imperialism and war; the moves toward global governance and domination; and the age of anti-austerity rebellions (as well as the efforts to co-opt, control, or destroy them), from the Arab Spring, to the Indignados and Europe, to the Occupy Movement, and to student movements in Chile and Quebec.

The Preface to the People’s Book Project will be a significant book on its own, and gives a glimpse of the state of the world at present, and the prospects for global oppression and global revolution. It hits at key issues that are affecting the lives of everyone in the world today, and thus, I think it is a timely and necessary introduction to the Book Project at large, which will be a far more comprehensive and detailed historical analysis of how we got to this current point in history, and where it is ultimately leading. My aim is to have this first book – the Preface – finished by the end of the summer (the end of August/early September).

I have already started work on the chapter covering the economic crisis, and after five days of work thus far, I am 50 pages (single-spaced) into this examination of the crisis, focusing on Europe at the moment. It’s very detailed, but an important look at power in this crisis, how it has and is being abused, for whom and with what intent, and how it effects the majority of people who have no access to or influence over that power (i.e., everyone but the elite). I have already written a good deal on several of the other subjects I will be writing about in this project, specifically in relation to the Quebec student movement, and thus, I am hoping that this book moves forward quickly and efficiently. I am incredibly motivated, and am working at a faster pace than I am certainly used to.

Also, I am planning to post a rather large chunk of the current chapter I am writing, so that you – the readers and supporters – may see what my current work is looking like. The excerpt I will provide is a look at the debt crisis and its effects in Italy, and all I can say from my research is that it’s quite the story!

I think that this method of approaching the Project is better for myself and my readers and supporters. After eight months of the People’s Book Project, I think it’s time to start producing finished products. By the time the entire Project is finished, it will no doubt be quite some time from now. But if I am able to do it piecemeal, book by book, subject by subject, and finish it off with an amalgamated, compressed, and comprehensive summary of all the works before it, this would make it a more useful enterprise for both myself and my supporters.

So that is why I have set the goal of having the first book written by the end of the Summer. For that, I again need to ask for your support. I am setting a goal of raising $2,500 to get me through the Summer while I dedicate my time to finishing this first volume. Of course, edits and publishing will follow, and that takes time, but it is time that I produce something I can call my own, and which my readers and supporters can see as the fruitful product of their support. No more hesitation, no more indecision, no more procrastination: it’s time to PRODUCE a final product! Help me make that a reality!

I will make more details about the reorganization of the Project as I decide upon it. The other volumes I have in mind have yet to be finalized as ideas, and remain just that: ideas. But the first volume, the Preface/Introduction – the age of crisis, austerity, global governance and global revolution – is already being written, and written quickly. It’s radical, it’s critical, it’s full of facts: it will make you angry, informed, and I hope, inspired. I know it’s certainly having that effect upon me.

Thank you so much for all your kind support!

Sincerely,

Andrew Gavin Marshall

Please donate to The People’s Book Project:

Spanish Translation: Del Invierno Chileno a la Primavera Canadiense: ¡Solidaridad!

Del Invierno Chileno a la Primavera Canadiense: ¡Solidaridad!

Por Andrew Gavin Marshall

The following is a Spanish translation of my recent article, “From the Chilean Winter to the Maple Spring,” courtesy of Verdad Ahora.

En la noche del 16 de mayo, miles de estudiantes y simpatizantes de Montreal salieron a las calles para pasar la 23va noche consecutiva de protestas, esta vez impulsada por el anuncio del gobierno de Quebec de legislar para terminar con la huelga estudiantil de 14 semanas que se ha apoderado de Quebec en los últimos tres meses. El proyecto de ley propuesto por el gobierno “impondría condiciones estrictas a los estudiantes que deseen manifestarse en contra de los aumentos previstos en las tarifas de matrícula”, que podrían “incluir multas severas contra cualquiera que intente bloquear las entradas a los colegios y universidades.” El primer ministro de Quebec, Jean Charest, anunció que el actual semestre no ha sido cancelado por el gobierno, “Estamos suspendiendo el semestre. No lo estamos cancelando… Esto nos permitirá terminar el semestre en agosto y septiembre.” Los estudiantes advirtieron que impugnarán la ley ante los tribunales “si la legislación limita su derecho a manifestarse y bloquear las clases si la mayoría de los miembros de una escuela o de las asociaciones estudiantiles vota realizarlo.”

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, el portavoz de 21 años de la asociación de estudiantes más grande, CLASSE, que representa a más de la mitad de los 160.000 estudiantes en huelga, declaró que: “El proyecto de ley que el gobierno propone a la mesa es una ley antisindical, es autoritario, represivo y vulnera el derecho de los estudiantes a la huelga… Este es un gobierno que prefiere golpear a sus jóvenes, ridiculizar a sus jóvenes, en lugar de escucharlos.” Cuando miles de personas salieron a las calles de Montreal para oponerse al plan del gobierno, se toparon nuevamente con la policía antidisturbios, y se desató la violencia después de que la que fuera una protesta pacífica fuese declarada “ilegal” por la policía, con 122 manifestantes arrestados. Sólo unos pocos de los 122 manifestantes arrestados están acusados de agredir a algunos agentes, mientras que el resto está siendo acusado de haber participado en una “protesta ilegal”. La policía antidisturbios cargó contra la multitud y se dispersó la protesta en unidades más pequeñas, que la policía luego arrinconó, y acto seguido, con roció con gas pimienta y les arrojó granadas aturdidoras, además de golpear con lumas a los estudiantes.

Más temprano el mismo día 16 de mayo, a unos 9.000 km de Montreal, cerca de 100.000 estudiantes y simpatizantes salieron a las calles en Santiago, Chile, en la segunda manifestación más importante este año, llevando al resurgimiento del movimiento estudiantil que se inició un año antes, en mayo de 2011; los estudiantes fueron movilizados por la Confederación de Estudiantes de Chile (CONFECH), una confederación de todos los sindicatos estudiantiles de universidades públicas, (así como de algunas privadas), y el sindicato más antiguo, la Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile (FECH). Estos sindicatos marcharon contra el sistema educativo más caro de los países de la OCDE, un sistema de educación privatizado instalado en mayor medida en Chile por el ex dictador militar, Augusto Pinochet, quien llegó al poder en 1973 con apoyo de la CIA. Gabriel Boric, el líder estudiantil de la FECH y vocero de la CONFECH de 26 años declaró: “Somos más de 100.000 personas. Estamos dando una vez más una clara señal al gobierno de que el movimiento estudiantil, después de un año, se levanta sobre sus pies y no va a descansar. Todavía estamos en la lucha.” Boric agregó: “Seguiremos siendo rebeldes, ya que el movimiento estudiantil no va a conformarse con corregir algunos excesos. Queremos arreglarlo todo.” El gobierno de Chile ha presentado tres propuestas diferentes a los estudiantes en el último año, todas las cuales no cumplían con el movimiento estudiantil, ya que eran meras concesiones que no tratan el problema principal de un sistema social, política y económicamente injusto, exigiendo un sistema de educación pública gratuita y de calidad para todos los chilenos. Boric declaró: “Este gobierno ha sido incapaz de responder a las peticiones básicas de los estudiantes.”

Las protestas de 16 de mayo 2012 se tornaron violentas con enfrentamientos entre estudiantes y policías antidisturbios, que llevaron al arresto de 70 estudiantes en Santiago. Esta fue la segunda manifestación estudiantil más importante de este año, después de cerca de 40 manifestaciones en todo el país durante 2011. La policía antidisturbios respondió a la protesta de los estudiantes con gas lacrimógeno y carros lanza agua. El 15 de marzo, Santiago fue sede de la primera manifestación estudiantil importante del año en la que varios miles de estudiantes salieron a las calles, y se produjeron enfrentamientos con la policía antidisturbios que llevaron a 50 arrestos. Por cierto, el 15 de marzo en Montreal, estudiantes y otras personas participaron en una protesta contra la brutalidad policial que terminó en violencia y en la detención de más de 200 manifestantes.

El gobierno chileno ha tratado constantemente de tanto reprimir – a través de la violencia estatal – y socavar – a través de pequeñas concesiones legislativas – al movimiento estudiantil que se ha identificado con la necesidad de un cambio en el sistema social, político y económico. A pesar de un año de protestas, la ex líder estudiantil de la FECH, de 24 años, Camila Vallejo, quien dirigió el movimiento estudiantil hasta que fue reemplazada por Boric en las elecciones estudiantiles de noviembre de 2011, comentó respecto al movimiento estudiantil: “En términos concretos, se podría decir que hemos logrado poco o nada… Pero a grandes rasgos, el movimiento estudiantil ha hecho una ruptura en la sociedad chilena. Hay un antes y un después de 2011, y por primera vez estamos hablando de temas que eran tabú en Chile.”

El 14 de mayo, la ministra de educación de Quebec, Line Beauchamp, renunció declarando: “Estoy renunciando porque ya no creo ser parte de la solución.” Ello siguió a las revelaciones de que Line Beauchamp asistió a un evento de recaudación de fondos para el Partido Liberal donde aceptó donaciones de un conocido mafioso de Montreal. Quebec se ha visto envuelta desde hace años en una controversia por la corrupta industria de la construcción, que está fuertemente controlada por la mafia y recibe contratos públicos tremendamente sobrevalorados por parte de los gobiernos municipales y provinciales. Beauchamp no ha sido la primera casualidad en el gabinete del primer ministro, Jean Charest. Ya en septiembre de 2011, la primer ministro subrogante de Jean Charest, Nathalie Normandeau, que también fue ministra de recursos naturales de Quebec, renunció en medio de controversias. Ella también estuvo implicada en escándalos de corrupción relacionados con la mafia.

Cerca de un mes después de que las protestas estudiantiles comenzaran en Chile, el ministro de educación, Joaquín Lavín, renunció en julio de 2011. Fue sustituido por Felipe Bulnes, quien a su vez renunció en diciembre de 2011, en medio del persistente movimiento estudiantil. Bulnes había tratado de calmar las protestas estudiantiles mediante la concesión de un mayor acceso al crédito y “una mejor supervisión de las universidades.” Bulnes fue reemplazado con Harald Beyer. Así como Bulnes renunció, tras las revelaciones de que tenía fuertes lazos con una universidad privada en Santiago (y por lo tanto, un interés personal en la defensa del sistema educativo privatizado), el ministro de Agricultura, José Antonio Galilea también renunció. A finales de marzo de 2012, el ministro de Energía de Chile, Rodrigo Álvarez renunció tras dos meses de protestas en la región austral de Aysén por el alza de los precios del combustible.

Como ministra de recursos naturales de Quebec (hasta su renuncia en septiembre de 2011), Nathalie Normandeau fue responsable de introducir el ‘Plan Nord’ (Plan del Norte), un programa de desarrollo económico de 80 mil millones para explotar los recursos del norte de Quebec a través de inversiones públicas y privadas. El Plan incluye inversiones en minería, silvicultura, transporte y gas, y está atrayendo el interés de corporaciones multinacionales de todo el mundo. El Plan Nord fue anunciado por Normandeau y el primer ministro Jean Charest en mayo de 2011, donde Charest declaró: “En el plano político, este es uno de los mejores momentos de mi vida.” Y añadió: “Esta es una de las razones por las que me involucré en la política.” El Plan prevé 11 nuevos proyectos mineros en los próximos años, con miles de millones gastados por el gobierno en el desarrollo de infraestructura y caminos para el transporte. La industria minera aplaudió Charest, pero incitó la preocupación de grupos ambientalistas y representantes de los pueblos originarios. En abril de 2012, un grupo de mujeres del pueblo inuit marchó desde el Norte a Montreal para protestar contra el Plan Nord, llegando a la ciudad para la reunión que promovería el Plan Nord entre el 20 y el 21 de abril. El 20 de abril, las mujeres de los pueblos originarios se reunieron para protestar contra la reunión, y se unieron a las protestas estudiantiles fuera del Palais des congrèsen en el centro de Montreal. Los manifestantes chocaron con la policía antidisturbios, granadas aturdidoras, gases lacrimógenos y lumas, y unos 90 manifestantes fueron arrestados.

En mayo de 2011, al igual que el gobierno de Quebec anunciando sus planes para el Plan Nord, el gobierno chileno anunció la aprobación del proyecto Hidroaysén, que será el generador de energía más grande de Chile, llevando a protestas de cientos de personas. El proyecto “consta de cinco represas y 1.900 kilómetros (1.180 millas) de línea de transmisión para alimentar a la red central que abastece a Santiago y a las ciudades circundantes, así como las minas de cobre de propiedad de Codelco y Anglo American Plc.” El proyecto provocó un aumento de la ira de los residentes de la región, así como de ambientalistas y otros activistas. Los opositores al proyecto presentaron recursos de amparo y una corte de apelaciones suspendió el proyecto Hidroaysén en junio de 2011. Fue en este momento que el movimiento estudiantil en Chile comenzó a emerger rápidamente. En octubre, un tribunal de apelaciones local rechazó las siete demandas contra el proyecto y dio luz verde para reanudar las obras. En diciembre, un recurso legal en contra del proyecto fue llevado a Corte Suprema de Chile. En abril de 2012, la Corte Suprema rechazó los siete recursos contra el proyecto. Esto provocó grandes protestas por la decisión de la corte, que chocaron con la represión la policía antidisturbios. La creciente demanda de energía proviene de la industria minera en rápido crecimiento de Chile, de la cual las empresas mineras canadienses son la mayor inversión de origen extranjero.

Protestas estallaron la región sureña chilena de Aysén en febrero de 2012, donde el costo de vida es significativamente mayor que en el norte (debido a la lejanía de la región patagónica) y por lo tanto, los costos de combustible, alimentos, cuidado de la salud y la educación son mayores que en otras partes. Los manifestantes se enfrentaron casi todas las noches con la policía antidisturbios, incluso levantando barricadas y lanzando piedras contra la policía, que utilizó carros lanza agua y gases lacrimógenos contra los manifestantes. Uno de los manifestantes incluso perdió un ojo durante los enfrentamientos, según informes, al ser baleado por la policía. Partidarios salieron a las calles de Santiago en solidaridad con los que luchaban en Aysén . En marzo, los manifestantes relajaron los bloqueos para mantener negociaciones entre el gobierno y las más de treinta organizaciones sociales que participaban en las protestas. Fue después de las negociaciones que renunció el ministro de energía Álvarez, diciendo que fue excluido de las conversaciones. A fines de marzo, el gobierno anunció planes para crear mejores condiciones en la región de Aysén.

En abril de 2012, Chile experimentó protestas contra una planta termoeléctrica y la minería, donde en mayor medida participaron chilenos de ascendencia indígena, y los estudiantes regresaron a las calles de Santiago, con decenas de miles de personas. A lo largo de Quebec, los estudiantes intensificaron las protestas durante todo el mes de abril, y se unieron indígenas, ecologistas y estudiantiles en protesta contra el Plan Nord. El 25 de abril, decenas de miles de estudiantes chilenos salieron a las calles de Santiago, en protesta contra la propuesta de “reforma” educacional del gobierno, que era completamente inadecuada. En el mismo día, 25 de abril, cerca de 5.000 estudiantes protestaban en Montreal contra de la cancelación del diálogo del gobierno con los líderes estudiantiles. A principios de ese mismo mes, el presidente chileno Piñera y el primer ministro canadiense Harper se reunieron en Chile para expandir el tratado de libre comercio entre los dos países. Los movimientos estudiantiles no fueron objeto de debate.

