TPP: The Fascism Issue

If the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement will, if implemented, and as I’ve argued elsewhere, result in the death of national and state sovereignty, constitutional separation of powers, and democracy, then what system and what principles will replace these things? Eric Zuesse answers that it will be Fascism. And implicitly, that we are going through an evolution from representative democracy to fascism and that trade deals like the TPP, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) mediate the transfer “. . . of democratic national sovereignty to international fascist bodies that represent global corporate management. . . . ”

The motivation behind U.S. President Barack Obama’s trans-Pacific trade-deal TPP, and his trans-Atlantic trade-deal TTIP — the motivation behind both of these enormous international trade-deals — is the same, and Democratic U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown are correct: it is not at all progressive. It is instead to transfer political power away from the public in a democracy, and for that power to go instead to the international plutocracy (i.e., to go as far away from any national democracy as is even possible to go).

This is to be done by switching the most fundamental thing of all: the global power-base itself. Instead of that power-base being democratic votes of the national publics, who elect their political representatives who determine the laws and regulations, that national democratic political system becomes instead the exact opposite: the global aristocratic stockholder votes of the international plutocracy who elect the corporate directors of international companies, who will, in their turn, then be selecting the members to the international-trade-panels which, in TPP and TTIP, will, in their turn, be determining the rules and enforcements regarding especially workers’ rights, product-safety, and the environment.

And later . . .

This transfer is called Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or ISDS. It is really an emerging, and distinctively fascistic, world government. It is not at all democratic, and it is a creeping form of international government which, to the extent that it becomes imposed, reduces national sovereignty.

I dislike the TPP, the TTIP, and TiSA, at least as much as Zuesse does, and I think he is right that it will facilitate an evolution to fascism at the national level. But, still I think one needs to use the term “fascist” carefully and not apply it to the wrong things.

First, as obnoxious and damaging to national sovereignty, and other very important things we value the ISDS tribunals may be, I don’t think they are a government as much as they are a regulatory mechanism over national and sub-national governments limiting the sovereignty of the nation states and sub-national areas they govern, and constraining their legislation to laws and implementation rules that will benefit multinational corporations only.

Second, and this function of constraining national and sub-national governments is actually anti-fascist relative to the world government level of analysis. In fact, it leaves the world governmental system in a state of anarchy in which political authorities are weak enough to allow multinational corporations scope for continuous looting of the net financial assets of all nations.

Third, consider the characteristics of fascism: nationalism, (emotional commitment to one’s nation and its leader as a single, unified organic entity, superior to all others and deserving of absolute loyalty); totalitarianism (including continuous top-down mobilization of the population accompanied by intense and constant surveillance, continuous propagandizing by mass media hewing to a party line defined by the State, its leader, and a single party intertwined with it, and denial of zones of privacy; planned collaborative state-controlled economy in which productive disciplined people of all classes work together against the parasitic elements in society to achieve the economic goals set by the state (including autarky); respect for the capitalist profit motive and for the primary role of productive privately owned corporations and businesses in a command economy; support for social welfare programs serving social integration with the national organic unity; opposition to egalitarianism; direct, often violent action, supported by an ideology of social darwinism directed against opponents of the state, both external and internal; militarization of the police; external militarism; emphasis on youth and its role in direct action; strong commitment to traditional male/female roles, and to “non-deviant” heterosexual behavior, accompanied by strong opposition to “homosexual and other behavior it deems “deviant;” commitment to purging of decadent behavior and forms of modernism regenerating the “moral character” of the nation. Even though all would not agree with this specification of fascism in all its particulars, I claim that students of fascism and totalitarianism would agree that the specification of it as a social science cluster concept requires the heavy majority of these characteristics, and that excludes an ISDS regime from the world-wide fascism category.

So, at the level of the international political system the ISDS tribunals do not constitute a fascist government. Nor, does their delivery of a veto power over national and sub-national legislation make them a fascist government. Nor does the combination of the ISDS tribunals with an informal system of corrupt international elites constitute a fascist government, or even an emerging fascist system.

Why not? Because an emerging fascist system must be able to call on nationalism as its fundamental support, capable of driving the emergence of most of the other attributes of fascism I’ve listed. And the world we live in is very far from one in which a world-wide nationalism emotionally devoted to a world-wide political system and a world government can emerge.

It will never happen in the near future. Nor can an ISDS-based regime make such an emotional unity emerge, since it offers no ideological basis for such a unity, but only a basis for quasi-feudal rivalries among multinationals in their looting of national social systems.

