From hmcleave Sun Feb 26 16:19:49 1995 Received: by (4.1/1.34/ECO 1.1) id AA11648; Sun, 26 Feb 95 16:19:49 CST Date: Sun, 26 Feb 1995 16:19:47 -0600 (CST) From: "Harry M. Cleaver" Subject: Cleaver-Price Debate (Long) (fwd) To: Chiapas95 Message-Id: Mime-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII ---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Sat, 11 Feb 1995 16:12:35 -0600 (CST) From: Harry M. Cleaver To: Comite de Solidaridad Subject: Cleaver-Price Debate (Long) As you can well guess I have been debating business consultant Kenneth Price as a political intervention in the nets to counter such conservative support for Zedillo. It has also occurred to me that some of you might find the arguments of use, or at least interesting. Therefore, I have melded the two (so far) parts of the debate together into one more readable version. Enjoy, wince, think up other arguments! ===================================== Subject: Debate on "terrorism" etc. (long) > >On Fri, 10 Feb 1995, Kenneth M. Price wrote: > > > >> Sorry, but Jorge Raygoza is not the ONLY person on the list who is in > >> agreement, at least in part, with Zedillos actions. > >> > >> I am all too aware of the situation in Mexico, and know the overall problem > >> involving land tenure and use in some Mexican states. I do not know the > >> situation in Chiapas personally, but can understand it based on my knowledge > >> of other areas. > >> > >> The EZLN could have decided to become a political party or remain a > >> terrorist organization; they apparently decided on the latter. By continuing > >> to collect arms, the EZLN "sent a signal" to the government, and the > >> government reacted accordingly. Cleaver Comment: > >The EZLN has NEVER been a terrorist organization! They have always > >operated as a popular army; they have been very clear as to the > >distinction in their words and in their deeds. > Price Response: > Not a "terrorist" organization? Interesting! What are they, Boy Scouts? How > do you define "terrorist". Threatening anyone (myself included) with a gun > is a pretty good start. > Cleaver Reply: "Boy Scouts?" Hardly, given that I just said they "operated as a popular army". Does "popular army" sound like "boy scouts"? Actually, as you can see below I gave a brief definition of "terrorist", i.e., those who use "the techniques of terror to obtain their political ends". Terrorism is an old subject, an old practice. Anyone who pays any attention to the history of social struggle knows this very well. Does "threatening anyone with a gun" sound like terrorism"? I don't think so. Such a definition would make every policeman, every soldier into a terrorist. Were the allied troops terrorists in World War II. Not by most people's definitions of the term --although some would argue that the fire bombing of Dresden and other such operations were definitely designed to terrorize the population into submission. By such a measure it is not the Zapatistas who are terrorists, but the Mexican military and security forces which have tortured and murdered at random, including the bombing of whole villages and their non-combatant populations. No, when we speak of terrorism today most people speak of those who plant bombs or shoot down politicians, or professors, or random passer-bys. They speak of the RAF in Germany, the Red Brigades in Italy, Hamass in Palestine. That is what most people mean by Terrorism and the Zapatistas have never been involved in such activities. They have attacked the state and sought to protect the people of Chiapas. They have not even undertaken the elimination of the White Guards, etc. Their violence has been narrowly focused and clearly understood by most people. They are NOT terrorists in the usual sense. Of course, there are the critics of this vision of terroris, a vision which sees only clandestine groups that strike without warning, a vision which ignores terrorism when it operates on a large scale, in the light of day. I agree with those critics. The PRI operates as a terrorist not only when its agents mimic the behavior of little groups and assassinate its enemies. It also uses terror as a tactic in the way it weilds its police and military both on a day to day basis and in major operations such as those of last January and right now. It rules by intimidation. Campesinos and especially the Indians of Chiapas have suffered decades of its terror. Why do the Zapatistas wear masks? In part because they are afraid that if they are identified by the state, their families will suffer the state's terrorist methods. The PRI did not originate the use of terror in Mexico, it has been around and in use by ruling groups for a long time --just as it has been in many other places. For you to refuse to recognize this and to pretend it doesn't exist makes you a PR agent for the state terrorists. The campesinos know this terror, they have risen against it. The state wants to hide it from the world so that the world will not condemn it. You are contributing to this effort at deceit with your comments. Cleaver Comment: > >The only terrorist organization of any importance in Mexico is the > >government. From the random bombings, arbitrary round-ups and tortures, > >and wanton violence with which it responded to the uprising a year ago, > >to its ongoing campaign of terror against the campesinos and indigenous > >peoples of Chiapas (and elsewhere) during the last year, it has > >demonstrated an intimate familiarity with the methods of terror. Nor was > >this new this year. The PRI-state has always weiled the mailed fist. The > >fact that it also knows how to weild the velvet glove of patronage and > >payoffs and cooptation doesn't change that. > > > >By any meaningful definition it is the PRI, not the Zapatistas who have > >been and continue to operate as terrorists, i.e., using the techniques of > >terror to obtain their political ends. > Price Response: > Well, we could debate the PRI for quite some time, but any government tends > to over-react given the proper circumstances. Can I give you a better > example than the over-reaction of the U.S. government at Waco? > > Cleaver Reply: Does the viciousness of the American state in Waco justify the barbarity of the Mexican state in Chiapas? Hardly. The argument that "any government tends to over-react" hides the continuity of the terror weilded by the PRI, long before the Zapatista uprising. The Mexican state has nourished a vicious, exploitative power structure in Chiapas for decades. You can't call sending in the army an "overreaction" when all it is doing is supplementing it usual, ongoing instruments of repression, i.e., the police, the army usually stationed in Chiapas, the White Guards, and so on. Price: > >> I am not in agreement with everything the Mexican government is doing, but > >> in this case I can understand why it took the decision. > >> > >> Ken Price Cleaver Comment: > > > >You are not in agreement? Then why do you repeat and give credence to the > >lies and deceptive propaganda of the PRI? > > >By the way, Kenneth Price, what kind of "consulting" do you do? The term > >usually refers to consulting to business, i.e., providing > >information/strategic and tactical advice on how to maximize profits and > >minimize loses. If that IS your business then I can easily understand how > >YOU can "understand why [the Mexican government] took the decision" to > >dramatically intensify its use of terror against the people of Chiapas. > >You must understand very well that if Zedillo proves able to militarily > >supress the Zapatistas and other militant groups in Southern Mexico, > >investors will be delighted, the bolsa will soar, interest rates fall and > >the capitalists can rush back into their dirty business of exploitation > >with a much freer hand. Of course, if the peace-of-the-graveyard is too > >profound, that could be bad for the consulting business . . . . As Chris > >Whalen, another consultant, has said, the crisis makes for good business for > >consultants.... > > Price Response: > Ah yes, the "capitalists" and their "dirty business". Now it's all perfectly > clear! The answer to all the problems of Mexico and the world is to > "eliminate capitalism". Harry, if you haven't noticed, socialism has not > exactly been a success in those countries it's been tried in. Yes, I help > companies "maximize profits" because that's the only way companies are going > to invest in any country, including their own. > Cleaver Reply: Ah yes, the socialist bogie-men, the old cold war rhetoric. Sorry Ken, it won`t wash. The "socialists", the "other" of the Cold War, were just state capitalists. They presented an alternative to Western capitalism only in terms of form. The degree of centralization was somewhat greater. Their adaptability to challenge was considerably lower (thus their police state that so resembles aspects of the Mexican state). But their goals were the same: put the people to work, make everyone a worker and out of their work, take the largest surplus possible for reinvestment so the whole process could start all over again. No, Ken, the answer to all the problems of Mexico is NOT to "eliminate capitalism", though it would be a step in the right direction. The real problem --the one articulated by the Zapatistas and violently rejected by the state and by business-- is to create a real alternative, or rather a multiplicity of real alternatives. Price Comeback: > Eliminate capitalism = a "step in the right direction". I rest my case! > Pardon the question, but the last time I looked, the joke in the U.S.S.R. > was that the intermediate step between capitalism and socialism was > alcoholism. Now that the USSR no longer exists, I guess the joke is no > longer valid. Do you propose to use Mexico as a substitute? > Cleaver Answer (Feb.11,1995) Hellooooooo. Do you read before you start answering?? I just said (see above) that I thought that the Soviet Union was just a "statist" form of capitalism, that socialism was NOT an alternative, that the alternatives are elsewhere. So why do you keep on harping on the U.S.S.R? Is it so hard to break out of your Cold War sterotypes? Obviously I do NOT propose "to use Mexico as a substitute" if by Mexico you mean the current capitalist order in Mexico, currently viciously