rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

The Mafia system

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” is one of the most famous lines in cinematic history. It is the set-up for the scene in Godfather where a big shot Hollywood producer wakes up with a bloody horse’s head in his bed.

In less than 10 words it also perfectly sums up how the rich and powerful get their way. Use of the tactic has certainly never been limited to Mafiosi.

In fact, countries possessing military might have made “offers they can’t refuse” all through history to less powerful nations or regions.

But today’s ultimate practitioners are giant corporations that dominate the world economy. The 0.1% wealthiest people on the planet use their control of these corporations to impose their will on the rest of us.

Their “offers we can’t refuse” go something like this:

 “Cut pensions, chop government jobs, privatize everything you can, or we will start a run on your currency and sink your entire economy.”

“Sign this ‘free trade agreement’ or we will pull all our investments from your country and move them to places that have agreed to everything we want.”

“Cut our taxes or we will fund a political party that will.”

“Build this pipeline if you want jobs.”

“We don’t care about democracy, satisfying us is more important that satisfying the will of the majority.”

“Weaken unions, or we’ll take our money and run.”

“Ignore global warming, or we’ll make sure you regret it.”

“If we don’t like your response or you protest too much, maybe even at all, we will use the violence at our disposal, including that of the governments we own, to crush you.”

But it’s not just threats. Like Don Corleone, the corporations also have politicians, judges, journalists, academics, lobbyists, personalities and many others on their payroll to lie, obfuscate, corrupt, manipulate and who knows what else in order to get their way. Both the wise Mafia Don and the effective corporate CEO understand that power comes in many forms. The use of violence needs to be minimized. Better to save it for when there is no other way to impose your will, or it loses its effectiveness. And too much looks bad. (Witness Iraq and Afghanistan.)

But here’s the thing with both organized crime and our economic system in general. There’s always some competitor  — be it a long established rival or neighbourhood punk/upstart capitalist — willing to employ whatever means necessary to steal your territory. If you get soft you risk losing everything.  If your profit margins are less than your competitors their power will grow while yours stagnates.

As the movie (and its sequels) vividly shows, there can be no Mr. Nice Guy Mafia Don. The logic of organized crime makes it impossible. To be successful — to survive — lying, cheating, bribing and ultimately violence is necessary.

The same is true of our wider economic system. While violence is usually confined to governments that the corporations control, in both worlds hands get dirty doing whatever it takes to succeed because the system demands it.

This is why environmentalists who look for capitalist solutions to global warming are either extremely naïve or in the pay of corporations. This is why union leaders who fail to see the fundamental contradiction between workers’ and capitalists’ interests often sell out to the bosses. This is why in the long run there can be no capitalism with a human face.

If the 0.1% who own and control most of our economy want to keep their power they will act as capitalists have always acted. They will grab as much profit for themselves as they can and pass the environmental costs onto the rest of us while doing so. They will try to reduce wages to increase their profits. They will manipulate democracy to get their way. They will attempt to overthrow democracy if it threatens their existence. They have no choice. Greed, self-interest and a relentless drive to increase profits are the foundations upon which the capitalist economic system is built.

Only when the vast majority of us, the 90% who work for a living, come together to use our collective power to create a new democratic economic system will anything change.

Only greater power can overcome the might of the Mafia Don or the corporate CEO: The power of the people who actually do all the work that makes up our economy.

Gary Engler is a Canadian journalist, union activist, novelist (The Year We Became Us) and co-author of the recently released New Commune-ist Manifesto — Workers of the World It Really is Time to Unite (www.newcommuneist.com).

 

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.