Monday, April 16, 2018

First Nations leaders pledge to block pipeline expansion as Kinder Morgan blackmail exposes Trudeau’s bluff on climate change strategy

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Burnaby protest March 10 against Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline project.

Introduction

At the 2015 Paris COP 21 climate conference Justin Trudeau pledged his newly-elected government would help “to limit global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius as well as pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees.”[1]

The centrepiece of the adopted strategy was a two-pronged approach, contradictory on its face: implementing gradual carbon price increases through carbon taxes or cap-and-trade mechanisms while building more pipeline capacity to boost exports of fossil-fuel resources, especially the products of Alberta’s tar sands.

As environmentalists noted, the approach was inherently futile. Carbon taxes — contingent on provincial government consent — assumed higher costs would induce businesses to introduce less climate-destroying technology and practices. And provincial consent was dependent on the federal commitment to pipeline development, which inevitably would promote further fossil fuel exploration and production.

From the outset, Ottawa has faced opposition to carbon taxes from some provinces, which fear such market-based mechanisms will discourage private business investment. And mass popular opposition accompanied by the global downturn in resource prices has already led to TransCanada’s cancellation of its $15.7 billion Energy East project and Ottawa’s nixing of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline. Although Trump has now reversed Obama’s stop to Keystone XL, its future is still in doubt in the face of opposition from US environmental activists.

That leaves Kinder Morgan’s plan to duplicate its existing Trans Mountain pipeline. It entails a $7.4 billion duplication of an existing pipeline from Alberta, with a three-fold increase in capacity, that would carry tar sands bitumen to a terminal in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby. From there tanker traffic to hoped-for Asian markets would increase from a current five boats per month to an estimated 34 threading their way through coastal tidal straits. The plan has become the linchpin of the Trudeau government’s hope to win support for its approach from an Alberta government eager to get its petroleum to tidewater, and which has hinged its carbon tax on completion of the Trans Mountain project.[2]

The economic outlook for the Kinder Morgan project is suspect, given the declining prospects globally for new fossil-fuel export markets.[3] More importantly, it is facing mounting protests from environmental and First Nations activists. In recent weeks, dozens of demonstrators at the Burnaby terminal have been arrested on trespassing charges. The newly-elected minority NDP government in British Columbia, dependent on support from the Green party, which opposes Kinder Morgan, has joined in legal challenges to the project. This has brought the B.C. government into conflict with Alberta’s, likewise held by the New Democratic Party.

However, both governments have been boosting fossil-fuel exports.

B.C. premier John Horgan says he will limit the province’s carbon tax rules applying to a $40 billion Shell Canada-led LNG project in Kitimat. He prepared the way for that project when he recently gave the go-ahead to completion of the $10.7 billion Site C dam in northern B.C., which the NDP had campaigned against prior to its election last year. The dam will provide electricity to the Kitimat project.

Alberta premier Rachel Notley has been negotiating with Ottawa to exempt tar-sands projects from federal climate reviews. B.C.’s support of the Kitimat LNG project while opposing Trans Mountain as environmentally unsafe is “hypocrisy,” she notes, because it will be processing shale gas extracted in Alberta.

Meanwhile, the OECD warned in December that “without a drastic decrease in the emissions intensity of the oilsands industry, the projected increase in oil production may seriously risk the achievement of Canada's climate mitigation targets.” The report noted that Canada has the fourth largest greenhouse gas emissions of the OECD's 35 developed national economies. As for carbon taxes, it said, Canada’s regime “is far below that of other OECD member countries.”

Then, on April 8 Texas-based Kinder Morgan announced it was suspending “non-essential” spending on the Trans Mountain project and would cancel it altogether if by May 31 it was not “guaranteed” the project could proceed despite the B.C. opposition.

Trans Mountain pipeline route

The announcement produced a flurry of panic-stricken reaction from Canadian business elites, their media, and the Alberta and federal governments. Surely, it was exclaimed, Ottawa has the constitutional authority to override B.C.’s opposition — especially in a matter so eminently in the “national interest,” as Trudeau and Notley constantly reiterate. To ensure the project proceeds, both governments have even indicated interest in buying a stake in Kinder Morgan, if not the entire company, investing billions of taxpayer dollars in this climate-destroying enterprise.

However, their dilemma is that even federal “guarantees” of the project will not insulate it from popular protest. In fact, it will only generate more opposition. The fight over Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain project is far from over.

And there are some huge stakes involved, much greater than the fate of governments and their supposed “climate change” strategies. The broader issues are eloquently set out in a powerful statement published in The Globe and Mail April 12 by two First Nations chiefs.[4] Their promise of militant direct action is redolent of the “blockadia” advocated by Naomi Klein in her best-selling book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. And it echoes the Leap Manifesto, co-authored by Klein, which proclaims: This leap to “a country powered entirely by renewable energy... must begin by respecting the inherent rights and title of the original caretakers of this land,” the Indigenous communities that “have been at the forefront of protecting rivers, coasts, forests and lands from out-of-control industrial activity.”

Here is their statement.

Richard Fidler

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If Ottawa rams through Trans Mountain, it could set up an Oka-like crisis

By Stewart Phillip and Serge Simon

Stewart Phillip is Grand Chief of Okanagan Nation and president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. Serge ‘Otsi’ Simon is Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake.

As the federal and Alberta governments continue to pull their hair out over the B.C. government’s stand against Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and tanker project, it’s important to point out, as we’ve been doing for years, that the pipeline company doesn’t have the consent of all First Nations along the route. In fact, many of them are strongly opposed to the project.

Kinder Morgan’s recent announcement that it is stopping all but essential spending proves that its shareholders are starting to understand the degree and depth of the Indigenous-led opposition movement to this pipeline project.

The Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion is made up of 150 Indigenous Nations in Canada and the United States, dozens of which are located along the Kinder Morgan pipeline route, with many of them having launched legal actions against the Kinder Morgan project.

Further, Indigenous Nations are supported by a quickly growing and broad-based network of support from allied Canadians who understand the existential threat that humanity faces from climate change and who are ready to stand up against the injustices still carried out today against Indigenous people.

More than 20,000 people have signed the Coast Protectors pledge to do whatever it takes to stop the pipeline. Thousands took part in a March 10 solidarity rally at the Kinder Morgan gates on Burnaby mountain.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has a decision to make. It can cut its losses and realize it simply made a mistake in approving the project. Or the Trudeau government can double down on its current path. But Canadians should be very clear-eyed about what that represents. It represents more than a failure of climate leadership. It means going back to the Stephen Harper days when Canada’s reputation on the climate file was mud.

Importantly, it also means going back to colonial-era relations with Indigenous people. In fact, if the federal government tries to ram through this pipeline, it could mean going back to one of the darkest times in modern Canadian history: the Oka standoff with the Mohawk Nation.

We just witnessed the ugly and shameful crackdown in the United States on the peaceful anti-pipeline protests at Standing Rock.

We don’t believe that’s the Canada that most Canadians want to live in. It would be a cruel joke indeed if, in this era of “reconciliation,” Canada instead repeats the mistakes of the past.

This is a learning moment for Canada. For far too long, governments and industry thought they could ignore Indigenous people by paying lip service to consulting us all the while doing what they wanted to do anyway.

Canadians are starting to grasp that there are governments and jurisdictions on this great land besides the provinces and the federal government. Indigenous peoples possess the inherent right to govern our territories. Pursuant to that inherent right, you need our free, prior and informed consent to develop our lands, especially when we are talking about a high-risk project such as Kinder Morgan that poses a real risk to those lands and waters and climate.

This is something the Supreme Court of Canada recognized in the historic 2014 Tsilhqot’in decision and it is the foundation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the federal government has agreed to implement.

The other learning moment is that this beleaguered pipeline is forcing Canadians of all ages from all walks of life to begin to imagine a world that is not so reliant on oil. We should be racing as fast as we can to get off oil instead of producing even more of the dirtiest, most polluting kind from the Alberta oil sands.

This is not some typical debate with many sides to it — there’s really just two: right and wrong. Collective survival or collective suicide.

Finally, no one should see this as a constitutional crisis. On the contrary, this is our Constitution[5] working, at least in practice, with Indigenous people acting as real decision makers on their territory. At the same time, you’re seeing beautiful acts of real reconciliation with Canadians standing up for our rights and trying to make this country a more just place. And we are finally seeing the kind of climate action that Canada needs and that the Trudeau government refused to take when it approved this pipeline.

The real constitutional crisis will occur if Mr. Trudeau chooses to ignore our constitutionally protected Aboriginal Title and Rights and Treaty Rights, and tries to ram through the pipeline – putting a lie to all his promises of reconciliation and setting Canada up for another catastrophic crisis on the same level as Oka.


[1] “Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on successful conclusion of Paris Climate Conference,” https://pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2015/12/12/statement-prime-minister-canada-successful-conclusion-paris-climate-conference.

[2] Rachel Notley’s government has imposed a $30 per ton tax on carbon emissions, the revenue going mainly to consumer rebates and phasing out (not until 2030!) the province’s coal production, while its cap on tar-sands emissions would still allow a 47.5% increase above 2014 levels. See “What if the Trans Mountain pipeline is never built?

[3] See, for example, “Only Fantasies, Desperation and Wishful Thinking Keep Pipeline Plans Alive,” and “Forget Trans Mountain, here’s the sustainable way forward for Canada’s energy sector.”

[4] Stewart Phillip and Serge Simon, “If Ottawa rams through Trans Mountain it could set up an Oka-like crisis,” https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-if-ottawa-rams-through-trans-mountain-it-could-set-up-an-oka-like/.

[5] Implicitly, a reference to the militant campaign mounted by First Nations leaders and activists in the early 1980s to get some protection for indigenous rights included in Pierre Trudeau’s envisaged Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. At the last moment, Trudeau included “a new section in the charter of rights. It reads ‘The guarantee in this charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed as denying the existence of any other rights or freedoms... that pertain to the native peoples of Canada.’ [Constitutional scholar Edward] McWhinney writes later that the clause carried almost no weight in law; it merely says that there are whatever rights there are, without saying what they are.” That was left to the courts, and to a later constitutional conference that failed to reach a consensus on First Nations rights. See Robert Sheppard and Michael Valpy, The National Deal: The Fight for a Canadian Constitution (Fleet Books, Toronto, 1982), p. 161.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Madrid’s mounting repression against Catalan movement provokes new international interest and solidarity

International appeal from Catalonia

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The Spanish state’s repression against Catalonia’s democratic rights gets worse every day. There are at this moment 10 leading politicians and activists in prison, without having been condemned of any crime. They are accused of violent rebellion, although they have never used violence. By mid April the two leaders of the main Catalanist organisations, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sánchez, will have spent 6 months in prison.

And apart from the 10 political prisoners and 6 political leaders in exile, from 1 October until now there have been: 1,500 people injured while voting or demonstrating; 150 fascist attacks; 140 web sites closed; police attacks on journalists; censorship of rappers, writers and artists…

In protest at this situation, there will be a united demonstration in Barcelona on Sunday 15 April at 11 am, organised by a very broad platform of social movements, including the ANC, Òmnium Cultural, trade unions, the neighbours’ organisations, youth movements, cultural and sporting organisations, the federation of NGOs… It will be a massive call for solidarity with the political prisoners, and with all those suffering the current attacks in Catalonia and increasingly in other parts of the Spanish state.

We call on international solidarity movements to organise actions over the weekend of 14 and 15 April: demonstrations, rallies, public meetings, symbolic events…

If we allow repression to go unchallenged in Catalonia today, then fundamental rights can be repressed tomorrow in any part of the world.

Please mobilise on 14-15 April. Defend democracy and human rights.  In Catalonia and everywhere.

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Introduction

by Richard Fidler

The poster above portrays some of the major Catalan political leaders imprisoned without trial at this moment, while the text below it outlines the balance-sheet to date of police and legal attacks on Catalans trying to implement their right to self-determination.

The Spanish state’s repression is now a major issue in Germany, where former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was arrested March 25, pursuant to a Spanish judge’s warrant while travelling by car from northern Europe to Belgium, where he was living in exile. His arrest provoked immediate mass protests in Catalonia.

German prosecutors are seeking to extradite Puigdemont to Spain where, along with other jailed and exiled Catalan nationalist leaders, he faces charges of “rebellion,” which carries a sentence of 30 years imprisonment.

The Spanish court has issued similar arrest warrants against other Catalan leaders now in exile in Belgium, Scotland and Switzerland. Writing in the Catalan daily Ara April 3, legal expert Javier Pérez Royo noted that each of the extradition judges, irrespective of their country, “knows that the individual cases that they are expected to decide on are all linked by a common thread. And all of them realise that this affair has taken centre stage as far as Europe’s public opinion is concerned, as a browse through the papers will easily confirm.”

There is “a shared link” in all of these cases, Pérez Royo added: “what constitutes a crime of rebellion in a democratic European country well into the 21st century?”

In a manifesto concerning the Catalan prosecutions published in November in the Spanish on-line newspaper El Diario, more than 100 professors of criminal law from throughout Spain state that “it's seriously mistaken to consider the facts as constituting a crime of rebellion [as defined by] article 474 of the Penal Code” because... the “structural element of this crime, which is violence, is absent.” In fact, as many commentators point out, the violence in Catalonia in the events in question, in September and October, was exercised by the police in their widely publicized efforts to stop the Catalan people from voting in the referendum on independence.

Professor Pérez Royo argues that “all four judges know that their answer will establish a European common denominator on the subject of rebellion crimes. Even if they do it in their own individual way, together they will decide what a crime of rebellion is and what it is not; what sort of ‘violence’ is required for an event to be characterised as a crime of rebellion.”

And he finds a Canadian angle:

“There are times when a decision by one nation’s jurisdictional body becomes a reference for the others. The case of the Canadian Supreme Court’s opinion on Quebec springs to mind. Even though it was not a ruling — it was not prompted by a court case, but by a formal enquiry from the federal government — and, therefore, it did not set a trial precedent, this opinion has become the single most influential piece of doctrine on what the right to self-determination is — and what it is not — as well as on the conditions under which a secession referendum may be held within a democratic country.”

Pérez Royo is optimistic about the outcome of the extradition cases. All of the judges, he writes, “will seek the European common denominator, something that can be objectively and reasonably justified in front of Europe’s public opinion... On the subject of the crime of rebellion, all four judges will dismiss the arrest warrant. They will not allow the Catalan politicians to be tried for rebellion in Spain because it is impossible for the European judges to make that sort of collective decision. And they know that they cannot make contradictory decisions.”

However, the Catalan issue is a hot potato in Europe, where politics may well prevail over legal considerations. And no European government or state institution has expressed support for the Catalan right to self-determination; many of them face actual or potential challenges to their territorial integrity from oppressed national minorities. This points to the prime importance of developing a European-wide and international public campaign in defense of the Catalan people and their nationalist leaders, a goal the mid-April demonstrations should help to promote.

Already, there are some encouraging signs of growing sympathy in Europe for the Catalan defense, even in the German media. For example, in an editorial titled “Asylum for Puigdemont,” Jakob Augstein — an influential journalist and co-owner of Der Spiegel — calls for the Catalan leader to not be extradited. Augstein writes that “The detention of Puigdemont is an embarrassment. For Spain. For Europe. For Germany.”

And he also reminds readers about the arrest of another Catalan president, Lluís Companys:

“The Germans already handed over one Catalan politician to the Spanish. Lluís Companys declared independence in 1934. He was arrested and tried. After the victory of the leftist forces he was freed, fought against Franco, escaped to France, and was captured there by the Gestapo and sent back to Spain. He was executed on October 15, 1940.”

Germany must reject the Spanish demands, says Augstein. “A politician who uses peaceful means to fight for his objectives should not have to go to prison.”

In Scotland, Clara Ponsatí, education minister in the Catalan pro-independence government and the subject of a Spanish extradition demand, raised nearly £200,000 in less than a day through a crowdfunding appeal for her legal expenses. Ponsatí is currently teaching at St. Andrews University.

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In Spain itself, the government and mass media are waging an intense battle to consolidate and win further public support for their campaign against Catalan self-determination and sovereignty. Catalan socialist Martí Caussa notes:

“The immediate objective ... is to reduce independence to a minority fraction of the Catalan population by resorting to temporary emergency measures. The fundamental objective is to consolidate the authoritarian evolution of the monarchical regime of 1978, and this requires convincing the population that — after the end of the Basque ETA struggle — new and dangerous internal enemies have appeared, against which we must defend ourselves by restricting democracy.

“Two conditions are necessary if this fundamental objective is to be met:

1. convince the majority of public opinion that there is a collective (a group) that ‘is not ours,’ to describe it in terms that make it appear as an enemy and discredit those who don’t agree with this narrative; and

2. justify the exceptional measures with the argument that will be limited to a particular territory and duration, but promoting legislation and a method of applying it that can be generalized throughout the state and without limits in the future.”

Although the first of these conditions, which is fundamental, has been achieved, this may be only a provisional success for the Spanish state, Caussa adds.

“At present, the solidarity in major sectors of the population is weak. But there are already some magnificent examples, like those we have included in the box ‘Solidarity with Catalonia’ on the Viento Sur website.... The growth of a sense of fraternity among all of us fighting against authoritarianism and for democracy is a necessity. Becoming a majority is what can save us.”

Republished below is the translation of an article by prominent Galician writer Suso de Toro [1], published in El Diario on March 28, that explains the background to the Catalan crisis and what the Spanish repression means for the future of the country’s politics. I have reproduced it from the live blog maintained by Dick Nichols, Barcelona-based correspondent of the Green Left Weekly, an indispensable source for day-by-day news and analysis of current events in relation to Catalonia’s quest for self-determination.

And I follow it with an article by Dick Nichols published in the current issue of Green Left Weekly. Dick addresses some key problems confronting the Catalan movement as it struggles to develop a unified line of struggle against the repression and in defense of Catalonia’s right of self-determination.

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Puigdemont is our president too [2]

By Suso de Toro

[Footnotes follow the article]

In the middle of a Spanish National Radio (RNE) broadcast from Valladolid [3] in front of a live audience the presenter announces the news of President Puigdemont’s arrest by the German police at the request of the Spanish prosecutor, i.e., of the Spanish government.

Immediate reaction of the audience—applause. But surely not all the audience: some would have been people who instead of feeling jubilant would have been cringing at news announcing something deplorable, a politician pursued by the police on the orders of the corrupt government of M. Rajoy [4]. It may even have been that some people who instinctively joined in the applause later felt ashamed.

Surely so, but what a sinister reaction from that audience, which could have been any audience that follows the RNE in many other cities of Spain. A reaction typical of volunteer jailers: the hatred implanted by Spanish politics and media towards the rulers of Catalonia and the more than two million who voted for them has degraded people and social life to a degree not known for forty years. And that corresponds to the image the Kingdom of Spain has re-acquired, of a repressive country where political differences are solved with police and prisons, a country from which dissidents either flee or end up in jail.

These are the striking results of an implacable plan drawn up from the very moment M. Rajoy arrived at the Moncloa [5], transported there by all the bank-owned media of the monarchy. They immediately "took over" Spanish public television (TVE) and this was indicative of what they were going to do elsewhere. To apply their program of theft of social rights and looting of the state they needed to end freedom of expression--they already had the newspapers and television stations on side--and so they drafted the Gag Law [6].

Over the years since then they have been administering successive but regular doses of Francoism, doses so small that they have gone almost unnoticed, imperceptibly intoxicating us: as we swallowed they took away everything, the welfare state and freedom. We went along accepting what they did to others by identifying with the flag (the Borbon flag) and a hymn (the Borbon military march) and a "unity" that meant persecution (“Go, get ‘em!” [7]) of those who would not submit. We got a little more Francoist every day as we laughed at the Catalans who got bashed up for wanting freedom, made jokes about the prisoners [8], turning ourselves every day a little bit more into the jailers of the free. They have been vaccinating us against freedom to the point that we are scandalised that there are people who want to vote about whatever they want to vote about. Here freedom is something quite forgotten or unknown.

However, brainwashing and police repression were not enough: they also needed the judges and so carried out a reform of the legal system that not only withdrew legal protection and rights from individuals but also transformed the legal system as a separate power into a repressive instrument of the executive power. In addition to unblushingly placing openly Francoist judges into positions of power—thus controlling the National Court (Audiencia Nacional [9]) and the Supreme Court—in 2015 they adopted the law reforming the operation of the Constitutional Court. That reform implied reform of the entire state, the cancellation in practice of the legislative branch. On the pretext of carrying out an express reform to prosecute the then-president of the Catalan government, they transformed the Constitutional Court into a reactionary instrument with unfettered power to carry out its repressive function [10].

The People’s Party (PP) of M. Rajoy, after its Spain-wide campaign of collection of signatures against the Statute “of the Catalans”, filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court and maneuvered so that the composition of that court would accord with their interests. Thus the judges appointed by the PP challenged a colleague, Pablo Pérez Tremps [11]. And so a court in agreement with the PP issued a ruling that was far more important than the offense and the damage it inflicted on the Catalans. In fact, that ruling not only expelled Catalanism [12] from the consensus on which the Constitution had been built, but also represented, I believe, a real refounding of the judicial system born of the Transition [13].

A statute that had been drafted and approved by the Catalan parliament, trimmed back, given a brush [14], approved by the Spanish parliament and then approved in a referendum by the Catalan people was changed by the Constitutional Court. The Catalans are today governed by a legal text that is no such thing. The statute that the parliaments and they themselves approved was not accepted by the Constitutional Court, which replaced it with another text, the original reworked with cuts. I won’t go now into the fact that court took out its frustration by cutting out points recognised in other statutes [15]: once the cutting and polishing began it was back to zero. It’s not just a question of the suspension of the judicial framework in which the Catalans have been left since then, but also of the establishment of two principles: the Constitutional Court can interpret and modify any statutory text and it is not parliaments, the legislature, that establishes the law but the Constitutional Court, which stands above it. Thus, the Kingdom of Spain is no longer a full parliamentary system as commonly understood. But these things, so serious that they seem incredible, are much better known to Professor Javier Pérez Royo [16].

For years it has been hard for me to believe the things that I have been writing about here: we were just not prepared to imagine this Francoist degeneration of Spanish public life. However, as regards hatred of the Catalans, yes, I believe everything. Just as I believe that everything that has been happening for months now has been a plan executed implacably step by step: from the Constitutional Court sentence they have been cornering the Catalans, giving them no respite, no negotiation, no way out, taking them to where they now have them — against the wall in a prison state.

When President Tarradellas returned from exile [17], bringing back the Generalitat, the Catalan republican institution of self-government, he did it on the promise of Adolfo Suarez and the previous king [18] that it would get recognition and fit into the constitution that was about to be drafted. But Suarez was pushed aside by the King himself and the Army, Suárez's democratic cheque account was left without funds, and now the Generalitat and its legitimate president (since no other has yet been elected) is in exile detained by the German police at the request of the government of M. Rajoy.

Moreover, none of this could have happened without a PSOE [Socialist Workers Party of Spain, the Social-Democracy] committed to the state strategy carried out by M. Rajoy and Felipe VI.

I shall not go on, I only recall what we have been saying for some time, it is not a question of independent republic or a Spanish kingdom, but of democracy or not. And in Spain that “not” means Francoism. Puigdemont is the president of the Catalans, no matter how much it galls M. Rajoy and Felipe of Borbon, but he is a democrat and it is our duty to defend his freedom.

Footnotes

1. Galician writer Suso de Toro, a long-standing supporter of the Catalan right to self-determination, is the author of Another Idea of Spain and various novels. He won the National Prize for Narrative in 2013.

2. “Puigdemont, our president” is a chant that’s heard at any demonstration for Catalan rights against the repression of the Spanish state. Suso de Toro’s point is that he is the president of any Spanish democrat as well.

3. Capital of Valladolid province and seat of the regional government of Castilla y León.

4. “M. Rajoy” was how the name of Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy appeared in the payments column of the PP accounts of former treasurer Luís Bárcenas, presently on trial for corruption.

5. Spanish prime minister’s residence and official seat of the Spanish government.

6. The Gag Law, whose official name is Law of Citizen Safety, has been in force since July 1, 2015. Its provisions cover 44 offences ranging from flashing laser beams at aircraft to organising unauthorised demonstrations.

7. “Go get ‘em” (a por ellos) was the chant of Spanish-centralist demonstrators gathered outside Civil Guard barracks to send off Civil Guards going to Catalonia to stop the October 1 referendum.

8. For example, members of the Spanish National Police were recorded making offensive remarks about Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras on his being sent into detention.

9. The National Court descends from the Franco-era Court of Public Order .

10. The Law governing the Constitutional Court was amended in October 2015 to give it powers to punish those judged to have disobeyed its rulings. The former president of the Catalan government mentioned is Artur Mas

11. Pablo Pérez Tremps, member of the “progressive sector” of the Spanish judiciary, is an expert in relations between the legal and constitutional branches of the Spanish justice system who was also a member of the Constitutional Court. During the appeal of the PP against the constitutionality of the Catalan Statute, his impartiality was questioned by lawyers for the PP case: their submission against his sitting on the case was carried six to five by at a full bench session of the Constitutional Court.

12. “Catalanism” is a broad concept that basically means recognition and affirmation of the value of Catalan society, language, culture and institutions. It can apply to supporters of independence as well as those seeking a different relation between Catalonia and the Spanish state.

13. That is, the transition from the Franco dictatorship.

14. The Statute as first adopted by the Catalan parliament was later “given a brush” (cepillado)—expression of PSOE leader and Spanish centralist Alfonso Guerra—by the Spanish parliament.

15. The Spanish solicitor-general identified 85 articles in the Catalan Statute challenged by the PP that were already contained in other Statutes. Articles finally ruled unconstitutional by the court were already in operation in Andalusia and the Valencian Country.

16. As outlined in his book The Impossible Constitutional Reform.

17. In 1977, Josep Tarradellas, president of the Catalan government (Generalitat) in exile, returned to Spain where he negotiated with Spanish prime minister Adolfo Suarez the re-establishment of the Generalitat as the legitimate government of Catalonia.

18. King Juan Carlos, father of the present incumbent.

* * *

Catalan movement struggles for united strategy against Spanish state

By Dick Nichols

Barcelona, April 2, 2018 – “General strike! General strike! General strike!”: in protests across Catalonia after the March 23 jailing of five MPs and the March 25 detention in Germany of president Carles Puigdemont, these words rang out loud and appeared on placards and banners everywhere.

A general strike! Well that would certainly make the Spanish government of prime minister Mariano Rajoy and the senior judges doing its bidding think twice about maintaining their persecution of Catalonia’s pro-independence MPs.

Except that a general strike, while desirable and important to raise as an objective, just won’t happen as an offensive weapon to help advance the Catalan Republic — not until there’s an earthquake in the Catalan trade union movement.

The reasons why point to the underlying causes of the Catalan independence movement’s difficulties in developing a stable and united strategy against the tightening legal siege of the Spanish state.

This siege reached its latest “high point” on March 23 when Spanish Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena confirmed charges ranging from rebellion to embezzlement and disobedience against 25 Catalan political and mass movement leaders.

Poles in a debate

The independence movement’s basic debate, crossing both parties and mass organisations, is about the conditions that need to be in place for disobedience towards Spain to have some chance of success.

At one pole are those, mainly but not only around the left-independentist People’s Unity List (CUP), who think that the conditions for success already exist: what’s more, that actions of disobedience will spark a virtuous circle of revolt as more people become convinced of the chances of success.

This position points to the victory of the October 1 referendum in the face of the baton charges of the Spanish police, the October 3 general stoppage and the vast demonstrations that accompanied it, along with the confirmation of a pro-independence majority at the December 21 elections.

On this basis, the CUP abstained on the investiture on March 22 of Together for Catalonia (JxCat) leader Jordi Turull as president of a JxCat-ERC government on grounds that this would simply be another Spanish regional administration and would not “unfold the Republic”. Without CUP support, the investiture failed.

The other pole, around the centre-left Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and with some support within JxCat, acknowledges these positives. But it holds that they alone are insufficient to give the movement the strength its needs to withstand a Spanish establishment intent on imposing a final solution to “separatist defiance.”

This is all the more so because on the same day the Catalan parliament declared independence, the Spanish government ended Catalan self-rule under article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, having already taken charge of the Catalan government’s finances.

Also, while winning a majority of seats, the independence bloc only managed to win 47.5% of the vote. The rabidly Spanish-centralist Citizens also emerged as the largest party (with 25.4% of the vote) on the back of a campaign that cynically exploited Spanish versus Catalan identity sentiment.

For the ERC, the priority is to recover Catalan self-government and implement a program that improves the life of all Catalans irrespective of origin. In this way, it seeks to show the lie in Citizens’ demagogic rant about the independence bloc sacrificing ordinary people’s lives to a “mad fantasy.”

Of particular concern is the possibility of the Spanish State taking advantage of any violence — real or manufactured — to declare a state of siege under article 116 of the Spanish constitution. Incidents of violence at the pickets called by the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDR) on the evening of March 25 showed that this concern is not misplaced.

These incidents also confirmed who gains politically from any outbreaks of violence. The day after the protest, Spanish interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido questioned the independence movement’s commitment to peaceful methods. Citizens’ leader Albert Rivera was tweeting about how the violence represented Catalan nationalism’s true face of “hatred and confrontation.”

On March 29, José Luis Ábalos, the organisational secretary of the opposition Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), said the CDRs were “the seed in Catalonia” of the Basque kale borrroka (“street struggle”), which engaged in violent action against the police. Ábalos also gave his listeners a history lesson: similar groups had been formed in the Cuban, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan revolutions.

It has since emerged that a lot of the violence was due to balaclava-wearing people no-one could identify, leading to suspicions they were plants and calls for face-covering to be banned at demonstrations.

On March 30, [football team] Manchester City’s Catalan manager Pep Guardiola said that “those who compare us to the generators of violence commit a great injustice.”

Defensive and offensive alliances

Catalonia has experienced one general strike recently. This was the October 3 “civilian stoppage” in protest against Spanish state violence on October 1. It was convened by the two major unions — the Workers Commissions (CCOO) and the General Union Of Labour (UGT) — as part of a broader platform that contained social movement, business and religious organisations.

It was also supported by the minority trade union confederations, the pro-independence Intersindical-CSC and the anarcho-syndicalist General Confederation of Labour. These were to later call a general strike of their own (on November 8), but despite achieving road and rail line blockades, they could not repeat the success of October 3 without the involvement of the major confederations.

The relative weakness of the pro-independence Intersindical-CSC in Catalonia contrasts with the situation of trade unionism in the Basque Country (Euskadi), where the main two nationalist confederations enjoy majority coverage.

In Catalonia, pro-independence trade unionism has so far been weak because the major confederations recruited workers originating from other parts of Spain on the basis of Catalonia being “a single people.” As a result, the majority confederations, reflecting the attitude of a lot of their members, are prepared to carry out defensive industrial action — such as against the police violence of October 1 — but the divisions in the Catalan working class at large mean that UGT and CCOO action in support of the independence goal and the declared Catalan Republic is unthinkable.

On the other hand, as October 3 showed, the majority confederations support defence of Catalan institutions and Catalan self-government. After meeting on March 26 with parliament speaker Roger Torrent, their leaders expressed support for action to lift the article 155 intervention, restore Catalan self-rule and achieve the release of the political prisoners.

At the same time, they made it clear they would have nothing to do with CUP or CDR plans for unilaterally “unfolding the Republic.”

On March 27, the UGT and CCOO were part of the launching of a “Space for Democracy and Social Harmony.” This included the two main pro-independence associations Òmnium Cultural and the Catalan National Assembly — and small and medium business organisations. This alliance, which repeats previous broad coalitions in defence of Catalonia’s national rights and self-rule, has called a mass demonstration in Barcelona for April 15.

On March 26, JxCat, the ERC and the CUP announced that they would move a motion to parliament asserting the inviolability of all elected MPs, their right to stand for any position and demanding the release from jail and return from exile of those who have been charged by the Spanish courts.

On March 28, this resolution was adopted, as was a second resolution moved by Catalonia Together—Podemos (supporters of a Catalan right to decide but not independence), which affirmed the need to implement Catalonia’s national rights on the basis of broad social majorities.

However, unity still remains to be achieved on the question of forming government. The arrest of Carles Puigdemont has convinced JxCat and the CUP to re-propose Puigdemont as president, if only to increase the political price Spain and its allies will have to pay for putting him in jail. The ERC remains sceptical about the usefulness of this exercise, which would violate a Constitutional Court order that candidates for president have to be physically present at the investiture session.

By March 30, however, with pressure for the Spanish state to negotiate with an elected Catalan government rising across Europe in the wake of Puigdemont’s arrest, the ERC seemed more inclined to risk supporting an “illegal” investiture of Puigdemont so as to further pressure the increasingly exposed Spanish legal system.

To disobey now, or avoid conflict until more certain of having a broader base of support? This remains the dilemma for the independence movement. If it is not solved within two months, Catalonia will go to new elections.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Three central issues facing the Catalan independence movement

March 11 demo for Republic Now in Barcelona

The March 11 demonstration for “Republic Now,” called by the Catalan National Assembly, drew 45,000 (municipal police figure) to Barcelona’s portside Passeig de Colom.

Introduction

Although parties supporting Catalonia’s independence from the Spanish monarchy won a majority of deputies in the autonomous community’s December 21 election, they have been unable to elect a Generalitat, or government, due in part to internal disagreements but primarily to blockages by the Spanish government and its courts.

A major obstacle is the fact that prominent leaders of the pro-independence forces are either imprisoned — four, including ANC leader Jordi Sànchez and ERC leader Oriol Junqueras, facing their 150th night in jail — or in European exile: former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and four of his former ministers, as well as former CUP leader Anna Gabriel.

In the following article Martí Caussa, a Catalan editor of Viento Sur, a leading Marxist publication in the Spanish state, discusses the strategic dilemmas faced by the independentists and offers some important proposals as to how these difficulties can be overcome. My translation from the Spanish version of his article as published in Viento Sur.

Richard Fidler

* * *

Political differences bog down the investiture of the Catalan government

By Martí Caussa

Original article in Catalan

In Catalonia, the two most important news items of the first week of March have been (1) Carles Puigdemont’s withdrawal of his nomination for President of the autonomous region’s government in order to propose Jordi Sànchez as a candidate for the presidency of the Generalitat and (2) the refusal of the CUP to support Sànchez.[1] The investiture therefore remains bogged down.

Puigdemont’s step back is a factual recognition that the relationship of forces is lacking to make him president and establish the Republic. And the alternative solution proposed by JuntsxCat and ERC[2] was to combine an autonomous government headed by Sànchez with a Council of the Republic situated in Brussels.

This solution needed at least two votes in favor from the CUP if Sànchez was to be elected in the second round (assuming that the Constitutional Court did not prevent it).[3] But the anti-capitalists are only willing to abstain, because they do not want to support an autonomous government. They want the Republic proclaimed on October 27 to become effective and the transitional laws to be implemented.

The position of the CUP is not an absolute impediment to Sànchez’s investiture — because it is still possible to negotiate and because Puigdemont and Comín[4] could renounce their oath as deputies and make way for two substitutes — but it is an indicator of the differences within the independentist movement. These differences are not limited to the parties, as the ANC has decided to call a demonstration on March 11[5] to demand the new government “obey the mandate of October 1 and implement the Transitional Act and institutions of the Republic.”

This is not a discussion about individuals, therefore, but about basic political orientations. Vicent Partal has summed it up[6] as a “great background debate that is masked by the negotiations: do we need to move straight to building the republic or if it is necessary to first look to build whatever can be managed in the framework of regional government, accepting, therefore, the rules imposed by the coup d’état” of the central government in Madrid.

I too think the substantive debate is being concealed and that to make it visible, three central issues should be addressed: what has failed, where we really are now and what strategic direction is needed to advance towards the Republic. If this debate were to be held, I believe that the dilemma posed by Partal would be revealed as simplistic.

Three necessary debates

In my opinion we must begin by analyzing what really happened on October 1 and in the days that followed.

We have known for a long time that the fundamental factor in the success of the October 1 referendum vote was the people who wanted to have a referendum, whatever the outcome, and that not all of these people were pro-independence. We also know that the government did not plan either the occupation or the defense of the polling stations. And we have also seen confirmed (by new statements before Judge Llarena) that the government planned to stop the October 1 vote at noon, but we still do not know who was favorable and who, fortunately, resisted.

We also know that the government celebrated the outcome of the referendum, but had doubts about what to do with the victory; the general strike of October 3 was not a government initiative either, although it favored it. A week later, the combination of indecision, divergences and the fear of being overwhelmed by the movement led the government to tighten the brakes so as not to lose control.

In a long and interesting interview in RAC-1, Puigdemont said he made a mistake on October 10 when he proclaimed the Republic and left it suspended a few seconds later because he relied on promises of state dialogue. Now he believes that the Republic could have been proclaimed and “the position defended.” This seems to me the beginning of an interesting reflection, but it is incomplete because you have to go a step further and say how you could have defended the position. This is a fundamental point if you do not want to repeat the same mistake in the future.

Taking into account what everyone now knows about the reaction of the Spanish State (and that could be foreseen prior to October 1), it is clear that a declaration of independence and the implementation of the transitional legislation would not have sufficed, because these are only words and papers. Nor would it have been enough to ask the Mossos [the Catalan police] to protect the government and the Parliament because, in the (uncertain) assumption that they would have obeyed massively, they were too small a force against which the State could mobilize (without using the army).

What was needed to effectively defend the Republic was not only more votes in favor, but a peaceful and massive uprising of the population, beyond the more than two million people who voted October 1, and in the Spanish state a movement of solidarity against the repression of the peoples. But it never occurred to the government to prepare something like that and, if it had been improvised at the last moment, it is not clear that it would have succeeded because its entire policy before October 1 did not facilitate but hindered a democratic uprising of this scope — both because of its economic policy contrary to the interests of the popular classes (for example, the most recent budgets), as well as its lack of democratic radicalism (for example, breaking the promise to start the participatory phase of the constituent process prior to the referendum).

In the days before and after the October 1 referendum, many people believed that a democratic revolution was beginning, but it seems clear that it was not the intention of the government to do anything like that. It sought only a demonstration of controlled force that would allow it to negotiate with the State. with the support of the European institutions. The King, Rajoy and the State apparatus had a better assessment of the situation, acting more quickly and more forcefully: with the implementation of article 155, the Spanish mobilizations and the police and judicial force.

In the aforementioned interview with RAC-1, Puigdemont acknowledges that on October 27 the relation of forces did not exist to make the Republic effective. Now we can suspect with foundation that there was never that intention. The one who has said it most clearly has been [former Catalan president] Artur Mas in statements before Judge Llarena: according to him all the deputies who voted the unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) — presumably this refers to the deputies of JuntsxCat and ERC, because the deputy of the CUP Mireia Boya has said explicitly otherwise — “knew that there was no real means [to implement it].”

And as proof that it was a purely symbolic “parliamentary action,” the former president stressed to the judge of the Supreme Court that after this UDI the government of the Generalitat did not meet to make any decision. “In the world of politics there is a symbolic and aesthetic component. Often an argument is exaggerated or inflated in order to make a good impression on the public. Is this a deception or an exaggeration? It can be.” We also know now that the dispersion of the government was not the result of any previously designed and agreed plan.

Why are all the shortcomings and mistakes not analyzed courageously? Wouldn’t that be the best guarantee that they would not be repeated?

Nor is there a desire that the situation created on October 27 be acknowledged clearly . When the RAC-1 interviewers ask Puigdemont if the Republic is real, he answers with a riddle: it is in the minds of many Catalans; it is from an institutional point of view because it was declared in Parliament and has been validated in two elections; but there are no Republic structures.

The reality is that we only have a symbolic declaration of a Republic and that the abandonment of the government and of the institutions in the face of article 155 decreed by the adversary signified an important defeat. The dignity of non-surrender, defended both from prison and from Brussels, does not eliminate this defeat. The electoral victory of December 21, however much it once again demonstrates the will of the majority of the people of Catalonia and the undemocratic character of the State, is not enough to compensate for the defeat of October 27. This can only be overcome with a massive mobilization that forces the freeing of the prisoners, the return of the exiles and the elimination of all the consequences of article 155, and that is situated in a framework of struggle for more democracy and more social rights for the whole of the people of Catalonia, whether independentist or not, in the struggle for the Republic, without renouncing disobedience and unilateral measures when necessary to secure these demands.

Neither autonomism nor direct implementation of the Republic

Neither JuntsxCat nor ERC are promoting such an orientation. Their proposal places the fight for the freedom of the prisoners, the return of the exiles and the withdrawal of 155 in the framework of the normalization of an autonomous government combined with international pressure from the [exiled] Council of the Republic, hoping that in the future the conditions will improve for negotiating with the State (Puigdemont recognizes that his exile can last for years). This is not a realistic path for achieving the Catalan Republic, because none of the deficiencies that were revealed before and after October 1 are being corrected.

But this criticism does not mean that we can “move straight to building the republic” as claimed by Vicent Partal in the article I quoted, and by the CUP or the leadership of the ANC. In order to move forward, we must realistically acknowledge what the current situation is, and what is the point of departure. We must accept that this point is not the activation of the laws of transition, nor even the restitution of the legitimate president and government.

We must open the discussion on a path to the Republic that avoids the false starts of autonomism and proceeding directly to a republic — admitting that we have a problem and that there are disagreements, but avoiding condemnations. Ideas have already begun to emerge in this regard and it is appropriate to think about them, even if one does not agree with them. I will mention two.

Roger Palà has written: “The independence movement is at a crossroads: either continue feeding the theories of wishful thinking, or make some decisions based on pragmatism. There is no indication that the Republic proclaimed in October can be implemented imminently, that it exists beyond the legitimate longings of hundreds of thousands of people. ... From a rational point of view, recovering self-government — even if it is under the interventionist pressure of an unbridled PP [Spanish premier Rajoy’s People’s Party] — can be the necessary starting point to recover forces and rearm with ideas.”

The other quote, more controversial, is Joan Tardà’s: “However, the independence movement will only succeed if it understands that it must accumulate forces (‘we are not enough,’ we have repeated many times) ... republicanism must converge with the political forces that also defend the binding referendum, led by Xavier Domènech,[7] and must open channels of frank dialogue ... with the Catalan socialism of the PSC,[8] of a Miquel Iceta who has to decide whether to stick to or lend credence to the regression in rights and freedoms.”

I do not believe that it is possible to open avenues of dialogue with the leaders of the PSC while they continue to defend article 155, although dialogue is possible with the PSC base. But it is evident that “we are not enough” and that means convergence in action with the Commons is essential in the fight against article 155, the defense of democracy and social demands, or the promotion of the debate on the constituent assembly (as Jaume López recently recalled).

In my opinion, it can be accepted that the effective government that can be had immediately is of an autonomous nature, provided that, at the same time, the struggle to defend the economic, social, democratic and cultural needs of the population with the aim of winning the Republic is set in motion. What is decisive, in my view, is to promote a plan of struggle of the movements and social entities, not to await what the government will say but to put demands on it, to promote disobedience and unilateralism when necessary, to aim for a mobilization that is more massive, autonomous and self-organized than October 1, with a national, democratic and social content, and that actively works as of now to win active solidarity from the peoples of the Spanish State (on the basis of opposition to the monarchical regime and the defense of the republic) and from Europe. It seems difficult and certainly it is, but we have already found that sometimes things that are presented as easy — like the passage to independence as “from one law to another” — are the most unreal.

March 6, 2018


[1] CUP, the Popular Unity Candidacy, an anticapitalist party. At least two of its four deputies in the Catalan parliament must vote with the two larger pro-independence parties to maintain a pro-Republic majority. Sànchez is the main leader of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), the largest pro-independence social movement, and was elected to the parliament on December 21 on the Junts per Catalunya ticket although he is not a member of the PDeCAT, the party behind the JuntsxCat.

[2] ERC, the Republican Left of Catalonia, the oldest pro-independence party in Catalonia.

[3] On March 9, Supreme Court justice Pablo Llarena turned down Jordi Sànchez’s request to attend the Catalan parliament’s plenary session, where he was to be elected president.

[4] Antoni Comín, former Health minister in the Generalitat, now in exile in Belgium.

[5] The March 11 demonstration was the first in years not called jointly with Òmnium Cultural, the other large pro-independence social movement, though Òmnium vice-president Marcel Mauri was prominent in the front row.

[6]Que s’acabe aquest trist espectacle de la investidura”. An English translation, “Stop this sad investiture spectacle,” can be found here.

[7] Podemos leader in Catalonia and leader of the CatECP in the Catalan parliament, aka “the Commons.”

[8] PSC, Socialists’ party of Catalonia, led by Miquel Iceta.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Prominent intellectuals, activists speak out in opposition to U.S., Canadian sanctions against Venezuela

The statement below, signed by more than 150 US and Canadian organizations and individuals, was released on March 9. It is being delivered to US Senators and Congress Members as well as Canadian Parliamentarians.

For further information on the Trudeau government’s sanctions, see the web site of Global Affairs Canada, and this article by Yves Engler, “Who is in the right in the Canada-Venezuela Diplomatic Dispute?”

The statement’s reference to mediation talks between the Venezuelan government and opposition parties is a bit dated. Although the talks came close to agreement in early February, following two years of dialogue, the opposition parties refused at the last minute to sign the draft text. President Danilo Medina of the Dominican Republic, whose government had hosted the talks, said they were now in a state of “indefinite recess.”

Since then, the opposition has divided; Henri Falcón, a former supporter of the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, has announced he will enter the presidential elections, now scheduled to be held (along with municipal and state legislative elections) on May 20. President Nicolás Maduro will be running for re-election.

____________________________

Open Letter in Support of Mediation in Venezuela, Not Sanctions

We urge the United States and Canadian governments to immediately remove their illegal* sanctions against Venezuela and to support efforts at mediation between the government of Venezuela and the nonviolent segments of the political opposition.

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals in the US and Canada, support hemispheric relations based on respect for the sovereignty of all peoples of the Americas. We are deeply concerned by the use of illegal sanctions, whose effect falls most heavily on the poorest and most marginal sectors of society, to coerce political and economic change in a sister democracy.

Polls in Venezuela show that the large majority of Venezuelans oppose sanctions, regardless of their opinion of the Maduro government. Sanctions merely complicate efforts by the Vatican, Dominican Republic, and other international actors to mediate a resolution to the deep polarization in Venezuela. Moreover, sanctions undermine efforts of the democratically elected government and Constituent Assembly to address critical economic issues and determine their own political destiny.

Despite the high-minded rhetoric of officials in Washington and Ottawa, it is not a genuine concern for democracy, human rights, and social justice that drives the belligerent interventionist posture towards Caracas. From President Obama’s admittedly untrue presidential decree that Venezuela represents a national security threat to the United States, to UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s declaration that Venezuela is “an increasingly violent narco-state” that threatens the world, the use of hyperbole in diplomatic situations seldom contributes to peaceful solutions on the world stage.

It is no secret that Venezuela, unlike Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia, is targeted for regime change by the US precisely because of Venezuela’s leadership in resisting US hegemony and the imposition of the neoliberal model in Latin America. And of course, Venezuela holds the largest oil reserves in the world, attracting more unwanted attention from Washington.

The US and Canada tried and failed to use the Organization of American States (OAS) to build a bloc to hypocritically evoke the Democratic Charter against Venezuela. Recently, Luis Almagro, the rogue Secretary General of the OAS, went so far as to publicly support the swearing in of a parallel Supreme Court unconstitutionally appointed by opposition legislators and allowed them to use the OAS headquarters in Washington DC for their ceremony – without the approval of any OAS member state. Almagro has thereby delegitimized the OAS, emboldened the most extreme and violent elements of the Venezuelan opposition, and side-lined efforts at mediation.

The US-Canadian sanctions represent a cynical use of coercive economic power to attack a nation that is already dealing with hyperinflation and shortages of basic commodities. While said to be in the name of advancing democracy and freedom, the sanctions violate the Venezuelan peoples’ basic human right to sovereignty, as outlined in the UN and OAS Charters.

We call on the political leaders of the United States and Canada to reject overheated rhetoric and to contribute to the search for real solutions to Venezuela’s political and economic problems. We urge the US and Canadian governments to rescind their sanctions and support the mediation efforts pursued by the Chancellor of the Dominican Republic Miguel Vargas, the President of Dominican Republic Danilo Medina, former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Vatican, and supported by a growing number of Latin American nations.

For the list of signers, see the statement as published here.


Monday, March 12, 2018

Imperialism today: a critical assessment of Latin American dependency theory

Introduction

Brazilian economist and sociologist Ruy Mauro Marini (1932-1997) was a prime exponent of what became known as dependency theory, an attempt to explain the systemic unequal relations of the Latin American countries in particular with the developed economies of the imperialist “North.” He was a close collaborator of, among others, Vânia Bambirra and the recently-deceased Theotónio Dos Santos. Marini’s best-known work, first published in Spanish in 1972, is Dialectics of Dependency.[1]

Ruy Mauro MoriniMarini was a founder of the Brazilian Marxist organization Política Operária and later, during his Chilean exile, a member of the Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR). Forced into exile again after the Pinochet coup, he taught at the UNAM in Mexico for many years, returning to Brazil shortly before his death from cancer in 1997.

In the following essay, Argentine Marxist Claudio Katz analyzes Marini’s work in light of contemporary developments in global capitalism. He assesses Marini’s attempt to understand and explain the initial developments in neoliberal globalization and suggests some ways in which dependency theory might now be renewed and updated. And he comments critically on the work of some current proponents of versions of dependency theory.

Among Katz’s most recent works is Bajo el imperio del capital, also published in French translation in Quebec.[2] Katz is a professor in the University of Buenos Aires, a member of the left economists’ group (EDI), and a researcher with the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET).

Published by Katz on his web page, my translation from the Spanish.

Richard Fidler

* * *

Imperialism and dependency: similarities and differences with the Marini era

By Claudio Katz

SUMMARY

The main theorist of dependency anticipated trends of neoliberal globalization. He analyzed productive globalization, the centrality of exploitation and the relative weight of surplus value transfers. But the employment crisis exceeds what was envisaged by Marini, in a scenario disrupted by the mutation of the United States, the collapse of the USSR and the rise of China.

Claudio KatzThe new national and social disparities emerge in an internationalized economy, without correlation in states and ruling classes. This absence of total transnationalization recreates dependency. The semiperipheries present an economic dimension differentiated from the geopolitical status of subimperialism. The “Global South” does not reincarnate the old periphery, nor does it include China. There are solid pillars to renew dependency theory.

__________

In the final works of his intense career, Ruy Mauro Marini — the principal theoretician of dependency — explored the dynamics of globalization. He observed the beginning of a new period based on the internationalized functioning of capitalism (Marini, 1996: 231-252). Some interpreters are of the view that this research crowned his previous work and inaugurated the study of the political economy of globalization (Martins, 2013: 31-54).

This analytical shift confirmed Marini’s enormous capacity to address the most relevant processes of each conjuncture. His findings anticipated several characteristics of the stage that followed his death. Evaluating those observations in light of what happened is a good way to update his theory.

PRODUCTIVE GLOBALIZATION

In the late 1980s Marini noted that capital was internationalizing in order to increase the surplus value extracted from workers. He analyzed from this standpoint the cheapening of transportation, the irruption of new technologies and the concentration of companies (Marini, 1993). He assessed in particular the new manufacturing-export model of the periphery as it was managed by multinational firms.

These companies secured common spaces between their headquarters and branches in order to expand the manufacturing process. They separated skilled activities from assembly-line operations and profited from national differences in productivity and wages. Marini understood that this operation on a global scale was a structural, not cyclical trend in accumulation.

Its scope is obvious today. Globalization introduces a qualitative change in the functioning of capitalism. It promotes the liberalization of trade and the adaptation of finances to the instantaneity of information. The Brazilian thinker rightly located the epicenter of this shift in globalized manufacturing. He recorded the close connection of internationalization with the flexible production pattern that replaces Fordism.

The transnational companies are visible protagonists of the current economic scenario. They fragment their production into a web of intermediate inputs and final goods destined for export. This framework operates under principles of intense competition, cost reduction and cheaper labor. The consequent offshoring has turned several Asian economies into the new workshop of the planet.

Transnational companies complement their direct investments with subcontracting and labor outsourcing. They make their suppliers responsible for control of the workers and the management of uncertain demand. In this way, they distribute risks and increase profits.

Marini experienced only the beginning of that process and highlighted its contradictions in very generic terms. He was unable to note the commercial imbalances, financial bubbles and overproduction of commodities that exploded with the 2008 crisis.

This shock destabilized the system without reversing productive globalization. It temporarily put into question the financial deregulation, which was preserved without any relevant change. The recent questioning of trade liberalization (Trump, Brexit) illustrates the reaction of those powers that are losing ground. They try to recover spaces by restoring a certain unilateralism, but they do not favour a return to the old protectionist blocs. The political economy of globalization — which Marini foresaw — persists as an appropriate approach to contemporary capitalism.

EXPLOITATION AND INDUSTRIAL REMODELING

The influence that the Brazilian theorist assigned to the increase in rates of surplus value has been confirmed in recent decades. The employers’ offensive dispersed salaries, eliminated the defined wage rules, and segmented work. This reorganization maintains the stability required for the continuity of accumulation in the formal sector and generalizes the insecurity of employment and wages in the informal universe.

The main foundation of globalization is the reduction of labor costs. That is why the masses’ incomes stagnate amidst prosperity and they decline in crises. The transnational firms are enriched by the low wages of the periphery and with the cheapening of the goods consumed by workers in the metropolis. They use offshoring to weaken unions and flatten salaries in all regions.

Firms profit especially from wage differences resulting from the structural unevenness produced by differences in population intensity. These disparities are stabilized by the absence of international mobility of workers. While in the initial period of globalization (1980-1998) foreign investment tripled, the total number of migrants hardly varied (Smith, 2010: 88-89). The work force is marginalized in all the movements that shake up the globalization scenario.

Marini recorded the first relocation of industry to the East. He witnessed the irruption of the so-called “Asian tigers” (Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore). But he did not see the subsequent mutation that completely modified the manufacturing map.

China is the current epicenter of a growing installation of subsidiaries in Asia. The bulk of globalized production is generated there. Salaries range between 10 and 25% of what is paid in the metropolis for equivalent jobs.

The magnitude of the change is confirmed in the US consumption of manufactured goods. One third of these goods are currently manufactured abroad, which is double the average in effect in 1980 (Smith, 2010: 153-154, 222-227). The foundation of neoliberal globalization in the exploitation of workers is evident. Investments are shifted to countries that offer greater cost reduction, discipline and productivity of the workforce.

Marini also saw how the model of import substitution (which inspired his analysis of dependency) was replaced by a new pattern of manufacturing exports. But he noticed only the generic features of a pattern that has since been reconfigured by global value chains (GVCs) through which the entire manufacturing process is fragmented according to the comparative profitability offered by each activity. This division includes linkages directed by the manufacturer (aeronautical, automotive, IT firms) or ordered by the buyer (the Nike, Reebok or Gap trading emporiums) (Gereffi, 2001). The companies that head up these structures not only control the most profitable resource (brands, designs, technologies). They also dominate 80% of the world trade in these circuits.

This model differs radically from the one prevailing in the 1960s and ’70s. Instead of integrated processes, the subdivision of parts predominates and national manufacturing is replaced by an assembly of imported components. The proximity and size of markets lose relevance in contrast to the comparative labour cost advantages. A new global division of labor (GDL) replaces its international precedent (IDT) (Martínez Peinado, 2012: 1-26).

In the activity of transnational corporations, the specific weight of intermediate goods is multiplied through linkage and mechanisms of vertical industrial specialization (Milberg, 2014: 151-155). These modalities introduce forms of export management that were unknown at the end of the last century.

THE CRISIS OF CAPITALISM

Marini analyzed the economy of globalization in the belief that capitalism had entered a long cycle of growth. That was the context in which he situated productive specializations and the emergence of the newly industrializing countries (NICs) of Asia. He considered that the processes of regional integration were re-emerging to widen the scale of markets (Marini, 1993). His dependentista colleague shared this reasoning, investigating the impact of new technologies on long waves (Dos Santos, 2011: 127-134).

The subsequent course of globalization did not confirm or refute the presence of this long-term upward cycle. The controversies between those who postulate or object to the applicability of these movements did not lead to clear conclusions. That is why we have emphasized the convenience of clarifying the qualitative transformations of the stage without insisting that this period conforms to a long wave (Katz, 2016: 366-368).

Marini inscribed his assessment in Marxist characterizations that highlighted the disruptive nature of accumulation. He emphasized the traumatic potential crises that globalization was generating and highlighted the presence of simultaneous tensions in the sphere of demand (retracted consumption) and valorisation (insufficient profitability). He emphasized both imbalances, with more observations on the first type of contradictions.

In recent decades those tremors have come to light. The explosive retraction of employment has also been verified, reinforced by the relative immobility of the labor force in the face of the vertiginous displacement of goods and capital.

That contradiction distinguishes the current globalization from the old European industrialization. Between 1850 and 1920 more than 70 million emigrants left the Old Continent. This massive transfer depleted the remaining population at one pole and generated new centers of accumulation in the areas receiving workers. An equivalent demographic movement would currently mean the entry of 800 million immigrants to the central countries (Smith, 2010: 105-110).

But the helpless are currently denied that displacement. The developed economies build fortresses against the dispossessed of the periphery and absorb only irrelevant contingents of skilled labor. The safety valve that in the past generated the accumulation process has itself been weakened.

The countries that conclude in an accelerated way their processes of primitive accumulation can not discharge their surplus population over other localities.

This restriction fosters further tensions in capitalism, such as the destruction of jobs due to the expansion of the digital universe. The parameters of profitability — which guide the introduction of new technologies — impose a dramatic elimination of jobs. Unemployment is growing with globalization.

At this stage there is less work for everyone than there was in the preceding phases. Available employment shrinks and its quality is decreasing in the underdeveloped regions. That is why the informal economy (lacking in state regulations) accounts for 50% of labor activity in Latin America, 48% in North Africa and 65% in Asia (Smith, 2010: 115-127).

Accelerated automation — and the expulsion of the agrarian population through technical development in the countryside — drastically reduce employment opportunities. Capitalism, which is based on exploitation — and which Marini studied so closely — can no longer help to reduce this suffering among the entire oppressed population.

IMPERIAL STAKEOUTS

The Brazilian theorist emphasized the relative weight of imperialism. He pointed out the inescapable function of that system of military domination in the preservation of capitalism. But he produced his texts at a time very distant from Lenin’s scenario. He understood that the Cold War was qualitatively different from the old power clashes, and he drew attention to the unprecedented military supremacy of the United States. He noted the capacity of that empire to forge subaltern alliances, subordinating its rivals without destroying them.

Marini avoided parallels with classical imperialism. He understood the novelty of a period marked by the decline of protectionism, the post-war recovery of industrial protagonism and the reorientation of foreign investment towards developed economies. He synthesized these transformations with a notion (hegemonic cooperation) that he used to define the prevailing relationships among the central powers (Marini, 1991: 31-32).

The current context presents several continuities with this characterization. The framework forged around the Triad (United States, Europe and Japan) continues to ensure military custody of the neoliberal order. That military alliance has already caused the devastation of numerous regions of Africa and the Middle East. The Pentagon continues to play a primary role in the direction of the main military actions. But North American hegemony has lost the forcefulness it exhibited in the 1980s and ‘90s at the onset of globalization.

The United States played a key economic role in the takeoff of this process. It provided the state link required to generate accumulation on a world scale. Washington-based institutions internationalized financial instruments and underpinned productive globalization. They have played that role with greater intensity in the outcome of the crises of recent decades.

Banking regulation by the Federal Reserve, the operation of the dollar as a world currency, the reorganization of state budgets under the supervision of the IMF and Wall Street’s stock exchange rulings strengthened globalization. That specific role was again noticeable in the outcome of the 2008 convulsion.

But the loss of US supremacy is currently corroborated by the country’s trade deficit and external indebtedness. The United States maintains the management of the major banks and transnational companies. It also leads in the introduction of new digital technologies. But it has given up key positions in production and trade. Its neoliberal globalization impetus has ended up favoring China, which is now an unexpected global competitor.

The arrival of Trump illustrates that setback. The tycoon tries to recover US positions by rearranging the free trade agreements. But he faces enormous difficulties in rebuilding that economic leadership.

At the military level, the United States continues to prevail and lacks replacements for the custody of the capitalist order. But in the operations undertaken it fails to sustain its hegemony. That inoperability is very evident in the failure of all of its recent wars (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria).

For these reasons, the relations of the primary power with its partners have changed. The total subordination that Marini witnessed has mutated into more complex entanglements. The European (Germany) and Asian (Japan) powers no longer accept Washington’s orders with the same submissiveness. They develop their own strategies and are assertive in their conflicts with the North American giant (Smith A, 2014).

No partner questions the supremacy of the Pentagon, nor does any intend to create a conflicting military power. But the vassalage of the second half of the 20th century has been diluted. This shift is congruent with the North American inability to preserve the patronage that it deployed in the postwar period over the other capitalist economies (Carroll, 2012).

It will be necessary to see if in the future the Yankee leadership disappears, resurfaces or dissolves gradually. This uncertainty is a fact that was absent when the Dialectics of Dependency was published in 1973.

COLLAPSE OF THE USSR, RISE OF CHINA

The implosion of the Soviet Union and the conversion of China into a central power distinguish the current period from the Marini era. With the collapse of the USSR, the neoliberal offensive was strengthened. The ruling classes regained confidence and — in the absence of international counterweights — they resumed the typical outrages of unbridled capitalism.

The Brazilian theoretician was a Marxist critic of the Kremlin bureaucracy, committed to socialist renewal and not the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia’s regression to a capitalist regime — in a context of immobility, depoliticization and popular apathy — transformed the scenario envisaged by the Latin American fighter.

The second turn has been equally shocking. Marini could hardly imagine that the takeoff of Taiwan and South Korea anticipated the change undertaken in China. The per capita GDP of that country grew 22 times greater between 1980 and 2011 and its volume of trade doubles every four years.

China has not only maintained very high growth rates in the context of international crises. The help that gave the dollar (and the euro) prevented the conversion of the recession of 2009 into a global depression. The scale of the historical change under way is comparable to the steam revolution in England, the industrialization of the United States and the initial development of the Soviet Union. No other BRICS country is comparable in prosperity with China’s conversion into a central power.

It is enough to observe its dominant role as investor, exporter, importer or creditor of the major countries of Africa or Latin America to measure the abysmal gap separating the Asian giant from its old peers in the Third World.

The new power does not share simple cooperative relations with its counterparts of the South. It exerts a clear supremacy that extends to its neighbors in the East. No other economy has so radically transformed its positioning in the global order.

China acts as an empire in formation that faces the strategic hostility of the Pentagon. It is forging its own capitalist model through a novel linkage with globalization. It does not pass through the old stages of initial takeoff based on the domestic market. It deploys an accumulation process directly connected to globalization.

To elucidate the specificity of its capitalism, we must resort to characterizations that were absent in Marini’s time. The classic formulas of dependency theory do not encompass these questions.

POLARITIES AND NEUTRALIZATIONS

The dependency thinker highlighted the pre-eminence of polarization on a global scale. He considered that this discrepancy was inherent to capitalism, consistent with the international fractures observed by the classical Marxists of the early 20th century (Luxemburg, 1968: 58-190). The world-system theorists have also interpreted those disparities as intrinsic features of the current social regime.

Numerous empirical studies have corroborated this divide in the emergence of capitalism. The industrial revolution produced the greatest chasm in history between rising and declining poles. That “great divergence” accompanied the takeoff of the West. The developed countries converged in their average expansion, radically differentiated from that of the underdeveloped economies (Pritchett, 1997).

The initially limited differentiation became a monumental breach. Between 1750 and 1913 the leap in per capita GDP [total output divided by population] was as spectacular in England (from 10 to 115) and the United States (from 4 to 126) as the regression suffered by China (from 8 to 3) and India (from 7 to 2). Differences between nations expanded at a much faster rate than they did within countries (Rodrik, 2013).

Marini started from evidence of that kind to theorize the distances between advanced and underdeveloped economies, with reasoning inspired by unequal exchange. But he also perceived the changes in that tendency introduced by postwar late capitalism. In this model, the processes of accumulation in the industrialized periphery counterbalanced the previous polarizations (Mandel, 1978: chapter 2).

The scholar of dependency also noticed how the presence of the so-called socialist bloc compensated for the spontaneous international inequalities of accumulation. The existence of the USSR and its allies determined this neutralizing effect.

The result of these multiple trends was some stabilization of inequality between countries. The purely ascending gap of the 19th century took a more variable course and tended toward equilibrium between 1950 and 1990 (Bourguignon; Morrisson, 2002).

In that period, the polarities within countries declined due to reforms granted by the capitalist class with its widespread fear of socialist contagion. That panic determined the presence of Keynesian models, in a context of decolonization and the rise of anti-imperialism.

Marini recorded both the national and social disparities generated by capitalism, as well as the forces that limit these polarities. This combination of processes was significantly altered in the final decades of the 20th century by the subsequent dynamics of neoliberal globalization.

DIVERSE INEQUALITIES

Numerous studies coincide in highlighting the current widening of social fractures in all parts of the planet. A well-known analysis of this polarization in 30 countries shows that the 1% of the richest minority controls 25-35% of the total wealth in Europe and the United States (2010). In both regions, 10% of the inhabitants account for 60-70% of the wealth. Similar levels of inequality are found in other central, emerging or peripheral areas (Piketty, 2013).

But the course followed by inequality between countries is more controversial. This indicator is evaluated by comparing the different per capita GDPs with population weightings (Milanovic, 2014). In this way, the incidence of growth rates on global inequality is measured, taking into account the population involved. A substantial increase in GDP in India has very different effects than the same increase in New Zealand (Goda, 2013).

In recent decades the growing social gap has been accompanied by new polarities between countries. But if the population factor is included, the final result is varied. The growth of nations with great demographic weight narrowed the total national disparities. The course of inequalities within and outside borders — usually synthesized by the Theil coefficient — has been reduced by 24% since 1990. The 14% increase in inequality within those nations was offset by a 35% decrease in the disparity between countries (Bourguignon; Châteauneuf-Malclès, 2016).

Due to its large number of inhabitants, China altered the world indicator. While the global economy stagnated at around 2.7% per year (2000-2014), the Asian giant grew at 9.7%. Although this trajectory has similarities with the antecedents of Japan and South Korea, its effect on the polarity between countries is very different.

Amidst the explosion of social inequalities, the continuity of this shrinking of the global fracture is very doubtful. China rises at the expense of its Western rivals and reconfigures the framework of the dominant powers. But the remaining spectrum of the world hierarchy continues to be segmented into traditional compartments. There are few modifications in the world pyramid. A reversal of the “great divergence” developed during the nineteenth century should break that hierarchy.

In studies prior to the recent rise of China, world-system theorists expounded many examples of the enduring character of that structure. They illustrated the reduced international mobility of countries in the long term, exemplifying that permanence in 88 of 93 cases considered (Arrighi, 1990).

Another evaluation made at the beginning of globalization (1960-1998) observed the paradox of a growing participation of the new economies in productive globalization, with little effect on the relative level of per capita GDP.

This work showed that manufacturing production in these countries (as a percentage of the GDP of the First World) rose significantly (from 74.6 to 118%), compared to a per capita GDP (as a percentage of its equivalent in advanced countries), where it remained almost unchanged (from 4.5 to 4.6%). Industrial convergence did not translate into equivalent improvements in the standard of living (Arrighi; Silver; Brewer, 2003: 3-31). China’s subsequent take-off has also been consummated, preserving great distances with the per capita GDP of its Western counterparts.

The course of global inequality is a determining factor in the center-periphery relations that Marini investigated with such attention. But  operating on the different open trajectories are forces that are very different from those prevailing in the glory years of dependentism.

INTERNATIONALIZATION WITHOUT A POLITICAL COUNTERPART

The current widening of social inequalities as opposed to national inequalities unfolds in a very singular scenario: the internationalization of the economy has no equivalent correlative in the dominant classes and states. This contradiction was barely suggested in the 1960s. The coexistence of productive globalization with national-state structures is a conflict of the 21st century.

The gravitation of the global economic (IMF, WB, WTO) and geopolitical (UN, G 20) bodies does not reduce the disruptive scale of that divorce. The configuration of states forged at the outset of capitalism continues to play a central role. They ensure the localized management of the labor force, in a context of great global displacement of products and capital.

This strengthening of labor regulations at the national level has repercussions, in turn, on the specific identities of the different ruling classes. While they globalize their businesses, these groups maintain opposing political and cultural behaviors. The companies are internationalized, but their management is not delinked from the states of origin. For the same reasons, international competition to attract capital develops through consistently rewarding the nearest investors.

The neoliberal order expands a globalization administered through national structures. The same states analyzed by the classical and post-war Marxists now operate in a new framework of productive globalization.

In this scenario of global economic association, geopolitical confrontations unfold recreating relationships of dependency. The main powers renew that subjection in their areas of influence, while they dispute supremacy in the most coveted areas of the planet.

The United States tries to recapture its hegemony beginning with the regions that were traditionally under its control (Latin America). The operation of a common currency — between economies with huge differences in productivity — reinforces the supremacy of Germany in Europe. China widens the gaps with its Asian neighbors. The dependency studied by Marini adopts new forms and intensities.

PROBLEMS OF TRANSNATIONALISM

The current stage of productive globalization — without direct correspondence in the ruling classes and states — contradicts the thesis of a full transnationalization. This view assumes that the main subjects and institutions of the system have been divorced from their national pillars (Robinson, 2014). It holds that the old anchoring of companies in the national map has been dissolved.

This approach converts the long transitions of history into instantaneous transformations. It rightly observes that the internationalization of the economy generates dynamics of the same type in other spheres, but ignores the enormous temporal gaps that separate both processes. That a firm assumes transnational profiles in a few years does not imply the equivalent globalization of its owners. Nor does it presuppose processes of that type in the social groups or states that harbour the company.

Capitalism does not develop with automatic adjustments. It articulates the development of productive forces with the action of dominant classes molded to different state scenarios. The different spheres of this tripod maintain levels of connection that are as intense as they are autonomous.

Even in the Marini years some Marxist theorists (such as Poulantzas) perceived that productive internationalization did not entail identical sequences in the state or class superstructure. This point inspired the later characterization of globalization as a process rooted in the institutions of the most powerful state on the planet (Panitch, Gindin, 2014).

The transnationalist approach ignores this mediation of Washington in the gestation of the new stage. That is why it also ignores the current role of Beijing. The association between both powers coexists with an intense rivalry between very different state structures. The links between Chinese and American companies do not imply any kind of transnational dissolution.

It suffices to recall the complex trajectory of gestation of capitalism around pre-existing classes and states, to note how varied the patterns of change of these entities have been. The transnationalist thesis is in tune with historiographical currents that postulate the abrupt constitution of an integrated world capitalist system, forgetting the complex transition from multiple national trajectories (Wallerstein, 1984). In the same way that it conceives that untimely appearance 500 years ago, it supposes that the current globalization illuminates world classes and states with great rapidity.

The opposite tradition — which explores the differentiated paths followed by each national capitalism — records, instead, how subjects and local structures condition current globalization (Wood, 2002). It questions the existence of a synchronized irruption of global capitalism and demonstrates the pre-eminence of uncertain transitions guided by state intermediations. A generically common course of internationalization unfolds with a very high diversity of rhythms and conflicts.

Relationships of dependency persist precisely owing to the absence of a sudden process of complete globalization. The framework of center and periphery is remodeled without disappearing, in a context of globalized manufacturing and redistributions of value between competing classes and states. This diagnosis — consistent with Marini’s tradition — is counterposed to the transnationalist vision.

SEMI-PERIPHERAL REORDERING

The Brazilian theorist studied international value transfers in order to analyze the dependent reproduction of Latin America. In his view the region recreated its subordinate status through the systematic drainage of resources towards the central countries. Commercial disadvantages, remittance of profits and interest payments on the debt perpetuated this submission.

But the Brazilian thinker did not limit himself to portraying the bipolar fracture (between center and periphery) generated by these hemorrhages. He investigated the new complexity introduced by the existence of intermediate formations. He investigated especially how industrialization placed certain countries in a semiperipheral segment. He observed this transformation in Brazil, which maintained its remoteness from the imperial centers without sharing in the extreme backwardness of the periphery (Marini 2013: 18). .

This characterization was shared by his colleague specializing in dependency, who differentiated the Latin American economies by their internal development and by the type of exported products (Bambirra, 1986: 23-30). The same approach confronted the main exponent of endogenist Marxism, by evaluating how unequal underdevelopment separated the most backward agrarian countries from the economies embarked on a certain industrial takeoff (Cueva, 2007).

These distinctions are very useful in analyzing the current context. The simple center-periphery polarity is less sufficient than in the past in understanding globalization. Value chains have enhanced the relative weight of the semiperipheral countries.

Multinational firms no longer prioritize the occupation of national markets to take advantage of subsidies and customs barriers. They hierarchize another type of external investments. In certain cases they ensure the capture of natural resources determined by the geology and climate of each place. In other situations, they take advantage of the existence of large contingents of a cheap and disciplined work force.

These two variants — appropriation of natural wealth and exploitation of employees — define the strategies of transnational corporations and the location of each economy in the global order.

Both the peripheries and the semiperipheries continue to be integrated into the conglomerate of the dependent countries. The subordinate role that Marini assigned to the two categories has not changed. They are inserted in the value chain, without participating in the most lucrative areas of that network. Nor do they exercise control of that structure. They act within globalized production under the mandate of the transnational companies.

This relegated positioning is corroborated even in those economies that managed to forge their own multinational companies (India, Brazil, South Korea). They entered a field that was monopolized by the center, without modifying their secondary status in globalized production (Milelli, 2013: 363-380).

Another indicator of this relegated positioning is the reduced participation of these countries in the direction of globalized institutions. This absence is consistent with the scarce representation of these regions in the management bodies of the transnationalized firms (Carroll; Carson, 2003: 67-102).

But two significant changes are to be observed compared to the time of Marini. The role of each semiperiphery in the value chain introduces a substantial element that is very definitive of its location in the global pyramid. In contrast to the past, it is not enough to record the level of per capita GDP or the magnitude of the domestic market.

On the other hand, the advance of the Asian economies (South Korea) and the retreat of their Latin American counterparts (Argentina, Brazil) is very evident within the semiperipheral segment. As the same rearrangement is observed in other regions, some authors suggest the introduction of new classifications to conceptualize the change (strong-weak, high-low, upper-lower semiperipheries) (Morales Ruvalcaba; Efren, 2013: 147-181). Marini could not foresee these transformations.

INCIDENCE OF SUB-IMPERIALISM

The Brazilian thinker analyzed the role of intermediate economies in the same years that the World Systems theoreticians studied the dual role of the semiperipheral countries. They felt that these countries mitigate global tensions and define the mutations of the global hierarchy. They highlighted how they moderate the fractures between center and periphery and how the protagonists are the ascending and descending mobilities that reshape the international division of labor.

The World Systems thinkers attributed this role to the intermediate nature of the semiperipheral states, which do not hold the power of the center and do not suffer from the extreme weaknesses of the relegated states. They described cases of ascent (Sweden, Prussia, United States), stagnation (Italy, Flanders), and retreat (Spain, Portugal) of that segment in the last five centuries. They postulated that their equidistant place allows them to lead great transformations, while balancing the world pyramid (Wallerstein, 1984: 247-33, 1999: 239-264, 2004: ch. 5).

Marini partially converged with this thesis in his evaluation of the intermediate countries. He used that lens to differentiate Brazil from France and Bolivia. But he also introduced the new concept of sub-imperialism, to characterize a band of regional powers with policies both associated with and autonomous from US imperialism.

With that notion he emphasized the disruptive role of these actors. Instead of observing them as buffers of global tensions, he analyzed their convulsive function. The high level of conflict in these regions was later attributed to the explosive coexistence of universes of welfare and neglect (“Bel-India” type) (Chase-Dunn, 1999).

Marini’s approach was similar to the one used by an exceptional Marxist of the 20th century to explain the vulnerability of intermediate countries as the result of unequal and combined development (Trotsky, 1975). As those nations were incorporated into the accumulation race with great delay, they face imbalances superior to the center that are unknown by their immediate followers of the periphery. For this reason they concentrate potential locations of a socialist beginning. Like other thinkers of his time, Marini placed the dynamics of these formations on a horizon of confrontation between capitalism and socialism (Worsley, 1980).

But what he meant by sub-imperialism requires significant revision in the era of neoliberal globalization. The dependency theorist assigned to this category an economic dimension of external expansion and a geopolitical-military dimension of regional prominence. That simultaneity is not confirmed at present.

Contemporary sub-imperialism does not present the economic connotation observed by Marini. It is typical of the countries that fulfill a dual role of associated and autonomous gendarmes of the United States. Turkey and India play that role in the Middle East and South Asia. But Brazil does not play an equivalent role in Latin America and South Africa does not fulfill that role in its continent (Katz, 2017b).

The geopolitical aspect of sub-imperialism and the economic nature of the semi-periphery are more visible today than in the past. The first aspect is determined by military actions tending to increase the influence of the zonal powers. The second feature derives from the place occupied by each country in the value chain. Marini did not perceive this difference.

“GLOBAL SOUTH”?

The new combination of increasing internationalization of capital and continued nation-state configuration of classes and states forces us to revise other aspects of traditional dependency theory. Productive globalization is usually investigated by the exponents of that tradition, but the imperial geopolitical reconfiguration is often ignored. That omission is seen in the widespread use of the term “Global South.”

This concept is postulated to highlight the persistence of the classic disparities between developed (“North”) and underdeveloped (“South”) countries. The displacement of production to the East and the capture of the new value generated by the West are presented as evidence of that overwhelming polarity (Smith, 2010: 241).

These characterizations rightly confront the successful future attributed by neoliberals (and often validated by the heterodox) to convergences between advanced and backward economies. They also show that the current model is based on the exploitation and transfer of surplus value to a handful of transnational corporations. They explain in detail the advantages that the most powerful countries maintain to capture the bulk of the benefits.

But these valuable insights do not clarify the problems of the period. The simple diagnosis of a counterpoint between South and North clashes with the difficulty of pigeon-holing China. In which of the two fields is that nation located?

Sometimes that country is excepted from the divide, with the same argument used twenty years ago to highlight the uniqueness of South Korea or Taiwan. But what was plausible for two small countries can not be extended to the second largest economy on the planet, which is home to a fifth of the world’s population. If the transformation carried out by the Asian giant is ignored, it is impossible to characterize the capitalism of today.

Excellent research works wrongly place China in the bloc of underdeveloped countries. They consider that the surplus value extracted from its enormous proletariat is transferred to the West (Smith, 2010: 146-149). But it is unwise to include in this universe a power that comes to the aid of Western banks, upholds the dollar in crisis, accumulates a huge trade surplus with the United States and leads in foreign investments in Africa and Latin America.

Nor is it logical to infer that the mass of surplus value generated in China is fully transferred to the West and appropriated by the parent companies of globalized firms. A drainage of that type would have made impossible the high accumulation rates that characterize the country.

It is evident that a huge portion of the profit generated in China is captured by the local capitalist-bureaucrats. This monumental profit is mistakenly interpreted as a simple “slice” of what is appropriated by Western firms (Foster, 2015).

But China is defiant and not a puppet of the United States. Its dominant groups are far from a dependent bourgeoisie with little participation in the globalization cake. The new Asian rulers have no relationship to the old postwar national bourgeoisies.

The emerging eastern power has demonstrated capacity to limit the drainage of surplus value, while increasing its appropriation of the value generated in the periphery. None of these actions is consistent with its classification in the “Global South”.

RENEWING DEPENDENCY THEORY

In his analyses of the political economy of globalization Marini laid the foundations to understand the current period. He highlighted three focuses of study: the exploitation of labor, value transfers and imperial restructuring. He left important clues, but not answers. The updating of his theory requires more complex inquiries than the simple corroboration of concepts enunciated half a century ago.

The pillar of this re-evaluation is the characterization of productive globalization in the new imperial geopolitics. This study requires that we note how the transfer of surplus value redesigns the map of the drainage, retention and capture of value flows. It is also essential to analyze the new relationships of subjugation, subordination and autonomy that emerge in the international mosaic. Marini has left us a monumental research project that is pending.

3-2-2018

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[1] Although only 40-plus pages in length, to my knowledge this seminal essay has never been translated into English.

[2] Sous l’empire du capital (M Éditeur, 2014).