attacking its own people with the backing of the United States and the International Monetary Fund and international banks like Chase Bank (did you see the article by Silverstein and Cockburn that I posted recently on the Chase internal memo etc.?) No Ken, the alternative is not Mexico, but some of the more interesting alternatives can be found in Mexico, in the statements and programs of the Zapatistas and in the discussions they have provoked, e.g., those in the CND and the various autonomous groups that have formed and have been speaking out, e.g. the indigenous peoples who met in Guerrerro. If you would listen to what they say, you too might get some new ideas. But then again you might not. Cleaver Reply: You are so right that profits are the only reason "companies" are going to invest in Mexico, as elsewhere. And that is exactly the problem with capitalism as a social system. "Profits" are the surplus extracted from work; they are used to impose more work, in an endless cycle in which meeting the needs of people is an entirely secondary aspect. For most of its history, capitalism was run by capitalists who did every thing they could to minimize wages (through which peoples needs are met in this system). When and where people have achieved the power to force higher wages, e.g., during the Keynesian period in the U.S., the capitalists have conceeded only grudgingly and then sought to shape the increasing consumption so as to continually reproduce the subordination of life to work. In Mexico, of course, as in many other places, you have a mixture of what we might call "real" capitalists who extort profits to expand the system by imposing more work and "lousy" capitalists who think that profits are about getting rich. They make themselves billionaires and indulge in conspicuous consumption, lavish homes and a multitude of servants in style that reminds one of the old landed aristocracy. Salinas and Zedillo, of course, are SUPPOSED to represent the "real" capitalists, the ones who invest. Unfortunately, even when they are not flying their money out of the country and actually buying plant and equipment, the jobs they create and the poisonous by-products of the processes they use hardly meet the needs of those they employ --or of those who live nearby. Price Comeback: > No, profits are NOT the surplus "extracted" from work, they are the payment > for the use of capital, and the risk that capital was willing to run by > being invested in an enterprise that could not guarantee a return. > > Cleaver Answer (Feb.11,1995) This is funny, straight out of the 19th century. If profits are "payment for the use of capital", who "uses" and who "pays"? The workers "use" the capital (the only real capital, i.e., plant and equipment) when they work and produce. They "pay" precisely because not all the value of what they produce comes back to them. Some goes to pay for raw materials and depreciation on equipment etc., some is appropriated by management as profits. (If the managers play some role in producing the product then they certainly deserve a wage, but that is not profit. Profit is the surplus left over for investment.) The second part of the sentence makes the whole thing confusing. First you speak of capital being "used" then you speak of "the risk that capital was willing to run". Clearly you are using the term capital in several ways here. Only by sorting them out can we make any sense out of such confused sentences. First, the "capital" which "runs risks" is not "capital" but capitalISTS, i.e.,those who control money and plant and equipment. Yes they "run risks" but the profits they extort in the form of money were not produced by them, those monies were monies obtained by selling the products produced by the workers. Get it, the workers did the work, they produced the products, the products were sold and the capitalists reached in and took "their" share. That's why they are often called parasites; others work and they profit. Now, the fact that capitalists (and their consultants like you) try to justify this appropriation of money by pointing to the risk taken by the capitalists is not more than apologetics, rationalization of exploitation. Try another argument Ken. There have been many, I could suggest a few (none hold water) but I'll let you scrounge around and find the ones you think sound good. Price Response: > If any class can be said to have caused the problems in Mexico, present and > past, it's been "Economists", a class you can identify with. Cleaver Reply: Actually I don't identify with them at all. Moreover, they hardly constitute a "class" except in a trivial sense. For the most part they are just the tacticians and apologists of business. They may often screw up (hopefully) but they are hardly an independent force. More like intellectual prostitutes --especially the consultants. But then we shouldn't hold it against them too much, for all of us who work for a wage are prostitutes. The only thing is some of us sell our brains instead of our bodies. Capitalism, after all, is a social system of generalized prostitution. Price Comeback: > So the problem is wages! I see. I