IV. The Political Economy of Neo-Colonialism
The philosophy of dialectics reveals that everything develops through the unity of opposites, of what are paradoxes to simple observation. "It is a paradox that the earth moves around the sun, and that water consists of two inflammable gases," one famous scientist wrote. "Scientific truth is always paradox, if judged by everyday experience of things." To truly know anything, then, is to embrace paradoxes and to find beneath the surface the underlying sub-stratum of reality where contradictions interact into unity.
Apply this to imperialism's emerging neo-colonial world order, made of paradoxes and characterized by both great vigor and great decadence. The paradox of a hi-technology economy where the biggest world producers of computer disc drives and of microchips are the Asian nations of Sri Lanka and Malaysia, respectively. Where the new productive system harnesses computer chip-guided robots, welding and assembling without cease, together with millions of women, children, and men laboring under conditions reminiscent of the slave working class of the roman empire.
Or a multi-cultural u.s.a. that simultaneously gives rise to the meteoric careers ofa white David Duke and a Black Gen. Colin Powell alike. Nothing of this can be fully known without investigating die present stage in the development of the means of production — and the towering neo-colonial class structure that has arisen from it.
That there is a new global economy is so obvious that even Harvard professors can talk about it. Political economist Robert B. Reich, in his 1991 best-seller, The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for the 21st Century, is urging euro-amerikans to wake up to the reality that the u.s.a. — just as other nations — is no longer an economic unit:
"As almost every factor of production — money, technology, factories, and equipment — moves effortlessly across borders, the very idea of an American economy is becoming meaningless, as are the notions of an American corporation, American capital, American products, and American technology."
Reich's vision strikes a popular note right now because it faces white fears about the decline of their nation with reassuring promises of high tech future made for the privileged classes: a global suburb where, to use one of Reich's examples, a Cambridge neighbor of his works on Japanese-financed software, computer-coded in Bulgaria, with hardware assembled in Mexico. Someone of the university race, living by happenstance in New England but really a "worker of the world," connected in real-time by fax and computer to workmates in Tokyo, Silicon Valley, and Paris. Industrial labor, Reich concedes, will in the future largely be banished from amerikkka to unseen low-wage continents. It's not that simple.
In the actual world, while capitalist technology, industry and commodities may move without borders, to human beings there are many borders. Neo-colonialism has not abolished the borders between the imperialist oppressor nations and the oppressed nations, that is, between the metropolis and the periphery, but has re-integrated these jagged class contradictions in a new way. Ask the Afrikan women refugees held in border detainment kamps, who are robbed and raped by capitalist Afrikan soldiers with AK-47s and M-16s. We know that change, which is the only constant in reality, happens by first gradual and quantitative stages and then violently cataclysmic or qualitative stages. In breaking the neo-colonial economy down into major elements, it becomes clear how much neo-colonialism is both a continuation of colonialism and a radical dis-continuity from the colonial past.
- There has been a worldwide explosion of commodity production under neo-colonialism. The colonial period, which tried to limit industrialization to the nations of the metropolis, had become a fetter on production, a confinement on the natural expansion of capitalism. Now, semi-conductor factories, steel mills and auto plants, industrial agriculture based on chemicals and hybrid seeds to mass produce commodity crops, are multiplying across the Third World. Every commodity that can be mass-produced is pouring out in an unparalleled abundance. From televisions to t-shirts, from plastic toys to pistols, dinnerware to steel ingots.
The qualitative change in this expansion of commodity production is that the majority of the human race, which as late as a generation ago lived a localized subsistence culture as peasants on the hinges of the commodity system, have now been integrated into the world system of commodity production and consumption. Societies that even during the colonial period ate the grains and vegetables they grew, wove their own textiles, made their own distinctive clothes, cooked in and stored food in pottery that they made, now wear western clothing, eat imported wheat or rice, use mass-produced pots and bowls of metal and plastic. And labor for cash wages to produce things for the metropolis so that they can buy these commodities. In other words, the qualitative expansion of commodity production is proletarianizing the world.
In 1875, just before the final conquest of the entire human race by euro-capitalism, world steel production was roughly 15 million metric tons per year, half of it in the then-dominant United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland). In 1950, as a then-dominant u.s. empire was guiding the capitalist system towards neo-colonialism, world steel production was at 180 million tons per year, half of it in the us. But only three decades later, in 1980, world steel production had almost quadrupled to 780 million tons per year, with production coming from all corners of the globe. Korea, Mexico, the Middle East, Hungary and Brazil, everywhere.
Easily available in almost overabundance, steel has become so cheap that corporations complain that it's harder and harder to wring profits from making it. When US. Steel corporation posted year-end losses for 1991, that was a common event in this marginally-profitable industry. While steel is important industrially and specialty steelmaking is profitable, basic steel is no longer a major profit-center for capitalism as it was in the colonial period.
As a contrast, the narcotics trade is tremendously profitable every year, come rain or shine. Illegal narcotics is, in fact, much larger and more profitable to the neo-colonial economy than the steel industry.
Catching up with the velocity of this commodity plunges us rapidly beneath the outer surface of the capitalist economy. As worldwise or as cynical as we think we are, there is still a common, naive acceptance of the capitalist economy as unfair but rational for its own selfish ends; as concerned with the prosaic production of everyday things. Oh, we know that the capitalists are exploitative, polluting, rip-off barons, but we accept our everyday surface experience as the reality — like accepting the label for the contents. Yet, the life of the commodity system is absolutely nothing like we think it is. Capitalism is by its fundamental being irrational and wild, still untamed and untamable even by its owners and supposed rulers.
We've been propagandized to mis-think of narcotics as a social problem, not commodity production; as something marginal and illegal, not as both street and Wall St. Governments make a ritual out of promising "war on drugs", but notice that everywhere that capitalism flourishes — from Washington, d.c. to Moscow — dope becomes a mass institution. In fact, only revolutionary societies have ever stopped the dope trade. Malcolm X used to remind his audiences that while amerikkka wanted to keep the Black Nation permanently addicted, the 1949 Chinese Revolution led by Mao Zedong put a quick and total stop to China's former mass opium habit (now coming back since China's rulers are restoring capitalism).
A few conservative economists are saying that governments should admit that the narcotics trade will never be closed down because it is, in one economist's words, "the perfect capitalist business." That is, the narcotics industry has high demand from consumers who can't stop buying, and a commodity that is cheap to produce with a multiple profit markup. Moreover, the narcotics trade is generic not brand name and almost impossible to monopolize. Very open to entrepreneurs and the easiest biz of all for the young and energetic to enter. So how can capitalism stamp out what is only pure, uncut capitalism? How can capitalism stamp out itself? Even if they wanted to, which they don't. Dope is only illegal for the same reason that prostitution is, so that imperialism has a handle to distance itself morally from it — while also having leverage for controlling and regulating it.
u.s. Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich says that "Narcotics is one of America's major industries, right up there with consumer electronics, automobiles and steelmaking." Only about 5,000 people work assembling TVs in the u.s. Compare that to the number making and distributing illegal drugs. The u.s. treasury says that $125 billion in u.s. currency is "missing"— presumably tied up in the underground drug economy. We know that in the 1980s marijuana production became the leading agricultural crop in terms of dollar value, according to state departments of agriculture, not only in California and Hawaii, but in Kentucky and other states as well.
Cocaine and heroin are even more profitable. They are major export commodities in a number of nations, most notably the Andes mountain region that includes Peru, Bolivia and Columbia. According to news reports on a u.s. house of representatives select subcommittee report, "entire regions of South America have come to depend economically on coca cultivation." This is a commodity that is not marginal but central in the new world order.
"In Bolivia alone, where the export of legal goods is about $800 million each year, illegal cocaine exports may exceed that amount. As a result, die drug industry has become an institutionalized source of many jobs. It is estimated that 1.5 million people are employed in Andean production of cocaine, and as many as 50,000 work in marijuana production in Columbia alone.
More people work in the narcotics industry just in Latin Amerika than in making steel worldwide. This is the new neo-colonial economics.
Narco-industry is a paradox in that the illegalized underground side of the business is what's most visible, most publicized, while its legal side in the mainstream economy is what's most hidden.
In the first place, these commodity profits don't stay buried in closets. Drug dealers don't eat them. They're cycled into the imperialist economy along with all other profits, pumping up business activity. The N.Y. Times writes:
"The broad effect of drug money laundering on local economies in the United States is being seen by bank regulators who have discovered unusually large numbers of cash sales of real estate, automobiles and boats evidently financed with drug money. In Dade County, Fla, economists have estimated that as much as 2 to 10 percent of the area's business boom has been driven by drug profits, often translated in cash.
"'Either there's a lot of tourists not using credit cards or there's lots of drug money,' said Dexter Lehtinen, the former United States Attorney in Miami. Mr. Lehtinen said that in Miami, some $220 million in cash has been spent on automobiles in the last three years, while Jacksonville and Tampa had about $24 million in cash sales of cars in the same period. And in parts of southern Florida as much as 20 percent of the transactions for real estate are in cash."
This is more than "Miami Vice." Many banks nationwide are swelling with what the Federal Reserve believes are narcotics profits being laundered. In the first six months of 1989 Federal Reserve banks in New Orleans, Houston, El Paso, San Antonio, Miami and Los Angeles reported increased cash surpluses of from 56% to 219%, even during the recession. "Money has no odor," the roman slavedealers used to say. These narco-dollars become part of active capital for business loans, real estate development, home and auto consumer loans.
New Afrikans point out that Black people don't grow poppies or coca leaves, don't own any airlines or shipping lines, don't police the Third World like the imperialists do — so how can this drug epidemic come from them? Although they're the ones in prison for it. True enough. Let's pick up a few real life stories to uncover where the narcotics business does come from.
Take the "Cali Cartel," said by law enforcement authorities to now be the single largest cocaine operation in Latin Amerika. Cali, Columbia, according to America magazine, was just "one of thousands of sleepy pueblos of Hispanic America, with little to distinguish it from all the rest. Then, about the time World War II was over, there occurred in Cali and the surrounding green fields and blue skies of the Cauca Valley something like the spark from a flint that starts a fire. A veritable conflagration of progress has followed..."
What happened was that the Rockefeller Foundation came to start promoting the new industrialized capitalist agriculture there, teaching peasants how to use hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Then, with encouragement from the Rockefeller bankers, international investment was brought in to develop the remote region's infrastructure. The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank financed alarge hydroelectric project, jumping Cali's power supply by twenty times. Other bank loans developed the Cauca River with irrigation canals and dikes to bring another million acres of farmland into production by 1984.
Once an isolated, "sleepy pueblo," Cali and the surrounding area were brought into modern commodity production. Wasn't that a little strange? How was the growing peasant population supposed to earn the hard currency necessary to make this system work? To pay for imported chemical fertilizers and pesticides, pickup trucks and gasoline? There was no domestic market then (or now) in the far-off capitol for vegetables from Cali. Were they supposed to carve out airstrips and fly green beans to Florida? It was like a setup for narcotics, the only commodity that would work in that situation.
Anyone who has heard anything about cocaine production knows that it uses large quantities of ether and acetone, to dissolve the active resins out of the leaf cells so that they can be extracted.
A coke processing "lab" uses truckloads of these chemicals in 50 gallon drums (sometimes paying $8,000 or $9,000 a drum). Until recently, the only industrial source for these chemicals in Latin Amerika was Brazil. And for years every time police in Colombia or wherever busted a cocaine "lab" they would find the site littered with one corporation's 50-gallon drums, with their name stenciled right on the side: Rhodia S.A., which made 90% of the ether and acetone in Brazil. '
And for fifteen years nobody ever thought to bust the key processing chemicals at the known source? Give us a break. Why didn't Ronald or George send in SWAT teams and informers, like they did for Marion Berry or Stealth fighters like they did in Libya and Iraq? Maybe seize factory sales records and arresting the owners who were knowingly making bucks year after year off drug processing. No, that would have been way too embarrassing, since the guilty company was the Brazilian subsidiary of the nationalized Rhone-Poulec chemical corporation of France. The guilty owner was... the government of France!
Not only do millions of people worldwide work in the narcotics sector of the capitalist economy, but the infrastructure of this industry is the legal surface world of banking, arms, real estate, major corporations, foundations, multinational agencies and governments. Neo-colonialism created a qualitative leap in narcotics production and distribution as a commodity (they didn't have to push heroin and crack on the plantation); it has become a global industry closely tied to imperialism's distorted development of the Third World and its absorption into commodity culture. We know that islamic Mujahadin commanders in Afghanistan have said that their heroin production for hard-currency sale to the New Afrikan community in the u.s. is their people's most important economic activity, the key to necessary commodities from four-wheel drive trucks to imported grain (in the mid-1980s rebel-held areas of Afghanistan became the No.1 supplier of heroin for the u.s. market, a u.s. state department study said).
In Latin Amerika, the drug business is critical right now in christian capitalist development So critical that even the u.s. house committee and its consultant, Renselaer Lee III of George Washington University, have had to note its positive results from the capitalist point of view:
"...the report by the House Select Committee notes, the cocaine industry has 'revolutionized expectations and aspirations within Andean societies, for peasants especially.' It added, 'Television sets, videocassette recorders, stereos and cats have become available.' So for the short term at least, the drug industry clearly has some value, both economically and as a temporary relief from political tensions. 'Cocaine has acted as a safety value for the Andean countries where the economy fails to deliver,' Mr. Lee said."
The narcotics industry, which in the 19th century was primarily the sale of opium to China by British and amerikkkan merchants, has grown a thousand-fold and become qualitatively different under neo-colonialism. Again, exploring as an example this one commodity proves not only that we cannot judge capitalism by what it says about itself, but that to understand the neo-colonial system we have to go beneath the everyday surface into its sub-stratum of commodity relationships.
While on one level the narcotics industry is a better, more profitable method of genocide (imagine an irrational world in which the european Jews vanished because they paid billions of dollars to kill themselves with the nazi's zyklon-b poison gas, fighting each other for the privilege of doing so, and you only begin to grasp our reality), it is in a deeper sense not under control. This neo-colonial commodity, which has super-human strength, is self-destructive to capitalist society in many ways. They spend billions each year trying keep its social effects in check. But it isn't the dope. It's the system of commodity production itself that is so irrational from a human standpoint. Go deeper into this.
