AMLO outside the Senate, Monday, October 26

Worker's Party Deputy Mario di Costanzo Tears Apart Carstens Economic Plan

Monday, September 15, 2008

Corporatism, US and Mexico-Style

While Americans suffer through the psychological poison of another farcical election campaign charade with its by-now standard quota of lies, character assassination and fascistic bullying, and while Mexicans are gearing up for their annual celebration of their nation’s so-called independence, this blogger felt a few thoughts to be in order as to what is currently at stake both in the United States and Mexico in these such adverse times.

The radical regimes in power both in the US and Mexico got there, first and foremost, through undemocratic means: the constitutional coup is no less a coup for hiding behind the skirts of a nation’s constitution. Said radical regimes – aligned with sister movements throughout the word – seek nothing less than the absolute rollback of the national state’s welfare function, to turn the clock back to the no-holds-barred industrialism of the nineteenth century when men, women and children were wage slaves to their bosses in a penury hardly better than their great-great grandparents under feudalism (and worse in the sense of the factory conditions they were forced to labor under), and when American and other foreign companies in a tax-free Mexican heaven with the most absolute of impunity (remember that one of the precipitating moves for the nationalization of PEMEX were the oil companies’ conspiring to split off the oil-producing states from the rest of Mexico to form “A Gulf Republic” all their own). Even now, a full hundred years since the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution, historical revisionism is alive and rife on the Mexican right: maybe Don Porfirio wasn’t such a bad guy after all – he did industrialize the country, didn’t he, bring in the railroads (since sold off) and factories and French fashion? Lest we forget what things were really like, I refer the reader to John Kenneth Turner’s México Bárbaro, an account of an American’s tour through the hell of Mexican slavery in 1907, a scant three years before the outbreak of revolution, which is required reading in many Mexican secondary schools – we’ll see for how much longer.

Mind you, these radical-right regimes do not have the balls to bring their philosophy to its logical conclusion: the abolition of the state altogether. That would be an altogether more interesting, and more honest, point of view. Oh no, they want a state all right – a police state, whose exclusive functions are to protect property, enforce contracts, and keep enough of enough of a lid on dissent that we can all keep schlepping off to work and the mall every day. The multi-national corporation (considered to be a person by both the American and Mexican juridical systems), the jewel in the crown of the neo-right, could not exist without the state, could not exist without its infrastructure, roads and airports and traffic lights, could not exist without its police and army (to suppress internal dissent, as Calderon is so blatantly using them together for), could not exist without the courts that put a legal veneer on their purchasing of justice, and above all, could not exist without its television, not only to sell its products but to render us all brainwashed and neurologically passive enough so that all of this can go on with our full complicity as “autonomous” citizens.

The state and the corporation exist, in neo-con land, in a perverted symbiosis: the state protects the corporation and the corporation buys its protection by enriching the upper echelons of government, which are often one and the same: the revolving door between corporation and government ensures that it is often the same functionaries serving themselves with the big spoon (as the Spanish expression goes) from both sides of the bowl. The state sucks taxes, Matrix-like, out of its citizens in order to provide the above-mentioned services, along with selective tariff protection and fat public contracts for armaments, energy and the like, to the corporation. If the corporation fails, the government bails it out; if the corporation becomes an abusive monopoly, the government does its best not to have to break it up. Thus the government allows the concentrating tendencies of the free market to go unchecked (monopolies, cartelism – can anyone say Telmex and Cemex?), but carefully reigns in the corrective effect of bad business practices in the form of selective bail-outs (can anyone say Fobaproa, Bear Stearns and the Citigroup?) and preferential tax treatment, including the turning of a blind eye to offshore tax havens. The free market does not apply to the corporation that is ‘too important to fail’. Free speech, on the other hand, as Chomsky points out, is just another commodity to be bought if you have the money; for everyone else it is restricted to the bubble of the ‘free-speech zone’ far from the cameras (try to stray from that and just watch how fast the FBI will barge in and steal your laptop).

What the radical-right regimes in power in the US and Mexico aspire to, then, is the corporate state – corporatism par excellence. The state for the corporation, the corporation for itself, everyone and everything else, especially democracy, be damned (although the farce of elections will have to continue in order to keep up appearances). And when I say ‘corporation,’ I of course also mean ‘bank’: the concentration of international capital in certain institutions used both to lubricate the cogs of corporatism and to bludgeon weaker countries into falling in line with their strictures. Of course, the people will eventually rebel against all of this (although Americans seem to have entered into a state of terminal passivity, much like the wife who has been abused for so long that she rallies to her husband’s side when he is called onto the carpet), but that’s what the armed forces – arms supplied by the corporation – are for. This is more of an imminent danger for ‘weak states’ like Mexico, which is why the upper classes here have become more practiced in taking the money and running – to Miami, Madrid or Mallorca, to states that are just that much stronger in order to protect their loot. Plan on seeing Calderon on an extended sojourn abroad in 2012, if not before.

