Sunday, December 28, 2008
SPEAK WALL STREET ENGLISH!
The posters, despite the predicament of Wall Street, despite the fact that they are printed on plain cardboard and are not protected behind plastic or by lamination, remain, unfortunately, unaltered, untouched, unanswered by the most merciless of critics, those jurors of history, graffiti artists.
As a New Yorker in Paris, I wish to give back to my hosts by providing them with the following up-to-the-minute, essential guide for speaking Wall Street English:
1. We are closed until further notice
2. I'm thinking being laid off is an awesome opportunity for me to go out on my own and like really use my entrepreneurial skills.
3. What do you mean the account is "frozen"?
4. Comme dit on en francais, "The check bounced"?
5. We are not honoring requests for
6. The bank has repossessed my
7. The number you have dialed has been disconnected. No further information is available.
8. Moved, left no forwarding address.
9. In accordance with USC 201.37, this building and all its contents have been seized by federal marshals for non-payment of taxes.
10. Can I get incorporated as a bank?
11. I'm broke.
12. [From Hudson in Aliens]: "How do I get out of this chicken-shit outfit?"
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Abu 'abd-Allah, Muhammad XII, the last Moorish king of Granada, assumed power in 1482 after his father had been driven from the land. His mother, made of sterner stuff, stayed.
In 1483, Abu invaded Castile. Unsuccessfully. Captured, he obtained his release after promising to rule Granada as a tributary kingdom to that of Ferdinand and Isabella, a couple of vampires if ever any existed in human form.
In 1489, called upon by the merged and acquisitioned houses of Castile and Aragon to surrender Granada in toto, he resisted. Unsuccessfully.
On January 2, 1492 the royal standards of Castile and Aragon, the banner of St. James, and a cross were raised at the summit of the Alcazaba, oldest section of the palace and fort that was the Alahambra.
The surrender of Granada was not just defeat, it was also ceremony. It was not just conquest or reconquest, it was tranfer of title, conveyance of property.
A son of the royal family, taken prisoner in battle, was returned.
A daughter of Abu 'abd-Allah was taken as concubine, mistress to Ferdinand. Nothing conveys title to property like rape .
As Abu 'abd-Allah rode away from the Alahambra he turned for one final look, for one last sigh. He wept. His mother, made of sterner stuff, said "You do well to weep like a woman for what you could not defend as a man."
The rebuke was warranted. As were the tears.
And not only for the order, the culture that the Moors had created and would be destroyed, not only for what the Moors might have become, but for what Castile and Aragon were not, and could never be.
In the place of enlightenment and knowledge, cant and superstition.
In the place of experiment and investigation, inquisition.
In the place of hawks, dogs of god.
2. A PROJECTION OF BACKWARDNESS
Nowhere is that truth of what Castile and Aragon were not and could never be felt more acutely than in South America. Nowhere in South America is the legacy of what Spain was and could never be-- that legacy of ashes-- more alive than in Bolivia.
In the conquest of the Andes territories, Spain could subjugate the property of the Inca's empire, it could demolish, debilitate, infect those relations of land and labor, creating enclaves of what Spain was (and was not) at home in the body of the Inca's empire. Spain could not supplant completely those relations of land and labor; Spain could not revolutionize those relations, no more than it could revolutionize the relations of land and labor at home. The mercantile-landed estate compromise that was the basis of, that was monarchy itself was reproduced in the latifundio, in the indentured labor of indigineros, in the vice-royalties, in the economy of extraction.
Expansion and penetration by the Spanish crown were the intensification of extraction for export. Expansion and penetration were the import of backwardness. And this was not just because Spain was not England, was not, in the 16th, 17th, 18th centuries capitalist in its organization of land and labor. In not being England, in not being capitalist, in its backwardness, Spain showed to all of capitalism the future inferiority of private property in and as the organization of agriculture; the inability of landed private property to change the terms of of extraction to terms of development; the inability of private property in agriculture to support anything more than enclave capitalism.
3. THE WAGES OF INDENTURED LABOR
There is uneven and combined development, and then there is Bolivia. Throughout its history, and until the MNR took power in 1952, Bolivia maintained the hacienda, the allyu, and the communidades, the "free communities" of the indigeneros, of the "originals," as units of agricultural production. The Spaniards of the conquest, the creoles and mestizos of the liberation had no interest, no material interest in the development of a unitary and productive-- above subsistence level-- form of agricultural property, of agricultural labor.
