The Business of War & The Cost of American Delusions

Featuring Christian Sorensen and Richard Wolff

by Kate Horgan
Published: Updated:
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The Business of War & The Cost of American Delusions
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In the first half of the show, researcher and US military veteran Christian Sorensen joins Eleanor Goldfield to discuss the business of war, the mapping of it, the remarkable spread of it, and the very real ability and need to shift this trillion dollar industry to something more sustainable and peaceful. Sorensen explains how the military industrial complex in this country is the classic definition of fascism, and why confronting this uncomfortable fact is quite simply necessary for a livable future. Later in the show, we welcome Professor Richard Wolff back on the show, this time to articulate the dangerous delusions of American Exceptionalism that are not only hurting us, but our allies in Europe as well. Professor Wolff outlines extreme miscalculations vis a vis Russia, China, and Israel, how right-wing fear mongering is failing, and hope on the horizon thanks to leftist organizing and campaigning.

 

Video of the Interview with Christian Sorensen

Video of the Interview with Professor Richard Wolff

 

Below is a Rough Transcript of the Interview with Christian Sorensen

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Eleanor Goldfield: Thanks, everyone, for joining us back at the Project Censored radio show. We’re very glad right now to be joined by Christian Sorensen, who’s a researcher focused on the bundling of military and big business.

A U. S. military veteran, he is a senior fellow at the Eisenhower Media Network, and his research is available at thebusinessofwar.substack.com. Christian, thanks so much for joining us.

Christian Sorensen: Thank you very much for having me.

Eleanor Goldfield: So, Christian, I want to start with a map that you recently released, well, November of last year, which compiled public information of military contractor facilities in the United States and was also recently banned by Google, citing, quote, a potential violation of its dangerous and illegal activities policy, end quote.

Now, while we wait for a response from Google as to how mapping publicly available addresses is dangerous and/or illegal, could you walk us through some of the information that you compiled on this map?

Christian Sorensen: Absolutely. So, first of all, my methodology was to study publicly available military contracting announcements that are posted on the Pentagon’s website every day, every duty day, as well as corporate press releases and corporate job postings. And so I did that over about a 10 month span and took the disparate data and put that into a Google map and the map shows the locations of the top six corporations that are quote unquote military contractors. And it basically shows what these corporations produce, where they produce it.

And then I took an extra step of suggesting, based on current capacity and, production, what these facilities could do tomorrow to start converting to a peace economy instead of economy based on war.

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, and I want to get into that in a minute, but I also want to touch on something else that you’ve shared because what you just mentioned sounds like stuff that, that’s like the right to know, like we have a right to know, so mapping it really would just be like a public service, I feel.

And you’ve also done some great reporting on the remarkably wide net that’s cast by the military industrial complex, which includes corporations that I think most of us would not think of as military contractors, like GE, Honeywell, which does, you know, the temp controls in your homes, Comcast, Microsoft.

It seems like there’s just no ethical consumption under empire, to borrow the no ethical consumption under capitalism phrase.

I mean, this net is so wide, you could probably spend the next two days just going through the corporations, but could you talk about how that net is cast and how we are perhaps purposefully not let into this idea that so many companies are in fact also part of the military industrial complex?

Christian Sorensen: Sure. So there are, fortunately, there are only a handful of corporations that are pure war corporations, pure corporations that just get maybe, you know, 96, 97, 98, 99 percent of their revenue from military contracting. And you know, Lockheed Martin is a good example. It gets about 96, 97 percent of its money from military contracting.

However, most corporations that are medium or large in size that contract with the U.S. Military do not get all of their or nearly all of their revenue from military contracting. And so I see that as a good thing. That means that they’re slightly ahead when it comes time to convert from a war economy to a peace economy.

So what I’ve done over the last decade is study these military contracting announcements, distill them and try to understand who profits from nonstop war.

And what I did recently on my substack is to compile this into one sheet that shows the repeat offenders, the corporations that are constantly coming up in contract announcements.

And what do they do? What do they produce? So we know, for example, that the big six are, and these are the ones that I mapped as well: lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, now known as RTX, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, and L3Harris. Now they absolutely dominate military contracting. They take up maybe half of that space.

The other ones do everything that the military could possibly need. So basically since the Vietnam War, and increasingly since 9 11, more and more government military activity is handed over to corporations under what is commonly known as neoliberal economic policy. And so the military these days can’t move, it can’t shoot, it can’t communicate, it can’t do anything without corporations being fully involved.

And so there are corporations that provide technology for war, and the hardware and software for espionage. Those include Booz Allen Hamilton, Hackey, Leidos. These are sizable corporations.

Then you have massive conglomerates. These are huge multinational corporations that also know, like these other corporations, that military contracting is incredibly lucrative. So you have a Textron, which makes golf carts, and it makes all kinds of civilian goods and sells all kinds of services to civilians. But it also makes attack helicopters. It also makes spy planes. It also makes small drones. You mentioned Honeywell. That’s another one. Honeywell makes filters for your air conditioning in your home. It does thermostats, temperature regulation inside your home, but then it also makes navigation systems. It makes helicopter and tank engines, armored vehicles, and the like. So this, you know, this can go on and on and on and on.

