Saturday, August 22, 2009


1. Cowboy Up!
Taking the lessons learned at the feet of the US military to heart, the Republic of Honduras' Cobra squadron woke the president of that country to tell him the bad news: 1) he was no longer president; 2) he never really was president; 3) there really isn't a republic of Honduras; 4) a plane was waiting to take him to that haven of stability, productive farms, and CIA stations, Costa Rica; 5) he would have to leave his credit cards behind.
Zelaya, blinking in the beams of the US military issued flashlights, appeared confused. "Where am I?" he asked, "Haiti?"
Haiti, indeed. The same ratbag collection of consultants, counterrevolutionaries, drug dealers, death squaders, entrepreneurs, landowners, and hedge funders came together once again. And not just through necessity, but through natural affinities, through a veritable kinship, through blood, albeit the spilled blood of others.
Once again, in Honduras as in Haiti, each bosom clasped the other to itself. Once again, that brotherhood of Blackberrys, rifles, and jump boots secured the expulsion of a president. Honoring the 40 year anniversary of the moon landing, the brotherhood announced its actions as one small step forward for CAFTA, and one giant step backward for humankind.
In Honduras as in Haiti, the once and former president had run afoul of.... privatization. Aristide had opposed the World Bank's schemes for the privatizaton of Haiti's government owned utilities. Actually, he had done more than just oppose these schemes. He actually wrote a book against those schemes, thereby enraging those stormtroopers of free marketeerism, those buccaneers of the digital age for whom asset-stripping, the annihilation not just of usefulness but of value and utility coincident, is the greatest good for the greatest number with that greatest number being, of course, 1.
Aristide expressed his opposition throughout his first administration, earning the enmity of the Clintonians and his first overthrow. He maintained that opposition throughout his second administration, earning the enmity of Bushites and his second overthrow.
There is no doubt that the coup in Honduras, the rousting of a president by a para-military elite, his extraordinary rendition to a life in exile, was anything other than free market at work. Behind every free market there's a death squad.
There is no doubt that the motivation for the coup was the same motivation that guides US capitalism and its handmaidens, its beneficiaries, its shills, its agents, its remoras, in every action in every second of every day. And those motivations are fear and greed.
Fear-- by joining ALBA, in embracing Chavez, Zelaya would subvert Honduras' status as a US dependency, which since the US accounts for 45% of Honduran exports and imports produced in the bourgeoisie, big and little, north and central, fear, loathing, and nausea.
Greed-- eager to take advantage of the provisions of the CAFTA agreement, anxious to do to Honduras what "private equity" firms had to done to corporations at home and abroad, the new/old, conservative/liberal, big/little, north/central alliance of the bourgeoisie was determined to strip the assets of public utilities away from the Honduran government.
It, asset stripping of public utilities is not a new endeavor for our liquidationist-monetarist, hedge fund, death squad bourgeoisie. Asset stripping has been around since before the Washington Consensus. Indeed, without the asset-stripping as practiced and enshrined in the Reagan administration, the Washington Consensus never would have existed. Property, after all, does determine ideology.
Bolivia in 1994, during Goni's first administration, saw the passage of the capitalization law aimed a privatizing the public sector, the mines, the airline, telecommunications, electricity generation, gas and oil, the railways, etc, with 50 percent of ownership offered directly to private investors, and the other 50 percent to be held "in trust" for the public, a trust organized as pension funds to be administered by international money managers. Among the utilities to be
privatized, the public water utility which supplied El Alto, in the mountains above La Paz.

