The Antitraveller
Voyaging Is Victory

Dec
17

Great artcle here by the great Faux Journalists.

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Jan
15

The multitude exists as a majority of the worlds population who have access only to a minority of total global wealth. Before analysing the global political economy that perpetuates this multiplicity of exploited singularities, it would do well to provide some postcards of inequality in the world today. The statistics present a striking picture of the bulk who work under global capital, or even worse can’t get work, versus that minority that exists on their labour. The lastest International Labour Organisation ‘World of Work’ report shows that the redistribution of income is increasingly away from labour, that is the share of wages in total income is declining, and that the richer households income is increasing relative to poorer households. Executive pay alone is reaching astronomical levels, on average between 71 – 183 times more than average employees. Executive pay in the United States rose on average 10 percent per year, while average employees pay rose 0.7 percent per year in the 2003 – 2007 period. Looking at the global pie of income distribution, Branko Milanovic reports that the top 5 percent of individuals in the world receive one-third of total world income, and that the top 10 percent covet half. The bottom 5 percent and 10 percent get 0.2 percent and 0.7 percent respectively. Across countries it was found that the ten richest countries’ gross domestic income was 42 times that of the ten poorest countries. Of course countries are not homogenous entities, so for example, the poorest 5 percent of French people were poorer than the top third of all Brazillians. A recent World Bank report shows that high income countries, those with per capita gross national incomes over $11,115, have a 61 percent share of world GDP. These countries account for 17 percent of the worlds population. Middle income countries, those with per capital gross national incomes between $905 and $11,114, produce 32 percent of world GDP. These countries account for 48 percent of the worlds population. Low income countries, those with per capital gross national incomes below $905, produce only 7 percent of world GDP. These countries account for 32 percent of the worlds population.  It has also been shown that the richest 25 percent of the worlds population spent more than 75 percent of the worlds consumption, while the poorest 20 percent spent less than 2 percent. Half the worlds population consumed less than $1300 per year in 2005 , and the bottom quarter less than $600.

In Australia the wealthiest 10 percent of the population owns about 50 percent of the total wealth, the top half of the population owns 90 percent of the wealth, leaving the bottom half to survive on less than 10 percent of the wealth between them.  There is a particular ambivilence to recognising class in Australia, with the bulk of people identifying themselves as middle class, even if they derive their income primarily from the sale of their labour. To limit our understanding of ‘working class’ to traditional blue collar jobs is hopelessly restrictive, the authors state, when service industries employ two-thirds of the Australian workforce. White-collar and service sector jobs are just as ‘working class’ as manual labourers, writes Martin Smith, in that they are forced to sell their labour, and suffer similar hardships, forcing them to defend themselves through union organisation. Marx’s definition of what makes someone working class is that they have to sell their labour to survive, which becomes a commodity like every other article of commerce, exposed to the vicissitudes of competition and fluctuations of the market. Class then is the social expression of exploitation and how it is embodied in the social structure. To further clarify this picture of global inequality we can focus on the United States, which alone holds 22.5 percent of world GDP. In 2007 the mean income in the US was $50,233, but 50 percent of the country’s population earned less than that.  In 2001 the richest 1 percent of the US had 33.4 percent of all net worth (the money value of all an individuals assets), while the bottom 90 percent had only 28.5 percent. The richest 1 percent owned 44.8 percent of all common stock (assets that yield income), the poorest 80 percent owned only 5.8 percent.  Likewise, the ‘Survey of Consumer Finances’ conducted by the Federal Reserve and the IRS, showed that in 1995 the top 10 percent of the US population had 62 percent of total assets, 84 percent of stocks, 90.2 percent of bonds.  In fact the top 0.5 percent of the population had 28 percent of net worth, almost as much as the bottom 90 percent (31.5 percent). The top 0.5 percent had 60 percent of business assets, compared with the bottom 90 percent controlling a mere 7.7 percent. The picture of inequality is further exacerbated when we consider that the bottom 90 percent of the population held 70 percent of total personal debt, compared with the top 0.5 percent having only 6.7 percent, which makes sense since consumer and mortgage debt is basically the very rich lending to the middle class and poor. The average net worth of the bottom 90 percent was $30,252, while the top 0.5 percent average worth was $10,757,046. Its a interesting term, bottom 90 percent, even if it were applied to inanimate material it would seem odd, equating a negative term ‘the bottom’, with a majority percentage. The bottom 90 percent of a tank of petrol, the bottom 90 percent of bricks that make up a house, the bottom 90 percent of hours left on a plane trip to Europe………., but especially when applied to human welfare indicators. Because obviously these figures aren’t just abstract calculations in a statisticians Excel files, but represent, as Chomsky states, exploitation, “starving children, broken families, criminal violence, and all the social pathology that arises from the end of hope”.