En Chile, al movimiento estudiantil y su desarrollo social más amplio junto a ambientalistas, sindicatos y otros grupos de activistas se le ha conocido como “Invierno Chileno“. En Quebec, el movimiento estudiantil, con su desarrollo social más amplio junto a sindicatos, ambientalistas, y otras organizaciones de activistas, se ha conocido como “Primavera Arce.” Ambos movimientos, manteniendo al mismo tiempo sus propias especificidades, en última instancia, se han movilizado en torno a una lucha contra el neoliberalismo, contra la austeridad, y contra un sistema social, político y económico que ha gobernado el mundo para unos pocos y en detrimento de las mayorías.

Para que ambos movimientos avancen, es importante no sólo promover actos informales y declaraciones de solidaridad entre los dos movimientos, sino comenzar a establecer vínculos directos e indirectos entre los movimientos: establecer conexiones entre las asociaciones estudiantiles, coordinar días de acciones de protesta importantes, protestar contra las empresas mineras que explotan a Quebec en el Norte y a Chile en el Sur, crear medios de comunicación organizados por estudiantes que compartan información entre ellos, realizar intercambios de activismo estudiantil entre los dos países, pero en primer lugar, es importante educar a los estudiantes en Quebec sobre lo que está ocurriendo en Chile, y a los estudiantes en Chile sobre lo que está ocurriendo en Quebec. Esa es la base para todas las otras formas de cooperación.

Así que desde el Invierno Chileno a la Primavera Arce

¡Solidarity, solidarité, solidaridad!

 

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 BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Meet Canada’s Ruling Oligarchy: Parasites-a-Plenty!

Meet Canada’s Ruling Oligarchy: Parasites-a-Plenty!

Class War and the College Crisis, Part 7

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Paul Desmarais Sr. (left), Nicolas Sarkozy (centre), and Quebec Premier Jean Charest (right)

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 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?

As hundreds of thousands of students in the province of Québec continue to strike into their 13th week against tuition increases, as the provincial government continues to employ legal repression and state violence against the youth, as Canadian families are over $100,000 in debt, as a looming housing crisis begins to rear its ugly head, as youth unemployment increases, student debt explodes, jobs vanish, poverty deepens, and oppression increases, it’s time to meet those responsible, those who are doing better than ever, those who are making record profits, sitting comfortably in their estates which are larger than the entire island of Manhattan, who travel by helicopter and private jet, who co-mingle with the Rockefellers, Rothschilds, Spanish royalty, presidents and prime ministers at home and abroad: meet Canada’s ruling oligarchy.

As this series, “Class War and the College Crisis,” is more focused on the issue of education, I will focus here on the composition of the oligarchy in terms of how they control our educational system. This part in the series will be part article and part research annex. First, I will introduce the reader to Canada’s most powerful family, our version of the Rockefeller’s south of the border, or the Rothschilds in Europe, and of course, all these families are close in both business and social circles. Such is the nature of being an elite in a globalized world. The Desmarais family, located in the province of Québec, are without question the most influential and powerful family in the country, and it’s no wonder, considering their power is vested in an investment company known as Power Corporation.

Why is Power Corporation important?

The name says it all: it has Power. Founded in 1925, Power Corporation of Canada is an investment company involved in communications, business, and especially finance. Power Corporation was founded by A.J. Nesbitt and P.A. Thomson, two partners in the Montreal investment firm, Nesbitt, Thomson and Company, who wanted to consolidate Canada’s power sector, and established Power Corporation as a ‘holding company,’ meaning, it owns other corporations. In the 1960s, the company began to invest in energy, finance, industry, and real estate. In 1968, financier Paul Desmarais took over the leadership of Power Corporation, and rapidly expanded the assets held by the company, including by the 1970s: Canada Steamship Lines (transportation); Consolidated Bathurst (pulp and paper); Investors Group, Great-West Life, Montreal Trust (financial services); and Gesca (communications). Power Corporation expanded across Canada, Europe, and into China. Paul Desmarais stepped aside as Chairman and CEO in 1996, though remaining as the controlling shareholder, and had his two sons, Paul Jr. and André, become Chairman and President and Co-CEOs. Power Corporation owns Gesca, a communications company which in turn owns La Presse as well as six other daily newspapers in Quebec.

The Desmarais family, wrote Christa d’Souza for the London Telegraph, are “Canada’s equivalent of the Rockefellers or Vanderbilts.”[1] Indeed, it would appear that the Desmarais are very much akin to the Rockefellers, the most powerful family in the United States, and one of the most powerful families in the world (perhaps only challenged by the older European-based Rothschild banking family). The Rockefeller family developed the Standard Oil empire, which branched off into several different oil companies, including Exxon and Chevron; founded the Rockefeller Foundation as an engine of social engineering, founded the University of Chicago, became a dominant force in global banking (through Citibank and JP Morgan Chase), highly influential in politics (Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and Senator Jay Rockefeller), and of course, remain a dominant influence in think tanks, such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Group, and the Trilateral Commission, which ultimately play a major role in shaping policies of industrial nations.

The Desmarais family, while not as powerful in a global sense as the Rockefellers, have nevertheless made themselves a powerful name in the global oligarchy, and most certainly the most powerful family in Canada. Paul Desmarais Sr. is one of Canada’s richest individuals, which is, of course, no surprise, and as Konrad Yakabuski wrote for the Globe and Mail, “Desmarais has been personally consulted by prime ministers on every major federal economic and constitutional initiative since the 1970s. Most of the time, they’ve taken his advice.” Power Corporation has taken large stakes in major European companies such as Bertelsmann, Total and Suez. Peter Munk, a friend of Paul Desmarais and the CEO of Barrick Gold Corporation (a major mining company profiting off of genocide in the Congo), said that, “Paul built that business with an enormous capability for networking that no one in Canadian history has ever matched. And the boys got introduced to his contacts. They were educated well, they married well. And they’ve behaved.” In the mid-1960s, a protégé of Desmarais was a young Montreal lawyer named Brian Mulroney, who would later become Canada’s Prime Minister. Paul Sr. groomed his sons, and especially André, who is now perhaps the most well-known Canadian businessman in China. André also married the daughter of another Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien. Desmarais Sr. also got involved in French banking through Paribas, and later, Pargesa, which handled investments in a wide range of European corporations, and shot Desmarais into the accepted ranks of French nobility and the old-monied European elite. Paul Desmarais Jr. is close friends with the recent French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and socializes with Spanish royalty, the Rothschilds, and other European oligarchs.[2]

The Desmarais family have strong connections to Canada’s four major political parties: the Liberals, Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois, and the NDP. This has included close ties to Lucien Bouchard, former leader of the Parti Québecois and Premier of Quebec, Jean Chrétien, former Canadian Prime Minister; Brian Mulroney, former Canadian Prime Minister who worked for Power Corporation; Bob Rae, an NDP leader, and Paul Martin, another Liberal Prime Minister who worked for Power Corporation. When André Pratte, the chief editorialist of the Desmerais-owned paper La Presse, wrote in 1994 that, “Power Corp. controls everything, everyone knows that. Chrétien, [then Quebec premier Daniel] Johnson, it’s Power Corp,” Paul Desmarais Sr. intervened directly with the paper to ensure that Pratte was demoted. Claude Masson, the deputy publisher of La Presse at the time, stated that, “When you bite the hand that feeds you, there are consequences.”[3] Indeed, the hand bites back.

The Desmarais’ also have close connections with James Wolfensohn, the former President of the World Bank, who has extensive ties to the Rockefeller family. Paul Jr. married Hélene Blouin, the “founder and CEO of le Centre d’entreprises et d’innovation de Montréal, an incubator for tech businesses; a director of the Montreal Board of Trade; chairman of HEC Montréal; and a co-founder of the Montreal Economic Institute, a think tank that has become Quebec’s leading policy advocate on the non-partisan right.” André married France Chrétien, daughter of Jean Chrétien, and he even served as a press secretary to Jean Chrétien while he was Minister of Justice in the Pierre Trudeau government. In the 1990s, the international advisory board of Power Corporation included former Prime Ministers Brian Mulroney and Pierre Trudeau. Brian Mulroney was sure to create friendly ties between the Desmarais family and soon-to-be Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who put two Desmarais-connected politicians in his cabinet, Peter Mackay and Maxime Bernier.[4]

Quebec author Robin Philpot wrote a scathing critique of the power of the Desmarais family several years ago, suggesting that, “Over the last several years, [Paul Desmarais Sr.] has spun his web to such an extent that it now enables him to call the shots,” especially in promoting his right-wing economic vision, with “a disproportionate influence on politics and the economy in Quebec and Canada.” Of course, it’s not only Canadian politicians with whom Desmarais is close, but French and American politicians as well, including Sarkozy, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Desmarais owns seven of the ten French-language newspapers in Quebec, and has been close to nearly every Quebec premier, apart from Parti Québécois leaders Jacques Parizeau and Bernard Landry. Philpot alleged that Desmarais “has a lot of influence on Premier Jean Charest,” who is the current premier imposing tuition increases. When Desmarais received the French Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honour) from Nicolas Sarkozy, Jean Charest was in attendance, of which Philpot stated, “He took him along like a poodle.” Philpot added, “It’s a very unhealthy situation for a government to be indebted to a businessman that has his own interest at heart. They get their hands tied.”[5]

Jean-François Lisée, the director of the Center for International Studies and Research at the University of Montreal stated that, “They are in a class all by themselves… There’s the Desmaraises, then there’s everyone else.” However, as one man close to the family said, in regards to their influence in politics, “We live in a village in Canada, and there are a lot of circumstances which come together which make it appear as if there’s some great manipulation… These are the coincidences of life. It might be more notorious than substantial.”[6] Indeed, the elite live in “a village,” and that’s the whole point, which is, I might add, “substantial.”

In rural Quebec, the Desmarais family has an estate the size of Manhattan, with a private golf course and pheasant shooting range, as well as a music pavilion where opera is performed. This is the home of Paul Desmarais Sr. Guests, such as former U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, come play golf on this vast estate, and are flown in on helicopters belonging either to Power Corporation or Desmarais personally. As one of Canada’s richest billionaires, this is a simple matter. Power Corporation, which owns a controlling share in Power Financial Corporation, an insurance giant, has established ties with one of Belgium’s richest men, Albert Frere, with whom they have been in business for decades, and together hold significant shares of Total SA (the third largest oil company in Europe), Lafarge SA (the world’s largest cement maker), and GDF Suez SA (the world’s second largest utility company).[7]

The Desmarais family has even had the internationally renowned Cirque du Soleil perform on their massive 15,000-acre estate. King Juan Carlos of Spain has even been a guest from time to time. André Desmarais is himself a member of the Trilateral Commission, founded by David Rockefeller, and is also on the International Advisory Board of David Rockefeller’s former bank, JP Morgan Chase, alongside other notables such as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Both brothers have regularly attended meetings of the Bilderberg Group, of which David Rockefeller is a top official (founded in 1954 as an elite think tank linking Western Europe and North America). The Desmarais also hold a major international meeting of elites in Montreal every year, the Conference de Montreal, drawing in thousands of top policy-makers, industrialists, bankers, strategists, and international elites from the major nations of the world. A son of Paul Desmarais Jr., Paul Desmarais III, is a banker with Goldman Sachs. At times, the influence of the family is shyly acknowledged. As French President Sarkozy stated upon awarding Paul Desmarais Sr. with the French Legion of Honour, “If I am the president of France today, it is thanks in part to the advice, the friendship and the loyalty of Paul Desmarais.”[8]

So while Quebec students are being asked to pay double their current tuition to reduce public spending, the Desmarais family is hob-nobbing around with a top public-sector individual responsible for investing $150 billion in Quebecers’ public-sector pension and insurance plans, Michael Sabia. Though apparently a weekend stay at the Desmarais estate by Sabia did not involve business discussions, it was merely “friendly.” No doubt. Meanwhile, Power Financial profits rose 37% in March of 2012, earning the company $533 million, while Power Corporation itself earned $314 million in the same amount of time, with its profits also increasing by 37%.[9]

The Canadian Oligarchy Assaults Democracy

In the 1970s, just as the United States elite were organizing for their assault on the democratic advances brought about by the activism and popular mobilizations of the 1960s, so too was Canada. With the Powell Memo and the Trilateral Commission’s “Crisis of Democracy” report in the early and mid 1970s, we saw the emergence of a vast array of right-wing pro-business think tanks which sought to – and successfully did – promote neoliberalism and thus, created enormous repercussions for universities and education. Canada was not to be left behind in the elitist assault on democracy.

As William Carroll and Murray Shaw wrote in the journal Canadian Public Policy: “Integral to the rise and consolidation of neoliberal hegemony were the emergence of new centres of class-wide business activism and the retooling of established policy institutes along neoliberal lines.” A few major think tanks and policy institutes were integral to this approach for Canada. The Conference Board of Canada was founded in 1954 when the New York Conference Board opened an office in Montreal, later moved to Ottawa, and now one of the largest think tanks in Canada, linking academia, government and corporate elites. The Private Planning Association of Canada (PPAC) was founded in 1958 by members of the Canadian American Committee (CAC), “a group of business and labour leaders from Canada and the US” who were seeking closer and deeper ties between Canada and the United States, specifically in relation to trade. When the PPAC merged with the C.D. Howe Memorial Foundation in 1973, the C.D. Howe Institute was formed. The C.D. Howe Institute became a major force pushing for free trade agreements such as NAFTA, and by the mid-1990s, was portraying social programs as a major source of Canada’s economic problems.[10]

The Business Council on National Issues (BCNI) – now known as the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) – was founded to create consensus on policy issues among Canada’s top 150 CEOs, making it less of a think tank, and more of a “shadow government.” Founded in 1976 in order to bring together the corporate elite of Canada into forming a more long-term strategic position with the government, directly lobbying the state. The mandate of the Council is “to ensure that Canadian chief executives play an influential role in the international financial, trade, investment, environmental and foreign affairs domains.” Since the era of the Trudeau Liberals, politicians have come and gone from power, but the Council, “the voice and organizational embodiment of corporate rule, is a permanent presence.” Another major player is the Fraser Institute (FI), dedicated to mythical “free market” policies and neoliberalism, founded in 1973 with money from fifteen different mining executives, and is essentially a replica of the American Enterprise Institute in the United States. The Fraser Institute is perhaps the most quoted institution in the Canadian media, ensuring that its neoliberal ideology is firmly entrenched in popular ‘information’ (i.e., propaganda). One study from 1998 showed that over the course of a year, the left-wing think tank, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives was quoted in business news stories 16 times, while the Fraser Institute was quoted in over 140 stories.[11]

Today, Hélène Desmarais, wife of Paul Desmarais Jr., is on the board of the C.D. Howe Institute, alongside top officials from GE Canada, Manulife Canada, HSBC Canada, Enbridge, Barrick Gold, BMO Financial Group, and a number of other top financial and industrial corporations. Power Corporation is listed among the C.D. Howe Institute’s supporters, alongside other notable entities such as: Astral Media (a major media conglomerate), Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barrick Gold Corporation, BMO Financial Group, Bombardier, Canadian Bankers Association, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, CIBC, Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian Oil Sands Limited, Cargill Limited, CN, Deloitte & Touche LLP, Desjardins Group, Deutsche Bank, Enbridge, Encana, Ford Motor Company, HSBC, Google, Imperial Tobacco, JP Morgan, National Bank of Canada, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, RBC Financial Group, Rio Tinto Alcan, Scotiabank, Shell Canada, SNC Lavalin, Standard Life Financial, Swiss Bankers Association, TD Bank Group, and many others. The C.D. Howe Institute also gets a good deal of financial support from several Canadian universities, including Carelton, HEC Montréal, Laval, McMaster, Queen’s, Ryerson, Calgary, Lethbridge, Western Ontario, Université de Sherbrooke, U. of Alberta, UBC, Ottawa, Saskatchewan, U of T, and Wilfred Laurier University.[12]

Looking at Power

The board of directors of Power Corporation includes: Pierre Beaudoin, President and CEO of Bombardier; Marcel R. Coutu, President and CEO of Canadian Oil Sands Limited and Chairman of Syncrude Canada, director of Great-West Lifeco (owned by Power Corporation), and is a member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives; Laurent Dassault, Vice President of Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault (a Paris-based investment and financing company), and a director of a number of European companies, including SITA, Generali France, Kudelski, and the Banque Privée Edmond de Rothschild Europe (a major banking house owned by the Rothschild family); Guy Fortin, Vice Chairman of Sanpalo Investments, former senior partner at Ogilvy Renault, Chairman of the Canadian Tax Foundation; Anthony R. Graham, President of Wittington Investments, formerly with National Bank Financial Inc., Chairman of President’s Choice Bank, on the board of Power Financial, Loblaw Companies, George Weston Limited, Brown Thomas Group Ltd, Holt Renfrew & Co., the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Council for Business and the Arts in Canada, and is a member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives; Robert Gratton, former Chairman and CEO of Montreal Trust, director of Power Financial, member of the Harvard Business School Canadian Advisory Board, the Conference Board of Canada, the C.D. Howe Institute, and the Trilateral Commission; Isabelle Marcoux, Vice Chair of the board of Transcontinental Inc., on the boards of George Weston Ltd., Rogers Communications, the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal; Donald Mazankowski, director of Power Financial, former member of the Canadian House of Commons and member of Parliament for 25 years, former Canadian Minister of Transport, Deputy Prime Minister, President of the Queen’s Privy Council, and Government House Leader, and is a former member of the board of governors of the University of Alberta.

