By Bernd Hamm
AbstractThis paper starts with summarizing the major theoretical elements in the definition of a global ruling class. It then examines how neoconservatives in the US took power and used regime change to install US-friendly governments in other regions. A strategy of tension is used to press the population into conformity. But the real revolution is to what extent factual politics escape any attempt to democratic control. Three case studies show how far the Deep State already goes. Democracy is on the brink of survival.
In an earlier paper (Hamm, B. 2010) I suggested an analytical framework for the study of power as it relates to the future of global society. This outline specifically addressed four questions: (1) How is the global ruling class structured internally? (2) Is it theoretically correct to use the term class for the ruling elite? (3) What are the major instruments of power? (4) How do these analytical insights impact on the probable future of human society?
Drawing on C. Wright Mills’ seminal work on The Power Elite (1956), recent power structure research suggests an ideal-type model of four concentric circles: In the inner circle, we find the global money trust, the richest individuals, families or clans, all with fortunes well above one billion Euros. The CEOs of big transnational corporations and biggest international financial players make up the second circle. They are mostly concerned with increasing the wealth of the inner circle, and with it their own. Top international politicians, some active in governments and international institutions, some more in the background as advisors, plus the top military, compose the third circle. This political class has assignments: organize the distribution of the social product in such a way as to transfer as much as the actual power balance allows into the pockets of the inner and second circles, and secure the legitimacy of government by organizing the political circus of an allegedly pluralistic structure. The fourth ring will be composed of top academics, media moguls, lawyers, and may sometimes include prominent authors, film and music stars, artists, NGO representatives, few religious leaders, few top criminals and others useful for decorating the inner circles. They enjoy the privilege of close access to those in power, they are well paid, and they will make sure not to lose such benefits (Hamm, B. 2010:1008-9; see also Phillips, P., Osborne, B. 2013).
It appears that the degree of internationalization of the powerful correlates with their status on the ring hierarchy. The two inner circles have always been international. The third and fourth rings, however, tend to be much more nationally bound (by ownership and by elections) than the first and the second. The inner circle is not static but relatively solid. It builds on financial and social capital often accumulated by former generations (steel industry, banking, weapons, or oil barons). The major source of power is being borne to a family of the inner circle (for example, the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds, the Morgans, the DuPonts, the Vanderbilts, the Agnellis, the Thyssens, and the Krupps, to mention a few) .
There are also the nouveaux riches. Names like George Soros, William Gates, Warren Buffet, Marc Zuckerberg, Sheldon Adelson, or the Koch brothers come to mind (Smith, Y. 2013), and the Bush-Clan might also be mentioned here (Bowles, W. 2005); Russian or Eastern European oligarchs like Alisher Usmanov, Mikhail Chodorkowski, Boris Beresowski, Mikhail Fridman, Rinat Ahmetov, Leonid Mikhelson, Viktor Vekselberg, Andrej Melnichenko, Roman Abramovich; then there are Carlos Slim Helu, Lakshmi Mittal, Mukesh Ambani, Jorge Paulo Lemann, Iris Fontbona or Aliko Dangote from the so-called less developed countries. These parvenus tend to be politically more active, at least on the front stage, than the old rich families: George Soros with his Open Society Foundation and his permanent warnings of the evils of unregulated capitalism is the best known for his liberal leanings, while the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson or Robert Murdoch are aggressively right-wing (Heath, T. 2014; Snyder, M. 2013; Webster, S.C. 2013). The oligarchs of the former Soviet block have almost all grabbed their fortunes during the presidency of Boris Yeltzin who, pathological alcoholic as he was, made room for large scale privatization of state corporations and raw materials after the collapse of the socialist regime. Shock therapy was pushed through under the influence of Western advisors, especially the Harvard privatization program with Jeffrey Sachs as the leading figure, as well the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Jegor Gajdar, Anatoli Tschubais (an oligarch himself) and Alfred Koch  were their local executives in Russia (Vaclav Klaus in Czecholovakia, Leszek Balcerowicz in Poland, etc.).
The strategy for the creation of oligarchs and social polarization is easy to understand since it has been practiced by the IMF time and again to this very day as part of their structural adjustment policy (later cynically referred to as “poverty reduction strategy”). What it amounts to is the abolition of all prize control and public subventions, laying-off civil servants, limiting wages, devaluing currencies, and privatizing public corporations and infrastructure (the so-called Washington Consensus). Widespread poverty is the immediate result, and the other side of the coin is extremely concentrated wealth in just a few hands. If the number of victims multiplied by the gravity of damages done to each of them is used as an indicator, the IMF is certainly the most criminal organization on earth (Chossudovsky, M. 2001).