guess Marx had it right, "From each > according to his ability, to each according to need". Didn't work then, > doesn't work now! > Cleaver Answer (Feb.11,1995) The problem is wages only in the sense that quantitatively speaking they are either absent (the unemployed, housewives, students) or too low (when they leave a profit) and that qualitatively their existence means that some people (capitalists) have the power to force others to work for them. As for the perfectly reasonable slogan "From each according to his (or her) ability, to each according to need", I rather doubt that you have any familiarity with its applications at all. When you say "Didn't work then, doesn't work now!" I suspect you are thinking, once again, about state capitalist countries like the USSR and China. But the truth is those countries never adopted such a rule of distribution at all. In fact everytime that workers or peasants sought to do so, they were crushed by the state. In China, for example, when the peasants started forming their own communes and began applying such a rule, the Chinese state (party-state as they say in Mexico these days) stepped in with the Wuchang Resolution of 1958 and declared that the rule of distribution would be "To each according to his (or her) work". Which is, of course, exactly the rule of distribution in capitalism. (In neoclassical economic theory the precise formulation is "the wage must equal the marginal productivity of labor".) Price Response: Socialist > economics have been the primary cause of the current financial problems in > Mexico and the reason that Mexico, with all its resources, is still a > "Third-World" country. Every state-run company in Mexico, Pemex, > Ferrocarriles Nacionales, C.F.E., etc. operates at a loss, providing > inadequate services at excessively high rates. If truely free marketforces > were allowed, service would improve and prices would go down. Cleaver Reply: Sure state-run companies often operate at a loss, not only do their masters milk them for their surplus, but they have also often been the only form of welfare in the countries concerned. Or rather I should say "work fare" or "public employment". Which is, of course, why you "free marketeers" want to privatize them: to drive their workers off such welfare and into more work for less money and benefits. "Free Market forces" always means the same thing: markets manipulated in the interests of capital rather than in the interests of workers. The British imperialists spoke incessantly of "free markets" as they cut off the thumbs of the weavers in India to reduce competition for their own exports or started a war with China to force the creation of a "demand" for opium. For the last 15 years or so the rhetoric of "free market forces" has been weilded in the service of the destruction of everything workers have gained since the 1930s. The Contract on America would destroy the welfare state. Zedillo would reverse the land reforms of Cardenas and complete the process of enclosure in the Mexican countryside, driving peasants off the and into the cities to swell what used to be called the "reserve army" --which is not a bad term in Mexico given that there is no where near enough investment in sight to employ all those that will be driven hence, even at the starvation wages and horrible working conditions that prevail. But then the Mexican "reserve army" is also that of business operating North of the border and as they move North driven by desperation and terrorized by an increasingly militarized INS, they will swell the labor supply in the US further pushing wages down here. Yep, wonderful system you got there Ken. Unfortunately, we've several hundred years of experience with it. And we know it stinks. Price Comeback (#1/3): > Pardon, but state run companies ALWAYS lose money! Having no limits on their > spending or a need to show a profit, they spend all they possibly can, and > never show a profit. Please, show me ONE state-run company that operates at > a profit or competes with private industry. > Cleaver Answer (Feb.11,1995) Wrong. You merely show your passion, not knowledge. Although I am not about to defend state enterprise over private enterprise (they both stink) you simply don't know what you are talking about. I refer you to the World Bank, one of the two most powerful international capitalist institutions in the world today (the other is the IMF). In its 1983 World Development Report, the Bank declares: "The key factor determining the efficiency of an enterprise is not whether it is publicly or privately owned, but how it is managed. . . .Though private management has much to contribute, it would be misleading to portray it as universally efficient." Got that Ken? Let's not be misleading, OK? If you want concrete examples go find them yourself. As far as I'm concerned the debate between those who favor state enterprises versus those who prefer private enterprise is just another chapter in the sordid soap opera of internal capitalist family disputes. Please note: you totally ignored the major point I was making about the real object of privatization, prefering, once again, to slide back into old and presumably familiar arguments (with someone else). Price Comeback (#2/3): > "The Contract on America would destroy the welfare state."