[DEBATE] : A US Critique of the Bamako Appeal
p.waterman at inter.nl.net
Thu Oct 5 20:44:36 BST 2006
A Critique of the Bamako Appeal
San Francisco State University, U.S.A.
There are a number of ideas that are conspicuously absent from the Bamako Appeal, and it is that absence which effectively defines the politics of the appeal.
One can name the following issues for which at least a gesture of critique remains absent: the corporate structure and corporate personhood , the ethics of corporate profitability, representationism as a total corruption of representative democracy, white supremacy as the culture of colonialism and corporate economy, and the idea of sovereignty in the extended sense it has acquired recently beyond that of "national sovereignty."
These absences might seem somewhat obscure, but they are glaring in the Bamako Appeal because it presents itself as a call for a solidarist, anti-capitalist globally coordinated movement against neo-liberalism. And neo-liberalism is not only based upon rampant capitalist exploitation of the world and its people on a class basis; it is a form of rampant capitalist exploitation based on the corporate domination of all political structures, exclusive corporate citizenship in a global political structure, the predominance of the profitability of corporate property over all other forms, the prioritization of property rights over humans rights and the value of human beings, the use of the nation-state and representationism as a foil to prevent democracy, and the white supremacy implicit in western ( EuroAmerican) control of global finances and resources (even with respect to Japan , insofar as the US tends to look at Japanese investment and finance as a " problem"?).
In other words, if the Bamako statement wished to live up to its calling , it would have to address all these issues. To leave unaddressed the idea that corporations have been raised to the level of global citizenship, rendering human beings politically irrelevant, and to leave uncritiqued the structures of those corporations and the political means they wield for this purpose ( representationism and racialization ) is to leave the neo- liberalism structure ideologically unscathed while attempting to oppose it.
All this is, of course, beside the fact that on the more pragmatic level , the statement hardly mentions racism, (and it speaks of the rights of "minorities" without blushing, without the recognition that the concept of "minority" itself might be an extension of white supremacy ), nor does it contest the sanctity of property or property rights . It speaks of democracy in total abstraction, without even raising the question of proportional representation. And it mentions cooperative enterprises only in passing, in order to place them in competition with corporations.
The corporate structure is the original structure of capitalism. When capitalism arose in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, it did so through the conquest of agrarian cooperative societies and the conquest of the Americas . The necessary commercial and political conditions for promulgating and consolidating these events of conquest were that enterprises establish monopoly control of trade and the enslavement of labor for particular areas. Such conditions required a corporate structure for political licensing and sufficient economic size for the task of development. Conversely, because the corporate structure has the weight of the state behind it, the state itself developed through these extensions of itself to monopolized production and commerce, and slavery. Competition and wage labor were luxuries capitalism could only afford after it had reach a certain level of development .
The Bamako Appeal does not understand the corporate structure. It thinks that the purpose of democracy in an enterprise is to break the dictatorship of shareholders. Shareholder control of corporations is a myth . Shareholders are people with an interest, but they choose who will express that interest by buying and selling shares, not by exercising control. For the machinery of the corporation, shareholders are simply people who are as irrelevant and dispensible as any other individuals . The corporation needs people only to fill positions in its stratefied administrative structure -- to take orders from above; to give orders to those below; and to not care what happens to those below . Should a person cease to operate in any of these three capacities , s/he would be removed. What controls the corporation is a complex of interests defined by market share conquest, stock market value , debt, profit marginals, and flexibility of investment. Internally, people are reduced to status holders within that structure of interest (all the way to the top). Shareholders remain outside the stratified administrative structure, and thus have no status. Even the unions operate within it; through the labor contract, they are conscripted as a policing agency over the labor force, as that which will enforce the terms of the contract.
If the reduction of personhood to irrelevancy is the primary evil of the corporation (substituting itself for the citizenry in the nation-state ), its second evil is its abjuring of all social responsibility -- to the planet, to its society, and to the people who work within its structure. It is thus inimical to any democratic thinking . Yet, by its size and wealth, it controls all political structures that admit its existence. It is not really possible to oppose capitalism, or speak of democracy, without including a critique of the corporation as the major structure of injustice one is up against .
The Bamako Appeal not only does not critique the corporate structure , or oppose the existence of corporations, it doesn't even oppose the rights of property to profit. If it does this on the basis of advancing the possibility of a united front, in order to include certain capitalists, it has arrogated to itself the right to speak globally about something (united fronts) that can only be local affairs , in which people must make their own judgments as to who to ally with and who not to (regardless of whether they are right or wrong in this; it is they who have to live with the effects). To tailor one's analysis of capitalism to fit a global attitude toward united fronts is to already abrogate the autonomy and sovereignty of people that are the very foundation of a united front.
In not contesting the rights of property, the Bamako Appeal shows itself to be a liberal document.
Corporate personhood is the elevation of the corporate stucture to an onto-political level above that of the human. It allows corporations to function politically in ways that individuals cannot, while pretending to be only persons. They shove people aside by their size, and assume control of political process, especially in a representative democracy , rendering people irrelevant to the political process. But corporate personhood remains an absurdity because trumped at every turn by corporate abrogation of social responsibility.
To the extent that corporations take over as the constituency of a nation-state , reducing humans to subjugated irrelevance, they represent a new form of chauvinism. This chauvinism follows directly from the prioritization of property over people (the liberal ethos, as well as the slave system), and is homologous to white supremacy. That is, it dehumanizes humans in order to monopolize for itself the character of being human, just as white supremacy dehumanizes those it defines as non-white in order to monopolize the character of being human for whites . This is the chauvinism that essentially preserves the racialization of relations between EuroAmerican capitalism and the ( post)colonial world.
