To begin we must first understand how neo-liberalism functions in both the Third and First World. Let us start by identifying neo-liberalism as a form of imperialism. In today’s neo-liberalism we see the accumulation of capital in a few countries at the expense of others, who are the debtors of these advanced capitalist economies. In a certain sense Lenin’s critique of imperialism, which he articulated in the age of British imperialism, is apt here:
“Imperialism is an immense accumulation of money capital in a few countries … Hence the extraordinary growth of a class, or rather, of a stratum of rentiers, i.e., people who live by “clipping coupons”, who take no part in any enterprise whatever, whose profession is idleness. The export of capital, one of the most essential economic bases of imperialism, still more completely isolates the rentiers from production and sets the seal of parasitism on the whole country that lives by exploiting the labour of several overseas countries and colonies…For that reason the term “rentier state” (Rentnerstaat), or usurer state, is coming into common use in the economic literature that deals with imperialism. The world has become divided into a handful of usurer states and a vast majority of debtor states.” (Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism).
We see this situation today, the financial class of the developed nations makes loans and investments in the Third World, which provides cheap labor and raw materials for them to use, and which in turn makes them a profit, while the governments of the Third World pay the usurers loans back at the expense of their native populations. These rentier states do not do any of the labor, they merely subsist off the earnings of their capital investments. The division between the rentier state and the Third World can be described as a relation of core and periphery. The rentier state constitutes the core, it controls money, it controls technology, if need be it can control the government and the media of the Third World debtor state, the Third World is the periphery, it provides resources and labor, though the earnings of the laborers doing the work of the First World rentiers is certainly not sufficient for it to develop autonomously, and the meager share of profits it keeps often go to pay off the debt it accumulated from the “aid” of the rentier state. The Third World is kept in a state of dependency, it needs the rentier to provide jobs, technology, investment, but the rentier only gives it to them in the measure where it can maintain its control over it. In the Third World this leads to social dislocations, such the creation of mass urban conglomerations around new industrial projects, uprooting people from their traditional agrarian lives, the formation of shanty towns where living conditions lead to serious health issues, and corruption in the Third World comprador class that acts as the enforcers of the rentier states.
One would think that this would be an immense boon to the populations of the First World rentier nations. Marxist Third World theorists have stated that the working classes of the First World constitute a “labor aristocracy,” where the profits made off the back of the Third World ease their sufferings. First World welfare states, funded in part from profits of Third World exploitation would seem to justify this analysis. However, in an age of austerity this critique is increasingly proving antiquated. In the United States and Western Europe vast swaths of once vital industrial territory rust away. The welfare state that once provided for the victims of outsourcing to Third World nations has been shredded over the past 30 years. There are no “labor aristocrats” in Detroit and Appalachia, nor in Glasgow or Languedoc-Roussillon. In response to economic crises, the displaced working class of the First World is told time and again to “tighten their belts.” In response to stagnant or declining wages, people are increasingly forced to rely upon credit to make up for the lack of purchasing power. Moreover, this situation is exacerbated by the mass importation of immigrants from the Third World to undercut wages in the First. In many respects, these deindustrialized regions are becoming the peripheral territories of the large financial centers. The usurious interest taken from their purchases on credit flows to the big banks in New York City or London, who in turn flood their local markets with cheap goods manufactured overseas to kill the homegrown economy. In short, the rentier state has become reduced, in the age of neo-liberalism, to the rentier city, and perhaps even the rentier neighborhood (Wall Street and the City of London). Beyond the City and Wall Street, lies the periphery. Ultimately, the political dimension of this situation is xenocracy, rule of aliens, that is to say rule by an elite completely foreign to the lives of the people being ruled. The financial elite at the center of the rentier state is alien, in differing degrees, to both the displaced industrial worker of the First World and the sweatshop laborer of the Third World.
That leaves the question, what is to be done? In many ways the Third World is far ahead of the peripheral regions of the First World in addressing this problem. For the Third World, the rentier class is immediately identifiable as foreign, he lives in a foreign country, he speaks a foreign language, in most cases he looks different, he may practice a different religion, hold a different set of moral values. Instantaneously, a dichotomy between the nationalist, anti-capitalist forces and the international, capitalist forces arises, as soon as some global corporation breaks the soil on a new development. Moreover, in the Third World there is no nostalgia for the days when they were at the center of the market, simply because they never were. The history of capitalism in the Third World is nasty, brutish, and short. The capitalists came first as foreign invaders, then as a foreign investors. There were no halcyon days of the welfare state as in the First World, where the average worker could expect to afford house and car with his wages. For the people of the Third World, the national and social struggle is clear. The small comprador class, which serves as the liaison between the First World capitalists and the Third World nation, is seen as treasonous. The great Juan Domingo Perón, called the class of collaborators in Argentina sepoys, after the native Indians who served with the British colonizers. To combat them, Perón wisely offered some advice to developing nations in 1972:
“We protect our natural resources tooth and nail from the voracity of the international monopolies that seek to feed a nonsensical type of industrialization and development in high tech sectors with market-driven economies. You cannot cause a massive increase in food production in the Third World without parallel development of industries. So each gram of raw material taken away today equates in the Third World countries with kilos of food that will not be produced tomorrow.
