Wednesday, March 21, 2012

European Exploitation: Phase 4

I have already described how exploitation of the so-called “Third World” has proceeded over the past few centuries according to a succession of variants (though the basic theme remains the same), and I have also explained how that exploitation has been and continues to be vital for capitalist/industrial profitability. In another post, I delineated to some extent the rigidity of the global hierarchy of wealth.

Specifically, I think it is important to emphasize that the only time during which the lower rungs make some sort of progress is when the top of the pyramid (the industrial north) experiences any kind of set-back. In a very simplistic and abstract way (which very much belies the complexity of the actual mechanisms of change), this is due to the fact that wealth is finite (based, of course, on a given level of technology) and essentially zero-sum (just like, for all you physics fans, the amount of energy in a closed system never increases or decreases, but merely changes form).

Now, on a slight tangent, I have heard some official reports from institutions like the World Bank that extreme poverty has recently been reduced around the world. Get out the champagne, right? Unfortunately, I would not put too much stock in this claim. For one thing, official statistics regarding global poverty produced by multilateral organizations like the World Bank tend to be extremely misleading and, quite frankly, useless. Not only do these organizations have agendas (as instruments of the industrial north), but statistics, in general, tend to be ineffective for understanding poverty. A true Marxist looks to structural realities and daily experiences. Take a look at any local newspaper in a Third World nation, and you will see no evidence of improvement in the conditions faced by ordinary people. (Where there are gains, these tend to concentrated at the top of the internal hierarchy, in typical capitalist inquality-increasing fashion.)

Regarding the structural realities, it is clear that the basic pecking order, the global relations of domination, has not changed. At all. And since gains in the underdeveloped world come at the expense of the industrial north, they are almost always limited and temporary.

Often, gains are temporary because the industrial north tries to regain their position in much the same way that, when two people are struggling to stay afloat in a pool, one tries to stay above water by holding the other down. This happened at the end of the 1970s. Global economic stagnation had set in by the late 1960s (caused by a crisis of overproduction and merely exacerbated by the energy crisis). As growth slowed in the industrial north, the Third World made some impressive gains. This was especially facilitated by the initial attempt of capital to find areas of investment and possibilities for cheaper production in other parts of the world.

But then the 80s, and with it the Reagan-Thatcher brand of neoliberalism, rolled in and flattened the developing world. The policies (“austerity measures,” if you will) of the industrial powers undermined all the prior investments and resulted in devastating financial crises which destroyed any economic progress made in the Third World in the previous decade.

In the intervening years we had some bubbles that did not resolve any of the underlying problems of overproduction, but made us feel pretty good about ourselves, nonetheless. Shockingly, the bubbles burst and we once again found ourselves on bumpy terrain. And once again, whose head are we going to hold under water so that we might have another gasp of air? Who are we going to screw over in an attempt to save ourselves?  It seems that the EU is busy devising new ways to drain the world of its wealth and resources.

Check It.  Sorry, Africans!

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