You have massive project management firms, which, I’ve seen in my study of contracting, really dive into and really flock to the military budget over the last 10 years. And these are corporations like AECOM, which recently bought or bought URS within the last 10 years. And just, it’s, it’s massive. The AECOM does things like base operations. It does a lot of logitics, overseas stock, military stock that is pre positioned overseas. So AECOM, Bechtel, Jacobs, Flohr. KBR should be a name that is familiar to people because it was involved in some notorious alleged profiteering during the early invasion and occupation of Iraq.

So you have all these different categories of big business that keep the Pentagon and the military operations around the globe up and running, and they profit while that goes on.

So other categories include accounting firms that audit the military. They get in on it. Consulting firms get in on it. IT corporations that we know like Amazon, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft. They provide the military computing backbone, you know, your telecoms also provide communications infrastructure and research and development.

You have private equity firms increasingly buying up medium sized war corporations, blending them, and then trying to sell them for a profit later on. So it really goes on and on.

The big takeaway is that corporations large and small know that the business of war is incredibly lucrative and that it is not really regulated. And there are corporations like Transdime which is alleged in very good reporting, mainstream reporting even, to price gouge the Pentagon so there’s a incredible room for profit and this is a direct transfer of the working class taxpayers taxes to the Pentagon and then to big business and big business knows where the money is.

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, absolutely. And as you say, you could go on and on and I definitely recommend that folks check out your substack because you have that that one page that is a deep dive, even though it’s just that one page. It’s a really powerful and disgusting read.

And people should not be that surprised, though, I think that people have this feeling that, oh, it’s, it’s different, it’s changed. You know, like the fact that IBM worked with Germany during the Second World War to do the computing system inside concentration camps, or that’s where Fanta came from, so that Coca Cola could keep going with the market in Europe during the war, I just feel like people think, well, that’s the disgusting thing that happened back then.

But it just seems like the PR has gotten better. You know, Honeywell’s commercials are not obviously showing the despicable war machine that they’re profiting from. And I feel like it’s even more insidious than that because what I didn’t really realize, which you also shared on that one sheet, is how this intersects with colonialism here at home.

And you point out that many tribes are also military contractors. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Christian Sorensen: So there was an act in the 1970s called the Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act . And what it basically did was it said, all right, the feds, the U.S. federal government said, all right, you Alaskan native tribes can no longer have outstanding claims, and grievances regarding the genocide of the natives that the U.S. government and, in large part, the U.S. Military took part in during the establishment and the expansion of the colonies.

And so what the text of the act said is, all right, if you drop these claims, then in turn, we will provide you with several perks and incentives. And a big one was preferable bidding in government contracting.

And as we know, government contracting is largely military contracting. And so what basically happened since the 70s over the last several decades is that these corporations, the corporations that represent the Alaskan Native Tribes have turned into very adept military contractors, and they do everything from, you know, small and medium sized information technology to, you know, they pop up all over the place. They really do everything.

They do logistics. Sometimes they do, they create small gear and sometimes even weaponry. It’s really astonishing. And it speaks to the power of the federal government and the power of military contracting.

And if we don’t all unite as the proverbial 99 percent and push back against this, then the US ruling class will get its way in the near term and in the long term.

And so, I don’t really know where to go from there because the money that is available through military contracting is so ready. It’s so there, and these tribes are in so deep. And it’s actually important to state that the act was signed by the tribal leadership. It was not ratified in a broadly democratic manner by everyone in the tribes. So it’s important not to blame the tribes themselves. It’s just, it could be seen as an example of capitalist leadership coercing or effectively co opting leaders, not unlike what they do with union leaders over time. I think there’s an analogy there if anybody wants to dive into that. So, that is not exclusive to the Alaskan tribes. You know, you have Hawaiian native corporations as well, and you have some corporations like Cherokee in the contiguous 48 states that do the same thing.

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, again, a disgusting confluence of colonialism and imperialism.

And I wanted to ask you, because we’ve been talking about the budget and you were talking about price gouging, and I’m curious, what’s pushing what here? Because it seemed, like you mentioned, this is ready money, and every single year there The United States government puts more and more money into that budget. And as George Carlin said, the US is basically just an oil corporation with an army.

Is it the corporate world that pushes via price gouging or things like that for there to always be more money? Or is it like, as you also mentioned, the Pentagon has failed every audit, it doesn’t know what it has, but it keeps buying things. And because there’s just this war hawkish culture in the US, is it the government that’s pushing, or is it kind of a combination of the two?

Christian Sorensen: I would point to the classic definition of fascism, which is what we saw in the 30s and 40s in Italy under Mussolini and what we saw in the 30s and 40s in Germany under Hitler.

And that classic definition is the bundling of government authority and big business. And that is exactly what the military industrial complex is. Now it is very uncomfortable for us in a country where we are taught that not only are we a democracy, but we are the example of a democracy to then confront the fact that maybe we’re not even a democracy, maybe we are one of the worst political economic systems one can imagine, and that is fascism.

So I argue that the military industrial complex is classic fascism. It is the bundling of government authority and big business. And it is that bundle, not government, not big business, but that bundling.

