19 April 2008

Our rulers think they're Yankees

More than in most current Latin American societies, the Venezuelan ruling and middle classes have demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice their immediate economic interests, current remunerative opportunities, lucrative profits and income in pursuit of the high risk political interests of the US . How else can one explain their backing of the US-orchestrated coup of April 2002 at a time when Chavez was following fairly orthodox fiscal and monetary policies, and had adopted a strict constitutionalist approach to institutional reform? How else can one explain engaging in an executive and bosses 2-month lockout of industry and oil production, leading to the loss of billions in private revenues, profits and salaries and ultimately the bankruptcy of hundreds of private firms and the firing of over 15,000 well-paid senior and middle level oil executives?

Clearly the ‘ultra-hegemony’ of the US over the Venezuelan elite and middle class has a strong component of ideological-psychological self-delusion: a deep, almost pathological identification with the powerful, superior white producer-consumer society and state and a profound hostility and disparagement of ‘deep Venezuela ’ – its Afro-Indian-mestizo masses.

An extract from a very good article by James Petras on Venezuela. The only thing I have to add to this is that in virtually every advanced capitalist country in the world today the ruling class thinks of itself as junior partners of the Yankee capitalist class, not just Venezuela or Latin America. In those countries (as well as Canada) it's "biggest tough guy on the block". In most of Western Europe, it's attachment to "Big Brother who saved us from Hitler". In Eastern Europe, it's attachment to "Big Brother who saved us from Stalinism". In Australia and New Zealand, the previous colonial attachment to England was just shifted to the US sometime in the 1980s.

The only partial exceptions to this in the 'First World' I can think of are France and Japan, two countries with their own imperial histories whose gratitude at being "liberated" is tempered with contempt for the cultural mores of the liberators. In those countries, as in Russia and China, there are pro- and anti-American factions in the ruling classes. Elsewhere, a "nationalist" component to the local elite is so tiny as to be negligible - nationalism is left to the posturing of the middle class.

Petras suggests that this happens in Venezuela because the local elite aren't actually capitalists (in the sense that they actually live off the proceeds of productive enterprises), but rentier-bureaucrats who skim the top off oil revenue, and so their "heartland" is where they consume (i.e. Miami) rather than where they produce. I think this is increasingly the case everywhere, as actual capitalist production shifts out of the advanced First World, and the local economies are bound up increasingly with administration, media production and servicing the consumption needs of the elite - Marx's "Department IIb", for those who get the reference. Soon, virtually all "First World" countries will be controlled by rentiers, living off the profits of their investments in China, India, wherever.

Whatever the case - the ideology of the ruling classes becomes the ideology of all of society, and any resistance to the idea of American media culture as being the superior product is stigmatised as backwards and barbaric, just as in the 19th century resistance to Christianization was portrayed. Note the recent scoffing and outrage at the (actually lying) story that The Simpsons was being banned in Venezuela. (If they meant any episodes produced after 1999, I'd be 100% in favour of it.)

Popular media culture is the unifying and justifying narrative of world imperialism today, just like Christianity was in the 19th century. The TVs are the churches of the 21st century in the "opiate of the masses" sense, and idiots who think that harrassing Muslims is somehow "progressive" should realise that they're facing the wrong enemy.

A note to our American readers - you can possibly not understand what it's like living in a cultural colony, a country where 90% of the programmes on TV are about a foreign country, where people talk in your language but not in your accent. It encourages a feeling that nothing that happens in your actual world is really as "real" as what you see on the TV or the internet. You find, for example, in my country, people who have zero interest in the politics of our nation but will huddle around at each other's houses discussing how Clinton and Obama are doing in the primaries. This feeling is particularly strong among the middle classes, whose entire lives are bound up with media representations - for working people, I doubt it matters whether the people on TV talk in foreign or local intonations, they're smug elitists who look down on you in any case.

18 April 2008

Does this sound like YOUR coven / political party / affinity group?

If so, get a new one.

The means replace the end; loyalty substitutes for result; the group replaces life. That is no accident: the only true product of a cult is group members, desperately telling each other that they are an elite with the only answers to life’s questions. It becomes normal and commonplace to substitute certainty in place of truth, group loyalty in place of informed decision. As time goes on, one needs to believe in the group agreements in order to justify what he or she has done, the trashed families and so on.In such an environment, one is prevented from developing realistic understandings of self and the world.

(from Bob Penny's Social Control in Scientology)

Aphorism #83

Comrades and friends:

1. If I'm not posting here in a while, it's not that I've given up on the project, it's just that I tend to be trying to actually do stuff in the real world to make it a real thing. So don't panic.

2. I'm currently working out a major article to be published in real dead tree format on the issue of how cultural disposession is something that happened to working class "whites" as well as indigenous people, which will of course be full of CM methodology and insights. Also, doing a lot of artwork, getting healthy exercise, and helping out Project Chanology. (In case you didn't get the memo, the theme for the May 10 raid is Battletoad Earth. Check Encyclopedia Dramatica if you don't get the joke.)

3. I'm fed up of all this one-way communication. It makes me think that no-one's listening. However, I do a google search occasionally which shows that people are actually listening and creatively engaging with the concepts - by which I mean critiquing them rationally, not just having pre-programmed "COMMIES ARE STUPID LET'S THROW ROCKS AT THEM" kneejerk reactions like those idiot Bobbies (and sadly Rev. Stang) did in May last year. This warms the cockles of my black little heart.

4. Aphorism #83 says: if you don't have a scene, make one (from Tony James via Malcolm McLaren). So... how can we turn the Chaos Marxist meme into a conversation rather than an audience listening to a monologue from an easily distracted stand-up guru? I have no interest in being "Source". Will you guys start making comments, or sign up as contributors to the blog, or do we need an actual webforum or something?