Why not seek reform??


Richard Moore

Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2002 12:27:43 -0400
To: •••@••.•••, •••@••.•••
From: •••@••.••• (Jan Slakov)
Subject: Preventive medicine: your opinion sought

Dear Richard & Carolyn,

Richard, I don't know if Carolyn sent this to you too or

Anyhow, I find it interesting. But it occurs to me that the
suggestions being offered would amount to "reforms" which
you say are inadequate. Still, I think they are worthwhile
to pursue.

What would you say? (Feel free to post to the list with your

all the best, Jan

PS It was neat that Bill Blum asked for your opinion and,
like him I found your reply really good.

    [Jan forwarded a lengthy article which proposed various
    reforms, focusing on defusing tensions in the Middle East
    and reducing oil consumption in the West,  - rkm]


Dear Jan & Carolyn,

I also appreciated Bill's question, and in my next posting
I'll include some more dialog with Bill.  As for reforms...

~Reforms~ are not inadequate, they are exactly what we need.
It is the ~pursuit~ of reform which is inadequate - as a
strategy for transformation.  Consider...

One of the article's suggestions is that we promote the
stabilization of the Middle east, partly by reducing our
consumption of oil.  Well that sounds nice to me, and I'm
sure much good would come from it.  I'd say that's a fine

But whose goal?  If it's our goal - the goal of activists
and progressives - then the question we need to ask is how
those reforms and others can be brought about.   More about
that further down.

But from the tone of the article, I'd say it is addressed to
those who make policy: "If you really want to fight
terrorism, here are measures that make good sense."

If we are trying to influence policy makers, then we have to
understand something about how they make decisions, what
their goals are, what their game plan is.  The clear policy
of the U.S. for many years in the Middle East has been to
promote tensions, and inhibit modernization, so as to more
easily control and manipulate the governments in the region.
With regard to oil generally, the clear policy has  been to
do everything possible to maximize the global consumption of
petroleum, and at the highest price the market will bear.

These policies are not stupid, they accomplish important
objectives for the global economy.  The policies keep most
of the profits from oil in the hands of oil multinationals and
international banks, instead of being kept for domestic
development in the Middle East.  The high consumption of oil
keeps the auto industry, the airline industry, and countless
other industries in business and allows them to keep
growing.  Oil is in fact the primary engine of the economy,
and these policies, and other we don't like, are considered
necessary to keep the global economy going and growing.

Even though the profits of the big multinationals is at an
all time high, there is always a struggle to find ways to
grow next year, and the year after that.  In fact,
international capitalism is in crisis, as we can see from
the failures of many once-vibrant economies (Korea,
Argentina, etc. etc.), and as we can see from the billion
dollar bailout for the airlines - who were already in deep
trouble before 9/11.  Not to mention the general recession
that is hitting the U.S. and much of Europe.

How can we expect leaders who are desperately seeking growth
to seriously consider undertaking major programs that would
reduce growth?  They could only laugh, and dismiss the
request as sentimental liberalism:  "Where do these people
think they would get jobs if we cut back on energy use and
otherwise shrunk the economy to achieve sentimental goals? 
These softy liberals think they can wave a magic wand and
have their cake and eat it to.  Any President who did those
things would bring on a global depression and then there'd
be a real howl from those liberal hypocrites!"

~Reforms~, as I said at the beginning, are not inadequate -
they are exactly what we need.  But... there is no way
reforms of any significance can be achieved while capitalism
remains the economic paradigm.  Even if a political party
got in which sincerely wanted those kind of reforms, they
wouldn't be able to implement them without bringing the
economy to its knees.  In fact, before they even took
office. the national markets would crash as investors moved
their money to less 'troublesome' arenas.

In order to escape from this trap, lots of things would need
to be done all at once.  You'd need to insulate the national
economy from the global money markets, bring the currency
under government control, and seriously restructure
taxation.  You'd need to implement a full spectrum of
regulations on banks and corporations, particularly to
prevent flight of jobs and capital from the country.  You'd
need to withdraw from most of the free trade treaties, which
are designed specifically to prevent the kind of reforms
we're talking about here.

These and other measures would be needed simply to ~enable~
pursuit of the kind of reforms mentioned in the article. 
The actual pursuit of the article's reforms would then require
massive government-sponsored programs to develop things like
transportation infrastructures, and to ensure adequate
employment and services during the economic transition.

I'm not talking at all about pursuing any kind of 'ideal'
future, but simply the minimal enabling measures that would be
required to undertake any significant reforms at all.  If
you think I've got it wrong, or I'm exaggerating, I'd
certainly like to hear your arguments.  I'd be quite happy
to be wrong.  But as I see it 2+2=4 and I don't see any way
to change that.

And even these minimal reforms are very radical, in the
context of today's neoliberal free-market ideology.  It
would take a lot more than a swing in the opinion polls, or
a bunch of letters written to representatives, or a sequence
of protest demonstrations, to bring it about.  It would take
a large and well-organized mass movement, with the kind
radical understanding we are talking about, very determined
to achieve its goals, and involving people from the full
spectrum of society.  Do you see any other way?

All of this would need to be done under the fire of a
hostile and devious mass media, and with all the official
experts telling us that we are heading for economic disaster
and socialist dictatorship.  And in the post 9/11 world, the
movement would no doubt be labelled terrorist.  Indeed, the
EU definition of terrorism includes any group using activism
to 'significantly change the economic system'.

The problem with reform proposals, such as the mentioned
article, is that they don't have anything to do with the
problems we face if we seek to actually make any changes. 
They aren't even arranging deck chairs on the Titanic - they
are musing about what kind of deck chairs we'll sit on
when the Titanic reaches port.  First we need to deal with
the issue of the Titanic itself (capitalism and elite rule),
before we can deal with what kind of features we want on our
new ship.

I didn't make it that way, I'm just the messenger.