We don't really know for a fact that the Rockefeller social planners, bankers and agronomists deliberately planned for Cali to become a narco-economy. When they established the Rockefeller Institute's Tropical Agriculture Center there it was one of a number of such centers worldwide, designed to revolutionize in one generation the life of the Third World countryside. They called it the Green Revolution (as opposed to the socialist Red revolution), spreading the use of new hybrid, super-productive strains of rice, wheat, and other crops to double or triple food production for the hungry world majority.
Was the Cali narco-economy only a good attempt which went bad? An exception to an otherwise socially productive reform? No, if anything it's the reverse The Andean narco-economy has proven to be the least harmful, least irrational side of the Rockefeller Foundation's neo-colonial transformation of world agriculture. Narcotics is a "good" example, paradoxical as that is to grasp.
Because of the successful Green Revolution, agriculture in the Third World has become a modern commodity business, food production worldwide had soared to levels never seen before in history — and directly because of this, millions of people have died from starvation and malnutrition. The paradox can be defined as the more food, the more deaths from lack of food. Former famine nations like India and Bangladesh now export food. While the public thinks of starvation as a Black Afrikan problem, associated with trans-Saharan drought, most casualties are actually in food-exporting nations.
Under the headline 'WORLD HUNGER FOUND STILL GROWING", a report of a 1987 UNICEF survey outlines the invisible holocaust that has come from the Rockefeller Foundation's Green Revolution:
"Despite repeated international pledges to eliminate hunger in the world, the number of hungry, undernourished people now appears to be increasing at a quickening pace, according to new findings by a United Nations agency.
"Moreover, the increase in hunger is coming at a time when the world is awash with cheap surplus food, disproving the grim Malthusian predictions that rising population levels will eventually overrun the world's ability to feed its inhabitants...
" 'In the last two years, more children have died in India and Pakistan than in all the 46 nations of Africa together,' Unicef said. 'In 1986 more children died in Bangladesh than in Ethiopia, more in Mexico than in the Sudan, more in Indonesia than in all eight drought-stricken countries of the [Afrikan] Sahel'...
"This month, the Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization, Edouard Saouma, told his group's governing council that stocks of grains, sugar and butter were all at record levels and likely to increase, and even in the developing world food production was continuing to grow faster than the population.
"As a result, countries like India and Indonesia, which were prone to disastrous famines, now export food even though increasing numbers of their people cannot afford enough to eat.
"'Thus the process of polarization in the global food system is continuing', Mr. Saouma said."
This contradiction touched the ametikkan consciousness several years ago, when Chilean grapes bound for u .s. markets were found to have been injected by needle with poison as a protest. In a day all Chilean fruits &vegetables were pulled out of supermarkets and destroyed (in many East Coast supermarkets almost the entire produce section disappeared). Shoppers wondered what extremism would lead Chileans to poison their food. The Christian Science Monitor did carry an explanation by Prof. James Petras, a Latin-Amerikan scholar at the State University of New York:
"The recent spate of publicity about the poisoning of Chilean grapes overlooked an underlying issue—namely, the conditions under which Chilean fruit is picked and packed. They may help to explain that incident:
"Chilean fruit laborers work under abominable conditions. They are employed as temporary workers, earning on an average between $2.85 and $4.00 a day during 12-hour days, for three months a year. The other nine months they are unemployed. Over 60 percent of the farm workers are women, who are brought in overcrowded trucks (up to 1 00 packed together), and who sleep on the ground or in make-shift barracks without bedding, bathrooms, or potable water. Many female workers are afflicted by horrible rashes and skin diseases resulting from the prevalent use of pesticides.
"The other source of labor is child workers as young as 9 years old. Armed guards ensure that labor is productive. Any slowdowns due to fatigue are punished—wage deductions or outright firings are common... '
"The condition of Chile's rural labor force were always difficult, but they have sharply deteriorated. Until the 1960s, most Chilean farm workers were tenant farmers on large estates. In exchange for labor services to the landlords, they received a small house, year-round employment, and a small plot of land to raise a few chickens and plant some vegetables. During the 1960s and early 1970s, Christian Democratic and Socialist governments carried out a land-distributions program that provided the vast majority of peasants with land, credit, and social services.
"But with the advent of the Pinochet government in 1973, over 80 per cent of the peasants were dispossessed and the land turned over to agribusiness supporters of the military regime. Under this system, the peasants have neither the security of the previous landlord system, nor the land from the reform period: the new owners turned them off the land and hired seasonal laborers."
That symbolic poisoning of grapes headed for amerikkka's suburban kitchens was an act of desperation by those proletarianized and, in many cases, dying from the historic breakthrough in world commodity food production. A glowing story in the N.Y. Times titled "Scientific Advances Lead to Era of Food Surpluses Around World," casually mentions near the story's end:
"Still, perhaps 35 million people, most of them children, die from hunger-related illnesses each year, and 700 million other people are malnourished, acoording to studies by the World Bank and other groups..."
Each year 35 million people dying from starvation and malnutrition, while soldiers with automatic weapons make sure they don't interfere with the beans, grapes, melons and rice being taken away. We are witnesses to un-history, to hundreds of millions of deaths not over centuries but just in the last few decades.
Certainly, well over 100 million people have perished so far in this worldwide restructuring of agriculture into the commodity system. What is cocaine, then, compared to wheat or vegetables? The neo-colonial economy has a commodity life that is unknown and invisible to our everyday experience. You can dream a nightmare world so irrational that your local supermarket is secretly stocked each night with products from an auschwitz. Then you wake up, and discover it wasn't a dream.
No oppressed nation is too poor to take part in this great transfer of food into the neo-colonial economy. Every "aid" project by the metropolis only accelerates die transformation of agriculture from growing food directly for the producers to producing abstract commodities for multi-national trade. Susan George of the Transnational Institute in Paris criticized French "aid" projects in Afrika:
"The latest annual report of the French Caisse Centrale de Cooperation Economique lists under food crop projects a 20 million franc operation in Upper Volta [now Burkina Faso] for the irrigated cultivation of green beans. Never mind that these vegetables are not eaten by Voltaics but by Europeans as an off-season, luxury dish; never mind that die peasant cultivators only get about 57% of the final purchase price—this is supposed to be a 'development' project — even a food project. This agency has apparently no inkling that 'food' and 'cash' crops are not determined by edibility or non-edibility, but rather by who does the eating!... Given facts established (by the World Bank), i.e. that Voltaics eat on average only 78% of the necessary daily caloric ration; that life expectancy is 42 years, etc. a foreign government or a multinational agency has the duty to finance only projects improving nutritional levels or to abstain."
But, of course, these agencies know very well who does the eating. This Green Revolution is recognized as capitalism's greatest achievement in the early neo-colonial period. For that reason the Rockefeller Institute's Dr. Norman Borlag, "the father of the Green Revolution," was awarded the Nobel Prize. One last note: In 1989, the Rockefeller Foundation announced that after its successes in the Third World it felt morally obliged to turn some attention to the ghetto underclass. Foundation President Peter C. Goldmark said that social planners in amerikkka didn't know about them:
"They don't just do badly in school; they are out of school. Many are not on welfare; they are hustlers. Many are responsible for much of the anti-social behavior that goes on in our cities."
Goldmark went on to say that the Rockefeller Foundation will fund new "research" intelligence projects to go into the ghetto and identify the troublesome underclass: "Who they are, what they do, how they stay alive..." So that the solution can be finalized.
1. The Key Commodity Is Woman
The most important commodity in the neo-colonial system is neither the computer chip nor petroleum, but Third World women. This one fact alone stamps the entire face of the neo-colonial age. And why should we be surprised? Wasn't, in an earlier period, the Afrikan slave the key commodity for the world triumph of euro-capitalism? Because of the Afrikan slave and the business of trading them and the products of their labor, trans-Atlantic trade and the basis for european industrialization were established. Without the commodity of Afrikan slaves there would have been no u.s.a.
To break it down some: a commodity is defined as anything that possesses both use-value, that is, that has utility in satisfying human wants and needs whether essential or fanciful, and that also has exchange-value as a product of human activity. The oxygen we breathe, while very useful, has no exchange value and is not a commodity. The same oxygen, separated and bottled for a hospital or welding torches, is a commodity.
An economist during the Afrikan slave trade days once wrote: "A Negro is a Negro. He only becomes a slave under certain conditions. A cotton-spinning jenny is a machine for spinning cotton. It becomes capital only in certain relations. Torn from these relationships it is no more capital than gold in itself is money or sugar the price of sugar." Understanding a commodity, then, is to locate it in the mosaic of relationships.
In Third World factories making the export commodities that chain their countries to the metropolis, the workers peering through microscopes assembling computer chips or sewing together Calvins and acrylic sweaters — are young women. Young Third World women are at the overseas production base of many corporations. This is well known. The key is not that Third World women are super-exploited but that they are themselves a commodity, property. The invisible commodity that, like the Afrikan slavery before them, defines the entire system above them.
Colonialism ultimately fell, as Cabral recognized, because it held down native society into a horizontal "nation-class" united against it; in counter, the dynamic of neo-colonialism is to help native society develop into a vertical class structure with native pro- capitalist forces that are, consciously or unconsciously, aligned towards imperialism. The first and most basic vertical differentiation is for women to become the property of men. As we discussed earlier, this is the genocidal development path that euro-capitalism itself found to build its new nations and emerge out of feudalism.
It is in the nature of wage-labor for workers to sell their working lives, their labor-power, as a commodity alienated from themselves, to capitalism. On the surface, this is what these sisters do as an everyday survival deal — what's assumed to be a poorer version of you or me. There's a qualitative difference. Third World women have been pushed further downward in country after country as part of neo-colonialism's modern development process.
First of all, to bond Third World men into the culture of capitalism by giving them real property of their own, "their" women: for a man to use as a sex-object, servant, beast of burden, unpaid laborer, reproducer of "his" children, even as a source of small cash that a man can expropriate as his own. This is easily understood by anyone who wants to know it. Fresh incidents pop up daily in the capitalist media (the mass rapes and killings of schoolgirls by schoolboys in Kenya one day, the purchase of unwilling girl-children for "wives" by Arab Muslims the next), with the clear intent of showing how lucky women are here to be with "Mr. America."
The paradox of how capitalism produces a trend of equal rights for some women in the metropolis and a trend of increasing lack of rights and degradation for other women in the periphery, is something we should go to the heart of.
This ownership of these women by men, while naked for all to see in its oppression, is still only a strand on the surface weave of capitalism. For imperialism is a jealous patriarch. The outward form of Third World women's ownership by "their" men only facilitates, as it conceals, the overriding and primary ownership of Third World women by imperialism, which has let their junior capitalist partners in the Third World commodify women as instruments of national development. To be used in the most profitably brutal way to earn hard-currency from the metropolis, to be violently used up and discarded at a pace of exploitation so rapid that it is even cheaper than chattel slavery was.
In Bangladesh, for example, young women of the age we usually term children have been placed into semi-slavery in new hard-currency industries no matter what men think about it. A 1988 report from Dhaka, Bangladesh, shows how these young women are provided for international corporations by local government and local capitalist entrepreneurs:
"Shafia Khatun has made a pioneering journey from rural poverty to a low-paying job in a crowded garment factory, and she may never be able to go home again.
"Part of a small new industry fueled by American imports, she and 200,000 other women have defied Islamic tradition and planted the seeds of a slow social transformation in this nation.
"Village elders objected to her leaving home to work in the big city, Miss Khatun said in an interview at her tiny dirt-floored rented room. 'It will be difficult for me to live in my village again...', she said.
"For the same reason, and because she cannot afford the traditional wedding payment, her chances of finding a husband have also been reduced, said Miss Khatun, who at the age of 14 is already eligible for marriage.
"The labor of women like Miss Khatun is a boon to this nation that has relied on exports of animal hides, jute and tea for most of its foreign earnings. Planners here now dare to talk, with guarded hope, of industrialization...
"Clothing exports to the United states grew from $45 million in 1984 to more than $300 million last year, making Bangladesh the sixth-largest supplier of apparel to America.
"'This is the cheapest country where you can work,' said Paolo Tacchinardi, a garment manufacturer from Milan. 'You can pay the workers, the manager and the shipper, and the shirt is still three times less when it arrives in Italy...'
"Redwan Ahmed, the owner of Saleha Garments Ltd., where Miss Khatun works, said women are essential to his industry. Bred to subservience, he said, they will work for as little as $13 a month and will accept harsh conditions and long hours without complaint..."
A modernization process in which women are "bred to subservience," devalued, conditioned to accept inhuman treatment, and follow male authority, is not so much a prescription for tribalism as it is a social conditioning to be a human commodity in the new multinational economy. Economic planners consciously see the hope for industrialization from women as an export-industry. The controversial Calvin Klein jeans ads, in which women's bodies are presented in soft-core porn, as objects owned by men, is only the cultural expression of the real-life relationship of which those jeans are a product.
The Philippine neo-colonial government — even under figurehead president Cory Acquino — has an official policy of exporting Filipino women as a hard—currency commodity. "They are one of our top ten foreign-exchange earners," more than sugar or mining, said a Filipino expert on the subject. "They're lumped among the best exports that we have. People don't like being lumped with a product, but there you are."
The capitalist program of commodifying Filipino women has succeeded so well that they have become, in much of the world, like a brand-name product. "The Philippines has virtually become a country of maids, cheap domestic labor to clean up after the rest of the world," Labor Secretary Franklin Drilon told the N.Y. Times. The story reported Filipino women have become so familiar as products that "Filipino women traveling abroad, including members of official delegations, say it is often assumed both by local residents and their own countrymen that they are domestics or even prostitutes."
The story continues to say:
"The export of labor is a conscious policy begun more than a decade ago to... boost foreign exchange earnings... But along with badly needed dollars, the women have sent home tales of exploitation that include harsh conditions, long hours, underpayment, physical abuse and sexual harassment.