Halliburton, and later French Suez, salivating over converting such a universal necessity into a commodity to be traded, hedged, detached from social need and transformed into private property, targeted the water supply like a terrorist would target a city bus. Everything under capitalism is held hostage; exchange value becomes a ransom-generating vehicle. Every capitalist a landlord! Every landlord a kidnapper! Not just profit, RENT!
During Goni's second administration, the residents of El Alto organized in neighborhood councils to expel Halliburton, and Suez, and restore the water and its distribution to the municipal water utility. The struggle over water soon merged with the struggle over the privatization of the petroleum sector, and Goni fled his office with the residents of El Alto, and the miners, and the school teachers, and the rural poor of the country in hot pursuit. This time, of course, this president was only too happy to accept the military's offer of air transport to a place of greater safety-- Florida.
The bourgeoisie, big/little, north/central, might have targeted Honduras' public water utility, if Honduras had a developed and functional water utility, but it doesn't. Access to safe, public, water supplies and sanitation in the urban areas is available to barely 2/3 of the population. In rural areas, less than half those classified as extremely poor even have access to septic tanks for sanitation.
No, water wasn't the target as that would have required our liquidationist bourgeoisie to actually develop and accumulate an asset prior to stripping it.
Telephones... there was the target. The national telephone company, Hondutel, was the prize kept in the eyes of our CAFTA raiders. And why not? In 2006, the IMF had already stated and in public that "the implementation of CAFTA and the opening of the telecommunications market will help build growth prospects...," adding, somewhat ominously, "although there will be a need for measures to offset lower government revenues." And what was that offset to be? Why, of course, nothing other than an agreement by the Honduran government to limit wages paid to the public sector employees, particularly teachers. Wrote our IMFers, "key policy achievements include fiscal adjustment, particularly by controlling the increase of the wage bill." There we have it, the compressed identity of modern capitalism, asset-stripping and wage reductions.. in short the continuous reproduction of poverty, and the permanent development of underdevelopment.
The bourgeoisie, big/little, north/central knew that even during this, by many measures, the most severe economic contraction since the Great Depression, a contraction that had reduced the flow of emigrants from Honduras, Mexico, all of Central America seeking work in El Norte; even during this contraction dramatically reducing the remittance from those workers still employed or not in the country of above ground under water real estate; just knew that those still in the big land of the subprime mortgage, the subminimum wage, the substandard education would still want to call home.
Zelaya, to the chagrin of his own party, his own class, had opposed, actually resisted, this asset stripping. our little brother bourgeoisie of Honduras, weak, stunted, impoverished, venal, vicious, a too perfect homunculus of their big brother/patrons to the North, flipped the script yet again on the "usual history" of the bourgeoisie's "rise to power." Where in the advanced countries, the bourgeoisie used their wealth to obtain government power, in the "undeveloped" countries of Central America, the bourgeoisie used governmental power as a means to amassing wealth. In this latest iteration, the little/big, north/central bourgeoisie find their opportunity for wealth in "dismantling" government, in privatizing the public revenue of the public utilities:
"A cell phone in every hand!"
"A connection fee for every call!"
"Every connection fee in my pocket!"
That's the future as envisioned, as practiced, by our rentier-monetarist bourgeoisie of CAFTA.
[For a solid discussion of this coup d'telephone see this summer's writings of Machetera at:].
2. No Time For Cowboys
If the bourgeoisie, big/little, central/north, exiled, expelled, exported one of their own over what surely to them was the issue of fee splitting, we don't have to imagine, we know what they have done, are doing, and will do against those others, the urban and rural poor, the workers of the maquiladoras, the landless, the subsistence producers.
We know that our little/big, central/north, bourgeoisie, embracing the legacy of their Spanish/English mercantile/capitalist forefathers have created in Honduras the second poorest country in Latin America; a country with an infant mortality rate of 24 per thousand; a country where the income share of the poorest 20 percent of the population is 2.5 percent and the income share of the wealthiest 20 percent is 66 percent; a country where 70 percent of the landholders possess 10 percent of the land while 1 percent of the landholders possess 25 percent of the land; a country where more than half the population is poor, where two-thirds of the poor live on less than US $1.50 per day; a country where 50 percent of the rural population toils at subsistence agriculture on hillsides with slopes with a gradient of more than 12 percent; a country where remittances from emigrant laborers grew from 8 percent of GDP in 2000 to 20 percent of GDP in 2006-- and 2006, by no accident, is the year when the rate of profit in industry in the US peaks, the year that brought hundreds of thousands of migrant laborers into the streets of US cities.
Our big/little, north/central bourgeoisie have created in Honduras not just a country but a mirror to the real terms of the reproduction of capital from hacienda to maquiladora.
In its June 2006 assessment of poverty in Honduras, the World Bank wrote:

Poverty in Honduras has hardly changed since 1998, despite economic growth at 3 percent annually in real terms. Although per capita GDP growth has basically been stagnant at 0.3 percent per year, this can only explain, partially, the lack of progress...

