Re: Viva Zapata!!

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Posted by midnight notes on January 03, 1998 at 15:57:50:

In Reply to: Viva Zapata!! posted by M.F. Lane on January 03, 1998 at 15:54:22:

One No, Many Yeses

Since the end of the Cold War and the supposed triumph of the "global
economy," specters of anti-capitalist struggle have swirled into life around
the planet. For example, the Zapatista uprising in January 1994 revived the
great anti-liberal Revolution of 1910 and helped throw the economic planning
of the Mexican state, and the Mexican economy, into crisis. The general strike
in France in December 1995 resurrected the Commune, blocked the social welfare
cuts the French government had planned, and led to the electoral victory of
the Socialists, who are at least promising a shorter work week and an end to
"austerity." Finally, the South Korean workers' season of general strikes from
December of 1996 to March 1997 ignited the Asian crisis and ended the dreams
of endless profit booms for investors and speculators in "emerging markets."
Midnight Notes returns in the midst of the second great crisis of the post-
Cold War era brought about by these struggles. In Midnight Oil (1992), we
evoked the working class struggle which caused the Gulf Crisis. Both the Bush
and Hussein regimes tried to crush it with bombs and to obscure it with TV
images and nationalistic rhetoric. In One No, Many Yeses we examine the second
great crisis of the post-Cold War era. This time it is officially expressed
not as a military-diplomatic affair, but as a set of financial crises. Instead
of seeing bombed and burning cities, we hear of stock market crashes and
currency exchange catastrophes in Asia, Mexico and South America. But the same
"specter" is responsible.
On the one side, these and other struggles have not yet blocked the continued
rule of capital and the extension of more direct capitalist relations of
production and consumption to a vastly larger area of the earth. On the other
side, they preview the crisis of the neoliberal phase of capitalism itself.
Does planetary capitalist expansion and reorganization set the stage for
capital's defeat or its successful colonization of greater areas of human
life? Has capital bitten off more than it can swallow in its more recent leap
forward? Will it choke on an indigestible humanity resisting both reduction of
life solely to existence as labor power and the incessant imposition of
austerity in all its guises?
These and other working class struggles have forced some of capital's
thinkers and planners to respond, as witnessed by George Soros' famous
Atlantic Monthly piece, warning capital that "the uninhibited pursuit of self-
interest" which is not "tempered by the recognition of common interest" will
spell disaster for the system (Soros 1997: 48), and also as witnessed more
concretely by the willingness of the World Bank to engage in negotiations and
planning with the non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Does this, for
capital, signal the start of something new, the first halting steps toward a
new phase of capitalist development after the neoliberal processes of clearing
away the deals and powers of the working class accumulated during most of this
On the other side, is the planet's complex and contradictory working class
itself edging closer to a new phase of offensive against capitalism after a
period of micro-social resistance? Amidst many struggles and efforts at
developing new circuits of discussion and action, some key moments of the past
several years have been the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico and the
Intercontinental Encuentros Against Neoliberalism and for Humanity initiated
by the Zapatistas and held first in Chiapas in 1996 and then in the Spanish
state in 1997. We see these efforts as an important part of a slow and still
uncertain beginning of new possibilities for the world anti-capitalist
struggle. This issue, the first in a new series from Midnight Notes, is one
contribution toward exploring how the class struggles of the decade are
reshaping both sides of the class dialectic. Borrowing a phrase from Gustavo
Esteva, the title of this issue is "One No, Many Yeses," as one contribution
towards hastening the end of capitalism (One No) and supporting the
development of new socialities (Many Yeses).(1)

I. The Many Names of Capitalism

How has it been possible after decades of governmental guarantees of
subsistence to its population that the very notion of such a guarantee has
been put into doubt in the highest levels of world planning? Why are so many
people starving, fleeing genocidal slaughters, dying of quite curable
diseases, anxious about their literal survival even though they are “fully
employed,” or even finding themselves enslaved a century and a half after the
end of slavery? What and/or who is responsible?
The answer is obvious: the development of capitalism. But this is not the
capitalism of past, it is a new animal. The during the last decade the anti-
capitalist movement has increasingly proliferated the names of the beast, from
“globalization,” to “neoliberalism,” to “structural adjustment,” to “the new
enclosures,” to "recolonization," and to “a new international division of
labor.” These terms have all been used recently to describe the planetary
political economic developments since the beginning of the world capitalist
“crisis” in 1971-73 (with the end of the Bretton Woods system and the oil
price boom). It is worth while to note some of the differences between these
names, so that we can get a clearer sense of the relation between cause and
effect, for, as chaos theory has taught us, even a slight perturbation in a
cause can bring about major instabilities in the effect. Indeed, until the
movement has a better consensus as the meaning of its "One No," we will be
Let us take each name in turn.

(A) Globalization. Madonna images in Botswana, computers produced in
Bangladesh, Burger King in Beijing, exchanging yen in Chile have now become
standard experiences. Those who try to explain these recent developments look
to a change in the production, consumption and exchange of commodities and
money since the early 1970s (Barnet and Cavanagh 1994). Though the world
market for commodities, capital and money existed for centuries before, the
“globalization” theorists argue that until recently most production,
consumption and exchange took place within national (or at least national-
imperial) frameworks. This has now changed. Transnational corporations and
banks and supranational agencies like the World Bank (WB), the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) are “delinking”
themselves from political attachments to nation- state “homes.” They have
“deterritorialized” and “globalized” themselves and as a consequence have the
capacity to move capital, money and expertise at will to the places of highest
return. They can produce, market, borrow on a global level while the legal and
financial framework for this global capacity for movement and integration has
been slowly but definitively put into place. Consequently, nation states,
provincial governments, municipalities, local officials, and labor unions are
now increasingly helpless in controlling the movement of capital, money, and
jobs. “Corporations rule the world,” in David Korten’s phrase, along with
their allies in the supranational level (the IMF, WB, WTO, UN) (Korten 1995).
The main consequence of this globalization of corporations has been a
widening gap between “North” and “South,” which are the operative conflictual
terms for this perspective. The globalizing corporations are “integrating only
about one-third of humanity (most of those in the rich countries plus the
elite of the poor countries) into complex chains of production, shopping,
culture, and finance” (Broad and Cavanagh 1995-96).

(B) Neoliberalism. This term has been widely used in South and Meso America
and in Europe to describe the contemporary character of the relation of the
state to capitalist development. It has not been very popular in the US
because of the peculiar US development of the term “liberal.” Sometime in the
twentieth century it came to signify exactly the opposite of what it implied
in Europe and the Americas south of the Rio Grande. (Although now, with the
Clinton Administration, there might be a historical rapprochement of the two
senses of the term!) “Liberal” outside the US refers to the market ideology
and politics which had its paradigm moment in Britain during the 1840s. The
liberals of that time demanded (and got) from the British state free trade
(the repeal of the protectionist Corn Laws), strict adherence to the gold
standard (especially by other nations), the completion of the enclosures (end
of common lands) and the repeal of the Poor Laws (and other forms of wage
protection). Let us not forget, however, as Polanyi pointed out long ago,
classical liberalism did not mean laissez faire (or governmental non-
intervention in economic affairs) (Polanyi 1944). On the contrary, for
example, if workers combined to force employers to increase their wages, the
police and army were expected to break their combinations and strikes; or if
South American governments could not pay back their loans to London banks,
British gun boats were expected to turn up in their principal ports.
Neoliberalism is a late twentieth century reprise of classical liberalism
(after almost a half a century of the dominance of anti-liberal Keynesian,
social democratic, fascist or socialist state political economic policies),
but with appropriate changes. Thus, the gold standard is now replaced by the
rule of “hard” currencies and anti-inflationary monetary policy as defined by
the IMF; free trade is replaced by the GATT rules overseen by the WTO; the
enclosures are replaced by the privatization of the remaining communal lands
and of most socialized property and income; the repeal of the Poor laws is
replaced by a much larger legislative “social reform” agenda, since the wage
and “welfare” legislation of this century produced a giant system to regulate
the reproduction of proletariat in most countries.
The critics of neoliberalism see, through these shifts, an ideological
identity between the “market reformers” of the WB, the Clinton Democrats, the
Thatcherites and the Salinistas and the nineteenth century Liberals, but the
neolibs present a new global boldness in application. The two themes of this
ideology (past and present) has been the liberation of capital from the
official constraint of reproducing the proletariat (on either the national or
global level) and the apotheosis of market relations to the ideal of human
sociality. But the level of “liberation” and “apotheosis” has been given an
anti-Eurocentric twist, affirming the possibility of any state (regardless of
race, color or creed) to achieve capitalistic bliss.