"In parts of Europe and Asia, particularly Japan, Filipino women are also preeminent as entertainers. These women often complain that they are required to have sexual relations with customers as part of their duties.
"In addition, the Philippines has become a prime source of what are known as 'mail-order brides'...
"Filipinos sometimes ask themselves how their women have come to be regarded as a commodity in the eyes of the world. Organizations involved in the rights of women and migrant workers say that poverty and a sense of family obligation are primary reasons.
"Overseas workers or mail order brides are often selected by their families to support aged parents and put brothers and sisters through school..."
Prostitution, which is passed off as some fringe lumpen activity (like narcotics), is really a major hard-currency industry in the periphery. Not "part of their customs" as white men love to say, but a direct result of the neo-colonial bringing together of metropolis and periphery. Saigon, we remember and will not forget, had a total population of 400,000 in 1965 when the u.s. troops invaded. Ten years later when the war ended, Saigon alone held 400,000 Vietnamese women who had been forced into prostitution. Once a Havana or a Tijuana would be a "sin city" playground for white men. Now, whole Third World nations are turned by their capitalist governments into hard-currency playgrounds for european, amerikkkan and Japanese tourists. What is called sex tourism.
In South Korea, a land where steel-helmeted security troops of the corporation, armed with M-l6s and heavy weapons, stand over the workers at the Hyundai steel mill, a recent estimate by a women's project was that one out of every six South Korean women between the ages of 15-35 was in the sex industry.
Tourism is Thailand's biggest source of foreign exchange, with 4 million tourists a year arriving. According to one survey, one-third of them say they intend to have sex with a Thai. Many men come on the infamous sex tourism charter flights arranged by Lufthansa, Japan Airlines, and other airlines, in which the men are bused in groups to a variety of brothels. Bangkok police estimate that there are 500,000 prostitutes in Bangkok alone, with perhaps another 250,000 in the rest of Thailand. (government health officials estimated that 250,000 were HIV positive as of August, 1991)
Thai government leaders, who depend on selling Thai women as a key commodity in their world trade, defend prostitution as better than concubinage or "minor wives" in polygamy. They emphasize how it is supposedly "voluntary", with "only" an estimated 15,000 of the young prostitutes actually being held as slaves (women-children are purchased in the rural North for less than $75). Suvit Yodmani, head of the Thai National Identity Office (and what a strange place that must be) says:
"In a way, voluntary prostitution has its place, because it helps eliminate the 'minor-wife' phenomenon. But we must do more to eliminate involuntary prostitution."
Dr. Debhanon Muangman, dean of the School of Public Health at Mahidol University, commented: "There's a law against selling people, but it's not enforced." How can a law against selling commodities be enforced under capitalism?
What all these Third World women have in common is being a unique commodity. They are almost all young, sometimes very young. While the process is most advanced in Asia, where the level of local capitalist development is correspondingly the most advanced in the Third World, it is present in the Caribbean, Latin Amerika, and Afrika. Their existence as a commodity is not a normal relationship, not a normal life. They are exchanged for hard-currency by their own capitalist governments as the very cheapest labor, often paid less than the cost of sustaining & reproducing life. Women who are young and fit, who can be used so cheaply it staggers the imagination, who are made marginal to their societies, disposable after being used up. A. Sivanandan of London's Institute of Race Relations wrote:
"...For the chip produced in the pleasant environs of 'Silicon Valley' in California has its circuitry assembled in the toxic factories of Asia. Or, as a Conservative Political Center publication puts it: 'While the manufacture of the chips requires expensive equipment in a dust-free, air-conditioned environment little capital is necessary to assemble them profitably into saleable devices. And it is the assembly that creates both the wealth and the jobs.'
"Initially the industry went to Mexico, but Asia was soon considered cheaper. (Besides, 'Santa Clara was only a telex away.') And even within Asia the moves were to cheaper and cheaper areas: from Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore in the 1960s, to Malaysia in 1972, Thailand in 1973, the Philippines and Indonesia in 1974, and soon to Sri Lanka. The manager of a plant in Malaysia explained how profitable these moves had been. 'One worker working one hour produces enough to pay the wages of 10 workers working one shift plus all the costs of materials and transport.'
"But the moves the industry makes are not just from country to country but from one batch of workers to another within the country itself. For the nature of the work — the bonding under a microscope of tiny hair-thin wires to circuit boards on wafers of silicon chip half the size of a fingernail — shortens working life. 'After three or four years of peering through a microscope,' reports Rachel Grossman, 'a worker's vision begins to blur so that she can no longer meet the production quota.'
"But if the microscope does not get her (Grandma, where are your glasses? is how electronic workers over 25 are greeted in Hong Kong), the bonding chemicals do.1 And why 'her'? Because they are invariably women. For, as a Malaysian brochure has it, 'The manual dexterity of the oriental female is famous the world over. Her hands are small and she works fast with extreme care. Who, therefore, could be better qualified by nature and inheritance to contribute to the efficiency of a bench assembly production line than the oriental girl?'
"To make such intense exploitation palatable, however, the multinationals offer the women a global culture — beauty contests, fashion shows, cosmetic displays, and disco dancing — which in turn enhances the market for consumer goods and Western beauty products. Tourism reinforces the culture and reinforces prostitution (with packaged sex tours for Japanese businessmen), drug selling, child labor. For the woman thrown out of work on the assembly line at an early age, the wage earner for the whole extended family, prostitution is often the only form of livelihood left.
"A global culture, then, to go with a global economy..."
Some economists say we live in a "petroleum economy," shaped by the use of petroleum products. This is obvious. Other social analysts — such as Robert B. Reich and A. Sivanandan — say we are in a "Silicon Age," when this microchip technology is revolutionizing production & communications just as the introduction of steam-engine power did two centuries ago. This is clearly true, also. Computers and tankers full of gasoline loom all the larger in everyone's minds for being so visible in our society. Both of these statements can be true, although seemingly at odds, because they are two strands among an infinity in the surface of economic life.
When James Watt of Scotland invented the modern steam engine in the 18th century, that revolutionized the world economy. Steam power made possible the modern factory, the modern transportation system of railroads and steamships that shrank the globe, and later, the introduction of electricity for household & industry. Yet, the steam-engine was not the most important commodity in the world expansion of capitalism: the Afrikan slave was.
For the extraordinary profits from the Afrikan slave trade paid for the industrializing of Western Europe, for the building of great cities, naval fleets and new capitalist nations in North Amerika — in other words, for the euro-capitalist world empires. The crude and "backward" slave plantation was the unseen foundation beneath the amazing progress of euro-capitalist civilization. Which is why the cultural impact of that commodity relationship still reverberates so strongly in our lives today.
In such a way, the Third World woman is "backward" and largely invisible from the daily life of the metropolis since she isn't selling junk bonds or starting software corporations. We're not saying that as a human experience working in a garment sweatshop for $20 a month is equivalent to being torn out of Afrika and sold on the auction block. That would be silly. We're discussing the economic role of commodities. And here there is a parallel, because it is these women's designation as a unique commodity that underlies the new world order. Planners in Bangladesh, one of the poorest nations on earth, can hope for industrialization by exchanging this unique commodity for hard currency. With u.s. and european corporations. Third World women as a commodity are the key to the vigorous capitalist development taking place in the periphery of neo-colonialism.
Simultaneously, it is the extraordinary profits from them as a commodity that is paying for the brilliant parasitic economy of the metropolis. For example: there is an entire industry, like a fascinating narcotic itself, consuming literally hundreds of millions of dollars promoting & advertising Nike's "Air Jordans". Television stations, sports leagues, posters, magazines, ad agencies, artist and executives and secretaries, managers and stockholders, all take profits and salaries out of this promotion. To say nothing of banks and shopping malls.
Yet & again, none of this does anything tangible for the shoe — it doesn't make so much as one shoelace. How is it possible to pay for all these people and businesses? The answer is that the top of the line 1992 "Air Jordan" that sells for $130, Nike itself buys from its Asian contractors for just $30, including labor, materials and their own local profits. So a $130 sneaker with pennies of direct labor in it supports $100 in "welfare" for layers of parasitic businesses in the u.s.a. Multiply this by billions & billions.
Out of these Third World women's labor and lives is made he computer chips, the televisions, the VCRs and other electronic consumer goods, the levis, industrial products, the always in season fruits and vegetables, the donna karan dresses, the athletic sweatshirts — and so cheaply they're almost like free for the neo-imperial metropolis. The kind of profits that the multi-national corporations make out of $15 or $25 a month women haven't been seen since chattel slavery. This is the commodity that above all others determines the new culture of the neo-colonial world order.
- The global economy of neo-colonialism has been exploded into shape by historic tendencies within capitalism towards both the concentration of capital & the domination of finance capital — only carried now to a higher level. This economy of the multinational corporations does not so much cross old borders as it increasingly operates on a transnational level above nations & their governments. Like the sonic booms shaking houses in the wake of a jet's passing, the operations of the multi-national corporations and their interests leave in their wake growing crises & destabilization in the economic and political life of nations below them.
The real map of the emerging world, the lines of neo-colonial production, labor, and trade, no longer correlate to the map in our heads of the dinosaur nations of the 20th century. This has far-reaching consequences. This is what the breakup of the u.s.s.r. foreshadowed. Why even countries we assume are permanent, like Italy and Great Britain, are starting to unravel. And amerikkka, too, of course.
Two groupings before any others have recognized this reality — the transnational capitalist class & the new wave of explorers from the Third World — and are putting themselves into the creation of political-economic entities more fitting to the age. In that sense, the socialist colonias or radical squatter communities in Northern Mexico where thousands or workers live and the european Common Market are both forms of this change.
2. Globalization: A New Stage In Capital Concentration
The concentration of capital — for the big corporation to swallow the smaller, for the competition of many capitalists to result in the survival of the few — is "genetically" inherent in capitalism. So much so that a european cultural critic foreseeing its future around the time of the u.s. Civil War, could write about:
"...the action of the immanent laws of capitalistic production itself, by the centralization of capital. One capitalist always kills the many. Hand in hand with this centralization, or this expropriation of many capitalists by few, develop, on an ever-expanding scale, the co-operative form of the labor process, the conscious technical application of science, the methodical cultivation of the soil, the transformation of the instruments of labor into instrument of labor only usable in common... the entanglement of all peoples in the net of the world market, and this, the international character of the capitalistic regime. Along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolize all advantages of this process of transformation, grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation..."
Concentration of capital is an underlying evolution, over-riding national boundaries, traditions, and cultures of corporations and capitalists. The late Sam Walton, amerikkka's wealthiest "rags to riches" individual entrepreneur, exhorted his employees every day to bring even lower prices to the consumer — in the best amerikkkan tradition. Yet, his Wal-Mart mass discount store chain, in its rise, of necessity crushed, bankrupted & absorbed the business of many thousands of family-owned local drugstores & retail outlets.
An article on the trend of the largest electronics corporations to join in even more powerful multi-national alliances, noted:
"Siemens A.G. of Germany and the I.B.M. Corporation in 1991 forged what may become the industry's most dynamic partnership, one likely to reach across a startling range of chip technologies...but just behind them are Texas Instruments Inc. and Hitachi Ltd. of Japan, which recently announced that their researchers, fresh from the joint development of a 16 megabit memory chip, were headed for the 64 megabit generation. Then there is the Motorola—Toshiba team, the A.T.&T.-NEC pas de deus and — in what is already proving to be the most politically explosive alliance — I.B.M. and Toshiba, which a few months ago began jointly developing and manufacturing color liquid crystal display screens for laptop computers...
"But in the end, what is driving the alliances is not politics but money. Designing an elaborate new chip and building the factory to produce it has become a half-billion dollar enterprise. No one wants to take that kind of risk alone."
The nationalistic Japanese keiretsu corporations, which have their cultural roots in feudalism and whose male employees pledge life-long loyalty as though they were samurai taking the colors of an aristocratic clan, now must make basic alliances to share technology & production with foreign competitors (even though these Japanese corporations are already the largest in the world).
What is moving the concentration of capital over national and continental lines is simple: the need for greater technology, capital, and markets than any one nation possesses.
As the process of concentration bursts out of national borders, the economic table stakes to be a player keep growing. The old ideal of the self-sufficient capitalist nation is now as outmoded as the code of bushido. Industries are now more powerful than nations. If I.B.M., the most dominant corporation both marketwise and technologically that capitalism has ever seen, confesses that it now needs to join with other corporations to survive, is it any surprise that the u.s. electronics industry decided to specialize and totally leave VCR production, for example, to others. Or that Czechoslovakia has sold its entire automobile iudustry — traditionally, the strongest in eastern europe — to Volkswagen? Just as the entertainment industry in Japan or Italy doesn't even pretend to be competing with Hollywood films, which are big money-makers in everyone's theaters.
Capital, while it still has the flesh habits of its primordial national origins, is learning to think of itself as a transnational being. In the 19505, world-dominant u.s. corporations began "gate-crashing" other national markets, while "runaway" shops took textiles and other light industrial production to Puerto Rico and other low wage areas. Western europe began, at u.s. prodding, years of startup for the Common Market. The u.s. policy decision to industrialize capitalist Asia was made. By the 19605, the largest national corporations began assuming multinational dimensions.
In a famous statement, Harold Geneen, Chairman & empire-builder of the first multi-national — International Telephone & Telegraph Corp. — was quoted as saying that I.T.&T.'s ideal nationality would be to headquarter itself on an island that it owned, becoming its own government and nationality.
In the 1970s, both the Trilateral Commission — the first, informal capitalist world executive — and the european Common Market fully emerged. Few paid attention twenty years ago when David Rockefeller of the Chase Manhattan Bank demanded that national governments must give up their economic powers, their trade laws and protected industries to "lift the siege against the multi-national enterprises so that they might be permitted to get on with the unfinished business of developing the world economy."
Twenty years later we find that Motorola, which was then a much smaller Chicago corporation supplying the domestic market with radios and TVs, is now a world leader in military/police communications and portable telephone systems. Half of its sales are outside the u.s.; 40% of its employees are also. Motorola has a major chip factory in Malaysia (as do Texas Instruments and Hewlett-Packard). Even 25% of its engineering and product design are done abroad. Both a plant in Florida and another plant in Malaysia produce electronic telephone pagers—but the design/engineering center for this division is at Motorola's Malaysian plant, not the one in Florida.
