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Link Ext. – Cuba

The aff’s minor change in Cuban policy simply greases the wheels of capitalism. Half-measures that stop short of lifting the embargo empower capitalist industries.

Chase, history doctoral candidate at NYU, 2009 [Michelle, doctoral candidate in the history department of New York University, “The Bigger Picture of the Cuban Embargo and Travel Ban”, April 28th,]
Last week, on the eve of the Summit of the Americas held in Trinidad and Tobago, President Barack Obama announced new measures to permit unlimited Cuban-American travel and remittances to the island. These relaxations immediately set off predictions that the entire travel ban would soon be lifted. And in fact, there are bills in both the House and Senate that aim to do just that. The excitement over these new possibilities, however, should be tempered with a note of caution. Although there have always been important voices raised in the United States over the injustice of the embargo, much of the progressive mobilization effort of recent years has focused on a complete end to the travel ban, demanding the right to travel “for all, not for some.” The campaign has generated support partly by casting the embargo as a violation of U.S. citizens’ freedom to travel. But as full liberalization of travel now looms, it is clearer than ever that a progressive opposition to U.S. Cuba policy needs to focus on ending the entire embargo, and for the right, big-picture reasons: The embargo violates Cuban sovereignty and is patently imperialist. Otherwise, the momentum for U.S. Cuba policy reform will be co-opted by representatives of the tourism, agricultural and telecommunication industries. The new relaxations announced by Obama are, of course, mostly positive and welcome; any measures that diminish the daily hardships endured by Cubans would be. But these changes will also ensure that money and goods sent to Cuba will go through private hands and family networks, rather than allowing the Cuban state to guide the distribution of those resources. While the socialist government has a decidedly mixed record on overturning historic inequalities based on race and class, we nevertheless know, based on what happened during the Special Period, that resources funneled through private channels greatly exacerbate existing class and especially race tensions. Obama's reforms will play out differently among Miami's increasingly diverse Cuban community. Recently emigrated, less educated, darker-skinned migrants will likely use the reforms to help improve their families' situation back on the island, primarily at the level of everyday purchases like food, clothes, and home repairs. However, assistance sent by Miami's more established and affluent Cuban-Americans could help their relatives on the island acquire centrally-located property on the black market or proffer the substantial bribes that have increasingly become necessary to secure small business licenses and sometimes even to obtain plum jobs in the tourist sector. Thus, the new measures will not benefit all Cubans equally. They will raise the consumption levels of those with family abroad and, less directly, of those employed in the service sector in Havana and other tourist destinations. But the embargo, which remains firmly in place through the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act and the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, will still block things like the importation of badly needed modern farming equipment and key infrastructural improvements. Fully ending the travel ban is necessary and desirable, but doing so while leaving the embargo in place is one way that Washington is trying to scuttle Havana's ability to guide its own internal affairs. The capital’s youth population is already particularly frustrated with the inaccessibility of certain consumer goods and the difficulties of receiving permission to travel abroad. An avalanche of iPod-toting U.S. spring-breakers will only exacerbate this frustration. A U.S.-induced tourist boom also stands to increase the steady stream of migration from places like the impoverished easternmost province of Oriente toward Havana. These migrants already face difficulty legalizing their residency in Havana and are often forcibly deported back to their place of origin. In either case, tensions with their Havana neighbors and police could grow. Anyone who has spent time in Miami knows that Bush’s draconian restrictions, imposed during his campaign for reelection in 2004, never managed to fully contain visits and remittances. Countless small outfits sent money through unofficial channels and paid “mules” to carry goods to the island. Cuban-Americans flew through third countries to visit their relatives and friends. Such endeavors were costly and complicated, but they were rarely if ever prosecuted. The embargo has never been about fully blocking all movement of people and goods. Instead, it has sought to define which channels are legitimate. Goods distributed through individuals, family, church, and the rare humanitarian assistance effort were deemed acceptable. Exchanges promoted by political solidarity movements or formal bilateral trade relations were off limits. In other words, give Cubans charity, not solidarity; give them sporadic aid, not trade. It has been clear to U.S. authorities ever since the early 1960s that economic pressure alone would not topple the Cuban government. The embargo has been more about making a lesson out of Cuba, showing the rest of Latin America the kinds of consequences that would accompany a socialist revolution. Despite Washington's rhetoric about using sanctions as leverage to promote democracy, the embargo has always harbored a cruel subtext of punishing Cubans for supporting Fidel Castro.