We see this in the operations of the IMF in imposing SAPs on third world countries, producing massive starvation by delivering those economies in thrall into the hands of corporations. We have been taught to blame the problems of the third world on sellout national leadership and the games if plays with capitalism, but not on the white supremacy of the corporations' relation to those economies, nor its conscientious destruction (in the name of modernism and development) of the cultural matrices that are essential to personal survival in those countries. By blaming corrupt or dictatorial third world national leadership, the corporations can continue to account for the people they kill as of no value . The ethics of profitability, the social operations of white supremacy , and the absence of social responsibility of corporations all come together in the murderousness of corporate control.
One cannot oppose neo-liberalism and leave all this out of account .
What characterizes representationism, as the true practice of " representative democracy," is that representatives cannot represent. They cannot represent in a system of single delegate districts, in which winner takes all. Each district is composed of contradictory class interests, cultural identities, community interests, ideological positions , etc. No one person can represent them all. The representative ends up representing none, leaving only the option to go to the highest bidder. It is for this reason that the system of " representative democracy" is ideal for corporate control of governance . While the inability to represent creates a chasm between government and people, the ascension of the corporations to the role of citizen renders the chasm unbridgeable. Legislatures and executives function in insular and hermetic conditions, horse-trading projects among themselves for the moneyed interests, and promoting minor local causes for the sake of reelection. To elect a representative into this hermetic political culture is to lose contact with the person elected.
This actuality of representative democracy is omitted from the Bamako Appeal; it speaks of democracy in the abstract, and thus does not look at the reality, nor at alternative possibilities like proportional representation in multi-delegate districts. But in addition , to speak about democracy in the abstract in the context of insuring property rights and an absent critique of the corporate structure means to implicitly obviate the idea of putting property rights , corporate existence, and the ethos of profitability up for a vote . This is another aspect of Bamako Appeal's liberalism.
There is no such thing as a minority. To be a minority means to be a group that is outvoted at every level, before any vote is taken. It means to be set aside and "given" special interests precisely through the process of being excluded. It means that one is a priori barred from functioning within a general electorate, even with self-defined special group interests.
This has to be clear. To consider a group a "minority" is to give it that minority status independent of votes, and independent of who will win such votes, as a social category. It is a form of categorical separation of a group by another group that is tacitly defining itself as the majority by defining minorities; that is, it establishes majoritarian status for itself through the exclusion of groups it then names as minorities. It is an active process, whereby hegemony is arrogated . Minority status is something one group does to another. To repeat , there is no such thing as a minority; there is only a process of minoritization by a majoritarian group that consolidates its majoritarian status by exclusion.
This, of course, in inimical to democracy; it is oxymoronic to proclaim that the rights of minorities will be democratically guaranteed . To so affirm the existence of "minorities" is to accept the act of exclusion that minoritized them, and to thus recognize that democracy has already been obviated. It is also to accept the point of view of the majoritarian group, which is the one arrogating to itself the power to promise to guarantee the rights of the minority (it is not the minority that makes that promise to itself). "Minority" status is only a euphemism for what happens to non-white groups under the hegemony of white supremacy.
Shame on the Bamako Appeal for having allowed itself the borderline white supremacy of speaking so glibly of the "rights of minorities ," without examining what the issue means. Indeed, the Bamako Appeal hardly mentions racism, and only in passing, refusing to see neo-liberalism as itself a process of racialization at the global level -- for instance, in the racialization of international relations (US vs . Cuba or Haiti); the racialization of 3rd world national resources as belonging to white western societies, etc. This is another aspect of liberalism .
Sovereignty is a critical issue, not because it functioned as a touchstone of anti-colonialism during the era of national liberation revolutions (which has passed), but because sovereignty is the indispensible necessary condition for democracy. If democracy refers to the way a people or a group determine their own policies and thus their own destinies for themselves, they have to be sovereign in those destinies in order to determine them for themselves. Any intervention from outside the purview of the people or group in question renders democracy for them an empty or disrupted process. All of the US government's interventions in other nations in the world have rendered democracy impossible for them. When the US government intervened to overthrow the election of Carey in the IBT, claiming that democracy had been corrupted by his campaign, they rendered democracy impossible for the Teamsters (in the name of democracy).
It is because it is the indispensible condition for democracy that the question of sovereignty has been raised in so many ways at so many levels in the past 10 years. The municipal autonomy of the Zapatista communities , the refusal of Cuba to bow to US tyrannical pressure, the tragedy of nations giving in to the IMF, the attempt of industrial unions to establish autonomy for themselves in nations that seek to severely curtail them, the indigenous movements of South America , the right of a nation to retrieve control of its own natural resources as in Venezuela and Bolivia , are all examples of the exercise of sovereignty that go beyond the earlier concept of national sovereignty (1960s). In general, the social justice movements of the world have gone far beyond the earlier notion of national sovereignty, extending and broadening the concept.
For the Bamako Appeal to leave the question of sovereignty unexamined or uncritiqued is to leave the concept trapped in its traditional sense of national sovereignty, revalorizing the nation-state upon which neo-liberalism depends for local administration . It is thus no wonder that the most it can say about the US with respect to democracy is that it is duplicitous, something to merely guard against.
Ultimately, the Bamako Appeal offers neither opposition nor alternative to neo-liberalism.
I am using the free version of SPAMfighter for private users.
It has removed 175 spam emails to date.
Paying users do not have this message in their emails.
Try SPAMfighter for free now!
More information about the Debate-list