That was 2006. In 2007 the World Bank produced its Annual Progress Report [APR] on Honduras' Poverty Reduction Strategy [PRS]. Different year, same report:
Overall incidence of poverty and extreme poverty has fallen only slightly between 2001 and 2006. Inequality has increased..
Subscribing to big brother's Washington Consensus, Honduras in the 1990s reduced tariffs, joined the GATT, established special export processing zones [EPZ], negotiated bi-lateral agreements with Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United States. It was, it is, the era of the maquiladora, and the number of firms availing themselves of the incentives and privileges of the EPZs grew from 24 in 1990 to 306 in 2005 to 313 in 2006. Employment in the EPZs expanded during this same period from 9000 to 130,000. Value added to product grew from US $16.2 million in 1990 to US $970 million in 2005, and exceeded US $ 1 billion in 2006.
By 2006, the maquiladoras accounted for 27 percent of Honduras' exports of goods and service. Traditional exports-- bananas, coffee, precious metals-- had declined from 51 percent of exports to 16 percent of exports.
"Growth!" that was the patent medicine, the miracle in a bottleneck the bourgeoisie promoted.
And who supplied that growth? Who worked in the EPZs, adding all that value to non-traditional exports? Women, of course. In a country where female participation in the non-domestic labor force is barely 50 percent, almost 70 percent of the workers in the EPZs were women. In a country where 4.3 million are of working age, where the average age is 20, in that country of young women and men, 130,000 produced 27 percent of the country's exports.
And of what did these non-traditional exports consist? Textiles and apparel accounted for 51 percent of the output of the EPZs. Where maquiladoras are, where women are the labor force to be exploited intensively, textiles and clothing are the "entry" products.
Twenty four percent of the EPZ output consists of auto components, furniture and wood products.
Textiles, clothing, auto components, furniture, wood products... these are the areas that have suffered for more than just the last 18 months, and from more than just the current economic contraction.
With the admission of China to the WTO and the removal of quotas on China's textile and apparel exports with the expiration of the multifiber agreement [MFA], production in the maquiladoras of Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Indian Ocean has declined. Between 1997 and 2002, the average annual rate of growth [AARG] on non-traditional exports from the EPZs in Honduras measured 23 percent, while the rate of growth of the traditional exports measured negative 4 percent. Between 2002 and 2007, however, this relation was reversed with the growth rate of non-traditional exports slowing to 6 percent while that of the traditional exports accelerated to 12s percent per year.
At origin, and throughout its historical development, the economic distress that has affected Honduras, that has so impoverished its population, that has now propelled the population to confront the military is more than impervious to resolution through "growth." That distress is in fact the product of the growth of the world markets, the growth of capitalism which has maintained, enforced, and expanded the growth of underdevelopment. The growth that our charlatan-entrepreneurs flog so zealously as the tonic for all that ails all is nothing but the enclave, concession, special enterprise zoned manifestation of the overproduction of capital.
The struggle in Honduras is precipitated by the same overproduction of capital, the same underdevelopment of a human economy that has precipitated the industrial struggles in South Korea, in France, the UK, China. As such, the struggle has nothing to do, essentially, with the restoration of Zelaya to power; has nothing to do with calls for "democracy," with the demand for a "constituent assembly," all of which only serve to obscure the fundamental class relations at the core. Honduras already has a constitution. It already has a parliament, a supreme court.

The fetishization of "convene a constituent assembly," stemming from the Russian Revolution confuses the inability of a "liberal democratic bourgeoisie" to execute a program for its power [as it could not in Russia in 1917], with the current conditions where the bourgeoisie already have their political power and need no longer obscure class relations behind "democracy," behind a parliament, behind a constitution. This is, here and now in Honduras, as liberal and democratic as the bourgeoisie gets. To demand a "constituent assembly" in Honduras is to obscure the origin and resolution of the situation in class struggle. The sham constituent assembly process conducted by Morales in Bolivia says all that needs to be said about the significance, the class content, of the "constituent assembly."
The workers, students, the urban and rural poor, the women of the maquiladoras will find the solution the the "problem" of underdevelopment/overproduction in their own strike committees, defense committees-- in the example of the neighborhood councils of El Alto in Bolivia, and not in the charade, and dead, literally, end, literally of a "constituent assembly."
S. Artesian
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