Fourth, the conclusion that the ISDS tribunals constitute fascism at the international level is wrong, but that doesn’t imply that an ISDS regime greatly broadened and extended by the TPP, TTIP, and TiSA are unrelated to the death of democracy, and its replacement by national level fascist systems all over the world. Indeed, I agree with Zuesse that these “trade agreements” and the ISDS are instruments that will make the world’s nations turn to fascism even faster than present trends indicate that they are doing under the pressure of corrupt campaign financing practices, self-imposed government austerity and deference to financial and big business interests.

Ask yourselves, assuming that the ISDS tribunals work as intended, what then will the governments of nation states be exposed to? The answer is long-term habituation to their constant regulation by the decisions and potential decisions of these tribunals.

That habituation will result in national decisions that take great care to implement as small an impact on the profits of multinationals as possible. This result will be especially acute for those nations whose ability to create net financial assets is limited by their status as currency users rather than currency users. So, the nations of the Eurozone will be particularly hard hit, as will other nations who have large debts in currencies other than their own.

In order to avoid damaging settlements against them, governments at all levels will increasingly cease to legislate to solve national problems as long as the solutions may impact multinational profits. Since that will include solutions to environmental and climate sustainability problems, problems involving development of new energy foundations, and to problems involving sustainability of social safety nets, the net effect will be to undermine the adaptability of national governments on one hand, while, on the other, they become increasingly committed to satisfying the interests and desires of the multinational corporations in preference to the desires and interests of most of their citizens.

These results will bring them closer to the model of fascist governments that favor corporate interests disproportionately over the interests of other elements of the State. It will also create a tendency for States to try to maintain political integration by using extremist ideology and the other elements of fascism I’ve listed above, which many nations, including the United States have been turning toward anyway to prevent and suppress dissent, while attempting to mobilize anger and frustration toward outgroups including other nations and their multinationals.

These tendencies toward fascist totalitarianism are likely to accelerate at the national level for awhile without interfering the impetus provided by the ISDS regime. But eventually, national fascist elites will find it expedient to reject the “free trade” trade treaties because the constraints they impose on national sovereignty will seem increasingly inconsistent with the goal of glorification of the nation, and the ideal of survival of the fittest that motivates fascism.

The more successful the ISDS tribunals become in looting nation states, the more likely it is that states will, in the longer run, reject the “trade” treaties and dethrone the ISDS tribunals. So, the ISDS regime, insofar as it encourages fascism at the national level, contains the seeds of its own destruction and that of the treaties that underly them.

The end result will be the restoration of unrestricted competitive trading, and given the logic of national fascisms, renewed competitive struggles for markets and the resurrection of protectionism in a renewed search for empires and autarky. Where this will lead no one can now say.

But, it is clear that competitions governed by a survival of the fittest ethic are dangerous for the world and its inhabitants. And, following on a period of paralysis in which the ISDS regime will prevent any progress on the environmental and climate change crises ll nations and peoples face, this result may spell disaster for humankind – the final result of serial follies after many decades of following where the ideology of the Washington Consensus leads.

11 Responses to TPP: The Fascism Issue

  1. Hey, interesting article and a good point on the use of fascism.
    I’ve been thinking hard about a lot of these issues, and TPP combined with the implications of the Citizens United decisions seem to be putting us on a path towards a sort of corporatist dystopia rather than traditional fascism.

    I’m not sure if you’ve read Karl Polanyi’s book The Great Transformation but he deals with many of these same issues there, though he’s writing in 1944 about the previous century.

    • Joe Firestone

      I’ve read Karl Polanyi but not for some time. However, I also think that the Post indicates that there are real barriers to fascism at the world level of analysis. On the other hand, it also suggests that a TPP/TTIP regime might well encourage the development of fascism at the national level, because when you add corporate domination, militarization of the police, repression of civil liberties, nationalism, the party line of the mass media, and active, continuous surveillance of the population, you are damned close to fascism to begin with. So, if you then add more corporate domination and looting via the ISDSs, then aren’t you pretty much there?

      • I would definitely agree we are there (and anyone who doesn’t should read Robert Scheer’s They Know Everything About You, and Bruce Schneier’s Data and Goliath, plus other similar books).
        Back around 2009, articles appeared in the Euro press (but not in any American newspapers) explaining a lawsuit brought by several attorneys against a legal database (believe it was Westlaw) which they alleged had fictionalized legal precedents to benefit certain corporations. This would come under Cloud Illegal Revisionism, and as everything goes Cloud-like, one would expect to see more and more of this: Wolin’s idea of inverted totalitarianism as applied to not-so-obvious fascism.
        Previous example of the Cloud fraud: MERS.