Halting the exodus of our natural resources will be to no avail if we cling to methods of development advocated by those same monopolies, that mean the denial of the rational use of our resources.
In defense of their interests, countries should aim at regional integration and joint action.
Do not forget that the basic problem of most Third World countries is the absence of genuine social justice and popular participation in the conduct of public affairs. Without social justice the Third World will not be able to face the agonizingly difficult decades ahead.”
These basic tenets, namely refusal to allow the parasitic foreign extraction of resources, the development of autonomous means of managing resources, regional and continental unity in the face of neo-colonial exploitation, and the wise use of resources to promote social equity in the nation, are the basis for Third World resistance. They are exemplified by the Pan-Arab, Pan-African, and Bolivarian movements and among men such as Nasser, Gaddafi, Chavez, and Sankara, in addition to the aforementioned Perón. Moreover, let us salute the tremendous history of Third World revolution encompassing figures such as Mao Zedong, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and Ho Chi Minh, who rose up against the foreign backed capitalist class. For the Third World, the struggle for national and social liberation has been alive for over sixty years, and despite the setbacks it has seen, its heart still beats strongly.
For the First World, there is certainly much to be done. There is a nostalgia for the “thirty glorious years” from 1945 to 1975 where the welfare state, and Keynesian economic policies in general ensured the prosperity of the working masses. Those days are gone, definitely, irrevocably. The era where the political elite acted in a paternalist fashion to the working class is over. Though the working class has yet to see the political elite as an alien, hostile elite. In many respects this is a much harder task than in the Third World. The political elite generally looks like them, they speak the same language, they may pay lip service to the same religious creeds, they live in the same country. But we must ask, does Detroit look like it belongs to the same country as Wall Street? It may as well be an entirely different one. In terms of moral values, does the working class man in West Virginia hold the same fundamental beliefs as the stockbroker in New York or the politician in Washington? Once again, a resounding no. Certainly things like television reinforce a common national culture, but then again so does global mass media reinforce a global mass culture from Libya and Venezuela to Hollywood. It is becoming increasingly clear that the average denizen of the American Rust Belt has absolutely nothing in common with the Hollywood glitterati he sees on television. As this alienation becomes clear, the struggle will enter a more active phase.
The people will no longer wait on the political elite to come and save them. They will see the political and financial class as a group of jet-setters disconnected from the essence of their lives, their national traditions, their economic well being. They will take things into their own hands. The old class struggle will become a national struggle for the survival of the people of the deindustrialized hinterlands. The old labor struggles will become icons of resistance, the strikes of coal miners and factory laborers will inspire new movements. Autonomous action will be key, people should begin to grow their own food, take control of their leased or mortgaged homes, establish their own cooperative economic enterprises. This will be sporadic at first, it will be bottom up local movements seizing control, if necessary forming armed units for self defense. The elite class will react, they will accuse the people of the nation of treason against them. Yet once they begin to take things into their own hands, petty appeals to a false patriotism made by the political elite will fall on deaf ears. The calls of aliens mean nothing to the true bearers of the national spirit, for the nation is not the politicians and stock jobbers of the capital and the big cities, it is the vast majority of the people they exploit. These people who can jet off to their tax havens are not the nation, and the sooner the people of the nation realize it, the sooner the nation will rise. The elite is as rootless as the dollars they transfer around the world, they may occupy certain districts of the First World, but they belong to no world. Their values are abstract, the rule of the laws of the market, they are not shaped by the experience of belonging to a community, with its historically defined social relations and codes of honor, but by pure individual self interest according to economic axioms. Their cultural productions are merely standardized, lifeless, consumer goods, as meaningless as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, they do not spring from the soil and the blood of a people’s history. This is the enemy, it must be targeted, and decisively defeated.
Against the greed of Wall Street and the filth of Hollywood, those discarded and exploited by the system will affirm their own ways of life, their own self sufficient economies, their own creeds. From the sweatshops of the Third World, to the shuttered factories of the First, the cause of the nation, the cause of the people, resounds with a thunderous call.