Other board members include: Raymond L. McFeetors, Vice Chairman of Power Financial and Chairman of Great-West Lifeco, a director of London Life, Canada Life Financial, Canada Life, Crown Life, IGM Financial, Investors Group, Mackenzie Financial, Putnam Investments; Jerry E. A. Nickerson, Chairman of Nickerson & Sons Ltd., director of several Power Corporation companies, honorary director of the Bank of Montreal; James R. Nininger, on the Board of Management of the Canada Revenue Agency (responsible for administering the tax laws of Canada and most of the provinces), on the board of Canadian Pacific Railway, former President and CEO of The Conference Board of Canada (a major research institute/think tank); R. Jeffrey Orr, President and CEO of Power Financial, a board member of several Power group subsidiaries, former Chairman and CEO of BMO Nesbitt Burns and Vice Chairman of the Bank of Montreal’s Investment Banking Group, and is a member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives; Robert Parizeau, Chairman of Aon Parizeau, Inc., director of National Bank Life Insurance Company, former Chairman of Gaz Métro, former director of Van Houtte, and director of the National Bank of Canada for over 20 years, and is a director of the Institute of Corporate Directors; Michel Plessis-Bélair, Vice Chairman of Power Corporation, director of several Power group subsidiaries, and a director of Lallemand Inc., Université de Montréal, Hydro-Québec, and is a member of the International Advisory Board of École des hautes etudes commerciales (HEC) of Montréal (Business School of Montreal); John A. Rae, director of a number of Power subsidiaries, a director of Fednav Ltd, BNP Paribas (Canada), McGill University Health Centre Foundation, former Executive Assistant to Jean Chrétien, National Campaign Chairman for Jean Chrétien’s 1984 and 1990 leadership campaigns, and Coordinator of the National Campaign of the Liberal Party of Canada for the 1993, 1997, and 2000 elections, and is also Chair Emeritus of the Board of Trustees of Queen’s University; Henri-Paul Rousseau, a director of several Power group subsidiaries, board member of the Global Financial Markets Association, former President and CEO of the Caisse de depot et placement du Québec (which manages public pensions for the province of Quebec), former President and CEO of the Laurentian Bank of Canada, former CEO of Boréal Assurances Inc., and former Senior VP of the National Bank of Canada; T. Timothy Ryan, Jr., President and CEO of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), the leading trade association representing global financial market participants, CEO of the Global Financial Markets Association (GFMA), a director of a number of Power subsidiaries, as well as a director of Lloyds Banking Group, Lloyds TSB Bank, HBOS, the Bank of Scotland, and the United States-Japan Foundation, formerly a top official with J.P. Morgan, is a private sector member of the Global Markets Advisory Committee for the U.S. National Intelligence Council (NIC), the Council which oversees all sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies; and Emoke J.E. Szathmary, President Emeritus of the University of Manitoba, former President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Manitoba, Provost and Vice President of McMaster University, and former Dean of the Faculty of Social Science of the University of Western Ontario, is currently a director of a number of Power subsidiaries, and is a director of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, and the Board of Governors of McMaster University.

And of course, we have the Desmarais family themselves, including Paul Desmarais Sr., Paul Desmarais Jr., who is not only a director of several Power subsidiaries, but is Vice Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of Pargesa, a director of Group Bruxelles Lambert, GDF Suez, Total, Lafarge, and is a member of the European Institute of Business Administration, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the International Economic Forum of the Americas, a trustee and Co-Chair of the International Advisory Council of the Brookings Institute, founder and member of the International Advisory Board of the McGill University Faculty of Management in Montreal, and the founder and member of the International Advisory Committee of HEC (business school) in Montreal. André Desmarais is not only on several Power subsidiaries, former Special Assistant to the Minister of Justice of Canada, a director of Pargesa in Europe, CITIC Pacific Ltd. in China, is a member of the Chairman’s International Advisory Council of the Americas Society (founded by David Rockefeller), and is Honorary Chairman of the Canada China Business Council.

As for Power Financial, while there is a great deal of overlap between the two boards, there are some unique names on the board of Power Financial. Among these are J. Brian Aune, President of Aldervest Inc., former Chairman of St. James Financial Corporation, is Governor Emeritus of Concordia University; V. Peter Harder, President of the Canada China Business Council, former Canadian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, former Deputy Minister of the Treasury Board, Solicitor General, Citizenship and Immigration, and Industry Canada, and is a director of IGM Financial, TimberWest, Telesat Canada, Energizer Resources, Northland Power, Pinetree Capital Ltd, and is an independent advisor to the Auditor General of Canada.

The Oligarchy of Education

Canada’s universities, like all universities, are governed by bankers and corporate executives, foundation officials, and think tank presidents, media moguls and millionaires. Given the current situation in Quebec, where hundreds of thousands of students have been taking to the streets in a strike against tuition increases, with over 200 protests in Montreal over the past three months alone, I will focus here on the two major English-speaking universities in the province: Concordia and McGill. This is important to focus on, simply because throughout this crisis, the university administrations have been claiming to be “neutral,” though they have actively set themselves against the students, filing legal injunctions against picketing, hiring private security firms to patrol the schools, and even calling in riot police to disperse striking youth. The schools have claimed to be neutral on the issue of tuition increases, though they have not – in any way – applied pressure or lobbying efforts on the government to reverse its position. In fact, it has been the exact opposite. When we look at who actually sits on the boards of the school administrations, it becomes clear that these are the very same elite who, in their various other social positions, lobby the government to increase the tuition, who sit on the boards of the banks that hand out student loans and charge exorbitant interest rates, who profit off the debt and poverty of the masses.

So let’s start with my own school: Concordia University.

The Chancellor of Concordia is L. Jacques Ménard, the President of BMO Financial Group, one of Canada’s largest banks, a director of Claridge Inc., and a director of the Institute for Research on Public Policy (a think tank promoting elite interests). The Chairman of the Board of Governors of Concordia is Peter Kruyt, President and CEO of Victoria Square Ventures, a director of La Presse (the largest French-language newspaper in Quebec), a director of Picchio Pharma Inc., a director of CITIC Pacific Ltd., Chairman of the Canada China Business Council, and a Vice President of Power Corporation, a company he has been working for since 1980 when he was Executive Assistant to the CEO, Paul Desmarais.

Norman Hébert, Jr.: CEO of Group Park Avenue Inc., former board member of Hyrdo-Québec, Chairman of the Board of Société des Alcools du Québec (SAQ, a provincial crown corporation which sells liquor).

Hélène F. Fortin: a director of Larose Fortin CA Inc., member of the Institute of Corporate Directors, former Assistant to the Vice President of Quebecor Inc. (a major media conglomerate), and a former director of CBC and Hydro-Québec.

Brian Edwards: founder of BCE Emergis, one of North America’s largest electronic commerce companies, Chairman of the Board of Miranda Technologies and Biotonix 2010 Inc., and is on the boards of Camoplast Inc. and Impath Networks Canada Corporation, and Transat AT.

Jean Pierre Desrosiers: on the boards of KPGM, Aéroports de Montréal and D-BOX Technologies Inc.

Rita Lc de Santis: a partner at Davies, Ward, Phillips & Vineberg, former member of The Italian Chamber of Commerce in Canada, Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montréal, Business Development Bank of Canada and Hydro-Québec.

James Cherry: President and CEO of Aéroports de Montréal, former executive with Bombardier, Oerlikon Aerospace Inc., CAE Inc. and ALSTOM Canada Inc.

Baljit Singh Chadha: Director of the Canada-India Business Council, Pesident and founder of Balcorp Ltd.

Charles Cavell: former President and CEO of Quebecor World Inc., former Chairman of the Board of Sun Media Corp, a director of Adaltis Inc., Novelis Inc.

Tim Brodhead: former President and CEO of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, former Executive Director of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC), past chair of Philanthropic Foundations Canada.

Joelle Berdugo Adler: founder of ONEXEONE, and CEO of Diesel Canada.

Jonathan Wener: President and CEO of Canderal (a major real estate investment company), a trustee of the Fraser Institute, member of the board of the Laurentian bank of Canada, Silanis Technologies, and former president of the Urban Development Institute of Canada.

Annie Tobias: former official at Deloitte & Touche

Michael Novak: Executive Vice President of SNC-Lavalin Group, a global engineering and defense contractor.

Marie-José Nadeau: Executive Vice President of Hydro-Québec, Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs and General Secretary at Cascades Fine Papers Group Inc, and is a director of Metro.

Andrew T. Molson: Chairman of the Board of Molson Coors Brewing Company, is a partner and chairman of RES PUBLICA Consulting Group, a Montreal-based holding and management company, is Chairman of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal and a director of The Montreal Canadiens, DundeeWealth Inc., Groupe Deschênes Inc. and Montréal International, and is president of the Molson Foundation.

Tony Meti: President of G.D.N.P. Consulting Services, Inc., a former Senior Vice President at National Bank Financial Group, a director of ADF Group, Saputo Inc.

Jacques Lyrette: Executive at Innovative Materials Technologies, former CEO of ADGA Inc., an engineering consulting company.

Arvind K. Joshi: CEO at St. Mary’s Hospital Center, member of the advisory board of the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University.

Suzanne Gouin: President and Chief Executive Officer, TV5 Québec Canada, former director of Hydro-Québec.

McGill University:

H. Arnold Steinberg: Chancellor of McGill University, formerly worked for Dominion Securities (now RBC – Royal Bank of Canada – Dominion Securities), has been a member of the boards of Bell Canada, Teleglobe, Provigo, National Bank of Canada.

Heather Munroe-Blum: Principal and Vice Chancellor of McGill, is on the board of the Internationalization Committee, and the Membership Committee of the Association of American Universities, a member of the Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC) of Canada, the U.S. National Research Council’s Committee on Research Universities, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Trilateral Commission, and is co-chair of the Private Sector Advisory Committee of the Ontario-Quebec Trade and Co-operation Agreement, on the boards of the Trudeau Foundation, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), Conférence de Montréal, and the Royal Bank of Canada. She has served on the boards of the Conference Board of Canada, Montreal Chamber of Commerce, Four Seasons Hotel, and Hydro One.

Stuart Cobbett: Managing Partner and Chief Operating Officer of Stikeman Elliott LLP, and is a Director of Citibank Canada.

Lili de Grandpré: founder of an organization strategy consulting firm, CenCEO Consulting, formerly with the Mercer Consulting Group and Bank of Montreal.

Michael Boychuk: President and CEO of Bimcor Inc., and is a member of the advisory board of Centennial Ventures, a U.S. private equity firm, former Senior Vice President and Treasurer of BCE Inc. and Bell Canada.

Gerald Butts: President and CEO of WWF-Canada.

Daniel Gagnier: former Chief of Staff to Quebec Premier Jean Charest, former VP at Alcan, former Chairman of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, current chairman of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, and a board member of the Asia-Pacific Foundation.

Banking on Power

In Canada, there are five major banks which dominate the national banking sector (and together wield enormous influence over Canada’s monetary system through the Bank of Canada). These banks are the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), the Bank of Montreal (BMO), Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD), the Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank), and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). To understand how these banks wield influence over Canada as a whole, it would be useful to examine the boards of directors of the banks, drawing the overlap of leadership between the ‘Big Five’ and Canada’s major corporations, think tanks, foundations, media and educational institutions. For the purpose of this report, I will simply take a look at the board of directors of the biggest bank: Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), and show how it overlaps with the other institutions which dominate our society.

W. Geoffrey Beattie: on the board of directors of General Electric (GE), President of the Woodbridge Company, a privately held investment holding company (the majority shareholder of Thomson Reuters, a major media conglomerate of which he is Deputy Chairman), and he is also a board member of Maple Leaf Foods Inc. and Chairman of CTV Globemedia, a major Canadian media conglomerate.

Richard L. George: President and CEO of Suncor Energy, on the board of the Canadian Pacific Railway, former Chairman and current board member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), was a member of the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC), which was formed in 2006 to advise North American governments on the process of ‘North American integration’.

Paule Gautier: the first woman president of the Canadian Bar Association, on the boards of Metro Inc., TransCanada Corporation, and Transcanada Pipelines, an associate member of the American Bar Association, and is on the board of CARE, a supposed “humanitarian” organization, and she was a former director of the Institut Québecois des Hautes Études Internationales at Laval University.

Timothy J. Hearn: former CEO of Imperial Oil Limited, former chairman of the C.D. Howe Institute (a major pro-business think tank) where he remains as a board member, former member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), is co-chair of a fundraising campaign for the University of Alberta and is chair of the fundraising campaign for Tyndale University, and is on the Advisory Board of the Public Policy School at the University of Calgary, a director of Viterra Inc., and is Chair of the board of directors of the Calgary Homeless Foundation.

Alice D. Laberge: former CEO of Fincentric, a current Commissioner of the Financial Institutions Commission, on the board of the Minerva Foundation, and a member of the Financial Executives Institute, and a former director of BC Hydro and Power Authority, and is on the board of directors of the University of British Columbia (UBC).

Jacques Lamarre: former President and CEO of SNC-Lavalin, a major global engineering, construction, and military contractor; is on the board of Suncor Energy, the founding member and former Chair of the Commonwealth Business Council, former Chairman of the board of directors of the Conference Board of Canada, a leader at the World Economic Forum, a former director of Canadian Pacific Railway, a member of the C.D. Howe Institute’s British North American Committee.

Brandt C. Louie: Chairman and CEO of H.Y. Louie Co. Limited, a food retail distribution company, Chairman of London Drugs Limited, Vice Chairman of IGA Canada Ltd., former Chancellor of Simon Fraser University (SFU), Governor of the Vancouver Board of Trade, Governor of the British Columbia Business Council, a member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), and is a member of the Dean’s Council of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and is a current director of the Gairdner Foundation. He is also a board member of the World Economic Forum, Grosvenor (a property company), and the Fraser Institute, a major right-wing pro-business think tank.