  2. (I hope this commented isn’t censored by Firestone the way my last several were?) The problem is that I agree with the term “fascism” applied to the TPP and the others.

    Each key element opened a cascading avalanche of bad events:

    (1) The passage of LLC, or Limited Liability Corporation legislation;
    (2) The passage of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act; and,
    (3) this TPP when it passes.

    • Joe Firestone

      I don’t recall “censoring” any of your posts, and I want you to know that I only censor a post under extreme duress and never, never merely for disagreeing with me. Sometimes comments fail to appear here because the site moderator has turned further comments off after a period of time. So perhaps your posts was caught in something like that.

  3. “Why not? Because an emerging fascist system must be able to call on nationalism as its fundamental support, capable of driving the emergence of most of the other attributes of fascism I’ve listed.”

    Benito Mussolini coined the term “fascism;” this was “classic” fascism before racial policies and some other characteristics were added to the definition later. The reason nationalism was important in Mussolini’s fascist Italy was that it supposedly ended the class struggle between workers and owners of businesses by uniting everybody (all classes) through shared patriotic love of country. Mussolini’s goal was to present the appearance of a stable economy and a balanced budget to bond raters and prospective investors who could lend Italy the money (via the bond market) it needed for rebuilding following the economic devastation of WWI. Government regulations mandating severe cuts in the costs of labor (violent union busting, and business and government collusion against labor) and the public sector were Mussolini’s main methods of pleasing the bond raters and financial markets. Thus, fundamentally, classic fascism was about government-mandated budget balancing on the backs of the workers, which created an extreme upward redistribution of wealth from labor to corporate profits and rentiers. What we call “austerity” today has the fundamental characteristics of original classic fascism.

    • Joe Firestone

      But not the nationalism of it, nor many of the totalitarian characteristics listed above.

      • The fundamental aim of Mussolini’s fascism was financialized class warfare, i.e., to extract maximum value from labor, protect corporate profits, and protect the rich from taxation. Financialized class warfare is common to both Mussolini’s original fascism and today’s “austerity.” Throughout the decades following Mussolini’s introduction of fascism, the meaning of the term has been altered in order to disguise its original, fundamental purpose: financialized class warfare. For example, today we are told that fascism has a racial component, as demonstrated by Hitler’s anti-semitism. However, the original fascists’ banker, Giuseppi Toeplitz of Milan, who helped finance Mussolini’s Blackshirts, was an Italian Jew, as was Baron Max von Oppenheim, Hitler’s favorite banker to whom he gave honorary Aryan status. To understand what fascism is, it is necessary to understand the history of it, from its beginning under Mussolini; otherwise, most people think “fascist” just an epithet.

  4. J Christensen

    I’m not an expert on fascism; however I do recall reading somewhere that Mussolini himself had made a statement to the effect that fascism confers upon corporations a good deal of power over the state and economy. It is this, not the nationalism component that seems most central to fascist ideals. Extremist nationalism, eugenics etc seem to have just been some extra baggage required to achieve broader buy in to the ideas, by promoting the notion of scapegoats for various failings.

    That extra baggage at least provided the warning signals required to galvanize opposition against the inherent evil behind the ideology. By leaving that part out (at least for the moment) no alarm bells seem to getting triggered.

    We already have blurred lines between the state and corporations in most countries today, by way of extreme regulatory favoritism toward corporate interests over those of individuals and other groups. It doesn’t matter which flavor of capitalist model you choose to look at. These trade arrangements, if our information is correct, entrench fascism on a scale never seen before. It’s being done before our eyes.

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  6. Joe Firestone

    This is what Mussolini said after talking about the importance of the corporation to Fascism:

    “Let us ask a final question: Can corporationism be applied to other countries? We are obliged to ask this question because it will be asked in all countries where people are studying and trying to understand us. There is no doubt that, given the general crisis of capitalism, corporative solutions can be applied anywhere. But in order to make corporationism full and complete, integral, revolutionary, certain conditions are required.

    There must be a single party through which, aside from economic discipline, enters into action also political discipline, which shall serve as a chain to bind the opposing factions together, and a common faith.

    But this is not enough. There must be the supremacy of the State, so that the State may absorb, transform and embody all the energy, all the interests, all the hopes of a people. . . .

    So, the corporations while having primacy in the Fascist state, were, in the end, subordinate to the State itself, a necessity in totalitarianism.