• "God invented war so Americans could learn geography" -- Mark Twain.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Reading Hillary's Entrails

For the few who might be interested in what Hillary Clinton might actually try to do as President (as opposed to whatever committee-honed palaver she might serve up to targeted groups as expedience dictates), her May 2013 speech to Banco Itau (Italy) serves as an interesting omen.   As release by wiki-leaks, Hillary said,

"My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere."
Now, although the denizens of the United States might be oblivious to nuance, “open trade” (otherwise known as “free trade”) has been the banner of Liberal hemispheric hegemony since ... well since 1796, at least, when the United States (quietly backed by Britain) induced Spain into signing the Treat of San Lorenzo which granted the U.S. “free sailing” rights down the Mississippi River.  This, of course, was the opening gambit of Manifest Imperialism, which ended up with free-hoofing rights to  California and Oregon.

In 1796, Spain possessed the lion’s share of the hemisphere, and it was the Anglo-American ambition to seize those lands for themselves.  Free-trade was their banner.  To make the point and the objective clear, British Foreign Secretary, George Canning, proposed the announcement of a “doctrine” to President Monroe whereby the United States would declare that the meddling of any European country with the newly independent nations of the Americas would be regarded as a hostile act.  Ipse dixit.

The year the doctrine was unilaterally announced, 1823, was no coincidence.  Argentina had achieved independence in 1818, Venezuela-Bolivia-Chile in 1819 and Mexico, the jewel in the crown, in 1821.  The fruit was ripe for the picking and the U.S. (backed by Britain) wanted it for themselves.

What is called the “independence” of the Ibero-American nations was just a partisan slogan for the collapse of the Spanish Empire.  Spain certainly did not recognize the independence of its colonies. The independence of Mexico was not recognised until 1836; of Chile, not until 1844 and of Argentina not until 1857.  Striking the wedge, the United States and Britain recognised the independence of these countries in...well, as luck would have it, 1823.

Odd how pieces fall together once one bothers to look for the pieces.

The dissolution of the Spanish Empire began in 1808 when Napoleon invaded Spain thereby triggering the War of (Spanish) Independence. 

Tres de Mayo, by Goya

The Borbon monarchs (Charles IV and pretender Ferdinand VII) fled (to France, oddly enough) and Napoleon installed his brother, Joseph, as king-in-place. Spain was firmly divided in opposition!  

The country fell into two camps each as opposed to one another as they were to the French.  On the one hand, there were the ultras who wanted to restore an absolutist Borbon monarchy; and on the other there were the Liberals who wanted to establish a constitutional monarchy reigning over an ultramarine assembly of all Spanish subjects, white and Indian, in Spain and in the Americas.  In 1812, the Liberals promulgated the Constitution of Cadiz.  Article 1 provided, "The Spanish nation is the collectivity of the Spaniards of both hemispheres. Articles 18-21 granted voting rights to Spanish nationals whose ancestry originated from Spain or the territories of the Spanish Empire (i.e. Indians).

Both in Spain and in the Americas, the Constitution was the brainchild of the commercial and provincial classes.  It was opposed by the Absolutists who were (in one guise or another) feudal nobility in favour of official privileges and centralized authority controlling absentee holdings.  These represented the polarities of what would become an Ibero-American civil war between Liberals and Conservatives that would perdure throughout the 19th century on both sides of the Atlantic until ultimately coming to a head in the Spanish Civil War of 1936.

In 1816, the absolutist Ferdinand VII was restored to power and he immediately abrogated the Constitution of 1812 (after promising to abide it).  The Stupid Revocation (as history has not called it) set in motion those class wars in Mexico, Chile and Argentina that are misnomered as “wars of independence.”

Ferdinand VII

Ferdinand’s uncompromising absolutism led to an equally uncompromising repression which was so severe that even his troops revolted (Argentina) or the conservatives themselves got disgusted (Chile and Mexico).  It was that momentary unity-in-disgust that produced the declarations of independence of 1818, 1819 and 1821. 

