Petr Svab interviews Michael Rectenwald in the Epoch Times:
The collective effort by corporate CEOs to push their political views related to a growing number of public issues is putting the United States on a dangerous trajectory, experts say.
In the latest notable example, chief executives of some of America’s largest companies recently put out statements criticizing amendments to Georgia’s voting laws, which expand the state’s voter identification requirements to absentee voting, among other changes.
Major League Baseball officials went as far as moving the league’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta to Denver, apparently in protest of the voter ID requirements.
The executives’ statements seem to have come out of left field. Colorado also has voter ID requirements and fewer early voting days than Georgia. About half the states in the union already have voter ID laws and some states are looking to tighten their rules in similar ways to Georgia. Coming out so strongly against one of them and in such a synchronized manner suggests a specific purpose, but it appears mismatched with the usual corporate lobby.
Where it fits, however, is the current trend of corporations directly imposing themselves on more aspects of public life—not just to influence policy to benefit themselves, but also to herd Americans toward certain political viewpoints and behaviors.
According to Michael Rectenwald, a retired liberal arts professor at New York University and expert on the intersection of socialist ideology and the corporate world, these firms are behaving more and more like government branches.
The trend’s trajectory leads to a de facto fusion of government with a select group of corporations based on shared ideology—what Rectenwald calls “corporate socialism” or “capitalism with Chinese characteristics,” as it closely resembles the totalitarian model of the Chinese Communist Party.
“We are witnessing the convergence of political and economic objectives and the merging of state and corporate functions. Corporations are now acting as state apparatuses to enforce uniparty–state desiderata,” he told The Epoch Times via email.
“This is because under the corporate socialist agenda, these corporations recognize that in order to become or remain favored partners in an economy in which the state picks winners and losers, they best align with the objectives of the state, which is now being run by a singular uniparty.”
The result of this is a “two-tiered economy, with would-be monopolies and the state on top” and the rest reduced to “enhanced, supposedly comfortable serfdom,” Rectenwald wrote in a March 11 essay.
One manifestation of the trend lies in the government and the corporate world adopting “wokeness” as their shared guiding ideology, he argues, referring to the ideology popular on the progressive left, which is based on the quasi-Marxist “critical theory.” The ideology reinterprets history as a struggle between different demographics it labels either oppressors or the oppressed.
“Wokeness is not aimed at the sufferers whose complaints, or imagined complaints, it means to redress. Wokeness works on the majority, the supposed beneficiaries of injustice,” Rectenwald wrote.
“It does so by making the majority understand that it has benefitted from ‘privilege’ and preference—based on skin color (whiteness), gender (patriarchy), sexual proclivity (heteronormativity), birthplace (colonialism, imperialism, and first worldism), gender identity (cisgender privilege), and the domination of nature (speciesism)—to name some of the major culprits. The list could go on and is emended, seemingly by the day. This majority must be rehabilitated. The masses must understand that they have gained whatever advantages they have hitherto enjoyed on the basis of the unfair treatment of others.”
The ideology fits well within the two-tier system of corporate socialism, he says, as it instills “shame, guilt, remorse, unworthiness” in the majority population of Western nations, and thus conditions them “to expect less.”
“Under woke ideology, one will be expected and more likely to forfeit one’s property and rights, because even one’s property and rights, nay, especially one’s property and rights, have come at the expense of others,” he wrote.
He noted that “the draconian lockdown measures employed” in response to the pandemic caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus “just so happen to be doing the work that corporate socialists … want done,” such as decimating small businesses and boosting revenues of corporate juggernauts such as Amazon, Apple, and Facebook.
Another method to reduce expectations works through the hijacking of environmental policy, according to Rectenwald.
While there are pressing ecological concerns such as water pollution and the growing, often toxic, waste from plastics, electronics, and other modern technology, those usually play second fiddle to climate change.
If mainstream climate predictions come true, the world will face problems such as more extreme weather and coastal flooding in the coming decades. The establishment policy response has been to ask Americans and Europeans to tighten their belts.
“If, in the postpandemic era, we decide to resume our lives just as before (by driving the same cars, by flying to the same destinations, by eating the same things, by heating our house the same way, and so on), the COVID-19 crisis will have gone to waste as far as climate policies are concerned,” Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), and his colleague Thierry Malleret write in their book “COVID-19: The Great Reset.”
The book states that “with the economic emergency responses to the pandemic now in place, the opportunity can be seized to make the kind of institutional changes and policy choices that will put economies on a new path towards a fairer, greener future,” which it calls “The Great Reset.”