And we see it in many ways calling the shots. And so there’s no distinction between the two sides. And so sometimes you see, oh, hey, it’s big business capturing government through campaign finance or through dark money, donating to both of the capitalist political factions, the red team and the blue team, or through lobbying. But those are more like examples of the bundling in action.

It is important that we just take a step back and be honest with what we have here in the United States, and go from there because we can’t fix the system unless we understand how it operates.

Eleanor Goldfield: Absolutely. And so I want to circle back to something that you mentioned before, which is your suggestions on how to shift this economy. And I really enjoy talking about intersections of issues, but particularly as an organizer, it seems like there’s a powerful connection between anti war movement and labor movement here.

Because these corporations that you’re talking about, they’re well known for, I mean, Amazon, Jesus, exploiting workers. And so I really appreciate about your substack, Business of War, you suggest these pivots, what you call economic conversion. Could you walk us through some of those ideas?

Christian Sorensen: Sure. So first let me define economic conversion. Economic conversion simply involves changing the output of existing industrial capacity. So if you are, for example, a Lockheed Martin plant in Marietta, Georgia, making a cargo plane, and that cargo plane is used right now for military, then changing that output is that cargo plan is now used for search and rescue or firefighting, or humanitarian relief or anything like that. So that’s a simple example. That’s a straightforward example.

Now it’s important to note that industry adjusts all the time. It adjusts all the time. Industry, big business is top down. It is corporate executives making the calls, doing, making the shots. The workers, the 99 percent do not have any say in this. It is not a democratic institution. Nonetheless, industry adjusts all the time, but it just happens to, under this current system, adjust in order to get more profit. So executives in the war industry regularly order, for example, new facilities to be built.

We recently with the fad of hypersonic missiles. Industry did a really good job through its think tanks and through its politicians on the take of hyping up hypersonic missile capabilities of some of the official bad guys like Russia and China in order to then posture as our production of hypersonic missiles and technology as defensive. And this is a classic move where you inflate a threat overseas to then build up your own war profiteering here at home.

So Lockheed Martin, for example, opened a new facility in northern Alabama. It broke ground in 2019. It opened in 2021 to manufacture hypersonic weapons. Northrop Grumman did the same thing in Maryland for hypersonic propulsion systems. Broke ground four years ago, opened up last year in 2023.

So industry is constantly adjusting. So economic conversion is not something that industry can’t do. It adjusts all the time. It’s just adjusting for its own narrow war profiteering motives.

Now, there are numerous benefits to economic conversion. Wait, let me back up for a second. The map that I put out, that Google then censored, included suggestions based on current manufacturing capabilities for each facility to immediately pivot to producing stuff for peace or civilian use, not for war or espionage. And so every single facility that I’ve mapped belonging to the top six military contractors can indeed tomorrow, if there were the political will, start at least trying to produce for beneficial civilian fields. And so to say that it can’t be done is absolute nonsense. It absolutely can be done. The facilities already exist. And the workers in the facilities are brilliant, and they’re industrious, they are hardworking, they absolutely can produce beneficial, peaceful things for civilian use. And so, we know that every single facility in the largest war corporations can do this, and we know that the workers, like the engineers, the physicists, the welders, the truck drivers, the electricians can also do this so all that’s lacking is the political will and we can get to that later.

And the workers would benefit incredibly. Right now the workers in the war industry produce products that are used in war and espionage and the ruling class, the one percent, the executives, the financial tycoons, Wall street barons, they take the profit that the workers create. The workers are given a wage disguising the fact that the workers produce way more money every single day, and that money is profit and the ruling class takes that profit. The ruling class uses that profit for stock buybacks, dividend payments to shareholders, for political aims like dark money. They have all sorts of things, none of which help the workers, by the way. Massive compensation for corporate executives is another example of where the profit goes.

So once the workplace is democratized then the workers, not the executives, will be in charge, and the workers will keep the profit that they make, and the workers will then, under economic conversion, be producing good stuff, stuff that actually helps us. And there are even more benefits. Less death, less destruction, less pollution. Every single major military contractor, at least in the top six, has been accused, even by the EPA and by the federal government, which doesn’t really regulate industry, so you can imagine how bad the situation really is if our government actually regulated industry, have been accused of polluting. The Orlando Sentinel did a piece on Lockheed Martin pollution in Orlando. Local papers in Los Angeles have done pieces on Raytheon pollution out there, and even some corporate websites in corporate 10K reports to the SEC, which are released every year, acknowledge pollution.

So there’d be less pollution because the workers would not, first of all, not be producing products that pollute through the manufacturing process, and they wouldn’t pollute their own their hometown anyway. Why would you pollute your own soil, your own air, your own drinking water? So that’s another benefit.

Economic conversion also frees up all of this roughly $1 trillion that we spend every year on war and espionage to then be used for the benefit of the American public because you’re no longer fighting, you’re no longer deploying the troops all around the world for corporate profit and to bully countries and, you know, to invade and occupy countries and open up countries for multinational corporate plunder.

You are actually democratizing in the process, you’re establishing democracy in the United States and you’re democratizing foreign policy. So, there’s political space to bring the troops home and take care of them, there is enormous one trillion dollars that instead of being spent on war and espionage every year, is actually spent on the American public, which is in dire need of debt relief, affordable education, affordable housing, affordable housing, infrastructure, transportation, healthcare.