Motorola chairman Robert H. Galvin makes it clear that the corporation claims no bias and wants no bias towards amerikkka in such decisions:
"We'd try to make a balanced decision that took everyone into consideration, Malaysians and Americans. We need our Far Eastern customers, and we cannot alienate the Malaysians. We must treat our employees all over the world equally."
A common theme in corporate planning now is to place investment, sites, labor, where they make the most sense in terms of the industry — disregarding or trying to disregard nationally where that is. So Texas Instruments, which is amerikkka's leading producer of microchips, has its headquarters and research center for that main division not in Texas but in Tokyo. Just as Nissan styled its new Infinity ISO sedan and other new models at a $100 million design center outside Detroit. Honda, which is a Big Three automaker in the u.s.a. but an also-ran in Japan, has been rumored in Japanese business circles to be considering moving its own headquarters to Los Angeles to become more "American" a corporation. Whether it happens or not isn't the point, it's that even the possibility shows a changed outlook.
3. Fallout From Globalization
The truth or consequences of this evolutionary march has destabilized many nations — while it has opened upward mobility for the opportunistic classes. One consequence is that the multi-national corporations are pulling back from amerikkka (rats know to leave the sinking ship). Gus Tyler, longtime research director for the International Ladies Garment Workers (AFL-CIO), says: "There is a decoupling of the corporation from the country; that is what is developing. The country can be facing economic disaster, and the global corporation can avoid it."
As u.s. corporations increase their employment abroad, they inevitably slim down their payrolls & investment in the u.s.a. Economists and social analysts have been publicly discussing the phenomenon — new to euro-amerikans — of "diminishing opportunities." Reverse generational progress. They warn that coming white generations will have neither the income growth nor the job security that their parents enjoyed. And isn't that a given, now? Assumptions of automatic affluence for college educated have been shredded like old credit cards. NBC Nightly News reported that the Fortune 500 corporations, which in 1980 employed 16 million in the u.s., now employ only 11 million (and are projected to employ only 8 million by the year 2000). NBC's news anchor then asked a consultant on white-collar employment what middle-class people could do since corporations no longer were loyal in the old sense, even to their managers and professional staff? That consultant clearly caught the wave when she cooly replied: "We are all self-employed now."
Corporations, which never treated their colonies or workers as human, are now nding even imperialist national loyalties too constricting. "There is no mindset that puts this country first," says Cyril Sienart, chief financial officer of Colgate-Palmolive. The President of the NCR Corporation (what used to be National Cash Register Co.) remarked in 1989:
"I was asked the other day about United States competitiveness and I replied that I didn't think about it at all. We at NCR think of ourselves as a globally competitive company that happens to be headquartered in the United States."
Nations still have important interests and needs, but increasingly have less economic ways to secure these. The very concept of a trade crisis is a vestige from earlier eras — like a national appendix (which still can get inflamed). "If companies have the alternative of moving across borders," says Harvard economist Raymond Vernon, "there is not much point in doing a lot of shouting about trade."
Our entire take on national economics & politics needs to be re-evaluated. That applies as much to the Black Nation as to the White Nation.
Go into current u.s.-Japan trade crisis and the "Japan bashing" and "buy American" sentiment that has resulted. What we find as a bottom line is that there isn't much of a trade crisis at all.2 What is mistakenly called a trade crisis is really a national crisis for the u.s. as a white settler nation. Because Japan Inc. and USA. Inc. are gradually merging into one business. But nobody wants to tell that to the white man, since he's being led around in circles to keep him uselessly occupied. We mean, the Fat Lady is singing, guy.2
There is no doubt that "Japan bashing" — which is as amerikkkan as apple pie, anyway — is being socially encouraged. Trade unions and politicians stage smashajapathons, where everyone takes turns sledge hammering some symbolic junker Toyota. Rep. John Dingell (D.— Mich) complains publicly that u.s. autoworkers are victims of those sinister "little yellow men." Popular television bigot Andy Rooney asserts on CBS's "60 minutes":
"I'm vaguely anti-Japanese. Don't ask me why. Just prejudice, I guess. I'm very comfortable with some of my prejudices and have no thought of changing them now."
The green light is given for racist attacks of any kind on Asians of any kind. Hey, why discriminate.
Only, the ruling class itself isn't joining in, which is why it's different from the anti-asianism that happened in World War II and the Korean War. No f.b.i. raids on Chinese laundries (it happened a generation ago), no koncentration kamps for Japanese yuppies, since this hysteria is only a bloody circus for bozo. Unnerved by the penetration of Japanese capital up his mainstream, bozo can hardly believe that sacred icons of his white culture — such as Columbia movie studios, the 7-11 corporation, and the Rockefeller Center skating rink — are now Diapause. What's most frustrating of all for Chez Whitey is that despite having for 12 years elected a rightwing administration, the Whitest House refused to do anything against Japan except vomit in the Japanese Prime Minister's lap ("Look who's coming to dinner!").
The reason for this double message isn't hard to locate. Because of the merging and interpenetration of once nationally- separate economies, the State can make public relations gestures ("trade talks") but has little way to conduct a trade conflict with Japan that isn't shooting amerikkka in the foot.
Japan, after all, purchased $900 million in u.s. agricultural products in 1991 and is u.s. agri-biz's biggest overseas customer. Likewise, the u.s. apparel industry sold $400 million in favored brands, like levi and ralph lauren, to Japan last year. Standard Oil and other u.s. petro-chemical corporations own one out of every six gas stations in Japan. Haagen-Dazs ice cream was recently named one of the ten most admired products in Japanese opinion poll (so much for that supposedly superior Japanese mind). Salomon Brothers and Morgan Stanley were the second and the third most profitable brokerage houses in Japan so far this year. The list would literally fill a phone book.
The concentration of capital overriding national borders is even more profitably destabilizing to Third World nations. Not only in merging their production into multi-national commodity trade, but socially, technologically, culturally as well. The world is being tilted so that the most valuable ideas, inventions, arts, scientists and technicians fall out of their nations into the metropolis or into its Third World outposts.
The majority of PhD. graduate assistants in physics in many u.s. university research laboratories are Chinese (not asian-ams, but from mainland China and Taiwan). Just as the majority of Filipino nurses were educated for years in u.s.-style medical procedures, language and customs — having little to do with the desperate realities of Philippine society — and don't treat other Filipino women but work more profitably in Chicago, Toronto or Lagos. A. Sivanandan finds that this former homeland, Sri Lanka, may be a world production center for computer disc drives, but that the overall consequences of globalization on that small nation have been...
"...devastating. The oil-rich Gulf States, for instance, have sucked in whole sections of the working population, skilled and semi-skilled, of South Asia, leaving vast holes in the labor structure of these countries. Moratuwa, a coastal town in Sri Lanka, once boasted some of the finest carpenters in the world. Today there are none — they are all in Kuwait or in Muscat or Abu Dhabi. And there are no welders, masons, electricians, plumbers, mechanics — all gone. And the doctors, teachers, engineers — they have been long gone — in the first wave of postwar migration to Britain, Canada, the United States, Australia, in the second wave to Nigeria, Zambia, Ghana. Today, Sri Lanka, which had the first free health service in the Third World and some of the finest physicians and surgeons, imports its doctors... all that we are left with in Sri Lanka is a plentiful supply of unemployed labor."
In concentrating the metropolis and periphery closer together, in moving native production and labor into the imperialist mainstream, neo-colonialism has made the metropolis itself assume a cosmopolitan, multi-national character. It has brought the contradictions home to roost, as Malcolm might have said. Indeed, the flow of labor dictated by neo-colonial economics is redrawing our borders. Ruling class-sponsored multi-culturalism is a tardy recognition that "America" only lives on in late night TV reruns. In the N.Y. Times book review of David Rieff's new book on Los Angeles — subtitled "Capitol of the Third World" — this reality is noted:
"The old Los Angeles soldiers on in such verdant Westside communities as Brentwood, Bel Air and Pacific Palisades. The new Los Angeles toils on in war zones of ethnic vigilance and random armed visitation in Koreatown and Little El Salvador; Ready or not, says David Rieff, the Los Angeles metropolitan area finds itself 'an anthology of the world,' in transition from the capitol of the Sun Belt to the capitol of the Third World.
"By the year 2000, Mr. Rieff notes in 'Los Angeles,' the city will be less than 40 percent white... Already Los Angeles has the second largest populations of Filipinos, Koreans, Mexicans and Salvadorans of any city in the world. Adding, insignificant numbers, Chinese, Druze, Ethiopians, Indians, Indonesians,1ranians, Pacific Islanders, Pakistanis, Tamils, and Vietnamese, Los Angeles is a distinctly cosmopolitan city. Speaking some 82 languages and representing more than 100 ethnic and cultural backgrounds...
"Seeing the city as a preview of the next American century, Mr. Rieff went to Los Angeles from New York City believing that a 'new epoch' had begun. 'Could anyone seriously imagine that changes of this magnitude would leave the United States as it had been before?"
It is true, white amerikkka and the Third World are like separate planets colliding into each other. For all the drama and the street chaos, this isn't a random mixing. There's a pattern to the fault lines, a structure.
What's going on is a process we can name: de-settlerization. amerikka the empire still legally exists as one nation going into the 21st century, but it's being gradually stripped of its historic identity as a white male settler nation. Los Angeles is not so much "the capitol of the Third World", as itis becoming the capitol of Aztlan, a re-Latinized and reclaimed Southwest. Not the old peasant Mexico, of course, but some new entity that is both Mexican and part of the multi-national Pacific Rim economy. If white folks do the chicken little when a neighborhood "tips", what are they going to do now that their Whole nation is "tipping."
This isn't news — or rather, it is what's in the news one way or the other almost every day. What White amerikkka makes of it, however, is like "Alien Nation." They believe that the shake n' bake of their country is happening through external causes. It comes from within u.s. society. As the parasitism which has always characterized settler amerikkka reached a nodal point, in which it began de-constructing the white way of life and the White nation itself. To go into this, we have to discuss the historic tendency within capitalism towards the domination of finance capital.
4. The Future Is Now
We are breaking through the Window of the let century just when powerful white men who can't spell as well as 12 year-olds are celebrating the fall of patriarchal socialism, and what they mistakenly think is the triumph of their capitalism. Actually, we are but beginning a new cycle of world struggle. The class struggle between capitalism and the oppressed has only grown larger, more polarized, spilling across old national and racial lines, a world war of a new type. It's easier to talk about it by first taking in the hit that culture gives us.
Ten years ago a hollywood movie named Blade Runner came and went: a modest science-fiction flick, it won some critical acclaim for director Ridley Scott, but wasn't a box office success. Since then, however, that grade B action film has become an unofficial presence in the larger dimension of politics. Because it resonates with a suppressed truth about amerikkka. Set in the darkly fictional Los Angeles of twenty-five years into the future, Blade Runner contains a take on amerikkka and its non-future that unexpectedly hit a cultural nerve. Now, the phrase "Blade Runner scenario" has crept into mainstream political vocabulary, into white economic conversation, newspaper columns, even books
On its surface, Blade Runner is a stereotype chase film, cops and criminals, only set in a future amerikkka. It's that setting, though. In Blade Runner's L.A. even nature has darkened: not the dry sunny freeway days we know, but constant rain and constant street crowds, overcast skies, wet streets. amerikkka is a Pacificized babel of many races and cultures, a jumble with no set way of life, diet or dress. Standup bars in the middle of pedestrian-jammed streets sell Asian fast food to the working stiffs, and the common language is no longer straight english but a pidgin or fangala with lots of gestures. An overstrained and tired white men's government tries to keep some kind of public order. No one even mentions what nation it is — that no longer means anything.
Above it all tower the ultra-modem skyscrapers and floating anti-gravity advertising airships of the multinational corporations. Their violent wars over precious raw materials now take place on the outer planets of the solar system, where the minerals are. These wars are fought for them by artificially-produced humans called replicants. Some replicants are workers, miners, or entertainers, while others with their super-human strength and reflexes are designed to be proxy soldiers in the wars between human corporations. As a safety factor for the masters, replicants are built with a short lifespan and all replicants are banned from the earth's surface outside of the laboratories of the corporations that own them.
The film's hero is Dekker, an LAPD detective (played by hollywood good-guy Harrison Ford, aka Indiana Jones). Dekker knows he's the best at his job, but he also knows that this job is nothing more than being a full-time killer. For Dekker is a "Blade Runner," a special cop who's assignment is to track down and summarily execute escaped slaves, i.e. replicants. (Stripped of the hi~tech trappings, replicants are only a genetically created race of slaves). An escaped combat team of four replicants hijack their ship in space and make it to amerikkka, desperately looking for a way to have their lifespans normalized. Dekker's hunt for them, which ends with all four dead (at the end, the last replicant spares Dekker's life without saying why), is the movie's story. Or is it?
However much political economists like Robert B. Reich feel obliged to deny the plausibility of the pessimistic fantasy of the "Blade Runner scenario," it still tugs at them. It keeps being thought of, like a burr stuck in the mind, because this B-movie contains in not-too-disguised forms the truth about amerikkka's neo-colonial future that White people want to keep secret even from themselves. It can be dealt with today only as fiction, as fantasy.
In de-constructing Blade Runner we learn why these secrets (which are only the neo-colonial reality) are both so intriguing and so dangerous that they must be buried.
Blade Runner's future amerikkka is, quite obviously, no longer a white settler nation. Those who run things are still — by historical momentum — white men, but the society they try to hold together is no longer predominantly white or affluent. The culture on the street level is more Third World than it is euro-amerikan. The vision is of the end of amerikkka. This is the side of the "Blade Runner scenario" that attracted so much unofficial attention. But it isn't the only compelling thing about it.
Close in on what is there but unseen in the movie: the subtext of class and the class structure, as played out in terms of gender, race and nation. This is actually what is at the unspoken center of the scenario.
