13 September, 2006

"neoliberal tsunami"

"Empire of Oil: Capitalist Dispossession and the Scramble for Africa" by Michael Watts:

Long before shock therapy in Eastern Europe or even the debt-driven “adjustments” in Latin America, it was sub-Saharan Africa that was the playground for neoliberalism’s assault. According to the United Nations, twenty-six of thirty-two sub-Saharan states had a “liberal” economic regime by 1998. [snip]

The neoliberal tsunami broke with a dreadful ferocity on African cities, and the African slum world in particular. Reform—the privatization of public utilities creating massive corporate profits and a decline in service provision, the slashing of urban services, the immiseration of many sectors of the public workforce, the collapse of manufactures and real wages, and often the disappearance of the middle class—was remorselessly anti-urban in its effects, as Mike Davis documents in Planet of Slums (Verso, 2005).

Jan Breman reviews Mike Davis' Planet of Slums:

Our epoch is witnessing a world-historic shift in human habitat: for the first time, more than half the global population will soon be city dwellers, in one form or another. The small-scale settlements that have been the cradle of peasant work and life for many thousands of years—the myriad villages, compact or dispersed, spread out across the countryside—are no longer home to the majority of mankind. The massive expulsion of labour from agriculture, accelerating over the last half-century, has been accompanied by an exodus from the villages. At present, 3.2 billion people are congregated in towns and cities. Their number is expected to grow to 10 billion in the middle of this century. This gigantic shift is mainly taking place in the zones of the South: within the next two decades, metropoles such as Jakarta, Dhaka, Karachi, Shanghai or Mumbai will each have 25 million inhabitants or more.

[quoting Davis]:
At the end of the nineteenth century, the forcible incorporation into the world market of the great subsistence peasantries of Asia and Africa entailed the famine deaths of millions and the uprooting of tens of millions more from traditional tenures. The end result (in Latin America as well) was rural ‘semi-proletarianization’, the creation of a huge global class of immiserated semi-peasants and farm labourers lacking existential security of subsistence . . . Structural adjustment, it would appear, has recently worked an equally fundamental reshaping of human futures. [Thus] instead of being a focus for growth and prosperity, the cities have become a dumping ground for a surplus population working in unskilled, unprotected and low-wage informal service industries and trade.
In the opinion of researchers operating from state-run American think-tanks, ‘security forces should address the sociological phenomenon of excluded populations’. Davis backs up this documentation with quotations from Pentagon sources that argue the case for contingency plans in support of ‘a low-intensity world war of unlimited duration against criminalized segments of the urban poor’. Quite rightly he concludes that this mindset reveals the true ‘clash of civilizations’.

"This is the great ideological struggle of the 21st century, and it is the calling of our generation". George W. Bush

"The Worldwide Class Struggle" by Vincent Navarro:

For the first time in history, we are told, we are witnessing a worldwide economy, in which states are losing power and are being replaced by a worldwide market centered in multinational corporations, which are the main units of economic activity in the world today.[snip]

Let’s be clear right away that neoliberal theory is one thing and neoliberal practice is another thing entirely. Most members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) —including the U.S. federal government—have seen state intervention and state public expenditures increase during the last thirty years. . . . I can testify to the expansion of state intervention in most countries in the developed capitalist world. Even in the United States, President Reagan’s neoliberalism did not translate into a decline of the federal public sector. Instead, federal public expenditures increased under his mandate, from 21.6 to 23 percent of GNP, as a consequence of a spectacular growth in military expenditures from 4.9 to 6.1 percent of GNP (Congressional Budget Office National Accounts 2003). This growth in public expenditures was financed by an increase in the federal deficit (creating a burgeoning of the federal debt) and an increase in taxes. As the supposedly anti-tax president, Reagan in fact increased taxes for a greater number of people (in peace time) than any other president in U.S. history. And he increased taxes not once, but twice (in 1982 and 1983). In a demonstration of class power, he drastically reduced taxes for the 20 percent of the population with the highest incomes, while raising taxes for the majority of the population. [snip]

Neoliberal narratives about the declining role of the state in people’s lives are easily falsified by the facts. Indeed, as John Williamson, one of the intellectual architects of neoliberalism, once indicated, “We have to recognize that what the U.S. government promotes abroad, the U.S. government does not follow at home,” adding that “the U.S. government promotes policies that are not followed in the U.S.” (“What Washington Means by the Policy Reform,” in J. Williamson, ed., Latin America Adjustment, 1990, 213). It could not have been said better. In other words, if you want to understand U.S. public policies, look at what the U.S. government does, not what it says. [snip]

. . .We cannot understand the world (from Iraq to the rejection of the European Constitution) without acknowledging the existence of classes and class alliances, established worldwide between the dominant classes of the developed capitalist world and those of the developing capitalist world. Neoliberalism is the ideology and practice of the dominant classes of the developed and developing worlds alike.

"Dramatic evidence that America is involved in illegal mercenary operations in east Africa has emerged in a string of confidential emails seen by The Observer. The leaked communications between US private military companies suggest the CIA had knowledge of the plans to run covert military operations inside Somalia - against UN rulings - and they hint at involvement of British security firms."

"Death Threats Against Lancet's Haiti Human Rights Investigator" by Jeb Sprague and Joe Emesberger

Monsanto whistleblower says genetically engineered crops may cause disease

El Salvador under NAFTA:

"Estela's Story: The Human Face of Emigration"
She told me that she couldn’t bear the thought of joining the long line of single mothers whose children have migrated and left them to live their lives alone.

from "Afghanistan: ". . . some of the fiercest fighting since Korea"


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