(C) Structural Adjustment. This term originally described a bankers’ program
devised by the WB and IMF to be imposed on any third world or socialist
government that needed to reschedule their loan payments. This program
included: (a) liberalization of trade, (b) the end of capital controls and
promotion of “free enterprise zones” o “export processing zones,” (c) the free
convertibility of national currency, (d) an anti-inflationary monetary policy,
(d) the reduction of government budgets, (e) the cutting of governmental
employment, (f) the end of subsidies for education, health, and subsistence
goods, (g) the privatization of government parastatals, (h) the individuation
and free exchange of land titles. Almost every government in the Americas,
Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia has agreed to impose a structural adjustment
program (with more or less rapidity and rigor) in the wake of the Debt Crisis.
The WB and IMF claimed that structural adjustment programs would reduce
inflation, lead to a favorable balance of payments, reduce government internal
and external debt, make national industries more efficient, and force workers
to become more productive. All these changes would inevitably, the world
bankers claimed, lead to a reduction of a nation’s international debt, and so
they were justified in requiring these programs as conditionalities for any
future loans or payment rescheduling.
At first these programs were largely seen as immediate responses to emergency
financial situations in a wide variety of different settings during the 1980s.
But soon the cumulative effect of these programs on national capitalists, on
the national proletariats, and on the total international debt itself was
assessed. Inevitably: the national enterprises were swamped by transnational
corporations entering into local markets they were previously barred from,
while wages plummeted due to the rise in unemployment, the devaluation of
national currencies, and the inability of workers to organize against
transnational corporations operating in free export zones where protection of
workers was systematically and legally banned. The result has been, on the one
side, an actual increase in international debt and, on the other, a
recolonization of the economic life of regions that had in the 1950s
experienced decolonization (Danaher 1994).
Hence, the critics of structural adjustment have seen in the WB’s and IMF’s
strategy an attempt to “roll back” the economic gains of “Southern” societies
that were achieved in the period between decolonization and the Debt Crisis.
These gains were supposedly leading to the development of an autonomous
capitalist development which was increasingly challenging the dominance of
Northern states. This trend had to be stopped if the old hierarchies were to
remain intact and the Debt Crisis provided a perfect opportunity for the WB
and IMF, as representatives of the North, to sabotage this Southern autonomy
and recolonize, in a more subtle and therefore more irresistible way. the
nation states of Africa, Asia, South and Meso America (Bello 1994).

(D) Recolonization. This view takes the period between the Berlin Conference
of 1885 and the First World War as the point of reference for understanding
the present conjuncture. The Berlin Conference laid down the rules for a new
period of capitalist colonization (or "imperialism" a la Lenin and Hobson) of
Africa, but it also set the stage for the colonization efforts of the U.S. in
the Caribbean, of the U.S. and Japan in the Pacific, and of all the imperial
powers in China and South East Asia. As analyzed by the original theorists of
late-nineteenth century colonialism, the "imperialism" game involved
militarily conquering large sections of Africa, Asia and Oceania to create
guaranteed markets for the home countries' cartels and monopolies, to spur
the ascendancy of financial capital, to provide migratory outlets for
rebellious workers from the European cities, and to force new masses of
workers in the colonies to labor in almost slave-like conditions, all without
entering into direct military confrontation with each other! This regime
collapsed after the Second World for a number of reasons, not least of which
was the recognition by imperialist governments that official colonization had
many of the disadvantages of slavery for the masters. It put the costs of
reproducing the colony in bad times on the colonizing country, just as the
slave had to be reproduced at cost to the master even when there was little
demand for the slave- produced commodity.
The contemporary projection of this scenario by recolonization theorists
replaces the imperialist countries with the G-7 dominated supra-national
organizations like the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO that impose
their conditions on previously decolonized countries through a combination of
military and economic action. Attempts at direct military conquest ended with
the U.S. failure in Vietnam. Consequently a more subtle approach was developed
in the 1980s. On the one side, the techniques of low-intensity warfare and
"humanitarian intervention" and, on the other, threats to isolate the
countries from credit markets and to restrict their commodities from markets
in Europe and North America, have created the conditions for a total
subjection of Third World economies to the needs of international banks and
transnational corporations (the modern equivalent of the late-19th century
cartels and monopolies). The processes unleashed by recolonization also
expanded the global labor market enormously through the use of "free
enterprise zones" and "maquiladoras," while they created a new stratum of
"global" managers whose primary loyalty is to the transnational corporations
or supra-national agencies that employ them and not to their "own" country.
Thus recolonization realizes many of the advantages of colonization without
the troubling obligations to reproduce the colony.