The point here is not whether the corporation can or cannot fulfill a positive function or whether it can or cannot provide useful services to people. It is, rather, that this sickening symbiosis between corporation and government is creating, has created, a stratified, authoritarian structure where the freedoms (political and social and labor) our forefathers fought for have been subsumed into a dictatorship of capital that is as abusive as any aristocracy ever was – and in the arming of the world for profit and the mass destruction of its natural resources and social fabrics, much, much worse. So let the campaign in the US drone its sad way on, let the grito be uttered in every town square in Mexico tonight, but then let us go home and work to start liberating our minds, each and every one of us individually and then together, of the insidious notions that have been implanted in our minds: that life is a war of all against all, that we must simply pay our taxes and keep our heads down, that this is just the way things are.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


As Michael T. Klare, author of "Blood and Oil" and "Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: the New Geopolitics of Energy" puts it succinctly, America's wealth and power (as well, this blogger hastens to add, its profligately wasteful lifestyle) "has long rested on the abundance of cheap petroleum." Unbelievably now, the United States was once the world's largest producer of oil; the fortunes of the Rockefellers, of course, did not come from nowhere. Says Klare: "Abundant, exceedingly affordable petroleum was also responsible for the emergence of the American automotive and trucking industries, the flourishing of the domestic airline industry, the development of the petrochemical and plastics industries, the suburbanization of America, and the mechanization of its agriculture. Without cheap and abundant oil, the United States would never have experienced the historic economic expansion of the post-World War II era." The year domestic American oil production hit its peak, in 1970, was also the peak year of the post-war economic boom. From there on in, it would be oil shocks, stagnant wages, the slow but inexorable rollback of America's already-minimal welfare state, and of course, an increasing dependency on foreign oil: the United States now imports 65% of the stuff, transferring in the process $548 billion dollars a year to its happy suppliers, who use the profits in turn to gobble up American assets through sovereign-wealth funds (SWFs): "state-controlled (note) investment accounts that buy up prized foreign assets in order to secure non-oil-dependent sources of wealth." As Klare point out, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority alone has assets of $875 billion dollars, and has over time bought into Citigroup, Advanced Micro Systems, and the Carlyle Group, to the financial benefit, not surprisingly, of both the Bushes and the Bin Ladens.

In short, America would not be able to toss so many of its bombs around the world without the oil to do it with (one last Michael Klare stat: the US Department of Defense uses more oil per day than the entire nation of Sweden). It is not so hard to envision a not too-distant future in which the United States military invades other nations simply to get the oil to keep itself going enough to invade the next country in order to get the oil to...until, spent, it simply grinds to a halt, all of its tanks and Humvees wasting away, Mad-Max style, rusting hulks in whatever desert they were stationed in before the black gold ran out.

Where does this leave the world's energy exporters? Financially speaking, pretty good: these are the Petro-Superpowers, the 21st century answer to the outdated, 20th century, just-plain Superpower. We have already mentioned the Arab States through the example of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority; its neighbor Saudi Arabia, of course, is the world's largest oil producer, a big-time investor in the US stock markets, and a fast friend of every White House. Meanwhile, Russia, the world's number two oil producer - and its top natural-gas producer - has been recently flexing its muscle in very blatant fashion in Georgia, but has been building itself back up for a good decade now, throughout the period the US State Department was so contemptuously writing them off. Instead of letting American oil companies buy up its assets after the fall of the USSR, they concentrated most of them in state-owned Gazprom which, as Ukraine learned in 2006, can turn on and off the supply to its neighbors at will. Closer to home, Venezuela under Hugo Chávez is using its oil wealth both to provide cheap gasoline to its own citizens (a starker contrast to current Mexico there cannot be) and to lead the way in the financial and energetic integration of South America.

And Mexico? Petro-superpower? Petro-power, at least? Petro-pussy, more like. With the alacrity of Richard Pryor in "Brewster's Millions," Mexico's current constitutional-coup installed government (in cahoots with the top brass of its state-owned company PEMEX) is doing everything possible to squander and sell off the nation's oil wealth as fast as it humanly can, without, like Pryor, the possibility of getting something back at the end for its efforts. The scandal-of-the-week of PEMEX having acquired a piece-of-crap ship entitled "El Señor de los Mares" for up to ten times its market value is just one more example, tedious in its predictably, of the spectacular waste of the nation's oil wealth in a web of corruption implicating PEMEX head Jesus Reyes Heroles (who first haughtily denied López Obrador's allegations regarding the just slightly-marked-up ship acqusition only to have to eat crow through surrogates by the end of the week), Vicente Fox's ever-present stepsons, the Bribiesca boys, and practically everybody else in the federal government with keys to the storeroom. Rather than use its oil revenue to reinforce the state's stewardship of the economy, environment and internal security, Mexico is witnessing the exact opposite: the sinking of said state under the waves in a losing war with the better-funded, better-armed and better-trained drug cartels and a policy of transferring whatever public wealth and resources that happen to be left over into private - and foreign - hands through bogus, inflated contracts and bullshit buys like "El Señor de los Mares".

"Whether we know it or not," Michael Klare says, "...the United States is an ex-superpower in the making." How much sadder is it, then, that Mexico is simply going to go from poor to poorer when the last of its oil is sucked right out from under its feet - and with so precious little to show for it.

(Read the Michael Klare piece in full at: