Peter McLaren and Nathalia E. Jaramillo
Dedicated to Rachel Corrie
Neoliberalism, Capitalist Globalization, and the Crisis of the Educational Left
The central antagonism of the current historical moment is one that we can now unhesitatingly call empire. It is marked by those who equate global peace and freedom with the free trade gospel of neoliberalism. But it is also characterized by those who, in taking to the streets of Seattle, Quebec City, Genoa, Prague and elsewhere, demonstrate their defiant conviction that another world outside the razor-wired precincts of globalized capitalism is possible. As market fundamentalism unleashes its vicious assault against humanity under the auspices of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Washington Consensus, and as it accords itself the sacerdotal status necessary to divine a future of human dignity, prosperity and democracy, the transnational ruling elite are being afforded a rite of passage to scourge the earth of its natural resources while besieging the working-class, women, children and people of color. The far-flung outposts of ‘democracy’, built on the centuries old pillars of imperialism and conquest and the devaluation and domestication of the ‘other’, demonstrate that the soil in which democracy is cultivated is the dung heap of capitalism’s valorization process. Throughout the global lifeworld (or should we say the ‘living deathworld’), the labor-power of aggrieved groups is being subsumed into an abstract calculus and value form that reduces them to inhuman instruments in the process of capital accumulation. The future condition of humanity is permanently threatened by the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (NAFTA), that seeks to expand the “circle of opportunity” by building upon the capacity to penetrate any remaining regulated markets throughout the globe with or without consent. The pilot project of the FTAA is the Plan Puebla de Panama, the creation of a giant malquiladora zone starting in Puebla state in South America and moving through Central America, an area of 60 million people—basically a hyperextension of NAFTA. As Tom Hayden warns, “Relocating the crisis-ridden maquiladora industry to southern Mexico, where wages are half those at the Mexican maquilas on the us border, is a desperate effort to prevent the hamorrhage of jobs to China, where ‘nimble Chinese hands’…sew and stitch for 40 cents an hour, only one-sixth of the Mexican wage” (2003, p. 20).
However, the last colors from Washington’s palette have yet to be painted onto this turbulent geo-landscape. Faced with a series of draconian policy shifts since 9/11 (such as a proliferation of nuclear weapons, the Bush Administration’s Doctrine of Preventative War, the USA Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Act, and a shift from Keynesian state economic and financial policies to Friedmanite neo-liberal ones), education activists across the globe trenchantly refuse to believe that this is the way things should be, that our collective future is inevitable, that our fate as global citizens is prescored to usher in an apocalyptic destruction of the planet.
However, the educational left (we are speaking here mainly of educators who work within the liberal tradition) across the U.S. has for the most part been too quick to dismiss the possibility of this new imperial reality. Globalization is often deemed to be an inevitable process, a Darwinian consequence of the technological evolution of the human species boasting a hitherto unrevealed potential. Contemplating the future in a tremulous rush of consumer exhilaration, the educational left fails in the main to recognize an epochal shift in history accelerated by the transnationalization of production. While nearly half of the world’s population subsists on less than two dollars a day and while young children across the globe are subjugated to inhumane living conditions as a result of increased poverty, economic degradation, and urbanization through the transnational fertilization of neoliberal market economies, progressive educators are fixated upon improving the educational opportunites and outcomes of millions across the globe. In this chapter, we will attempt to encourage the educational left to look beyond the postmodern intercourse of the West meets East in online chatrooms designed to create a “hybrid” subject of history, and begin the task of forging an historical-materialist analysis of the processes of globalization, neoliberalism, and imperialism as a necessary step in creating a transnational anti-globalization alliance.
According to Robinson and Harris, neoliberal globalization is unifying the world into a single mode of production and bringing about the organic integration of different countries and regions into a single global economy through the logic of capital accumulation on a world scale (Robinson and Harris: 2000). Whereas formerly the world economy was composed of the development of national economies and national circuits of accumulation that were linked to each other through commodity trade and capital flows in an integrated international market, while nation states mediated the boundaries between differently articulated modes of production, today national production systems are reorganized and functionally integrated into global circuits, creating a single and increasingly undifferentiated field for world capitalism. The transnationalization of the production of goods and services has led to a global class formation that has involved the accelerated division of the world into a global bourgeoisie and a global proletariat – a proletariat that has doubled within the last thirty years while the assets of the one-hundred largest multinational corporations has grown by 697 per cent. The diaspora of multinational corporations has led to a diminution of spatial barriers thereby allowing corporations to exercise increased power over nation/states as they scramble to attract investors. Harvey is worth quoting at length on this point:
But the reduction of spatial barriers has an equally powerful opposite effect; small-scale and finely graded differences between the qualities of places (their labor supply, their infrastructures, and political receptivity, their resource mixes, their market niches, etc.) become even more important because multinational capital is in a better position to exploit them. Places, by the same token become much more concerned about their “good business climate” and inter-place competition for development becomes much more fine-tuned.” (Harvey 1996: 246-247)
Capital, in other words, has been liberated from spatial barriers as countries vie to cultivate the most fertile ground for the transnationalization of production. Tens of millions drawn from distant lands and rural villages have been called to export processing zones – regions characterized by relaxed labor and environmental laws as a final plea to stimulate their economies (Finnegan 2003:47). The so-called developing world has come to a rude realization that investment is short lived and competition is rife. As soon as the transnational ruling elite are able to tack a more profitable zone on the map of global investment, their factories will close, and the formerly favored region will be left with nothing more than vestiges of wasteful decadence and displaced populations in search of viable working opportunities.
Transnational corporations and private financial institutions – Gold Card members of the leading worldwide bourgeoisie—have formed what Robinson and Harris (2000) call a “transnational capitalist clan.” The transnational elite has now been able to put democracy in the place of dictatorship (what can be called the neoliberal state) in order to perform at the level of the nation-state the following functions: adopting fiscal and monetary policies that guarantee macro-economic stability; providing the necessary infrastructure for global capitalist circuitry and flows; and securing financial control for the transnational comprador elite as the nation-state moves more solidly in the camp of neoliberalism, while maintaining the illusion of “national interests” and concerns with “foreign competition.” As Arundhati Roy so powerfully articulates:
As the dispairty between the rich and the poor grows, the fight to corner resources is intensifying. To push through ‘sweetheart deals,’ to corporatize the crops we grow, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the dreams we dream, corporate globalization needs an international confederation of loyal, corrupt, authoritarian governments in poorer countries to push through unpopular reforms and quell the mutinies. (Roy 2003: 106)
In arguing for a conception of globalization that transcends the nation-state system, Robinson (1996; 2000; 2001-2002) has effectively reconceptualized the dominant Weberian conception of the state through a Marxist problematic as the institutionalization of class relations around a particular configuration of social production in which the economic and the political are conceived as distinct moments of the same totality. Here, the relation between the economy and states is an internal one. There is nothing in this view that necessarily ties the state to territory or to nation-states. While it is true that, seen in aggregate nation-state terms, there are still very poor countries and very rich ones, it is also true that poverty and marginalisation are increasing in so-called First World countries, while the Third World has an expanding new strata of consumers. The labor aristocracy is expanding to other countries such that core and periphery no longer denote geography as much as social location. The transnational state apparatus operating through the supranational cadre of economic and political forums which include the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the Trilateral Commission, have forged what is referred to as the “global hegemonic bloc.” Of course, there is still a struggle between descendant national fractions of dominant groups and ascendant transnational fractions. The class practices of a new global ruling class are becoming condensed in an emergent hegemony of a global bourgeoisie and a new global capitalist historical bloc. This does not mean that competition and conflict have come to an end or that there exists a real unity within the emergent transnational capitalist class. The contradictory logic of unifying means of production generates the opposite effect of geopolitical fragmentation (Harvey 1996). Competition among rivals remains fierce and the U.S. is playing a leadership role on behalf of the transnational elite, vowing to expand the “circle of opportunity” bounded by market fundamentalism, while defending the interests of the emergent global hegemonic bloc.
The brutish logic of the global bloc has not gone uncontested. The manifestations at Seattle and Porto Alegre are singed into our memories as moments of struggle and defiance against the ruling elite. Labor and environmental groups have been amongst the most prolific opponents of globalization. While it is essential to attack the iniquitous assault against our environment and citizens, we must draw attention to the effects of globalization on education. Neoliberalism’s ideological plight does not have fixed parameters. Education, which is historically considered a public service operated by the state is being eviscerated from its roots and thrown into the pit of corporate demise. William Tabb (2001) articulates neoliberal models of education as the following:
There are three elements involved in the neoliberal model of education: making the provision of education more cost-efficient by commodifying the product; testing performance by standardizing the experience in a way that allows for multiple-choice testing of results; and focusing on marketable skills.”