But the ideological and economic divisions between liberals and conservatives remained.  Since Spain under Ferdinand wasn’t playing ball with anyone, the Liberals no longer had effective counterparts in the Peninsula.  The life-line of official sinecures and privileges were cut off to the conservatives.  In lieu of an absent Spain, the Conservatives looked inwards or vaguely toward France; the Liberals outward and toward the United States.  They would be the darlings of the Monroe Doctrine.

Trade had been the chief economic cause of factionalism. In the 1796-1821 period “Liberal” was virtually synonymous with “smuggler” and “pirate”  — English, U.S., even Spanish.  As smugglers tend to operate from lairs, Liberalism also became associated with “federalism” i.e. state and regional autonomy.

Liberal Privateer, Xavier Mina (financed by English Lords)

In Hispanic, as in Anglo- America, the Crown had placed restrictions on the autonomous industrialization of the colonies. Thus, the question for the Latin American republics was from whom to buy finished goods and/or whether to develop the “internal” market.  The United States itself was hardly “industrialized” and faced much the same problem. 

Following “independence”, conservatives took charge in Mexico, Argentina and Chile, replicating on a national level the centralization Spain had exercised on an imperial one.  Trade is never abolished but in all three countries it was restricted so as to protect the interests of prominent landowners, miners, merchants.

By mid century, the Liberals gained ascendancy.  Chile opened itself to investors from England, Germany and the United States.  Wheat exports to California and Australia were a key component of its economy at this juncture.  Likewise in Argentina, the Liberals adopted an agro-export model highly dependent on trade with England which in turn developed and owned the railroads which transported the goods.  In the 1920’s the U.S. replaced England as Argentina’s chief trading partner (ie. exporter of manufactured goods).

Mexico’s situation was complicated by its proximity to the United States and what “trade” really meant, at first, was simply theft of land.  The Mexican-American wars of 1836 and 1848 were the “infrastructural” foundation of U.S. capitalism.

The subversion of Texas was the first “orange revolution” to be orchestrated by Washington and the “revolt” of Texas was raised under the banner of Liberalism in reaction to an alleged conservative "usurpation" in Mexico.   The keys to California were all but handed over to the Americans by its Liberal governor.  What is now called the “French invasion of Mexico” was the last stand of French supported conservatives against U.S. backed Liberals.  The latter won and Mexico’s “Liberator” (Juarez) and his successor (Porfirio Diaz) proceeded to sell off the country to U.S. investors who by the end of the century owned the railroads, mining and 90% of the economy.

The techniques of infiltration, seduction, subversion and armed intervention worked so well in Mexico that they were repeated seriatim throughout the rest of the hemisphere. Throughout the remainder of the century and into the next, the United States cultivated its surrogates, promoted discord, helped suppress truly popular revolts and extended its hegemony where Spain had once ruled. 

Constable Teddy & His Stick
After the Second World War, the United States refined its tactics. Instead of “sending in the Marines” the U.S. would train and cultivate “institutional relationships” with the Latin American military so that they could do the repressing.  In tandem the U.S. would promote cultural and academic exchanges, the principle purpose of which was to re-indoctrinate the ruling classes with the splendorous virtues of free-market economies operating with open trade and open borders.  (All Mexican presidents since 1980 have been processed through Harvard or Yale.)

Re-indoctrination was required because, although U.S. domination of Central and Caribean America remained uninterrupted, in the mid-20th century, Mexico, Chile and Argentina had taken steps to regain control of their economies, nationalising infrastructure or key sectors and putting protectionist policies in place.  In a word, the Liberals of the 19th century became "Social Democrats" of the 20th.   In Latin America this meant not only regulating the economy for social purposes but nationalising it for the sake of national identity and independence.   The U.S. wars against Germany and Japan allowed Latin America some breathing room but by 1970 “re-liberalization” (aka “privatization” aka resumed U.S. ownership) was back on the table.  President Allende’s murder was the shot-across the nationalist bow.

Most U.S. Americans are oblivious to what their country does in its “own back yard.”  But what any Ibero-American would necessarily hear in Hillary’s honeyed words is an explicitly avowed continuation of U.S. capitalist expansion and hegemony.

