Thursday, March 3, 2011

Corporate Fascism

If there is a God, he must ask for our pardon.
(Words scratched onto the walls of the barracks in the Mauthausen concentration camp)

There are times when we learn things that we may prefer not to know.

I had this experience after visiting the Mauthausen Memorial for the concentration camp that was built there. Mauthausen was a category 3 camp, which meant that it was a forced labour camp for political prisoners, the intellegensia, and other undesirables. It is located above a granite quarry that supplied building materials used in the construction of monuments glorifying the Third Reich.

In my view, there are two separate but related components of the horror: the psychopathic and sociopathic elements.

At first, it's the psychopathic element that rises its ugly head. Barbed wire, gas chambers, throwing people off cliffs, human experiments, starvation, torture, and the list goes on.

How could anyone commit such atrocities upon other humans and at the end of the work day go home to a wife, family, and a modest bourgeois lifestyle as if it were just another job?


Afterwards, we push a little further and ask the question, considering how everything was so planned out, what kind of sick fucks would work out the logistics so that the camps could operate at the scale they did. Psychopaths couldn't work out the details and the protocols necessary to manage the information requirements. They would need the help of sociopaths that could bring in their expertise of managing business systems, so they turned to the corporate sector and found that there were many in this sector that were more than willing to embrace fascism in order to turn a profit, including those in the United States like Ford, Coca Cola, and the notorious complicity of IBM.

Growing up as a kid, I was taught the the German corporate sector profited enormously by providing the armaments required for Hitler's military exploits. Makes sense, tanks, bombs, guns, aircraft and ships are normal fare.

What I just learned is that the corporate sector also profited from the machinations of the Holocaust.

Mauthausen, for example, was an enormously profitable joint venture that included amongst others Dailmer, of Mercedes Benz fame. Not only did it record multimillion dollar profits by first stealing from and then working to death those condemned to the camps, including extracting the gold in their teeth, but they also exterminated anyone who dared to express their dissidence.

Moreover, the ruthlessness was not contained to the German soil. American corporations, in particular IBM, knowingly aided the Nazis in their heinous crimes. For example, according to Edwin Black in his book, IBM and the Holocaust, IBM furnished the machines and the punch cards to record the demographic information, including racial profile, during the 1933 and 1938 national German census. This enabled the Nazis to locate with precision their prey for future ethnic cleansing. As well, IBM leased the machines and supplied the punch cards and the personnel to program them to capture the pertinent data (ethic origin, reason for interment, cause of death) concerning the inmates of the concentration camps.

It is important to note that the contracts signed with the Nazi regime did not originate from their European subsidiaries but from the parent head office in New York, which suggests that American corporate executives were well aware of the atrocities that were being committed and from which they were drawing profits.

There might be a temptation to dismiss these events as aberrations caused by the limited thinking and belief systems that were in place during the time. However, if we push the question even further, there appears to be a strain of corporate fascism that survives and flourishes today.

The first characteristic of corporate fascism is the belief in an extremist, speculative, narrative. In the case of the fascist state, there exists the fundamental belief in the inherent superiority of the chosen people. Others can be tolerated only to the extent that they serve the interests of the fascist state. In the case of the fascist corporation, there exists the fundamental belief in the inherent superiority of the market. Everything should be controlled by private interests and commercial relations should predominate.

The second characteristic of corporate fascism is its fundamental amorality. Whereas in the fascist state human sentiments are not ascribed to those who are genetically inferior, similar treatment is afforded by those working in the fascist corporation to those or to that which does not generate profits. There is no intrinsic value. Worth is determined only by the market.

The third characteristic follows the second. Without moral sentiments there can be no empathy. Living things are there to be exploited. All relations are subject to cost benefit analysis.

The last characteristic of corporate fascism is that corporations and the people who work within them share no responsibility to advance a common good. They exist only to generate profits. Just as those who participated in the commission of crimes against humanity during the Holocaust offered the feeble excuse that they were just following orders, corporate criminals offer the same lame type of excuse to justify their criminal behavior.

Finally, corporate fascists are willing to pursue the realization of their core narrative to its very end indifferent to the harm they inflict and the probable collapse of the underpinnings of their enterprise. As long as they able to carry on with their activities unabated, they will, even if it entails the collapse of the environmental conditions that enable humans to live on the planet.

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