Michael H. McCain: President and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods Inc., Chairman of the Canada Bread Company, board member at the American Meat Institute, the Richard Ivey School of Business Advisory Board, a member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), and a former director of Bombardier Inc.

Heather Munroe-Blum: the Principal and Vice Chancellor of McGill University, board member of the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board, a member of the Trilateral Commission, has attended meetings of the Bilderberg Group, is co-chair of the Private Sector Advisory Committee of the Ontario-Quebec Trade and Co-operation Agreement, on the board of the Trudeau Foundation, and is on the board of the Conférence de Montréal (the International Economic Forum of the Americas), which is chaired by Paul Desmarais Jr.; and she has also been on the boards of the Conference Board of Canada, Montreal Chamber of Commerce, Four Seasons Hotel, and Hydro One.

Gordon Nixon: President and CEO of the Royal Bank of Canada, a director and past Chairman of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), on the board of directors of the International Monetary Conference, and has been on the boards of Daimler/Chrysler, Catalyst, EnCana Corporation, and Queen’s University School of Business; is a director of the Institute of International Finance and has attended Bilderberg Group meetings.

David P. O’Brien: Chairman of the Board of the Royal Bank of Canada, Chairman of EnCana Corporation, a director of Enerplus Corporation, Molson Coors Brewing Company, and TransCanada Corporation; he is also the Chancellor of Concordia University, and is on the board of the C.D. Howe Institute. He was the former Chairman and CEO of Canadian Pacific Limited.

J. Pedro Reinhard: a director of the Colgate-Palmolive Company, a director of Sigma-Aldrich Corporation, a chemical company; former Executive Vice President and Dow Chemical Company, is a former board member of the Coca-Cola Company, and is President of Reinhard & Associates, a financial advisory practice.

Edward Sonshine: was President, CEO and a director of RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust, Chairman and a director of Chesswood Income Fund, and is Vice Chairman and a director of Mount Sinai Hospital.

Kathleen P. Taylor: President of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, is a director of The Hospital for Sick Children Foundation, a cabinet member of the United Way of Greater Toronto and a member of the Industry Real Estate Financing Advisory Council of the American Hotel and Motel Association and the International Advisory Council of the Schulich School of Business of York University.

Bridget A. van Kralingen: Senior Vice President of IBM, and was Managing Partner of Deloitte Consulting, and is a member of the board of advisors at Catalyst Inc.

Victor L. Young: a director of Imperial Oil Ltd., former Chairman and CEO of Fishery Products International Limited, and is a current board member of McCain Foods, former Chairman and CEO of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, and was a director at BCE Inc. (Bell Canada).

Our Parasitic Elite

Canada’s elite, like all elites, are parasitic to the social good and wellbeing of the people. They own the banks and financial institutions, own our central bank which sets the interest rates, gives loans and collect on debt, pushing people deeper into servitude and slavery; poverty as punishment. They control our media, which shapes our views and ‘opinions,’ they sit on the boards of our universities, putting future generations into debt before they have a chance at life, and control the ‘knowledge economy’ for which they have defined the purpose of education. They influence and control our governments and political leaders, sit on the boards of the think tanks that write policy and promote political agendas, they run the foundations and claim themselves to be benevolent philanthropists, when philanthropy is at best, moral masturbation for the wealthy, a way to feel good about their vast disparity of wealth, and at its more organized levels, is simply a means through which to engage in social engineering and social control: to give a little in order to continue taking so much. The profit off of the foreign wars our country wages and supports, blood plunderers of the Congo, Afghanistan, and Libya. The Canadian elite rule the country as a proxy for the American Empire, acting as a resource suction-cup for the behemoth below us, providing the United States with most of its oil, water, electricity, and timber. These rapacious parasites claim they hold the answers to the crises they cause and profit from; a super-class which can only be understood as a sprawling, venomous, and vacuous social succubus.

With a massive student movement in Quebec nearing its fourth month of strikes against tuition increases, the media has set against them in a massive propaganda campaign, the legal system has set against them in declaring injunctions against picketing students, the provincial state has dismissed, derided, and engaged in fallacious negotiations designed only to win public sympathy for the government, while the police have been incredibly oppressive against the youth: employing pepper spray, tear gas, smoke bombs, concussion grenades, beatings with batons, mass arrests, shooting students in the face with rubber bullets, and a disturbing trend of driving police cars and trucks into crowds of students. These are images you expect from a military dictatorship like Egypt, but not from a supposed “democracy” like Canada. In the midst of this social upheaval and state repression, the propaganda campaign against the students has been so successful that the majority of public opinion stands with the government and against the youth. Through every institution, and with every means made available, the elite have set themselves against the student movement. It is time the students and Canada at large recognize our elite for what they are: parasites!

While this rhetoric is perhaps a little inflammatory, it remains apt. A parasite is much smaller than its host, and it benefits at the expense of the host, changing its behaviour and health. The word “parasite” comes from the Latin word parasitus which is itself derived from the Greek word, parasitos, meaning, “one who eats at the table of another.” The elite have been eating at our table for far too long. They have long over-stayed their welcome. It’s time to make it known that we have no patience or place for them at our table any longer. This will not be easy, this will not be simple; this will take a long time and a great deal of effort. But if we don’t start now, if we don’t begin to take and create a society of, by, and for the people (what was once referred to as ‘democracy’), then elite parasitism will continue to sap the strength, health, environment, wealth, and the very hope and lives of future generations. They will continue to spread like a social cancer until the host is dead.

The youth are always told that the future is ours, but that remains up to us to make it so. The past and the present belong to the parasites, so if we do not stand up and struggle now and forever, we have no future to inherit, no world in which to grow and no hope in which to gaze. We have only debt bondage, state violence, table scraps, impoverishment, punishment, and oppression. The youth in Quebec are trying to just begin to stand up, to say ‘No More!’ and demand for themselves and others a chance at a future. The success of the strike is secondary to the newly-discovered strength of the students. They have been dismissed and derided, insulted and oppressed, from the left and the right, from so-called Progressives and self-congratulating Libertarians. Because the students do not articulate the same philosophy as those of other critics, they are presented as naïve and ‘entitled.’ Those who insult and deride without empathy or understanding only expose their own naivety.

The fundamental and historical importance of the present situation in Québec is not the cost of tuition, it’s the mass mobilization of youth: it is an expression of a popular and growing dissatisfaction with the way things are and an articulation and drive to create something different, to chart a course for the way things can be. Those who fail to see and recognize that, fail to see the development of progress through history, not immediate, but evolving, not instant, but incremental and persistent. If nothing else, this generation can look back and say, “At least we tried. At least we started.”

What will you look back and say?

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 BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Notes

[1]            Christa d’Souza, The art of being Louise MacBain, The Telegraph, 26 June 2004:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/3619575/The-art-of-being-Louise-MacBain.html

[2]            Konrad Yakabuski, Like Father, like sons?, The Globe and Mail, 26 March 2006:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/like-father-like-sons/article170466/singlepage/#articlecontent

[3]            Ibid.

[4]            Ibid.

[5]            Marianne White, “Author delivers high-voltage critique of Paul Desmarais Sr. — the man behind Power Corp,” Ottawa Citizen, 21 October 2008:

http://www2.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=2e3cff7f-05a2-44fc-afc1-616c5c40f64f

[6]            Ian Austen, “The Name Is ‘Power’ and It Fits,” The New York Times, 26 January 2007:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/26/business/26fund.html?_r=1

[7]            Lisa Kassenaar, “Desmarais family keeps a low profile,” Edmonton Journal, 1 August 2009:

http://www2.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/business/story.html?id=b40b4563-fe56-4612-920d-a66e9e7da838

[8]            Lisa Kassenaar, “Buffett Loses to Desmarais as Power Exceeds Return,” Bloomberg, 30 July 2009:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aEl4wizkuSTQ

[9]            Christinne Muschi, “Great-West Lifeco helps boost profit at Power Financial,” Reuters, 14 March 2012:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/great-west-lifeco-helps-boost-profit-at-power-financial/article2368991/print/

Kevin Dougherty, “Sabia-Desmarais meeting was “friendly”, not lobbying, Caisse de dépôt says,” Montreal Gazette, 7 February 2012:

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Sabia+Desmarais+meeting+friendly+lobbying+Caisse+d%C3%A9p%C3%B4t+says/6116318/story.html

[10]            William K. Carroll and Murray Shaw, “Consolidating a Neoliberal Policy Bloc in Canada, 1976 to 1996,” Canadian Public Policy (Vol. 27, No. 2, June 2001), pages 196-200.

[11]            William K. Carroll and Murray Shaw, “Consolidating a Neoliberal Policy Bloc in Canada, 1976 to 1996,” Canadian Public Policy (Vol. 27, No. 2, June 2001), pages 200-202.

[12]            C.D. Howe Institute, Members and Supporters: http://www.cdhowe.org/members-and-supporters

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

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

Tuition Hikes, Student Strikes, Police Batons, and Teargas Bombs

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

The following is Part 6 of the series, “Class War and the College Crisis.”

The “red square” symbol of the Québec student movement

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

Part 5: Canada’s Economic Collapse and Social Crisis

In Montréal, where I live, and across the Canadian province of Québec, there is a growing and expanding student movement which emerged as a strike in February against the provincial government’s plan to increase the cost of university tuition by $325 per year for the next five years, for a total of $1,625. The students have been seeking and demanding a halt to the tuition hike in order to keep higher education accessible, a concept that the province of Québec alone has held onto with greater strength than any other province in Canada. The government continues to dismiss and deride the students, meeting their protests with batons, teargas bombs, and mass arrests. The universities in Québec are complicit with the government in their repression of students and the struggle for basic democratic rights, bringing in private security firms to patrol and harass students in the schools. While the university administrations claim they are ‘neutral’ on the issue of tuition hikes, privately, the boards of governors are made up of bankers and business executives who lobby the government to increase tuition. After all, in April of 2007 – five years ago – Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD Bank Group), 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.”[1]

The movement is becoming more radicalized, more activated, and is consistently met with more state repression. Almost daily, it seems, there are protests all over the city, drawing in other social organizers and activists in solidarity. The little red square patch – the symbol of the Québec student strike – is adorned across the province of Québec and the city of Montréal and on the jackets and bags of a large percentage of its residents. The city and the province, it seems, are at the forefront of a youth-driven social struggle, a growing and rumbling resistance movement. As the issues spread from tuition hikes to a more broad conception of social justice, the movement has the potential to grow both within and far beyond Québec. If the situation continues as it has until present, already the longest student strike in Québec’s history, with increased activism and accelerated state repression, it is not inconceivable to imagine a growing student-led social rebellion by the end of the summer. As the economic situation in Canada – and indeed, the world – continues to get worse for the people of the world (as opposed to the corporations and banks, who are doing very well!), the momentum behind the current student movement has the potential to spill across Québec’s borders into the rest of Canada, with some people referring to this as the beginnings of the ‘Québec Spring,’ or the ‘Maple Spring.’

Protest in Montréal

Emotions are running high in Québec, and increasingly, the government and the Canadian media are presenting the protesters as violent and destructive, and framing the debate in a misleading context, presenting the students as whining about “entitlements.” The rest of Canada is especially fed a line of intellectual excrement, repeating the same invalid and misleading arguments ad nauseum. This article seeks to present the issues of the strike, and the actions of protesters and the government into a wider context, so that other young Canadians (and youth around the world) may understand what is truly taking place, what is truly being struggled for, what the government and media are doing to stop it, the absurdity of the arguments against the students, and the need for this movement to spread beyond this province, to let this truly be the dawn of the ‘Maple Spring.’

Entitlements and Social Justice: Putting the Protests in Context

The most commonly spewed argument against the student protests – and for the tuition increases – emanating from the ‘stenographers of power’ (the media) and others, is that the students are complaining about their supposed ‘right’ to entitlements for cheap education. Québec has the cheapest university tuition in Canada (for residents of the province), and even with the tuition increases, it will still remain among the cheapest nation-wide. Thus, claims the media, there is no rational basis for the complaints and strike. The argument is, however, based upon the fallacious argument that, “the rest of Canada does it, so why not Québec?” In Québec’s history, however, the claim that “the rest of Canada does it” has never been an argument that has won the sympathy of residents of Canada’s French-speaking province. This argument, however, goes beyond a cultural difference between Québec and English-speaking Canada. The most basic problem with this line of thinking is that what is taking place in the rest of Canada is something to aspire to, that because the rest of Canada has higher tuition costs, this is not something to struggle against. When placed in context, we are left with the conclusion that the rest of Canada should be following the example of the students in Québec, not the other way around. So let’s break down the numbers.

Currently, the average yearly cost of tuition for Québec residents is $2,519. With the projected increases of $325 over five years (for a total of $1,625), the annual cost would reach roughly $4,000. The province of Ontario has the highest tuition costs in the country, which has also increased over the past four years from $5,388 to $6,640, an increase of 23% between 2008 and 2012. Québec’s proposed 75% increase over the next five years would mean that Newfoundland would have the lowest tuition in Canada, at $2,649 per year. Québec, while currently the cheapest in Canada, has already undergone a number of tuition hikes in recent years. While maintaining a tuition freeze between 1994 and 2007, while the rest of Canada had consistent hikes, Québec premier Jean Charest introduced a five-year tuition hike of $100 per year between 2007 and 2012. So the reality is that Jean Charest has undertaken and is attempting to undertake a 10-year tuition hike for a total of $2,125 in additional costs, more than doubling what tuition cost in 2007, prior to the onset of the global economic crisis.[2]

So, what does this have to do with the rest of Canada? Let’s pretend, for a moment, that the argument that “the rest of Canada does it” is a valid one. So let’s look at what the rest of Canada actually does, and therefore, if this is something which should be accepted and promoted, instead of struggled against. An article in the Kamloops Daily News pointed out that the average tuition cost in Canadian schools is $5,000, while Québec currently has roughly half that cost. Thus, stated the author, “despite all the whining and crying coming from post-secondary students in Quebec, it’s hard — really hard — to feel sorry for them.” Describing the students like children throwing a tantrum for lack of getting what they want – “kicking up a fuss” – the author contends that since we’re not in a “perfect world,” tuition has to be increased. This line of thinking is, of course, beyond ignorant. Its premise is that because we don’t live in a “perfect world,” there is no basis for trying to struggle for a “better world.” I suppose that black Americans in a liberation struggle in the 1950s, 60s and 70s should have just listened to those who claimed that, “hey, it’s not a perfect world, accept your place in it!” Or perhaps gays and lesbians should just accept that it’s “not a perfect world,” so, why bother attempting to attain rights? Or, for that matter, just tell women to get back in the kitchen. After all, it’s not a “perfect world,” so there’s really no point in trying to make it better, in trying to achieve even small victories along the way. With this absurd argument out of the way, it is true that Québec has roughly half the tuition costs as the rest of Canada. As well as this, Québec students have less student debt than the rest of Canada, at roughly $13,000, also nearly half as what the rest of Canada has. The author of the absurd article contends, therefore, that the real reason for the strike is that, “like a lot of things in Quebec, the sense of entitlement seems to have become a normal part of the culture.”[3]

Now, think about this for a moment. Let’s put this in its proper context. The average tuition for students in Québec is $2,500, and the average debt for Québec students is $13,000. On the other hand, the average tuition costs for Canadian students is $5,000, with the average debt for Canadian students at $27,000. Is this really something to aspire to? Is this really the type of “equality” that we should want, that we should accept, or adhere to? Is it really a valid argument in stating that since the rest of Canadian students pay excessive tuition costs and graduate with absurd debts, that we should too? Especially important in this equation is the current condition for students and youth in Canada today, where upon graduating with an average of $27,000 (a national average, which, by the way, is kept lower due to Quebec’s lower fees), and “once they complete their degrees, there are fewer jobs around that pay the kind of money that allows grads to seriously whittle away at their debt.” This massive debt for students in Canada “is bankrupting a generation of students,” explained the Globe and Mail. It’s not simply the money which is being borrowed, but the interest rates being paid, varying from province to province at between 5 and 9 percent. Interest rates, more over, are expected to increase, and thus, the cost of the debt will increase, and with that, so too will youth poverty increase.[4]

With tuition hikes to add to that, the debt burden will become greater. So not only will the average interest payments on student debt increase with more student debt required to pay for tuition, but the interest rates themselves will increase. What this translates into is class warfare. Thus, the argument that “the rest of Canada does it, so stop complaining,” is akin to saying, “Everyone else is screwed, doomed to be a ‘lost generation’, so stop complaining that we’re throwing you to the wolves too!” Since debt essentially amounts to a form of slavery, let’s use the example of slavery itself to look at this argument. Let’s build a premise of ten slave plantations, one of which is made of indentured slaves (meaning that they will be freed after a set amount of time), and the other nine consist of absolute slavery (from birth to death). Indentured slavery, while not desirable, is better than absolute slavery from birth to death. So, if the plantation owners begin to change the system of slavery of the unique plantation from indentured to life-time slavery, and the indentured slaves revolt, the plantation owners would then argue, “All nine other plantations operate under that system, stop complaining.” Is this a legitimate argument? So when Québec’s student-slave plantation owners tell us that, “the rest of Canada does it,” what they’re really saying is that they want to enslave us in debt and plunge us into a poverty of future opportunities to the same degree that exists in the rest of Canada. And when we fight against this, they say we are “whining and crying” about “entitlements.”