Specifically, lifting the terrorism designation would open the floodgates of US consumerism and business interests

Patrick Ryan, The Hill, April 30, 2013, “Former U.S. diplomat Patrick Ryan: Time to drop Cuba from terror list,” (Ryan is a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service who previously worked on Capitol Hill. Recently having returned after 14 years away, he has a degree in International Studies from Johns Hopkins and is currently consulting in D.C. on issues that have nothing to do with Cuba, the embargo, or potential business interests there)
Ironically, these members of Congress support Cubans’ ability freedom to travel to the United States but not Americans’ freedom to travel to Cuba, and use the terrorist justification for this. If we truly want to undermine the Castro regime, the best way would be to end the listing, including the embargo and travel ban, and flood Cuba with American visitors, as well as our products and democratic ideas. Ending the restrictions would also demonstrably help the Cuban people — a stated aim of these same politicians. In comparison, most Vietnamese-Americans — who also lost a civil war to communists, 16 years after the Cubans — long ago accepted reality and supported the 1994 normalization of relations with Vietnam. The U.S. buried the hatchet and engaged a country whose human rights record, like Cuba’s — and China’s — has been disappointing, and with whom we were actually involved in a war that took the lives of more than 58,000 Americans. So why not Cuba? The fact that members of the Basque separatist group ETA have retired to the island with the blessing of the Spanish government, that FARC members are residing in Cuba during peace talks hosted by Havana and supported by the Colombian government and that various fugitives from American justice — none of whom have been accused of terrorism, by the way — have lived in exile there since the 1970s, are simply not credible arguments for maintaining the designation. Frankly, it’s well past time that U.S. policymakers had the courage to tell the most vocal Miami exiles to acknowledge reality and move on, as many of them already have. Fortunately, the younger generation of Cubans in Miami isn’t as obsessed with the island as their forebears — and Cubans are no longer a majority of the Latin American population in South Florida. President Obama won Florida twice, and is in a unique position to remove Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism and push Congress to end the embargo in his second term. As Cuba continues its sporadic offshore oil exploration with foreign partners, including U.S. allies, it would seem advantageous for it to be a part of the process, in order to help ensure there will not be another disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, not to mention the economic benefits it would receive from increased exports to the island. The only way to do so is to take Cuba off the terrorism list.

Cuba would be pressured to join financial institutions like the World Bank

McKenna, Professor of Political Science at the University of Prince Edward Island, 4-17-13 [Peter, “Cuba languishes on terrorism list for no good reason”,]
By keeping Cuba on that list, it prevents dual-use military technology — which could include advanced medical equipment — from reaching the island. It also compels Washington to oppose vigorously any loans to Cuba from international financial institutions like the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

The threshold for a link is low – even small attempts at normalizing relations would drastically strain Cuba’s ability to provide crucial social services

Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations, 2010 [Laurie, “Castrocare in Crisis”, Foreign Affairs July/August 2010,]
The Castro government, meanwhile, is in a seemingly untenable position. The two greatest achievements of the Cuban Revolution -- 100 percent literacy and quality universal health care -- depend on huge streams of government spending. If Washington does eventually start to normalize relations, plugging just a few holes in the embargo wall would require vast additional spending by the Cuban government. The government would have to pay higher salaries to teachers, doctors, nurses, and technicians; strengthen the country's deteriorating infrastructure; and improve working conditions for common workers. To bolster its health-care infrastructure and create incentives for Cuban doctors to stay in the system, Cuba will have to find external support from donors, such as the United Nations and the U.S. Agency for International Development. But few sources will support Havana with funding as long as the regime restricts the travel of its citizens.

