american trap

Robert Rauschenberg, Sounds of the Street, 1992


Commentary on the newly edited book by Frederic Pierucci & Matthieu Aron

It is rare for a statement by an executive of a large multinational corporation, in this case Alstom, the French nuclear, energy and transport giant, to detail how what we curiously call “markets” work, and which in reality involves war between the large groups, with the equipped use of the Judiciary, with deep government involvement, and a set of behaviors that rarely surface in the media or in research. Only an insider, and at a high level of responsibility, could write how the really existing capitalism works.

We are talking about Alstom, which, according to the author, is a group “that has the greatest nuclear experience in the world. It is number one in the supply of complete power plants, as well as in their maintenance, and equips around 25% of the world's fleet. The company is also a world leader in the production of hydroelectric energy” (p. 164). The book recounts, chapter by chapter, how the American General Electric, an even larger group, managed to buy Alstom, using legal persecution, prisons, and naturally this white knight of politics that is the fight against corruption, in the name of which the greatest barbarities can be done.

Frédéric Pierucci, Alstom's own executive, writes in the first person, with the help of researcher and journalist Matthieu Aron. I read the book in a day and a half, because it is very well written, a day-to-day account of the war, but researched in great detail, a window that allows us to understand how the system actually works. A similar book appeared some time ago, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, A work that, despite the title suggesting a policeman, is also a detailed explanation of major international contracts. It was written by John Perkins, chief economist for a large American construction company. It had great success in the United States, precisely because it lifted the veil on how major international negotiations work.

Controlling energy, nuclear technology, large infrastructures that represent immense resources and cutting-edge technologies, is vital for a country's sovereignty. How did France, the world's fifth economic power, allow this “flower of the French economy” to be snatched away by General Electric? We imagine the market as they teach us in economics courses, of the type that “wins who provides the best service”, and not who has the political, military and judicial power machine to snap up competitors. I didn't find any ideological simplification in the book, but a day-by-day account of how economic warfare works. This opens a window on how the policy works in general.

Politics becomes comprehensible: “Whoever occupies the US President's chair, whether Democrat or Republican, charismatic or obnoxious, the government in Washington always serves the interests of the same group of industrialists: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Exxon Mobil, Halliburton, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, GE, Bechtel, United Technologies, among others... The United States, which prides itself on giving moral lessons to the entire planet, is the first to close fraudulent deals in the various countries under its control. zone of influence, starting with Saudi Arabia and Iraq” (p. 329).

The United States is the first and only one to pass an Extraterritorial Law – from 1970, expanded from 1988 – that allows them to arrest a person of any nationality, for business in the most diverse countries, because American justice – pushed by an American corporation – decides that American interests were violated (p. 172, 249, 326). Or they can sue any company that does business with a country that the United States unilaterally decides is subject to a blockade. In other words, North American economic groups have a weapon of persecution on a worldwide scale, with the Judiciary formally involved (the DOJ). And with the involvement, thanks to the collaboration of the big social media platforms, the NSA itself, that is, the government intelligence system.

Brazil is mentioned on several occasions, and there is no way not to draw a parallel between the war for control of the most advanced technologies and the largest international contracts, with what was Operation Lava Jato in Brazil. Also developed in the name of the fight against corruption, with the support of the United States, it ended up breaking up major construction competitors such as Odebrecht, and privatizing a large part of the country's energy base, in particular parts of Petrobras and Eletrobrás, without talk about another technological flower of Brazil that is Embraer.

It's war, and using the American and Brazilian judiciary in a scandalous way is part of the system. The first step, as in the case of Alstom, is privatization, which allows for external appropriation through financial mechanisms. Threats and political and police interventions do the rest. Can you imagine China handing over control of its energy base to international corporations? For the clarity and depth of the exposition, an indispensable reading.

* Ladislau Dowbor is professor of economics at PUC-SP. Author, among other books, of A era do capital improvutivo (Literary Autonomy).



Frederic Pierucci & Matthieu Aron. American Trap: A world car wash. São Paulo, Kotter, 2021, 444 pages.


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