July 13, 2014

Agricultural Globalization, El Salvador Example


Classical public agricultural programs have been doing in El Salvador what they’ve always done everywhere they’ve been deployed – improve the economic stability of small farmers and enhance their ability to produce plentiful, healthy food.
That’s why corporate agriculture and globalization have always targeted these since the onset of the neoliberal campaign. This was the first thing in Kissinger’s mind when he said “control the food and you control the people”, or what Earl Butz was thinking of when he coined the phrase “food weapon”. Behaviorally, the main goal of IMF-driven debt indenture has been to force the “structural adjustment” of these agricultural programs across the global South, i.e. to eradicate them.
They say the reason the Soviet experiment went awry in Russia was because it was a premature attempt to impose modern socialism upon an economy still basically feudal. Whether that’s true or not, what’s far more anti-historical and worse from any practical view is neoliberalism’s “post-modern” imposition of what’s basically a restoration of feudalism, whether it be upon a modern agricultural economy like that of Europe (the TTIP/TAFTA looks to be perhaps corporatism’s last big chance to do that) or upon a southern country like El Salvador just now attempting to build an agricultural economy through the successful use of public interest programs.
That’s the context for the US government’s blackmail over a proposed “foreign aid” package. The vehicle for this alleged aid is to be a thing called the Millennium Development Corporation. Instituted by the Bush administration and cherished by Obama, this entity is as ugly as its name. Along with USAID, such government-constituted pseudo-NGOs are merely another kind of laundered corporate welfare and propaganda conveyance. (The nominally “private” counterparts of these are the corporatist foundations. Where it comes to agriculture, Bill Gates’ AGRA is the most aggressive.)
The money is promised to bring the whole gamut of “development” and “jobs”. We already know that neoliberalism does nothing but destroy jobs, and is indeed nothing but an accelerated job destruction program along a propaganda campaign to justify this to the people and keep them politically quiescent. Phony promises that staying the course will somehow, by some veritable magic, bring back the good old days of jobs that support a middle class lifestyle, are the core of this propaganda.
The architects of globalization peddle a version of this same propaganda to the aspiring bourgeoisie of the global South (and to Western liberals who, they hope, can be duped with the term “foreign aid” into politically supporting the western corporate welfare and corporate domination involved).
Leaving aside the question of whether the 1950s Levittown lifestyle really is the best way of life humanity can possibly achieve (there seems to be a consensus among Western ideologies – liberal, conservative, libertarian, as well as most “radicals” – that it is), it’s a proven fact that none of this can work.
Even if one is serious about wanting to continue with the employment model but to “reform” it, it’s clear that the heyday of “job creation”, an artifact of the days of cheap oil, is over and done with. If you want to reform, your only real option is to rejigger the system so that each jobholder receives a living wage for working fewer hours. This could easily be done. Even at this point in civilization’s energy cycle there’s still far more than enough wealth for it. Society and the economy would be far healthier and more productive if we all worked fewer hours with a much higher minimum wage. As with single payer health insurance in the US, it could easily be done and would be a vastly more rational, constructive policy. As with single payer, the one and only thing preventing it is that the two political parties and their respective liberal and conservative constituencies don’t want to do it. In the US the constituency among the people for corporate fascism is roughly synonymous with the persistent, reactionary voters for either corporatist party.
Getting back to El Salvador, the goal of neoliberal propaganda here is to drum up such a constituency in a southern country. But here it’s especially shoddy message, since there will clearly never be a period of such mass middle class development. It was cheap oil that afforded the extrusion of a Western mass middle class in the mid 20th century. Corporatization also wasn’t as fully rationalized. Today we have a globally constricting resource pie even as corporatism has become fully totalitarian. We can call this fully developed neoliberal corporatism “postmodern” in the sense that it’s intended to be the vehicle for the restoration of a fully corporate-feudal system for the post-oil age. I’ve written before about how capitalism never fully supplanted feudalism, but rather developed a capitalist/feudal hybrid, with the corporation as its most typical form and weapon of power. Now corporatism seeks to totally constrain all economic and political forces in order to maintain the power of today’s elites and the system which empowers them, in whatever form the post-oil energies afford.
Therefore the South will never go through its own stage of mass middle class development. Its resource base and labor will have to be ever more rationally and viciously exploited by transnational corporations and the most powerful Western governments (the BRIC governments are also trying to set up such an exploitation system, and like with the West’s “New Alliance” campaign, also have an eye on Africa) in order to maintain their own power and fraudulent “growth” propaganda for domestic consumption. But the southern-oriented propaganda is meant to foster delusions of such development in the South, and in that way engender widespread collaboration and even wider quiescence. As always, the main goal isn’t so much to gain active support, but just the absence of active resistance.
So far this hasn’t been working in El Salvador, as a coalition of farmers and NGOs has launched its own publicity campaign highlighting the great successes of the country’s current system of government supported non-GM seed production and distribution and the flourishing agriculture which has resulted. We can add to this the great potential of agroecology to build truly sustainable, healthy, prosperous agricultural economies and communities across the global South, and across the world.
In the meantime the success of El Salvador’s non-corporate policy is an example of a universal truth of agricultural economy, that all advances and innovations have always come from farmers themselves or from farmers supported by farmer-oriented public programs. Meanwhile the “private sector” has never developed or innovated anything or indeed performed any constructive role whatsoever. Historically, the corporate sector has merely waited for publicly developed technology, science, and infrastructure to sufficiently accumulate, and then used political means to expropriate what farmers and the public built. A gambit like the funneling of “aid” money through a corporate front organization like USAID or the Millennium Development Corporation, with every kind of privatization string attached, is an example of the way this kind of expropriation proceeds under globalization.



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