Link Ext. – Anti-Imperialism

Their anti-imperialist veneer provides ideological support for capitalists. The history of US policy in Latin America and elsewhere demonstrates that we should be skeptical when imperialist powers suddenly profess anti-imperialist stances.

Petras, professor of sociology at Binghamton University, 2011 [James, Imperialism and the “Anti-Imperialism of the Fools”, Dec 30,]
The imperial “grass roots” strategy combines humanitarian, democratic and anti-imperialist rhetoric and paid and trained local NGO’s, with mass media blitzes to mobilize Western public opinion and especially “prestigious leftist moral critics” behind their power grabs. The Consequence of Imperial Promoted “Anti-Imperialist” Movements: Who Wins and Who Loses? The historic record of imperialist promoted “anti-imperialist” and “pro-democracy” “grass roots movements” is uniformly negative. Let us briefly summarize the results. In Chile ‘grass roots’ truck owners strike led to the brutal military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and nearly two decades of torture, murder, jailing and forced exile of hundreds of thousands, the imposition of brutal “free market policies” and subordination to US imperial policies. In summary the US multi-national copper corporations and the Chilean oligarchy were the big winners and the mass of the working class and urban and rural poor the biggest losers. The US backed “grass roots uprisings” in Eastern Europe against Soviet domination, exchanged Russian for US domination; subordination to NATO instead of the Warsaw Pact; the massive transfer of national public enterprises, banks and media to Western multi-nationals. Privatization of national enterprises led to unprecedented levels of double-digit unemployment, skyrocketing rents and the growth of pensioner poverty.The crises induced the flight of millions of the most educated and skilled workers and the elimination of free public health, higher education and worker vacation resorts. Throughout the now capitalist Eastern Europe and USSR highly organized criminal gangs developed large scale prostitution and drug rings; foreign and local gangster ‘entrepeneurs’ seized lucrative public enterprises and formed a new class of super-rich oligarchs Electoral party politicians, local business people and professionals linked to Western ‘partners’ were the socio-economic winners. Pensioners, workers, collective farmers, the unemployed youth were the big losers along with the formerly subsidized cultural artists. Military bases in Eastern Europe became the empire’s first line of military attack of Russia and the target of any counter-attack. If we measure the consequences of the shift in imperial power, it is clear that the Eastern Europe countries have become even more subservient under the US and the EU than under Russia. Western induced financial crises have devastated their economies; Eastern European troops have served in more imperial wars under NATO than under Soviet rule; the cultural media are under Western commercial control.Most of all, the degree of imperial control over all economic sectors far exceeds anything that existed under the Soviets. The Eastern European ‘grass roots’ movement succeeded in deepening and extending the US Empire; the advocates of peace, social justice, national independence, a cultural renaissance and social welfare with democracy were the big losers. Western liberals, progressives and leftists who fell in love with imperialist promoted “anti-imperialism” are also big losers. Their support for the NATO attack on Yugoslavia led to the break-up of a multi-national state and the creation of huge NATO military bases and a white slavers paradise in Kosova. Their blind support for the imperial promoted “liberation” of Eastern Europe devastated the welfare state, eliminating the pressure on Western regimes’ need to compete in providing welfare provisions. The main beneficiaries of Western imperial advances via ‘grass roots’ uprisings were the multi-national corporations, the Pentagon and the rightwing free market neo-liberals.As the entire political spectrum moved to the right a sector of the left and progressives eventually jumped on the bandwagon. The Left moralists lost credibility and support, their peace movements dwindled, their “moral critiques” lost resonance. The left and progressives who tail-ended the imperial backed “grass roots movements”, whether in the name of “anti-stalinism”, “pro-democracy” or “anti-imperialism” have never engaged in any critical reflection; no effort to analyze the long-term negative consequences of their positions in terms of the losses in social welfare, national independence or personal dignity. The long history of imperialist manipulation of “anti-imperialist” narratives has found virulent expression in the present day. The New Cold War launched by Obama against China and Russia, the hot war brewing in the Gulf over Iran’s alleged military threat, the interventionist threat against Venezuela’s “drug-networks”,and Syria’s “bloodbath” are part and parcel of the use and abuse of “anti-imperialism” to prop up a declining empire. Hopefully, the progressive and leftist writers and scribes will learn from the ideological pitfalls of the past and resist the temptation to access the mass media by providing a ‘progressive cover’ to imperial dubbed “rebels”. It is time to distinguish between genuine anti-imperialism and pro-democracy movements and those promoted by Washington, NATO and the mass media.