Sep
27
I caught the bus from Central, along Parramatta Road. I watched a fat lady squeeze herself between two people on the seats across from me. I got off the bus a few stops before the pub. I walked along and drained the hipflask of scotch, carefully placed the empty bottle at a bus stop then crossed the road. I wanted to get rock n roll man, you know it, and I walked past the bouncer checking IDs and went to the bar and got a scotch, leant back and looked for chicks. There were some sexy little fuckers in there, but you know Sydney bitches, one eye on their phones and the other on their competition, mostly no time for cock. But I leaned against the bar anyway waiting for an old colleague of youth to come. You know those friends you have when youre young, but as you grow your lives drift apart. I wont go into the details, but the class divide makes Sydney a shithole. So I thought about the thesis I am writing on the working class and kept looking at the women. Thinking about the economic crisis, the crisis the crisis and the massive bailout. I needed to talk about this with someone! Its bigger than fucking Sept 11 baby! Where was the youth in fervent discussion about what was happening, the absolute hypocrisy of cry baby capitalism??!! Try to get people talking about this, they just dont get how huge this is. No fucking idea how this is going to suck soul from our lives for decades. Is it only the academics and flakey reporters who are interested in this??? Or maybe its just Sydney. I have noticed since living here that they are indeed the most dim-witted vacant-souled power-idolising pushy bimbos and pricks that I have ever come across, or on or in. Jesus fuck wake up you slow glamorous cunts! Anyway I was the coolest in there and I was standing out. Girls were noticing me, guys were noticing me. Thats just what happens when you’re the Wolf.

Skip the expired mateship chit chat, lets get to the band. Its all on their website so I wont elaborate, but Mammal were one intense little fucking band to participate with. Meaning you have to destroy yourself physically as much as the singer does to rack up the 10/10 for this fucking gig. I sweated more than my 12 Km runs baby. And thats the way it should be! Get to all the hot concerts and thats what youre looking for. That physical transcendant moment where your body becomes part of their music. Those that know will know it and thats all. Please, try a little raging against the machine brothers and sisters, youre the Majority and all that!! Or atleast start thinking about it for fuck sake.

 

Sep
22

Break away

dance broken

fall through the hurtful mystery

close your eyes and look down and back

button your tie collar

breathe out your life

they’ve watching me watch

princes everywhere and rivers of platinum

drains blocked with diamonds and flooded streets

Jun
22

The gradual US invasion of Vietnam represents a violent journey down the road of US control over the Third World. The early years reflect an all-too common strategy of intervention in the affairs of other states.

 

In 1945 a defeated Japan was forced to concede its occupation of the former French colony of Vietnam. The newly free Vietnamese drafted a Declaration of Independence, based on the principles of the French Revolutions Rights of Man and the American Declaration of Independence (another ironic moment in international relations), against colonial rule that had robbed its natural resources and enslaved and starved large numbers of the population. Its leader Ho Chi Minh sought their right to self-determination, as espoused by the Charter, in letters to Truman and the UN. It fell on deaf ears, and the French re-occupied, bombing North Vietnam in 1946 and starting an 8 year war against Ho and his Viet Minh, with extensive military and financial aid from the US. The French withdrew from the North in 1954, after a peace accord was made in Geneva, on the proviso that in two years there would be a free election for a unified Vietnam. Before that time however, the US installed Ngo Dinh Diem, who continued the assault against communist resistance, tortured and massacred political prisoners, and made sure there wasn’t the promised elections.

 

Obviously a leader that needs to rule with extreme violence, with external assistance, isn’t going to win a free election. The US’ man in Saigon was put there and supported to maintain regional strategic and material interests, justified by the ‘domino theory’ that if one country is let go to communism others will follow, and hegemonic purchase on the region will be lost. Was this theory sound rationale for US involvement in Vietnam? The fact that it was so firmly held, and repeated so often by politicians and state dept planners, from the end of WW2 right through the entire war in Vietnam, is evidence enough that it was the driving motivation for involvement. And it certainly makes rational sense if we accept the US’ elites desire for global domination. Not in the sense that the spread of communism is a threat to ‘freedom’ or democracy or the rights of nations to self-determination or any such lofty rhetoric. But that ideological threat, the example of the possibility of social and economic progress outside of the US system of imperial control, could sway country after country away from colonialism and capitalism. That was a very real threat to the US. Japan was the ‘super domino’ that could not be allowed to slip from the US grip. Not that Japan would go communist, but that in a region outside of US control it would by necessity have to accommodate its neighbours interests for economic survival.

 

The origins of the Vietnam war fits into the numerous examples of the US need to maintain ‘stability’ in Third World regions and the violent lengths it will go to to do it. The support of the brutal Diem rule maintained the same system of colonial rule as the French, a ruling class controlling a peasant population. The US would have liked a Western-friendly dictator to control the little jungle country so that it stayed in its place in the exploitable Third World periphery. The enduring success of this model, from Africa to the Middle East and Latin America, attests the fact that the people of the Third World are not granted human rights because its just not profitable for the centres of power. Globalisation has for the most part enabled this system of control to continue without the need for excessive military intervention ,with some notable exceptions of course. But in the ’50s and ’60s, the alternatives to global capitalism were more prominent, and necessitated more violent means for ideological control over emerging independent former-colonies.

Jun
12

the Tourism Minister recently announced an additional
$40 million to be spent on tourism development over three years. In the
next three months, industry representatives will be asked to help
formulate an action plan, including how best to rebrand Sydney.


rebranding sydney to the world

‘Visit Sydney – come and talk property prices with us!’

