I just read this essay by Don Hamerquist. I’m quite tired (and I have a lot to do before I go to bed) so I’m not going to say much right now. What follows is just quotes from the piece for me to come back to. All I’ll say for now is that I find it convincing. I find the stuff on the world situation rather depressing and I find the stuff on Badiou a bit perplexing – I like it, I like this putting Badiou to work politically, so to speak, but I’m not sure how much Badiou’s work *constitutes* insights here or if he’s mainly DH’s route to arriving at/articulating those insights. I’ll look this over later and see if I have more to say. Since I found the piece convincing I’m not sure if I will have much to add.
Argues against “emphasizing the interests of U.S. capital in maintaining and extending its dominant position: in the first place against popular anti-imperialist movements; but with increasing frequency also against purported imperialist rivals.”
This perspective does not “explain why Obama is implementing this particular policy and not another – potentially quite different – one.”
The “possibility for substantially different ruling class policies from sectors of the class that share a substantial agreements on assumptions and objectives, should motivate us to look beyond our own generic ‘explanations’ for what is happening. This is particularly true when, as is the case here, these explanations are firmly rooted in the political categories of a past where we didn’t do all that well.”
“The institutionalized and protracted external domination suggested by the Obama policy will make Afghanistan and the region less friendly and a whole lot less stable, not more so. It is hard to see a, “stable consolidated U.S. domination” developing out of these policies under the best conditions. (…) This leaves us with a goal – stable consolidated domination – that would be completely at odds with the means – military conquest and occupation with limited forces.”
Part of the over all point here is to argue first that there is ruling class worldview and policy objective (multiple contending ones, the piece stresses), a point made in order to stress that we on the left ought to be trying to understand these.
“except for some unimportant, largely cosmetic, trappings, Obama is much the same as Bush. (…) These common priorities in both administrations can be explained as a rational pursuit of capitalist class interests, but only if these interests are seen as global, not national. That is, only if they are understood as capitalist interests in which the political, economic and social stability in the U.S. is not the primary point of reference. (…) the policy directions chosen by both administrations can quite possibly place the hegemony and domestic stability of the U.S., the “sole superpower”, at risk, but still be a rational attempt to defend and extend the hegemony of global capital.”
First, in the late 90s or so capitalism extended to areas of the world where it hadn’t been as much, leaving capitalism today with difficulties in using labor in those areas, and this labor force is highly mobile, increasingly so, which poses a threat to capitalism with “both liberatory and reactionary elements.” “Global capital sees the populist threat as the major current challenge to its continued dominance and is focused on developing a response to its jihadist components. This is a real priority, acknowledged by and acted on by virtually all national segments of capital. It is not a pretext or a facade to provide space and resources to pursue other goals although it will certainly be used in these ways if and when the opportunities arise.”
Second, structural limits on accumulation, need for adjustments but limited ability to do so without simple crack down.
Third, global capitalist organization is stumbling between global capitalist concerns and national-state forms/institutions.
“In distinction to Negri, who places minimal weight on any elements of consciousness and organization – obviously including those that relate to ruling class policies, I think there is an emerging global capitalist project”
I think Negri thinks the same, that there’s an emerging global capitalist project, and I think he’s in favor of it, tactically. He sees the development of Empire as a step in the right direction, as offering a better terrain for struggle after that development happens.
“global ruling elites increasingly subordinate inter-imperialist rivalries to an appreciation of common enemies and common risks. This emergent sense of an over-riding common interest is reflected in the virtually universal support of every state for what is called a called a “war on terror”. It is reflected in the generalized cooperation to regain some equilibrium in global financial systems and commodities markets.”
I find this compelling on the face of it:
“For global capital, Afghanistan is an opportunity to experiment with new ways to discipline increasingly unruly populations while maintaining and even extending capitalist control over global flows of capital and labor. It is an opportunity, as well, to develop better techniques to disorient and demobilize emerging challenges to capital’s global disciplinary regime. At its core I believe that the Obama “surge” is such a test of new methods and new tools. It is a concrete project in which most sections of global capital share definite common interests. Of course, it is not a project that represents an overt ruling class consensus. There are remaining conflicts and contradictions on important issues that are sometimes quite evident in policy differences – particularly on questions of tactics. But, I think, the underlying perception of a common interest is pretty clear.”
“What is emerging out of this is a secret privatized intelligence gathering system and a privatized military capability – all of which is profit-making. This objective has been pursued actively by elements of the U.S; ruling elite (with clear international connections) since the mid-twentieth century”
“This looks something like a rerun on a global scale of the Pinkertonized class warfare of the nineteenth century in this country. But it is more than that. There is a particularly modern character to these formations: they are operating within the context of a global capitalism, not a national state; and they are confronted with structural limits on capitalism that were not a factor in the period of Molly Maguires or the Moyer, Pettibone, Haywood trial.”
“If these groupings can develop sufficient information to accurately target jihadist leaders, they can also affect the tactics of the resistance more fundamentally through systematic penetration and an increasingly tight encapsulization. One likely result will be more anomalies in the mold of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia – more of those “terrorists” most likely to demoralize a revolutionary population and expedite an expanded counter-insurgency. If capital develops these capacities with respect to jihadists, there will be ramifications shortly down the road for anti-capitalist movements with radically different agendas and perspectives.”
“capital currently faces a [growing] real danger from populism in the gap, and the gap is increasingly less defined and limited by geography because of the mobility of populations and the increasing access to information and new forms of communication.”
“The global dominance of capital rests on its hegemony in stable nation states in the core. For a variety of historical reasons, these are regions where the ruling class must be concerned with maintaining legitimacy in the exercise of power and avoiding the collateral damages from an excessive reliance on repression. This approach to both maintaining and disguising capitalist rule has been built on a network of incorporative privileges which are increasingly hard to sustain”
“major increases in repression, and, particularly, overtly imposing elements of a repressive authoritarian “world government” in the U.S. or elsewhere presents unacceptable risks – at least for now.”
“One possible general response of capital to this dilemma, the one that I believe will eventually predominate, is what has been called global social democracy.” One based on fear and carefully calibrated repression.
“progressive momentum requires coalitions of working classes and marginalized strata in the gap with a more concrete anti-capitalist and internationalist orientation; an orientation that that aims for solidarity with all similar forms of resistance, and that opposes all the forms in which domestic and foreign capital is manifested particularly those in which they are combined into unified ruling structures and policies – states and quasi-states.”
“The vanguard parties and revolutionary blocs characteristic of the 20th century (…) were party/state formations which might seize and hold power locally but could not transform social relations because their essential character incorporated features of a state. Thus they inevitably became the antagonist of the mass “Communist movement” (Badiou’s term). But only through such a movement, that is necessarily, “beyond the state” (Badiou), can communism be achieved.”
“These issues emerge currently around questions of the character of the populist resistance to global capital, particularly, but not exclusively, in the gap. To what extent do these developments project a fascist, rather than a liberatory, alternative to global capital? To what extent are they contained or containable within neo-colonial limits. I’ve written on these issues elsewhere and regard myself as within the Threeway Fight tendency. However, no general recognition of contradictory potentials should substitute for concrete evaluations of specific cases. And our goal in such evaluations should always go beyond clarity on the problems and limitations and also attempt to discover and build on the best possibilities.”