Link – Mexico

Increased economic engagement with Mexico empirically wreaks neoliberal devastation and inequality. The Mexican elite have and will sell out the vast majority of the country in the name of US interest.

Regil, Executive Director of The Jus Semper Global Alliance, 2004 [Álvaro J. de Regil, “The Neo-Capitalist Assault in Mexico: Democracy vis-à-vis the logic of the market” Sustainable Economic Development February 2004 ]
Structural Change Starting with Miguel de la Madrid, the PRI governments cease to be merely oligarchic, and they transform more properly into agents of the Consensus to impose and consolidate U.S. neoliberalism. Thus, with the direct connivance of the domestic power elite, the neo-capitalist assault is forged. The bet of the political elite and its twin, the business oligarchy, continues to be the same: to make themselves suitable to Washington’s new geopolitical interests, banking to benefit its very private interests on maintaining a centre-periphery partnership where they can continue to milk the country. Nevertheless, they are not just partners jointly exploiting with the North the natural and human resources of the country. They are now more properly agents in charge of imposing the economic structures dictated by the metropolis’ institutional investors for benefit of their multinationals (MNCs). This is a new North-South system, absolutely imperialist, that makes use of resources under a globally-integrated system that cuts across borders and includes and marginalises resources and inhabitants in the entire system, according to the national economic environments generating the maximum efficiencies, which in turn translates into the greatest possible shareholder values. In this system, the North-South borders become blurred, and the agents of the neo-capitalist assault are both the leaders of the G7 and those in the periphery. However, the agents in the South, due to their congenital weakness, are left only with the option of participating in the profits, depending on their capacity to generate the best efficiencies in infrastructure, in costs of commodities and of course in high-yield labour, for its extremely low cost and its operative dexterity at the industrial units of the MNCs. Those offering the best natural resources for exploitation, the best infrastructure and fiscal incentives and the best workers and most flexible labour legislation, will be the best bidders to attract foreign capital. Those who build the most sublime Darwinian ethos will be the winners. The aspirations of true development, of eliminating poverty, of social justice, of sovereignty, are absolutely frivolous and strictly remain as rhetoric for domestic consumption. The real thing is the savage competition of the business/political oligarchies of the countries of the South to attract capital and participate in the global system of exploitation. Kissinger said at the start of the government of Vicente Fox that globalization has its risks, perhaps 20% of the Mexican economy will be able to participate in the international system of multinationals. But the rest will continue to be marginalised and with no access to income, employment and the opportunities of globalisation.9 In this way, the new role of foreign agent of the Mexican elite becomes evident. Fiscally, the role is strictly as monetary regulator with high interest to contain inflation, depress demand and service the foreign debt by deepening the oil dependency of the economy. The role of balancing supply and demand is eliminated, and there is exclusive support for export supply; preponderantly the export of labour at misery prices through in-bond plants, which only export labour, for its local content is barely 2%. At the same time, the dismantling of the Welfare State and of programs against poverty is initiated. Between 1983 and 1988, the minimum wage falls 49%. Moderate and extreme poverty increase 33% and 23% respectively. Thus, the poor become the majority for the first time in many decades. The general subsidies on food are replaced by focalised aid, another of the commandments of neoliberalism, and the programs on extreme rural poverty are either reduced or completely eliminated. Clear regressive signs emerge, such as the increase in the incidence of infant mortality due to avitaminosis. The proportion of death cases due to fetal underdevelopment and malnutrition boom in absolute terms. Schooling indices drop for the first time in decades. The GINI inequality index increases from 47 to 53. 10

Link – Venezuela

The affirmative is nothing but a nostalgic longing for the glory days of US domination of Venezuela and Latin America, a neoliberal fantasy that would devastate Venezuelan popular classes.