Sydney is becomong the globally famous place where everyone from chiropractors to
carpet cleaners, single mums to CEO’s, talk property prices and
investments. Foreigners are delighted to find that Sydney-siders talk about
their properties and investments at every chance they get, in public and in
your face without a hint of shame. Overseas visitors who usually get
labelled ‘greedy shallow bores’ in their home countrys find
themselves in utopia upon landing at Sydney airport and being able to
immediately engage in conversation with immigration officials about the
best kind of mortgage to get on an investment property. From there it just
only gets better, and by the time they’ve reached their hotels they’ve been
able to boast to atleast 8 different people about their share portfolios
and property liquidity.

 

One excited tourist exclaimed “Its so great! At home when I open a conversation with a complete stranger by asking ‘where do you live? how much money do you make? what kind of car do you drive? where do your kids go to school?’ I would just get ridiculed as a shallow idiot! But here in Sydney everyone seems to do that! I don’t even get physically assaulted! When I laugh at poor people, Sydney is laughing with me!”

And they arent alone. A growing number of portfolio-boasting tourists admit to flying into Sydney for weeks just so they can chat investments. “Sure there’s the Harbour and beaches, but thats not why we come”, explained a newly married couple in their 40’s on their third trip down under, “you can be anywhere in this great city and start conversations about property prices, rental incomes, problems with those pesky degenerate tenants, and the locals are really into it! They’ll talk for hours about the best markets to invest in, how to avoid paying tax, rental yields and vacancy rates, auction hot spots, capital growth in the cities vs regionals….phew I’m dizzy I’ve been talking so much! At home I’d probably be arrested for being so open about it!”

Apr
16

Aid and Trade: The World Banks mission to make the worlds poor more productive slaves.

 

 

According to the World Bank its mission is to “

 

fight poverty with passion and professionalism for lasting results”. Its seems a mission of noble intent, and indeed its reports and presidents speeches repeat it over and over. However every time it is mentioned there is always the preceding necessity of economic growth. Economic growth first, poverty alleviation will follow. The hegemonic architecture of neo-liberal globalization instills in the Banks policy a blind faith in the ‘rising tide lifts all ships’ philosophy. Only through It shall the worlds poor enter the Kingdom. That is the only way. But to date the World Bank has failed in its stated mission to reduce poverty. Arguments on the right and left agreed on this around the Banks Fifthieth anniversary, “Fifty Years of Failure” and “Fifty Years Is Enough”. A comrehensive study concluded that the Bank had a failure rate of 60% on all its projects in the developing world. The right blames the poor countries corrupt governments and lack of accountability, the left blames the harsh neo-liberal imperatives of structural adjustment and conditional lending.

I will argue in this essay that the primary imperitave driving the policies of the Bank is global economic growth. Its history as part of the post- War world economy reconstruction and repositioning as loaner to poor countries in the Cold War period, the influence of its most powerful member the United States, and its devout belief in a particular vision of globalization, make its existence irreconcilable with genuine poverty reduction. To be sure its spot-fire / band-aid approach to poverty is not without its successes. However the Banks drive for economic growth, as an engine for the maintenance of exploitative global capitalism, has contributed to human rights abuses, environmental degradation, and denial of democracy in the developing world. Exploitation, and hence poverty, is an inherent part of the fabric of this system. Genuine global alleviation of poverty would be truly revolutionary, and thats certainly not a role bequethed to the World Bank.

 

The World Bank was conceptualised, along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the General Agreement on Tarrifs and Trade (GATT), at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944. The victors of World War Two put in place a global economic system designed to “strike a balance between a liberal world market and the domestic responsibilities of the state” and maintain economic order “through the ups and downs of the business cycle”. At the time, the leaders of the Conference, the United States and Great Britain, wanted to bring stability to the postwar financial system, to avoid the crises of the interwar years, yet still allow for unrestrained international commerce, to maintain the war-period strength of the US economy. As part of the global stability, the British representative, John Maynard Keynes, pushed for the establishment of a world bank, firstly to reconstruct the economies of great powers destroyed in the war, but also to “develop the resources and productive capacity of the world, with special attention to the less developed countries… to make the resources of the world more fully available to all mankind”. The US mostly supported this, but with additions for capital interests, notably that a clause that the banks medium and long-term capital promote private investments.

 

Along these lines the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) was established in 1946. For the first 25 years of its existence the Bank lent about $13 billion, mostly to high and middle-income borrowers like Japan, Italy, France, and the Netherlands. But its emphasis was moved from postwar reconstruction of Europe to development of Europe’s remaining and former colonies. Along with the goal of opening the world’s markets to US capital, goods, and services, assistance to the Third World became part of the US strategy of containment of potentially communist-influenced states and populations. Two extra agencies of the Bank were established: in 1956 the International Finance Corporation (IFC) was set up to allow for direct lending to the private sector, and in 1960 the International Development Association (IDA) was set up to provide loans for poorer countries.

 

Now we come to an important figure in the development of World Bank policy – its president from 1968 to 1971, Robert McNamara. McNamara had gone from CEO of Ford, to Secretary of Defence, to World Bank president in the space of ten years. His presidency came at a time of momentous change in the international political economy, and on top of that he brought his own zealous energy to overhauling the Banks lending policies. The Vietnam War had sunk the US economy, and in 1971 Nixon unpegged the US dollar from the gold standard, relegating the stable Bretton Woods system to the rubbish bin of political economy history.

