Ceding ground to capitalist ideologues

Craven, Jim jcraven at SPAMclark.edu
Mon Dec 13 09:45:59 MST 1999

Just got back from up north and my daugter and I loved "The Iron Giant".
I've begun to explain to her about metaphor and allegory; beatniks, the
yin-yang symbol on Dean's bathroom (as a metaphor for dialectics), the
insanity of "duck and cover", the military-industrial complex, Mutual
Assured Destruction, the paranoid-belicose ultra-right CIA (Kent the agent),
reconstitution of a new left (the Iron Giant coming back together piece by
piece at the end), the end of the Ozzie and Harriet era (Hobarth's single
mother) etc etc.

I left pen-l because I just don't have time (or energy or inclination) to
give the pimps/whores of imperialism that have taken over even one minute.
The only possible argument for giving the likes of De Long any space is that
with each message they expose not only how morally bankrupt they are, but
they also expose how incompetent they are even solely in terms of basic
bourgeois economics. There is simply too much to do and too much to
seriously analyze/discuss with serious people who actually doing something,
or attempting to do something--other than narcissistic masturbation and
self-promotion behind their keyboards. I feel the same about the
self-professed anarchists. I expect them to feel the same about me.

We shouldn't feel bad about not bothering with the anarchists or
petiti-bourgeois neoliberal globalists (I'm sure De Long sends copies of his
harassment to his mentors in DC with "See me, I'm taking on the infidels,
see, I'm not dangerous, got a consulting contract for me?") or these
anarchist punks. they are not worth one minute--not even to read and learn
how bankrupt anarchism and neoliberal globalism are as their arguments, if
one can call their polemics any kind of "arguments", are nothing new. But if
these creatures are allowed to dominate lists with their verbiage, serious
people will leave--perhaps that is their intention as they behave like
outright agents provocateurs and wreckers.

I do agree that we need to evolve new constructs that go deeper below the
surface of capitalism and imperialism to the essence, only some of which can
be originated from existing data bases and constructs. Many will require
whole new sampling approaches and whole new constructs (way beyond GPI etc
etc) and of course that can only be done by being active in real change in
the real world. Many of the constructs necessary to quantify as well as
qualify cannot be gathered or synthesized from data in the likes of the
National Income Accounts or Statistical Abstract of the U.S.--some can. Also
we need to go beyond rehashing and slinging the same old quotes and appeals
to "authority" IMHO or replaying the same old debates of 130 years ago and
more recent. And of course we need to expose the organizational agenda,
interests and intentions of the academic/policy wonk/ politician
pimps/whores of imperialism (e.g. see "The Cold War and the University" or
"Universities and Empire: Money and Politics in the Social Sciences During
the Cold War" etc)

Jim Craven

-----Original Message-----
From: Louis Proyect [mailto:lnp3 at panix.com]
Sent: Sunday, December 12, 1999 6:44 AM
To: marxism at lists.panix.com; pen-l at galaxy.csuchico.edu
Subject: Ceding ground to capitalist ideologues

Last night I thought about the never-ending debate that the left has been
having with people like Brad DeLong on PEN-L, Thomas Friedman, the Rostow
brothers, et al. If the left is not careful, it can cede ground to the
pro-capitalist camp on one very important question. This has to do with the
acceptability of using some variety of econometrics as a key criterion. For
example, Brad loves to cite statistics that show some kind of improvement
on GDP, life expectancy, etc., in a third world country in order to settle
the question of whether capitalism "works" or not. This is absolutely the
wrong way to discuss these matters, because it implicitly allows the
possibility for more powerful countries to punish weaker countries who
refuse to abide by the "wisdom" of such numbers.

For example, the Rostow brothers decided to use South Vietnam as an
economics "demonstration" of their development ideas against obvious signs
that the population had different ideas. For those Vietnamese who refused
to go along with the game plan, the Phoenix Program--i.e., a bullet to the
head--was the answer. This, by the way, has nothing to do with leftist
"authoritarian" schemas. A country can democratically elect governments
that opt for socialist measures, but will still get the bullet to the head.
As Kissinger said, "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country
go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people." And it
really doesn't matter whether a liberal or a conservative is in the White
House. Both parties feel free to kill or maim those peoples who choose
taboo development paths. If the Serbs decide to stick with their corrupt
and inefficient Titoist economy, they must be punished. Big daddy Bill
Clinton knows better.

Implicit in Brad's defense of US warmaking initiatives on behalf of a
"superior" free market economy is a kind of paternalism that is deeply
ingrained in the American psyche. It goes back to the Monroe Doctrine in
many ways. It used to be put forward in a much more naked fashion. At one
time it was fitting and proper for politicians like Albert Beveridge, who
was US Senator from Indiana to make speeches like this one from his 1898
campaign ("The March of the Flag"):

"The commercial supremacy of the Republic means that this Nation is to be
the sovereign factor in the peace of the world. For the conflicts of the
future are to be conflicts of trade-struggles for markets--commercial wars
for existence. And the golden rule of peace is impregnability of position
and invincibility of preparedness. So, we see England, the greatest
strategist of history, plant her flag and her cannon on Gibraltar, at
Quebec, in the Bermudas, at Vancouver, everywhere."

Nothing has changed since the days of Beveridge except the rhetoric.
Nowadays the same desire to impose US economic mandates is couched in terms
of "humanitarian interventions", while from 1917 to 1990 it was about a
fight for "democracy" against "Communist totalitarianism".

Let me tell you what this really is about. It is really a very sick form of
paternalism that characterizes the American empire as much as the swastika
characterized the fitful Third Reich. In effect American imperialism sees
itself as some kind of benign but disciplining father, with wayward
teenagers who have to be shown the correct way. "Jennie, no you can't have
a tattoo." "Why not, daddy?" "Because when you are older and more mature,
you will realize that tattoos make you look like a low-life and will get in
the way of a good job. Also, as long as I pay for your meals and give you
an allowance, what I say goes." "Well, what if I get one without your
permission?" "If you do, I will ground you. You will not be able to use the
car for a full year."

The same relationship is implied in Brad's defense of imperialism's right
to shove its economic policies down the throat of wayward nations. "Chile,
you can not nationalize the copper industry." "Why not, daddy?" "Because
economic statistics prove that a free market in mineral resources is better
in the long run." "But what if we decide to go ahead and nationalize them
anyhow?" "If you do, I will engineer a coup that will result in the murder
of your democratically elected president and throw the country into
economic ruin for 15 years."

Louis Proyect
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