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.”44 To truly know anything, then, is to embrace paradoxes and to find beneath the surface the underlying substratum 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 high-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 multicultural u.s.a. that simultaneously gives rise to the meteoric careers of a white David Duke and a Black Gen. Colin Powell alike. Nothing of this can be fully known without investigating the 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-amerikkkans 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.”45
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 realtime 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 of helots. 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 discontinuity from the colonial past.
1. 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 fringes 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 u.s. 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 U.S. 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.”46 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 Colombia. 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.”47 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, the 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 Colombia alone.”
More people work in the narcotics industry just in Latin Amerika than in making steel worldwide. This is the new neocolonial 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.”48
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 slave dealers 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, Colombia, according to Americas 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 …”49
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 a large 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 capital 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, video-cassette recorders, stereos and cars 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 valve 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 substratum 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 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 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 Afrika 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 amerikkan 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 100 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.”51
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, according 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 the transformation of agriculture from growing food directly for the producers to producing abstract commodities for multinational 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 Fasso] 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 the peasant cultivators only get about 5–7% 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.”52
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.
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.”53 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 …”54
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 Aquino—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.”55
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.”56
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 pre-eminent 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-16s 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.57
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)58
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.”59
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.60 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 …”61
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—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, artists 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.62 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 the 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 multinational 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.
2. 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 multinational 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 of workers live and the european Common Market are both forms of this change.
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 …”63
Concentration of capital is an underlying evolution, overriding 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 multinational 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.”64
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 out-moded 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 industry—traditionally, the strongest in eastern europe—to Volkswagon? 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 1950s, 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 1960s, the largest national corporations began assuming multinational dimensions.
In a famous statement, Harold Geneen, chairman & empire-builder of the first multinational—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 multinational enterprises so that they might be permitted to get on with the unfinished business of developing the world economy.”65
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.”66
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 J30 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.
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 multinational corporations are pulling back from amerikkka (rats know to leave the sinking ship). Gus Tyler, long-time 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.”67
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 coolly replied: “We are all self-employed now.”68
Corporations, which never treated their colonies or workers as human, are now finding even imperialist national loyalties too constricting. “There is no mindset that puts this country first,” says Cyril Sienart, chief financial officer of Colgate-Palmolive.69 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.”70
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.71 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 U.S.A. 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.
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.”72
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 so 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 Japanese. What’s most frustrating of all for Chez Whitey is that despite having for 12 years elected a right-wing 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 a 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.73 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 multinational 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 his 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.”74
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, multinational 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 multiculturalism is a tardy recognition that “America” only lives on in late nite TV reruns. In the N.Y. Times book review of David Rieff’s new book on Los Angeles—subtitled “Capital 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 capital of the Sun Belt to the capital 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, in significant numbers, Chinese, Druze, Ethiopians, Indians, Indonesians, Iranians, 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?’”75
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 capital of the Third World”, as it is becoming the capital 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 multinational 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 deconstructing 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.
44 Karl Marx quoted in Bertell Ollman. Alienation. N.Y. 1977. p. 64.
45 Robert B. Reich. The Work of Nations. N.Y. 1991. p. 8
46 Stephen Labaton, “The cost of Drug Abuse: $60 Billion a Year.” New York Times. December 5, 1989.
47 Stephen Labaton, “The cost of Drug Abuse: $60 Billion a Year.” New York Times. December 5, 1989.
48 Stephen Labaton, “The cost of Drug Abuse: $60 Billion a Year.” New York Times. December 5, 1989.
49 The Hunger Project. Ending Hunger: an idea whose time has come. N.Y. 1985. p. 219.
50 New York Times. June 7, 1989 Moody’s International Manual. Vol. I. N.Y. 1986.
51 James Petras. “Chile’s Exploited Farm Workers.” Christian Science Monitor. April 11, 1989.
52 The Hunger Project. p. 233
53 Karl Marx. “Wage, Labor and Capital.” In Selected Works. N.Y. 1970 p. 81.
54 New York Times. April 17, 1988.
55 New York Times. May 12, 1988.
56 New York Times. May 12, 1988.
57 New York Times. February 23, 1992.
58 Washington Post. March 31, 1992.
59 New York Times. March 30, 1989.
60 “Workers who must dip components in acids and rub them with solvents frequently experience serious bums, 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 …”
61 A. Sivanadan. “Imperialism.in the Silicon Age.” Monthly Review. July-August. 1980
62 Glen Rifkin. “High Tops, High Style, High Tech, High Cost.” New York Times. January 5, 1992
63 Karl Marx. Capital, a critique of political economy. Vol I. Chicago. 1921. p. 836 (Charles H. Kerr & Co.)
64 David E. Sanger. “Cost May Be Too High For All-American Chip. ” New York Times. January 1, 1992
65 A. Sivanadan. op. cit.
66 Louis Uchitelle. “U.S. Businesses Loosen Links to Mother Country.” New York Times. May 21, 1989
67 Louis Uchitelle. “U.S. Businesses Loosen Links to Mother Country.” New York Times. May 21, 1989.
68 NBC Nightly News. April 13, 1992.
69 Louis Uchitelle. “U.S. Businesses Loosen Links to Mother Country.” New York Times. May 21, 1989.
70 Gavin Wright. “Beyond Economic Nationalism.” Washington Post. March 3, 1992.
71 The u.s. empire has run trade surpluses each year with Western Europe, Afrika, Latin Amerika, and much of Asia. Yet, this never seemed to be a “crisis,” unbalanced though it was and is.
72 Frank H. Wu. “The Fallout from Japan-Bashing.” Washington Post. February 3, 1992.
73 “U.S. Businesses Start Counterattacks in Japan.” New York Times. February 24, 1992.
74 A. Sivanadan. op. cit.
75 Robert Andersen. “An Anthology of the World.” New York Times Book Review.