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Union Sundown: The Corporate Elite Takes Off its Mask

Chris Floyd | October 13 2006

Nothing encapsulates the obscene and depraved mindset that drives the corporate elite – and their avid partners in government – than the first two paragraphs of this straightforward New York Times business story:

China is planning to adopt a new law that seeks to crack down on sweatshops and protect workers’ rights by giving labor unions real power for the first time since it introduced market forces in the 1980s.

The move, which underscores the government’s growing concern about the widening income gap and threats of social unrest, is setting off a battle with American and other foreign corporations that have lobbied against it by hinting that they may build fewer factories here.

Read that again. Let it soak in. The corporate elite are threatening to lash out because China is considering a few very belated and, as the story makes clear, most likely ineffective steps to provide a modicum of protection for its working people, many of whom labor in conditions of near-slavery in order to stuff the bellies and the wallets of foreign fat-cats. The elite are saying – openly, brazenly – that they might choke off economic growth in China if they can't keep paying peon wages to defenseless people in hell-hole conditions.

Otherwise, the clear implication is that they will look elsewhere for drones to exploit. Hey, maybe Burma is ready for an "economic miracle?" Or North Korea? We could trade their nuke program for Wal-Mart sweatshops and Goodyear plantations, give a nice slice to Kim and let the good times roll.

This is the true face of "globalization" – predatory elites moving relentlessly, remorselessly around the world, swooping in wherever they're allowed to put profits over people, to treat human beings like so much meat to be chewed up and discarded, then moving on when there's the slightest hint of measure that might impact their already unfathomable riches by some infinitesimal degree. This is the true and ugly face of greed that lies behind the grinning masks of the great and good as they slap backs at Davos or grin for the cameras at G8 summits.

The slobbering, mindless greed of elites has been with us since time immemorial, of course – but it's usually dressed up in some kind of rhetorical finery, cast as "a rising tide that lifts all boats," the engine of prosperity for all, an "invisible hand" directing everything toward the common good, and so on. What's remarkable here is that our modern-day elites no longer bother with such pretenses. They are admirably blunt: "Protection for workers? Screw that, Chinaman. We'll take our money elsewhere."

They have already practiced this principle on a savage level in the United States, where whole cities have been gutted by the flight of manufacturing – and all the countless businesses attendant on it – to foreign climes, where workers aren't so uppity, demanding a living wage, safe conditions, human dignity and all that crybaby garbage.

They've been assisted in this at every turn by the thoroughly bipartisan assistance of the American political establishment, which for decades has been systematically dismantling the labor protections that once provided the working people of the United States with an unprecedented level of prosperity, growth and aspiration. (And just last week, the Bush Regime came in with yet another hammer blow, a new measure that will strip millions of people – including health care workers – of the right to organize.)

There have been no penalties – legal, financial or political – for companies that used the public infrastructure -- roads, utilities, police, education, etc. – provided by American taxpayers then abandoned the workers and the cities that sustained them in search of even-greater profits elsewhere. No penalties for companies which continue to feed on the American infrastructure but hide their profits in off-shore shell operations, refusing to pay their share of the taxes to maintain and improve that infrastructure. No penalties for slashing or destroying the pensions of life-long employees, for awarding themselves gargantuan bonuses, like bejeweled potentates of old, while turfing out workers and shutting down factories and stores. No penalties for creating the greatest, most punishing wealth disparities in American society since the days of the robber barons.

This too is the reality behind Davos, behind G8 – and behind the phalanx of unctuous, friendly faces beaming out from the podium at every national political convention: the ruination of America's working people for the profit of a very few – for the connected and the corrupt.

China has been their darling, despite its massive political repression – no, because of its massive political repression, which keeps workers docile. But any move by Beijing (and the new measure is still in draft form) to upset the golden applecart of slave-like labor will be punished by the corporate elite, just as they have punished, smeared, destroyed or marginalized anyone standing up for working people in the United States.


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