? >And good riddance too. Neither the U.S. nor Mexico need a "welfare class" > when ANY decent alternative exists. There are lots of streets that need > cleaning. > Cleaver Answer: (Feb 11, 1995) I love it when you sound like a character out of a Dicken's novel. This time you remind me of Bounderby in Hard Times, next you'll be complaining about all those lazy workers who just want "to be fed on turtle soup and venison with a gold spoon." In the midst of the ugly reports coming in from Chiapas, its nice to be given a chance to laugh. Nobody "needs" a welfare class Ken, except for some state bureaucrats who make their living from them. The problem is precisely the lack of "decent alternatives". Capitalists don't pay people to clean streets, at least not "decent" wages, wages you can live on, raise a family on, enjoy life on. If they pay at all they pay but a pittance and treat the help like the dirt they are supposed to clean --and that makes street cleaning an "indecent" alternative. Try and keep in mind that the vast majority of people on welfare are children. Do you want them cleaning streets? Are you in favor of the restoration of child waged labor. (We already have unwaged child labor --the factories are called schools. Fortunately, there's plenty of rebellion there too.) I suspect that your disdain for the "welfare state" extends upward from the streets as well. Perhaps you would join the conservative attack on social security in favor of privatization there too? Get the money into the hands of pension managers, the kind that invested in Mexican bonds? The kind that are now being bailed out by Clinton et al? The kind in whose interests Zedillo has sent his brutal army into Chiapas. Price Comeback (#3/3): > [With respect to: "Zedillo would reverse the land reforms of > Cardenas and complete the process of enclosure in the Mexican > countryside, driving peasants off the land....] > The U.S. and Mexico had over 50% of the population on farms in 1910. Today, > the U.S. is down to about 3% while Mexico is still close to 50%. One of the > reasons is the land reform system in Mexico, keeping the peasants tied to > the land like serfs in Czarist Russia. Like the PRI, the ejido system was a > good idea that long ago outlived its usefullness. > Cleaver Answer (Feb.11,1995) Your description of the situation in the United States is quite accurate, and that is exactly the future that Mexicans have to look forward to --and that is the problem! The forcible separation of people from their land is a hallmark of capitalism, it has always been a fundamental means by which power has been concentrated and a labor supply created to be available for capitalist exploitation. The expulsion of American farmers from the land here is no less repulsive that the expulsion of Mexican farmers from their lands. The problem of land reform in Mexico has always been that it never went far enough and it was long ago reversed. If you don't know about it elsewhere read Marcos on the conditions of campesinos in Chiaps. His descriptions can be found verified in the writings of anthropologists who have worked in the area. The campesinos are treated like serfs alright by the agrarian capitalists who have stolen their land. Depriving them of what little land they have left, as the Zedillo reforms will do, will only make their lives worse. Some will stay on as serfs, some will get new jobs with American companies moving in (and get treated the way AMerican companies treat their migrant workers in the U.S I have no doubt). Some will be driven into the cities or will move North across the border. In the cities they will live in shanty towns and get exploited by the investors you consult for. At the increasingly militarized border they will be terrorized and if they make it across they will continue to be terrorized and will work for lousy wages (even if better than in Mexico). By the way Mr. Free-Marketeer, do you support opening the US Mexican Border to free movement of labor? I do. Or would you rather keep the privelege of free international movement in the hands of capital? Price Response: To paraphrase > Winston Churchill, Capitalism is the worst economic system, except for all > the others. Having visited almost all the (former) communist states, > including Russia, China, East Germany, etc. I can assure you that if > capitalism is not the answer, socialism isn't the answer either. Cleaver Reply: What others? Once we recognize that the communist states were state capitalist states (so to speak), you begin to see their overthrow not as a victory for capitalism,but rather as a victory over a particularly obnoxious kind of capitalism. Today the people of those countries are face to face with the IMF --just like the Mexicans. The face of the enemy changes but not its nature. But, as I indicated above, state capitalism is not the only alternative to the "mixed economy" of the West. What has made the Zapatistas so interesting has been the way in which they have given