Look at the history of the Third World since WWII. Everywhere you look (Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa) you see military dictatorships set up and funded by the USA military and intellgence services (and cooperating international funding agencies.) The USA trains the military and para-military forces, provides practical advice on torture techniques, and (by various methods) insures that the media downplays human-rights abuses -- until a decision is made to "reorganize" the local government. At that point, the media suddenly "uncovers" abuses (e.g., Phillipines, Panama, Iraq.)
The role played by these dictatorships is to offer a safe haven for capital investment. They suppress worker organizations, prevent democratic elements from participating in government, impose minimal taxation on corporate profits, and ignore such "annoying" issues as environmental protection. They are stooge governments -- little more than puppet regimes with window-dressing democratic formalisms -- and their attitude toward civil-liberties and democratic participation is indeed FASCIST.
Who tells these dictators what to do? It isn't bureaucrats in the Pentagon or White House, it's the corporations that run the countries as feudal estates. Thus ITT (who owns the copper "plantations") played the leading role in the illegal overthrow of the democratically-elected Allende regieme; it's United Fruit who decides when to "send in the marines" in Central America; it's Exxon et al who decide how to play the Iranians off against the Saudis. The USA government acts as a subservient police force, sending in "goons" whenever necessary to keep the various corporate "properties" under control. The corporate-controlled mass media eagerly plays its role -- as "PR Agency" for the imperialist corporations, casting whatever "spin" (on Haiti, or Ethiopia, or Chiapas) that serves the corporate objectives.
The pattern since WWII is that the third world has been turned over to international capital to be run as feudal estates. This system has been extremely profitable and successful, as viewed from the amoral, money-colored glasses of the corporate ledger sheet. From the point of view of democracy and human rights, the third world has been -- and continues to be -- a heart-wrenching tragedy ... filled with death squads and slums and street-children (who are systematically culled by gunshot by off-duty policemen in Brazil.)
As we learned from the experience of Rome, imperial practices eventually come to roost in the home territories. While the third-world has been a screaming success for capital investors in the post-war period, the first-world shows up in the "needs improvement" category. All those pesky labor unions and regulations and taxes are a bother -- they steal money from the bottom line and give it to workers and tax-supported programs! Yuk! "There's just too much damned democracy in first-world countries!", think the corporate bosses. (See: "Controlling Interest", video, California Newsreel, San Francisco)
This isn't to say corporations have been unable to advance their cause within nation states. Reagan, Bush, and now Gingrich, have carried the corporate flag quite successfully in the USA -- gutting the tax and regulatory systems, and otherwise kowtowing to the corporate agenda. And in the UK, Major manages to veto the Social Chapter (even in the face of deteriorating worker conditions in the UK) and somehow claims that as a "victory for the British worker"! I won't bother talking about Italy -- read the NY Times and other right-wing tabloids.
But corporations are greedy to maximize profits, and their creeping dominance of first-world economic structures just isn't progressing fast enough. GATT, NAFTA, and Maastricht are "fast track" approaches to bringing the world under corporate control.
The corporate community is "leverage conscious": they know that their influence over first-world governments can be maximally leveraged not by influencing domestic policies, but rather by using that influence to undermine sovereignty itself. "Striking while the iron is hot", they are rushing pell-mell into all sorts of treaty-status international arrangements which bind governments to UNSPECIFIED OBLIGATIONS -- obligations TBD [To Be Defined] by corporate-dominated commissions. Europe is told to sign the Maastricht blank check now, and permit the amount (in Euro Dollars?) to be filled in later.
The intent of these so-called "free trade" intiatives is clear: to give the corporate community the same domination over first-world nations that they have found to be so comfortable and profitable in the third world. Thus the corporate imperialist system is "crossing the Rubicon" and threatens the Citizens of Rome (us first-world folks) with the same second-class status that has been imposed citizens in the provinces for the past 50 years. Just as the title of Roman Emperor was eventually auctioned off to the highest bidder by the imperial forces, so modern Presendential campaigns in the USA are characterized by candidates vying to prove they'll accede most gracously to corporate-sponsored "reforms".
We have an early example that shows exactly how corporate hegemony is to be exercised. One of the Candian Provinces (was it Ontario?) passed a "no fault" auto-insurance law: an extremely efficient and inexpensive way to deal with liability claims arising from car crashes. Under the NAFTA-like agreement between USA & Canada, an American insurance company sued and succeeded in forcing Ontario to drop their legally adopted insurance scheme! The European Commission is similarly beginning to push its nose increasingly into what many would consider to be the "internal affairs" of European countries.
Before you send in flames minimizing the extent of such intrusions up till now, please note that these super-national structures are very much in "sales mode", and are therefore currently on "good behavior". When their power is consolidated -- for example when there is a European currency -- and it's too late for nations to back out, then be prepared for a strong downward pressure on workers rights and progressive programs -- you can see the future, and it is the third world. The American Civil War shows what happens when states, which thought they had voluntarilty joined a federal union, try to withdraw.
The Internet is a potentially powerful tool to help the people of the world understand the predicament they're in, by "going around" the mass media and the well-publicized pronouncments of the "spin-to-order" corporate "think tanks" (Personally, I think "policy bordello" is a more appropriate label than "think tank".)
The net also has tremendous limitations and is imminently vulnerable to suppression, as we have seen recently in the USA, Denmark, Hong Kong, and Italy, and as S.314 and S.390 forebodes for the future. I'm not one of those crypto-anarchists who sees networking as the "ultimate tool of democracy" -- those guys are living in a virtual-reality dream world. But until we start making effective use of the Internet for democratic purposes, it's OURSELVES who are setting the limits -- not the authorities. After they kick us off the net, then we can blame THEM. Those of you barricaded in with your PGP arsenal might as well move to Waco and buy an AK-47, the two weapons and refuges will be equally useless in any real struggle.
Everywhere capital is looking for new markets to develop, and Ginrich -- our modern Christopher Columbus hero explorer -- has recently announced the "Discovery of Cyberspace": the latest "unoccupied" territory to be conquered and exploited. You have to admire his chutzpa, in openly publishing a "Magna Carta", which lays out how Cyberspace is to ceded to a new generation of Robber Barons, as insulated as possible from responsible public oversight.
This race to make sacrifices to the corporate dragon is of course bi-partisian. Behind the make-believe party rivalries, Gore plays his dutiful role in carrying out the Robber Baron Magna Carta vision, by inviting to the G7 as the first-ever non-governmental participants in this kind of international financial bargaining-fest:
Thus the post-war corporate third-world paradigm finally sends its marines to the beachheads of Cyberspace. It may be time for us Internet natives to have an appropriate pow-wow before we, in our turn, are wiped out.