Civil rights, Civil Society, Health, Science and technology


Jun 2 2020

Dr.Riccardo Petrella*

Making free the world from the three empires of which the United States is the symbol and the most accomplished reality.

Today’s societies are experiencing a phase of crumbling values and rules in all fields, dominated by warrior oligarchic structures, technologically powerful as never before, following a logic of global self-destruction. This is a situation that the  vast majority of thinkers and experts  like to call “emergency” (environmental, energetic, health, social, political, economic…).To respond to it, resilience is given  as the most efficient strategy, to be declined through various forms of transition.

Zero structural change

We can make the following observations.  At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people thought and hoped that it would have been the historical opportunity to change our system of production, consumption, living, especially living together in a new, peaceful, cooperative, solidarity way. Today it is certain that this will not happen. The vast majority of world leaders have no iIntention of changing the principles and rules of the dominant system. They all push for a return to “normality”, to “as before”. The huge publicity these weeks in favor of buying cars is breathtaking. Recovery is the number one concrete imperative, everywhere. A recovery that remains in the name of GDP growth and financial performance.  The recovery is dominated by the race to see who will do faster and better than others in the re-conquest of the markets. Supporting the competitiveness of so-called “national” companies is the watchword even in the fossil energy sector, not only in the United States or Brazil. The recent billionaire gift from France to Total is a scandal. Let’s not talk about the health sector: the strong economic and state groups remain encamped in the defence of patents (private and profit-making) on medicines, treatments, vaccine(s) against viruses. On 19 May last, the Extraordinary Health Assembly of the WHO rejected, under the non-negotiable pressure of the United States and the multinational business world, any reference, however legally non-binding, to the anti-coronavirus vaccine as a common global  vaccine, a world public good.  No the pandemic will not lead to a structural change in the intellectual property regime on living organisms (the private for-profit life patenting  was first introduced in the history  of humanity by the United States in 1980). The “normal” system of before will remain intact (apart from isolated cases of licensing covered by the patent called “voluntary licensing” and “compulsory licensing”).

What is going to change will be cosmetic, of a managerial nature (in terms of occupation of space, social distancing, certain public behaviour, ways of travelling, the construction of houses and public buildings…). As things stand today, no change “in response to the pandemic” will be structural, it will change the foundations of our societies with regard to industries, dominant agriculture, businesses, banks, currency, representative democracy. On the contrary, it is likely that the changes that will come will go in the direction of a greater oligarchisation of society and militarisation of the world, a greater dehumanisation of life and the growth of inequalities between peoples and human communities.

All because the pandemic will not significantly affect any of the three main imperial world powers that are dominant today, represented by a) the globalized capitalist system, b) the political-institutional system of sovereign “national” states, c) the technocratic system of the new planetary oligarchies based on the commodification and privatization of knowledge/science.

 The world will change if the goal pursued is to put an end to

–  the commercial, agricultural, industrial and techno-scientific financial capitalist system which has imposed itself on the Earth as the “dominant system” over the last two centuries. The capitalist system has enslaved the world, the individual and collective creativity of human beings, and Earth sustainable development to the objective of the short-term financial return;. 

– the political-institutional system of human communities represented by States  based on the principle of “absolute national sovereignty”  over all that is material and immaterial in the territory they govern. A principle that has become more and more a disastrous mystification and fiction, based on the expropriation of the “sovereignty of the people” by social groups defined as “nation” (nobles, bourgeoisie, clergy…). With the elected representation, these groups have become the “legal” masters of the absolute powers of the State. Thus, “national sovereignty” has been increasingly exercised in the name of “national security”, i.e. the security of the interests and power of the local dominant social groups. Hence, the growing and apparently inexorable militarization of the economy and of life, that is, the subsantial power of manoeuvre reserved in priority for military powers, in particular nuclear powers;

– and, finally, to the new imperial system of the technocratic oligarchies which, in the new phase of dematerialisation of knowledge and technology, is engulfing the power of the old industrial and military oligarchies. I refer, in a precise way, to the transfer of power from the Seven Sisters and the kings of the railways or steel of the 19th century to today “Big Pharma” (based on patents on living organisms) and the GAFAM – Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft (based on patents on artificial intelligence).

Well, among all the obstacles that make it particularly difficult, some say impossible, to put an end to these old and new “imperial world orders” the most important is represented by the United States. 