There is no visible basic economic production in the movie, hardly a mention of it even. Although there are masses of vendors and official people, hi-technicians and street survivors. By implication, basic production (and the primary working class) has been removed not just off-screen but out of society altogether. The dirtiest and most dangerous work seems to be done off earth by a lesser race. "Real" people no longer do that work, and the major class division is between their society and the race of less-human beings who do. Sound at all familiar?
It isn't that this film is any brilliant work of art. What's happening is that amerikkka is under tension, twisting between immovable colonial past and inexorable neo-colonial future. This society is stressed to the max with neo-colonial transformation whose full meaning still being officially denied. So this suppressed tension — which charges the entire culture now with a certain radical voltage — gets discharged almost at random in popular art, in music, in everything imaginative we do.
And people are drawn unconsciously to the cracks in the censorship of denial. That's why you get a white kid wearing a Public Enemy T-shirt in "Terminator 2", at the same moment Afrikan people are (just like those fictional replicants) declared illegal life forms and are starting to be killed off.
That's the second thing that's missing in Blade Runner's vision of multi-culturalized amerikkka — the Afiikan population has vanished. There are masses of Latins and europeans and Asians, but no Afrikans except the occasional extra, the face in the crowd. In the film, even the slave race of replicants is white. The Color Black has been eliminated in fantasy, in "innocently" imagining the future. Truths that cannot be told yet in public, that still must be denied, leak out in imagination, in art.
And, as usual in hollywood, women are present but not as "real" people. There are women characters (every hollywood movie needs women as props to enhance the male leads), but by a subconscious stroke of a scriptwriter's pen they are all replicants, not "real" humans, The first is a member of the escaped combat team hiding and making her living as a stripper. When Dekker tracks her down, she uses her superior strength to knock him down so she can flee. Dekker recovers in time to empty his gun into her back and kill her as she runs down the mall corridor (this white guy is the hero, remember, that we're supposed to identify with). Dekker kills both escaped women slaves and "falls in love" with the last replicant woman, has sex with her, and as the film ends leaves town with her as his exclusive property (Le. "romance").
When you watch the film in a theater there's no uneasy stirring, no objections from the audience. It's subliminally understood that oppressed women who escape control are menacing, so dangerous to "real" humans that they must be killed. Otherwise, Dekker wouldn't be a "hero", any more than any gestapo investigator was. Hollywood understands without articulating it that gender is really about class and property, too. Truths that cannot be told in public, that must be denied, leak out in art, in imagination. We're talking about class, now.
There isn't anything that unique about the movie. The same truths keep leaking out — largely unnoticed — in other artifacts of sharply changing culture. The television serial "Star Trek: The Next Generation" is popular with the neo-colonial generation precisely because it seems so integrated. Positively multi-cultural adventures. But look at the closed society of the starship more closely and the subtext says more about multi-culturalism than we think. Although the commander is a white man, of course, there are three major parts played by Black actors. One is Jordy, the ship's engineer, a blind man (as in physically sightless) who is mostly concerned with finding technical solutions to his superior's problems ("Yes, we can do it, Captain!") and who has no love life.
The other two characters played by Afrikan actors are actually aliens from two different non-human species (can you interpret that?). So all the characters played by Afrikan actors run around helping white Commanders carry out their missions, and since they're of different species they neither reproduce nor form a Black community. This is the same subliminal message as Blade Runner, although in multi-cultural drag — a future without an Afrikan population. If the mass culture keeps steady sending out this message, what does it mean?
Jump-cut to present (which we never left, really).
The "Blade Runner scenario" is so darkly resonant for white men because it's not about a maybe future, it's about what is already going down in the fall of "white America" and the rise of a neo-colonized civilization. amerikkka already is becoming a post-modernist jumble, were some white men still run a neo-imperial class structure that is a paradox of modern affluence and human slavery, astonishing technical leaps and growing social barbarism. Akin to the ancient Greece of philosopher and slaves, but on a new and higher level. An empire of a new type. Let's bring that paradox into focus.
5. An Overview of Class
What's happening to the world is that the original class structure of 19th century industrial euro-capitalism as seen in England, the then-leading euro-capitalist nation, has only replicated itself in neo-colonialism but on a world scale not a national scale, with every feature blown up in size a thousand times.
Industrial England then was like a horror show of "free enterprise." A hell with people wandering, driven off their lands and homes into industrial zones. Chaotic factories and crude workshops full of slave and semi-slave workers clothed in filthy rags, close to starvation. Many were homeless and sleeping in barracks or next to their machine on the factory floor, living briefly to be used up. This brutal class formation is falsely believed in the white mindset to have been modernized away, smoothed away by progress, but in reality has only been exported, spread and grown more entrenched.
The primitive sweatshops of the garment trade in London and New York never disappeared at all, but have only left the white metropolis and expanded a thousand-fold into Chinatown, El Paso, Haiti, Canton, Bangladesh, Morocco, and South Afrika. The concentrated industry that once made Manchester, England the first great industrial hell has now grown up and left its nuclear family home in the metropolis for Bombay, Korea, Jo'burg, Mexico City, and Brazil. And what were then small pockets of capitalist privilege, green and pleasant upper-class and middle-class neighborhoods in a London or a Boston, have grown to the size of parasitic countries and even semicontinents at the center of a patriarchal world empire of a new type. A center now in crisis.
Classes that once were white or european or male only are now world classes, multi-national and in a surface way multi-cultural. The very high German techno-fetishism of Mercedes-Benz masks the reality that the chromium metal in the alloys are produced by Afrikan workers, that the cars are assembled in part by Turkish emigrant workers, and that Kuwaiti capitalists own one-third of all Mercedes Benz stock.
Much has changed in a century and a half, of course. The cheapened mass production and distribution of commodities has created a dedicated capitalist world. Some sophisticated commodifies are universally available in a distorted way. Mexican women 'm the mass proletarian squatter colonia outside El Paso can have walkmans but not running water. In Brazil, 72% of all households have television sets, even though most cannot afford medical care or enough education to read a book and the right of all men to kill the women they own for any infractions is upheld by law.
To gain an overview of this global class structure, we can start with Egyptian economist Samir Amin's "Class Structure of the Contemporary Imperialist System." While Amin's table is a static view of classes in the euro-centric sense, a surface look, it shows how these classes exist in a world context of center and periphery, oppressor nations and oppressed nations:
While Samir Amin believed that capitalist economics could only be understood by seeing them as parts of one imperialist system uniting the periphery and the center/metropolis, he doesn't believe as we do that national economies and national class structures are being absorbed into one world class formation. Nevertheless, when we get to the bottom line of his work the neo-colonial world order comes into class focus on a larger-than-national basis.3
The central feature of imperialism during the colonial period was that it created entire parasitic societies by forcibly polarizing the world into oppress or and oppressed nations, and this continues to be true under neo-colonialism. Neo-colonialism is, incredibly enough, in some ways even more parasitic in its effects than colonialism was. This is driving world political contradictions to a new level.
In the neo-imperial metropolis, all classes of citizens receive a greater percentage of the world's income than their share in the population, as Samir Amin shows. An important exception we must note because Amin's table doesn't recognize it are those peoples in the metropolis that capitalism has marginalized and set aside from its economy to be exterminated. Capitalists and their upper middle class managers and technicians are only 8% of the world's population (capitalists alone are under 1%), but take 45% of all world income.
This explains why there's an emerging pattern of global yuppie culture: of privileged people who speak the same computer languages, own similar property, have identical financial skills, who wear the same Armani or Perry Ellis clothes to work for the same multinational corporations in different continents, and whose children may well intermarry across old racial, national, and gender lines. "Class is everything."
And, on the other hand, why there's an opposite class pattern emerging of homeless Afrikan street children being targets of violent elimination not only in the slums of Brazil, but around the globe in Panama City, Nairobi, Kenya, in islamic Sudan, and in Brooklyn, too. This civilization that has space walks above the earth and genetically altered cells reinjected to fight tumors, is with equal sophistication setting it up for surplus Afrikan children to be hunted like game animals. Or do you still think it's all coincidences?
When we said earlier that the commodity life of the capitalist system is nothing like we think it is, that's equivalent to saying that the class structure is nothing like we think it is, also. To a remarkable extent, the class analysis of 19th century industrial euro-capitalism done by Karl Marx is still true today , although this can only be grasped by overturning eurocentrism (which in this instance can be discovered as being co-terminus with patriarchy) and seeing, with fresh eyes, the world as a whole.
As useful as the broad statistical foundation given us by Amin is, suggesting many things, its limitations become evident once we confront Black Genocide or the oppression of women as property. The question is not a mere inequality between occupational groupings, some richer, some poorer, as reformers like to believe. The imperialist class structure is actually a living machinery, of clashing relationships to production, whose essential fuel is capital extracted by genocide, by slavery and dispossession and looting on a mass scale. Not as dead history, but right now.
We have to bring up into full view the hidden center of the capitalist machinery the processes that Marx first scientifically identified as primitive accumulation and the link between semi-slavery and "slavery pure and simple."
Our primary question is, who is the modern proletariat and what role does it play as a class? The answer is simple: it is primarily women, children, and alien labor. Those who are colonized. The modem proletariat or industrial working class, which is both among the most oppressed and the most productive class that supports the structure of capitalist society by its labor, is not and has never been gender-neutral or nationally self-contained. No matter how indignantly some men may scream at these words, this is a matter of historical record, of fact.
In its infancy, the first English factory system of the 18th century was like a chain of prison workhouses, whose semi-slave laborers were primarily women and enslaved children. English men, no matter how poor, resisted giving up what independence they had to become "like women." A class attitude using gender, race and nation in a way that the dominant values of the British ruling class encouraged. British historian Christopher Hill reminds his reader that being a factory worker was so disrespectable a position back then that it virtually placed her outside society, as an alien, a non-citizen (the word "worker" today is supposed to make us think "him", the blue-collar unionized man in heavy industry, so we misunderstand economics and class). Hill wrote:
"We look back with twentieth-century preconceptions. After two hundred years of trade union struggle, wage labour has won a respected and self-respecting position in the community. But if we approach wage-labour from the seventeenth century, as men in fact did, we recall that the Levellers thought wage-labourers had forfeited their birthright as freeborn Englishmen, and should not be allowed to vote; that Winstanley thought wage-labourers had no share in their own country, and that wage labour should be abolished. This traditional attitude, together with the fact that many factories looked like workhouses, and were often consciously modelled on them (paupers too had been thought unworthy of the franchise by the Levellers) may help us to understand why independent craftsmen clung so hard to economically untenable positions; why the early Lancashire spinning factories were staffed so largely by women and pauper children, the latter of whom had no choice in the matter, and by Welsh and Irish laborers (Highlanders in Scotland), who lacked the English craftsman's tradition of self-help and self-respect...."
Isn't it typical that Hill, a "Marxist" historian, says that Welsh and Irish and Scotch men worked as women did in the early factories when English men still didn't have to because they supposedly "lacked the English craftsman's tradition of self-help and self-respect" but fails to mention that those non-English men were colonial subjects of England, then. In its very origins, the industrial proletariat was a colonized class, in which alien men without rights were equal to women and children without rights.
That Oxford professor "just doesn't get it", as the saying goes. On the very next paragraph of his book, after admitting that early English factory workers were primarily women and children, Hill reverts to discussing working people as "he", "his", "men", and "workingmen."
While professor Hill doesn't admit the importance of children's labor to capitalism, he does briefly tell of their exploitation in the early factory:
"Pauper children shipped north from London workhouses in order to save ratepayers the cost of their maintenance were particularly unprotected. From the age of seven children in factories had to work twelve to fifteen hours a day (or night), six days a week, 'at best in monotonous jail, at wors tin a hell of human cruelty'. 'The tale never ended of fingers cut off and limbs crushed in the wheels.' Foremen's wages depended on the work they could get out of their charges' The story of these children is, as Professor Ashton mildly remarks, 'a depressing one'."
This historic development of the modern capitalist proletariat, a class that is predominantly women and children, took place in Europe within the furnaces of what Karl Marx termed primitive accumulation. That is, the first accumulation of capital that allows the capitalist class to make investments, to first become itself. Their own mythology that capitalism derived its first stake through the would-be capitalist's prudent savings and self-denial is, of course, about as real as Santa Claus. Marx, in his investigation of the inner workings of the capitalist system, identified primitive accumulation as "the expropriation of the immediate producers, i.e., the dissolution of private property based on the labor of its owner." By which he meant the "free" looting and Violent seizure of lands and slaves by capitalism that took place first inside Europe, and then outward in ever-widening circles of colonialism, in particular Indian and Afrikan slavery.
We know, of course, what Marx did not. That the process of primitive accumulation in Europe began with the "inner colony," the enslavement of women and children as human property. In the long Witchhunts from the 13th through the 18th centuries, in which millions of european women were terrorized and killed, the emerging capitalist nation-states established their ownership of women as men's property. To do unwaged labor and to have their bodies used to reproduce still greater surpluses of cheap labor-power as the State willed it.
How natural, then, for women and children, who were not "real" human beings (just as those disposable replicants in Blade Runner), to be the primary labor force to be used up. And as industry began, a generalized violent primitive accumulation took hold in England, in which euro-capitalism dispossessed millions of peasants from their traditional farmlands (just as it did in Northern Mexico aka California, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Colorado in the 1830s-1870s, in South Afrika and Zimbabwe in the early 1900s, and Chile in the 1970s) to create both large commercial agricultural estates and masses of desperate, homeless wage-1aborers to be hired cheaply. Historian Christopher Hill reminds his reader that the coming of industry has always been accompanied by a lowering of living standards for the oppressed classes, while the middle and upper classes benefited:
"In England the general price level rose five times between 1530 and 1640, wheat prices six times. This had a dual effect. First, since English prices lagged behind those of the continent, there was a great stimulus to cloth exports in the years 1530 to 1 550; and though the boom broke in the latter year, a considerable degree of prosperity continued.