 

The Vietnam war had crystalised in the minds of American policy makers the problem of what to do about all the rebellous peasants. Military action was costly, both financially and politically. McNamara believed that the revolutionary Third World, “seething cauldrons of change”, was a result of “economic backwardness”, and that their potential for violence, which threatened “peace and security” of the world, could be sated with “economic and social progress”. To this end he set about doubling the portfolio of loans to the poorest countries and enlarging the Banks staff base. He stated that money was not the issue, that “the rich and powerful have a moral obligation to assist the poor and the weak”.

 

On the surface it seems he was genuine. His policies were designed to assist rural populations with projects for “irrigation, fertilizer, peasant education, to produce near miracles”. The Bank had only ever lent very little for education, but under McNamara’s tenure it increased substantially, mostly to primary level schooling to attack low literacy rates, as well as eductaion for nutrition, birth control and health.

 

However McNamara’s zealous lending policies left the Third World with crippling levels of debt. While highly profitable for foreign investors, the debts were devastating for the countries unable to repay them. By 1980 much of what the Bank lent wasn’t even going toward bricks and mortar, or seeds and tractors, or research and education, but was needed just to pay interest on already existing debt. In its powerful position as ‘development master’ the Bank used the vulnerability of the indebted nations to restructure their debts and reorientate their economies.

 

Structural adjustment, or policy-based lending, became a key force in the Bank’s imperative for economic growth in the developing world for the benefit of the powerful nations. Structural adjustment consisted of currency devaluation, trade liberalisation, a reduced role for government and social (health and education) spending, higher interest rates and lowering of real wages. The indebted governments acceptance of adjustment was a condition for receiving financing.

 

Apart from the fact that its plainly extortion, it is hard to determine, after years of destruction caused by structural adjustment, whether the policy makers are so blindly loyal to the ‘trickle-down’ effect regardless of whether it works for the poor or not, or if they dont actually care if it works as long as it serves the interests of the powerful economies. Bank insiders swear that it works, but any number of non-governmental organisations working with the poor and seeing the effects on the ground see adjustment as a “social and ecological disaster”.

 

In detailing the destructive effects of Bank reforms in the Philippines, Bello et al, conclude that an important factor is the ideological assumptions that Bank technocrats bring to their work from their academic training, being recruited from the “cream of the American establishment”. The “crude realities of power, inequality and poverty” are filtered through the lens of ideology – “a set of deeply held assumptions and propositions that reorganize reality… to make it ‘manageable'”. Economic development is seen as a ‘technical problem’, devoid of factors like power and control, who controls the economy etc. Poverty is transformed into a problem of scarcity, with the only solution being economic growth. How this growth is to be distributed and who owns the means of production that produces the growth is not considered, only the belief in the ‘trickle-down’ theory that if you just increase the size of the pie, then logically everyone, including the poorest, will get more.

 

The technocrats have their own language to talk without wincing about the disgusting effects of poverty – referring to “debt adjustment”, “trade-offs”, “growth”, “poverty traps”, “food insecurity”. These terms disembody the human reality of what they are discussing.

 

A ‘counter-paradigm’ is built up in and around Bank policy as a moral and ethical discourse within the neoliberal ideology, focusing on ‘sustainable development’ and ‘poverty alleviation’, seemingly as a critical debate but not confronting its underlying causes or opposing it.

 

Along these lines are authors that believe “the attempts on the part of Bank staff and management to “do better” are genuine”. The ideological assumptions are prevalent in statements like: “the Banks evolution..has been driven in part by sudden and sweeping changes in developing countries…(where) market orientated reform has been embraced throughout the developing world”.

 

As has been pointed out the Bank has a long history of adapting to changing global circumstances and demands. It is logical that an institution staffed and run by the wealthiest nations will translate the prevailing economic ideology into its policies and programmes. During the 1970’s and 80’s the international political economy saw the rise of neo-liberalism. This new form of economic liberalism was taken up by an increasing number of Western governments and was pushed by them and the private sector as necessary and without alternative. Government was required to be the promoter of market capitalism, primarily consisting of breaking up the public service sector and public industry and distributing it to private ownership. Government services previously run for social benefit were reformed to be profitable businesses selling ‘products’ to their ‘customers’.

 

This form of globalization was not, as it is often claimed, a natural historical process, but was a strategic political project for establishing a new global sovereign in the investor, the holder of large private property rights. Under neo-liberal globalization the world is becoming sharply divided between increasing concentrations of wealth and desperate poverty, with profit-motivated discipline being imposed on multiple facets of human life – social welfare, health, and education are all reformed to become factors for economic growth. The developing world becomes a dumping ground for the waste of the top industrialised countries, increasing environmental destruction and social crisis, all legitimised in trade agreements by the powerful countries.

 

In this context the adjustment policies of the Bank add a crucial piece to our puzzle. Its realignment with neoliberalism fits in with the Banks founding mission of promoting the capitalist system internationally. Bank loans had always been geared to furthering the interests of private capital, and supporting the goal of international economic liberalization, though through the 1950’s and 1960’s it was focused on industrialisation, financing the development of infrastructure.

 

Miller-Adams argues against the ‘international relations theorists’ who see the Bank’s policies evolving as part of that global ascendency of neo-liberalism. Rather, by using ‘organization theory’, shes sees the Banks imperatives evolving from within, so that in the 1980’s the staff, of their own accord, “embraced the view that markets, rather than governments, should serve as the chief allocators of resources and engines of growth in developing countries”.

