So this might have seemed like a lecture. It wasn't. It was actually one long question, posted with full understanding that it is rife with "errors and omissions" with a call to put more of this together and perhaps centralize it. There are those who have much better access to these details than I do, but it is especially important to develop this analysis further and bring it to the public. -- Alan Spector
PS -- Please do circulate this to other relevant e-mail lists. I had access to a PEWS list but somehow can't seem to find it?
-----Original Message----- From: Progressive and Critical Sociologist Network [mailto:PSN-CS at LISTS.WAYNE.EDU] On Behalf Of Alan Spector Sent: Friday, January 06, 2017 12:33 PM To: PSN-CS at LISTS.WAYNE.EDU Subject: [PSN-CS] Global Financial-Political Alliances/Contradictions in 2017
Warning -- a long post, but hopefully not empty polemics nor too tedious. LOOKING FOR MORE SERIOUS DATA AND ANALYSIS THAN WHAT IS PRESENTED HERE:
We need more detailed understanding of the financial interests involved in global (and within-country) politics. We need not become extreme economic reductionists, but obviously, these economic factors are very important and sometimes academic researchers overemphasize ideology and don't take economic interests enough into account.
Analyses of capitalist class unity and contradiction are never based on firm lines. There are clusters, rather than solid boundaries, and the clusters have soft boundaries and they overlap and some groups have split loyalties and some players shift sides, and some players have split loyalties within them, etc. etc. And finally, the players don't wake up every morning and ask: "How can I fulfill the expectations of some social scientist somewhere by being philosophically consistent." On the contrary, they mainly ally with whoever can give them the best deal, with some long term political considerations, of course. But there are still clusters of some sort.
So for starters, some speculation:
For quite some time, one of the main contradictions within the US capitalist class has been between some domestic energy producers and those, generally more closely allied with major banks (historically Rockefeller, Morgan, Chase, Mellon) who have heavy investments in the reselling of oil from the "Middle East", North Africa, Venezuela.)
There are other contradictions of course--for example, historically, finance capital versus industrial capital (although that is quite blurred), or the super-super rich (who are willing to give up some wealth to maintain social stability) versus the merely rich, who are less willing to give up much and are more focused on raiding the economy and using force to keep the "angry masses" down (although, again, both strategies are employed by all players -- they are more pragmatic than we realize when we overly focus on their stated ideologies.)
Some "Domhoffian-The Higher Circles" analysis about what alignments are taking place globally would be important, at least to start what would be an evolving analysis.
Some VERY SUBJECTIVE, based on snippets of evidence, ideas, and I hope others will make major corrections in this.
Group A: Energy (trading in international oil from Mideast and even coal 100 years ago) and monopoly sector heavy industry and banking were the domain of BIG, "Old" money -- the old Rockefeller/Morgan/Mellen Standard Oil/ GM/ Chase gang that favored more international trade internationalist/interventionist policies abroad and (sometimes) preferred using the carrot over the stick (giving up some $$ now for social stability and often taking cultural liberal stances although they were perfectly capable of the worst sort of overt massive brutality as well --Attica, Chile, Indonesia, Vietnam until 1968 or so). On energy, much of their interest in alternative energy and environmentalism, which became more obvious in the 1970's may have had much to do with their attempts to block the domestic oil industry as well as any "environmental consciousness" on the part of Lawrence Rockefeller.
In much of the 20th century they supported labor unions (once they controlled them) because unions became the "community policing" force in defusing worker anger. Internationally, this group seems more allied with the "soft left" of the EU, does not want oil prices from the Middle East/North Africa to skyrocket because as resellers it creates problems and also increases competition from more costly US-Canadian oil and cheap Russian natural gas and oil. Rising energy prices also tend to increase inflation in the USA and the largest employers then have to deal with worker demands and it interferes with their "race to the bottom:" on wages. They have also been flexible on immigration -- supporting it for certain sectors to drive down wages. More recently they seem to be generally in opposition to Russia and more allied with traditional Arab governments, mainly Sunni. They supported Sunni against USSR in Central Asia, support Gulf States, generally supported Saddam Hussein until they sought to replace him with more "moderate" Sunnis as a bulwark against (Shia) Iran. They are ambivalent toward Chinese capitalism, wanting to work with them on trade but being outflanked by Chinese military expansion in East Asia. Chinese have recently sold a lot of US debt but still hold considerable amounts. China has some problems with Sunni on their western borders but nevertheless works with the Gulf States, but China is flexible and is willing to work with Iran as well. Iran and Saudi Arabia are the two main poles and while it is tempting to see it as religious (Sunni/Shia) it is much more about politics and money. Iran, too is more flexible, and while they remain chief adversaries of Saudi Arabia, they have been willing to "talk with" some from the USA, such as Obama's recent deal. Historically, Iran was opposed to Russia but in recent times they have warmed up a bit in their opposition to (some) Saudi ("Sunni") interests. We see this contradiction at work in Yemen as well. .