Does this global oligarchy constitute a social class in the theoretical sense of the term? If so, it should (1) be in control of the means of production, (2) be bound together by class consciousness, and in-group mentality, and (3) be party to a global class struggle over the distribution of the social product. The second criterion, in particular, was answered affirmatively: “The GRC [Global Ruling Class] will tend to see themselves, very much like feudal kings, as being of divine superiority placing them far above all other human beings. Fascism is very likely to be a basic pillar of their ideology, and war will be just one of the tools to increase their power and profits” (Hamm, 2010:1010; see also Turley, J. 2014; Dolan, E.W. 2013). As the money elite generally tend to focus their social contacts inside, groupthink is permanently reinforced. This might hold true even if it is not homogeneous in other respects (Lofgren, M. 2013; Domhoff, G.W., Staples, C., Schneider, A. 2013).
For the first question, the extent that the financial sector has taken over control of productive industries should be emphasized. Here, the enormous amount of freshly printed dollars injected in the global economy since the abolishment of the gold standard in 1971 is decisive. The Federal Reserve Bank under successive US administrations has followed this policy up to the present day. The amount of money strolling around for profitable investment is not underpinned by production or services but rather by printing fiat notes. It has allowed the financial industry to buy up real businesses by shares and bonds and their respective derivatives inside and outside the US. Thus, the financial industry acquired, in fact, control of large parts of the real economy including (via production chains) small and medium-sized businesses, fertile lands, and raw materials. The financial industry is also highly influential in the areas of science and technology, and through lobbying and campaign donations, it influences political decision-making . In fact, as US lawmakers tend to belong to the upper strata of the financial hierarchy (thus to the third circle of our power model), they also tend to widely identify with the interests of the inner rings (Money Choice 2013). Therefore, it is correct to conclude that the financial industry is in control of the means of production.
Too often writers understand class struggle as action taken by workers for working class interests, overlooking the equally significant (and in our times considerably more important) class struggle organized and directed by the ruling class via the state: “The entire panoply of neo-liberal policies, from so-called ‘austerity measures’ to mass firings of public and private employees, to massive transfers of wealth to creditors are designed to enhance the power, wealth, and primacy of diverse sectors of capital at the expense of labor. … Class struggle from above is directed at enhancing the concentration of wealth in the ruling class, increasing regressive taxes on workers and reducing taxes on corporations, selectively enforcing regulations, which facilitate financial speculation and lowering social expenditures for pensions, health, and education for workers families” (Petras, J., 2013a). Class struggle from above aims at maximizing the collective power of capital via restrictive laws on labor organizations, social movements, and workers’ collective bargaining rights. State budgets over bailouts are sites of class struggle; banks are sites of class struggle between mortgage holders and households, creditors, and debtors. “Trillions of dollars are transferred from the public treasury to bailout bankers. Hundreds of billions in social cuts are imposed on workers, cutting across all sectors of the economy” (ibid.). Governments are instrumental in the extraction of money from the population via taxation and then transfer it to the rich via the banking system. What they are doing, with help of the IMF, to Greece, Portugal, Ireland, or to Cyprus, or Spain, and what they hope to do to Ukraine, Egypt, Thailand, Venezuela or Lybia, they have been doing to developing countries yesterday with exactly the same medicine. “They want it all – profit and power. Our world is dominated and being re-shaped by a tiny global financial, corporate, political and intellectual elite. And all must suffer so that they can have what anyone in their position would want to have: more – they want it all. And they want you to just shut up and let them take it all. If you have a problem with that, well, that’s what riot police, prisons, and fascism are for” (Marshall, A.G., 2013; see also Drum, K. 2013).
We also find a global power hierarchy among nation-states. To paraphrase what was said above of the attitudes of members of the ruling class: The most powerful nation will tend to see itself as being of divine superiority, placing itself far above all other nations. Fascism is very likely to be a basic pillar of its ideology, and war will be just one of the tools to increase its power and profits. “According to this self-righteous doctrine [of US exceptionalism], America is the indispensable country. What this means is that the US has been chosen by history to establish the hegemony of secular ‘democratic capitalism’ over the world. The primacy of this goal places the US government above traditional morality and above all law, both its own and international” (Roberts, P.C., 2013a). “If we have to resort to violence”, Madeleine Albright once said, “then it is because we are America, the indispensable nation. We stand tall and look further into the future than other nations.” “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my life”, President Obama said during his West Point inauguration speech 2014 (see comments by Escobar, P. 2014; Moon of Alabama 2014; Roberts, P.C. 2014a).