 

Barend A De Vries, a former economist with the Bank for 30 years, admits that during the 1980’s the fight against poverty was “put on the back burner”. However, “economic measures and engineering procedures are presumed to benefit individuals in the end”. He adds that the Bank works hard to alleviate poverty, but “without the personal motivation and committment by the poor themselves to the programme, no design can be fully effective”.

 

To overcome the poors’ apparent lack of desire or stubbordness to get out of their debilitating poverty, the Bank developed its Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP’s), designed so the poor could write their own strategies for reducing poverty. PRSP’s should “reflect the countries own individual circumstances and characteristics”.

 

Yet after an extensive on-the-ground analysis of PRSP’s, World Vision concluded that they have failed to live up to the standards with which they were sold to the poor and that they are neither participatory or prioritise poverty reduction. Their implementation has not placed primary importance on poverty reduction in areas like education and health, but “continued the international community’s priorities such as privatisation and liberalisation of markets”. For example in Senegal the highest priority was on the privatisation of the state-owned electricity company. In Mozambique it was found that there was very limited involvement with the poor and agents closest to the point of implementing activities contributing to poverty reduction, and a bias in favour of participation of groups in capital cities instead of rural areas most affected by poverty.

 

As noted by Richard Falk, the “imposed regimes of fiscal austerity” are used to manage the Third World development process for capitalist interests that directly opposes the “supposed ideology of empathy”. In his opinion, the explanation for the “sinister gap between idealist illusion and exploitative reality” lies with the ‘structural blindness’ on the part of the policy makers who fail to understand the relevance of class structure and class conflict in imperial geoeconomics. The fact remains that the World Bank is a “creature and instrument of world capitalism”.

 

The problem with the expansion of capitalism, with the help of the international financial institutions like the Bank, the IMF and trade organisations, is that even if “rising tides lift all ships”, it still perpetuates the global structure of inequality. The poor may get a bit, but the rich get a lot more and the system of exploitation remains. The global economic system relies on “an unequal structure of trade, production, and credit, which defines the role and position of developing countries in the global economy”. So a focus on economic growth, or even a focus on solely ‘poverty alleviation’, is missing the larger picture. What needs to be discussed is inequality rather than poverty.

 

Figures on the distribution of world income show the glaring inequality of wealth. In 1993 less that 15% of the worlds population, the OECD countries, held 80% of the worlds income. The poorest countries, making up almost 60% of the worlds population, had less than 4% of the worlds income. Between 1960 and 1991 the share of the richest 20% rose from holding 70% of global income to 85%, while the worlds poorest declined from having 2.3% of the worlds income to 1.4%.

 

Clearly all the SAL’s, PRSP’s and lofty wishes are not helping the growing mass of people surviving on the 1.4% and declining. And an institution like the World Bank, whose imperitaves add to the increasing inequality, is not reconcilable with genuine poverty reduction.

 

An analysis of inequality challenges the legitimacy of the world order. The focus on economic growth not only perpetuates poverty but increases inequality. The neoliberal ‘race to the bottom’ exasserbates inequality with the continual massive transfer of wealth from the poorest to the richest. Loans that go in the other direction and returned to the top in interest and repayments.

 

Sweezy points out that capitalism has always been made up of two poles – independent and dependent, dominant and subordinate, developed and underdeveloped, center and periphery. The driving force is the accumulation process from the periphery to the center. The core of the relationship is exploitation, where the periphery is controlled by a combination of coercion and market forces. Forcing the periphery along paths of economic growth espoused by the reigning ideology strengthens rather than changes their position as victims. As the president of Brazil once said of his country, the economy is doing fine but the people aren’t.

 

A tragic knock-on effect of the imperative for economic growth and its widening of inequality in the interests of the global dominant class is an increasing disregard for human rights. Where adjustment policies reduce the power of the state to act independently, it effectively takes away any chance at genuine democracy from the country’s poor and “significantly undermines the rights of people to self-determination, ie to freely determine their political status, and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”. With an overfocus on economic efficiency, the Banks adjustment programmes have adverse impacts on human rights at economic and political levels.

 

It is a matter for deep concern, that after 60 years the World Bank, with its dreams of a world free of poverty, continues to force policies that have been shown to seriously impact the fullfilment of rights guaranteed in the International Convent on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, particularly the rights to education, health, food, adequate housing and employment. But the imperitave for economic growth continues at an ever greater pace, with the poor relegated to the role of “mine shaft canaries of the global economy”.

 

But to “escape from the inequalities requires fundamental change in the dominant system”, in short revolution. The problem facing the South is that growing differentiation continues to undermine joint collective action.

 

However there are some glimpses of hope in Latin America. In December 2006 Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced his idea to create a Bank of the South (Banco Del Sur) against the institutions of international capital he calls the “tools of Washington”, the World Bank and the IMF. The Bank of the South is set to be launched in November 2007 with seven founding member states : Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay and Paraguay. Each member will contribute 10% of its international reserves and have equal oversight in the new institution aimed at reviving socioeconomic development and infrastructure investments, and to keep the region outside the control of the IMF and the World Bank. Venezuela has already cleared its debt with the Bank, declaring that “we will no longer have to go to Washington” to beg for aid. The new bank has already been praised by former World Bank economist Joseph Stiglitz who also praised Chavez’ redistributive social policies.

