Beirut 2004: A Milestone in the Global Struggle against Injustice and War

Mar 09

We are assembled here in Beirut at a critical moment. It is a moment marked by crosscurrents: In Iraq, the US gets deeper and deeper into a Vietnam-style quagmire, with the number of American soldiers killed since the March 20, 2003 invasion passing the 1,000 mark in the first week of September. Yet in Palestine, the Zionist Wall continues to be built at the rate of a kilometer a day. A year ago, on September 14, 2003, some of us in this hall were in Cancún, Mexico, dancing with joy at the Convention Center as we celebrated the collapse of the Fifth Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization. Today, the WTO, the supreme institution of corporate-driven globalization, is back on its feet with the adoption last month of the Geneva Framework Document designed to speed up the economic disarmament of developing countries.   In New York a few weeks back, we saw massive repudiation of George W. Bush and his pro-war policies by over 500,000 people that marched in the streets of New York. Yet, today, polls show that the same George Bush has a 10 per cent lead over John Kerry in the lead-up to elections the results of which will have a massive impact on the fate of the world in the next few years. The future, comrades, is in the balance, as we meet in this historic city, with its glorious history of resistance to Israeli aggression and American intervention. As you know, many more people wanted to come to Beirut to be with us. The size, breadth, and diversity of our assembly here today underline the strength, the power of our movement. It would be useful to briefly review our history over the last decade to gain an appreciation of where we are today. March from Marginalization Less than 10 years ago, our movement was marginalized. The founding of the WTO in 1995 seemed to signal that globalization was the wave of the future, and that those who opposed it were destined to suffer the same fate as the Luddites that fought against the introduction of machines during the industrial revolution. Globalization was going to bring prosperity in its wake, and how could one...

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The Crisis of the Globalist Project & the New Economics of George W. Bush

Mar 09

Capitalism constantly erodes man and woman's being-in-nature (creature) and being-in-society (citizen) and, even as it drains them of life energy as workers, it moulds their consciousness around one role: that of consumer. Capitalism has many "laws of motion", but one of the most destructive as far as the environment goes is Say's law, which is that supply creates its own demand. Capitalism is a demand-creating machine that transforms living nature into dead commodities, natural wealth into dead capital. Walden Bello, McPlanet Conference, Berlin, 27-29 June 2003   I would like to thank the Heinrich Boll Foundation, ATTAC Germany, and all the other organizers of this conference for inviting me to this very important meeting. What I would like to do in this introductory talk is to discuss the key elements of the global conjuncture. I would like to paint, in broad strokes, the global political and economic context in which we must situate our environmental activism. Let me begin by taking you back to1995, the year the World Trade Organization was born. The offspring of eight years of negotiations, the WTO was hailed in the establishment press as the gem of global economic governance in the era of globalization. The nearly 20 trade agreements that underpinned the WTO were presented as comprising a set of multilateral rules that would eliminate power and coercion from trade relations by subjecting both the powerful and the weak to a common set of rules backed by an effective enforcement apparatus. The WTO was a landmark, declared George Soros, because it was the only supranational body to which the world’s most powerful economy, United States, would submit itself. In the WTO, it was claimed, the powerful United States and lowly Rwanda had exactly the same number of votes: one. Triumphalism was the note sounded during the First Ministerial of the WTO in Singapore in November 1996, with the WTO, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank issuing their famous declaration saying that the task of the future was the challenge now lay in making their policies of global trade, finance, and development "coherent" so as to lay the basis for global prosperity. THE CRISIS OF THE GLOBALIST PROJECT By the beginning of 2003,...

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The Global Crisis of Legitimacy of Liberal Democracy

Mar 08

The first is the crisis of overextension, or the growing gap between imperial reach and imperial grasp, the most striking example of which is the US's being drawn into a quagmire in Iraq. This has led to an erosion of its strategic position globally and made the threat of the employment of US military force to discipline recalcitrant governments and forces throughout the world less credible than it was three years ago. Hugo Chavez' scintillating defiance of American power would not be possible without the Iraqi resistance's successfully pinning down US interventionist forces in a war without end. The second is the crisis of overproduction, overaccumulation, or overcapacity. This refers to the growing gap between the tremendous productive capacity of the global capitalist system and the limited global demand for the commodities produced by this system. The result has been, over time, drastically lowered growth rates in the central economies, stagnation, and a crisis of profitability. Efforts by global capital to regain profitability by more intensively exploiting labor in the North or moving out to take advantage of significantly lower wages elsewhere have merely exacerbated the crisis. On the one hand, neoliberal policies in the North and structural adjustment programs in the South have gutted global demand. On the other hand, the export of capital has created massive new industrial capacity in China and selected other countries. New productive capacity and stagnant if not declining global demand is the recipe for the exacerbation of the crisis of profitability.  One indicator of the deepening crisis of profitability is that competition has replaced cooperation as the dominant aspect of the relationship among global capitalist elites. From the project of globalization that more or less united the global capitalist class during the Clinton era, we have entered, in the Bush period, into a period of intense national or regional capitalist competition. In so far as the Bush administration adheres to the globalist capitalist project, it is that of managed globalization, one that ensures that US corporate interests do not get hurt but become the main beneficiaries of the process. Protection for US corporate interests and free trade for the rest of the world- this is the operational dictum of Washington, one that...