voice to grassroots visions of real alternatives, not just real democracy, but reorientations of life around meeting its own needs, rather than that of the bottom line. The Zapatistas have been explicit about reversing the relationship between "the economy" and needs from the capitalist subordination of the later to the former, to a liberated subordination of the former to the later. I'll take that vision and that project of creation over the deadly realities of capitalism any day. Price Response: No country, > including Mexico, can afford the luxury of allowing a bunch of > revolutionaries with guns to run around the country. When the U.S. had riots > in Detroit and Miami I didn't see too much negotiating; I saw the National > Guard, with tanks and machine guns, going in and shooting to kill! > Cleaver Reply: Actually "Mexico", ie the bulk of the Mexican people, can not afford to lose these revolutionaries with their guns. They are an important organized force standing between the Mexican people and the horrors that will be wrecked on them by the US/IMF/PRI program of austerity, enclosure and repression. You're quite right about Detroit and Miami, and you should have mentioned Los Angeles, a a whole string of urban insurgencies. The state`s response was the same: military repression of people who had gotten out of line. But all that tells us is something we already know, or should. Namely that the viciousness of the American state differs only in form and degree from that of Mexico. That the demands of the capitalists are everywhere the same: discipline and the order of work, at all costs. Price Comeback: > The demand of most members of society, not capitalists or socialists, is the > same. Peace and tranquility. The most powerful PRI ad in the recent > Presidential campaign was a reference to law and order. It was particularly > effective with housewives and the elderly. The PRD came off as a bunch of > "bomb-throwers", and their vote was way, way down. Cleaver Answer (Feb.11, 1995) First, should I take your silence on so much of what I said above as agreement? Second, I agree that most Mexicans want peace and tranquility. That is exactly what they do NOT have with the PRI. What they have is an authoritarian state with a corrupt and vicious police and military. What the PRI really offers is more of the same with a few more lousy jobs working in dangerous conditions for equally lousy wages --assuming that wages are reduced even more so multinational corporations will invest and take advantage of NAFTA. To the degree that the PRD (which I do not support) "came off as a bunch of 'bomb-throwers'", seems to have been mainly because of the PRI-state's control and misuse of the mass media. As far as I can see neither the PRD nor the PAN offer any real alternative. And I gather from the vote analysers that the results of the elections lately have been showing how the voters have been discovering just that: that many who voted against the PRI and for the PAN are now voting against the PAN because "plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose." Price Response: > I do not believe "everything" the PRI has to say; personally I support the > PAN. I also do not believe most of what the EZLN has to say. I like to > believe that I have the capacity to analize what's said and what I see, and > draw my own conclusions. > > Ken Price > Cleaver Reply: Leaving aside the question of whether the PAN is Tweedledumb to the PRI's Tweedledumber, I would never doubt your ability to analyse on your own and draw your own conclusions. I dispute them not only because they echo the propaganda of the Mexican state but because I think they are wrong. Price Comeback: > I do not subscribe to the notion that the PRI has taken over the PAN; I > happen to think that the PRI has moved right, taking some of the PAN > positions. Same thing happening in the U.S.A., with Democrats now talking > like Republicans. The left is now the property (in Mexico) of the PRD, but > somewhat discredited. > Cleaver Answer (Feb.11,1995) To some degree I think you are right, in both countries. But the coalescing towards the right is just a measure of the bankruptcy of the capitalists and their policy makers in both countries. I say that because of the nature of the policies being pushed by the "right" and their new associates from the "middle". The policies are either out and out reactionary --such as the attack on the welfare state in the US or the privatization of land in Mexico-- or mere repetitions of early brutalities --such as the renewed imposition of austerity combined with the massive bailout of capitalist investors. What is striking about this crisis --besides the military-police-state assault on those who dare to fight back-- is the failure of imagination on the part of policy makers, their inability to come up with ANY progressive way out of the crisis. ====================================== Harry Cleaver Department of Economics University of Texas at Austin Austin, Texas 78712-1173 USA Phone Numbers: (hm) (512) 442-5036 (off) (512) 471-3211 Fax: (512) 471-3510 E-mail: ====================================== .