 

Lula da Silva, President of Brazil, declared that “developing nations must create their own mechanisms of finance instead of suffering under those of the IMF and the World Bank, which are institutions of rich nations . . . it is time to wake up”. As the article notes, “unlike the Washington-based international financial institutions, the new bank will not impose economic policy conditions on its borrowers. Such conditions are widely believed to have been a major cause of Latin America’s unprecedented economic failure over the last 26 years, the worst long-term growth performance in more than a century”. This obviously flys in the face of the reigning global political economy, and is logically opposed by Washington. An insider at the Inter-American Development Bank told the Financial Times: “With the money of Venezuela and political will of Argentina and Brazil, this is a bank that could have lots of money and a different political approach. No one will say this publicly, but we don’t like it.”

 

As I have shown, the World Bank role has been to maintain the reigning hegemony of the center/periphery system of exploitation. Its primary imperative has always been economic growth, which is inreconcilable with geniune poverty reduction, and more importantly, global inequality reduction. Its lastest president is Robert Zoellick, former US trade negiotiator, famous for his adament stance against the WTO ruling that “the poorest of nations–those without any pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities–should be able to import cheap generic drugs, since they can’t pay for the more expensive patented versions”. It says quite a lot about the Bank and the neoliberal system that the Bush Administration would appoint him as president of an institution that claims its primary goal is poverty reduction.

 

To conclude its useful to look at Zoellicks latest speech as World Bank president. He states that – “Globalization has become the defining mark of our time. It has lifted barriers and boundaries, and unleashed movements of ideas, goods, capital, and people. It has created opportunities where there were none. Yet globalization has not embraced all. Many remain on the fringes, and some are falling further behind”. But globalization is not the problem. It must continue, yet what is needed is “sustainable growth, driven by the private sector”. Herein are those same statements professed by the Bank ad nauseum over the years that the poor must be integrated into the ideology of neoliberal globalization, despite years of evidence of how harmful it is. Apparently on a recent trip to Africa the poor told him that “social development objectives are necessary but not sufficient”, that they “also want us to help develop local financial markets, including for microfinance, that can mobilize African savings for Africa’s growth”. Its difficult to imagine the poor requesting ‘microfinance’ assistance and discussing savings. The thrust of the speech is the need to improve the climate for “doing business”. He also alludes to aid tied to US interests, for example: “in the Palestinian territories today, we are helping provide basic social services and support for good governance and private sector growth, which could provide the economic foundation for hope if the parties choose the path of peace”. That the Word Bank President sounds similar to the US Secretary of State or President discussing the Israel/Palestinian problem, with their historical emphasis on the blame of the Palestinians, is truly worrying.

 

Apr
13

1. Candide by Voltaire

Awesome little travel book, first published in 1759 but fresh like it was written last week.

2. The Colossus Of Maroussi by Henry Miller

Tropic of Cancer is a great travel book too, but this one of Miller in Greece is full of traveller inspiration and beauty.

3. The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux

Great story of rebellion and dreams and travel. Written by a trail blazing travel writer.

4. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Well there has to be one of Hem, and as over-quoted as it is, his lines make you taste Paris on your tongue and yearn like crazy to live in another country.

5. Nietzsche In Turin by Lesley Chamberlain

About the great little philosopher thinking his great thoughts and burning the midnight oil writing some of his best books while livin in Turin and travelling around the Alps, high up in the mountains of his mind.

Apr
09

you know it all, but here it is again for you

 

 

Hegemonic stability theory states that a degree of order among the anarchic international system of nation states can be achieved by a predominant military and economic power, that can dominate the “rules and arrangements by which international relations, political and economic,are conducted”. The hegemon uses its unrivaled power to maintain a form of global order conducive to its national interest, that also is relatively conducive to interests of the other major powers, both state and non-state. Note that justice over atrocities, predominantly in developing states, is not necessary to the maintenance of this order except in cases where failure to act would be detrimental to the order.

 

 

Of course nothing is black and white in the flexible push-and-pull of international power relations, particularly among the most powerful states. And the emerging hegemony of the US has at least a half century of progress in international law to maintain, and/or remould where necessary, for continued expansion.

 

Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations Paul Heinbecker was right that “fundamental principles of international law and the place of those principles in the conduct of global affairs are in question”. He was stating this as the Security Council passed Resolution 1422 (2002), effectively granting the US total immunity from prosecution by the “first new major international institution of the twenty first century”, the International Criminal Court.

 

As the curtain fell on the most atrocity-soaked century in human history, seeds of hope sprouted with the forces of international human rights law that began to stamp its existence in the real world and not just in the “rhetoric of politicians and the pipe-dreams of professors”. So in the spirit of the post-Second World War Two war crime trials, and the ad-hoc tribunals established by the UN for the former Yugoslavia in 1993 and Rwanda in 1994, in 1998 world governments and NGO’s nutted out the ‘Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court’ to bring global justice over genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, ‘the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole’.