The claim to the role of world hegemon comes at a high price (Nader, R., 2014). Socio-economic polarization has increased sharply in the U.S. as hundreds of thousands of families have been driven out of their homes by foreclosures, with some twenty percent of all households on food stamps. Increasing numbers of households can no longer pay their rents, let alone care for retirement, while thousands live in shanty towns and tent cities. Some city governments have begun to drive the poor out of the downtown areas so that they will become more and more invisible . Women, children, and non-whites are especially affected; as a result, reduced health care and increased mortality rates have been reported . Furthermore, a baby born today in the U.S., when it takes its first breath of air, is $50.000 in debt (Ventura, J., 2013). Meanwhile, the prison industry profits from a policy of incarceration, which even includes the handing out of lifelong sentences to children. The Department of Homeland Security is being developed into a standing army, police forces are increasingly militarized (Whitehead, J., no date).
The installment of the US Dollar as world reserve currency constituted the economic pillar of the US as the global super power. As the US was able to export all newly printed money, it could appropriate the products of other societies for the simple price of printing paper, and through this measure, force other countries to pay for its luxury as well as for its overwhelming military power and war mongering. Add to this the structural adjustment policy exerted by the US-controlled World Bank and IMF, plus the CIA’s covert actions around the globe, it would be analytically correct to say that the US has become the adversary in the global class struggle, especially since the nucleus of a global ruling class resides in the US. According to Galtung’s structural theory of imperialism (Galtung, J. 1980), the hegemon will rely on vassals in subordinate nations (i.e., in the form of allied governments). Elites in subordinate nations are assigned to guarantee the unchallenged role of the global hegemon, to allow its unrestrained access to local resources and control rights while securing immunity to its representatives. Consequently, for the most part, the global ruling class can be located in the power elite of the United States (see, e.g., the longitudinal studies of the US power elite presented by G. William Domhoff and his group, Domhoff, G.W. 2014).
The litmus test of power is, on the individual as on the collective level, based on two criteria: the possibility to avoid prosecution for crimes committed, or impunity, and the degree to which appropriation of others’ wealth is possible. An eminent example is given by the attacks of 9/11. As Ruppert (2004) and others  have argued, those who succeed in preventing a new and thorough investigation questioning the official narrative are obviously in a power position (case study below). So are those who initiate war, are responsible for hundreds of thousands of people murdered, yet are not brought to trial in the aftermath. Neither has anyone in the US government been held accountable for torture (the 600 pages Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture has not yet been released, Dick, A. 2014), targeted killings, and drone victims – all of which are prohibited crimes under US law and the Geneva Conventions. Nor has any U.S. official been charged for violating constitutional rights, that is, spying without warrants, warrantless searches, violations of habeas corpus, murder of US citizens without due process, denial of legal representation, conviction through undisclosed evidence. Who is to be held accountable for the long-term effects of the nuclear bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? or the spread of Agent Orange in Vietnam? or the use of depleted uranium ammunition in Iraq? Who is being tried for the crimes again the Palestinian people committed by the Israeli government? The problem is not whether the war criminals can be identified, no; rather, it is a problem of charging them with the crime and then following through with the legal process. But when are they ever charged and tried? And why not? It’s not only that the US murdered one and a half million people , mostly Iraqis and some Americans, ruined the country, and inflicted costs of almost three trillion US$ on the taxpayer (the “supreme crime”, according to the ruling of the Nuremberg Trials), they also inflamed the Sunni-Shia conflict (Stone, O., Kuznick, P., 2013:521-34) and they are responsible for the rise of IS, the Islamic State, presumably the most dangerous of all terrorist groups and a new pretext to bomb Iraq . “The Obama justice department, in particular the Chief of its Criminal Division, […], never even tried to hold the high-level criminals accountable. What Obama justice officials did instead is exactly what they did in the face of high-level Bush era crimes of torture and warrantless eavesdropping: namely, acted to protect the most powerful factions in the society in the face of overwhelming evidence of serious criminality” (Greenwald, G., 2013). Moreover, who will bring to trial the banksters that plunder the middle class? (Whitney, M. 2014a; Cantu, A. 2014) The silence following the crimes of the ruling powers is deafening.
