Hope Lies in the Streets

December 2019

By Chris Hedges


Global finance capital has seized control of the economies of most nation-states. The citizens watch, helplessly, as money and goods are transferred with little regulation across borders. They watch as jobs in manufacturing and the professions are shipped to regions of the global south where most workers are paid a dollar or less an hour and receive no benefits. They watch as the taxes of the rich and corporations are slashed, often to zero. They watch as austerity programs dismantle or privatize utilities and basic social services, jacking up fees to consumers. They watch as chronic unemployment and underemployment devastate workers, especially the young. They watch as wages stagnate or decline, leaving working men and women with unsustainable debts. This economic tyranny lies at the root of the unrest in Hong Kong, India, Chile, France, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon as well as the rise of right-wing demagogues and false prophets such as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It does not matter whether liberals or conservatives, Tories or Labour, Republicans or Democrats are in power. Finance capital is impervious to political control. The newly defeated Labour Party in Britain, by adopting a Brexit-neutral stance in the election, badly misread the zeitgeist. Yes, its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, had to contend with hysterical warnings of economic collapse and endured a smear campaign—amplified by a media mouthing the accusations of his Tory opponents—that included claims he was a threat to national security and an anti-Semite, but his and Labour’s failure to appreciate how desperate workers were for a solution, even one growing out of magical thinking about the promise of Brexit, was a mistake. Brexit is not a realistic alternative to economic tyranny. But it at least offers a hope, however unfounded, of shattering the bonds of corporate power. It posits itself as a weapon in the war between the insiders and the outsiders. That this desperate hope by the outsiders is peddled by con artists and charlatans such as Johnson and Trump is part of the sickness of our age, an echo of the economic distortions and right-wing populism that saw fascists rise to power in Italy and Germany in the first part of the 20th century.