"Second, there was a savage depression of the living standards of the lows; half of the population, since food and fuel prices rose more sharply than those of other commodities. In the building industry real wages in the later sixteenth century were less than two-thirds of what they had been in 1510, and in the fifty years before the civil war they were less than half. The mass of the population was forced down to a diet of black bread. For those who possessed no land this was a catastrophe. For those with land but who produced little or nothing for the market, it meant that wives and children were forced to by-earning in the clothing industry. Some time between 1580 and 1617 the word 'spinster' acquired its modern sense of unmarried woman: for of course such a woman would have to spin. Competition was so great that female wages rose even less than male in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.
"...In the last two decades of the sixteenth century, and again in the depressed sixteen-twenties, preachers and pamphleteers talk of men, women and children dying of starvation in the streets of London.
"The conception of rising population, monetary inflation and declining real wages may be difficult for those to grasp who think in terms of modern economic models. But in this pre-industrial society much of the labor force was employed only part-time, much labour was semi-forced."
Hill, writing from the vantage point of Oxford and the metropolis, has the euro-centric view that this extreme exploitation was only what early capitalism had to do to get rolling. His words seem like irony to us today, since "men, women and children dying of starvation in the streets" is a very up-to-date and worldwide phenomenon. It has only been exported to the oppressed world. And those who have lived under Reagan and Thatcher have no trouble understanding "the conception of rising population, monetary inflation and declining real wages..."
"Semi-forced" labor and slavery is also a major phenomenon still on a world scale. Just ask the many thousands of Afrikan women slaves who are regularly bought and sold today, both for sex and unwaged labor, by their captors in the islamic Sudan (whose slavemaster government is the leading Afrikan ally of islamic Iran). Or the thousands of Thai women slaves in the Bangkok brothels for the Western-Japanese tourist industry.
The point here is that primitive accumulation has never stopped, was not just a beginning, and that it has a specific gender and national character. Today we use the phrase "wage slave" as self-deprecating humor, but in its origins it was meant literally: someone who was hired for a wage but was really a semi-slave. Marx described how the gender character of capitalist industry was intrinsic to its nature, moving from there to the hidden dependence of "veiled slavery" of the industrial proletariat on the naked slavery of the Afrikan slave trade:
"In England women are still occasionally used instead of horses for hauling canal boats, because the labour required to produce horses and machines is an accurately known quantity, while that required to maintain the women of the surplus-population is below all calculation. Hence nowhere do we find a more shameful squandering of human labour-power for the most despicable purposes than in England, the land of machinery....
"In so far as machinery dispenses with muscular power, it becomes a means of employing laborers of slight muscular strength, and those whose bodily development is incomplete, but whose limbs are all the more supple. The labour of women and children was, therefore, the first thing sought for by capitalists who used machinery. That mighty substitute for labor and laborers was forthwith changed into a means for increasing the number of wage-labourers by enrolling, under the direct sway of capital, every member of the workman's family, without distinction of age or sex.
"Machinery also revolutionises out and out the contract between the laborer and the capitalist, which formally fixes their mutual relations. Taking the exchange of commodities as our basis, our first assumption was that capitalist and laborer met as free persons, as independent owners of commodities; the one possessing money and means of production, the other labour-power. But now the capitalist buys children and young persons under age. Previously, the workman sold his own labour-power, which he disposed nominally as a free agent. Now he sells wife and child. He has become a slave-dealer.
"The demand for children's labour often resembles in form the inquiries for negro slaves, such as were formerly to be read among the advertisements in American journals. 'My attention,' says an English factory inspector, 'was drawn to an advertisement in the local paper of one of the most important manufacturing towns of my district, of which the following is a copy: Wanted, 12 to 20 young persons, not younger than what can pass for 13 years. Wages, 4 shillings a week. Apply & c.' The phrase 'what can pass for 13 years,' has reference to the fact, that by the Factory Act, children under 13 years may work only 6 hours. A surgeon officially appointed must certify their age. The manufacturer, therefore, asks for children who look as if they were already 13 years old. The decrease, often by leaps and bounds in the number of children under 13 years employed in factories, a decrease that is shown in an astonishing manner by the English statistics of the last-20 years, was for the most part, according to the evidence of the factory inspector themselves, the work of the certifying surgeons, who overstated the age of the children, agreeably to the capitalist's greed for exploitation, and the sordid trafficking needs of the parents. In the notorious district of Bethnal Green, a public market is held every Monday and Tuesday morning, where children of both sexes from 9 years of age upwards, hire themselves out to the silk manufacturers.
"With the development of capitalist production during the manufacturing period, the public opinion of Europe had lost the last remnant of shame and conscience. The nations bragged cynically of every infamy that served them as a means to capitalistic accumulation. Read, eg., the naive Annals of Commerce of the worthy A. Anderson. Here it is trumpeted forth as a triumph of English statecraft that at the Peace of Utrecht, England extorted from the Spaniards by the Asiento Treaty the privilege of being allowed to ply the negro-trade, until then only carried on between Africa and the English West Indies, between Africa and Spanish America as well. England thereby acquired the right of supplying Spanish America until 1743 with 4,800 negroes yearly. This threw, at the same time, an official cloak over British smuggling. Liverpool waxed fat on the slave trade.
"This was its method of primitive accumulation. And, even to the present day, Liverpool 'respectability' is the Pindar of the slave trade which compare the work of Aikin  already quoted 'has coincided with the spirit of bold adventure which has characterized the trade of Liverpool and rapidly carried it to its present state of prosperity; has occasioned vast employment for shipping and sailors, and greatly augmented the demand for the manufactures of the country' (p. 339). Liverpool employed in the slave-trade, in 1730, 15 ships; in 1751, 53; in 1760, 74; in 1770 96; and in 1792, 132.
"Whilst the cotton industry introduced child slavery in England, it gave in the United States a stimulus to the transformation of the earlier, more or less patriarchal slavery, into a system of commercial exploitation. In fact, the veiled slavery of the wage-workers in Europe needed, for its pedestal, slavery pure and simple in the new world....
"...If money, according to Augier, 'comes into the world with a congenital blood-stain on one cheek,' capital comes dripping from head to foot , from every pore, with blood and dirt."
We can have a deeper take on Marx's observations than Marx himself had, because of the added vantage points of the anti-colonial revolutions and the rise of women's liberation. Early in the 20th century Rosa Luxemburg, a Polish-Jewish revolutionary who was considered among the most brilliant socialist theoreticians in Europe, was trying to understand why euro-capitalism had never collapsed economically as Marx had predicted. Her insight was that the great flow of "free" capital from primitive accumulation had, in fact, never stopped enriching the system.
In her 1912 book, Accumulation of Capital, Rosa Luxemburg argued that euro-capitalism had remained vigorous only through the constant conquest and looting of colonial and semi-colonial peoples, whether inside Europe or "the wretched Indian victims in Putamayo, the Negroes in Africa..." Due to Luxemburg's heresy, both in being a strong-minded woman and her moving the theoretical focus of anti-capitalist economics outside Europe to the Third World, her knights were ignored among white people for half a centuryuntil European radical feminists recovered her thought. '
6. Primitive Accumulation Marked as "Charity"
The neo-colonial class structure is to a large degree unseen, of-screen, hidden not only by global distance but by willful social camouflage. Southern Afrika is an example. Most white people really believe that Afrika is just a vast charity case, of backward peoples who can't even feed themselves. Now, euro-charities are reporting "burnout," that even with those glitzy "We Are The World" concerts and videos, white middle-class consumers are tired of giving spare change endlessly to feed Afrikans. Isn't that true?
Oddly enough, before euro-capitalism came to "aid" Southern Afrika the living standard there was one of basic abundance. Most Afrikans lived better in 1600 than they do now in 1992. Hunger and certainly famine were not common. When the first white explorers and settlers came to Zimbabwe in the 1890s they were shocked — the Afrikans were living better than most people did back in Europe. You can see what an emergency that was, and how capitalism had to send in troops to stop that. Historian T. O. Ranger, writing about the Shona peoples (the broad linguistic-cultural group that is the majority population in Zimbabwe and part of Mozambique), tells us:
"That Shona were everywhere cultivators rather than pastoralists. And their agriculture was a rich one. Over the centuries the Zambezi valley had received crops from outside Africa and diffused them to other areas. By the nineteenth century the Shona could make use of wide variety of crop types. Thus the first white settlers in Melsetter in 1893 listed 'mealies, poko com, kafir corn, millet, ground-nuts, beans (five sorts), egg fruit, cabbages, tomatoes, peas, pumpkins of sorts, watermelons, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, chillies, tobacco, bananas and lemons, and all these grown to perfection'. At the same time an early settler in western Mashonaland was describing the successful and varied agriculture of chief Mashiangombi's people. 'The path wound through fields of mealies, kafir corn, rukwasza, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, peanuts and them across rice-beds in the marshes'; cattle and goats were herded; and game abounded to provide further fresh meat. All Shona were involved in this cultivation except specialists in the arts of government and religion. Then men cleared the ground and together with the women planted, weeded and harvested. The young men also hunted, usually in communal groups. This Shona agriculture proved readily capable of expanding to meet the demands of the new white population after 1890 and for the first ten years at least the whites depended upon it for the greater part of their food supply. "A number of crafts flourished among the Shona — white observers claimed in the 18803 that Shona technical skills were 'really astonishing' and that the Shona stood first 'in the industrial arts of a rudimentary civilization' of all the tribes south of the Zambezi. Cloth was woven from Wild cotton or bark fibre; elaborate and highly ornamented pottery was made; at court centres like Zimbabwe and Khami there developed carving in ivory and soapstone and a skillful use of gold for decorative purposes — gold beads, gold wire, paper-thin gold plates to cover models of animals. The Shona were skilled iron workers and produced hoes, hatchets, spears, arrows, and so on.
"Internal trade was well developed. Shona groups specially skillful in iron working or close to rich deposits of ore would barter iron goods for cloth or tobacco with other Shona peoples...."
Now, one hundred years after capitalism arrived in Southem Afrika, hunger and starvation are very real problems. Far from having "developed", Afrika has in relative world terms slid backwards. The whole of Black Afrika, with its population of over 500 million, has an annual gross national product or GNP less than that of New York City alone. There is a dis-accumulation of capital going on. The reason has to do with raging primitive accumulation in modern form.
We are deeply, intimately involved in Afrika. Much more than we let ourselves know. Because of one of the world's biggest charities. That is the charity ball where each year Afrikans have to give billions of dollars worth of goods as gifts to amerikkka. Imperialism runs this charity drive, only it's Afrikans who are the real givers and most "Americans" who are the real recipients. That is why the u.s. government wants Stepin' Fetchit singing "We are the World," why they need all those do-gooding white relief agencies talking that talk about feeding Afrika. To keep hidden the fact that it is amerikkka that feeds on Afrika.
Take South Afrika. Which is easy to read, if you really want to. For isn't the amerikkkan dream intravenously connected to South Afiika? What is nuclear love without a diamond engagement ring? Millions and millions of bondage insignia with DeBeers diamonds from South Afrika. Isn't that fitting? The u.s. mint has been selling investment-grade gold coins, the "u.s. eagle." 80% of the gold in the "eagle" is purchased from the Anglo-American corporation, South Afrika's largest gold and minerals producer. Uncle Sam, the pimp, wants to help us personally invest in South Afrikan exploitation. Oh, and those exotic flowers at the wedding might have come from South Afrika, too. Cleverly repackaged and transhipped, of course, in Holland and Israel. Even the u.n. in New York, it turns out, has been buying South Afrikan flowers for its lobby.
When you cruise down the expressway in your Japanese car, your Toyota or Nissan or whatever, it doesn't matter to you that its steel was made from South Afrikan iron ore. It doesn't matter when you pull up for gasoline at the nearest Shell or Exxon station, that South Afrikan platinum was used in the refining process as a catalyst. Or that the same South Afrikan platinum was needed for your long distance telephone call (to make the fiber optic telephone lines). Or that South Afrikan chromium and vanadium was necessary for the "super-alloy" jet engines that propel your United airliner across the continent at 30,000 feet. Or that the wheat cracker you snack on during the flight was grown with chemical fertilizers that require South Afrikan rare metals as catalysts during production, and harvested with a John Deere combine whose steel body and engine required South Afrikan manganese and chromium.
No, it doesn't matter to us at all that this way of life has an addiction to Soweto.
According to a u.s. commerce department study, South Afrika supplies 50% of all the platinum used in the u.s., 39% of the manganese, 44% of the vanadium, and 55% of the chromium. Reporting on their industrial dependence on African minerals, the N.Y. Times wrote:
"A total lack of these metals would shut down or throttle the steel, automotive, chemical, plastics and petroleum industries. It would halt the production of optical fiber for the communications industry. It would severely hobble the production of food, computer components and weapons.
"The effects on an industrialized nation of a loss of chromium were indicated in a 1978 West German study, which concluded that a shortfall of only 30 percent of the metal for one year would result in a one-quarter reduction of West Germany's total goods and services."
In practical terms, the middle-class way of life, perhaps even the overall living standard, would undergo an instant de-compression if deprived of the products of Afrika's land and labor. Or if they had to pay for them. For capitalism's secret is that they get it for free. With one exception.
There is no trade here, not even "unequal trade", for the transaction is all one way. That's why the labor is slave and semi-slave. In the life of the average South Afrikan worker there is absolutely nothing from far-off amerikkka, with one exception. She raises her children (the next generation's factory workers, miners and domestics) on the dusty, marginal lands that the white farmers didn't want, doing a meager subsistence farming. Or else she is a factory worker, or a domestic servant for the settler women, living alone in a tiny shack behind their u.s. style house. Or he is a miner living for a lifetime in a crowded barracks, sleeping on a bare concrete shelf, stacked three high. Their diet is largely grain meal porridge, unleavened baked meal cakes, and some vegetables. Part of the men's cash is spent on alcohol and tobacco. Real things from amerikkka — fancy consumer products and medical technology and cars — are completely beyond their means.
What u.s. society gives them in return for the strategic metals, the gold and diamonds, the outpouring that sustains the neo-imperial way of life is white people's old, used, cast-off clothing. That is the only amerikkkan commodity they get. A report on the recent business pages noted:
"'A guy makes $200 a year, so how can he afford new clothes?' said Edward Stubin, a used clothing exporter from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, smiling contentedly. By some estimates one-third of the 470 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are walking around in cast-off European and American clothing."