Québec students, themselves, are not living the easy life, as the picture is often painted. A study from November of 2010 put to shame these notions, based upon surveys of students in 2009, and thus, before the $500 tuition increase that ended in 2012, meaning that the numbers are likely much worse today. Half of all full-time students in Québec live on less than $12,200 per year, significantly below the national poverty line. To add to that, 25% of full-time students live on less than $7,400 per year. This data includes the amounts that students get in government loans, leading the president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (University Student Federation of Quebec), Louis-Philippe Savoie, to comment, “Imagine the disastrous effect that raising tuition fees by the Charest government” would then have on the students. The largest source of finances for students does not come from government loans, but from working: part-time students work more, and have less debt, with their work accounting for 83% of their financing; full-time students have more debt, but still 55% of their financing comes from working, and over 80% of full-time students work an average of 18.8 hours per week. Thus, Savoie noted, “The portrait of the lazy student is totally false.” The second largest source of financial support for students is from parents, accounting for 22%, with 60% of full-time students getting support from their parents and families, while 23% of part-time students get financial support from their parents, accounting for a total of 7% of their total financing. Roughly 60% of full-time students in Québec will go into debt, averaging at around $14,000, with student loans making up the majority of that debt, as 44.5% of full-time students have government loans, 23.4% take out bank loans or credit lines, and 22.1% take on credit card debt. The study further showed that 46.6% of part-time students will even end up in debt, averaging at $11,500. The report concluded that the government should freeze tuition and increase financial assistance.[5] Over one year later, the government announced a 75% increase in tuition costs.

To Strike and Strike Down!

By April 26, 2012, the student strike – the longest in Québec’s history – had lasted 72 days and had a running total of 160 different protests, hundreds of people arrested, multiple injuries, and still the government stands stubborn in its refusal to even enter a negotiation with the students in good faith. As a result of the government’s intransigence to democratic appeals, some have taken to acts of violence and destruction. Bricks have been tossed off a downtown overpass, and onto the tracks of the Montréal metro system, leading to road and metro closures. Cars and businesses in downtown are left with broken windows and shattered debris, the remnants of protests in which police invariably turn to oppression and brutality. As the government and police become more repressive, the issue becomes less and less about tuition, and develops a wider social position. Thus, the nomenclature has begun to change from “student strike” to “Québec Spring” – or “Maple Spring” emblematic of “a broader, international Occupy-style fight for a new economic order.” In French, ‘Maple Spring’ is translated as “Printemps Érable,” with érable being very close to the French word for ‘Arab,’ thus drawing an even closer dialectical connection with the ‘Arab Spring.’ One student commented, “A lot of people have stopped calling it a student movement; now it’s a social movement, and I think that it affects people in a much deeper way than just tuition fees.” Another student added, “the whole protest is against the neoconservative and neoliberal point of view of doing politics… People in Quebec are using this movement as a means of venting against the current government.”[6]

In March of 2011, Québec’s Finance Minister under the Liberal Jean Charest government announced the tuition hikes of $325 per year, over five years. In August of 2011, students began campaigning against the tuition hikes, with a large peaceful rally held in Montréal in November, establishing a “common front” of student groups attempting to apply democratic pressure against the government. On February 13, 2012, the strike officially began, with several student groups voting in favour of a walk out. The decisions in the student group are, after all, made democratically, unlike the decisions of the government.

On February 23, students occupied a downtown bridge, and were subsequently pepper-sprayed by police. During a protest on March 7, one student, Francis Grenier, almost lost an eye due to a police stun grenade. On March 21, student tactics changed – as the government refused to even consider negotiations – and were now seeking to disrupt the economy in order to be heard. One group of students occupied the busy city Champlain Bridge in Montréal during rush hour, leading to each student involved being fined $494. On March 22, a massive rally of students from around the province took place in Montréal, drawing hundreds of thousands of students and supporters. The government again refused to negotiate or even consider changing its position. Line Beauchamp, the Quebec [Mis]Education Minister, had the outside of her Montréal office painted red – the symbolic colour of the protests – as she continued to deride the protests and refuse to negotiate with the students. On April 16, the city’s subway (metro) system was shut down in a number of places as some individuals (who remain unidentified) tossed bags of rocks onto the metro tracks at a number of different stations. On April 18 and 19, over 300 people were arrested in the city of Gatineau, Québec, in a confrontation with police at a local university campus. On April 20 and 21, as Jean Charest was attending a job fair, speaking to an audience of business leaders in promoting his ‘Plan Nord’ (Plan North) which seeks to provide government funds to subsidize multi-million and multi-billion dollar mining corporations to exploit the mineral resources of northern Québec, had his speech interrupted by protests. Outside the convention centre, protesters clashed with police, leading to the arrests of over 100 people.[7]

Francis Grenier, who almost lost his eye

In what was described by the Globe and Mail as Jean Charest’s “Marie Antoinette moment,” as tear gas filled the streets with students fleeing the riot police protecting the comfortable lap-dog-to-the-rich premier inside the convention centre, Charest, speaking at a business lunch with his real constituency (the wealthy elite), joked, “we could offer them a job … in the North, as far as possible.”[8]

Jean Charest, when he paused from making jokes about giving jobs to students “as far as possible” in the North, commented that, “[t]his is 2012, this is Quebec. We have had ministers find tanks of gas on their verandas… Molotov cocktails in front of their offices. There are ministers who have had death threats.” He added, “I find it unacceptable that one student association refuses to condemn violence,” referring to C.L.A.S.S.E (the largest and most militant of the student groups). Meanwhile, as Charest joked and complained, students were being brutalized by police just outside his conference meeting, with tear gas and concussion grenades being tossed at Québec’s youth by riot police. Charest declared social disruption to be “unacceptable,” but apparently state repression and violence is therefore, totally acceptable.[9]

With Jean Charest’s ‘Marie Antoinette moment’ during his conference of congratulating Quebec’s business elite on their new government subsidization from his administration (the latest Québec budget allocated massive funds for mining companies), protests continued outside, with students setting up barricades “made from construction site materials and restaurant patio furniture to impede the circulation of police,” and so of course, the police “responded with stun grenades, pepper spray and batons.” As the violence erupted, Charest was inside making more jokes to his real constituents, stating, “[t]he (event) that we’re holding today is very popular. People are running all over the place to get in.” The crowd of businessmen erupted in laughter and applause. Charest added, “It’s an opportunity for job hunters.” The spokesperson for the student group, CLASSE, replied to the premier’s contemptuous comments, stating, “all my calls for calm won’t do anything… He’s laughing at us. I don’t know if he realizes were in a crisis right now.”[10]

The Schools Side Against the Students

The schools themselves have been participating in the repression of student strikes. Injunctions were issued to protesters, demanding that they permit other students to attend their classes and exams. The legal injunctions declared that those who were not attending classes were not considered to be participating in a legitimate strike. After the injunctions were issued, and two days after the school’s director demanded classes resume, student protesters blocked the entrance to College de Valleyfield, with hundreds blocking the main doors to the school. The school director threatened students that if they did not return to class they would fail the semester. The director, however, canceled the classes in order to avoid a physical confrontation with protesters. Education minister Line Beauchamp then reminded schools that, “they are legally obliged to provide courses.” Premier Charest, who was in Brazil at the time, again serving corporate interests on a trade mission, suggested the possibility of “forcing the schools to open.” He added, “We leave to each institution the task of taking the decisions they must make based on several criteria that include safety as well as the management of their establishments.”[11]

At Concordia University, protesters also blocked the entrance doors, preventing other students and teachers from entering the building during exams. The school responded by calling in the riot police to ‘remove’ the protesters, with fights breaking out between various students, and police then began “intervening” with pepper spray. The University of Montreal won a court injunction which banned protests from assembling on the school campus. The school informed students that, “all individuals must refrain from blocking access to campus buildings, individual classrooms, and even parking lots. Protesters are also banned from taking any action that interferes with classes, campus services or meetings.”[12]

Protest at Concordia University

Striking students at McGill University delivered a letter to University President Heather Munroe-Blum, signed by many students, professors, staff and student groups, asking the school to accommodate striking students with finding alternatives to exams or issuing ‘Incompletes’ for classes. Munroe-Blum was not present to accept the letter, with her chief of staff accepting the letter on her behalf, stating that Munroe-Blum had “University business off campus.” Perhaps she was running errands for the Royal Bank of Canada, whose board of directors she also sits on. Concordia University has also shown significant opposition to the strike. The chancellor of Concordia, incidentally, is also on the board of directors of the Bank of Montreal. Concordia, facing demands from striking students to accommodate the strike, replied: “The university’s position has been the same from the beginning, and it’s not going to change.” Students who are involved in the strike, stated a Concordia spokesperson, are “accepting the risks.” She added, “[t]hose who choose not to attend exams when exams are being held, they know the consequences… There’s just nothing more we can add.” A CLASSE representative referred to the situation of the striking students at Concordia, numbering in the thousands, “Unfortunately, since the start of the conflict [they] have faced an intransigent and undemocratic attitude in their talks with their administration.” Some of the French-speaking schools had been making accommodations for striking students, but none were to be found at the English-speaking schools, where there are fewer strikers and more elitist administrators. The CLASSE representative, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, commented that, “[o]ur coalition and our militants will be there on the campus to help the students, to help the strikers, in order to make their democratic-mandated strike respected.”[13]

Concordia University has also responded to the strike by hiring a private security firm to patrol the school. On March 26, there was a clash between striking students and security guards as the school took a harsh stance against picketing students. Some students were taking part in a sit-in on the 7th floor of the school, while others were being harassed by seven security guards on the 4th floor. Geography students were blocking the entrance to their classroom when security guards showed up, purportedly to ensure “there would be no incident,” while intimidating the students and filming them. One student who was present commented, “What happened at the classrooms so far was very calm and very peaceful. The presence of security guards is creating a really uncomfortable environment on campus. It’s really unnecessary and it feels like students are being prosecuted.” The previous week, the school had sent emails out to all of its students, “warning about consequences for students who choose to continue blocking access to classes, which could include formal charges.” The geography teacher who was supposed to teach the class then cancelled it, telling the security guards that there weren’t enough students to continue the class. The professor commented, “I just think that I’m in a really difficult position because I respect what the students have democratically chosen to do… But the picket wouldn’t permit me to pass through anyway and there weren’t enough students that were in the classroom to hold the class.” Earlier that same day, a student who was filming an argument between security guards and students “was struck in the face by one of the security guards, throwing the camera out of her hands and onto the ground.” The incident was filmed, and after the camera was thrown to the ground, the student asked the security guard for his name “for hitting a student,” after which he walked away.[14]

As it turned out, the security official that hit the student in the face “was discovered not to be in possession of a valid security permit, according to a letter sent by the Concordia security department.” The student who had been assaulted had filed a request for information from the director of Concordia University Security, to which she received a letter response informing her that the assaulting guard – hired by the school from the private firm of Maximum Security Inc. – did not possess a security license, adding, “Given the fact that he is not a licensed security agent […] we are not legally permitted to release his name.” Concordia Student Union (CSU) VP Chad Walcott commented, “It would be very concerning if we are being blocked access to any information about the assault of a student… Having unlicensed security staff on campus is completely unacceptable.” The student who was hit told the school newspaper that, “[t]hese kind of accidents are likely to happen again… That’s what happens when you start hiring a large number of security guards for political purposes on campus when they’re not trained to do it.”[15]

CSU VP Chad Walcott later commented: “The university told us on [March 30] that this person was under review… Then we found out that he wasn’t even licensed at all, which leads me to believe that the university lied to us, or they themselves were lied to… Every security agent that is on the university premises is supposed to be a licensed individual. These individuals are also all supposed to be providing students with licenses when requested, and to fail to do so is a violation of the Private Security Act.” As section four of Quebec’s Private Security Act stipulates, “Any person operating an enterprise that carries on a private security activity must hold an agency license of the appropriate class.”[16]

Meanwhile, in late April, the Canadian Parliament – with the Conservative Party in power – are attempting to pass a bill entitled, “Bill C-26: The Citizen’s Arrest and Self Defence Act,” which “clarifies” laws around citizen’s arrests, and according to the Canadian Bar Association, “will grant greater powers to private security agencies” which “will give poorly trained ‘rent-a-cops’ greater latitude to arrest Canadians.” An official at the Canadian Bar Association warned that, “Such personnel often lack the necessary range of equipment or adequate training to safely and lawfully make arrests in a manner proportionate to the circumstances.” The only MP in Parliament to oppose the bill was Elizabeth May of the Green Party, who stated that it would be a “very big gift to the private security companies… The constitution of this country is governed by the concept of peace, order and good government… This stuff goes off in a wacky new direction, and it worries me.”[17]

The Concordia University email sent to students declared that it was “no longer possible to tolerate further disruption of university activities by a minority of protesters who refuse to respect the rights of others,” though apparently it is okay to tolerate harassment by private security guards. The university informed students that those who choose to picket will be asked for their IDs by the private security goons, “and will be reported to a panel to face the appropriate charges,” while those who refuse to provide ID “will have their pictures taken in order to be identified.” The school declared that, “[t]he charges will depend on the severity of the case but it could go from a written reprimand to expulsion.” A Concordia spokesperson stated, “[t]he university will only target students who are physically blocking access to classrooms and offices. We received complaints and we need to make sure our community has the liberty of movement. Blocking the Guy Metro building [the previous week] for example was unacceptable.” The Concordia Student Union and Graduate Student’s Association replied to the school’s email, stating, “Students will not be intimidated.” Both organizations referred to the school’s email as “dangerous” and “irresponsible,” presenting picketers as aggressive, when “in reality [their actions] have been consistently characterized by a lighthearted, peaceful, and creative nature, with very few incidents.” A student union official stated, “[t]heir message is calling for a profiling of students and a general discrimination against protesters and picketers. We think that it is highly unacceptable.” The same official added that, “We actually sat with the university administration to tell them that this email would only create conflictual relations between students and the university… We were basically told that the university did not care if things went out of hand.”[18]

Negotiations in Good Faith…? Not With Beauchamp! 