The more dramatic climate prognostications have been around for many decades, but have proved inaccurate. The current ones indicate that averting the estimated hardships would require eliminating travel and energy production through traditional means of burning coal, oil, and gas. Not just the United States and Europe would have to do so, but notably China, the world’s largest polluter, as well as India, and other populous and developing nations. They refuse to, however, as it would drastically hinder their economic development, pushing vast swaths of their populations back into destitution.
Meanwhile, progressives have increasingly used the issue as a vehicle for the woke agenda, tying climate measures with policies such as minimum wage and expanded employee benefits, which further create barriers to competition and favor monopolization.
The financial establishment has followed with its own woke initiative, setting up an “environmental, social, and governance index (ESG)” to steer capital toward corporations on board with the Great Reset program.
“While this index serves merely as a recommendation at present, indications are that banks, asset managers, and other networked corporate institutions may use the scores as means for squeezing non-compliant, non-woke players out of the market,” Rectenwald wrote.
The most obvious cog in the corporate socialist machine is Big Tech, he’s argued, dedicating his 2019 book “The Google Archipelago: The Digital Gulag and the Simulation of Freedom” to the subject.
“Big Tech stands to gain directly from the Great Reset agenda. This cartel’s attempts to eliminate competing platforms and views are part of its monopolistic consolidation efforts,” he wrote.
“Mainstream and social media players censor all views that run contrary to the promoted, official narratives regarding climate change, COVID, vaccines, systemic racism, transgenderism, and all the other essential narrative elements of the Great Reset. In sum, Big Digital Tech represents the leading edge and the ideological communications apparatus of corporate socialism.”
While Schwab and Malleret portray the Great Reset as accommodated by the natural effects of the pandemic, they acknowledge that it would depend on governments, corporations, and activists taking advantage of the situation to make it happen.
In Rectenwald’s view, “the Great Reset is but a coordinated propaganda and public relations campaign shrouded under a cloak of inevitability.”
Contradiction of Corporate Socialism
To some, corporate socialism may sound like an oxymoron. Isn’t the definition of socialism public ownership of the means of production? Aren’t corporations private entities? That’s indeed the case if socialism equals Marxism, but there were socialists both before and after Karl Marx, each offering their own take on how to best achieve socialism, often disagreeing with each other on whose was the real one.
As Rectenwald pointed out, King Camp Gillette, the founder of Gillette Co., wrote two books on the theme of socialism, arguing that it could be better achieved through a “World Corporation,” which was also the title of his second book.
“Promoters [of incorporation] are the true socialists of this generation, the actual builders of a cooperative system which is eliminating competition, and in a practical business way reaching results which socialists have vainly tried to attain through legislation and agitation for centuries,” Gillette said in the 1910 book.
Even before Gillette, some argued that slavery was the best model for socialism, most closely living up to the maxim, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
People can’t be expected to decide for themselves how much they are able to contribute and what needs they have, the logic goes. There must be an administrative class to make that decision.
While people might scoff at the idea of somebody deciding for them what their legitimate needs are, it appears proponents of the Great Reset are already doing so.
One of the “real examples of a shift in policymakers’ emphasis” is the effort to “sustain future economic activity at a level that matches the satisfaction of our material needs with the respect of our planetary boundaries,” Schwab and Malleret say, explaining:
“The framework resembles a ‘doughnut’ in which the inner ring represents the minimum we need to lead a good life (as enunciated by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals) and the outer ring the ecological ceiling defined by earth-system scientists (which highlights the boundaries not to be crossed by human activity to avoid environmentally negative impact on climate, soil, oceans, the ozone layer, freshwater, and biodiversity).
“In between the two rings is the sweet spot (or ‘dough’) where our human needs and those of the planet are being met.”
The problem is, there may be no dough.
The city of Amsterdam commissioned an analysis of its economy by this method only to find out that it was living far beyond its means as defined by the “earth-system scientists.” At the same time, it was still far from meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which demand things such as universal access to affordable housing, transportation, healthcare, education, and more.
“Residents’ housing needs are increasingly not being satisfied, with almost 20% of city tenants unable to cover their basic needs after paying their rent, and just 12% of approximately 60,000 online applicants for social housing being successful,” The Guardian reported.
“One solution might be to build more homes but Amsterdam’s doughnut highlights that the area’s carbon dioxide emissions are 31% above 1990 levels. Imports of building materials, food, and consumer products from outside the city boundaries contribute 62% of those total emissions.”
The city tried to redeem itself by proposing to source building materials locally and use renewable ones, such as wood, but how could it do enough to reverse the overwhelming overconsumption the analysts accused it of?
And if the West has already eaten its doughnut, what do its majorities deserve in the Reset economy?