Multiculturalism on a world scale (was marxism-digest V1 #1532)

João Paulo Monteiro jpmonteiro at
Tue Nov 23 17:20:45 MST 1999

Carlos Eduardo Rebello wrote:

> I agree absolutely, and would only like to add that that's precisely the
> reason why Lenin opposed "cultural autonomy" schemes favoured by the
> Austro_Marxists (Otto Bauer et alli) that would have, as practical
> result, to hamper access of minority children schooled in minority
> languges to langages - like German in Austria-Hungary - already with a
> fully develped scientific terminology, a fully develped range of
> scientific concepts, etc. , and therefore to hamper thier integration in
> industrial society in a role other as cheap labour-power. Lenin favoured
> *political autonomy* - control over the material foundations of life -as
> the only real sort of multiculturalism. That can be proved by the fact
> that, in a lot of African-Asian countries, the former colonial languages
> have been adopted as government and administration languages in order
> exactly to facilitate common participation in political affairs, instead
> of laboriously trying to find translators for a number of local
> languages.

This should be very evident to anybody with even a very cursory acquaintance with
marxism as theory of history and with the concrete struggle of the third world
peoples for a standing in the world today. I thought this wouldn't be worth any
discussion here at all.

Unfortunately, it seems marxism is again under siege of patronizing white liberal
babble posing as "progressive". Of course, this is hardly news anymore. But this
particular "multicultural" babble is a very vicious one and not at all innocent.
The purpose of this glorification of "diversity" is the exclusion from modernity
and the confinement of the third world peoples in isolated pockets - veritable
cultural, political and economic ghettos of poverty, ignorance and despair.

The script is ready, on arrangements of the WTO: the "liberalization" of
investment and services, the dismantling of non-tariff barriers, the international
enforcement of intellectual property rights, trade-marks, patents, and so on. (On
this, my advice to any country that has enough political and military muscle to
protect its sovereignty is: copy, pirate and improve anything you can put your
hands and brains into.) A situation will thus be created where no South-South
cooperation will be possible anymore, except on the exchange of very rough
products. All the "high value-added" products will be produced and realized in the
imperialist centers and these will control all the relevant flows of value on the
planet, extracting interest and new forms of rent from it. For investment, credit,
know-how, "franchising", licenses, insurance, freights, even seeds some day, any
nation in the world will have to put is eyes on Washington or Brussels (and not
even very sure of Tokyo anymore these days). Its the centralization of
accumulation for the imperialist bourgeoisie and the spread of "diversity" (that
is, ruin and dispersion) for the others.

When the european bourgeoisie was expanding there was no talk of "diversity". All
the emphasis was on spreading "civilization" and rationalist universalism. Now
that it is in retreat, the tune has suddenly changed. For imperialism is indeed in
retreat, make no mistake about it. Decolonization occurred and although
colonialism has left its sequels, this historical trend is now irreversible.
Compare what the imperialists were able to do to China 100 years ago with what
they can do now (containment, at best). Look at demographic trends. Look at what
happened to "humanitarian" interventionism in Somalia (and I would sure like to
see a repeat of that). Look at the disgusting show of cowardice and disorientation
in Yugoslavia.

Imperialism, on its retreat, is trying to burn the bridges it has most unwillingly
created among the peoples the world over. So the resurgence of
micro-"nationalisms" that, as Nestor very well stresses, are instead the
destruction and fragmentation of viable national projects. So the resurgence
retrograde communalism and religious zealotry. (Has it escaped anyone the role
U.S. imperialism has played in Afghanistan on the training and spread of muslin
"fundamentalist" militias?  Or of Israel, for that matter?) Hence, the wretched
dog of multiculturalism, so acclaimed by liberal academics and compassionate

The liberal imperialist bourgeoisie will give money for all kinds of these
projects. Alas, the poor will miserably  "fail" YET AGAIN, but the imperialists
will certainly have their conscience cleared, after having  done absolutely all
they could for them.

> Being a citzen of a country already labelled "a monument to social
> negelect" by Eric Hobsbawn, I would like to say that the extreme forms
> of class oppresion found in that society would not, IMHO, have been made
> softer had not the XVIIth century enlightened despot The Marquis of
> Pombal, after the expulsion of the Jesuits, made Portuguese the
> mandatory language of education, justice, government and administration
> in the colony of Brazil, instead of the creole artificial language, the
> *lingua geral* (*Lingua Franca*-A blend of Portuguese and various
> Tupy-Guarany languages)employed by the Jesuits in their missionary
> schools. That would only have created a greater rift in modern Brazil
> between a Portuguse-speaking oligarchy able to ascertain itself in all
> government matters, and huge masses of Lingua Geral-speakers cut from
> all forms of political activities except hunger riots and messianic
> sedition - put into a nutshell, the situation that to a certain maesure
> still prevails, in various degrees, in the Andean countries, Guatemala
> and Paraguay, only to quote the more 1st. examples that come to my head.

Ah, Pombal. He has probably been the one real statesmen this country has had on
the second half of this century.

You know, Carlos, the fact that I here talking to you in english is very telling
(although a bit ridiculous) in the context of this discussion. If you and I didn't
knew any english, we would be unable to express ourselves in a global forum such
as this. (We would probably not have the expertise to use a computer in the first
place.) We could sure talk to each other, but no-one else would be listening
(except Nestor, and maybe Julio).

Nevertheless, I am a firm believer in the need for the creation of a stronger
space of lusophony. Not as a weapon of resistance to aglophony, mind you. But as
an effort to consolidate a stronger platform for creating, retaining and sharing
knowledge (and value). One day maybe we will all be anglophones (not a very
shakespearean version of english but some depurated, impoverished and "technical"
form of it will no doubt be the lingua franca). But for now, portuguese can still
be a useful tool of development, if portuguese speaking peoples can unite efforts
on it.

João Paulo Monteiro

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