That labor of the indigenous people was confined, restricted under the terms of both conquest and "liberation." Labor that was required for the extraction of wealth from the silver mines was indentured labor.
Landed property, the hacienda was bestowed by the royalty and vice-royalty as reward for those overseeing that indentured labor. The hacienda was a token of service, a symbolic wealth, archaic in its formation, and valued in its archaic-ism.
The labor that was not required for the mines was required to serve the hacienda, to serve that token of wealth, maintaining it in stasis, not expansion.
The labor that was organized in the allyus on and off the haciendas was organized around "subsistence +" production.
Labor that was organized in the free communities was assessed a tax which lined the pockets of the tax collectors.
The mita was abolished by Bolivar in 1825, but it lived on in the countryside in the form of the pongo, a labor service obligation imposed upon the indigenous peoples by the owners of the haciendas.
The pongo tethered the indigeneros to the large estates while the existence of the large estates themselves, claiming the most fertile land but leaving such land uncultivated, and unproductive, controlled the ability of the free communities to produce above subsistence levels.
While industrial capitalism drives itself forward, is driven forward, by its simultaneous needs to aggrandize and expel ever greater quantities of wage-labor, and in fact reproduces itself only in the aggrandizement and expulsion of greater quantities of wage-labor in the production process, the legacy of indentured labor in Bolivia was involution, declining domestic industry, declining domestic production, declining productivity.
As a consequence, the needs of the laboring population were unmet. Those unmet needs could only support artisan, handicraft production. Cities existed not as permanent markets for the exchange of labor with, and, for commodities, but as administrative centers.
As a consequence, imports from the industrial capitalist countries took over the domestic markets while domestic production collapsed. By the middle 19th century, Bolivia's domestic textile production had declined 70 percent from the colonial period. crushed under the weight of the manufactured, flimsy English cottons.
Except in the Cochabamba with the production of wheat and corn, the hacienda did not dominate agricultural production nor agricultural labor until the second half of the 19th century. The Cochabamba, as the granary of Bolivia, was the basis for the accumulation of wealth by merchants and landholders, and that wealth found its way out of the limits of the hacienda, and the merchants serving the haciendas, and into the mining enclaves.
A general expansion of international capitalism followed the crises and near-revolutions of 1848, stumbled and fell in 1857, and then resumed its course through the 1860s. The source for both expansion and contraction was the introduction of new and cheaper technologies into production. In Bolivia that brought the application of steam power to the mining operations of the Altiplano.
That expansion dragged in its wake all the contradictions of capitalism. At one and the same time, the mining enclaves required greater access to labor and greater control over the supply and cost of labor. At one and the same time, the mining enclaves required greater quantities, lower prices and more reliable delivery of agricultural products to its centers of production, while minimizing the cost to itself of the improvement in infrastructure and in agricultural techniques that could satisfy these requirements. The impulse to developing a domestic capitalism, transmitted in the activities necessary to support the expansion of mining production and the sale of products, sought protection through tariffs and taxes against British capitalism. At the same time, the mining-merchant-hacendado alliance, the enclave troika, opposed such tariffs, seeing increased costs to its own business if such restrictions were enacted.
Losing out with the takeover of the national government by Belzu in 1848, the mining alliance finally elected their man, Jose Maria Linares to the presidency in 1857. As important as the alliance was, it was an emerging alliance of an emerging capitalism. As rich as it might be, the alliance was not rich enough to provide full funding to its government. In 1860, the tribute tax, assessed against the indigineros, accounted for more than one-third of the government's budget. The revenue stream alone ensured the survival of the "free communities" of the indigenous peoples.
In beginning and in end, the parliamentary form of bourgeois government depends on the stability, security, and prosperity of the small-property holders of capitalism. Where and how else could the bourgeoisie find the funds and personnel to handle the administration, the management of pettiness and and venality so essential to their business of governing, and vice-versa? And where there is no stability, no prosperity of the small-property holder? When there are individuals but no actual class of small-property holders, what then? Then the caudillo, then the military man, the general, the man on the horse, then the maybe hero to a would-be petty-bourgeoisie, then the petty tyrant despised by those with, and for a lack of, breeding; the man with the horse moving now left, now right, but always and always so crudely in the direction of order, property, obedience.
No better example of this can be found than in the person of Bolivia's General Mariano Melgarejo, the caudillo barbero. Seizing power in 1864, Melgarejo realized the program of the mining-merchant-haciendado alliance.