Group B: In (sometimes) opposition to them are some of the current domestic oil producers, speculative real estate, especially California and the South, gambling, some agriculture , and many medium-large US-based businesses (construction, private security and prisons, some manufacturing, Chamber of Commerce, etc.). This group often rallies small businesses in their joint opposition to "regulations" which have actually often helped some of the monopoly sector businesses by placing heavy burdens on small business. They are less interested in "foreign aid" (even though much of it is military) unless their firms make profit from military hardware. They are alternately isolationist and "hawkish" (when their interests are involved or when they want to attack the "liberals" as "weak.") and they gravitate towards cultural conservatism mainly as a way to build support among conservative grassroots folks, although they have their share of "non-conservative cultural behaviors" such as abortions, drugs, pornography etc. They are more eager to OPENLY use force to suppress working class anger and don't mind being "disrupters" because they are not currently in command and don't mind some instability to give them openings. Hence their flirting with alt-right, even with neo-Nazis.to build a corps of shock troops, as opposed to Group A, which recently proposed giving 100 million dollars to SOME elements of the Black Lives Matter movement as a way to use the carrot instead of the stick.
Within the USA we might see manifestations of this conflict in the resignation of Nixon, the election of Reagan (who became more compliant to many in Group A as well as his initial alliance with Group B) the stripping away of (just some) of Reagan's more adventurist policies, the impeachment of Clinton, the election of Trump and likely the assassinations of JFK and to a lesser extent RFK and Martin Luther King. (I suspect both groups were pleased with the assassination of Malcolm X.)
Again -- while ideology is important (mainly for mobilizing numbers for their base, Group B is pragmatic. As Mussolini once said: "Fascism really has no philosophy."), Financial interests "trump" ideological ones.
Some of them lean towards wanting higher oil prices because they will make their US-Canadian resources more valuable. They sell it to the public as serving the US population, even though much of what they produce goes and would go to Asia. .They don't care much about the environment; they want their profits NOW. They say they want to restrict imports, although major electronics production is not coming back to the USA.and most manufacturing and coal jobs were lost to automation (as Marx predicted.)
Some of them seem to be leaning towards Russia, perhaps because much of Russian capitalism has the same character as "Group B" in the USA -- speculation, arms, gambling, non-Mideast oil production. Trump strongly criticizes Iran, but it gets muddled because he focuses on the Saudis more. Some of Group B opposed Arab Spring while some in Group A supported it, as they supported "Orange Revolutions" in Eastern Europe to weaken Russia.. tion
But this is much more muddled than is described here. There are (at least) two reasons why. First, the situation changes. Second, the players are not fundamentally driven by philosophy and the political figures may have some core loyalties, but they too are pragmatic. The changes: Iran after 1979 was quite different from Iran in the 1960's and with no staunch ally besides Israel to police the region, some in Group A warmed up more towards "moderate Sunni" forces to help combat "extremist" forces especially in Iran. India was more pro-USSR in the 1970's. Currently it leans towards the USA in opposition to both Russia and China (& Pakistan), but money talks. The far-right movements in Eastern and Western Europe, including very rightist governments in Poland and Hungary may serve as a bulwark against Russia, but they may also be anti-American. Three important countries for military reasons--Philippines, Turkey, and Pakistan are rife with contradictions. The current Philippine government wants the US to shield them from China, but Chinese money on the one side, and Philippine nationalism on the other side could erode that over time. Turkey is the most powerful military force (outside of Russia) in that part of the world. Major factions were leaning toward "Sunni' oriented groups, as a "somewhat pro-US" bulwark aainst both Iran/Assad and Russia, and Turkey was a pipeline for arms against the Iran/Russia aligned Assad regime, BUT US support for the Kurds (contradictions within contradictions?) and the reality that ISIS-ISIL decided to be too ambitious in grabbing territory forced Turkey to attack ISIS-ISIL (which had been supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar--which THEMSELVES are in competition---and so, Turkey now joins with the US against the ISIS-ISIL "Sunni extremists" although is mainly attacking Kurds while Group A within the US scrambles to make Assad the main enemy after years of saying that his opponents were the main enemy. Pakistan is riddled not just with two major factions, but also hundreds of groups defending their turf. Some of them lean towards China. Russia is expanding trade. Some what to increase trade with India while others benefit from maintaining the conflict.