As the transnationalization of production takes force across the globe, so-called Third world countries are bound by the contradictory logic of supporting their “national interests” through education while submitting to the “foreign” interests of the transnational elite. Under the mantra of “knowledge economies,” the World Bank is securing testing regimens reminiscent of U.S. accountability systems in Brazil, while Jordan undergoes reform through online learning portals, and girls in the East Pacific receive “equal” education opportunities through private-public partnerships. In fact, the World Bank has evolved into the largest external financier of education with “liberatory” education projects in every single continent with the exception of North America and Australia. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) runs second best to the World Bank in financing education projects across the globe. With projects currently underway in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Morocco, Peru and Zambia, USAID funded corporations are rewriting national curricula and building economic “empowerment” zones. As critical educators, we must ask: Who will profit from increasing privatization? To what ends? Where do we find the encouragement and opportunities for the development of a critical globalization studies in schools of education? To view these U.S. dominated initiatives in isolation from the globalization of production as separate and distinct phenomena is to deny the relationship between capital and education. Negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas are calling for the deregulation of the education sector through the elimination of laws limiting foreign ownership of private educational institutions, the eradication of onerous visa requirements considered barriers to trade, and a global market for educational testing services (put forward by the U.S.). The private sector is well into dwarfing state-run primary, secondary and tertiary education systems as China has partnered its state run tertiary institutions with the private sector and similar movements are taking place across the globe. Veiled by notions of equity and access, the production of knowledge is closely linked to the production of capital. What we are witnessing however, has little to do with democracy.
Today most nations celebrate capital as the key to the survival of democracy. The capitalist dream factories are not only corporate board rooms and production studios of media networks that together work to keep the capitalist dream alive, but a spirit of mass resignation that disables the majority of the population from realizing that capitalism and exploitation are functional equivalents, that globalisation of capital is just another name for what Lenin (1951) termed imperialism. United States imperialism--what Tariq Ali (2002: 281) calls “the mother of all fundamentalisms”—has decamped from its Keynesian position of pseudo-liberalism to fully embrace a fanatical neo-liberalism.
According to Samir Amin (2001), the current era of imperialism is underwritten by a justification of any military aggression useful to the United States and the quest for international markets and the unimpeded opportunity to loot the earth’s natural resources. It involves the super-exploitation of the labor reserves of the peripheral nations and is marked by the perceived “convergence” of democracy (modern management of political life) and the market (capitalist management of economic activity). Amin argues that democracy and the market are divergent but that this divergence is progressively concealed as democracy continues to be emptied of all its content that is dangerous for the smooth functioning of the market.
The Soviet Union’s collapse has opened the political floodgates of U.S. imperialism, permitting the U.S. to pursue virtually uncontested an agenda of “arrogance and brutality”. The U.S. is no longer faced with a competing superpower that imposes constraints on the dream of U.S.. Global dominance. And the Bush Administration’s national Security Strategy or the United States has made it clear that no rival suuperpower will ever be permitted to arise out of the ashes of the Old World Order, and it is here that the doctrine of preventative war was declared: the U.S. will act against any and all threats before they are fully formed. Writing about the role of the U.S. in world politics, Parenti (2003) notes that “There is no communist state or ‘rogue nation’ that has such a horrific record of military aggression against other countries over the last two decades.”
Today’s international political economy is the veritable toast of the global ruling class, and the bourgeoisie see it as their biggest opportunity in decades to join their ranks. Freemarketeers have been given the New World Order’s imprimatur to loot and exploit the planet’s resources and to invest in global markets without restriction with impunity. The menacing concomitant of capital’s destructive juggernaut is the obliteration of any hope for civilisation, let alone democracy. While liberals are plumping for fairer distribution of economic resources, the working-class are taught to feel grateful for the maquiladoras that are now sprouting up in countries designated to provide the cheap labor and dumping grounds for pollution for the western democracies. They are taught that socialism and communism are congenitally evil and can only lead to a totalitarian dictatorship. In short, capitalism and the legitimacy of private monopoly ownership has been naturalised as common sense.
It is no longer just the capitalists who believe that they are the salvation for the world’s poor, but the workers themselves have become conditioned to believe that without their exploiters, they would no longer exist. The entrails of the eviscerated poor now serve as divining mechanisms for the soothsayers of the investment corporations. Even many trade unions have been little more than adjuncts of the state, reimposing the discipline of capital’s law of value. Those who wish to avoid both Communist-type centralized planning and the disequilibrium and instability of laissez-faire capitalism have turned to a type of market socialism through labor-managed firms, but doing little to challenge the deep grammar of capital itself.
We realize that capitalism is not something that can be fixed, or humanized, because its very ‘value form’ is premised on the exploitation of human labor. We are, in a way, tied to the mast like Ulysses as the sirens of consumption beckon us to a fool’s paradise. Consequently, critical educators need to pose to their progressive liberal counterparts questions that include the following: Can liberal reformers—even stalwart World Bank dissenters such as Jeff Sachs, George Soros and former Senior Vice President and chief economist of the World Bank and Nobel Prize recipient, Joseph Stiglitz (2002)—rebuild and redirect the capitalist financial system in the interests of the poor and powerless? Can they prevent the rationality of financial capital—which is more interested in short term profits than investing in fixed capital and long-term technological progress—from prevailing over what is rational from the standpoint of society as a whole? Can they prevent the suffering of workers due to the dismantling of protectionist trade barriers? Can they stop privatization from resulting in oligopolies and monopolies? Can they adequately safeguard against the human tragedies that follow economic downsizing? Can they prevent the chaos that results from massive capital inflows and outflows? Can they stop the IMF from bailing out international investors and granting elites the opportunity to protect their financial assets by massive capital flight, while placing the burden of repaying loans, in the words of Tony Smith, “on the very group that benefited least from them, working men and women”? Do they have the power to prevent the gangster capitalists of Russia, for instance, from buying up most of the privatized assets and natural resources of the country? Can they stop the multilateral agencies from advancing the particular interests of the United States? Can they prevent new nation state-driven racisms that follow in the wake of the new U.S. phallomilitary warrior nationalism currently providing ideological ballast for its practices of primitive accumulation via cluster bombing Iraq? Can they transcend the creation of plutocratic political subjectivities from above in order to combat the uneven development of epidemics such as AIDS and SARS in the equal opportunity inevitability of death? Can they reverse the damage to the poor as a result of financial market liberalization accompanied by high interest rates? Can they reverse the systematic tendencies to crises of overcapacity or overaccumulation or the structural mechanisms generating uneven development? Can they prevent speculative bubbles from expanding and bursting? Can the balance of power in capital/wage labor relations shift in favor of labor? Can the fundamental dynamic of capitalist property relations be challenged? Questions such as these cut to the very root of the capitalist system.
From the perspective of our analysis, honest answers to these questions will lead to a resounding “no.” Liberal capitalist reformers in the main fail to comprehend “that money is the alien form of appearance of abstract labor” and they refuse to challenge the money fetish as the master trope of capitalist social relations (Smith 2002). Of course, liberal reform efforts to make global capitalism more ‘humane’ are welcomed—such as debt relief and a more balanced trade agenda, adequate laws enforcing competition, the creation of adequate safety nets and job creation programs, state expenditures to stimulate the economy, appropriate regulatory structures for trade liberalization, making loans available to countries to buy insurance against fluctuations in the international capital markets, cutting back on the bailout packages by the I.M.F., government oversight committees to ensure monopoly powers are not abused, restrictions on speculative real estate lending—but it still remains the case that in the last instance they cannot prevent financial disaster from being visited upon developing countries or the poor in general because these problems are inherent in the system of property and productive relations that constitute the very blood and gristle of the capitalist system (Smith 2002).
Critical Educators and the Challenge of the Global War State
Critical educators today are struggling assiduously to defend the public sphere from its integration into the neoliberal and imperialist practices of the state and the behemoth of globalized capitalism. While no one is seriously talking about seizing the state on behalf of workers struggling against the “petrolarchs” in Washington, there are promising indications that social movements in the United States will become more active in the days ahead. With administration hawks such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, and Defense Policy Board member, Richard Perle, leading the rabid White House charge for “preventative war”, it is clear that their allegiance to the imperialist Project for the New American Century is fuelled by U.S. triumphalism, unipolar political consolidation and dominion, and the conquest of new markets. The bacchanalia of patriotism that has overtaken cities and towns throughout the country has blinded U.S. citizens to the thousands of innocent civilians killed in the ‘liberation’ of Iraq. The slogan dripping red and black from anti-war posters that reads “No Blood for Oil” has, if anything, increased in relevance since the U.S. military invasion of Iraq. As it stands, OPEC resides outside the ambit of complete U.S. control. Total U.S. influence over the vast untapped oil reserves would demonstrably change the power equation. Iraqi opposition to the U.S. ‘free market’ looting of their country was a major factor in the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq.
The drive to obtain ‘free markets’ and to open up investment for U.S. corporations is now accompanied by the most formidable military presence ever known to humankind, one that is fundamentally unopposed. Iraq is now ‘liberated’ for U.S. corporate investment and control, having been ‘pacified’ as a client state. Judging from recent U.S. history, the future will no doubt require that millions more will die in the oil-rich Middle East and elsewhere around the planet on behalf of the U.S. empire. The Bush junta has serious lessons to learn. You can’t bomb democracy into being. Democracy’s universal egalitarian values require the reciprocal acceptance of mutual perspectives.
It is therefore no surprise to see the link between neoliberal globalization and an aggressive U.S. military posture, especially when the military-industrial complex has become such an important economic actor (Gibbs 2001). Military-Keynesianism is back in vogue. Neoliberal globalization is neither self-correcting nor self-enforcing. As Richard Friedman has pointed out: “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist—McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell-Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps” (Cited in Gibbs 2001: 33-34). Neoliberal globalization gives a powerful competitive advantage to developed countries and benefits the US especially through the liberalization of international finance and the unique function of the dollar in an international economy (Gibbs 2001). In the process it exacerbates a class and ethnic stratification of the world economy. Grandin offers the following succinct description:
Along with neoliberalism, we have a neo-civilizing mission. The West will deliver free-market democracy, one way or another, to the rest of the world, whether through the proper mix of technology, markets, constitutions, consumer goods or out of the barrel of a smart weapon. (2003: 29).
The strategic agenda of the free-market democratic reconstruction of Iraq is really another way of describing an assault on the forces that are trying to build a more just and equitable society who are overwhelmingly the working-classes of the underdeveloped countries. The following observation puts the matter succinctly:
While the apparent targets of the US assault are the regimes of these countries, that would hardly make sense, since none of them poses a threat to the US, and in fact some of them, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are its client states. Rather the real targets are the anti-imperialist masses of the region, whom certain regimes are unwilling, and others are unable, to control. It is these anti-imperialist masses of West Asia, not their rulers of whatever hue, who have always constituted the real threat to US domination. The US appears to believe that its overwhelming and highly sophisticated military might can tackle the masses effectively if they come out into the open. That is why it even contemplates provoking mass uprisings so as to have occasion to crush them. (Research Unit for Political Economy 2002)
The case of Latin America offers a convincing example. We are witnessing the recolonization of Latin America through militarization as new U.S. bases are installed in manta (Ecuador), Tres Esquinas and Leticia (Colombia), Iquitos (Peru), Rainha Beatrix (Aruba), and Hato (Curacao). The U.S. is training Latin American militaries from Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay as part of Operation Cabanas in Argentina. In addition to the infamous Plan Colombia, the U.S. is installing the System of Surveillance of the Amazon that can monitor 5.5 million square kilometers, as well as a mammoth radar facility in Argentina (Mendonca 2003). While struggles against U.S.- supported fascist dictatorships by the Latin American left eventually ended in the restoration of constitutional rule in a number of countries, the United States continues to dissuade political parties there from mass mobilization; the U.S. would prefer that these parties adopt a more “modern” democratic politics of “passive representation and elite negotiation” (Grandin 2003: 29). Furthermore, there has been an ongoing assault on direct democracy by curtailing regional and domestic grassroots efforts at regulating the economy:
Washington has crafted a number of antidemocratic measures—such as international treaties that limit the ability of local states to implement regulations, and the establishment of independent central banks that remove monetary policy from public debate—restricting popular will. (Grandin 2003: 29)
But doesn’t the current situation in Iraq—and the events which led up to it—constitute at the very least a partial metaphor for the crystallization of globalized capitalism worldwide? While the United States is advocating struggle for freedom and democracy in Iraq—indeed, a struggle that arcs across the firmament like a Fourth of July Roman candle --the very democracy that it has mandated for Iraq has failed miserably to materialize in the United States. As critical educators, we are not convinced that democracy can be sustained in a world ruled by capitalism’s law of value—with or without the imposition of empire. The prospect of democracy looks especially bleak these days in the United States, as the Bush administration puts the country on ideological lockdown (with the help of the ideological state apparatuses such as Fox TV News) in an attempt to return to the halcyon days of the McKinley era when the fat cats of industry ran unimpeded a retrograde financial kingdom that enshrined private property rights and supported the annexation of foreign territories (Greider 2003).
In a social universe pock-marked by the ravages of capitalism’s war against the working-class and people of color, there are few places in which to retreat that the global market does not already occupy. Clearly, the United States has not faced up to capitalism’s addiction to injustice, and its politicians have provided little space in educational debates for teachers to question the structurally dependent relationship between the standard of living in developed countries and misery and poverty in the underdeveloped ones. Early in the twentieth century, this country failed to heed the advice of one of its greatest philosophers, John Dewey (1927), who, mindful of “the extended meaning which has been given to the Monroe Doctrine”, warned: “The natural movement of business enterprise, combined with Anglo-American legalistic notions of contracts and their sanctity, and the international custom which obtains as to the duty of a nation to protect the property of its nationals, suffices to bring about imperialistic undertakings.”
Employing a politics that counts on the stupefaction of a media-primed electorate, the Bush administration has marshaled the corporate media in the service of its foreign policy such that the environment is literally suffused with its neoliberal agenda, with very little space devoid of it’s ideological cheerleading. Not only has Bush acted like an emperor who has received the laurel wreath (when he should be wearing a wreath of myrtle, signaling in ancient Roman times a hollow victory over an unlawful enemy or one that constituted an inferior force), he has also skillfully used the corporate media to present his foreign policy measures in light of Biblical history. When, on the freshly mopped deck of the carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. warrior president emerged in a snug fitting flight suit from an S-3B Viking aircraft, helmet under his arm (a brazen move considering his military records reveal that he stopped flying during his final 18 months of National Guard duty in 1972 and 1973 and was not observed by his commanders at his Texas unit for a year), his swagger and grin were greeted by wild cheers from throngs of assembled officers and sailors. Appearing topside before a bold banner that announced “Mission Accomplished” he declared the “battle of Iraq” a “victory” in the ongoing “war on terror.” This event was carefully choreographed by Bush’s team of seasoned image-makers that included a former ABC producer, a former Fox News producer and a former NBC cameraman paid for out of an annual budget of 3.7 million that Bush allots for his media co-ordinators. We do not believe that it’s coincidental that a comparison clearly can be drawn between this example of rightwing showmanship and Leni Riefenstahl’s infamous propaganda film about the 1934 Nazi Parteitag in Nuremberg, Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will) that displayed Adolf Hitler as the world savior. In the German version, Hitler emerges from a Junker 52 aircraft that had been filmed landing at Nuremberg airport to the lofty strains of Wagner. Thousands of Nazi onlookers chant, Sieg hiel! as the musical score builds to a crescendo. And while the scene was carefully crafted to suggest that Hitler was a modern manifestation of the ancient Aryan deity Odin (see The Internationalist May 2003), the event on the USS Abraham Lincoln was pitching George Bush as a major player in the decidedly Christian drama known as the Second Coming. Bush’s speech on the carrier paraphrased Chapter 61 of Isaiah, the very book that Jesus used when proclaiming that Isaiah’s prophecies of the Messiah had come true, suggesting perhaps that Bush believes the Second Coming has begun (Pitt 2003) and that his war on terror is playing an important role in this Biblical prophecy. Leftist commentators have noted that the Pentagon’s “Shock and Awe” bombing strategy was copied form the Nazi strategy of Blitzkrieg (lightning war) and the Luftwaffe’s doctrine of Schrecklichkeit aimed at terrorizing a population into surrender, and that the Bush Doctrine of preventative war mirrors the rationale behind Hitler’s march into Poland (Hitler had claimed Poland was an immediate threat to safety of the Reich). And while Bush padre’s vow to establish a New World Order and Hitler’s vow to create a Neue Ordung have to be seen in their historical and contextual specificity, the comparison of the Bush dynasty to the Third Reich does extend beyond fascist aesthetics, media spectacle, and the police state tactics of the Office of Homeland Security. It can be seen in the machinations of capital and the role of the military-industrial complex in imperialist acts of aggression disguised as “democracy.”