I mean, we are hurting as a people, and we are hurting as people because of corporate greed. We are hurting as people because of the permanent warfare state. So yeah, money that once was tied up in this massive war and espionage budget is now freed for public need.

So the benefits are enormous. And it’s, it’s really encouraging that programs like Project Censored and others in the independent media are talking about it, because it’s really the future.

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, absolutely. And I wanted to get your take on this political will aspect, because I don’t like the silver bullet questions, like, oh, what do we do? But I am curious, particularly with your background, because this government never does anything good because it just woke up one day and was like, wow, this is the right thing to do. Everything that has happened that we would look at as positive in the history of this country has been done because people fought and oftentimes died in order to push that and make it politically untenable to do anything else.

So with regards to this, I mean, it seems like workers would have a lot of power with this in terms of democratizing the workplace and then making that shift. But I’m also curious about veterans, because it seems like there’s a lot of power in these spaces where there are veterans, as you pointed out, coming home, not getting the care that they require.

You know, we’ve had Matthew Hoh on the show several times talking about this moral injury, extreme PTSD and things like that, and that there is a lot of solidarity there as well in terms of having that shift come from the inside as well.

Could you talk a little bit about how you see that, perhaps some potentials in terms of organizing in these spaces?

Christian Sorensen: I mean, I think you hit the nail on the head. There is a growing working class consciousness in this country and a growing understanding of how the system works. People are beginning to, thanks to organizers, thanks to people who have sacrificed their entire lives to get this information out there. You know, people from throughout the history of this country, the dissidents, the rebels who have taken time to educate us all, and on whose shoulders we stand here today.

People are really starting to understand that the United States is a class society. The working class is everyone who puts in a day’s labor for a wage, you know, your truck driver, your nurse, your electrician, your farm worker, etc.

Then there’s the ruling class, the proverbial 1%. These are the Wall Street barons, the financial tycoons, the top corporate executives, the politicians on the armed services committees, and the foreign affairs committee, and the foreign relations committee, and the intel committees, who legislatively facilitate permanent warfare, nonstop war.

And so the ruling class, we come to understand, uses its tools including the armed forces, including economic sanctions and intelligence agencies to bully and harm governments that do not follow the edicts that Washington D.C. issues.

And D.C. is concerned solely with protecting and promoting capitalism around the globe. That is its core goal. And so we also come to know that the U.S. ruling class profits from war as it implements this belligerent foreign policy. And it is incredibly profitable, as we know. There’s nothing defensive about the military industrial complex. And this is what we sort of intuitively understand and have a hard time confronting as soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, you know, guardians now.

As the pawns of empire, we are bombarded with propaganda. We are really indoctrinated and people react different ways to it. Some people really double down on it. Some people really like consume it. And I get that. I absolutely get that. Some people are appalled by it. In any event, it’s getting harder and harder with our ability to share information, it’s getting harder and harder for the U.S. ruling class to keep the lid on our growing understanding of how the system works, and that is why censorship is so important these days. Both parties are committed to it. If you think or operate outside the anti worker system known as capitalism, then you will get censored, if you are deemed to be a threat to the system. So, big kudos to Project Censored for keeping on keeping on, you know?

Eleanor Goldfield: Well, kudos right back.

And, and right before we wrap up, I wanted to ask you about this because this is something else that you cover in your substack, and as a word nerd myself, I found it really interesting that you highlighted these things.

For instance, I’ll just give two examples: that you say it’s not the border industrial complex and it’s not the surveillance industrial complex. Could you talk a little bit about why you make those distinctions?

Christian Sorensen: I just highlight that because you hear, it’s almost vogue to say that the new thing is a blank industrial complex.

And I say that it is not the border industrial complex. It is the military industrial complex doing the border. It is not the surveillance industrial complex. It is the military industrial complex doing surveillance because that’s exactly what it is. These are the same corporations. These are the same big businesses. These are the same wall street conglomerates, massive institutional stockholders, Vanguard, Blackrock, State Street that are behind the whole thing. It is the same business of war wherever it’s directed. If it’s directed overseas, it’s the same business of war. If it’s directed inside against the American public, it’s the same business of war, the same corporations that help NSA, for example, reportedly spy on countries around the world, corporations that you see in military contracting announcements like Caci, SAIC, Leidos, Booz Allen Hamilton. These are also the same corporations that keep appearing in, for example, the Snowden leaks regarding the surveillance of the American public here. So it’s not the surveillance industrial complex. It’s just the military industrial complex doing surveillance against the American public.

Same thing on the border. You see Amazon, you see Northrop Grumman establishing databases for documenting who comes, with facial recognition and massive databases. You see General Dynamics towers, you see all of the same corporations. They’re just finding new ways to profit off of a state of permanent warfare. So it’s important to clarify that. And I’m really glad you brought it up.

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah. Thank you. I appreciate that you say that because I think it also makes the important point that the military industrial complex is not something that’s just pointed outward. I like to say imperialism is a home game and there’s no way that you can speak the language of violence outside of our borders and then be like Mr. Rogers here at home.