The United States is the strongest paradigmatic example of the three systems  in the world.

Regarding capitalist society,  among the ten most important companies in the world according to the criterion that is predominant today in the capitalist system, – market capitalization  – eight are American. They are 48 in the top hundred! The hegemony has no competitur. In no other country in the world has the principle of universal social security been trampled unard. derfoot and, rejected as in the so-called “welfare capitalsm” made in the USA, still today based on free private insurance (and charity to the impoverished). USA government is strongly opposed to any medecine and vaccine against  coronavirus to be considered as a public world good , “patent free”  and ”out the market”. The American capitalist society is at the top of the ranking of social inequality index within the most “developed”  countries in the world (members of the OECD).  One in four Americans in 2019 goes into crisis in the event of an unexpected expenditure of $400.  In the 10 weeks between March 18 and May 18, 2020, the number of unemployed jumped to 40.9 million people of working age while, in the same period, American billionaires saw their wealth increase by 500 billion. Apart from a few aborted attempts by this or that president, the US has regularly rejected any major changes to the capitalist system.  In the era of Trump, as in the 19th century, US capitalism considers the Afro-American black people, indigenous peoples and non-white immigrants as a commodity/work to be exploited only if they make a few dollars. With few exceptions, even in all international and world social instances (ILO type…) the position of the USA and the american strong economic and social powers has always been in defence of the interests of capital holders, also in the name of national security.

Regarding national sovereignity/security – the spearhead of the USA’s claim to absolute sovereignty –  for more than 70 years the absolute political and military power in the world – has kept the regulation of the world based on the principle of interstate multilateralism in a state of permanent instability and uncertainty. The USA has always made it clear to the rest of the world that multilteralism had a mitigated interest in their eyes. It was worth something only and when it allowed the asymmetrical world power relations not to be unbalanced, to the detriment of the USA.  Whenever the risk appeared, the United States did not hesitate not to ratify international treaties (there are about sixty waiting for US ratification), tore up ratified treaties, especially those on nuclear weapons, and withdrew from multilateral organisations or programmes (UNESCO, accused of being pro-Russian, the Paris Climate Treaty, now the WHO, accused of being pro-Chinese. .), have opposed the transformation of the United Nations Environment Programme into a World Environment Agency, have tried to dissolve the UNCTAD, have rejected any form of common , global , public, cooperative, non-competitive, non-profit  response to coronavirus ….

The militarization of the USA on a planetary scale has made the USA, in the eyes of the other populations of the world, the most feared enemy number 1.The USA are the only ones who have used the atomic bomb, the only ones to have about 1,000 military bases outside their country, the only ones to have as many 12 aircraft carriers with nuclear traction as all the other military powers put together,  the only ones who spend more than 40% of the world’s military expenses per year (2 and a half times more than China, 6 times more than Russia, 20 times more than France…), the only ones who have recently created a Space Force , sayng tot he rest of te world that they consider the Space the new battlefield for their sécurity, sovereignity and global leadership….No one today is better able to express in  the world the power of the culture of war than the United States. Even their dollar god is a god of war. 

Finally, the U.S. is feeding the new mantras of digital society and virtual reality and post-human robotic life with conviction and enthusiasm. GAFAM corporations ,   the new lords of the world,  are American. They have already shown that they think that their choices are the good choices for the world.  They claim to know and to be able to govern the rules of freedom, truth, rights, equality, fraternity and justice.  Their empire is young and popular, namely in the Uniteds States. 

Progressive forces in the United States have shown over the last few decades that they have great difficulty in confronting and taking positions on the nature and power of their country. Accommodations and adjustments, even painful ones, are often a more frequent trend.

I do not see, at the moment, any other way out: either the American citizens will succeed in overturning the state of affairs in their country, or revolt will come (when and from where?) against them and not only against the United States, or, worse,  the processes of global self-destruction fed by the United States will win over citizens actions inside and outside the USA.

The  United States unlegitimely hold the key of the world population life and  Earth future. It’s time for the inhabitants of the Earth to declare their indipendance from  what the United States represent. This is more  than transition and resilience!


* *Riccardo Petrella (La Spezia, Italy, August 5, 1941) – Founder of the International Committee for the World Water Contract, Prof. Emeritus of Globalisation at the Catholic University of Louvain and member of The WPF’s Scientific Committee, Italy. Article sent to Other News by the author on June 2, 2020.

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