Petras, professor of sociology at Binghamton University, 2010 [James, “U.S. Venezuelan Relations: Imperialism and Revolution”,]
Under US hegemony Venezuela was a major player in the US effort to isolate and undermine the Cuban revolutionary government. Venezuelan client regimes played a major role in support of the successful US led effort to expel Cuba from the OAS; in 1961 and brokering a deal in the early 1990’s to disarm the guerillas in El Salvador and Guatemala without regime or structural changes in exchange for legal status of the excombatants. In short, Venezuelan regimes played a strategic role in policing the Central American-Caribbean region, a supplier of oil and as an important regional market for US exports. For Venezuela the benefits of its relations with the US were highly skewed to the upper and the affluent middle classes. They were able to import luxury goods with low tariffs and invest in real estate, especially in south Florida. The business and banking elite were able to “associate” in joint ventures with US MNC especially in the lucrative oil, gas, aluminum and refinery sectors. US military training missions and joint military exercises provided a seemingly reliable force to defend ruling class interests and repress popular protests and revolts. The benefits for the popular classes, mainly US consumer imports, were far outweighed by the losses incurred through the outflow of income in the form of royalties, interest, profits and rents. Even more prejudicial were the US promoted neo-liberal policies which undermined the social safety net, increased economic vulnerability to market volatility and led to a two decade long crises culminating in a double digit decline in living standards (1979 – 1999). Toward Conceptualizing US-Venezuelan Relations Several key concepts are central to the understanding of US-Venezuelan relations in the past and present Chavez era. These include the notion of ‘hegemony’ in which the ideas and interests of Washington are accepted and internalized by the Venezuelan ruling and governing class. Hegemony was never effective throughout Venezuelan class and civil society. “Counterhegemonic” ideologies and definitions of socio-economic interests existed with varying degree of intensity and organization throughout the post 1958 revolutionary period. In the 1960’s mass movements, guerilla organizations and sectors of the trade unions formed part of a nationalist and socialist counter-hegemonic bloc. Venezuelan-US relations were not uniform despite substantial continuities over time. Despite close relations and economic dependence especially during the 1960’s counter-insurgency period, Venezuela was one of the original promoters of OPEC, nationalized the oil industry (1976), opposed the US backed Somoza regime and White House plans to intervene to block a Sandinista victory (in 1979). The regression from nationalist capitalism to US sponsored neo-liberalism in the late 1980’s and 1990’s reflected a period of maximum US hegemony, a phenomena that took place throughout Latin America in the 1990’s. The election and re-election of President Chavez beginning in 1998 through the first decade of the new century marked a decline of US hegemony in the governing and popular classes but not among the business elite, trade union officials (CTV) and sectors of the military and public sector elite especially in the state oil company (PDVSA). The decline in US hegemony was influenced by the change in the power configuration governing Venezuela, the severe economic crises in 2000 – 2002, the demise and overthrow of client regimes in key Latin American countries and the rise of radical social movements and left center regimes. Accelerating the ‘loss of presence of the US’ and ‘policing’ of Latin America, were the wars in the Middle East, Iraq, South Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan) and the expanding economic role and trading relations between Latin America and Asia (mainly China). The commodity boom between 2003 – 2008 further eroded US leverage via the IMF and WB and enhanced the counterhegemonic policies of the center-left regimes especially inVenezuela. A key concept toward understanding the decline of US hegemony over Venezuela are “pivotal events”. This concept refers to major political conflicts which trigger a realignment of inter-state relations and changes the correlation of domestic socio-political forces. In our study President’s Bush’s launch of the “War on Terror” following 9/11/01 involving the invasion of Afghanistan and claims to extra territorial rights to pursue and assassinate adversaries dubbed “terrorists” was rejected by President Chavez (“you can’t fight terror with terror”). These events triggered far reaching consequences in USVenezuelan relations. Related to the above, our conceptualization of US-Venezuelan relations emphasizes the high degree of inter-action between global policies and regional conflicts. In operational terms the attempt by Washington to impose universal/global conformity to its war on terrorism led to a US backed coup, which in turn fueled Chavez’ policy of extra hemispheric alignments with adversaries of the White House. Historical shifts in global economic power and profound changes in the internal make-up of the US economy have necessitated a reconceptualization of the principal levers of the US empire. In the past dollar diplomacy, meaning the dominant role of US industry and banks, played a major role in imposing US hegemony in Latin America, supplemented via military interventions and military coups especially in the Caribbean and Central America. In recent years financial capital “services” have displaced US manufacturing as the driving force and military wars and intervention have overshadowed economic instruments, especially with the surge of Asian trade agreements with Latin America. We reconceptualize US-Venezuelan relations in light of a declining US economic and rising military empire, as a compensatory mechanism for sustaining hegemony especially as a tool for restoring client domestic elites to power. The relation between past imperial successes in securing harmonious hegemonic collaborating rulers in the 1990’s and the profound political changes resulting from the crises of and breakdown of neo-liberalism, led Washington to totally misread the new realities. The resulting policy failures (for example Latin America’s rejection of the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas) and isolation and defeat of US policy toward Venezuela, Cuba and Honduras reflects what we conceptualize as “romantic reaction”, a failure of political realism: nostalgia for the imperial “golden age” of hegemony and pillage of the1990’s. The repeated failure by both the Bush and Obama regime to recognize regime changes, ideological shifts and the new development models and trade patterns has lead to mindless threats and diplomatic incapacity to develop any new bridges to the centrist regimes in the key countries of South America, especially toward Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay).

