Thursday, January 19, 2017

ARTICLE OF MINE PUBLISHED IN THE LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES ASSOCIATION (LASA) NEWSLETTER


Winter 2017 Issue

In the article I argue that the characterization of Venezuela as a “failed state” facing a “humanitarian crisis” intensifies political polarization, plays into the hands of the opposition’s radical fringe, and hinders efforts, promoted by Pope Francisco, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and others, to establish a national dialogue over pressing issues  


http://lasa.international.pitt.edu/forum/files/vol48-issue1/Debates-Venezuela-2.pdf?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=LASA%20Forum%20Winter%202017&utm_content=LASA%20Forum%20Winter%202017+CID_85ab2b9ded4b240d0978939394b961ef&utm_source=Email%20Newsletter&utm_term=Venezuelas%20National%20Dialogue%20Disaggregating%20Key%20Issues%20by%20Steve%20Ellner

Thursday, January 5, 2017

HAVE OBAMA DO WHAT EISENHOWER SHOULD HAVE DONE 65 YEARS AGO: EXONERATE ETHEL ROSENBERG


Read this moving interview with Robert Meeropol, the son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and then sign the petition calling on Obama to exonerate his mother. The proof of her innocence is overwhelming; beginning with the fact that her main accusers (her brother and sister-in-law) swore in their grand jury testimony that she was completely innocent, only to change their story later on. This, according to Meeropol (based on documents), was due to pressure from, among others, the notorious Roy Cohen, the pathological liar and mentor to Donald Trump. KGP files assigned code names to both accusers but not to her. Listen to the interview and then sign the petition. https://www.democracynow.org/2017/1/4/part_2_robert_meeropol_on_trump




Monday, December 26, 2016

THE ASCENDANCE OF TRUMP AND THE LIMITS OF GLOBALIZATION

Some thoughts of mine on the broader implications of the Trump phenomenon

Many analysts have belittled the seriousness of Trump's anti-globalization rhetoric and even such jingoistic proposals as the construction of a wall along the Mexican border. They point to Trump’s  appointments of such global players as Rex Tillerson and Steven Mnuchin as evidence that Trump cannot and will not turn his back on global commitments and realities.


Along these lines, Bill Robinson (whose work I have always admired and used extensively in the classroom) argues that Trump represents the rise of neo-fascism, but in no way threatens to put a halt to, or a break on, globalization. As proof, he points to the global dimensions of Trump’s own capitalist holdings.


In contrast to Robinson, I argue that globalization is still basically a tendency rather than an all-encompassing reality and that the nation state is a fundamental element, which has to be at the center of any analysis of the world’s political economy. The Trump phenomenon demonstrates that the ruling class of the world's most powerful nation is very much divided as to the pluses and minuses of globalization, in two ways. First, the hardened opposition to Trump’s candidacy by much of the U.S. elite indicates the degree to which the nation’s ruling class is fractured. Second, the willingness of former adversaries within the establishment to make their peace with Trump puts in evidence the ruling class’s ambivalence regarding globalization. Had Bernie Sanders been elected president, the ruling class in its totality would have carried out an all-out campaign against him both before and after his election. The fact that Republicans and business leaders who doggedly opposed Trump’s candidacy have toned down their rhetoric, and are seeking an understanding with the new president, is a reflection of the ambivalence of the nation’s elite regarding globalization. Furthermore, even before Trump’s nomination as Republican Party candidate, he counted on the unwavering support of such important political actors as Fox News and Newt Gingrich, who undoubtedly represent the interests of sectors of the nation’s bourgeoisie.

Trump's anti-globalization discourse cannot be discarded as mere bluster. To completely turn his back on his main campaign offer of reversing free trade policies would be political suicide. By doing so, Trump would forfeit his largest social base of support – that is, the white working class – and leave himself vulnerable to the revengeful actions of powerful political actors who he had insulted during the campaign, who would then give encouragement to and abet popular and progressive sectors opposed to his reactionary positions. There is a consistency to Trump's positions. His racist statements particularly against Mexicans are designed to underpin and provide credibility to his promises to put a halt to the exodus of jobs and to renegotiate NAFTA. Furthermore, it is not a coincidence that two major targets of Trump's attacks are Mexico and China, while he has at least until now had kind words for Russia's Vladimir Putin. Mexico and China, unlike Russia, have been major recipients of U.S. investments in the area of production for the U.S. market.

Trump’s aim is not to return to pre-globalization times or to insulate the U.S. economy from global pressures. If that were the case he would not have chosen Tillerson and Mnuchin for such top cabinet posts. However, for reasons I state above, he will probably go beyond mere symbolic gestures to counter aspects of globalization; such actions will have an important impact on the economy, given the volatility of financial markets.

 What the Trump phenomenon tells us is that globalization writers of all stripes underestimate the degree to which the U. S. bourgeoisie is concerned about the deteriorated state of affairs in the nation. Humanitarian considerations are obviously not in the forefront of its concerns. Regardless of the degree to which their business interests are tied to the global economy and the intricacy of those ties, U.S. businesspeople are affected in major ways by decisions taken at the level of the nation state. And the U.S. bourgeoisie has infinitely greater clout in Washington than in any European nation, and even more so in the case of China. The importance of this political factor is the most convincing explanation as to why the U.S. bourgeoisie is receptive, to the extent that it is, to Trump's proposals to "make America great again."



Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Felipe Carrillo Puerto and the socialist legacy in Mexico


The presence of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, the socialist governor of Yucatan who was executed in 1924, is everywhere in Merida, Mexico. There is a park, statue and district (“colonia”) with his name, as well as the Teatro Felipe Carrillo Puerto that is part of the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán that he founded as governor of the state. Carrillo Puerto was allied with Zapata (and later Obregón and Calles) and attempted to apply the agrarian reform to Yucatan. He also promoted worker unionization, the diffusion of the Mayan language and defended women’s rights. He was executed in a right-wing revolt that spread to the rest of Mexico in an attempt to overthrow the government of Obregón and Calles. The veneration of the socialist Carrillo Puerto in Mérida serves to refute the half truths and stereotypes promoted by those who vilify the socialist tradition and legacy.



Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Pluses and Minuses of Jobs


The movie Jobs about the life of Steve Jobs is worth seeing. I liked it in one sense but felt it fell short in another. I liked it because it relates Jobs’ personal life to the type of company he made out of Apple. His relationship with his ex-wife (or ex-partner) and especially his daughter was really sick. He was a control freak who hurt the only person he loved (his daughter) in order to control her. And that’s exactly what his business strategy was. Google uses open source, and Microsoft doesn’t force Windows users to buy exclusively Microsoft programs. But Apple is different. It’s as if tires on GM cars have to be GM-produced, and their cars could only run on GM-gasoline. In short, the movie shows how Jobs was a control freak in both his personal life and his business life.
The downside of the movie is that it dwells too much on the personal drama, and there is little about what was really going on in the company with regard to the development of cutting-edge technology. And the movie ends with ipods: nothing about tablets, iphones, mobile technology, and the like. Throughout the move, scenes hark back to a decision that was made back in the mid-80s with regard to Apple 2 and Macintosh.

Worth seeing, but don’t hold your breath.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

IS THERE A POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC LOGIC BEHIND TRUMP’S ENCOURAGEMENT OF RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA?


One may ask why does Donald Trump as president continue to encourage racism and xenophobia, as shown by his naming of Steven Bannon as chief strategist. After all, from a political viewpoint it doesn’t appear to make sense. Trump needs to veer to the center and distance himself from the extreme right to secure the support of his Republican Party, particularly in congress, and try to neutralize the mainstream media. The conclusion that some draw is that it’s all about Trump’s personality; after all, he is not a political person. Others attribute the appointment of Bannon to Trump’s racism. Still others believe Trump is appealing to racism which is widespread in the U.S. and adds up to many votes.
In fact, Trump’s triumph in key states with a large working class population was not due to his racism. Millions of Trump voters in the Rustbelt and elsewhere had previously voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Trump won because he promised to reverse globalization and the loss of U.S. jobs and investment. The xenophobic and even racist discourse served to enhance the credibility of Trump’s promises. It also seemed to demonstrate that he was serious about bringing about change, a promise made by Obama in 2008 on the basis of his race and by Hillary in 2008 and 2016 on the basis of gender.

Workers who voted for Trump did so not because he was going to build a wall on the Mexican border, but because his promise to build the wall underpinned his promise to halt the outflow of jobs and investments. It was a rhetorical ploy that worked; it got him elected.

The strategy was no easy feat. After all, Trump ran as a Republican and the Republicans, not the Democrats, fully backed Obama’s efforts to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). And the Republicans, more than the Democrats, backed Clinton’s NAFTA in 1994. The working class had all the reason to be skeptical about Hillary’s rejection of the TPP, as demonstrated by the Wikileaks emails. In order to back his claim to being anti-globalization and intent on reversing globalization, Trump had to do outrageous things. The outrageousness seemed to demonstrate that he would not be deterred from carrying out his promises, that he had the guts to buck powerful establishmed interests. And his tacit and not so tacit alliance with the racists served to demonstrate that he would do the impossible to stand up to the Mexicans and the Chinese, and above all the multinationals that invest in those nations.

Empty rhetoric is usually not completely empty. It reflects reality, albeit to widely varying degrees. When Trump pledged himself to twist the arms of Carrier to scrap its plans to move their Indianapolis plant to Mexico in 2019, only fiery anti-Mexican rhetoric could convince the workers that he meant business. Their support for Trump was not a measure of their anti-Mexican sentiment, but rather their desperation.


In the short run, Trump may be able to score some victories, but more of a symbolic nature than anything else. He may be able to get some companies to refrain from moving plants out of the country and some to actually return capital. The enticements will be tax breaks, anti-worker legislation and other benefits, more than rhetorical threats. And in the long run, not even those inducements will do the trick. What Lenin said about imperialism a century ago, is applicable to globalization: it’s not a policy, rather it’s a stage. Globalization is a result of the mobility of capital made possible by technological developments and made necessary by certain contradictions in the system that reached a threshold in the 1970s. There’s no turning back, Donald Trump notwithstanding.  

Saturday, November 5, 2016

FOX NEWS: FAIR AND BALANCED!


Having lived abroad for a considerable period of time, I have not until today had the opportunity to carefully listen to Fox News. Yesterday and today, I listened to various Fox News programs and concluded that at least you have to give them credit for being upfront about their support for Donald Trump, unlike the rest of the corporate media which supports Hillary without acknowledging their slant. Then I saw Fox’s slogan “Fair and Balanced.” Is anybody out there really that gullible, or should I say stupid?