So, Christian, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with us. Again, if folks would like to check out your work, which I absolutely recommend that you do, his research is available at thebusinessofwar.substack.com. Christian, thank you again. Really appreciate it.

Christian Sorensen: Thank you so much.

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Below is a Rough Transcript of the Interview with Professor Richard Wolff

Please consider supporting our work at Patreon.com/ProjectCensored

Eleanor Goldfield: Thanks everyone for joining us back at the Project Censored radio show. We’re very glad to to invite back on the show Richard D. Wolff, who’s a professor of economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a visiting professor in the graduate program in international affairs of the New School University in New York City. He’s the founder of Democracy at Work and host of the nationally syndicated show Economic Update. His books include The Sickness is the System: When Capitalism Fails To Save Us From Pandemics Or Itself, Understanding Socialism and Understanding Marxism and his work can be found at DemocracyatWork.Info

Professor Wolff, thank you so much for joining us back at the show.

Prof. Richard Wolff: Thank you. I’m really glad to be here.

Eleanor Goldfield: So I want to start off by discussing a point that you made in a recent article in Counterpunch titled Empire Decline and Costly Delusions. I feel that a few things are true here. It’s true that the proxy war, the US proxy war in Ukraine against Russia is a total abject failure. It’s also true that a lot of nations are just clinging to the U.S., either equally delusional about U.S. power or just short term greedy. You know, Sweden joining NATO, France threatening to send troops to Ukraine, etc.

It seems like a bit of a two step on the global stage. And I’m wondering, I wanted to get your take here, how much will these loyalties to U.S. empire bolster the U.S. either politically, economically, or both?

Prof. Richard Wolff: You know, I’m fascinated by Europe as well. Both of my parents were born in Europe. My father was French and my mother German, and so I speak those languages because I grew up with them, and so I follow this a great deal.

And it’s very, very important. You have a bizarre situation in Europe. You have governments that are overwhelmingly, with a couple of exceptions, but overwhelmingly center right or tilting that way or moving that way at the same time that the prospects and conditions for Europe, all of Europe, are worse than anything I have not only ever seen in my life, but imagined as ever happening.

I mean, at the most basic level, and I approach it as an economist, so, you know, I apologize, but that’s the angle through which I look at things. Europe is now finding itself caught, and I use that word, between two economic powerhouses: the United States on the one hand, and China and its allies on the other.

And it is a harsh reality that it is not competing with either of them effectively, and It still has a long, horrible colonial legacy to overcome, and that’s far from done, as evidenced by the migrational catastrophes that are all over Europe, from Sweden in the north, Italy in the south, and everywhere in between.

This is a very, very hard time, number one. All the highest tech in the world is now monopolized either by the United States or by China, and the Europeans, yes, there are some cases where they are at the forefront also, I don’t want to overstate this, but the broad picture is unmistakable.

Europe is not able to define and to construct a viable alternative. The right wing, having always looked to the United States as the protector, the model, and everything else, they don’t know what to do other than act out their impossible situation. So, that takes bizarre forms. Suddenly deciding that Russia is a great enemy.

It’s almost as if, The Cold War, which was over, has been brought back so that you can run the same statements, make the same, I mean, I heard the one that I found the funniest, let me amuse you. A few days ago, I participated in a conference electronically in Europe. And a serious politician, whose name I won’t mention, but who’s pretty well known in northern Europe started talking about the domino theory.

And I raised my hand and I said, what are you talking about? And he said, well, if we let Russia win, as if he had the option of not letting Russia win, but if we let Russia win, then, next there’ll be Slovakia, and after that Poland, and on and on and on. Or Sweden, it didn’t stop at Eastern Europe, it went all across Western Europe as well.

And he said, this is a very serious reality. And so I decided I would have fun with him. And I said, you know, I remember the domino theory. I was a college student back in the war in Vietnam when the secretary of defense and the president of the United States warned us repeatedly about the domino theory that if the communists won in Vietnam, well then, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, fill in the blank, would all get. And I said, you know, it was a shock to all of us when the United States lost, the communists in Vietnam won, and not a single domino ever happened. The guy was, he didn’t know what to do. He just didn’t know what to do, and I enjoyed his discomfiture at this.

But it’s interesting when you come up with a theory like that, because it means usually you don’t have much in the way of a justification, and so you’re desperate, you’re trying to hold on.

It’s a little bit like we do here in the United States, tell people that it’s necessary to fight wars everywhere else, because otherwise those wars would come here, as if the war is inevitable, only the location is the issue, which, you know, which is a way of thinking that is childish and, and, and otherwise not to be taken seriously.

Anyway, long story short for the prospects of Europe, they can’t get together. Their divisions are now the source of unbelievable impossibility of a coordinated program. And so they limp, some more, some less in the, in the bag of the United States, even though the country that was always the closest is now a basket case.

Britain is a disaster as an economy. Their working class has suffered more than those in the rest of Europe. They’re the ones closest to the United States. They were the one that was supposed to be successful by breaking away from the rest of Europe. The whole Brexit disaster. All of that is now, not only by the way, proven wrong, but even many of the stalwart supporters of Brexit have changed their mind because the wind has, has altered.

So I, I think what you’re seeing is a kind of desperate effort by the center right, long associated with subordination to the United States, trying to hold on by hyping that role. In other words, by literally re stimulating the Russia versus America. Because in that story, they know what their place is. And they have a population they hope will remember all of that trauma and give them the benefit of the doubt. So they become the creators of the demonized Putin club. You know, it’s bizarre to watch in Sweden and Finland with their shifts from the more neutral position they used to enjoy occupying to now embracing NATO at the worst historical moment imaginable.

And I don’t think, you know, of course I could be wrong, I don’t think this is a sustainable arrangement. I don’t think you’re going to see the mass of people willing to do this, to decline, which is what happening in Europe.

I mean, I don’t mean to be mean spirited, but much of the European self delusion was based, good and bad, on Germany.

That Germany was the powerhouse economy and would somehow carry Europe, even though, to be honest, much of Germany’s achievement was at the expense of other parts of Europe, because of the way that the unified currency was created, Germany had advantages it should not have had. And what the Germans call Wirtschaftswunder, which translates into English as economic miracle. Their economic miracle is now shown, because they’re in recession, they’re in terrible shape, to be have to been dependent on the dominance of the United States, which is gone, and the subordinate position of China, which is also gone. And Germany, which can’t now, because of its playing into this right wing pro U.S., it can’t break from this game, has to deny itself cheap Russian oil and gas, and the Chinese won’t let them compensate by shipping stuff to China. They’re done. They’re sitting there. They have no way out.

And even if you follow as I do, among the capitalist employers of Germany, there is a huge opposition to what’s going on. They understand that their position is the sacrificial lamb here. They can’t export the way they did. They can’t get cheap energy the way they did. That was the secret of the so called miracle. They know it better than anyone, and now it’s all gone, and there’s nothing in its place. And, you know, that government there, which is very weird anyway, the socialists, the greens, and the right wing libertarians, I mean, talk about a mess. This is a messed government that can barely function. And then you have the horrible ironies, which tells you how confused things are, that the loudest voice of demonizing the Russians comes from the leader of the Green Party, which makes no sense at all, except you have a very bizarre twisting of the politics, because there’s no clear way forward.

Eleanor Goldfield: And of course there’s a lot of, you know, the East German versus West German, how people feel about Russia in those places.

And, I wanna get into one something that you also mentioned in the article with regards to this, you know, center right or far right wing rise that we’re seeing really globally, but in specifically talking about the US and Europe, I often say that neoliberalism is what paves and smooths the road towards fascism, and in your article, you write, “that there’s a shift away from neoliberal globalization toward economic nationalism.”

And I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit more about this economic shift and how that ties into right wing populist policies that we see especially in this country from both ruling parties.

Prof. Richard Wolff: Yeah, I’d love to. My point there, what I was trying to get at, was to get folks to understand that the neoliberal free trade globalization story of the last 30 years, more or less was a wonderful way for capitalists particularly in the United States, but around the world, to become much richer, to find extraordinary opportunities, mostly in China and in those parts of the world.

And, and there is no mystery about this at all. China made a decision. Politically, whatever you think of it, they made a decision that they were going to offer capitalists in the West a deal. And the deal was real simple. We will give you access to our working class here in China. Okay? And our working class is highly motivated, now very well educated, especially compared to the rest of the old, what we used to call the third world, and very low wages. So you’re getting a disciplined, organized, educated, low wage, you can’t beat that. But better than that, we’re going to give you access to the fastest growing, largest market in the world for everything.

And, you know, if you go to business school, I’ve taught in business schools, you teach young entrepreneur types or people who imagine that they will do that one day. You teach them that the place you want to be if you want to make money and succeed and move up the corporate ladder is where the wages are low and the market is growing. I mean, hello, you know, you don’t need an advanced degree to get that. China said we have that. And we will give it to you.

But you have to come here. You have to abide by our rules. You have to allow us to share or use your technology, your management organizational skills. We recognize you have those. This is a deal. The kind of deal capitalists make among themselves all the time. That’s the deal. Nobody held a gun to their heads when Google and Apple and General Motors decided to take this deal because it was profitable.

And they increased it and they grew it and they made a ton of money. And in an irony, in an irony you have to enjoy the sort of the history of capitalism to appreciate, nothing had prepared the American people for any of this. That’s why to this day if you ask Americans, including pretty educated ones, and they start talking about these topics, they talk about the U.S. versus China, because they don’t seem to understand that somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of what we take from China now is produced by subsidiaries of American corporations.

I mean, I could extend that argument, but you’re trying to use the either or of a past era and apply it to a changed situation, and that produces confusion and mess. And that’s what you have here. You have a major disconnect. Russia is China’s ally. It was before Ukraine, and it would be the logic, if you had half a brain, if you weren’t befuddled by something, if you’re going to go to war against Russia in Ukraine, Russia is going to turn to its biggest, richest ally. Of course it will! Number one.

Number two, Russia is going to use its resources, it’s not a poor country, and it’s going to devote that to fighting a war. And that’s not going to make it collapse any more than the United States turning to war in World War II collapsed us. On the contrary, World War II pulled us out of the Great Depression of the 1930s. It was a boost, which is exactly what it has done for Russia in spending that money to fight the war in Ukraine.

And that should have been understood as not only possible, but likely. If you put these two things together, ally with China, build up their economy through defense expenditure, and we know how the United States has always done that, then you would have understood that Russia was not, contrary to what President Biden said then, contrary to what Secretary of State Blinken says every other hour, or Janet Yellen at the Treasury, Russia’s ruble isn’t going to collapse.

It never did. Russia isn’t falling to its knees. It never did. This is all bizarre. These are miscalculations. And this was the point of that article. These miscalculations are so extreme, so off the mark that the only really interesting question is not to blame these individuals, but to ask what’s going on that otherwise perfectly reasonable, smart people would make such catastrophic miscalculations.

And the answer is they’re living in denial. They think the United States is what it was. But that, if I may be so bold, is also the problem of the leadership of Sweden, Finland, and a dozen other places in Europe who cannot get their heads around a changed reality.

But this changed reality is not going to go away because they don’t see it. That’s like being a two year old who is frightened by a dog barking, puts his or her hands in front of his or her face, and then the barking dog disappears until they’re seven years old, and they realize it doesn’t work like that. We’re going to see, and we are seeing, I mean, let me give you the irony of ironies.

As we are speaking, there’s a delegation of the biggest, most capitalist CEOs of the United States in Beijing, hoping for a meeting with Xi Jinping, starting with Tim Cook at Apple and people like that. Why are they there? Because the Chinese have an evil communist party? They have nothing to do with that language. They would never use it. They are there, they are talking in an appreciative language about the Chinese and their future plans. You know, the bizarre juxtaposition of these guys going there and then our President, referring to the president of China as a thug, if I remember correctly, or a murderer, or, you know.

It is so out of kilter with the way the world is changing that you kind of stop, put your hands down and, and worry that there could be this level of denial.

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, absolutely. There’s actually a great video of somebody asking Biden if Xi Jinping’s a dictator and he goes, yes. And then there’s a video of Blinken who had, I think just met with him and worked so hard to try and undo that rhetoric and there’s a video of him going, ugh, and it’s beautiful. It’s just wonderful.

Prof. Richard Wolff: Although, you know, I like to tell people because they find it funny and it’s like gossip. I was a student at Yale getting my Ph.D. in economics at the same time that Janet Yellen was. We were students together. I had exactly the same education in economics as she did, literally, in the same room, from the same professor, reading the same books. And I know her well enough, I mean, we’re not friends or anything. But I know what she learned. It’s what I learned. And I know she knows better than what she has to say. And I, you know, I understand politicians do what they have to do in a context and I know she’s there. But I wonder, you know, late at night when she’s all alone and she’s looking in the mirror or listening to the music, what goes through her head?

But I also find the statements of many European politicians at the top of Europe absolutely bizarre. A level of slavishness to the United States, I mean, really. The other day, the British announced they were, they had sent somebody, I don’t remember who, to China. And they’re opening a new office in China. Why? Because they’re falling behind in access to China, and they want in. You know, the same reason why Kissinger and Nixon went 30 years ago not to fall behind. But they’re going to talk to the Chinese about the human rights issues in their country. This, this behavior as if you are coming from some moral purity, and are explaining to the lowlifes how they should improve their act. I mean, beyond the offense that it gives to everybody in that part of the world, it is a level of lost self awareness. I mean, maybe it plays to the American public or some sector of it, but other than that, this is self destructive.

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, absolutely. And I basically call Sweden a US colony at this point because Sweden won’t do anything unless Uncle Sam says it’s okay.

And, I mean, you see this with not just with what’s happening with Russia, but also with the genocide in Gaza. And I wanted to get your take on this because some people are saying that the U.S. ‘s loyalty to Israel will be a severe hit to it, if not politically, which it already is in some ways, then also economically.

I was wondering if you could you give your take on this based on what you’ve been seeing and do you see an economic hit already because of the U.S. support?

Prof. Richard Wolff: Well, the short answer to your question is Israel is taking an enormous economic hit.

And the only way it wouldn’t be an economic hit is if the United States steps in and bank rolls Israel to compensate for it, to offset the economic hit that this war has already imposed.

And I’m saying that with a level of ignorance that has to be made clear. Every Arab country, and probably every Muslim country is trying to figure out how it can strike a blow, helping the Palestinians, hurting the Israelis, on the model of the Houthis in Yemen. They found a way to be supportive, in the way they think, of the Palestinian cause by interfering with the shipping in the Red Sea, to or from Israel. Okay, small story, having quite big effects, by the way, showing you again that a determined enemy like that you don’t want.

If you know American history, you’ll know that the British never imagined what the Americans could do in 1776, because they had a big army, they had a big navy, and the Americans had nothing, neither one. You know, and the famous story, you shoot your rifle and you run a few yards, shoot it again, and hope that the British think there’s a lot of people there, but it’s really only you and your cousin Fred.