Where classrooms once served as at least potentially one of the few spaces of respite from the ravages of the dominant ideology and a reprieve from the total information control of the state apparatus, they have now been colonized by the corporate logic of privatization and the imperial ideology of the militarized state. Teachers are left suspended across an ideological divide that separates reason and irrationality, consciousness and indoctrination, as they are reminded by their administrators and government officials that to bring “politics” into the classroom is unpatriotic. Consider the case of Bill Nevins, a high school teacher in New Mexico who faced an impromptu paid leave of absence following a student’s reading of “Revolution X,” a poem that lends a critical eye toward the war in Iraq.
The educational left has failed to consider how shifts in the mode and social relations of production are historically implicated in the evolution of the racialized state. According to Anthony Monteiro (2002), the advent of the Reagan administration marked a major transformation in the formation of the racialized state wherein “the balance of state power shifted increasingly to the military-industrial and police dimensions.” Since that time, the Keynesian-neoclassical synthesis has given way to a Freidmanite neo-liberal economics that, after 9/11 has provoked a new sense of vulnerabilty among ordinary white folk who have been called upon to make sacrifices on behalf of the U.S. empire. Monteiro writes:
The subjective realities of ordinary white folk are filtered through the inevitable prisms of race and white supremacy. The threat, therefore, is viewed as a threat to white people as a collective and not solely to the economic interests of the nation, or even to specific class interests. For them the American dremscape has been sullied and tarnished. Their sense of security and expectation of provacy are wounded. Their dreamworld has to be redeemed in order that the American psyche can be restored. In the deepest sense the priveleges of whiteness and white supremacy are viewed as being under attack. Hence, the defense of America and of democracy are viewed, at their core, as defenses of the global rights of white people, articulated variously as defenses of civilization or the West.
The Domestication of Critical Pedagogy
In this troubling economic times, the capitalist world of the bourgeoisie has become ‘disenchanted’ while, for the working-class, it has become a vortex of barbarity and treachery. All of this has not gone unnoticed by critical educators. Though they have become used to the academic marginalization that often follows in the wake of attacks by the more churlish and reactionary conservative educationalists among us, proponents and practitioners of critical pedagogy have long feared being cast into the pit of academic hell for being perceived not only as dangerously irrelevant to United States democracy but also as politically treasonous. At this current historical juncture in U.S. history, when fighting a ‘permanent war’ against terrorism, and expanding the American empire while we’re at it, one would think that such a fear is duly warranted. This is partly due to the fact that critical pedagogy earned its early reputation in the 1990’s as a fierce critic of U.S. imperialism and capitalist exploitation.
However, times have changed. Today critical pedagogy is no longer the dangerous critic of free market liberal education that it once was. Rather, it has become so absorbed by the cosmopolitanized liberalism of the postmodernized left that it no longer serves as a trenchant challenge to capital and U.S. economic and military hegemony. Of course, we believe that this can change. There are numerous developments on our campuses related to the anti-war and anti-globalization movements that give us hope that the voices of our youth—and among them, those who will attending our teacher education programs—will be much more politicized or open to what Freire called “conscientization” than in previous years. No doubt this has been encouraged by the worldwide mobilization against Bush and his de facto military/oil junta. There will be pressure on critical educators (in the United States critical educators are mostly liberal, not revolutionary) to respond to the voices of a new generation of politicized student teachers. But it won’t be a simple case of preaching to the converted. There are now more than 80 right-leaning newspapers and magazines circulating on college and university campuses throughout the country. Clearly, there is a concerted effort by conservative organization to silence progressive voices and to distort historical facts. This is not surpising, given the official government stance that facts don’t matter. When in 1988 a U.S. missile cruiser stationed in the Persian Gulf accidently shot down an Iranian airliner and killed 290 civilian passengers, George Bush padre tersely remarked: “I will never apologize for the United States. I don’t care what the facts are” (cited in Roy: 2003a).
There is a need for teacher educators to bring a more radical discourse into the educational literature as well as directly into their teacher education programs in order to challenge the distortion of the facts by the right wing media. Even in the field of critical pedagogy these attempts have been disappointing.
Written as a counterpoint to the onslaught of neoliberal globalization and its “civilizing mission” for the oppressed of developed and developing countries alike, this chapter is meant both as a commentary on the domestication of critical pedagogy, and a challenge for revivifying its political roots and role in the civil societarian left. It’s purpose is to initiate a dialogue and conversation among progressive educators. Especially for those of us living in the belly of the beast -- in gringolandia-- we are witnessing a time when citizenship has become marked by a lived historical presence blindingly uncritical of its own self-formation, when residents inhabiting the nation’s multifarious geoscapes are racially marked so as to render them educationally segregated, and when the working-class has become deputized by capital to uphold the neoliberal market ideology of the ruling class against any and all other alternatives—all of which legitimates the subordinate status of the working class within the existing division of labor.
At this current historical juncture, as the Bush administration sets its sights on abolishing affirmative action, as the right seizes every chance it gets to replace the social wage with the free market system, and as conservative think tanks game out plans for privatizing what remains of the devastated public sphere, thousands of teachers and teacher educators throughout the country look to the left for guidance and leadership. Under cover of democracy, Bush’s carney lingo about saving civilization from the terrorist hordes rings the air. Most teachers were not old enough to remember the anti-Communist propaganda of the late 1940s and 1950s but many of those Americans who now live in retirment are experiencing a political deja vu. Millions read the books, Is This Tomorrow: America Under Communism!, Blood is the Harvest, and Red Nightmare. In 1948, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States published A Program for Community Anti-Communism which contained a phrase eerily reminiscent of a remark that President Bush made weeks after the attacks of September 11: “You know that they hate us and our freedom.” Those too young to remember the McCarthy era get to experience the sequel first hand. Some see the erosion of civil rights as a necessary sacrifice during the war on terrorism. Not everybody is fooled. Especially critics from the so-called Third World. While the vast majority of Americans would no doubt recoil in outrage from making a comparison between the present Bush administration and the Nazi regime, celebrated social scientists such as Samir Amin (2003) exercise no such hesitation:
Today the United States is governed by a junta of war criminals who took power through a kind of coup. That coup may have been preceded by (dubious) elections: but we should never forget that Hitler was also an elected politician. In this analogy, 9/11 fulfills the function of the “burning of the Reichstag”, allowing the junta to grant its polic force powers similar to those of the Gestapo. They have their own Mein Kampf – the National Security Strategy --, their own mass associations – the patriot organisations—and their own preachers. It is vital that we have the courage to tell these truths, and stop masking them behind phrases such as “our American friends” that have by now become quite meaningless.
Clearly, this would constitute an egregiously over drawn – if not patently traitorous—comparison, even among many progressive researchers from the American academy. Yet it is a comparison that is being made more frequently by citizens of countries that have fallen victim to U.S. military and economic policies in the past. When influential right wing academics such as Michael Leeden, resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute announce that “”Every ten years of so, the United States needs to pick up some crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business” (cited in Lapham 2003: 11) it does little to convince these critics to temper their analogies.
But even when we are detoxicated of the shadowed obscurity surrounding the current war on terrorism and disabused of the calls for the primitive patriotism of flags and bumper stickers that is part of Bush hijo’s petulant crusade for a decent America (i.e., an America devoid of its critics), there still remains a glaring absence within the liberal academy of challenging capital as a social relation. While there exists plenty of talk about income redistribution, surprisingly little is said about setting ourselves against the deviances and devices of capital’s regime of profit-making other than prosecuting a few of the more disposable CEOs of the latest round of corporate offenders. The stunted criticism of the Bush administration’s fascist assault on democracy is not so much a refusal of political will among liberal educators as much as a realization that if we persist with an internationalized market economy, the introduction of effective social controls to protect the underclass, marginalized and immiserated will create overwhelming comparative disadvantages for the nation state or the economic bloc that seeks to institute such policies. If, as liberal educators (begrudgingly) and conservative educators (demagogically) insist, there effectively is no alternative to working within with institutionalized market economy, then admittedly neo-liberal policies that champion free market capitalism and that undermine what is left of the welfare state make sense. And while surely the punishment exacted against the poor can be staggered by parceling out the conditions for mass poverty in more discreet—yet no less lethal—policies and practices, there remains the question of how to cope with the havoc that will eventually be wreaked on the poor and the powerless in the absence of a socialist alternative. It is in this context – of breadlines, overcroweded hospitals, and unemployemnt lines longer than those at polling stations-- that the question of organization becomes imperative for the left in a search for a socialist alternative.