Discarded clothing is sold by the pound, ten cents or twenty cents a pound, by the Salvation Army, Goodwill and other businesses that collect them. The exporters then disinfect it, plastic wrap it in 100 pound bales, and ship it all over the Third World to be resold to local merchants and peddlers. This is one of amerikkka's main exports to the Third World. Across Black Afrika you can see people wearing white peoples' discarded T-shirts, dresses, jeans, coats, blouses, and pants.
The article mentions that: "Mr Stubin, president of Trans-Americas FSG Inc, ships about 10 million pounds of used clothing a year from New York, mainly to Africa. Even with so big a volume, he considers himself only 'one of the top 10' American exporters to Africa."
They say that Afrika's strategic metals are "irreplaceable." It is more truthful to say that the price is right.
Experimental automobile engines made of ceramic instead of high-strength steel work fine, for example, but cost $10,000 a piece. Which is why no one is rushing to buy them yet. Manganese can be mined by dredging up ore nodules from the ocean floor. At great expense, as we can tell from the fact that the French are investing $770 million in just one pilot project to get manganese from the Mediterranean bottom. As for chromium, they can always get all the chromium they need from low-grade ore on the Indian Nations in Montana. At about five to ten times the current cost. As the N.Y. Times pointed out, "One smelter would consume about a million watts of electricity an hour, a staggering expense for the manufacturer or the government."
But in South Afrika, these precious commodities are given to imperialism for free. While the u.s. has to pay something for South Afrikan commodities, this has only represented the costs of maintaining the white settler population and their police state, so that capitalism's reverse charity goes on. In other "independent" Afrikan states, that same cost represents kickbacks to the local Black elite and their police state, so that the charity goes on and on.
There is a simple equation that sums up your intimate relationship with South Afrika. That untangles all the export-import-capital-investment-blah-blah algebra. They, Afrikan workers, give amerikkka their great natural resources and lifetimes of hard labor to make your consuming society work, free of charge, an involuntary gift. We, on our part, to make the equation balance, give them death and misery. Your way of life only grows like an exotic hothouse vine from their deaths, which is something more intimate than any romance.
When we follow the intravenous connection full of blood between amerikkkan dreams and the dusty streets of Soweto, we descend into an underworld. There, in the lower depths beneath our skyscraper society, we can at last see the vast machinery that burns day and night to support your way of life. The machinery is named genocide. Which is why the real class structure of the world must remain hidden, unseen.
7. The Industrial Proletariat: Gender & Race, Slave & Semi-Slave
That the postmodern capitalist proletariat is predominantly oppressed women and children is, of course, a heretical thought, literally unthinkable in the neo-colonized view of the world. To socially camouflage this class formation it has not only been placed over the horizon from White society, but an artificial ideology of work has been implanted in our consciousness. It goes like this: The labor that men do — particularly euro-men — is the important macho work, whether it's building jet airplanes or designing shopping malls. The labor that women do reproducing the human race, feeding it and clothing it ("light industry"), is feminine and less important, economically very secondary. The labor that children do in this false consciousness is invisible and trivial, so insignificant it can be completely brushed aside and need not even be considered as part of the world economy. Forgotten completely. For children, after all, are even less "real" humans than women are.
When we said that the class structure of the neo-colonial world is like the 19th century industrial euro-capitalism as Marx analyzed it, only expanded a thousand times to a world scale, We weren't just speaking metaphorically. Marx, for example, spent many pages in his major work, Capital, describing the importance of children's labor to industrial capitalism. Children who were, he makes clear, really slaves sold into bondage by their families or "guardians." He was particularly indignant that these children, the least powerful persons in society, were knowingly forced into dangerous and toxic industries as cheap and disposable slave labor:
"The manufacture of lucifer matches dates from 1833, from the discovery of the method of applying phosphorus to the match itself. Since 1845 this manufacture has rapidly developed in England, and has extended especially amongst the thickly populated parts of London as well as in Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol, Norwich, Newcastle and Glasgow. With it has spread the form of lockjaw, which a Vienna physician in 1845 discovered to be a disease peculiar to lucifer-matchmakers. Half the workers are children under thirteen, and young persons under eighteen. The manufacture is on account of its unhealthiness and unpleasantness in such bad odor that only the most miserable part of the labouring class, half-starved widows and so forth, deliver up their children to it, 'the ragged, half-starved, untaught children.'
"Of the witnesses that Commissioner White examined (1863), 270 were under 18, 50 under 10, 10 only 8, and 5 only 6 years old. A range of the working-day from 12 to 14 or 15 hours, night-labour, irregular meal times, meals for the most part taken in the very workrooms that are pestilent with phosphorus. Dante would have found the worst horrors of his Inferno surpassed in this manufacture."
Isn't it good that capitalist civilization has moved beyond these criminal relations of production, and that matchstick production is now done in safely automated factories? That is everyone's metropolitan assumption, although no one you ask will actually know how matches are made. From a news dispatch out of New Delhi, India — not in 1889 but 1989:
"These are the dark ages for millions of children in Southeast Asia who eat slop, sleep in hovels, and work in dim, airless factories. They are slaves — illiterate, intimidated, ruthlessly exploited.
"Eleven year-old Chinta, from India's Tamil Nadu state, rides a company bus to a matchstick factory before dawn and makes 40 cents for a ten-hour shift.
"'Some of the children have the breathing sickness and eye disease because of the chemicals,' she said.
"Uma Shankun, 12, weaves exquisite Persian carpets in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh for Western buyers. His mother and two sisters [also] work in the factory to help pay off the family's $30 loan, taken after his father died.
"Uma said they tried to escape once, but were beaten.
"More than 20 million children in Southeastern Asia are in 'chains of servitude' and millions more are working in conditions similar to slavery, a conference on child servitude concluded this month.
"Most of them are outcasts or untouchables, tribal or religious minorities.
"They are 'non-beings, exiles of civilization, living a life worse than that of animals,' P.N. Bhagwati, India's former chief justice, told the conference.
"The cheap labor that developing countries tout to lure foreign investment is often a child's, human rights campaigner Krishnaiyer told the conference."
These 20 million child slaves in Southeast Asia are not merely exploited, they are involuntary laborers, physically held in bondage by some capitalist they have been sold to or are in perpetual debt to. The word "slave" is used literally and exactly here.
At Macy's department store in Manhattan, investigators found five square yard Moroccan carpets bearing the proud label "Made in Morocco exclusively for R. H. Macy's." But who actually made this carpet? It turns out that her name is Hayat and she is 11 years old.
"Rabat—Perched on a low wooden bench in front of a loom, cutting knife at her side, Hiyat is an automaton with whirring hands.
"At the age of 11, Hiyat knots rugs six days a week in a concrete box where 200 weavers hunch elbow to elbow at hand looms. Forty years ago carpetweaving was a handicraft that little Moroccan girls learned at home from their mothers. Now it is big business and little girls as young as 4 work in factories.
"Loop, wrap, pull, slice. Loop, wrap, pull, slice. Hiyat would have to tie one strand of woolen pile onto the loom every 2.43 seconds to keep up with what her supervisor says is the factory's pace of knotting. The monotony tears on her. 'I wanted to stay in school,' she said, 'not work here.'
"The factory that hired here, Mocary SA, is part of a global shame. Tens of thousands of well-to-do employers throughout the Third World work children for pennies an hour in mind-blunting or dangerous jobs. Others make money by maneuvering children into criminal work, turning homeless boys into street thieves or 13 year-old girls into prostitutes.
"We prefer to get them when they are about seven,' said Nasser Yebbous, overseer of one plant in Marrakesh. Children's hands are nimbler, he said. 'And their eyes are better, too. They are faster when they are small.'
"Under piecework rates, Hiyat earns at most [if she keeps tieing and cutting a strand of wool every 2.43 seconds] 15 cents an hour in Morocco. Halfway around the world, Eliza Lualhati, 15, says she earns about 13 cents an hour for piecework at a high-speed sewing machine in a live-in factory in a suburb of Manila. Eliza doesn't complain about working 90 to 110 hours a week. But she said she wishes the boss wouldn't make her pay for the thread.
"Eliza's routine six days a week at the War Wm's Style shirt factory goes like this: wake up at 6 a.m. on a pile of cloth scraps beside her sewing machine. Make breakfast. Sweep the sewing room floor. Then:
"'We start sewing exactly at 7 am. We usually get a break around noon. It lasts maybe two hours, but only half an hour if we are on a rush. We start up again for the afternoon and work until about 7 pm. We stop for about half an hour for dinner.
"'Then we start sewing again. Usually until midnight. Sometimes it is until 3 am. In December, we go right on through, just taking a catnap.'"
"Then factory owner, Josie Cruz, sounded compassionate. 'Sometimes they get ill,' she said. 'Some of them have suffered anemia from lack of sleep.'
"But Cruz said that if she wants to succeed in the garment business, she has no choice... 'So whenever there is a rush order, they know they have to finish, even if they have to work 23 hours a day'
"Wages are even lower in Thailand, where thousands of young peasant girls work seven days a week inside hole-in-the-wall Bangkok factories called 'shophouses' for less than seven cents an hour... 'Sometimes I don't get a day off for weeks,' said Sarapa Nasap, who wraps toy uzi machine guns in a plastics factory in Bangkok.
"Sarapa, 15, said she is paid a monthly salary of $20, plus a bonus of 20 cents for each night she works later than 10 pm. Spread out over the 70 to 90 hours a week she says she works, her pay would average six cents an hour.
"Among nine Bangkok sweatshop children whom reporters succeeded in interviewing away from their bosses, the pay ranged from three to 16 cents an hour.
"The live-in factory system is such an accepted part of Thailand's labor patterns that it didn't embarrass one of Sarapa's bosses to talk about the arrangements.
"'If we give them meals, then we can control them very easily,' said Komol Trairattanapa, export manager of Siam Asian Enterprises, Ltd."
When euro-amerikans hear these facts, they oh and ah in pretended surprise and pity. And then forget about it that minute. "It's shocking," people say, or "It's a disgrace that these countries don't protect their children." But really, it's just your daily life, just the only way that your capitalism has ever done business from day one. It's no more unusual or shocking than the fact that for a white woman to go to medical school and become a doctor, several Afrikan women must die to pay for it.
We put it that way deliberately, to bring your mind up short. White women in particular assume that their careers are only a positive thing for the world. But since white culture doesn't support itself, doesn't produce its own daily necessities, every breath that white women take costs somebody else something. Revolutionary women have pointed out that the food white women eat was taken from a Third-World woman's mouth; the clothing their children wear was taken from a Third-World child's back. Since it costs over $200,000 a year above and beyond that to educate a u.s. medical student, many women in the Third-World must be robbed of necessities of life to pay the bill. White men don't pay it, that's for sure.
Then, too, white women join a euro-capitalist medical industry that has always fed off the suffering of Third-World women. The "great" pioneer of u.s. gynecology, Dr. James Marion Sims of Montgomery, Alabama, developed his operation curing vesico vaginal fistula (caused by torn tissue during childbirth) by experimenting on Afrikan slave women. By the time he succeeded in 1849, Dr. Sims had operated on one slave woman (whose owner had named her "Anarcha") some thirty times. Thirty times—can you picture what that was for her? In our lifetimes, "the pill" for birth control was first tested for dosages and side-effects on some 15,000 unknowing Puerto Rican women. Just as when French AIDS researchers, working with the u.s. National Institutes of Health, wanted to test a hoped-for AIDS vaccine for safety, they flew to Zaire and injected healthy Afrikan children with their concoction.
We must reject the ideology of euro-charities and social work bureaucracies that children are special, are somehow precious and must be protected. Whenever anyone says that, how this group or that group is special and needs protecting, that only means that they own you. That only means that you're property. When they're free, animals don't need the SPCA. Check it out.
In the capitalist world order every national government is supposed to protect its citizens, men are supposed to protect women, and adults are supposed to protect children. But nowhere in the world is this true. The supposed need to "protect" is really the ideological justification for keeping you powerless so you can be abused and exploited. Children aren't special, aren't precious, like patriarchal capitalism likes to pretend; they're just people.
Remember when vp Dan Quail attacked the tv character Murphy Brown for being an unwed mother. The next day his staff flew him to California, so he could hold a press conference in a captive barrio junior high school to talk his "family values" lies. Afterwards, one Chicana student in that classroom told the media:
"I don't want to bag the vice-president or anything, but he has a mentality just like mine only I'm 14 years old. Which would you rather have, a single mother or a father who gets drunk and beats your mother?"
Millions could see that this 14 year old Chicana was infinitely more qualified to lead society than the u.s. vice-president. She doesn't need the Dan Quails (or their women) to "protect" her. She and others simply need power over their own lives.
World capitalism maintains thousands of organizations and institutions to regulate and repress its human property, ranging from the so-called Right to Life movement to the departments of children and family services, all the way up to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the u.n. agency supposedly "protecting" the world's children.
UNICEF's real mission is to promote favorable conditions for child slave and semi-slave labor for capitalism in the Third World. Which is why it was no surprise that in 1987 the president of the UNICEF committee in Belgium was forced to resign after it was revealed that the men in his group, including the 63 year old director, Jos Verbeeck, were running an international Child pornography business in UNICEF's Brussel's headquarters. Children were used in sex, photographed and videoed, by what police described as "a major child sex ring" operating out of UNICEF.
That same year, 1987, by no coincidence, UNICEF published a glossy book detailing The State of the World's Children, 1987. There was not so much as one word on the millions of child slave and semi-slave laborers. Not one slave-owner was named, not one major u.s. corporation was exposed, not one slave-master nation was named. It was all whited-out.4
Instead, UNICEF emphasized its mass health projects, like vaccination campaigns and oral rehydration therapy for diarrhea. These inexpensive projects are saving the lives of millions of Third World children who might otherwise die too soon to swell capitalism's giant labor pool of surplus Third World children. This is why capitalism has UNICEF — not to "protect" children but as part of its world personnel department.
