Sunday, April 23, 2006

Return to Ecuador, 8

1. In all its iterations, the nation represents for capital nothing more or less than a market. The geographical, ethnic, cultural compositions of a nation are, like biology, accidental, temporary, and limiting: more or less useful, more or less useless, depending upon the rates of return.

The viability, and practicality, of the nation are its economic, social determinants, and chief among those is the strength of the domestic market. The domestic market is itself the product of the transformation of agriculture, the transformation of the land itself, simple property, into expanded, compounded property; from a useful object into value producing value; into a means of reproducing the expropriation of labor.

The domestic market requires that labor itself be detached, expelled, expropriated, "freed" from the necessity or ability to sustain itself; that is to say, the labor must be useless to itself other than as means of exchange. Useful production, collective or individual for the collective, is a limit to the creation of the domestic market, to the expansion of production.

The Spanish conquistadors confronted and destroyed just such an agricultural system of collective useful production. The conquest destroyed the collective agriculture labor and the useful production of the indigenous peoples of the Andes substituting the hacienda, the mita, the encomienda, the huasipungo. The conquest did not detach, "free" that collective labor, but bound it in ever greater misery and dependency to subsistence and subsistence production.

2. The urban centers of the conquest economy emerge, grown, and function as either administration centers for the destruction of the indigenous culture and economy through installation of the hacienda; or as transit centers, warehouses, depots, transfer points for the extraction of the natural resources, for the liquidation of the accumulated values of the indigenous cultures, and the export of commodities.

The distinction between Sierra and Costa in Ecuador is just this distinction between administration and export; between hacienda and export crop production. In neither Sierra nor Costa does the city function as the permanent market. In neither Sierra or Costa are the cities the centers for establishing reciprocating reproduction of value, where labor expelled from the land, from agricultural production, is aggrandized in the expansion of manufacturing, with the manufacturing sustaining the expansion in agricultural output, with the increased agricultural output supporting increasing urban populations. It is not just poverty that distinguishes the stunted capitalism of Ecuador. It is the incapacity of capitalism to absorb that poverty, to detach the poverty from its rural roots, to reproduce the poverty as expanded value that so defines capitalism in Ecuador as the decayed offspring of the conquest.

3. The poverty of national development in Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, in the Andean countries all, is not the deformation, suppression, of an embryonic but modern "healthy" national capitalism under the weight of the developed economies of Europe and North America. Capitalism creates itself, to be sure, but not out of thin air, and not as it might like to be. Capital, after all, is not born as or from a homunculus, a "little man." In its specific deformations, capitalism maintains and reproduces the conditions of its own pre-history. The specific distortions of capitalist, national undevelopment in Ecuador contain, the truth and the lie, the limits and potential of capital to create any of the material pre-requisites of development. Thus the inadequacy of the domestic market is the ultimate product of the market system itself; the persistent indenturing of labor to landed property is the proof positive, and negative, of the congenital inadequacy of the wage-system.

Production for export-- textile, cacao, bananas, petroleum-- is based on the inability of capital to overcome the limit of its own existence, private property. Underdevelopment is not so much imposed as it is achieved. It, underdevelopment, is the national project of the bourgeoisie.

S. Artesian
May 27, 2006

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