(E) New International Division of Labor. This view takes as primary neither
the behavior of global corporations and banks (A), nor the behavior of states
and national ruling classes (B), nor the behavior of the supranational
financial agencies like the WB, IMF and WTO (C). Rather, it starts from the
basic problem in any period of capitalist development: production, and hence
the integration of capital and labor. Labor and capital are never homogeneous.
Labor, for example, is always divided into hierarchies of skills, wages,
organic compositions (i.e., mixtures of labor power of varying skills with
machines of different value) and these hierarchies are associated
geographically across a city, a national territory and, most crucially, the
planet. In this view, capitalist production has always been “global,” it is
simply that the international division of labor has undergone major
transformations. The post-1968 transformation has been the latest and perhaps
the most consequential for the geographical distribution of production
(Carnoy et al. 1993). The older division of labor that put manufacturing
industries in the core and agricultural and extraction industries in the
periphery has ended. On the one side, the core countries (U.S.,, Western
Europe and Japan) have de- industrialized and have focused on the production
of services and information, while on the other side, the periphery has become
increasingly the center of manufacturing. This has created a new division
within the periphery between the Newly Industrializing Countries (NICs) and
those which, for a variety of reasons, have been left out (Amin et al. 1982).

(F) The New Enclosures. This analysis was developed by Midnight Notes in the
late 1980s (Midnight Notes 1990). It takes as its root historical metaphor for
the present neither mid-19th century “Liberalism” nor late-19th century
imperial colonialism, but the dawn of capitalism in the sixteenth (or “Iron”)
century which saw the original (or primitive) creation of a proletariat (both
slave and waged). For no one is born a slave or a waged laborer, s/he must be
made one by stripping from him/her any alternative but to be a slave (waged or
not). The claim is that in every period of capitalist accumulation, the
capitalist class must recreate a proletariat by “liberating” it from
autonomous access to the means of subsistence. The Old Atlantic Enclosures of
the sixteenth century in Europe, the Americas and Africa which involved the
driving of European peasants from the commons; the genocide of native
Americans who refused to abandon their lands in the face of colonialist
demands; and the origin of the African slave trade are the model of this
“liberation” (which often ended in slavery!) (Midnight Notes 1992) (Midnight
Notes 1990).
This analysis puts to the center of the discussion a fact that the other
approaches seem to have forgotten: labor is not only necessary for production,
it is antagonistic to capital. The reason why “a great transformation” began
during the trigger years (1968-1973) can be provided neither by the logic of
capitalist development (from local to global production), nor by the
autonomous ideological preferences of the national capitalist classes (from
Keynesian to neoliberal ideologies), nor by the “anti-Southern” machinations
of the IMF/WB/GATT/WTO or the imperialist G-7 nations, nor by the autonomous
creation of a new division of labor. This transformation was a response to the
increasingly aggressive proletarian rejection of the three “deals” (or
“constitutions” in European parlance) that had been negotiated at the end of
WWII: the Keynesian in Western Europe and the US, the socialist in Eastern
Europe, the Soviet Union and China, and the third world nationalist. This
world revolution was not capable of achieving a homogenization on a planetary
level, however, and the counter-revolution of the New Enclosures inevitably
followed, beginning with Chile in September 1973.
The post-1973 task of capital was to create a new planetary proletariat
that would generate profits and continue accumulation. This required many
changes in production (Fordism to Neo-fordism), in ideology (from welfarism to
neoliberalism), in economic strategy (Keynesianism or socialism to
monetarism), in technology (internal combustion engines to computerization and
genetic engineering), in management (from nation state to supranational
agency), as well as much invention, murder and mayhem (often called “risk
taking” and “entrepreneurship”). These symptomatic developments have been
commented upon by those who have developed the previous approaches. But most
crucially this task logically required the elimination of access to means of
subsistence, either through communal or non-alienable land tenure, or through
pensions, doles, guaranteed employment and other instruments of the social
commons that the previous period of class struggles had achieved). The methods
used to extirpate this access were and are multifarious and devious, leaving
their tangled trail in the field of class struggle for the last quarter
century. But, in the process, the self-consciousness and self-certainty of
capital as a class has definitely increased, from the hesitations of a Carter,
Wilson, Gorbachev and Mitterand to the increasing clarity of a Reagan,
Thatcher, Yeltsin and Chirac. The same cannot, unfortunately, be said of the
vanguards that stormed the heavens in the late 1960s and early 1970s; for the
process of the offensive against capital inevitably undermined and
delegitimated the defensive organs of the working class (party, union and
Though the key feature of the new enclosures is the cutting off of any access
to subsistence independent of capital (hence the cutting off from the past,
the tearing out of the roots, the cult of the artificial seen in postmodern
ideology), the problem of the creation of a working class and its reproduction
is still with capital. It is one thing is to relentlessly drive people from
access to subsistence, but it is quite another thing to transform these
rootless ones to profit-making workers (be it slave or “free.”) This is not an
automatic process. The NIDL conception, the one which at least focuses on
work, does not problematicize these most problematic of social preconditions
for capitalist development.

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