In late April, the [Mis]Education Minister, Line Beauchamp, suggested that the government would agree to discussions with the students. She ensured, however, that the talks would be cancelled before they began, by demanding that the more radical, and most active student organization – C.L.A.S.S.E. – be refused the opportunity to engage in the discussions. Why? CLASSE was branded as “radical” (assuming ‘radical’ is a bad term to begin with) because it refused to come outright in denouncing violence at the protests, though there has never been any condemnation of police brutality and repression from the government, so it’s apparently a contradictory position. Moreover, Beauchamp, accustomed to operating in an authoritarian manner, empty of any notion of democratic governance, demanded that CLASSE do as she said before they could be invited to discussions with a government that had, until late April, refused to discuss the issue with hundreds of thousands of students demanding it. Beauchamp delivered an undemocratic ultimatum, stating that she would only speak with two of the three student associations involved, which together represent 53% of striking students. The student organization, CLASSE, which represents 47% of the 175,000 striking students, held a press conference in response, saying “Beauchamp’s decision was unacceptable and that there can’t be a solution to the dispute without CLASSE’s involvement.” A spokesperson for CLASSE commented, “She can’t marginalize half of the people on strike,” and accused Beauchamp of attempting to “divide and conquer” the student movement. CLASSE was not even involved in the violence that took place, and as the organization acts and makes decisions in a democratic manner, it cannot respond to authoritarian ultimatums from a woman who has no consideration for democratic methods.[19]

Education Minister Line Beauchamp

Despite Beauchamp’s authoritarian ultimatum, the other student groups remained in solidarity with CLASSE and refused to meet with the [Dis]Honourable Beauchamp unless CLASSE was present. CLASSE announced that they could only denounce the violence if the members voted on it, since the leaders of the organization (unlike those of the government) must make decisions based upon the democratic wishes of their constituents, not their personal pandering to the financial elite. Of course, the refusal by CLASSE to follow the immediate demands of Beauchamp incurred the continued denunciation of the organization by the government and its media lap-dogs like the Montreal Gazette, responsible for possibly the most deriding, rag-like, yellow-journalism-inspired newspaper coverage of the protests to date. However, on April 22, CLASSE addressed its constituents (unlike the government) and they took a vote in which they unanimously condemned the violence, stating: “The position we took to last night was to clearly denounce and condemn any act of deliberate physical violence towards individuals… As a progressive and democratic organization, we cannot subscribe to those actions.” The spokesperson for CLASSE added, however, that civil disobedience will continue: “We think that the principle of civil disobedience has made Quebec civil society a little bit more just and little bit more free than other societies.” Beauchamp replied to the announcement, clearly confused about the difference between civil disobedience (the likes of which was praised and practiced by peaceful non-violent leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King) and acts of violence. Beauchamp addressed her own lack of education in stating, “We all need to act in good faith. If social and economic disruptions continue, the students who endorse them will be excluding themselves from talks.” So where previously it was the refusal to denounce violence that would result in exclusion of talks, and since that requirement was met, the demand changed to refusal to denounce “social and economic disruptions,” which is the entire basis of civil disobedience, strikes, and protests. So, essentially, Beauchamp is demanding that the student organizations denounce their cause before they meet… to discuss their cause.[20]

The last strikes that took place in Quebec in 2005 were successfully divided using the same strategy as Beauchamp attempted. However, as her tactical failure was evident, the divide and conquer effort clearly was not working on Québec students anymore, who remained in solidarity with one another. The government then agreed to sit down to negotiations with the student groups in late April. The talks came to a quick end on April 25, as Line Beauchamp admonished CLASSE for sponsoring a protest the previous night which ended in violence, vandalism, and injuries. Beauchamp commented that, “We cannot pretend today that they have dissociated themselves. I consider, therefore, that the CLASSE has excluded itself from the negotiation table.” A CLASSE spokesperson replied, “Madame Beauchamp does not want to talk about the tuition hike… This decision by Madame Beauchamp is obviously another strategy to sabotage the discussions… Madame Beauchamp will not resolve the crisis without the CLASSE.”[21]

On the night Beauchamp threw her hissy-fit and again ended the chances of negotiations, Montréal had a large protest, drawing thousands of students into the streets. When the students reached a police barricade at a major downtown intersection, tempers flared: garbage cans were overturned, windows of banks were smashed, and some rocks were hurled at police cars. It is notable that violence tends to erupt in protests when confronted with a heavy police presence. A protest earlier on that same afternoon was entirely peaceful, as the police did not have a major presence, instead tailing behind the protesters in vans. It is when the protest is cordoned off, and the right to march – the right to freedom of speech, association, and movement – is being curtailed by riot police, blocking off entire intersections like some reinforced line of Storm Troopers, with police tactics aimed at attempting to separate the protesters into smaller groups, that the police presence creates an antagonizing factor. So, as the protest on the 25th of April was confronted by the line of riot police storm troopers, the protest was declared to be “illegal” by the police: as a few acts of vandalism took place, the police waited, and then began firing tear gas into the crowd of students. The crowd began to disperse and students ran, as the police threw concussion grenades and used their batons.[22]

Protest following Beauchamp’s cancellation of negotiations

The following day, all the blame was placed upon the students. In fact, this remains consistent. All the blame for all the events that have taken place is placed squarely upon the students and protesters. When, earlier in April, three out of four of Montréal’s metro lines were shut down due to bags of bricks being thrown on the tracks and emergency stop levers being pulled on the trains, the blame was also put on students, “but the police have not connected this incident to students.” One individual even released a smoke bomb in a metro station on April 18.[23] While the sources of these incidents remain unknown, the sources of the vast majority of violence at protests is quite evident: the police.  It should also be noted that Québec has a bad track record of dealing with protesters and inciting violence, often through agent provocateurs. Back in 2007, at the Montebello protests against North American integration, the Québec provincial police had to later admit that they planted three undercover cops among the protesters, dressed in all black, with their faces covered and brandishing large rocks in their hands as they neared a lineup of riot police. The three men were called out by protesters as being undercover cops attempting to start a riot and justify police repression, and once their cover was blown, they made their way past the police line where they were then “arrested.” Photos of the men show that they were wearing the same police-issued shoes as the riot cops, and the government had to later admit that they were indeed police. Though, the government claimed at the time, their men were undercover “to keep order and security.” No doubt with large rocks.[24]

Emergence of the ‘Maple Spring’

Following the large protests in late April, the Liberal Quebec government – bypassing negotiations – came up with its own brand new “solution” to the protests: increase the tuition even more! Jean Charest and Line Beauchamp gave a press conference on April 27 announcing a six-point plan to end the protests, with absolutely no input from the protesters themselves. Charest began the press conference, speaking to the stenographers of power (the media), stating, “There is an increase in the tuition fees… Let’s not pretend it isn’t there.” The proposal suggested that the government would spread the increases over seven years instead of five, though Charest announced that the government would begin “indexing” the tuition costs in the sixth and seventh years to the rate of inflation, which would mean an annual increase of $254 over seven years (instead of $325 over five), resulting in a total of $1,778, as opposed to the $1,625 over five years. Beauchamp added that, “after factoring in the income-tax credit on tuition fees, the increase is $177 a year, or 50 cents a day.” Beauchamp told reporters, “I invite the students to go to their courses because the solution proposed by the government is a just and equitable solution which ensures better financing of our universities, which ensures a fair share from students, which also ensures access to university and ensures better management of our universities.” Further, Charest and Beauchamp announced that the government would add $39 million in bursaries, the premise of which suggests that it’s fine if the government takes a lot more money from students, so much as they give a small fraction of it back, without raising the obvious question of: why don’t we just keep it in the first place? A student organizer commented that Beauchamp’s “50 cents a day” argument was “very clever,” yet, “It does not touch the nub of the question.” The president of the student organization, the Federation etudiante universitaire du Quebec (FEUQ), Martine Desjardins, commented that, “Quebec families are already heavily indebted,” and the new plan would only increase the debt burden.[25]

An overlooked report from late March by the Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-economique explained that, “increased student debt from higher tuitions could have severe repercussions on public funds.” The researchers noted that, “the provincial government is creating a precarious situation when it encourages students to incur higher debt, much in the same way banks in the United States created a risky situation when they made it easy to obtain mortgages – a situation that ultimately threw the U.S. economy into a recession when homeowners began to default on their payments.” When interest rates go up, as they are set to do so, “today’s students may well find themselves in the same situation of not being able to pay off their student loans.” One of the researchers commented, “Since governments underwrite those loans, if students default it could be catastrophic for public finances… We are already seeing signs of a higher education bubble like that in the U.S… If the bubble explodes, it could be just like the mortgage crisis… The fact is, there is no need for additional funding for Quebec universities.”[26]

The student movement has now begun the campaign for other social movements, labour groups, and activist organizations to join the protests in a wider ‘social strike’ against the Québec government. The more radical student organization, which represents 47% of the 175,000 striking students in Quebec, C.L.A.S.S.E., issued a press release in late April calling for a “social strike” from the “population as a whole!”[27]

Following a massive demonstration of over 200,000 people on April 22 in Montréal demanding the protection of the environment and natural resources, the message was clear: more than tuition is at stake. A manifesto for a “Maple Spring” appeared and spread through social media networks in late April. The manifesto declared that:

2011 was the year of indignation and revolt. The Arab spring unnerved autocrats, swept out dictators, destabilized regimes and drove many to grant reforms. The images of these Arab peoples deposing their oligarchies went around the world and set an example.

Inspired by the spontaneous occupations of public places in the Arab world, the first Indignados appeared in Spain, when deep-going austerity measures were imposed on the country. The Spanish highlighted the real limits of democracy in that country, strongly affected by the economic crisis, subject to the dictates of the financial markets, with 46 per cent of its young people unemployed. The initiative produced its emulators and the movement spread in Europe and beyond.

The movement extended to North America, and from New York around the Occupy Wall Street initiative. That movement was aimed at the richest 1 per cent, the major banks and multinational corporations, which dictate the laws of an unjust global economy that is mortgaging the future of all of us. The movement then spread to more than 100 U.S. cities, but also to Canada (Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal).

The rebellious Arabs, the European Indignant, or the American occupiers, all have gathered behind the same message of hope: Another world is possible!

This storm of global protest against economic and political elites out of touch with the legitimate concerns of insecure peoples who are always being asked to pay more, to work harder, and above all not to demand anything in return, is now blowing over Quebec. The students’ courageous fight for the right to education now constitutes the spearhead of a profound movement of indignation and popular mobilization that has been stirring in Quebec for several years. The monster demonstration of March 22 launched the printemps érable! [Maple Spring!]

Let us join in this global current of revolt and follow the example of the Icelanders who, in January 2009, forced the resignation of the neoliberal government of Geir Haarde, which had participated in the genesis of the economic and social crisis in which that country plunged in 2008.

It’s Quebec’s turn to bring down its corrupt clique!

Charest, that’s enough! Let us demand the government’s resignation![28]

Among the ‘demands’ that the manifesto made were:

– The right to education for everyone, without discrimination linked to money;

– The right to a healthy environment and the conservation of our natural resources, to protect our water, our rivers, our forests, our regions, and not to yield to the voracious appetite of the mining and oil and gas companies;

– The rights of the indigenous peoples to their aboriginal lands;

– The right to enjoy a responsible and democratic government, serving its people and not some financial interests;

– The right to pacifism and international solidarity, clearly displaying Quebec’s opposition to the militaristic and commercial policies of the federal Conservative government;

– The right to a local, sustainable, mutually supportive social economy that puts humans at the centre of its concerns.[29]

Solidarity for the Québec students has been shown from students and unions and other groups across Canada and indeed, around the world. Students from the University of Ottawa have participated in strikes and protests in Montréal, and the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) sent a bus of students to participate in the mass rally of hundreds of thousands of students on March 22. SFUO president Amalia Savva stated, “When it comes to tuition fees in general—when we see a 75 per cent increase in tuition fees over the next five years in Quebec—that’s extremely dangerous for students not only in Quebec, but across the country, to set a precedent like that… Tuition fees are one of the common struggles students have, not only between Quebec and Ontario, but across the country and across the world as well.”[30]

A number of unions from Ontario expressed solidarity with the student strike, stating that, “We stand in solidarity with the student strikers and the professors, campus workers and community members who have supported this movement. Students in Quebec are fighting against the commercialization of education and user pay through tuition increases that create massive barriers to access and student debt that profits the banks while haunting students for years after graduation.”[31]

On April 26, roughly 50 peaceful protesters assembled in downtown Toronto, with riot police assembled nearby, demonstrating in support of the Québec student strike.[32] A progressive think tank, the Centre for Social Justice, had called for the Toronto protest, issuing a press release stating: “Join us for a rally in front of Québec’s Office in Toronto in solidarity with the ongoing student strike. On this occasion, we will be delivering a petition to be sent to the Premier’s office in Québec. With this action, we also want to contribute to bringing this great movement’s democratic and combative spirit to Ontario.”[33] Students, while fighting against tuition hikes around the world, continue to express solidarity with Québec’s strike, including signs of solidarity appearing at a protest against tuition hikes in Taipei, Taiwan, as well as small protests in Paris and Brussels specifically assembled to show solidarity with Québec students.[34]

Solidarity protest in Belgium

Solidarity protest in Paris, France

Student protest in Taiwan, also showing solidarity with Québec

Québec is not the only place where there is a massive student movement developing into a wider social movement. In fact, Chile saw the start of its massive nation-wide student protest movement in May of 2011, roughly one year ago. The movement began as a student protest and evolved into a wider social movement with demonstrations drawing hundreds of thousands of Chileans, often met with the state apparatus of repression, remnants from Chile’s military dictatorship put in power by the CIA in 1973. The student movement has continued into the new year, and on April 25, the same day that large protests erupted in Montréal, Santagio had a protests which drew tens of thousands of students into the streets (between 25-50,000), rejecting the government’s proposed reforms as “too little.” Student leader Gabriel Boric declared, “We will carry on making history… We students will not give up the fight to make education a public right.”[35] Roughly ten days prior to the protests, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Chile seeking to extend “free-trade” agreements for the benefit of multinational corporations. Canada already has the largest investment in Chile’s mining industry. Reportedly, the massive student movement in Chile was not under discussion between Harper and Chilean President Pinera.[36]

So in Québec, the premier is dismissing the students and subsidizing the mining corporations. In Chile, the Canadian Prime Minister is ignoring student movements in both Canada and Chile while seeking to better secure Canadian mining interests. Thus, in the provincial, national, and international arena, Canadian politicians continually seek to protect, support, and expand the interests of multinational corporations while simultaneously undermining, ignoring, dismissing, and repressing massive student movements demanding social, political, and economic justice. This is not merely a Canadian issue, but a global one, making what is happening in Québec all the more relevant in attempting to bring about a ‘Maple Spring.’ Informal acts of solidarity and formal associations and relationships should be established between the two student movements in Québec and Chile so as to further empower and support those around the world who are partaking in a similar struggle.

