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.

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