The crisis facilitates concentration

Beyond believing or not believing there is an international conspiracy to sustain, reproduce and expand the process of wealth concentration that prevails in almost every economy of the world, what is undeniable is that the crisis facilitates concentration become accelerated. This is, either by design or due to the severe logic of the unleashed process, those who have the largest privileges such as economic and media power take advantage of the crisis to strengthen their positions in relation to the other social actors, the immense majority of the world‘s population. Financial capital which when the crisis burst saw its global preponderance threatened, used the powerful means it controls –economic, politic, media, ideological- to weather the hurricane derived from the outburst of the speculation they exercised. Those powerful actors managed to transfer the costs of their ‘bailout’ onto the taxpayers and, along the way, took over some of the weaker links in the financial system emerging from the crisis even more concentrated.

With that higher fire power and the global crisis that does not give in, they have an open field to keep on profiting frantically. There have been uncountable victims that were brought to their knees: some had assets and were, and still are, forced to turn them in for a vile price; many who had conquered social and labor rights cannot contain the setback nor the indignity of those going through with adjustments without dismantling privileges; sovereign countries become-voluntarily or involuntarily- accessories to the handing over of a large share of the national wealth by not being able or not wanting to resist commercial and financial extortions.

We have already mentioned in previous issues the instruments used to extract value and to concentrate it in a few hands [[[Differentiating generation, redistribution and extraction of value->].]] , the recurrent crimes committed by large financial entities [[[They have stolen even spring from us->].]], the genesis, logic and implications of the process of wealth concentration [[[Is the world burning->]?]] . In this context, it is dramatic to confirm that financial capital allocated in speculation has no capacity nor will to restrain itself; it always goes for more and as far as it can.

Some biased by ideological fundamentalisms, others in need to numb consciences, maintain appearances or more frequently because of greed and hypocrisy, speculators state the legitimacy of the appropriation of wealth they practice with help from the effective -for their purposes- managers and professionals they hire. When they win is due -so they claim- to their own merit, not because of their capacity to impose conditions upon weaker actors, evade taxes, access privileged information, operate above national jurisdictions, count with subsidiary companies in tax havens, manipulate politicians and media, finance strategic think tanks in order to disarm with values and ideology those who oppose them. But when they loose, or are afraid of loosing, they have by no means any pride in turning to the State to get subsidies or new prerogatives.

In the midst of this whirlwind of irresponsibility and selfishness it is worth separating those who are unmerciful financial ‘vultures’ from other smaller scale financial agents such as mutual savings banks, co-operative banks, credit unions, mutual funds, local savings and loans associations, among others that are involved in the communities they serve. It is also true that even in these segments of financial activity there can be acts of exploitation of third parties so appropriate regulations and effective supervision must be a permanent dimension of public action in financial matters. Quite opposite, today financial capital has managed to eliminate a substantial part of the regulations that limited and conditioned its activities. The licentiousness they politically established in laws and regulations protects their operations and offers them unprecedented levels of impunity.

The global crisis centered in affluent countries but which spreads punishing the rest of the world has accelerated the wealth concentration process. Grass-roots movements and political rebellions perhaps will some day succeed in deviating from the present course. If ‘after a storm always comes a calm’ or to be more precise, once the situation of popular sectors becomes unsustainable and transformational forces are activated, facing that threat those who have economic and media power will come to terms with the fact that they could only go so far this time and will take measures to make a recovery and the return to economic growth possible.

But beware, this new phase of growth will start in a reality dominated by a highly concentrated economic power with the capacity to keep conditioning the course: they will continue financing politicians and professionals aligned with their interests, addicted media and other actors that shape public opinion, hegemonic think tanks that will be forced to renew approaches and analytic categories but without moving apart from serving privilege. They count with a legal and institutional system designed to obstruct or prevent dangerous transformations and they are able to administer freedom of speech so that some can fully exercise it and others cannot.

How to keep the concentration process from running its course? We have lost the first opportunity to transform the trajectory and way of functioning that appeared when the crisis burst in the affluent countries; at that time, privilege had to negotiate its bailout with the political authorities of those National States. That favorable circumstance was wasted: those who set off the crisis got away by imposing the costs upon mid and low-income sectors. We are familiar with the unemployment statistics, the loss of social and labor rights, the violence practiced against those sectors in Spain, Greece, Italy and the rest of the European countries. The situation is calamitous and appalling; while majorities are cornered and squeezed, privilege carries on with its conspicuous life standard.

It seems now a new phase of the crisis opens where the process of wild adjustment can no longer keep going as if nothing happened; a certain type of recovery is necessary. But revitalizing even when the knot around the neck is loosened can mean restoring the former order of things, the pre-crisis order; that which lead to the crisis, that dismantled social conquests and rights, punished small and medium scale local companies, silenced non-hegemonic thinking; the order that demeaned our own perspective of what was going on and our capacity to deploy transformational initiatives. In this phase the choice cannot, should not be, restoring but transforming the basis of the concentrative process [[From Opinion Sur‘s Collection [Global crisis: adjustment or transformation->,1102].]]. The challenge includes deepening the democratic process by dismantling traps and manipulations; this means, no more formal democracy in benefit of a few but a real and sustainable one; democracy that ensures rights, obligations and that gives way to opportunities to generate wealth in a non-concentrative way, fair income distribution; democracy that prioritizes values of solidarity, justice for all, preservation of our precious environment.

These tensions and the options we are able to work on are settled and resolved at the level of national policy and global agreements, and for that it is of the utmost importance to mobilize in an organized fashion. Divisionism, often induced by economic power and other times by egos and personal interests, sterilize people‘s capacity to transform. It is a must to rise above minor fights, focus in what is essential and rearrange what is accessory, not a priority.

This march involving blocs of powerful interests, multiple organizations, National States and transnational corporations, is ultimately sustained by the billions inhabiting this planet. Thus the importance of working on our own values and attitudes, transform ourselves, replace greed with equity, selfishness with respect for others, cruelty with compassion. No one is excluded from this challenge, nor from the effort we are summoned to if living in a better world are included in expectations and purposes. Far from constituting naiveties or voluntarisms these values are entangled with the very meaning of our existence.

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