What the Students are Saying

I had the chance to interview students and youth taking part in the strike and protests here in Québec. While the mainstream media inundates readers with quotes and concerns of the minority of students who do not support the strike, thus giving a very slanted perspective of the events taking place, I felt it was important to provide statements and perspectives from students who do support and have been taking part in the strike. I asked the students to tell me about their experiences, perspectives, and hopes for the strike and student movement, and what their message to the rest of Canada would be, in light of the poor information being given through the media.

Karine G. from Québec City said that her message to the rest of Canada was that, “Québec is not Canada. Our education system, like other specificities in our society, reflects our difference and our values. We are not complaining, simply trying to defend who we are and how we think it should be reflected through our institutions. Democracy supposes that citizens are free to invest in what they value the most; we think education should be a priority.” She added, “No matter what people try to justify with numbers, raising tuition fees is an ideological decision. Even though the Liberals are trying to make us believe – ‘There is no other alternative’ – we are not fools.” She expressed a great deal of frustration in getting others to understand what democracy and strikes actually represent and consist of, and finds a great deal of “ignorance and individualism” as well as apathy among others who criticize or oppose the strike.

Mathieu Lapointe Deraiche from Montréal stated that while the strike began in opposition to the tuition hikes, “I think after 11 weeks of strike, in the middle of one of the greatest student movements in the history” of the province, in both numbers and duration, “the hike of fees is now only a detail.” He added, “It is now a social crisis that [has] revealed an important generational gap (not to say ‘war’) between Quebec’s youth and the children of the ‘Trentes Glorieuses,” referring to the “30 Glorious Years” of growth following World War II, ending in the 1970s. He explained that the “social crisis” has “called into question the role of the police and the media,” such as TVA, the Journal de Montréal, and the Gazette. Referring to it as a “socio-political war between the youth and the government,” Mathieu explained that it has now reached the point where he “couldn’t be satisfied with a cancellation of the fees,” as his “actual disgust towards [the] government… transcends a financial issue.”

Freezing the ‘Spring’: State Repression of the Strike

Andrée Bourbeau, a member of the legal committee for C.L.A.S.S.E., is responsible for organizing funds to pay for the legal defense of those who are arrested at the protests (whether or not they are students), by disputing the tickets and fines which are dispersed to protesters by the police for taking part in the demonstrations. The mass arrests are done through the use of such tickets, using two Québec laws in particular to repress the student protests, which C.L.A.S.S.E. maintains – and rightly so – as being unconstitutional. For example, article 500.1 of du Code de sécurité routière (Québec law) is “unconstitutional,” explained Bourbeau, “because it prohibits any demonstration.” The article states that, “No person may, during a concerted action intended to obstruct in any way vehicular traffic on a public highway, occupy the roadway, shoulder or any other part of the right of way of or approaches to the highway or place a vehicle or obstacle thereon so as to obstruct vehicular traffic on the highway or access to such a highway.” In short, the very notion of a street protest is declared “unlawful” by Québec, which is a very violation of the right to assemble, the right to free speech and movement. Thus, it is unconstitutional. This article has led to the repression of every demonstration in Québec City, where more than 300 people have received $500 fines under this law. If any of those individuals take part in another protest, and receive another fine, the amount increases to between $3,500 and $10,500. Bourbeau told me, “this is outrageous because this is purely political repression of the student movement in Quebec City.” From the beginning of April, demonstrations have been declared illegal by the police, who threaten students that they will be fined if they take part, even if the demonstrations are peaceful, and of course the vast majority of them are.

It’s a stark reminder of the reality of how the student movement is presented in the media that with over 160 protests – with an average of 2-3 per day across the province – the rest of Canada only hears about the few protests that turned violent. Yet, for the nearly 200 protests that have taken place thus far, they are consistently met with a large police presence, fines, police brutality, and other forms of state coercion and repression. But it is the incidents of bank windows being smashed which the rest of Canada hears about. In Montréal, protests are repressed by the police through a bylaw which forbids assemblies that “breach the peace.” Bourbeau explained, “this is so broad it covers every kind of demonstration.” Thus, at each demonstration, the police arrest students and other protesters simply for being present. When some protesters react with violence or vandalism, this is referred to in the media and by the government as a “riot.”

For example, an article in the National Post written by David Frum was entitled, “David Frum on the Quebec student riots.” The first line in the article wrote, “The rioting students of Quebec got scant sympathy even before they started smashing windows and detonating smoke bombs.” He later referred to the student protesters as “a radical fringe,” who do not “deserve any sympathy.” He added: “And besides, they are part of the problem: a richer-than-average tranche of their own cohort demanding support from the taxes of less affluent people.”[37] David Frum, it should be noted, is a Canadian-American “journalist” who was previously a speechwriter for U.S. President George W. Bush, an ardent neoconservative, and was one of the loudest voices calling for the war on Iraq. Frum was also responsible for coining the phrase “axis of evil,” which George Bush first used in a speech from 2002. Hard to imagine that Québec would get fair coverage from the likes of Frum.

The use of bylaws and other unconstitutional ‘articles’ are – explained Bourbeau – aimed at “trying to demobilize the students, to make us fear going out to demonstrations and organize.” Of particular concern for protesters and organizers, she said, was the recently created police “GAMMA squad” in Montréal. In January of 2011, the GAMMA (Guet des activités et des mouvements marginaux et anarchists) squad was created as a special unit of the Montréal police, specifically designed to monitor anarchists and other “marginal political groups.” In short, it is a political policing unit, designed to engage in repression of ideological opposition to the state. These types of “squads” are typical in fascist and authoritarian countries around the world, but it’s new to Montréal. While protest organizers are very concerned about this squad, they have remained virtually out of the national media (though there is some discussion of them in the French media), so very few are even aware of their existence.

In July of 2011, C.L.A.S.S.E. filed human rights complaints against the GAMMA squad after an “unprecedented” wave of arrests, when four members of the student group, three of whom were executives, were arrested as they were preparing to organize a campaign against the tuition hikes. The stated reason for the arrests was for the organizers participating in having organized protests the previous March which resulted in a small injury of a staff member of Québec Finance Minister Bouchard’s office. A CLASSE spokesperson stated that the aim of the arrests was to “break the back” of the student movement before it even began to mobilize. CLASSE is neither an “anarchist” nor a “marginal” organization (due to it being the largest representation of the student movement), which is not to say that monitoring anarchist and other “marginal” groups (however the State defines that) is acceptable, because it is not. The “evidence” against the student organizers was largely provided by an informant for the GAMMA squad.[38] CLASSE spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois stated, “There is no doubt about the political nature of these arrests… This is clearly an attempt by the [Montreal police] to decapitate the Quebec student movement on the eve of one of its historical struggles.”[39]

Alexandre Popovic, a spokesperson for the Coalition against repression and police brutality, explained that the GAMMA squad represents “police use of social stereotyping to hinder the legal expression of opposition to social and legal policies.” He stated, “It’s ridiculous… They have a stereotypical cartoon image of anarchists,” adding that while anarchists believe in opposing authority (which is a good thing!), they also have families, host book fairs, and engage in intellectual discussions. Referring to the complaints filed against GAMMA to the Québec Human Rights Commission, Popovic stated: “The commission needs to remind the police that we are not in a police state. We have the right to disagree and even have thoughts they might not like.”[40] CLASSE spokesperson Nadeau-Dubois explained, “This squad is really a new kind of political police to fight against social movements.” The GAMMA unit is a branch of the Montréal Police Force’s Organized Crime Unit, which “uses tactics developed to monitor mafia and street gangs in order to keep tabs on political activists.”[41]

Though apparently they don’t do a very good job of handling the Montréal mafia, since the city government they work for has been handing out public contracts to the mafia, who have connections to political parties and the construction industry as well.[42] Back in 2009, a former city government opposition leader, Benoit Labonte, facing corruption charges, stated that the Montréal mafia controls roughly 80% of City Hall, telling Radio-Canada, “Is there a Mafia system that controls city hall? The response is yes.”[43] Mafia-connected construction executives have been involved in election campaigns in municipalities all across the city of Montréal and elsewhere, and have thereafter been awarded with lucrative public contracts.[44] Arrests were made on anti-corruption charges in Montréal in late April, and among the 14 suspects arrested, two of them were Liberal Party organizers, putting Jean Charest’s government further on the offensive. One of those Liberal Party organizers was personally given an award by Jean Charest at a Liberal Party meeting in 2010.[45] Back in September of 2010, Jean Charest’s Québec government was declared by Maclean’s Magazine to be “the most corrupt province” in Canada. Marc Bellemare, the province’s former Justice Minister in the Charest government, spoke out about the rife corruption, favouritism, collusion and graft, with Charest granting Liberal Party fundraisers a say in the appointments of judges, not to mention his government’s deep connections to the overtly-corrupt construction industry. Interestingly, “it costs Quebec taxpayers roughly 30 per cent more to build a stretch of road than anywhere else in the country.”[46] So if Québec really is concerned with “balancing the budget,” perhaps the government – and the police, for that matter – should start with ending corruption in the governments itself (as if that were even possible!). It seems that the government is more interested in supporting organized crime than organized students.

I do not mean to paint Charest as a pawn of the mafia, since he always has been and always will be far more beholden to elite financial and economic interests, specifically that of the powerful Desmarais family (Canada’s equivalent of the Rockefeller family), with its patriarch Paul Desmarais Sr, who treats Charest like a little poodle, and who has established close connections with every Canadian Prime Minister since the 1970s, and all but two of Québec’s premiers in the same amount of time. As one reporter with the Globe and Mail explained, “Desmarais has been personally consulted by prime ministers on every major federal economic and constitutional initiative since the 1970s. Most of the time, they’ve taken his advice.”[47] It was also reported that, “[o]ver the last several years, [Paul Desmarais Sr.] has spun his web to such an extent that it now enables him to call the shots,” especially in promoting his right-wing economic vision, with “a disproportionate influence on politics and the economy in Quebec and Canada.” In particular, Desmarais “has a lot of influence on Premier Jean Charest.” Quebec writer Robin Philpot wrote that when Paul Desmarais received the French Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honour) from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Jean Charest was in attendance, of which Philpot stated, “He took him along like a poodle.” Philpot added, “It’s a very unhealthy situation for a government to be indebted to a businessman that has his own interest at heart. They get their hands tied.”[48]

Québec Premier Jean Charest (right), with French President Sarkozy (centre), and Canadian billionaire oligarch Paul Desmarais, Sr. (left)

And now Charest is attempting to ensure that future generations of students are themselves beholden to the same interests he is: the bankers and corporations, the political-economic and financial elite who dominate the province and the country.

The Students ‘Spring’ Forward

Following Charest’s announcement of a new “seven-year” program for the tuition hikes (with even more tuition costs added on!), students took to the streets in another night of major protests in Montreal. Student leaders rejected the absurd proposal, declaring, “It’s not an offer, it’s an insult.” When some students in the protest occupied an intersection and sat down in the street, the police responded with tear gas. Then, after two hours of peaceful protest (apart from police aggression and a few projectiles thrown at police in response), the police declared the demonstration to be “illegal” and began arresting people.[49]

In late April, in the eleventh week of the strike, international media have finally taken notice, as the student movement is making its way into the headlines of CNN, the BBC, and Al-Jazeera. Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), one of the main student groups, commented that, “I think we’ve seen that no matter how far reaching the movement is, Charest just isn’t listening… After months of taking to the streets, it’s encouraging and surprising to see the struggle catching on like this. It’s been tiring for students to have to keep marching and striking but this gives us new hope moving forward.” However, despite the general perception of the protests, both student leaders and the police themselves admit that the vast majority of those assembled do so peacefully. Constable Yannick Ouimet of the Montreal Police said, “We know that 99 per cent of the people who show up to protest want to do so peacefully… What we’re seeing now is that the peaceful protesters and their leaders are helping police identify criminals so that they can be removed from the crowd.” Desjardins reflected on the latest “proposal” from Charest, calling it “a smokescreen.” He explained: “the offer was never mentioned when we set down to negotiate with the government. Instead, it was sent above students’ heads as an attempt to win over the general public.” While the media continues to repeat the falling support for the students among the general public – figures which are attributed to the violence – Desjardins felt it noteworthy to point out, “We’re seeing small openings and we’re seeing our support base broadening. It’s not just students out there, it’s parents, teachers, trade unions and different social groups. We don’t want to have gone through all of this and to go back to school empty handed.”[50]

Québec students are increasingly frustrated with the government response to the strike. At a protest in late April, a number of students gave their complaints to the media. “I don’t think there is any class of society that would like to be ignored for three months,” one student explained. She added, “Now, all of a sudden, people realize something is going on because some windows were broken.” Another student, and mother of two, Aurélie Pedron, raised the issue of agent provocateurs being used to demonize the students: “When there are vandals on bicycles, with rocks so huge that you could not find them on Ste. Catherine Street [where the protest was taking place], when it’s a bookstore whose window is smashed, do you really think it is students who do that?.. Don’t take us for idiots.” Another student explained that, “the government approach is to present us as a bunch of vandals.” One political science student explained, “this has become more than a student fight, it is a fight against the government and the state.” Another student at the protest agreed: “The issue is bigger than tuition fees. It is a question of re-establishing democracy. There is no democracy. We are closer to totalitarianism. Decisions are made without listening to the people.” Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the spokesperson for CLASSE, elaborated on the increased scope and vision of the struggle of students: “Those people are a single elite, a greedy elite, a corrupt elite, a vulgar elite, an elite that only sees education as an investment in human capital, that only sees a tree as a piece of paper and only sees a child as a future employee.” Thus, he explained, the student strike would be “a springboard to a much wider, much deeper, much more radical challenge of the direction Quebec has been heading in recent years.”[51]

C.L.A.S.S.E. spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois

Andrée Bourbeau of CLASSE told me that, “if Quebec is the province that has the lowest tuition fees and the best system of bursaries, it’s because we fought since the 1960s through organized actions and strikes,” with the current 2012 strike being the ninth one, and the largest of its kind, with the longest duration. She added, in regards to the methods of the student organizations, that, “we have practiced direct democracy through our student general assemblies for several decades now,” and that it is through this ‘direct democracy’ approach that decisions of the students are made before approaching the government. When the government ignores and dismisses the demands of the students, it is through the direct democracy approach of syndicalisme de combat that the students decide to target – through civil disobedience and peaceful assembly – the economy itself. “Transparency is very important,” explained Bourbeau, “Acting with syndicalisme de combat means that we mobilize people, we organize demonstrations and actions. The movement is its members, not an enlightened elite.” I asked her what her message to the rest of Canada was, to which she replied:

I wait for Canadian students to start struggling for their rights, for free tuition and self-governed universities. I don’t think Quebec has to be different than the other provinces in regards to social programs and public services. [I speak] in solidarity with the people of Canada!

The “political police” and its corrupt and elite-beholden government sponsor continues to repress dissent, demonize an emerging social movement, prevent the expression of basic – constitutionally guaranteed – rights and liberties of hundreds of thousands of youth and activists across the province. The government of Québec is attempting to turn a potential ‘Maple Spring’ into a ‘Hopeless Winter.’ But as we here in Montréal can see and feel, winter is on its way out, the temperature is getting warmer, the sun is starting to shine more and more, and spring is sprouting!

Message from Canada’s Youth: We Refuse to be a Lost Generation!