In this troika, we have not just the hacendados acting as the equivalent of the plantation owners in the US South; we have not just the merchants playing the part equivalent to that of the merchants in New York and Boston implictly, explicitly supporting the slaveholder rebellion against the emerged bougeoisie. We have the hardest core of the bourgeoisie supporting the hacendados, the merchants against the further development of Bolivia beyond enclave and toward a national capitalism.
While this same period brought forth the destruction of slavery in the United States under the banner of "free soil"; while in Russia this same period produced an announcement of the emancipation of the serfs as capitalism whispered its presence behind the Czar's throne; in Bolivia "free soil" is the attack on the communal land tenure practices of the indigenous people. "Private property," "private farming," was the assault on the free communities; on the competition to the monopoly of ownership, a monopoly not of or buy individuals, of or by one or two producers, but the monopoly of individuals and producers as a social class. Private property in agriculture is an ideology covering the tethering of the indigenous peoples to the hacienda, to sustained poverty, to a labor supply, limited by and to below subsistence agriculture, that can be aggrandized and expelled at will.
5. HALF-STEPS TO NOWHERE
After, and because of WW 2, Bolivia experienced a radical reorganization of demographics. The population began a sustained and rapid migration from the countryside, from the haciendas, from the impoverished rural communities, and into the cities. During the second half of the 20th century, the ratio between urban and rural populations reversed itself so that 65% of the population resided in urban areas.
Within the demographic transformation, the "national revolution" of the MNR organized itself around "state capitalism" in industry-- the nationalization of industry in order to preempt its expropriation by the workers.
In the countryside, the MNR's preemptive focus was on creating a "true peasantry" that would metamorphize from peasantry to yeoman farmers to capitalized agricultural production. Private ownership and petty production were the goal.
That goal was fulfilled. In a torturous due process to establish title to lands, and compensate the latifundistas, the MNR did in fact destroy the haciendas. Peasant production, however, is not and cannot be self-capitalizing. It does not, of its own dynamics, compulsively seek expansion. Just the opposite is likely to occur. Population pressures, increased family sizes, lead to increased parcellization of the land, and sustained declines in productivity. In pre-empting the workers' revolution, in opposing the expropriation of private property, the MNR preserved the organization of the enclave economy which was not only incapable of supporting agricultural productivity, but inherently hostile to such productivity. The private capitalization of agriculture, like the state capitalization of industry, was a coda to the impossibility of capitalist development of Bolivia. The agrarian reform produced private ownership while perpetuating the social poverty of private, subsistence agricultural production.
Banzer proved the impossibility of the private capitalization of agriculture. Expanding Bolivia's indebtedness fourfold during his first reign, Banzer provided extensive subsidies, and grants of large tracts of land to European, and North American private and corporate farm interests to colonize Santa Cruz and the other lowland provinces.
After the overthrow of the MNR, the military governments tried to maintain an "alliance" with the rural producers. As conditions worsened in the countryside that "alliance" existed only at bayonet point. Peasant syndicates were organized, coalescing in the Confederacion Sindical Unica de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (CSUTCB). The radical Tupac Katari movement took over leadership of the CSUTCB, and in 1981 Genaro Flores, leader of the Tupac Katari movement, was elected leader of the Confederation of Bolivian Workers (COB).
The MNR, in its need to pre-empt a workers' revolution led by the miners pre-figured international capitalism's pre-emption of the old structure of the enclave economy during its retrenchment of the 1980s. Peasant unions, government workers, service-sector workers replaced the miners as the mainstay of the COB. In 1983, oil and gas replaced tin as the primary export. The old enclave was dead. Long live the new enclave.
In 1985 the reelection of Paz Estenssero completed the pre-emption with the closing of mines, reducing the workers ranks by 75 percent, dismantling the state run Confederation of Bolivian Mines (COMIBOL)-- all capped by removing Juan Lechin, the old war-horse and leader of the miners' union, from the COB.
6. THAT WAS THEN...
Decapitating the workers' movement was essential to both the change from old to new enclave and the maintenance of the status quo, accelerating the unevenness and distortion of land tenure in agriculture. Behind every free market stands the bayonet... and a University of Chicago trained politician. After his victory in the 1993 elections, Gonzalo Sanchez do Lozada, who ran as a fusion candidate in alliance with Tupac Katari Revolutionary Liberation Movement, introduced a series of "democratic," market-based reforms. The reforms included the law on Popular Participation, the law on Decentralizaton, effectively decentralizing the country, creating direct election to over 300 municipalities for indigenous peoples; the law on educational reform, which provided for primary school instruction in the local languages of the indigenous peoples; and the law on Capitalization, which led to the privatization of the five state-owned corporations.