In Latin America, once the backyard garden of US corporations, China has massive investments..
Africa remains an area of major contradiction. The US supported "liberation" movements that pushed out Euro imperialism and conveniently opened things up for the USA. The USSR threatened somewhat (militarily) from the 1950's-1980's, but now the main economic competitors are the EU (the US has had some political differences as well), and China, although recently, India has become a bigger force in East Africa. South Africa leans towards the EU (which is somewhat aligned with but somewhat in competition with various US interests) and Nigeria trades with India and the US. All of this creates major political problems. As (I think it was) Dean Rusk, former Secretary of State once asserted: "At any given moment, 1/3 of the world is sleeping while the other 2/3 are awake and making trouble for the US." Juggling all these political contradictions .do not fit into a simple model, although there are clusters, albeit with fuzzy boundaries and shifting alliances.
Within the USA, conservative companies like Walmart do a great deal of business importing good from China and has also moderated its cultural conservatism, as have other major corporations. Perhaps most importantly, two factors:
1) Finance capital used to be the exclusive domain of "Old Money" (Group A) but is now contested by major forces within Group B, especially those involved in risky speculation. Trump's banking advisers reflect this.
2) The "liberal" Group A bunch continues to move to "the right." Obama has been, in many ways, more conservative than 1970's Republicans, including Nixon, on some policies. Fascism in the US (remember, fascism or semi-fascism is in place in many parts of the world) won't simply come from a coup by the right wing but rather by a gradual, or not so gradual, shifting to the right by the mainstream. That doesn't mean that there won't be extreme violence but rather than as a group's position becomes more precarious, they become less concerned with long term stability and more concerned with just doing whatever they believe is necessary to hold on to power.
===================== Well, that was all "off-the-cuff" with no notes. I'm sure there are plenty of errors, certainly many omissions. I just want to push for more detailed discussion. The anti-Trump campaign correctly focused on his quasi-fascist rhetoric, but we also need, perhaps, we especially need, to understand what are the underlying processes involved. It isn't just words. Reagan mostly accommodated the mainstream, and in fact, when some of them thought he was moving too fast to suppress workers, they were pleasantly surprised and said: "Well, I guess he pulled it off!". Similarly, Trump's administration will do great damage by promoting overtly racist, sexist movements but much greater damage will be done as he works with major sectors of the capitalist class to continue to shift the burden of US capitalism's problems on to the working class -- not just a question of the rich gorging themselves on money even more but rather as a response to international developments and the core, maturing contradictions of capitalism, which require the capitalist class to take more from the majority and give to the corporations. As long as the "left" mainly focuses on his disgusting, fascistic rhetoric, that side-show will divert attention from what is going on in millions of real people's lives while also building support for "the other kind of authoritarianism" that denounces Trump for not being patriotic and starts praising the CIA!
So this might have seemed like a lecture. It wasn't. It was actually one long question, posted with full understanding that it is rife with "errors and omissions" with a call to put more of this together and perhaps centralize it. There are those who have much better access to these details than I do, but it is especially important to develop this analysis further and bring it to the public.
PS -- Please do circulate this to other relevant e-mail lists. I had access to a PEWS list but somehow can't seem to find it?