 

But for all the well-intentioned energy, what “should have marked the triumph of international law over superpower expediency, in fact demonstrated how far the human rights movement has yet to go before reality catches up with its rhetoric”. Though an overwhelming majority of states voted in favour of the Statute, concerns voiced by the US that eventually turned into outright opposition has left the ICC and everything it signify’s philosophically, “global justice, human rights, and the rule of law”, in question. If global justice is meant to be truly universal, how can one state, and most importantly the most powerful single state to have existed in human history, be exempt from its jurisdiction? US opposition to the ICC represents with stark clarity the battle between power and law in international relations.

 

There are no hidden meanings in the US position. John Bolton, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, and now US Ambassador to the UN, repeats the reason ad nauseum in his speeches and writings about it – national interest. The ICC is “an agreement that is harmful to the national interests of the United States and harmful to our presence abroad”, it limits the “independence and flexibility that America needs to defend our national interests around the world”, it threatens with prosecution “our country’s top civilian and military leaders, those responsible for our defense and foreign policy”, it will have a “highly detrimental impact on the conduct of US foreign policy”, and concluding with his President’s words “we will take the actions necessary to ensure that our efforts to meet our global security commitments and protect Americans are not impared …”. For ‘protect Americans’ read ‘protect American political and economic interests’.

 

For anyone committed to international law or even just elementary moral principles these words are chilling. But I would propose that given the hegemonic reality of the evolving global system, the US position is at once understandable, logical, and justifiable.

 

So Bolton accuses the proponents of the ICC with their “optimistic rhetoric” of fundamentally confusing the “appropriate roles of political and economic power, diplomatic efforts, military force, and legal procedures”. Only the cushioned mouthpiece of a superpower could get away with sentences like this. With a perplexing barbarity of words Bolton reasons that even military might can’t deter atrocities from being committed, so “why should anyone imagine that bewigged judges in The Hague will succeed where cold steel has failed?”. He reminds us, “much to the dismay of moralists and legal theoreticians”, that foreign policy is a messy business, “painful and unpleasant”, and those mere “mortal policy makers” must make “tradeoffs among inconsistent objectives” when faced with the “irritating facts of human complexity, contradiction, and imperfection”.

 

But while my heart certainly doesn’t weep for the war-rooms in Washington DC, far from their targets of death and destruction, I am forced to concede that Bolton’s argument is logical.

 

In ‘The Risks and Weaknesses of the International Criminal Court from Americas Perspective’ Bolton writes that the “cognoscenti”, “academics and activists” severely misinterpret the very real limitations of international law. People with a weakness for multilateralism and legalist thought seek to “constrain nation states, to limit their ability to act unilaterally, especially in the use of military force”. The fact that there is no coercive authority to enforce international law, and the “decentralized and unaccountable” way in which international law is made, leaves it “abstract to the point of irrelevance from real international relations”.

 

By arguing that there is in reality no such thing as international law, then it follows that no institution can enforce something that doesn’t exist in the ‘real world’. Here is the error in “trying to transform international matters of power and force into matters of law”.

 

But just because the institutions that make municipal law legitimate aren’t there in the international arena, does not mean that the rules of international law are not law. Orders backed by threats and violence do not amount to law either.

 

In fact international law works effectively well across a wide variety of areas – telecommunications, postal services, carriage of goods and passengers, trade, the use of the sea and airspace, to name just a few. Most of these rules generally enforce themselves by voluntary compliance because they contribute so much to the maintenance of nation states existence, and so states find identical and complementary interests in the rule of law.

 

This is especially true of a hegemonic power. Here we need to dismiss any notion that the US is opposed to international law per se. International law is paramount to maintaining its dominance. For powerful states international law is a tool used for creating regulation in certain areas, pacifying other states, and as a means to stabilise their power. Instrumentalisation of law is key to ‘hegemonic strategy’, and we see this in the raft of international treaties and multilateral agreements that the US is the prime global creator of. The US has been the driving force in the creation of economic, trade, and investment laws especially, and is their most avid pursuer.There is very little US scepticism in this realm of international law.

 

But in other areas of international law the US shows a fervent reluctance to enter into any multilateral treaties, primarily in the areas of laws on war and human rights. It is a powerful organiser and persuader for other states to enter into such agreements, but with the frequent use of reservations steps back to ensure it is not bound by them.

 

In ‘going it alone’ in this area of international law the US has put itself above major arms control treaties, environmental treaties, the UN Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, and the International Labor Organisation. The US also challenges the UN Charter articles on the use of force, the Geneva Conventions for the protection of combatants, civilians, and prisoners of war during conflict, and of course aggressively opposes the ICC.

 

One of the most shrill opponents of the ICC and its goal of universal jurisdiction is Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor. Kissinger expresses concern for the “intimidating passion” with which human rights advocates have pushed for heads of state and senior public officials to have the same standing as outlaws before the bar of justice, and accountable for human rights violations they commit anywhere in the world.

 

His feelings of intimidation are well founded. During his years at the levers of US power Kissinger earned an impressive resume of involvement in human rights atrocities that stretched across the globe: mass killing of civilians in Indochina, mass murder and assassination in Bangladesh, the overthrow and murder of a democratically elected leader in Chile, and incitement and enabling of genocide in East Timor.

 

Caught off guard at a press conference in New York to promote his book Democracy in 1995, Kissinger was questioned by Constancio Pinto, a Timorese former resistance fighter about his support of Indonesia around the brutal 1975 invasion of Timor. Seemingly backed into a corner after another member of the audience, Allen Nairn, a journalist caught in the 1991 massacre in Dili piped up and asked,

 

“Would you support ..an international war crimes tribunal…on the subject of East Timor, and would you…abide by its verdict in regard to your own conduct?”