Link – Latin American Economy

Their promise of economic growth is an abstraction that leaves the Latin American poor behind. History demonstrates that neoliberal growth has been uniformly disastrous.

Lewis, Professor of Spanish at the University of Iowa, 2005 [Tom, also a member of the editorial board of the International Socialist Review, “Latin America on fire”, International Socialist Review Issue 44, November–December 2005,]
In fact, no correlation exists under neoliberalism between economic growth and social improvement. The opposite is true: neoliberalism widens the gap between rich and poor. Latin America’s economies grew by 5.8 percent in 2004, but the region remains the one with the most unequal distribution of wealth on the planet.2 Forty-four percent of Latin Americans live in poverty, subsisting on less than $2 per day.3 Fifty-eight million people live in extreme poverty on less than $1 per day. Chronic malnutrition plagues 19.4 percent of Latin American children under the age of five.4 Every day 2,500 children die in Latin America as a result of curable diseases—an increase of 500 per day in recent years. Urban unemployment across the continent grew from 6 to 9 percent between 1996 and 1999, while underemployment went from 50 percent to 56 percent. By 2003, unemployment affected 13.6 million people. At the same time, more than seven million children aged ten to fourteen were exploited in industrial and agricultural labor. Thirty million youth under the age of eighteen dropped out of school in order to work to help their families. Even the U.S. State Department calculated in 2004 that Latin American unemployment averaged 10.7 percent, “with underemployment significantly higher.”5 According to the International Labor Organization’s Panorama Laboral 2004, 19.5 million workers lack employment in the great urban centers of the region.6 Neoliberalism throws millions of people out of work (downsizing) and condemns millions more to the hellish world of insecure jobs and sweatshop conditions (flexibilization and informalization).7 Outsourcing and two-tier wage systems lead to the shrinking of large factories as well as to a weakening of class consciousness and habits of solidarity. In many Latin American countries, the working class as a whole has suffered an experience of fragmentation.8 The prices paid by workers for such basic necessities such as water, gas, and electricity have soared with neoliberal privatization, thus exacerbating the impoverishing effects of lower wages, job insecurity, and unemployment.9 Privatization also hurts workers by causing rampant decay in health, education, and transportation services, since privatization reduces state revenue. A huge net outflow of debt payment from Latin American nations to foreign creditors results as governments borrow in order to try to keep state services minimally intact. Between 1996 and 2002, debt transfers from Latin America and the Caribbean to foreign capitalists equaled an astonishing $206 billion.10 Neoliberalism perpetuates and deepens a vicious circle of imperialist oppression. IMF and World Bank “structural adjustment programs” (SAPs) are based today on the theory of “comparative advantage,” a doctrine which states that “the best way to increase overall welfare is for each to stick to the activity at which it is best, and to trade with others working on the same principle. [The theory] is frequently cited as a reason why Latin American countries should stick to exports based on natural resources and cheap labor.”11 SAPs thus have the effect of compelling Latin American countries to rely primarily on the export of raw materials or basic commodities (agricultural goods, natural gas, oil, and minerals) as the preferred way to create economic growth. This means that Latin American capitalists generally sell their products on the international market without having added much, if any, value (e.g., they sell unrefined oil and gas as opposed to refined oil and gas). Neoliberal theory tells them that profits from exporting such basic goods are sufficient to help Latin America to continue to modernize.