While the false ideology of work implanted in our consciousness keeps us thinking that child labor, like women's labor, is secondary and marginal, it is a basic necessity to capitalism as a system. Just as slavery is. Since 1950 the labor pool of child workers and potential workers has more than doubled, cresting over 1.1 billion between the ages of 5-14 years old in 1987. In 1986 the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated that there were 88 million children employed in the world labor force. In that figure the ILO did not include any children under age 11, children doing piecework at home, or those "informally" employed as farm workers, street peddlers, garbage scavengers, criminals, and prostitutes. If all those child workers were included, a UNICEF stag paper admitted, "the estimate would run into the hundreds of millions."
"Hundreds of millions." Capitalism's false ideology of work keeps telling us that adult male workers in major nations are what's really important, while child labor is an economically unimportant fringe activity. However, it turns out that a continental industrial power like the u.s.a. has under 165,000 adult male steelworkers — while there are "hundreds of millions" of child laborers in the Third World.
We can see why this world class structure is so hidden.
Let's go back to the scene of the crime, to Macy's — and Hiyat. For weaving that five square yard mg for Macy's, 11 year-old Hiyat received about $19.34 from her adult bosses at Mocary SA. That represents almost three weeks of labor for her. They in turn sold the rug to Macy's in Manhattan for $166.40, keeping, quite obviously, a healthy little profit for themselves. Macy's then paid shipping companies, insurance companies, and u.s. customs duties for that rug of $50.84, for a total cost to them of $217.24. Macy's then added their own markup of well over 100% to get a final retail "sale" price of $499.
What must be kept off-screen is this entire class structure in which the Hiyats and the Afrikan workers in Soweto, the Caribbean women making N.B.A. basketballs, blouses and a myriad of other u.s. products, the homeless agricultural laborers in Chile stocking u.s. supermarkets, are the source of the great wealth of the metropolis. It is their unseen lives that are stolen to sustain the neo-imperial civilization. Just as the often told glories of Imperial Rome were but a shell, an artifice of parasitism over the life labors of uncounted millions of their slave laborers.
As we bring into light this class structure, the category of Hiyat's child labor merges into that of women's labor. In the same way, the "veiled slavery" of semi-slave wage labor clearly is close to "slavery pure and simple," is really part of the same process. And what we think of as the crisis of oppressed Third World nations rises up most sharply as the crisis of an oppressed gender. Because all these separate categories are but sides of the hidden life of one class, the postmodern industrial proletariat. Which is today emerging as the most important class in the world.
To triangulate the path of the shockwave that is reorganizing everything around us, we need to go back to the periphery, to the oppressed world and the class changes taking place there.
Capitalism's need to proletarianize women and children on a world scale is by its very nature a vast human enterprise. Once, after all, to exploit North Amerika, to conquer the Indian Nations and stand guard over millions of Afrikan slave laborers, required a counterweight of millions and then tens of millions of people loyal to euro-capitalism. This class counterweight took the form of an artificial white race and a white settler nation. To exploit and hold down hundreds of millions of women and children workers spread over a hundred and fifty countries, transnational capitalism requires an even larger counterweight. And now, what is class is cast in the form of gender and disguised as "natural." The counterweight is male society.
8. Macho Nationalism & Finance Capital
The blindspot in middle-class white feminism is that it always breaks short of bringing the feminist spotlight of theoretical analysis home, of completing it. Undercovering the secret relationship between the transformation in Third World women's condition and the transformation in their own. With that gap, the misimpression is left that white women in amerikkka have the same gender relationship to capitalism that Third World women do, supposedly differing only in degree by being a bit less oppressed.
In this relationship, finance capital is the chain — not merely between nations or between rich vs. poor — between women of the periphery and women of the metropolis. Finance capital has a lot to do, it turns out, with transformation of gender today.
What may be hard to see at home, close up, jumps into our eyes when we stand back and view the entire neo-colonial empire. Brazil is an example of the new industrialization of the Third World (we could have chosen South Afrika or China or the Persian Gulf, as well). What is so striking compared to the colonial past is the development of macho industries once monopolized by the metropolis.
Armored cars, armored personnel carriers and tanks for capitalist armies used to be exports from FMC or Cadillac-Gage in the u.s. or Vickers in England. Today, the Englesa company in Brazil is the largest exporter in the West of such military vehicles. It's export sales in 1985 were $600 million. Over 5,000 Brazilian Englesa armored cars and troop carriers are in use by the armies of Chile, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Iraq, the Peoples Republic of China, and other nations. "We now produce 50 percent of all wheeled military vehicles made in the Free World today," Jose Luiz Whitaker Ribeiro, the owner of Engelsa, has boasted.
Brazil is the fifth largest arms exporter (and has the eight-largest industrial economy) in the world. Its inexpensive Tauras handguns, from pocket deuce-deuces to copies of the 9mm beretta, sell well in white gunshops, while Britain's Royal Air Force purchased 130 Brazilian Tucano jet trainers. The Brazilian arms industry at its peak in the 19805 employed over 100,000 workers, producing simple, less expensive military hardware for mostly Third World armies.
Obviously, a nation that can design and manufacture its own missiles, machineguns, tanks and jets is no longer underdeveloped in the old colonial sense. Yet, transnational capitalism and the u.s. remain serenely unworried about this emerging industrial "competition." The u.s. government has even encouraged and aided Brazil's arms industry — and Brazilian export sales in general. Over protests from us. suppliers and rivals, Washington approved the sales to u.s. commuter airlines of the Brazilian Bandeirante turboprop passenger plane, as well as the regular flow of Brazilian oranges for Minutemaid and other u.s. frozen juice corporations. Appeals from Kansas aircraft manufacturers, Connecticut armsmakers, and Florida growers were ignored by Federal regulators and trade officials.
The simple reason is that these Brazilian corporations, while certainly enriching Brazil's small capitalist class, are even more profitable than u.s. corporations are for Western finance capital. The $1 billion a year that Brazil earned during the 1980s exporting arms only made a connecting flight to Brazil before homing to its true owners in New York and London, Zurich and Bonn. Brazil, which was indebted to the Western banks to the tune of $104 billion at last count, during the 1980s was sending them 5% of its gross national product each year (equivalent to 23% of all its domestic savings) just to make the interest payments. The "debt crisis" was merely the breakdown of Brazil's economy and society under the intolerable burden.
In the colonial era, the white metropolis held a tight monopoly on industrialization and technology. Now, in the neo-colonial empire, finance capital encourages industry in the Third World up to and including nuclear technology, because the profits from this industrialization simply flow back to them as debt repayments. '
Under this reign of finance capital, the u.s. has become not only parasitic but a usurer society, caring mainly that the nations of the oppressed world remain its debt slaves, perpetually laboring without payment. Transnational capitalism cares about its exports of products to the Third World (now 35% of all u.s. exports and rising), but even more important is the export of capital.
While a popular racism is maintained that the oppressed world is the net receiver of billions and billions of dollars from the metropolis in the form of "aid" and easy credit, the stark truth is that they are net givers. Each year they are as a whole poorer, sending amerikkka more goods and dollars than they have received. The more a Brazil or Mexico industrializes, the poorer the majority of its people are. This is why these nations are debt slaves to the empire of a new type. A 1988 report on the "debt crisis" revealed:
"...Lending to Latin America has in fact been phenomenally profitable for most major banks and syndicators, yielding returns on equity of 50 percent or more per year. In fact, if we treat any interest above ordinary profit rates as a return on principal, our banks have already been more than fully paid back by the countries...
"In retrospect this has not been cheap. From 1983 to 1988, for example, Mexico forked over about $33 billion in interest to its foreign creditors, while receiving back only $13 billion in net new foreign loans... In Mexico itself, the distribution of this debt burden has been extremely inequitable. First, there are few productive assets to show for all the debts... Many Mexicans now actually have lower per capita incomes than in the early 1970s, before the borrowing spree began."
What finance capital does is really loan sharking. Oppressed nations find that they're paying the u.s. banks back two or three times what they've borrowed — and still owe the "principal" or original debt. Like the crack dealer who "loans" his addict customer $5 in dope but demands $10 repayment the next day. The dealer isn't doing anything that the big bankers aren't doing, only the later are sharking entire nations.
Brazil, the neo-colony of this new empire, is in crucial ways un-developing as a coherent society the more it becomes an industrial hell. In the poverty-stricken rural Northeast, 1987 saw the first outbreak of bubonic plague, the dreaded Black Death that claimed tens of millions of lives in Europe's Middle Ages. Another medieval disease, leprosy, has also grown to epidemic levels in Brazil, with more than 250,000 leprosy victims. "We are seeing a general deterioration," said Dr. Delosmar Mendonca, public health official in Joao Pessoa. Records kept at the University of Recife prove that because of "chronic malnutrition" children in the 1980s were being born with smaller heads and less development than before. "We are moving toward a generation of dwarfs," Dr. Mendonca said.
Neo-colonialism is not the end of colonialism, then, but its continuation on a higher level of world development; literally meaning a "new and different" colonialism. In the same way, the industrial proletariat whose core is women and children has from its origins centuries ago always been a colonized class, and this is even more true now that it has become a world class. A class that is colonized not by gender alone, but by the fusion of race and nation as well.
In her provocative book, Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics, Cynthia Enloe points out how the new wave of capitalist industrialization of the Third World takes the form of gender-specific industries which are only "traditional" to euro-capitalism. There is macho industry ("heavy industry"), such as aviation, steel, chemicals, shipbuilding, arms, as well as government civil service and the mercenary military, which employ men.
And then there is feminine industry ("light industry"), such as textiles, electronics, garments, shoemaking, agricultural harvesting, food processing, tourism, consumer goods, and data entry (u.s. banks and insurance companies have their data put on magnetic tape everywhere from Beijing to Ireland to the Dominican Republic), which employ mostly women and children.
Macho industry employs fewer workers and is often unprofitable — being capital intensive it requires those massive billions in Western bank loans — but is nevertheless said to be the most important for new patriarchal nations and pays the highest wages. Much of it, including the mercenary military and police, the State bureaucracy, and "prestige" industries like aviation and shipbuilding, are nonproductive in terms of the needs of society. The most important effect of macho industry, however, is to subsidize stratas and classes of men to be the owners of women.
Feminine industry employs most workers and is the main source of both profit and socially necessary goods, but pays far less, of course. By giving industry a gender — as they once gave slave agriculture a race — capitalism can throw a veil over the extreme exploitation and semi-slavery of its women and children workers. Cynthia Enloe comments:
"Organizing factory jobs, designing machinery and factory rules to keep women productive and feminine — these were crucial strategies in Europe's industrial growth. Industrialized textile production and garment-making were central to Britain's global power. Both industries feminized labor in order to make it profitable and internationally competitive. Other countries learned the British lesson in order to compete in the emerging global political economy and to stave off foreign control. The making of the 'mill girl' proved crucial. American textile investors travelled from Boston to England to learn the formula in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Japanese entrepreneurs, backed by their government's Meiji reforms to resist Western colonization, also chose young rural women as their first industrial workers. In industrializing Tsarist Russia, owners of new textile factories steadily increased the proportion of women workers, with government approval. In the pre-World War I period gendered formulas for factory-fueled capitalism seemed to be traded as energetically as railroad stocks. Neither war nor revolution has done much to transform the feminizing strategies used by both capitalist and socialist garment-factory managers."
To paraphrase Marx, the veiled slavery of women and children wage-workers in the new industrial zones requires as its pedestal the naked slavery of women as the social property of men. While Enloe's insights into de-valuing women's work can be misread as being about mere discrimination, the root of this devaluation is that no slave-owning society expects its slaves to have real income of their own.
The majority of the productive work done by the human race is, in fact, unwaged labor performed under duress by women and children. Not only raising crops and providing cooking, laundry, cleaning and sexual services to men, but in maintaining a community and reproducing physically and socially the next generation of workers, women's unwaged labor is such an absolute necessity to male society that it is considered part of Nature along with forests and oceans and rainfall. The rightful bounty of men to share or fight over. All waged labor rests upon the greater foundation of women's unwaged labor. This is why outlines of class structure based solely upon waged labor aren't accurate. No more than they would have been in the Old Slave South.
Cynthia Enloe points out:
"As South Korean government officials were bidding to have their country chosen as the site of the 1988 Olympics, some commentators were talking about the 'two Koreas'. They didn't mean North and South. They were referring to the South Korea of large, capitalized heavy industries and the South Korea of the back-alley garment workshop. In 1988 women made up an estimated two-thirds of workers in South Korea's world-famous export-oriented factories. They were working more hours per week than their male counterparts and being paid on average one third less, producing clothes, electronics, shoes and data services — industries that enabled South Korean businessmen to accumulate enough capital to launch their own companies. Those Korean women factory workers who went on strike in the 1980s to bring down the authoritarian military government were protesting against both the myth of the successful South Korea and the price that South Korean factory women were expected to pay to sustain that myth."
Keying back to "Blade Runner": one of the underlying truths in the movie's subtext is that capitalism does raise up whole new classes to meet its economic needs by making new races and genders. But also, when these classes become obsolete to its needs or too dangerous — threatening slave rebellions — capitalism is prepared not only to repress them, but to transform or even eliminate them in their millions. This is the battleground of our time and place.
1"Workers who must dip components in acids and rub them with solvents frequently experience serious burns, dizziness, nausea, sometimes even losing their fingers in accidents. It will be 10 to 15 years before the possible carcinogenic effects begin to show up in the women..."
3Amin's class breakdown is only approximate, of course, because he had to use capitalist census data. The breakdown into classes is simplified, to say the least. It is also two decades old in terms of data, and while it is still useful it doesn't reflect the massive population shift in the Imperialist Periphery from the peasant countryisde to the cities, and the growth of all urban classes. This population does not equal 100% because we omitted his category of official unemployed (4%), which is only misleading. Total world income percentages do not equal 100% because of rounding off.
4By 1991, UNICEF's annual State of the World's Children report finally spent a page admitting children were exploited as semi-slave labor, but said that they were "helpless" to do anything about it. Again, no corporations, religions, or governments were named.