You know, this sort of situation that Americans celebrated in school and then can’t imagine anyone else playing this game is really bizarre. But I don’t know how many Arab countries are figuring out right now how, with little risk to themselves, which they don’t want to take, clearly, they could do something. My guess is they’re already doing more than a little that we don’t know about, and they will be doing more, and this is an open-ended problem for Israel and for the United States to fund it.

And it leads me to say something that is also applicable to Europe. And I don’t mean to be an alarmist. I’m not, by tendency, it’s not to go that way. But at a certain point, the United States will face the following reckoning. It’s already happening. You can see it in the maneuvers at the U. N. around the ceasefire resolutions in the 27 forms that they keep taking. By now the United States and the last one abstained, having been the veto for all of them.

You know what that is? That’s Mr. Biden discovering that the popular response in the United States has not been the overwhelming pro-Israel. That’s his. And that’s the upper layer of the Republican and Democratic parties. And that matches what you see in those European governments. They’re coming out of what was the situation, and they’re not understanding that that situation has changed.

But they will. That’s why you’re seeing these adjustments at the UN. It’s already becoming clear to them that the mass of people are either indifferent, or tilting towards the Palestinians as the victims in this story, or at least more so than the Israelis. They have to figure this out. This is not going to go away. This is not what they expected. It’s like the war in Ukraine. Not going to go away, not working out.

Now here’s the alarmist message. If I were a European, I would be very worried that at some point the United States is going to re evaluate this alliance with the Europeans and see it as not much worthwhile as it once was.

They’re going to have to come to terms with Russia and China unless they’re prepared for a nuclear war, which I’m assuming they’re not likely to do. They know what the Russians and Chinese can do. They’re very fearful that they can do more than we can. There are already hints of that in Ukraine. Hypersonic missiles are something the Russians seem to be ahead on, and who knows what else they’re doing. The Chinese are beating the Americans in technology in many fields. The idea that this will not attach to defense and military is naive, and Americans are going to have to face that, either because they lose that war in Ukraine, or whatever the next adventure is.

And then what? Well, then the alliance with Europe will become much more fractured. And what happens when finally, in one or another of the major European countries, Germany, France, Italy, Britain, there is a swing to the left? Mr. Macron in France, for example, became president having won in the first round, roughly 23% of the vote. 21%, two percentage less was won by the unified left in that country. Just 2 percent less.

They didn’t go away. They’ve gotten stronger, not weaker. They have a mass movement because they have a really powerful labor movement. They have another mass movement called the Yellow Vests. There are a lot of political problems on the left in France but a victory by the left in France is not a crazy idea. And then what are they going to do? And what will that mean for the other lefts?

And remember, whatever you think about the right wing’s ascendancy, whether it be Orbán in Hungary, or the Polish government, or the rest, there is no solution to Europe’s problem in beating up on immigrants.

They’re not the problem. They never were. And you’re not going to solve whatever you do if you punt and do nothing, or you simply close your borders, or you deport significant numbers, or whatever combination of those you end up doing. It’s as preposterous in Europe as it is in the United States.

We are a nation of 330 million people. We have an undocumented immigrant population, maybe 10, maybe 15 million. Okay, you do not need an advanced degree in economics, I have one, but you don’t need it to understand that 10 to 15 million of the poorest people on the planet are not a threat to the 330 million people that make up American capitalism. That’s ridiculous. Now, you can whip that up and make political hay for a while, but then what are you gonna do if Mr. Trump wins and deports 5 or 10 million people from this country? You know what? The misery, the unhappiness, the inequality of income and wealth are not going to change significantly.

And what do you tell the masses of the MAGA people then? And you’ll discover that maybe a left wing version of all of that, pro worker, will have an audience you didn’t expect.

You know, there’s an independent running for Senate in Indiana, if I’m not mistaken. No, Nebraska, Dan Osborne, and there’s one running in West Virginia.

These are working class people and who talk like that and who mean that and who are closer to Bernie Sanders than they ever are to Mr. Trump. And they say so. Now, why are they doing that? Why do they think there’s a possibility in places that would otherwise be thought of as hopeless for that kind of politics?

Well, you might see the kind of shifts. We’ve seen them before. Remember the crash of the economy in 1929 led to a massive shift to the left in American politics, as it did in Europe as well. That’s where European social democracy took off. Okay, we may need another crash. We may be heading for one. But the right wing offers no solution There’s nothing in the Aufstand für Deutschland in Germany or the right wing.

Mr. Orban can be all about Christian civilization and anti immigrant and very popular, but that doesn’t solve the problem of Hungary, which has huge problems because it’s caught in a, it’s not acceptable to Russia, really, and it certainly isn’t acceptable to the rest of Europe.

These are, these are situations where I’m hopeful that the harsh realities will undo this peculiar leftover politics that is so out of tune with what the realities are.

Eleanor Goldfield: Well, I hope that you are correct. I hope that you are correct and that we see that, we see that left wing turn continuing in a lot of places. Hats off always to the French and their brilliant protests and organizing.

Professor Wolff, thank you so much for taking the time for sitting down with us and as per usual, deconstructing a lot of these complex ideas and thoughts into easily digestible ones.

So thank you again.

Prof. Richard Wolff: Thank you very much for inviting me and I look forward to doing it again in the future if you think it’ll be useful.

Eleanor Goldfield: Always is.

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