Monday, February 27, 2006

And another commentator who gets things

Marxism Through the Looking Glass by Jane Smiley

So, who's surprised that citizens, wherever in the world that they happen to reside, are to serve the interests of capital? Not me. Not George Bush. Not Thomas Friedman. Not Paul Krugman. Who's surprised that the citizens didn't realize that? George Bush, but not me. From their opposite sides of the globalization aisle, Krugman and Friedman aren't so surprised, either, but they're sorry about it.

All three are promoters and apologists for globalization, and so they support the Dubai Ports deal. The first premise of globalization is that capital can, will, and must move freely around the world. Nothing should stop a sale or get in the way of market efficiency. George Bush has shown over and over in the last five years what he is willing to fight for, and it is capitalism. Sometimes, no doubt in his own mind most of the time, he identifies capitalism with the US, the company of which he is president. But other times, the US seems to defy him, and to disagree with him about the right thing to do, and then he reveals that he doesn't understand a thing about the citizenry, or about the differences between living and shopping, or governing and deal-making, and, further, that he doesn't care one iota about the US when it is in disagreement with pure capitalism.
It seems to come as a surprise to all three of these globalizers that human society is not and does not seem to most people to be simply an outgrowth of a particular economic idea, capitalism, so they should pay attention to the symbolic power of turning our ports over to Dubai. Most people do not mind shopping at Walmart but that doesn't mean that they think of themselves simply as Walmart shoppers, or that they feel that their interests and Walmart's interests must necessarily be the same. At the end of the Cold War, capitalists declared, with much chest-pounding, that they had won. But, in fact, they did not give up a Marxist analysis of what makes us human. They continued to believe that people are essentially economic agents, they just thought that the value of capital had beat out the value of labor. According to Francis Fukuyama, lots of the neo-con theorists started out as Marxists. In fact, these guys didn't change their spots at all-they just changed their allegiance to the winning side.

What, therefore, should not come as a surprise to the citizens, and this includes our soldiers in Iraq, is the fact that they have value only insofar as they are useful to Bush and his capitalist "base". From
Bush's point of view, every citizen is a worker who should work for as little as possible. It doesn't matter, as far as he is concerned, whether the worker's employer is Dubai or the US or whether the worker himself is American or Chinese or Indian. Capital has its requirements and those come first-before making a decent society in the US (of course), and before national security, and before patriotism. The capitalists are perfectly willing to use patriotism (and religion) for their own ends (say, to gain control of Iraqi oil by going to war on other pretexts), but that doesn't mean that when the time comes to give up maximum profit, patriotic or religious concerns hold any weight in their deal-making.

These days, the news is full of conservative recanters-William Buckley, Fukuyama, Bruce Bartlett. They are alleging feelings of surprise and disquiet at the failure of the war machine to subdue Iraq. But in fact, of course, as progressives have known all along, the debacle of the Bush administration, from beginning (stealing the 2000 election) to end (importing a company from Dubai to run the ports),
with all the stations along the way (tax breaks for the rich, crony corruption, stupid and criminal war in Iraq, badly conceived education policies, bungled medicare drug bill, deaf, dumb, and blind policies on
global warming and other environmental issues, voting machine fraud, media payola, gutting of the federal agencies) is the natural outcome of corporate conservative capitalism, and especially the ideas of Ronald Reagan and his own cronies. What we have now is what you get when businessmen run the government like a corporation-short term thinking, public relations as policy, repeated attempts to do things on the cheap, careless attitudes toward things like torture and spying, contempt for everyone outside the inner circle, aggressiveness and secretiveness, lack of accountability, and just plain selfish arrogant ignorance. Who knows whether their intentions are good or not? It could
be that, after a generation of free-market orthodoxy, they just don't know any better.

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