However, in using history to read the future, it is important not to get stuck in the past. It is true that, under Obama, the U.S. has continued to seek trade deals with Columbia and other countries; that is, to penetrate, privatize and control their economies through IMF dependency -- a policy which Hillary would presumably continue.  But to speak of U.S. hegemony is something of an anachronism.  As a cohesive nation, the U.S. ceased to exist in 1994, although most U.S. Americans don’t realise it.  Stated simply, U.S. companies were so good at internationalizing themselves that they ceased to be “American” in any substantively national way.  In tandem, the U.S. government ceased to reflect the interests of country of a recognisable people and became simply the “user interface” for and chief enforcer of global capitalism.

Hillary’s “open trade and open borders” is simply a variant of what the Euro-Globalists now call “The Four Freedoms” — that is the free movement of “capital, goods, services and people.”

These freedoms are decked out with all the flowery, floaty sentimentalism of which Kumabaya chanting is capable.  But any idiot ought to be able to figure out that what the four freedoms mean is that trans-national banks, corporations, hedge funds and money men get to buy up whatever they want and people get to scramble from place to place looking for whatever job they can find.

To spell it out:  the four freedoms represent the triumph of a global capitalist class repressing over a vast lumpen labour pool.  That is what Hillary means when she speaks of “powering growth and opportunity for every person.”

Of course being the excalibur huckster she is, the key here depends on the pause. She wants her imbecile followers to hear “growth-and-opportunity for every person” (and most especially our children and their dreams for a better blah blah blah).  What she means, however, is “powering growth for investors [pause] and trickle down chances for everyone else.”

It is not for nothing that Pope Francis said that “capitalism is dung” and if that is the case, then the Vicar of Christ has just told us that Hillary is a dung pusher.   As the liberation-theologian Leonardo Boff put it,

"Development and underdevelopment are two sides of the same coin. All the nations of the Western world were engaged in a vast process of development; however, it was interdependent and unequal, organized in such a way that the benefits flowed to the already developed countries of the "center" and the disadvantages were meted out to the historically backward and underdeveloped countries of the "periphery." The poverty of Third World countries was the price to be paid for the First World to be able to enjoy the fruits of overabundance."
This continues to be the case, although the evolution of global "free trade" now means that the poverty of the Third Class is the price paid for the prosperity of the First Percent.

Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez went further,  In Una Teologia de LiberaciĆ³n he criticised “development” as itself a form of impoverishment which despite its humanistic tissues actually served to sever the connection of people from their land, their culture, their histories and reduced them to efficient, spiritually impoverished units within an impersonalized, uniform mode of production.   According to  Gutierrez,

''Among more alert groups today, what we have called a new awareness of Latin American reality is making headway. They believe that there can be authentic development for Latin America only if there is liberation from the domination exercised by the great capitalist countries, especially by the most powerful, the United States of America.''
Gutierrez wrote that in 1975. But what then appeared to be an issue peculiar to Latin America (or Africa)  has now become an issue for the people of France, Germany, Hungary, England, Italy and, if the gringo would realise it, of the United States itself; for the "great capitalist countries" have themselves ceased to exist, except as agencies of an invisible amorphous power behind them.

By authentic development, Gutierrez also meant more than national development.  He was not just a liberal-turned-social democrat in clerical garb.   He was in fact echoing the conservative theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar,

"Whenever the relationship between nature and grace is severed ... then the whole of worldly being falls under the dominion of 'knowledge', and the springs and forces of love immanent in the world are overpowered and finally suffocated by science, technology and cybernetics. The result is a ... world in which power and the profit-margin are the sole criteria, where the disinterested, the useless, the purposeless is despised, persecuted and in the end exterminated — a world in which art itself is forced to wear the mask and features of technique"
Ultimately, what these theologians call for is a liberation of the economy from the profit-margin and from the cultural reductionism that margin requires.  That call is paradoxical only to capitalists.  

So there it is.  One can fall for the honeyed bullshit of a woman who hires herself out to banks, investors and oil companies or you can take the word of “unrealistic” Catholic theologians.

Hillary is not peddling anything approaching authentic development anywhere.  She is pushing a world of power and profit-margins which promotes neither material development for the targeted countries nor authentic development anywhere.  Anyone who thinks that Hillary has reversed her position on trade treaties must also think that she has given up on her long held dream.  Dream on if you think so.