Things are certainly going to crapola for many poor Central American children these days. But at least they are not having their lives ruined by elected socialists. Barbarism is so much better. Somalian freedom anyone? Where, oh where, have I read about this before? Some murdered democratic revolutionary internationalist perhaps.
The Political-Economic Basis For Anti-Capitalist Democratic Internationalism
We must refuse to separate morality from economics, to ignore the historical and political dimensions of economic justice, and to narrowly define “justice” as the head-in-the-sand enforcement of U.S. laws. (According to a good Jesuit who mourned for those dying in Central America, including his owns priests, justice should be in the service of love.) For instance, when we receive reports about Latin American children in flight to the U.S., we must be mindful that the U.S. has spent generations undermining Latin America efforts to achieve economic justice.
Every once in a while, the U.S. gets a stark example of international blowback. But what if the projectiles involved in this scenario are small defenseless human beings? Does the U.S. learn from its mistakes and attack the underlying problems? No. Instead, in the case of international blowback, as with domestic blowback, we simply blame and harass the victims.
In a detailed report, the UN High Commissioner on Refugees has explained the need for international protection for unaccompanied children from Central America and Mexico. (http://www.unhcrwashington.org/sites/default/files/UAC_UNHCR_Children%20on%20the%20Run_Full%20Report.pdf.) But coming from the UN, it is ignored by the U.S. government.
The politically-expedient way of dealing with blowback, if you are a supposedly compassionate U.S. president, is to look at legal minutia with a view to stepping up deportation, rather than seeing the big picture and your actual legal authority.
It is easy to see why a president concerned about mid-term elections might cower. After all, Cuban Canadian USian Senator Ted Cruz has our backs. Unfortunately, the helpless young human beings who are on the run and are receiving an unjust response to the blowback their fleeing constitutes only understand their own desperation. So, for a U.S. president to act compassionately using his legal authority risks losing mid-term elections, and that is just that. But what does that say about U.S. voters, particularly those on the likely winning side in mid-term elections?
It is a cruel sanctimonious voter, and hardly one who holds up to timeless standards of decency, who would be swayed to vote against helping the innocent and helpless. Many of these voters follow a religion that claims, if they will excuse the lack of the King James Version, “el señor protégé a los forasteros; sostiene al huérfano y a la viuda.” (Salmo 146.) But perhaps God only speaks English. (But wasn’t that Psalm written in Hebrew?)
The U.S. in its international relations discourages economic justice because it smacks of socialism. Socialism, of course, sounds good to me. However, the U.S. will not even ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights signed by President Carter. This unkind refusal to recognize standards of material decency does not sound good to me at all.
But there is much more to the story. A Latin American government going to the left risks being toppled by its U.S.-funded military. The U.S., under pressure from Republican Cuban Americans concerned about making leftist dominos fall, assuming it was not, as claimed by a Zelaya minister, directly responsible for the reactionary coup, will happily move on to the illegal replacement “president,” who ironically will have been put into power because the leftist was wanting the people to have greater control over their democracy and constitution. The UN General Assembly unanimously condemned the 2009 military coup of Honduras’s elected president.
Shame on the elected president of a Central American country for moving left and seeking some measure of economic justice. That, the U.S., or more importantly, U.S. transnational corporations, simply cannot abide.
The coup’s legacy is the very violence that is forcing children to flee for their lives, with an able assist from the failed U.S. drug war, which turns Central America into a drug transit zone. And then we complain about the foreign orphans who have no choice but to flee.
Ultimately, what can end this immigrant-bashing and “border pressure”? Anti-capitalist democratic internationalism of the type I think Luxemburg and Marx, not to mention Eugene V. Debs and Reinhold Niebuhr, could endorse.
I suggest that there are two principal political-economic reasons why truly compassionate USians must support anti-capitalist democratic internationalism. One is a “prophylactic” reason and the other is a “stimulative” reason. Both are interrelated, and the distinctions I draw are not absolute but illustrative.
The first/prophylactic reason is that, as the desperation of Central American children reflects: the U.S. is not isolated unto itself, as the border zeitgeist would indicate, but is instead the senior partner of global capitalist imperialism, creating destruction and exploitation of people and the environment all around the world.
The second/stimulative reason is that the workers of the U.S. themselves need socialism and are unlikely to get what they need from domestic, plutocrat-controlled political “democracy” alone, which will require outside stimulus. And, circling back to the first reason, if the U.S. does not itself become socialistic, it is unlikely that the cancer of capitalism will cease expanding and re-expanding around the planet until no more profits are to be made and the planet has been thoroughly cooked. Hence, outside stimulation of the U.S. to become socialistic is necessary both for the good of the U.S. and for the good of the rest of the planet, if one cares about it.
On the first reason, I will briefly turn to Rosa Luxemburg. On the second, I will briefly turn to Marx. I am no scholar of either, and many of the people who read this will be scholars of both. I look forward to their corrections and additions to the extent I misconstrue anything. I am not trying to win an academic, much less a dogma, fight but merely to suggest that these two thinkers gave good guidance worth considering on the topics to which I am assigning them. The “reasons” I am giving are ultimately my own interpretations of reality and potential reality, as opposed to the referenced works of the authors, so please do not blame anyone else, including Luxemburg or Marx, for any interpretative failings I am making.