The argument that Québec students are “whining and crying” about “entitlements” is not only wrong, but deeply immoral. What Québec students are doing is finally standing up and saying, ‘No More!’ What Québec students are doing is not a misguided attempt to preserve “entitlements,” but to try to ensure for ourselves a future, a future which is being – year-by-year – stolen from us. My generation of Canadians – and for that matter youth all over the world – are shackled with more debts than any before us, with less job opportunities, with more poverty, and with the burden of beginning our lives under a system which has consistently favoured the rich few at the expense of the rest. We are told to go to school and get a good job. So we go to school, get deep into debt, and graduate into a market with few jobs. With professional degrees, we go work at Starbucks, so that we may pay the interest on our student debts, or the interest on our credit card debts, struggling to pay our monthly rent, or living at home for much longer than any generation before us because we simply can’t afford to move out. Rents are going up, and housing prices are sky-high in an absurd bubble waiting to burst. So then we are told that if we want “a future,” we have to buy property. None of us can afford a $500,000 condominium in Vancouver or Toronto, so we are told: get a mortgage, it’s the “smart” thing to do. So we get a mortgage, because our parents, our banks, and our government said: “It’s the smart thing to do.” And when this absurd housing bubble pops,  our interest payments on our mortgages will skyrocket, and our student debts will skyrocket, and our credit card interest payments will skyrocket, and we won’t even be able to keep up with the increasing costs of food.

We are doomed to poverty before we even have a chance at possibility. We were raised with expectations of a life we could have. For those of us who grew up middle class, like myself, we grew up in a world built on a mirage of debt. The average Canadian household today spends 150% of its income, so that for every $1 they make, they owe $1.50. The average Canadian household is $103,000 in debt, largely due to mortgages, but also as a result of credit card debt, student debt, and other loans. Canada’s big five banks help provide the mortgages, the student debt, tell us to get credit cards, and through the Bank of Canada (our central bank), keep the interest rates low so as to encourage people to get more loans and go deeper into debt. Everyone is told to get an RRSP because “it’s the smart thing to do.” So we save what money we can, and put it into an RRSP account. Yet, if we want to spend that money, we have to do so on property. If we take out the money for anything other than a house or condo (which would still require us to get a mortgage to cover the full expense), then we lose a huge percentage of the money within the account. I took a class in high school where the teacher explained to all the compliant young students that investing your money in an RRSP is “the smart thing to do.”

So now our parents are struggling to pay their rent, meet their interest payments, or even pay for food. They work several jobs, and still we struggle, day-to-day and week-to-week. Our parents see us – their children – also struggling, falling behind and not meeting the social expectations that were set for us: when to move out, when to get an apartment, when to go to school and graduate, when to get a job, when to get a house, when to get married, when to have kids, etc. So our parents, naturally, want the best for us, want us to have what they tried for but are now struggling to even maintain as an illusion. So they tell us: get a student loan to go to school and get a good job, get a credit card, get a mortgage to buy a house. They encourage us to follow their path, when where they currently stand is already dangerously close to the cliff’s edge. Our path, then, is much rougher, much more dangerous, and all the more illusory than theirs. They see only their own children, and want the best. But we, their children, see each other: we see our friends, co-workers, fellow students and compatriots; we see our entire generation and how we all struggle. Our parents see the individual struggles of their own kids. We see and feel the collective struggle of a generation. We did what we were told, and now we are left with massive debt and no jobs, higher rents and fewer hopes. We did what we were told, year after year, because, as they say, “It’s the smart thing to do.” We did everything we were told to “get ahead,” and now we are being left behind.

So what the students in Québec are doing is simply trying to catch up, is simply speaking up and saying that we don’t want to be a “lost generation,” doomed to debt bondage. And now that we – finally! – are awakening to our situation and taking action, we are derided and dismissed, insulted and ‘dissed’, spat on and chastised, beaten with batons, bombed with tear gas. We are told, now, that we are “crying and whining,” that we are spoiled children, demanding “entitlements” and subsidies. We aren’t asking for a free ride through life, all we are wanting… is the chance to have a life.

The future is the world that we are inheriting, and before we can even enter the future, it’s being stolen from us. We are disciplined under heavy debts and higher costs before we have the chance to even reach a true sense of autonomy and independence. We are indebted before we even move out of our homes, before we get our first job. And then we are told we are spoiled and entitled!

It’s time for older generations to move aside, to stop telling us what it is we should want, how we should get it, and then deride us for not doing what they say. If we feel we are ‘entitled,’ it is because we were raised to feel that way. This is partly the fault of our parents’ generation, who have lived a life in debt, and who now instruct us to follow them into the abyss, and dismiss us when we say we want to chart our own course. Well now it’s time for them to move aside. They tried, in the 1960s and early 70s, to civilize society and make a better world – something we are now told is not worth aspiring to – and indeed, achievements were made, but it was stopped short. The elites of our society saw the emergence of social democratization and struggles for liberation and put a finish to it. The system they constructed to strangle the struggle for liberation is what we call “neoliberalism” and debt-domination.

Demonstration in Montréal

Now, all around the world, from North Africa, to Latin America, East Asia, Europe and right here in Québec, the youth are finally standing up against this ruthless global system of exploitation, militarism, racism, and domination. What the students in Québec are doing is joining the global struggle as it emerges around the world, and setting an example for the rest of Canada and North America, who have so far been lagging far behind. We are not preserving entitlement; we are seeking empowerment. If our parents failed to do it, it is left to us. So, for those in previous generations who only want “the best” for their children, it is time to stop telling us to follow their examples, and time to start following ours. It is time to stand with and behind the youth, instead of out in front and above us. It is time to support us where we need it most. What the youth of the world are now saying is that we will welcome your support and encouragement, but if you get in our way, we will push you aside and leave you behind. So if you – like all people of this world should – desire a better world for your children, want to enter a more hopeful future, and create a more equal and fair society, it’s time to step up to the plate and stand behind the vanguard of the revolution: the youth!

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 BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Notes

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

http://www.newswire.ca/fr/story/178423/td-economics-outlines-plan-for-prosperity-in-quebec-report

[2]            Claire Penhorwood, “Quebec tuition fight about keeping education accessible, students say,” CBC News, 21 March 2012:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2012/03/21/f-tuitionfees.html

[3]            Kamloops Daily News, “It’s hard to feel sorry for these Quebec students,” Winnipeg Free Press, 25 February 2012:

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/westview/its-hard-to-feel-sorry-for-these-quebec-students-140407073.html

[4]            Gary Mason, “The crushing weight of student debt,” The Globe and Mail, 7 July 2011:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/gary_mason/the-crushing-weight-of-student-debt/article2088760/

[5]            Jacob Serebrin, “Half of full-time Quebec students live on $12,000 a year,” Canadian University Press, 19 November 2010:

http://cupwire.ca/articles/38179

[6]            Stefani Forster and Alexander Panetta, “Quebec Student Strike: Montreal’s Riotous Night Leaves A Mess After Government Talks Break Down,” The Huffington Post, 26 April 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/26/montreal-quebec-student-protest-riots_n_1454679.html

[7]            Canadian Press, “Some key events in Quebec’s battle over tuition hikes,” The Winnipeg Free Press, 27 April 2012:

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/some-key-events-in-quebecs-battle-over-tuition-hikes-149265525.html

[8]            Antonia Maioni, “Charest’s Marie Antoinette moment,” The Globe and Mail, 24 April 2012:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/charests-marie-antoinette-moment/article2411573/

[9]            CBC, “Violent Montreal student protest nets 17 arrests,” CBC News, 20 April 2012:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2012/04/20/students-palais-de-congres.html

[10]            Giuseppe Valiante, “Montreal protest turns violent,” QMI Agency, 20 April 2012:

http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2012/04/20/protest-at-kenney-immigration-speech

[11]            CTV, “Tuition protesters unrelenting, in spite of injunctions,” CTV Montreal, 12 April 2012:

http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Canada/20120412/mtl_valleyfield_120412/

[12]            Ibid.

[13]            Henry Gass, “Students continue striking into exam period,” The McGill Daily, 15 April 2012:

http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2012/04/students-continue-striking-into-exam-period/

[14]            Joel Ashak, “Campus security clashes with students,” The Concordian, 27 March 2012:

http://theconcordian.com/2012/03/27/campus-security-clashes-with-students/

[15]            Joel Ashak, “Agent involved in alleged assault found unlicensed,” The Concordian, 1 April 2012:

http://theconcordian.com/2012/04/01/agent-involved-in-alleged-assault-found-unlicensed/

[16]            Corey Pool, “Scrutinizing Security,” The Link, 3 April 2012:

http://thelinknewspaper.ca/article/2917

[17]            Jeff Davis, “Citizen’s arrest bill gives more power to rent-a-cops, police warn,” Postmedia News, 24 April 2012:

http://www.canada.com/news/Citizen+arrest+bill+gives+more+power+rent+cops+police+warn/6512389/story.html

[18]            Joel Ashak, “Campus security clashes with students,” The Concordian, 27 March 2012:

http://theconcordian.com/2012/03/27/campus-security-clashes-with-students/

[19]            Karen Seidman, “Students’ battle against Quebec heats up,” The Gazette, 17 April 2012:

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Students+battle+against+Quebec+heats/6468030/story.html

[20]            Sarah Deshaies, “Students, education minister start talks in Quebec,” Canadian University Press, 26 April 2012:

http://cupwire.ca/articles/52659

[21]            Kevin Daugherty, “Tuition negotiations hit a roadblock,” The Gazette, 26 April 2012:

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Tuition+negotiations+roadblock/6520106/story.html

[22]            Megan Kinch, “BLOG: Montreal Demonstration “Turned Violent” When Police Shot Explosives at Us,” Toronto Media Co-op, 26 April 2012:

http://toronto.mediacoop.ca/blog/megan-kinch/10656

[23]            Sarah Deshaies, “Quebec education minister reaches out to select organizations as student strikes reach 10th week,” Canadian University Press, 18 April 2012:

http://cupwire.ca/articles/52648

[24]            CBC, “Quebec police admit they went undercover at Montebello protest,” CBC News, 23 August 2007:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2007/08/23/police-montebello.html

[25]            Kevin Dougherty, “Protesting Quebec students reject Jean Charest’s new six-point plan on education,” The National Post, 27 April 2012:

http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/04/27/protesting-quebec-students-reject-jean-charests-new-six-point-plan-on-education/

[26]            Karen Seidman and Kevin Daugherty, “Increased student debt from higher tuition could cost Quebec, report contends,” The Montreal Gazette, 28 March 2012:

http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Student+debt+could+cost+Quebec+report/6372686/story.html

[27]            CLASSE, “Quebec students appeal for wider ‘social strike’ against Charest government,” Rabble.ca, 27 April 2012:

http://rabble.ca/news/2012/04/quebec-students-appeal-wider-social-strike-against-charest-government

[28]            Various, “Manifesto for a Maple Spring,” Rabble.ca, 26 April 2012:

http://rabble.ca/news/2012/04/quebecs-spring-manifesto-printemps-%C3%A9rable

[29]            Ibid.

[30]            Jane Lytvynenko, “U of O students show solidarity with Quebec,” The Fulcrum, 28 March 2012:

http://thefulcrum.ca/2012/03/u-of-o-students-show-solidarity-with-quebec/

[31]            UWO, “UNIONS ACROSS ONTARIO STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE QUEBEC STUDENT STRIKE,” UWO GTA Union, 25 April 2012:

http://www.gtaunion.com/gta/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=150:unions-across-ontario-stand-in-solidarity-with-the-quebec-student-strike

[32]            James Hamilton, “Toronto rally for Quebec Students,” Toronto Grand Prix Tourist, 26 April 2012:

http://torontogp.blogspot.ca/2012/04/toronto-rally-for-quebec-students.html

[33]            CSJ, “Solidarity With Quebec Student Strike!”, Centre for Social Justice, 26 April 2012:

http://www.socialjustice.org/community/?f_cat=2&arch=3

[34]            Mediaswap, “International Support for the Québec Student Strike Against Tuition Hikes,” 28 March 2012:

http://mediaswap.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/international-support-for-the-quebec-student-strike-against-tuition-hikes/

[35]            Jill Langlois, “Chile: Students protest for free education, reject President Sebastian Pinera’s $700 million funding offer,” Global Post, 26 April 2012:

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/chile/120426/chile-students-protest-free-education-reject-president-offer

[36]            Jennifer Ditchburn, “Harper looks to Chile for help in joining lucrative Pacific trade pact,” The Globe and Mail, 16 April 2012:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/harper-looks-to-chile-for-help-in-joining-lucrative-pacific-trade-pact/article2403953/?utm_medium=Feeds%3A%20RSS%2FAtom&utm_source=Politics&utm_content=2403953

[37]            David Frum, “David Frum on the Quebec student riots: Grandpa’s free ride,” The National Post, 27 April 2012:

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/04/28/david-frum-on-the-quebec-student-riots-grandpas-free-ride/

[38]            Vincent Larouche, “Des étudiants se disent persécutés par la police,” La Presse, 18 July 2011:

http://www.cyberpresse.ca/actualites/quebec-canada/education/201107/18/01-4418938-des-etudiants-se-disent-persecutes-par-la-police.php

[39]            Jacob Serebrin, “Student union’s human rights complaint against Montreal police,” Maclean’s On Campus, 20 July 2011:

http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2011/07/20/student-unions-human-rights-complaint-against-montreal-police/

[40]            Max Harrold, “Montreal police unit to monitor anarchists,” The Gazette, 14 July 2011:

http://www.globalmontreal.com/Montreal+police+unit+monitor+anarchists/5109988/story.html

[41]            Christian Macdonald, “Political policing in Montreal,” The Dominion, 9 November 2011:

http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/4236

[42]            CBC, “RCMP challenges Quebec request for Mafia evidence,” CBC News, 18 April 2012:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2012/04/18/rcmp-challenges-quebec-inquiry-request-for-mafia-evidence-cp.html

[43]            CTV, “Mafia ties run deep at city hall: Labonte,” CTV Montreal, 22 October 2009:

http://montreal.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20091022/mtl_poll_091022?hub=MontrealHome

[44]            Linda Gyulai, “Quebec collusion squad casts a very wide net,” Postmedia News, 18 April 2012:

http://www.canada.com/Quebec+collusion+squad+casts+very+wide/6479620/story.html

[45]            Brian Daly, “Two Que. Liberal organizers among corruption suspects,” The Toronto Sun, 19 April 2012:

http://www.torontosun.com/2012/04/19/two-que-liberal-organizers-among-corruption-suspects

[46]            Martin Patriquin, “Quebec: The most corrupt province,” Maclean’s, 24 September 2010:

http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/09/24/the-most-corrupt-province/

[47]            Konrad Yakabuski, Like Father, like sons?, The Globe and Mail, 26 March 2006:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/like-father-like-sons/article170466/singlepage/#articlecontent

[48]            Marianne White, “Author delivers high-voltage critique of Paul Desmarais Sr. — the man behind Power Corp,” Ottawa Citizen, 21 October 2008:

http://www2.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=2e3cff7f-05a2-44fc-afc1-616c5c40f64f

[49]            Christopher Curtis, Roberto Rocha and Max Harrold, “Jean Charest’s new education offer results in huge night of protests,” The National Post, 28 April 2012:

http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/04/28/jean-charests-new-education-offer-results-in-huge-night-of-protests/

[50]            Christopher Curtis, “Quebec student strike makes international news, but “Charest just isn’t listening”,” The Montreal Gazette, 28 April 2012:

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Student+strike+makes+international+news/6536473/story.html

[51]            Graeme Hamilton, “Quebec student protests not just about tuition but battle against ‘greedy elites’,” National Post, 28 April 2012:

http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/04/27/quebec-student-protests-not-just-about-tuition-but-battle-against-greedy-elites/