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The Supposed "Omnipotence" of Politicians

by Henrik Paulitz Friday, Oct. 21, 2016 at 10:52 AM

The key to a new peace policy could lie in denouncing mechanisms of economic coercion that are not only states and politicians. As the warnings of Eisenhower and JFK teach us, politics is massively subject to the influences of economic power.


By Henrik Paulitz

[This reading sample from "Anleitung gegen den Krieg," October 2016 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

According to the sociologist Michael Mann, there are four sources of power: military, economic, political and ideological power. Only states with such power are represented as powerful. Influential transnational companies and other global structures are classified in a dubious way as individual states and are much underrated in their global exercise of power effects on states and their politics are ignored since these effects happen beyond the general public. The key for a new peace policy could lie in seeing "strong and aggressive" states in their extortion capacity. Ways to a novel international understanding open up when the mechanisms of economic coercion are pilloried and not only states and politicians. Peoples and governments could discover they are nearly all under pressure to use force without really wanting this. Such a discovery could release new forces for preserving peace.

For many people, the US president is the most powerful person in the world. Another picture can be drawn from Henry Kissinger's memoirs. "For whatever reason, no president has time to write his own speeches. All Nixon's foreign policy speeches came from the same source. The National Security Council under my supervision presented a detailed draft that Nixon analyzed and perhaps changed a little before passing it on to a speechwriter." Besides the speeches, Nixon was supplied with an "extensive position paper" by the National Security Council and the State Department before foreign travels that set forth "political goals," "strategy," and "opinions" on topics of discussion. "Defining the course of the conversations in advance" was attempted. According to Kissinger's statements, the "answers" of the US president were formulated in advance. In the discussions, the US president never went beyond "the fixed boundaries," Kissinger stressed. Referring to Nixon's European travels in November 1969, he wrote: "On the flight to Europe, the president learned our analyses by heart point by point." Prepared this way, he carried on conversations in the royal palace in Brussels and with NATO, in the London Buckingham Palace with Queen Elizabeth and with the pope in Rome. On the significance of Rome and the Vatican, Kissinger wrote: "It was the seat of government of a world empire in classical antiquity. The seat of government of the pope was the Vatican for one and a half thousand years. (…) The Italian government drew into the city of the pope and the papacy remained the central institution in Rome."

In a much-acclaimed 2015 address, Rainer Mausfeld of the University of Kiel said the whole western history of ideas was penetrated by a deep skepticism and often hostility toward democracy. According to James Madison, one of the founding fathers of the US Constitution, every form of government has to protect the minority of the rich from the majority of the poor. Government advisor Samuel Huntington said President Truman governed the country with only a relatively small number of Wall Street lawyers and bankers. On April 21, 2014, the Washington Post declared: "America is no longer a democracy (…)." In an interview on July 28, 2015, former US president Jimmy Carter called the US an "oligarchy." In their study, the political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page concluded the will of the great mass of Americans had zero influence on political decisions. From Mausfeld's perspective, the ruling elites consider democracy a "necessary illusion." The model desired by the elites is a "spectator democracy." "From the view of multinational corporations, democracy represents above all a business risk."

In his history of the United States of America, the historian Udo Saviter describes the power and enormous influence of corporations on politics. He writes of increasing mistrust toward the growth of big firms. In the 1960s alone, the seven dozen industrial businesses with a balance of over a billion dollars expanded their share in the GDP from a quarter to nearly a half. Less than one percent of all firms captured 88% of all profits. The trend to monopoly or oligopoly was manifest in many economic sectors and was intensified by the tendency to absorption. The power held by the managers of a few auto-, oil, or electronic firms was not only economic. With a status advantage over elected politicians and with government orders often without competition, they had a decision-making power that reduced the idea of a sovereign people to a fiction. The fact that the profits of American subsidiaries and business branches abroad amount to 2 billion in 1969 and was greater than the gross domestic product of France or Great Britain demonstrated the global significance of this problem. Eisenhower, certainly no social revolutionary, felt driven to warn of the dangers of the "military-industrial complex" in his final address, Saviter said.

US President John F. Kennedy also criticized a military-industrial-secret service complex. In a speech before important newspaper publishers in New York on April 27, 1961, he said" "We are confronted with a worldwide monolithic and unscrupulous conspiracy that extends its influence with concealed means (…). In this system, enormous human and material resources are used to build a tight, highly efficient machine that coordinates military, diplomatic, secret service, economic, scientific and political operations."

In a comparable way, a top German politician and Bavarian prime minister Horst Seehofer emphasized that essential political decisions are not made by elected politicians. On May 20, 2010, he said on German television (ARD): "Those who decide are not elected and those elected have nothing to decide."

Some of these statements may be exaggerated. The degree of democratic cooperation possibilities and the power balance between politics and corporations and other structures of the elites cannot and should not be quantified here. The statement that the alleged omnipotence of politicians is an illusion is central. Calling an American president acting for a maximum eight years the most powerful man in the world or choosing a female German chancellor the most powerful woman in the world is as bizarre as the assumption a Russian president has a free "omnipotent" hand in this giant empire. This only serves the goal of unloading all responsibility and blame – in decisions on war and peace – on politicians and repressing other power structures and decision-makers. Politicians are also a projection-surface for the rage of masses over decisions that politicians did not make alone.


As the warnings of Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy teach us, politics is massively subject to the influences of economic power. The statements of the two US politicians seem very plausible considering an academic study a few years ago.

The 2011 study "The Network of Global Corporate Control" of the renowned Zurich Technical Academy (ETH) makes clear in an alarming way how the economy is closely connected worldwide through the most influential banks and other big corporations. In the study, 1318 corporations are crystallized out that were linked with 20 other corporations on average. Although they only amounted to a fifth of global sales, they control four-fifths of the sales of international corporations, the Frankfurter Rundschau reported.

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