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Iraq, the U.S., and the Challenges to the Global Peace Movement

Mar 08

These year's massive protests are in the tradition of the global protests against the war of Feb. 15, 2003 and March 20, 2004. They underline the world's continuing repudiation of the massive war crime that the US is perpetrating against the Iraqi people. They are testimony to the fact that aggression always elicits revulsion, even if it is carried out under the pretext of "extending democracy."  The protests come at a time that Washington has launched another political offensive to convince the peoples of the world "to put Iraq behind them." The effort is geared to convince us that with the recent elections in Iraq, there is a new game that must be played, and the name of that game is democracy. The reality is that the old game of domination and occupation continues, and the US is not winning. Today, we continue to witness the rise and consolidation of a wide and deep resistance in Iraq. There is not only the military resistance that we witness day-to-day on television. There is also political resistance–one that is much broader than the military resistance. Then there is something even broader, and that is civil resistance–all those acts that ordinary citrizens engage in day-to-day to deny legitimacy to the occupation, or what James C. Scott calls the "weapons of the weak." For us, there must be no question about our political stance. We must support the right of the people or Iraq to resist occupation. There are varieties of resistance, but we must remember that what the Iraqi people want mainly from us is not to support this or that brand of resistance but to demand the unconditional and immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq. Only under this condition will the Iraqi people have the sovereign space to come together to debate and struggle among themselves to create a truly legitimate national government. To call elections carried out under occupation "free" and "democratic" is a travesty of freedom and democracy. The US: Losing in Iraq The truth is that the US is losing the war in Iraq, both politically and militarily. Over the last few months, at least 10 allied governments have withdrawn or indicated they are withdrawing their...

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Academics, Power, and the Crisis of the University

Mar 08

More recently, the influence of academia on politicians and policymakers has been most evident in the massive impact of Milton Friedman and the University of Chicago School of economics. The political success of the free market policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the West is inconceivable without the intellectual foundations provided by the Chicago School. But even before Thatcher and Reagan, the intellectual power of the Chicago School had manifested itself in the wholesale restructuring of the Chilean economy by the so-called "Chicago Boys" after the 1973 coup initiated by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. From Chile, the neoliberal revolution went on to capture the citadels of power in most other countries in Latin America. Like Latin America, the Philippines was captured by neoliberal economics. For those of us who see mainly corruption and the selfish play of interest groups as the driving force of Philippines politics, the role of ideas in policymaking may sound quaint. But think again. Over the last 19 years, we have had a revolution in the Philippines, in case you did not know it. But this has been a revolution that has come from the right, not the left. The vanguard of this revolution, which reached its apogee during the Ramos period, have been economists and technocrats who captured the highest reaches of the academe, government, and business, who were united in the belief that if you engaged in free trade, lowered tariffs, enacted more liberal conditions to attract foreign capital, and reduced governmental regulation of the economy, the result would be growth, prosperity, and the end of inequality. Let the market rule-this was the battle cry of the neoliberal revolution that reached its climactic point during the presidency of Fidel Ramos. The ideological character of economic policymaking during the Ramos period was partly a reaction toward the Marcos regime, which many in the urban middle and upper-middle classes had identified not only with dictatorship and the loss of human rights but also with cronyism, protectionism and rent-seeking. But more important in my view was the zeitgeist of the Reagan-Thatcher era. Academics and technocrats with advanced academic training were key in this process, and many of them had done their graduate work in the...

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Desperate Martians Now Wooing Venusians

Mar 08

The reality is that the old game of domination and occupation continues, and the US is not winning. The triumphalism that accompanied George W. Bush's tour of "Old Europe," with his brand new Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, at his side, was a public relations effort to counter the reality of the spread of a wide and deep resistance in Iraq. There is not only the military resistance that we witness day-to-day on television. There is also a political resistance that is broader than the military resistance. There is, as well, massive civil resistance-which encompasses not only trade union opposition but all those acts ordinary citizens engage in day-to-day to deny legitimacy to the occupation that James C. Scott calls the "weapons of the weak." The US: Losing in Iraq The truth is that the US is losing the war in Iraq, both politically and militarily. The number of governments in the so-called "Coalition of the Willing" is now so reduced that the Pentagon has dropped the term and started using "multinational forces" instead. The 135,000 US troops are stretched thin, their numbers unable to stop the wildfire rise of a guerrilla insurgency. Estimates of many military experts of the minimum necessary number to fight the guerrillas to a stalemate range from 200,000 to a million. It is impossible to attain these numbers without provoking massive civil unrest in the US, where the majority of the population now sees the military intervention as unjustified. Mr. Bush may have won the elections but it was not because of public support for the war, and he knows this. In the US military itself, more and more troops, even in active duty, along with their families, are speaking out against the war. A few weeks ago, television audiences worldwide witnessed an assembly of troops applauding criticism of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld by an officer who accused him of sending the troops to war without sufficient protection. We have also witnessed an American unit that refused to deliver supplies to a city several miles away because they said their vehicles were unsafe. There are probably more and more such incidents if journalists bothered to look instead of "embedding" themselves with the Pentagon. The US...

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