Capitalists Gobbling Up Conditions of Accumulation
I am using as my reference Rosa Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital, 1913. There is a reason that the U.S. supports free trade outside its borders and outside of any international social compact, and this is that capitalism requires this for its own continuation. Thus, capitalism ever seeks to control society and to resist society controlling capitalism. “[A]part from the observation of price fluctuations there is no social control – no social link exists between the individual producers other than the exchange of commodities.” (Ch. 1)
In contrast to every other form of society, including “a primitive communist agrarian community” and “an economic system based on slave labour or corvée,” with a capitalist society:
in certain periods all the ingredients of reproduction may be available, both labour and means of production, and yet some vital needs of society for consumer goods may be left unfulfilled. We find that in spite of these resources reproduction may in part be completely suspended and in part curtailed. Here it is no despotic interference with the economic plan that is responsible for the difficulties in the process of production. Quite apart from all technical conditions, reproduction here depends on purely social considerations: only those goods are produced which can with certainty he expected to sell, and not merely to sell, but to sell at the customary profit. Thus profit becomes an end in itself, the decisive factor which determines not only production but also reproduction. Not only does it decide in each case what work is to be undertaken, how it is to be carried out, and how the products are to be distributed; what is more, profit decides, also, at the end of every working period, whether the labour process is to be resumed, and, if so, to what extent and in what direction it should be made to operate.
And profit generation requires both ever-increasing markets and ever-increasing places to accumulate capital. This is a problem even larger than the problem of booms and busts: “cyclical movement of boom, slump, and crisis, does not represent the whole problem of capitalist reproduction, although it is an essential element of it.” (Id.) Other than squeezing the workers of the world, capitalists can only stay in business by expanding:
Expansion becomes in truth a coercive law, an economic condition of existence for the individual capitalist. Under the rule of competition, cheapness of commodities is the most important weapon of the individual capitalist in his struggle for a place in the market. Now all methods of reducing the cost of commodity production permanently amount in the end to an expansion of production; excepting those only which aim at a specific increase of the rate of surplus value by measures such as wage cutting or lengthening the hours of work.
Section Three of Luxemburg’s master work details “The Historical Conditions of Accumulation.” In contrast to most of Sections One and Two, it is readily understandable to the layperson. I would recommend that all anti-capitalists read it. It will tick you off. Luxemburg describes capitalist exploitation of humanity in clear terms sure to raise your blood pressure.
Simply put, capitalism, if it stays as the global economic system, is hard-wired to maximize exploitation of the workers of the world and the other physical and chemical resources of the world until profits can no longer be made. Honduras and the rest of the world are merely places for capitalists to make money. All of these varying places will be sought out, to varying degrees and in varying ways, and as much as possible any vestiges of decency eliminated, until every bit of profit can be soaked out or capitalism or human life itself ends.
Political Democracy’s Limitations and Potential in the U.S.
The U.S. is far from a perfect place, and that of course includes its political system. In my spare time, I operate a one-person volunteer website with a simple post on Reinhold Niebuhr’s Constructive Criticism of Democracy that is, as far as my obscure website goes, frequently read. I think that on some level religious people want to receive permission from a theologian like Niebuhr to express their doubts about democracy.
By the same token, I would like to use Karl Marx to “give” leftists permission to hold out some hope for U.S. democracy, but only under certain circumstances where it receives outside stimulation to be much deeper. If the democracy of the U.S. does not assert extensive control over the U.S. economy, its democracy will continue to be stagnant and the workers of the U.S. and the world will continue to suffer under the capitalist hegemony which the democratic communist Luxemburg so well documented.
In a short 1872 speech, Marx famously held out hope that the U.S. could undergo a non-violent revolution:
You know that the institutions, mores, and traditions of various countries must be taken into consideration, and we do not deny that there are countries — such as America, England, and if I were more familiar with your institutions, I would perhaps also add Holland — where the workers can attain their goal by peaceful means. This being the case, we must also recognize the fact that in most countries on the Continent the lever of our revolution must be force; it is force to which we must some day appeal in order to erect the rule of labor.
But later in the speech he made a qualification which applies to the U.S. and every nation:
Citizens, let us think of the basic principle of the International: Solidarity. Only when we have established this life-giving principle on a sound basis among the numerous workers of all countries will we attain the great final goal which we have set ourselves. The revolution must be carried out with solidarity; this is the great lesson of the French Commune, which fell because none of the other centres — Berlin, Madrid, etc. — developed great revolutionary movements comparable to the mighty uprising of the Paris proletariat.
So far as I am concerned, I will continue my work and constantly strive to strengthen among all workers this solidarity that is so fruitful for the future. No, I do not withdraw from the International, and all the rest of my life will be, as have been all my efforts of the past, dedicated to the triumph of the social ideas which — you may be assured! — will lead to the world domination by the proletariat.
Yesterday, I did a diary in Hellraisers Journal on Henry O. Morris’s Waiting for the Signal. Written 25 years after Marx’s speech, the novel suggests that by the end of the 19th century many U.S. socialists had given up hope of a non-violent revolution in the U.S.
How can Marx’s and Morris’s competing views be reconciled? The critical ingredient for the U.S. achieving a non-violent socialist revolution seems to me for the workers of the U.S. to be in solidarity with the other workers of the world. As long as we each view ourselves as competitors as opposed to brothers and sisters, we will be highly susceptible to divide-and-conquer. Yet, workers in the U.S. are in bad shape, having lost much of the manufacturing sector to China and other low-wage nations in the worldwide capitalist race to the bottom. To me, a central focal point of all workers of the world needs to be recognition of a global social compact. With such recognition, non-violent pressure from abroad, and not just blood pressure, might yet build for the U.S. to become an economically just nation for its own workers and those of the world.