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The naive insider

Book>> The Secret History of the American Empire Economic Hit Men, Jackals and the Truth about Global Corporations by Jonathan Perkins Plume Books New York 2008

By Utkarsha Deshpande
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015


Jonathan Perkins is somewhat of an icon among America bashers. As the author of the fabulously successful, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, he is credited with taking the mea culpa account to unprecedented heights. The book described the workings of an elite group trained to utilize international financial organizations to foment conditions that make nations subservient to big corporations.

The Secret History of the American Empire Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and the Truth about Global Corruption is a sequel to Confessions. It recounts conspiracies to grab resources from vulnerable Third World leaders through the peddling of unserviceable loans.

Sequel writers can often be self-indulgent. Often, the author is guided by the prospect of financial gains. But not so much with Perkins in The Secret History he comes clean about his role in ruining life in many countries.

Perkins' work for a Boston consulting firm allowed nefarious multinational corporations to plunder Indonesia, his covert missions in Saudi Arabia sealed Saddam Hussein's fate, and the economic hit man's invention in an ingenious payment system led directly to the destruction of Bolivia's economy. The book takes us in to the world of economic hit men and their rough-and-tumble cousins, the corporate "jackals," who decide the going ons in our financial capitals.

The impact of activism on organizations has been limited. They can't change corporate capitalism   
Down to Earth
Down to Earth

Off the rails
Perkins says the only way to mend matters is to 'change' the way corporations work. He cites the work of explicitly pro-capitalist organizations like RainForest Action Network (ran), which have run what he calls successful campaigns against Shell Oil, Home Depot, Mitsubishi, Kinkos, Boise Cascade, Citigroup, J P Morgan, McDonalds and Goldman Sachs to mitigate damage to forests. Perkins calls it "new capitalism"--to make capitalists stop being imperialistic and become democratic. He cites Amnesty International's shareholder activism as the route to changing corporations.

This is where the former economic hit man goes off the rails. Many companies actually sign "green" or "progressive" documents, but do not act on them. He gives no evidence that ran is actually able to monitor whether these companies keep their promises. An example is Coca Cola. On the exact same page in Perkins' book, us Senator Jesse Jackson's Wall Street Project lauds Coke for being against discrimination and in the next paragraph, TIAA Cref, a pressure group in the us, drops Coca-Cola from its socially responsible mutual funds because Coke was killing and intimidating union organizers in Colombia. And what about Coca Cola's ravages in Kerala? Each single-issue organization tries to get some paper pledge to action in one area, while the corporation extends its rapacious activities to another direction.

Recent articles in the world press have shown that governments and even traditional corporate boards are being superseded by trans-international financiers. These people are like the hyper imperialist 'hedge' funds of the corporatocracy, the ultimate jet-setting Davos star chamber.

After painting a picture of a bloody years-long struggle for domination by the world's corporations, it is naive for Perkins to expect that the people who hire 'jackals' will calmly lie down with the lambs after some meek pressure. Attempts to reform corporate capitalism by giving it a human face will fail because corporations are dedicated to profit and nothing else.

Never does he mention as desirable unions or strikes--the really powerful tools the working class has to influence change. He relegates them to secondary status, while the massive force of negative advertising, consumer boycotts, shareholder resolutions, on-line petitions and board room elections work their magic. To his credit, however, Perkins does support communities organizing for their own needs.

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