The Politics of Organisation
This brings us face-to-face with the thorny question of organization, a problem that has doggedly exercised both the revolutionary left and the progressive left for over a century. Max Elbaum (2002) notes that organisations are crucial in the struggle for social justice. He writes that “[w]ithout collective forms it is impossible to train cadre, debate theory and strategy, spread information and analysis, or engage fully with the urgent struggles of the day. Only through organisations can revolutionaries maximise their contribution to ongoing battles and position themselves to maximally influence events when new mass upheavals and opportunities arise” (2002: 335). Yet at the same time, Elbaum warns that we must avoid what he calls “sectarian dead-ends” in our struggle for social justice. Reflecting on his experiences with the New Communist Movement of the 1970s, he explains that when a movement becomes a “self-contained world” that insists upon group solidarity and discipline, this can often lead to the suppression of internal democracy. The rigid top-down party model is obviously a problem for Elbaum. On the one hand social activists need to engage with and be accountable to a large, active, anti-capitalist social base; on the other hand, there are pressures to put one’s revolutionary politics aside in order to make an immediate impact on public policy. There is the impulse to “retreat into a small but secure niche on the margins of politics and/or confine oneself to revolutionary propaganda” (2002: 334). Elbaum cites Marx’s dictum that periods of socialist sectarianism obtain when “the time is not yet ripe for an independent historical movement” (2002: 334). Problems inevitably arise when “purer-than-thou fidelity to old orthodoxies” are employed to maintain membership morale necessary for group cohesion and to compete with other groups. He reports that the healthiest periods of social movements appear to be when tight knit cadre groups and other forms are able to coexist and interact while at the same time considering themselves part of a common political trend. He writes that “diversity of organisational forms (publishing collectives, research centers, cultural collectives, and broad organising networks, in addition to local and national cadre formations) along with a dynamic interaction between them supplied (at least to a degree) some of the pressures for democracy and realism that in other situations flowed from a socialist-oriented working-class” (2002: 335). It is important to avoid a uniform approach in all sectors, especially when disparities in consciousness and activity are manifold. Elbaum notes that Leninist centralized leadership worked in the short run but “lacked any substantial social base and were almost by definition hostile to all others on the left; they could never break out of the limits of a sect” (2002: 335). The size of membership has a profound qualitative impact on strategies employed and organisational models adopted. Elbaum warns that attempts to build a small revolutionary party (a party in embryo) “blinded movement activists to Lenin’s view that a revolutionary party must not only be an ‘advanced’ detachment but must also actually represent and be rooted in a substantial, socialist-leaning wing of the working class” (2002: 335). Realistic and complex paths will need to be taken which will clearly be dependent on the state of the working-class movement itself. We cite Elbaum’s insights here not because we adhere to all of his conclusions but because we recognize the importance of the questions that he raises. We believe they are pertinent in building the educational left’s anti-imperialist struggle.
It is axiomatic for the ongoing development of critical pedagogy that it be based upon an alternative vision of human sociality, one that operates outside the social universe of capital, a vision that goes beyond the market, but also one that goes beyond the state. It must reject the false opposition between the market and the state. Massimo De Angelis writes that “the historical challenge before us is that the question of alternatives…not be separated from the organisational forms that this movement gives itself” (2002: 5). Given that we are faced globally with the emergent transnational capitalist class and the incursion of capital into the far reaches of the planet, critical educators need a philosophy of organisation that sufficiently addresses the dilemma and the challenge of the global proletariat. In discussing alternative manifestations of anti-globalisation struggles, De Angelis itemises some promising characteristics as follows: the production of various counter-summits; Zapatista Encuentros; social practices that produce use values beyond economic calculation and the competitive relation with the other and inspired by practices of social and mutual solidarity; horizontally-linked clusters outside vertical networks in which the market is protected and enforced; social co-operation through grassroots democracy, consensus, dialogue, and the recognition of the other; authority and social co-operation developed in fluid relations and self-constituted through interaction; and a new engagement with the other that transcends locality, job, social condition, gender, age, race, culture, sexual orientation, language, religion, and beliefs. All of these characteristics are to be secondary to the constitution of communal relations. He writes:
The global scene for us is the discovery of the “other”, while the local scene is the discovery of the “us”, and by discovering the “us”, we change our relation to the “other”. In a community, commonality is a creative process of discovery, not a presupposition. So we do both, but we do it having the community in mind, the community as a mode of engagement with the other. (2002: 14)
But what about the national state? According to Ellen Meiksins Wood, “the state is the point at which global capital is most vulnerable, both as a target of opposition in the dominant economies and as a lever of resistance elsewhere. It also means that now more than ever, much depends on the particular class forces embodied in the state, and that now more than ever, there is scope, as well as need, for class struggle” (2001: 291). Sam Gindin (2002) argues that the state is no longer a relevant site of struggle if by struggle we mean taking over the state and pushing it in another direction. But the state is still a relevant arena for contestation if our purpose is one of transforming the state. He writes:
Conventional wisdom has it that the national state, whether we like it or not, is no longer a relevant site of struggle. At one level, this is true. If our notion of the state is that of an institution which left governments can ‘capture’ and push in a different direction, experience suggests this will contribute little to social justice. But if our goal is to transform the state into an instrument for popular mobilisation and the development of democratic capacities, to bring our economy under popular control and restructure our relationships to the world economy, then winning state power would manifest the worst nightmares of the corporate world. When we reject strategies based on winning through undercutting others and maintain our fight for dignity and justice nationally, we can inspire others abroad and create new spaces for their own struggles. (2002: 11)
John Holloway’s premise is similar to that of Gindin. He argues that we must theorise the world negatively as a “moment” of practice as part of the struggle to change the world. But this change cannot come about through transforming the state through the taking of power but rather must occur through the dissolution of power as a means of transforming the state and thus the world. This is because the state renders people powerless by separating them from “doing” (human activity). In our work as critical educators, Holloway’s distinction between power-to do (potentia) and power-over (potestas) is instructive. Power-to is a part of the “social flow of doing,” the collective construction of a “we” and the practice of the mutual recognition of dignity. Power-over negates the social flow of doing thereby alienating the collective “we” into mere objects of instruction.
Holloway advocates creating the conditions for the future “doing” of others through a power-to do. In the process, we must not transform power-to into power-over, since power-over only separates the “means of doing” from the actual “doing” which has reached its highest point in capitalism. In fact, those who exercise power-over separate the done from the doing of others and declare it to be theirs. The doers then become detached from the origin of thought and practice, dehumanized to the level of instructed ‘objects’ under the command of those that have assumed power-over. Power-over reduces people to mere owners and non-owners, flattening out relations between people to relations between things. It converts doing into a static condition of being. Whereas doing refers to both “we are” (the present) and “we are not” (the possibility of being something else) being refers only to “we are”. To take away the “we are not” tears away possibility from social agency. The rule of power-over is the rule of “this is the way things are” which is the rule of identity. When we are separated from our own doing we create our own subordination. Power-to is not counter-power (which presupposes a symmetry with power) but anti-power.
Holloway reminds us that the separation of doing and done is not an accomplished fact but a process. Separation and alienation is a movement against its own negation, against anti-alienation. That which exists in the form of its negation—or anti-alienation (the mode of ‘being’ denied)—really does exist, in spite of its negation. It is the negation of the process of denial. Capitalism, according to Holloway, is based on the denial of “power-to”, of dignity, of humanity, but that does not mean power-to (counter-capitalism) does not exist. Asserting our power-to is simultaneously to assert our resistance against subordination. This may take the form of open rebellion, of struggles to defend control over the labour process, or efforts to control the processes of health and education. Power-over depends upon that which it negates. The history of domination is not only the struggle of the oppressed against their oppressors but also the struggle of the powerful to liberate themselves from their dependence on the powerless. But there is no way in which power-over can escape from being transformed into power-to because capital’s flight from labour depends upon labour (upon its capacity to convert power-to into abstract value-producing labour) in the form of falling rates of profit.
We are beginning to witness new forms of social organization as a part of revolutionary praxis. In addition to the Zapatistas, we have the important example of the participatory budget of the Workers Party in Brazil. And in Argentina we are seeing new forms of organized struggle as a result of the recent economic collapse of the country. We are referring here to the examples of the street protests of the piqueteros (the unemployed) currently underway and which first emerged about five years ago in the impoverished communities in the provinces. More recently, new neighborhood asambleas (assemblies) have arisen out of local streetcorner protests. Numbering around 300 throughout the country, these assemblies meet once a week to organize cacerolas (protests) and to defend those evicted from their homes, or who are having their utilities shut off, etc. The asambleistas (assembly members) also co-ordinate soup kitchens to feed themselves and others. This anti-hierarchical, decentralized, and grassroots movement consisting of both employed and unemployed workers, mostly women, has taken on a new urgency since December, 2002, when four governments collapsed in quick succession following Argentina’s default on its foreign debt. Canadian activist Naomi Klein (2003) captures the spirit surrounding the creation of the asambleas when she writes:
In Argentina, many of the young people fighting the neo-liberal policies that have bankrupted this country are children of leftist activists who were “disappeared” during the military dictatorship of 1976-’83. They talk openly about their determination to continue their parents’ political fight for socialism but by different means. Rather than attacking military barracks, they squat on abandoned land and build bakeries and homes; rather than planning their actions in secret, they hold open assemblies on street corners; rather than insisting on ideological purity, they value democratic decision-making above all. Plenty of older activists, the lucky ones who survived the terror of the ‘70s, have joined these movements, speaking enthusiastically of learning from people half their age, of feeling freed of the ideological prisons of their pasts, of having a second chance to get it right.
A recent report in News & Letters adds to this description:
What is remarkable is how ferociously opposed the asambleas are to being controlled, and to any hint of a vertical, top down hierarchy. They insist on independence, autonomy self-determination, encouraging all to learn how to voice their opinions and rotating responsibilities. They are explicitly for individual, personal self-development at the same time as they are for fighting the powers that be with everything they’ve got at their disposal. (2002: 6).
The larger asambleas interbarriales (mass meetings of the various asambleas) elect rotating delegates from the asambleas to speak and vote on issues that their local communities generate. In addition, workers have occupied a number of factories and work sites such as Brukman, Zanon, and Panificadora Cinco. Workers have also occupied a mine in Rio Turbio. Clearly, new revolutionary forms of organization are appearing. As Ernesto Herrera notes:
The experiences of the piquetero movement and neighborhood assemblies allow the possibility of the construction of a revolutionary movement, a democratic popular power with a socialist perspective. The ‘great revolt’ has put on the agenda the question of a strategy that links resistance and the struggle for power, representative democracy and/or the principle of revocability, the ‘saqueos’ as acts of self-subsistence in food. (2002: 10)
Currently Brukman, a garment factory composed of 55 female workers, aged 45-50, has proved symbolic in the struggle against the Argentine state. Brukman workers are demanding public ownership of the factory, setting a dangerous precedent for the bourgeoise. In fact, approximately twenty-five other factories in Argentina are occupied by workers who are also demanding public ownership. Workers in approximately two hundred and fifty other factories are demanding some kind of state intervention for a type of workers’ control (such as forming co-operatives, etc.). The have formed a popular front to resist assault from the state. However, assaults from the state continue. Over twenty-five thousand people surrounded the Brukman factory to defend workers that had been expelled by the police, leading to numerous injuries and arrests.
Of course, the asambleas confront many problems in that they are composed of members of different class fractions, with their many different political agendas. Yet all of the asambleas hold the re-stratification of recently privatized industries as a top priority (even as they reject vanguardist parties). At the same time, in this new rise of popular mobilisation, as subjectivities become revolutionized under the assault of capitalism, there needs to occur a programmatic proposal for a political regroupment of the radical and anti-capitalist forces. There must be more options available for organizers of the revolutionary left. Herrera writes:
In Mexico, the Zapatista movement could not translate its capacity of mobilization in the Consultas and Marches into a political alternative of the left. There was no modification of the relationship of forces. The theory of the ‘indefinite anti-power’ or ‘changing the world without taking power’ has produced neither a process of radical reforms, nor a revolutionary process. (2002: 13)
We are more optimistic about the possibilities of the Zapatista movement than Herrera, but we do believe that whatever shape the struggle against imperialism and capitalist globalization will take, it will need to be international. We believe in a multiracial, gender-balanced, internationalist anti-imperialist struggle. What appears promising are the rise of the Bolivarian Circles in Caracas, Venezuela, a mass mobilization of working-class Venezuelans on behalf of President Hugo Chavez. The Bolivian Circles (named after Simon Bolivar) serve as watchdog groups modeled after Cuba’s Committee for the Defense of the Revolution and function as liaisons between the neighborhoods and the government as well as fomenting support for Chavez. They are important in combating business leaders and dissident army generals whom, with U.S. support, are trying to overthrow the Chavez government. Members of the Bolivian Circles bang on hollow electricity poles to warn against mobilizations by the opposition and to rally supporters across the city’s working-class neighborhoods. They are an example of self-determination for sovereignty as evidenced by the Bolivarian declaration “Nuestra America: una sola patria” (Our America: one motherhood) which rejects an ideological loyalty to “America” as an America defined by a capitalist laden value system that favors imperialism and exploitation for increased profit margins. According to “Nuestra America” the people will not succumb to neoliberal modernity at the expense of becoming “scavengers of the industrial extravagance (translation, Jaramillo)” This movement is a clear signal that the present can be rewritten, there is an alternative, and the people can search for their own “America” (Nuestra America, 2003). In the spirit of this declaration we urge critical eduators to pressure the International Motetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to open their meetings to the media and to the public and to cancel the full measure of the debt they claim from underdeveloped countries, since such debts were accrued by dictators who used their IMF and World Bank loans to oppress their own people in the service of capital accumulation.
In the struggle against capitalism and its state formations, Alex Callinicos (2003) discusses two options: reformism within the anti-capitalist movement (as a result of the pressure posed by capital flight and currency crises, or in reaction to ‘rebellions of the rich’ as seen recently in Venezuela) —a move that has witnessed center-left state bodies surrendering without a fight to the Washington Consensus. Here, the state is considered to be a vehicle through which social change can be successfully achieved. Callinicos, however, makes the important point that the state simply can’t be used as an instrument of social transformation since it is already too implicated in the social relations of production and the bureaucratic apparatus centered on the means of coercion. Callinicos minces no words:
Recent historical experience thus confirms the judgement made long ago by Marx and Lenin that the state can’t simply be used as an instrument of social transformation. It is part of the capitalist system, not a means for changing it. The economic pressures of international capital—reflected particularly in the movements of money across the globe—push states to promote capital accumulation. Moreover, in the core of the state itself is a permanent bureaucratic apparatus centred on control of the means of coercion—the armed forces, police, and intelligence services—whose ultimate allegiance is not to elected governments but to the unelected ruling class.
A second option discussed by Callinicos is the one that is propounded by the autonomist wing of the anti-capitalist movement. This position renounces a reliance on the existing state and also eschews the objective of taking power from capital. Callinicos cites Tony Negri and John Holloway as perhaps the best known exponents of this position. Holloway’s positon is described by Callinicos as “an extreme form of commodity fetishism, in which all the apparently objective structures of capitalist society are simply alienated expressions of human activity, based on the separation of subject and object…doer and done.” Holloway’s “movement of negation” or “anti-power” suggests to Callinicos that “any attempt to understand capitalism as a set of objective structures implies the abandonment of Marx’s original conception of socialism as self emancipation. Accordingly, virtually the entire subsequent Marxist tradition is dismissed as ‘scientistic’ and authoritarian.”
Holloway’s project of dissolving the fetishistic structures of alienated human activity and liberating the human qualities that are denied by capitalism is regarded by Callinicos as extremely troubling. For instance, he argues that the work of Holloway and Negri is being used in Argentina as a way of justifying “the idea that the small network of factories abandoned by their bosses and taken over by the workers represents the beginning of a new post-capitalist economy”. While it is clear that Holloway realizes that the struggle against alienation must not leave productive processes in the control of capital, his approach suffers from a central contradiction. In the final analysis, Holloway’s cry that “we do not struggle as working class, we struggle against being working class, against being classified” really amounts to, as Callinicos notes, abolishing capitalist relations of production by pretending that they aren’t there. If we are really determined to abolish capitalist social relations, it makes less sense to dis-identify with working-class struggle than to build more effective forms of working-class struggle and organization. The point here is not to remain paralyzed by the fear that capitalism cannot be defeated but to help to cultivate an alternative source of power in capitalist society—what Callinicos describes as “the extraordinary capacities of democratic self organization possessed by the mass of ordinary people”. While one route for this is trade unionism, such self organization against capitalism is not the sole preserve of workers’ organization. Other possibilities include anti-capitalist, anti-war and anti-imperialist movements. The key to all attempts to organize social movements, argues Callinicos, is to develop and cultivate forms of organization that unite the working-class at local and national levels in the forms of workers’ councils (here Callinicos is thinking about the forms of organization that emerge during mass strikes and popular upheavals of the working class). We have seen such forms of organization during the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the Spanish Revolution of 1936, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79, and the rise of Solidarity in Poland in 1980-81. According to Callinicos:
These workers’ councils embody a more advanced form of democracy than is practiced in liberal capitalist societies. They are based on rank and file participation, decentralized decision making where people work and live, and the immediate accountability of delegates to higher bodies to those who elected them. The councils represent an alternative way of running society to the centralized and bureaucratic forms of power on which capitalist domination depends.
The overarching goal is to develop the capacity of social movements to challenge successfully the core apparatuses of capitalist state power, and eventually replace the state altogether. Social movements can serve as points of departure and shed glimmers of hope for an alternative to the governing force of capital. The challenge for us is to translate social movements incubated within national borders into a widespread movement against capital. As Michael Löwy points out, in an unprecedented time when capital permeates lines of demarcation and casts its oppressive force through institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and the U.S. empire, what is lacking “is a network of political organizations – parties, fronts, movements, that can propose an alternative project inside the perspective of a new society, with neither oppressor nor oppressed.” The multiplicity of social movements (albeit heterogeneous in composition and diverse in their beliefs on how to combat capital) do identify the same enemy – the transnational capitalist class. They recognize the broad scope of the current crisis, which encompasses a crisis of overproduction, a crisis of legitimacy of democratice governance, and a crisis of overextension that has dangerously depleted the world’s material resources.
To address this point, we draw attention on the important work of James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer (2001) who challenge the egregious inequalities produced by transnational corporations and demand living wages for workers, food production for the urban poor, and land reform for peasants. Such a transformation points towards the importance of ‘development from below’ which can be achieved through the democratization of the workplace by way of workers’ and engineers’ councils across international borders, accompanied by a ‘development from the inside.’ This refers to a major shift of ownership of production, trade and credit in order to expand food production and basic necessities to the poor who inhabit the ‘internal market’. In order to bring about socialism—what Petras and Veltmeyer refer to as “an integral change based on transformations in the economic, cultural, and political spheres and based on understanding the multidimensional domination of imperialism” (2001: 165)—Third World workers will face multiple obstacles that hinder their path. To face this challenge successfully, Petras and Veltmeyer argue that we must move from a globalized imperial export strategy towards an integrated domestic economy. It is important not to delink from world production on the basis of being self-reliant or because one believes it is possible to achieve ‘socialism in one country’. It would be equally misguided, they note, to embrace a market socialism because it is unreasonable to assume that market forces, private ownership, and foreign investment directed by the government can build the basis of socialism. All economic exchanges –external and internal – must be subordinated to a democratic regime based on direct popular representation in territorial and productive units.
We argue that what needs to be emphasized and struggled for is not only the abolition of private property but also a struggle against alienated labor. The key point here is not to get lost in the state (nationalized capital) versus neoliberalism (privatized capital) debate. As the resident editorial board of News & Letters have made clear, the real issue that must not be obscured is the need to abolish the domination of labor by capital. Capital needs to be uprooted through the creation of new human relations that dispense with value production altogether. This does not mean that we stop opposing neoliberalism or privatization. What it does mean is that we should not stop there.
One of the major tasks ahead is the breaking down of the separation between manual and mental labor. This struggle is clearly focused on dismantling the current capitalist mode of production and setting in motion conditions for the creation of freely associated individuals. This means working towards a concept of socialism that will meet the needs of those who struggle within the present crisis of global capitalism. We need here to project a second negativity that moves beyond opposition (that is, opposition to the form of property, i.e., private property)-- a second or ‘absolute’ negativity that moves towards the creation of the new. This stipulates not simply embracing new forms of social organization, new social movements, etc., but addressing new theoretical and philosophical questions that are being raised by these new spontaneous movements. We need a new philosophy of revolution, as well as a new pedagogy that emerges out of the dialectic of absolute negation (McLaren, in press).
We have to keep our belief that another world is possible. We need to do more than to break with capital or abscond from it; clearly, we need to challenge its rule of value. One necessary (but not sufficient) way to proceed, in our view, is to develop a revolutionary critical pedagogy that will enable multiracial and gendered working-class groups to discover how capital exploits the use-value of their labor-power but also how working class initiative and power can destroy this type of determination and force a recomposition of class relations by directly confronting capital in all of its multi-faceted dimensions. This will require critical pedagogy not only to plot the oscillations of the labor/capital dialectic, but also to reconstruct the object context of class struggle to include school sites. Efforts also must be made to break down capital’s creation of a new species of labor-power through current attempts to corporatise, businessify, and moralise the process of schooling and to resist the endless subordination of life in the social factory so many students call home (Cleaver 2000; see also Rikowski 2001). Rebuilding the educational left will not be easy, but neither will living under an increasingly militarised capitalist state where labor-power is constantly put to the rack to carry out the will of capital.
Towards a Critical Globalization Studies and Pedagogy
As critical social educators, whether we are working inside or outside the academy, we are faced with a new sense of urgency in our fight to create social justice on a global scale, establishing what Karl Marx called a “positive humanism” to replace what Hannah Arendt (1955) called the “negative solidarity” of atomized and displaced individuals. Our feat is not a neutral one; it is a political act based on our interactions with children and families who believe they have no other option than to succumb to the powers that be in education who are resigned to the indicative consciousness of “what is” rather than the subjective consciousness of “what could be.” As the social activist-educator Paulo Freire stated:
No one can be in the world, with the world, and with others and maintain a posture of neutrality. I cannot be in the world decontexutualized, simply observing life. Yes, I can take up my position and settle myself, but only so as to become aware of my insertion into a context of decision, choice, and intervention. There are insistent questions that we all have to ask and that make it clear to us that it is not possible to study simply for the sake of studying. As if we could study in a way that really had nothing to do with that distant, strange world out there (1998:73).
A critical globalization studies will examine education as a social process embedded within global social relations of production. It will use advancements in technology to foster communication and interaction in order to interrogate critically the racialized nation state and its insinuation in the new imperialism We are convinced that our society is just one of many possible societies in which to live and both struggles from below and struggles from above have redefined our thinking about how the floodgates of possibility for the creation of alternative globalizations can be opened. We recognize that “intellectualism” is not confined to the academy, and that to consider the role of intellectuals as a distinct social category is premised upon an elitiest misunderstanding of the relationshiip between knowledge as a social relation and the history of class struggle (Gramsci: 1971). If we are to adopt Gramsci’s notion of the organic intellectual then we accept that all human beings are inherently agents of social transformation and our challenge is therefore to sustain the organic development of new and essential conceptions of the world by connecting material bases of production with intellectual development. The “organic” intellectual is defined as a fundamental element of a particular social class – one who in essence directs the ideas and aspirations of the class to which they organically belong, in both an economic sense (through the social relations of production) and a social sense by playing a functional role in sustaining the hegemony ruling class ideology. This is not to suggest that there exists an absolutely pure form of the organic intellectual. Gramsci was very clear in articulating the fluidity of organic intellectuals as a distinct category that will manifest itself in various ways.