The ideological focus of these programs was an intent to establish through decentralization and privatization functioning national markets. The national markets in return would create a functioning petty-bourgeoisie to administer, endorse, and accommodate the aggranizement of resources and the expropriation of labor.
Markets can only exist where property can be exchanged, where property is alienable; and to be alienable, property must be titled. As a consequence, in 1996 Sanchez introduced another law on land reform.
A decade before Evo Morales and the MAS came to power with the promise of a constituent assembly and a "new" constitution recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples, the MNR /TKRLM government of Gonzalo Sanchez amended the existing 1967 constitution to define Bolivia as multiethnic and pluricultural. A decade before Evo Morales and the MAS promised thorough and substantive land reform, the Sanchez's MNR government enacted legislation that recognized the historical legitimacy of the communal land tenure practices of the allyus and the free communidades, and exempted small rural property holders from taxation. A decade before Evo Morales and the MAS promised to takeover and redistribute land not being used "productively," the Sanchez government had enacted legislation authorizing such actions. In fact, the 2006 MAS law on land reform and the seizures of land that have taken place in Bolivia are based on the MNR's 1996 law.
In order to establish the legitimacy of the claims to land, and the forms of land tenure -- to establish the boundaries of enclaves within enclaves, the MNR reform of 1996, like the proposed MAS reforms, requires the accurate determination of title to the land. In 1995, the World Bank provided $23.7 million to Bolivia to create a National Land Administration.
The project's primary objectives were:
The project objectives are to achieve a more efficient and transparent land administration system, clarify the land tenure situation, identify public land suitable for small farmer settlements and promote a more sustainable use of the country's land resources. To achieve these objectives the project helped the Government to formulate land administration and policy reforms, obtain accurate land ownership information, carry out land studies, alleviate land conflicts and improve land transaction registration.
In its own evaluation of the success of the program, written in 2006, the World Bank concluded that the performance in reaching the objectives was "moderately successful." The project was moderately successful in that its objectives were so limited. The project goal for clarification of land tenure was set at 3 million hectares.
The Bolivian government's estimate of land requiring clarification of title identifies 110 million hectares requiring review, with only 20 million hectares having been reviewed in the last decade.
7. ...THIS IS NOW
Despite Goni's resignation and flight from the country, and despite the calls for his arrest and extradition to stand trial for ordering the murderous assaults of 2003; despite the bankruptcy of the MNR's programs of "state capitalism" and "market capitalism"-- not once, but five times-- these failures live on in the MAS programs of--- state capitalism, nationalization, land reform.
In fact, Bolivia remains an enclave economy. Ninety percent of its total exports are consist of "primary products," energy, minerals and raw agricultural products (for Brazil these products account for 50% exports. For Mexico, 25 percent).
Despite the revenue surge that was provided by the increased prices for gas the Morales government won from Brazil and Argentina, and despite the increased price for zinc provided by the deceased commodity boom, between 2003 and 2006 the overall rate of fixed capital formation in Bolivia has been flat. And this after the rate had declined 20% between 2000 and 2003
The much praised nationalization of the hydrocarbon sector has done little to create an even, but combined, development of the economy. The nationalization itself can be questioned as protest from Brazil resulted in a halt to the nationalization process, and a renegotiation of its terms so that Petrobras could maintain at least a 15 percent return on investment. Today, production by Petrobras accounts for 18% of Bolivian GDP, 24% of the tax revenues, 95% of refining, 23% of fuel distribution, and... Petrobras "manages" 46% of Bolivia's gas reserves.
Just as agriculture is not self-capitalizing, land tenure reform cannot be accomplished in the countryside alone. Land use cannot be reformed without the overthrow of the relations of landed property to labor; without the overthrow of the relations of private property to labor that have created and sustained the existing pattern of land tenure.
"Nationalization" has not and will not create a "national capitalism" but will only perpetuate the limitations of enclave capitalism throught its subordination of production to the world markets, the subordination of production to exchange.
Only when the relations of production in both city and countryside, in factory, workshop, mine, gas field, large farms are transformed into the relations of production for use will the material support be provided for alleviating the poverty of subsistence production and for sustaining the practice of agriculture in traditional communal forms.
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