Link – Single Issue Focus

The affirmative is only attacking the symptom of capital dispossession. We must refuse the call for easy reform and dedicate ourselves to the real task of anti-capitalist movement building.

Patrick Reinsborough 2003 (has been involved in campaigns for peace, the environment, and social justice for over twenty years. He co-founded the smartMeme strategy & training project in 2002 and with his colleague has trained over 3,000 organizers and partnered with over 100 high impact organizations to frame issues, strengthen alliances and win critical campaigns. Patrick was previously the Organizing Director of the Rainforest Action Network where he mobilized thousands of people to confront corporations who destroy the environment and violate human rights. Patrick's work has incorporated a range of creative tactics including brand busting, cross-cultural alliance building, markets campaigning and nonviolent direct action. DE-COLONIZING THE REVOLUTIONARY IMAGINATION Journal of aesthetics and politics August 2003 volume 1, issue 2
Our planet is heading into an unprecedented global crisis. The blatancy of the corporate power grab and the accelerating ecological meltdown is evidence that we do not live in an era where we can afford the luxury of fighting the symptoms. As is often noted, crisis provides both danger and opportunity. The extent that these two opposing qualities define our era will be largely based on the appeal and breadth of the social movements which arise to address the crisis. This essay is part of my own struggle to explore a politics that is commensurate with the scale of the global crisis. In part it was inspired by a profound strategy insight I received while watching a circling bird of prey. The raptor seemed to spend hours calmly drifting on the breezes, waiting and watching, then suddenly made a lightning quick dive to seize its prey. Had I only witnessed the raptor’s final plunge, I might not have realizing that it took hours of patient surveillance for the raptor to be in the right place to make a seemingly effortless kill. I was struck by what a clear metaphor the raptor’s circling time is for what our movements need to do in order to be successful. Social change is not just the bird of prey’s sudden plunge—the flurry of direct confrontation - but rather the whole process of circling, watching, and preparing. Analysis is the most import tool in the social change toolbox. It is this process of analysis— the work to find the points of intervention and leverage in the system we are working to transform— that suggests why, where and how to use the other tools. Many of us are impatient in our desire for change and particularly, those of us from privileged backgrounds, are often times unschooled in the realities of long-term struggle. I often recall the Buddhist saying “The task before us is very urgent so we must slow down.” This essay is my effort as an organizer who has been deeply involved in a number of recent global justice mass actions, to “slow down” a bit and explore some new analytical tools. My hope is that this essay will incite deeper conversations about strategies for building movements with the inclusiveness, creativity and depth of vision necessary to move towards a more just and sane world. To do so, let’s begin by asking why aren’t more global north movements coming forward with systemic critiques? Why despite the increasingly obvious nature of the crisis, isn’t there more visible resistance to the corporate take over of the global political system, economy and culture? The answer to this question lies in our exploration of how pathological values have shaped not only the global system but also our ability to imagine true change. The system we are fighting is not merely structural it’s also inside us, through the internalization of oppressive cultural norms which define our worldview. Our minds have been colonized to normalize deeply pathological assumptions. Thus often times our own sense of self-defeatism becomes complicit with the anesthetic qualities of a cynical mass media to make fundamental social change unimaginable. As a consequence activists frequently ghettoize themselves by self-identifying through protest and failing to conceive of themselves as building movements that can actually change power relations. All too often we project our own sense of