In discussing responses to the imperial barbarism and corruption of the empire, Petras (2001) extends Gramsci’s notion of organic intellectual by distinguishing stoics, cynics, pessimists, and critical intellectuals (categories that encompass those who serve the hegemony of empire, from the prostrated academics who bend their knees in the face of capitalism while at the same time denouncing its excesses, to the coffee-sipping intellectuals of Soho) from what he refers to as irreverent intellectuals (who serve the cause of developing revolutionary socialist consciousness and a new internationalism). The stoics are repulsed by the “predatory pillage of the empire” but because they are paralyzed by feelings of political impotence, choose to form small cadres of academics in order to debate theory in as much isolation as possible from both the imperial powers and the oppressed and degraded masses. The cynics condemn both the victims of predatory capitalism and their victimisers as equally afflicted with consumerism; they believe that the oppressed masses seek advantage only to reverse the roles of oppressor and oppressed. The cynics are obsessed with the history of failed revolutions where the exploited eventually become the exploiters. They usually work in universities and specialize in providing testimonials to the perversions of liberation movements. The pessimists are usually leftists or ex-leftists who are also obsessed with the historical defeats of revolutionary social movements, which they have come to see as inevitable and irreversible, but who use these defeats as a pretext for adopting a pragmatic accomodation with the status quo. The have a motivated amnesia for new revolutionary movements now struggling to oppose the empire (i.e, movements by militant farmers and transport workers) and use their pessimism as an alibi for inaction and disengagement. The pessimists are reduced to a liberal politics who can often be co-opted by the ideologists of empire. Critical intellectuals frequently gain notoriety among the educated classes. Professing indignation at the ravages of empire and neo-liberalism and attempting to expose their lies, critical intellectuals appeal to the elite to reform the power structures so that the poor will no longer suffer. This collaborationist approach of critical intellectuals “vents indignation that resonates with the educated classes without asking them to sacrifice anything” (Petras 2001: 15) In contrast to all of the above, the irreverent intellectual respects the militants on the front lines of the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggles. Petras describes them as “self-ironic anti-heroes whose work is respected by the people who are actively working for basic transformation” (Petras 2001: 15). He notes that they are “objectively partisan and partisanly objective” and work together with intellectuals and activists involved in popular struggles:
They conduct research looking for original sources of data. They create their own indicators and concepts, for example, to identify the real depths of poverty, exploitation and exclusion. They recognise that there are a few intellectuals in prestigious institutions and award recipients who are clearly committed to popular struggles, and they acknowledge that these exceptions should be noted, while recognising the many others who in climbing the academic ladder succumb to the blandishments of bourgeois certification. The irreverent intellectuals admire a Jean-Paul Sartre, who rejected a Nobel Prize in the midst of the Vietnam War. Most of all, the irreverent intellectuals fight against bourgeois hegemony within the left by integrating their writing and teaching with practice, avoiding divided loyalties. (Petras 2001: 15).
A critical globalization pedagogy opens up the following questions: What is the circularity that obtains among ideas, individuals, systems of mediation, and modes of production and action? How are human beings formed in the crucible of use-value and exchange-value? How are our subjectivities formed out of the substance of abstract, homogeneous, undifferentiated labor? How have the products of human labor become more important to us than those who produce them? How have human relations become defined by the nature of the products of our labor—even before these products are exchanged for a wage? How do social relations of production produce us as human capital?
Critical Globalization Pedagogy
The challenge of critical educators over the last several decades has been to humanize the classroom environment and to create pedagogical spaces for linking education to the praxiological dimensions of social justice initiatives. To that end we have been enduringly indebted to critical pedagogy. However, approaching social transformation through the optic of a critical globalization pedagogy ratchets up the struggle ahead of us. Critical globalization pedagogy dilates the aperture that critical pedagogy has struggled to provide teachers and students over the last several decades by further opening up the pedagogical encounter so that it can recognize its embeddedness in globalized social relations of exploitation and, conversely, to the revolutionary potential of a transnational, gender-balanced, multiracial, anti-imperialist struggle. A critical globalization pedagogy raises another series of questions for consideration by teachers, students, and other cultural workers: How can we liberate the use value of human beings from their subordination to exchange-value? How can we convert what is least functional about ourselves as far as the abstract utilitarian logic of capitalist society is concerned—our self-realizing, sensuous, species-being—into our major instrument of self-definition? How can we make what we represent to capital as replaceable commodities subordinate to who we have also become as critical social agents of history? How can we make critical self-reflexivity a demarcating principle of who we are and critical global citizenship the substance of what we want to become? How can we make the cultivation of a politics of hope and possibility a radical end in itself? How can we de-commodify our subjectivities? How can we materialize our self-activity as a revolutionary force and struggle for the self-determination of free and equal citizens in a just system of appropriation and distribution of social wealth? How can we make and remake our own nature within historically specific conventions of capitalist society such that we can make this self-activity a revolutionary force to dismantle capitalism itself and create the conditions for the development of our full human potential? How can we confront our ‘producers’ (i.e., social relations of production, the corporate media, cultural formations and institutional structures) as an independent power (see McLaren et al, forthcoming)? How does the generalization of commodity production and the regime of exchange value manufacture internal limits on overconceptions of what is – and what could be -- human? What are the ecologies of racism, sexism, and heterosexism that are produced under such constraints? How have such conditions led to the femicide in places such as Juarez, and to the brutal superexploitation of women in developing countries?
Answering these questions in the context of developing a critical globalization studies will not be easy. It will require a pedagogy and politics of hope. Hope is the freeing of possibility, with possibility serving as the dialectical partner of necessity. When hope is strong enough, it can bend the future backward towards the past, where, trapped between the two, the present can escape its orbit of inevitability and break the force of history’s hubris, so that what is struggled for no longer remains an inert idea frozen in the hinterland of ‘what is’, but becomes a reality carved out of ‘what could be’. Hope is the oxygen of dreams, and provides the stamina for revolutionary struggle. Revolutionary dreams are those in which the dreamers dream until there are no longer dreamers but only the dreams themselves, shaping our everyday lives from moment to moment, and opening the causeways of possibility where abilities are nourished not for the reaping of profit, but for the satisfaction of needs and the full development of human potential.
The days ahead will witness furious attempts by the petrolarchs of the Bush administration to justify its foreign policy initiatives. They will say that they are making the world safe for freedom and democracy and providing opportunities for other countries to benefit from “the American Way of Life.” This will be accompanied by attempts by the Bush administration to get a whole new generation of nuclear weapons into production in order to meet their expanded “national security objectives.” And they will have most of the evangelical Christian communities behind these initiatives. It looks as though the American public will be left out of the debate. Why should Bush care about what the American people think? They didn’t vote for him.
Currently the most important front against capitalism is stopping the U.S. from invading more countries, since the administration’s National Security Strategy of the United States of America establishes an irrevocable connection between U.S. global domination and the neoliberal Washington consensus (Callinicos, 2003a). Callinicos warns that
If the US is victorious in Iraq, then it is more likely to go on the offensive in Latin America, the zone in the south where resistance to neoliberalism is most advanced. Even if the B-52s and Special Forces aren’t directly deployed against Brazilian landless laborers or Argentinian piqueteros, victory for US military power will weaken the struggle against poverty and hunger everywhere.
Commenting on imperialistic sentiment of the American people (with specific historical reference to Mexico), John Dewey (1927) wrote that “it is only too easy to create a situation after which the cry ‘stand by the President,’ and then ‘stand by the country,’ is overwhelming…Public sentiment, to be permanently effective, must do more than protest. It must find expression in a permanent change of our habits.” Addressing U.S. imperialism since September 11, 2002, Gilbert Aschar (2002: 81) portentously warns: “The real, inescapable question is this: is the US population really ready to endure even more September 11s, as the unavoidable price of a global hegemony that only benefits its ruling class?” Perhaps it’s time to give consideration to comments coming not from the theater of war but the teater of playwritghts and actors. Recently, Peter Ustinov observed: “Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich” (cited in Berger 2003: 34). Tariq Ali (2003) advises that “it is futile to look to the UN or Europe, let alone Russia or China, for mounting any serious obstacles to American designs in the Middle East.” Ali suggests that only the “popular wrath” of the Iraqi people themselves in the form of a “classical revolution” can rid the region of brutal tyrannies and American influence. Only time will tell if Amin’s (2003) comparison of Bush’s neoconservative cabal with the Nazi regime is overdrawn:
Had they reacted in 1935 or 1937, the Europeans would have been able to halt the Nazi madness before it did so much harm. By delaying until 1939, they contributed to its tens of millions of victims. It is our responsibility to act now, so that Washington’s neo-Nazi challenge may be contained and eliminated.
We reject the notion, advanced by Foucault and other post-strucutralists, that posing a vision of the future only reinforces the tyranny of the present. Similarly, we reject Derrida’s insistence that the fetish is not opposable. It is self-defeating in our view to embrace the advice of many postmodernists: that all we can do is engage in an endless critique of the forms of thought defined by commodity fetishism. In contrast, we believe that we can achieve more than the enjoyment of our symptoms of alienation in a world where the subjects of capitalism have been endlessly disappearing into the vortex of history (see Hudis: 2003). As Peter Hudis (2003) notes, such defeatism arises as long as critics believe that value production within capitalism is natural and immutable. We believe that the value form of mediation within capitalism is permeable and that another world outside of the social universe of capital is possible. We are concerned with developing a vision towards this end, not a blueprint. We are also committed to the idea that revolutionary critical pedagogy can play a role in the realization of such a vision. The voices and actions of critical educators will become more crucial in the days ahead. Whatever organizational forms their struggles take, they will need to address a global audience who share the radical hope in a socialist future. Such a struggle will benefit not only from the unbending efforts of anti-globalization scholars and activists but also from students and teachers in universities and public school settings who are engaging in the ongoing development of a critical globalization pedagogy.
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