Volatility | 10 Feb 2014
The TTIP, Corporatism, and GMOs
Negotiation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP, aka TAFTA) has been slowed overthe EU’s felt need to take time for a “consultation” with the people of Europe over its “investor rights” provisions. That means it needs more time for propaganda. Meanwhile any cosmetic revisions of this draconian provision won’t affect the harshness of the proposed compact’s other provisions.
As with previous compacts, the corporate drivers of this plan hope to enshrine a race to the bottom, where all regulation and public interest policy, as well as all aggressive corporatist policy, has to be “equalized” at the most pro-corporate, anti-human level among the adherents to the pact. For example, since GMO labeling is required in Europe but not in the US, Europe would be expected to relinquish its labeling policies, which would equalize regulation between the entities where it came to this issue. The same will be true of European agricultural and food safety policies in general. Similarly, US law and constitutional jurisprudence would have to conform to Europe’s less strict regulation of the finance sector, and perhaps to its more strict regulation of seeds.
In general, US regulation is more lawless and corporate-aggrandizing than that of the EU. As its proximate goal, the proposed compact is intended primarily to dismantle European protections and open up Europe to an escalated US corporate assault.
Given how one-sided the compact will be, how generally pro-US (including in the term “US”, US-based corporations, which are best seen as extensions of the US government and of US power), the eagerness of European Commission (EC) bureaucrats to conclude this deal looks like economic malpractice and treason to the European people. Where it comes to real economic fundamentals Europe is doing very well. In particular, Europe’s agricultural sector outperforms that of the US in every qualitative way and in all the meaningful quantitative ways. Looking toward the post-fossil fuel future, Europe, while far from having a truly resilient agriculture and food system, is in a far better position to transform these systems to post-oil needs.
Destroying Europe’s agricultural advantages and opening up Europe to the full onslaught of US agricultural products and systems is the main goal of the US in pushing for this compact in the first place.
Why does the EC want to do this? What does this say about the nature of the EU bureaucracy? And why would European governments want to go along with this? The answers must go to the core of why Europeans feel they need this economic union, even as they still feel extreme ambivalence about the political coordination it implies, and which the EC is trying to enforce.
All the types of regulation and public interest policy the TTIP would gut are among the irritating political residue which corporatism seeks to abolish.
1. Corporatism is the process by which the 1% seeks to shift decision-making power and control from nominally “public” government to nominally “private” corporations. In US constitutional parlance, the system is transferring this power asset from the three branches of government enshrined in the written constitution to the extra-constitutional Fourth Branch, the corporations. In this way, power and control are shifted from nominally accountable “representative democracy” to power structures which are totally unaccountable even in principle. The nominal government remains as corporate welfare bagman and police thug, and to maintain the fraudulent facade of elections and whatnot. This process is also called neoliberalism, since it seeks to maintain the semblance of classical liberalism and pseudo-democracy even as it institutes most of the substance of fascism.
2. The EC, like any bureaucracy, despises democracy and accountability, and politics as such, and seeks to maximize its own power as such without any necessary reference to what its nominal job is supposed to be.
3. To its ongoing frustration, the EC hasn’t been able to persuade Europeans to relinquish political power, nor has economic Gleichschaltung (coordination) gone as far as they want (which is always the maximum conceivable).
GMOs are an excellent case study: Politically and culturally they’re rejected by Europe. From any rational point of view they’re clearly against the European economic interest. Yet the EC wants to force Europe to subject itself to the full GMO takeover of commodity agriculture, as has been happening in the US. This is the most clear-cut example of how globalization and corporatism have nothing to do with trade or economic rationalism, and everything to do with power.
4. The TTIP is meant to override European democracy and European politics in general. I’ve previously written about how globalization is inherently anti-political. Corporatism sees politics as such to be an atavism. Globalization is meant to impose bureaucratic, anti-political solution to this atavism.
(I still consider the NYT piece I wrote about here to be a classic of corporate media “journalism”. Every sentence embodies the assumption that the corporate project must go forward. The inconvenient fact that the people of Europe don’t want the GMO element of this project to go forward is depicted as a technical hurdle to be overcome. From the point of view of corporatism and technocracy, human needs and wants are indeed nothing but technical problems to be “solved”.)
The name “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership”, although meant as an anodyne euphemism to replace the politically inflammatory “TAFTA”, expresses what the globalization process sees as the only real sovereign group and political constituency – corporate “investors”. Meanwhile the term “trade” is purely Orwellian, since globalization is not about legitimate demand-based trade, but the extreme opposite: Forcing supply upon markets which don’t demand it at all, or don’t demand it in the form corporatism wants to supply it. Whether one looks at GMOs as a discrete genre of product, or as a form of agricultural production, either way there’s zero demand for them. All “demand” is forced into being by planned economy measures. Pro-GMO TTIP policy is an escalation of this command economy.
(This is yet another reason to eschew the propaganda term “free trade”. We should never let this term pass unnoticed in our thoughts and words. Globalization has nothing to do with legitimate trade. It is all about maximizing the imperatives and prerogatives of supply-driven corporate “markets”, toward the corporate concentration of all economic and political power.)
This leads us to the specific case of GMOs and their structural importance. Obviously the US government and the GMO cartel see Europe as a massive, relatively untapped market. But beyond this, they have a structural imperative to force all economies to come under GMO domination. They also loathe the current state of European agriculture as a real world alternative which has proven superior in every way to GMO domination. Europe proves every day that even given the parameters of industrial agriculture, GMOs are unnecessary and inferior. Europe proves every day that conventional agriculture performs better and less expensively without them. This is an ongoing embarrassment and affront to US corporatism. The US corporate system tries to deny this in the same way that during the Cold War the US and USSR would deny the very existence of ways in which they were outperformed by the other.
They would have destroyed these embarrassing facts if they could. Today the US government is trying to use the TTIP to wipe out the embarrassing fact of Europe’s superior agriculture and its far healthier food system. The EC bureaucracy is coordinated with this goal, since by its nature it sees things in terms of corporate one-world government rather than as a power struggle with the US-corporatist bloc.
The people of Europe have a more clear view of the real nature of the power struggle, although they too have been indoctrinated into the commodification/”growth” ideology to the point that they accept most of its premises even as they demonstrate great ambivalence in practice. This ideological indoctrination is why they tolerate the “European Union” in the first place. European national governments are ambivalent, feeling caught in the middle. Then there’s the EU’s position of institutionalized ambivalence, the European Council. This is the level of the system where governments function though bureaucratic fiat, but can still feel political pressure from the people. Meanwhile the European Parliament is the EU version of a “representative” assembly, primarily a powerless facade.
We have a good current case study with the application for cultivation of DuPont’s 1507 stacked maize variety. The people of Europe overwhelmingly reject it. The European Parliament voted it down. The Council just voted it down, albeit with many abstentions by both pro-GM and ostensibly anti-GM governments. These abstentions at the level of representatives of national governments, meant to shield those governments from political backlash while helping to give the EC bureaucracy cover if it unilaterally decides to approve the application, exemplify the ambivalence over the whole EC economic coordination project.
No one outside the bureaucrats and the corporations really likes the EU concept, and proposed compacts like the TTIP drive this ambivalence to extremes. That’s why the EC feels the need to take time out to “consult” the people on the “investor rights” provision, and why the compact is slated to include a “regulatory coherence” provision meant to postpone the most inflammatory detailed policy-making till after the “agreement” is concluded. I’ll be writing more about these shortly.
So there’s some notes on what’s going on with TTIP/TAFTA, globalization, and the GMO regime.