Tomorrow, Part II: Who Ruled The World – Yesterday, And How?
All internet sources have been checked end of June 2014 Also, see Holbrook, 1953; more recently, Landes, 2006; Marshall, A.G., 2013; This comes close to what the Occupy movement, Attac and some authors call the global 1 % even it is, of course, about a group much less numerous than one per cent of the global population  born 28.2.1961 in Syrjanowsk, East Kasachstan, has nothing to do with Fred C. Koch, the father of the Koch brothers, owners of Koch industries, born 23.9.1900 in Texas  The financial industry even profits of budget shutdown, cf. Chossudovsky, M. 2013  http://www.nationalhomeless.org/; “It is now illegal in 33 cities to feed homeless people”, http://www.kulturekritic.com/2014/06/news/it-is-now-illegal-in-33-cities-to-feed-homeless-people/  among the sources used here are: Homeless line up for food, Los Angeles weighs restrictions, New York Times, 26 November 2013; http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37243.htm; Homeless in Detroit allege they are being driven out of downtown, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/11/28/homeless-in-detroitallegetheyarebeingdrivenoutofdowntown.html; Buchheit, P. (2013a), 3 Shocking Ways Inequality Keeps Getting Worse in America, http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37256.htm; Poverty in America Is Mainstream, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/02/poverty-in-america-is-mainstream/; America’s Food Stamp Cut Stories You Probably Haven’t Heard About,http://mediamattersforamerica.tumblr.com/post/70211048750/americas-food-stamp-cut-stories-you-probably-havent; A Record Number of Americans Can’t Afford Their Rent, http://www.alternet.org/record-number-americans-cant-afford-their-rent; Thousands of Homeless People Live in Shantytowns at the Epicenter of High-Tech, Super-Rich Silicon Valley, http://www.alternet.org/hard-times-usa/jungle-thousands-homeless-people-live-shantytowns-epicenter-high-tech-super-rich; 30 Percent Of Americans Skip Out On Medical Care Because It’s Too Expensive, http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/12/10/3041821/americans-skip-health-care-2013/; Zeese, K., Flowers, M., America Is the Most Inhumane Developed Country on the Planet. Are We Going to Let It Stay That Way? http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37134.htm; Buchheit, P., (2013b), Retirement Theft in 4 Despicable Steps, http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37313.htm; The war on women: The newly invisible and undeserving poor in America, http://opendemocracy.net/5050/ruth-rosen/war-on-women-newly-invisible-and-undeserving-poor-in-america; Black Women Are 40 Percent More Likely To Die From Breast Cancer Than White Women, http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/12/20/3095981/black-women-breast-cancer-mortality/; Covert, B., (2013), Forty Percent Of Workers Made Less Than $20,000 Last Year, http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37243.htm; see also Linh Dinh’s Postcards from the End of America, e.g., http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article39419.htm; http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article39209.htm; http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article39275.htm  see, e.g., Ahmed, N.M. (2005); Chossudovsky, M. (2005); or recently Ryan, K.R. (2013); http://www.911truth.org/category/resources_and_materials/  Numbers are from 20 July 2014, www.informationclearinghouse.com: 1.455.590 Iraqis murdered in the USK war against and the occupation of Iraq; number of US military personnel sacrifized (officially confirmed) in the US war against and the occupation of Iraq 4.801; number of international occupation forces murdered in Afghanistan: 3.455; costs of the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan $1.547.053.860.087  ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, was supported by the US as an ally in the attempt to oust President Bashar al Assad; within only days, IS became the enemy number one and Assad was turned from foe to friend who’s help is requested: Roberts, P.C. (2014), “The Leninist in the White House, http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article39521.htm; ISIS: Made in Washington, Riyadh – and Tel Aviv, http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article39504.htm; Baghdadi ‘Mossad trained’, http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=381153
This paper was written for a special edition of FORESIGHT on Who Rules the World? edited by Dennis Morgan, to be published this fall by Emerald
Bernd Hamm is professor emeritus of sociology, University of Trier, now living in Berlin, Germany. His recent publications include Devastating Society – The Neo-conservative Assault on Democracy and Justice (London 2005), Cultural Imperialism – Essays on the Political Economy of Cultural Domination (ed. together with Russell Smandych, Ann Arbor 2005) and Umweltkatastrophen (Environmental Catastrophies, Marburg 2011). He can be reached under email@example.com