 

Kissinger’s on the spot answer is revealing,

 

“I mean, uh, really, this sort of comment is one of the reasons why the conduct of foreign policy is becoming nearly impossible under these conditions”.

 

 

Krisch writes that the US “seeks to evade international law’s pull toward equality” and establishes “hierarchies in many areas of the international system,and often its actions amount to the exercise of quasi-governmental functions”. Here we see a dilution of other state’s sovereignty at the behest of the expansion of US sovereignty, amounting to the evolution of a world government. Going beyond Morgenthau’s concept of the UN as world government by the Security Council permanent members, the US position has entangled the world in its web of power exercised across a wide degree of international law and politics. Necessarily quite different from any form of government yet experienced in history, and still in an infant decentralized stage, yet evolving to incorporate functions of governance in legislation, and adjudication. Here the US had moved away from international law to increase its use of its domestic law to control international relations. In this role it is able to free itself from the constraints of international law, the ICC for example, on the grounds that it has “special responsibilities” in the world.

 

 

 

These responsibilities, like Kissingers difficult foreign policy to protect the global ‘national interest’, require it to commit human rights abuses, mostly in ‘third-world’ countries.

 

 

 

This privileged position is accepted as so by the other large powers. The hegemonic web offers as much protection and enhancement of interests for the powerful states entangled as it offers despair and misery for the weak trapped in its hierarchy of exploitation and anonymity. Ikenberry describes it as a ‘liberal hegemony’, which since the Second World War has “facilitated cooperation and integration among the major industrial countries”. The development of liberal institutions to “address problems internal to Western capitalism and industrial society”, made up of security and economic institutions with constitution-like characteristics.

 

 

But there is a global force quite apart from the acceptance (be it avid or resigned) of US hegemony and its Napoleon-like self-crowning of the right to do as it pleases. And though the Universal Declaration of Human Rights may be “mind numbing” for John Bolton, there has continues to grow the aspirations of millions of people who pledge support for its principles, that “everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realised”. Perhaps rare in the pragmatic moral vacuum of politics, these principles nevertheless are being pursued in a growing body of international law like the ICC, struggling to counter the darkness of hegemony, and on the streets in the defiant optimism of the anti-corporate globalisation movement, whi

 

 

 

ch quickly morphed into the anti-war movement after September 11 2001.

 

 

 

I also think its necessary to de-personify the ‘US’ as the axis of this engulfing roll-back of Enlightenment humanism. Along with US government policy is complex network of transnational corporations with very real interests in the continued expansion of military and economic human rights abuse. It includes too the muted compliance of the global media in deflecting focus to only occasional fashionable atrocities. And their sseemingly disciplined agreement among each other to never write that the Emporer is without clothes.

 

 

 

 

 

Apr
06

Its just a bastard of a city Sydney. Don’t let the hype lead you astray. Don’t bother with a word of it. Stay away from these people. They’ve become mean robots of greed. They’ve been Greekatised by the greedy grumbling property-possesive, financial status-obsessive mammals. You can’t get a few sentences into a conversation with a Sydney animal without suburbs and property prices being mentioned. What a boring fucking bunch. The Australian spirit has been raped and corrupted starting here in Sydney and spreading. Election after election was won by class war-mongering business-serving cunts until the dopey electorate felt the pinch of interest rate rises and what it might mean to their investment properties. You have to be fucking joking.

 

Its just in their bastard eyes Sydney. The way they arrogantly refuse eye contact. Who the fuck do you think you are? I should smack every bitch and cunt one of them. In their shiney four-wheel drives. Driving private education down Bully Cunt Road. We know it all. You and your imagined superiority. You know it all, if you can read at all. Its everywhere what you’re doing to society, the dirt and blood is starting to stain your souls and you wash it away during the evening news while they’re reporting blood and dirt. Come on, I am not stating anything that isn’t plainly obvious. Yet your arrogant climb continues. Up through boring tasteless suburbs and shopping centres, everything over-priced and unstylish. Thats the real treat, you people have zero fucking class. You’re pigs and your language of Oink has become the global lingua franca. Thats your only damn power. Globalisation of the spoilt pig. And its a power that saddens as much as it angers those who are powerless to your sleigth-of-hand violence. Watching you step over people. Sometimes I think you dont even like what you’re doing. You catch yourself being so bimboistically cold and mean without even thinking about it, but its too late, it works, being a fucking bitch or cunt. What to do with you.

 

It’s in their avoidance of eye contact. A Sydney animal doesnt look you in the eyes when you pass them. They look you over and then look away. It starts when they’re children. They learn to be evil fuckers from primary school age on. They see their parents. They must see a power gained in arrogance. That must be it.

 

And so they’re raised, bastardised children without social moeurs. Greedy, egoists, shallow know-it-alls, fast-tracked into parasitic positions high up on the neck of the nations spirit. Sucking the life out of us while driving new cars through societys traffic, no courtesy, no patience. So beautiful they’ve become, glamorously obese in soul and mind, in command of themselves and the power bestowed upon them.

 

I’m out there in it everyday.