powerlessness by mistaking militancy for radicalism and mobilization for movement building. It seems highly unlikely to me that capitalism will be smashed one widow at a time. Likewise getting tens of thousands of people to take joint action is not an end in itself, rather only the first step in catalyzing deeper shifts in Western culture. Our revolution(s) will really start rolling when the logic of our actions and the appeal of our disobedience is so clear that it can easily replicate and spread far beyond the limiting definition of “protester” or “activist”. To do so, our movements for justice, ecology and democracy must deepen their message by more effectively articulating the values crisis underlying the corporate system. We must lay claim to life-affirming, common sense values and expose one of the most blatant revolutionary truths of the modern era: the corporate rule system rooted in sacrificing human dignity and planetary health for elite profit is out of alignment with an increasing number of people’s basic values. This is the domain of post-issue activism— the recognition that the roots of the emerging crisis lie in the fundamental flaws of the modern order and that our movements for change need to talk about re-designing the whole global system— now. Post-issue activism is a dramatic divergence from the slow progression of single-issue politics, narrow constituencies and band-aid solutions. Traditional single-issue politics, despite noble and pragmatic goals, is not just a strategic and gradualist path to the same goal of global transformation. Rather the framework of issue-based struggle needs to affirm the existing system in order to win concessions and thus inhibits the evolution of more systemic movements. Too often we spend our time campaigning against the smoke rather than clearly alerting people to the fact that their house is on fire. Post-issue activism is the struggle to address the holistic nature of the crisis and it demands new frameworks, new alliances and new strategies. We must find ways to articulate the connections between all the “issues” by revealing the pathological nature of the corporate take over. To do so we must rise to the challenge of going beyond (rather than abandoning) single-issue politics. We have to learn to talk about values, deepen our analysis without sacrificing accessibility and direct more social change resources into creating political space for a truly transformative arena of social change. To explore de-colonizing the revolutionary imagination, we must reference the history of colonization. The word colonialism comes from “colonia” a Latin word for rural farmstead. When the armies of the Roman empire conquered the peoples of Europe they seized the land and created colonias to control the territory. A thousand years later Europe came to be controlled by leaders who went on to mimic this cruelty, and force Western civilization ("a disease historically spread by sharp swords"1 ) upon the rest of the world. Colonialism is not just a process of establishing physical control over territory, it is the process of establishing the ideologies and the identities - colonies in the mind - that perpetuate control. Central to this process has been the manufacture of attitudes of racism, nationalism, patriarchal manhood, and the division of society into economic classes. If we are to take seriously de-colonizing the revolutionary imagination then we must examine how these attitudes, shape the way we conceive of social change. Likewise we must remember that analysis is shaped by experience and that those who suffer directly as targets of these manufactured attitudes of oppression often live the experiences which create clear analysis. Effective revolutions listen. In facing the global crisis, the most powerful weapon that we have is our imaginations. But first we must liberate ourselves from the conceptual limitations we place on social change. As we expand the realm of the possible we shape the direction of the probable. This means directly confronting the myths and assumptions that make a better world seem unattainable. To that end this essay endeavors to explore some tools to help us unshackle our imaginations and deepen the momentum of the global justice movements into a political space to fundamentally re-design the global system.

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