March 26, 2002

Anti-globalization, militarism and lamebotismo

James Petras

There are three major forces acting in the contemporary world: the anti-globalization movement, increasingly opposed to the dominance of Euro-U.S. capital and imperial wars; Washington's militarization of global and domestic political-economy; and the increase of lamebotismo among Third World leaders eager to curry favor from Washington in exchange for loans, access to markets or simply because of ideological servility. Each of these three tendencies are evident in recent events and suggest that they are inter-related.

The resurgence of popular opposition to U.S. and European imperial domination is evident throughout the world since December 2001 and continuing this year. In Porto Alegre 70,000 participants from all over the world repudiated the dominance of capital and promoted a variety of alternative progressive proposals for peace and social justice. In Argentina close to three million people have been active repudiating the local ruling class and its U.S. and European patrons, overthrowing the first, but not the least of the lamebotista presidents. In Barcelona, Spain on March 16, 2002 close to 400,000 people denounced neo-liberalism, capitalism and Washington's war preparations, defying Aznars 20,000 soldiers and police, armed helicopters, gunboats and AWACs. In Italy on March 23, two million workers and employees marched against Berlusconi's neo-liberal policies, the U.S. war and globalization. The social movements converge, uniting across borders and growing in size and scope, linking domestic socio-economic issues with opposition to the multi-nationals and Washington's war plans.

In response to this popular democratic challenge from below, Washington has adopted a dual strategy of augmenting its military spending and projecting military force and launching a diplomatic offensive to stimulate lamebotismo among client politicians, particularly but not exclusively in Latin America.

The Bush Administration has officially increased its military budget by close to 20 percent, almost 300 billion dollars. In the same time period it has extended new military bases in the former Soviet Republics in Central Asia and Georgia, as well as in Yemen, Macedonia, Kosova, Montenegro, El Salvador, Philippines, Ecuador, Brazil, Aruba and Peru. In addition, Washington is recruiting and financing mercenary forces to police regions of conquest, such as Turkish forces in Afghanistan, Pakistani military on the Afghan borders, Kurds in Northern Iraq, etc. The worldwide confrontation between the anti-globalization and popular movements and U.S. militarism is intimately related to the growing rejection of neo-liberal policies, and exploitation by U.S. and European banks and multi-national corporations.

In this confrontation Washington has increasingly called on its client-rulers in the Third world to intervene on behalf of the empire. Lamebotismo is not a new phenomena-throughout the colonial and neo-colonial period there were leaders of tribes, landlords, warlords and merchants willing to collaborate in the pillage of their countries in exchange for material payoffs and privileged status among the colonial subjects. The typical psychology of a lamebotista collaborator is authoritarian (in the Adorno sense): at the feet of those more powerful, at the throat of the powerless.

In recent months Washington has given the green light to its lamebotista clients in Latin America. Appointed-President Duhalde of Argentina has pledged to vote with the U.S. against Cuba in the U.N. and declared his willingness to send mercenary troops to whatever war Washington declares. Washington accepts Duhalde's pledges of allegiance but denies him any new loans, because he operates in a political vacuum: his subservience only increases the opposition. President Pastrana ends peace negotiations, supports Washington's increased control of the Colombian military operations and continues to lose popular support and the war with the guerrillas. President Toledo offers Washington new military bases, greater control over inland rivers and frontiers, in exchange for nothing more than promises of greater military loans. President Lagos offers to vote against Cuba in the U.N. (Geneva) and support for ALCA in exchange for inclusion in NAFTA.

While these client Presidents follow the orthodox lamebotas' line of servility for some economic favors, Jorge Castaneda, the Mexican Foreign Minister, pursues a heterodox lamebotista policy: he acts for U.S. policy while increasing economic privileges to his U.S. patrons. "George" (Castaneda) as he is known among his mentors in Washington demonstrates that lamebotismo can reach new and unprecedented heights-of servility. George was the first Latin American Foreign Minister to declare unconditional support for Washington's military intervention in Afghanistan. In fact, he beat his competitor lamebotista colleagues in Latin America by several days! George then proceeded toward provoking a rupture in the historical ties between Mexico and Cuba by inciting Cuban lumpen to violently enter the Mexican embassy in Cuba during a meeting of Cuban exiles in Miami. George then proceeded to disinvite Castro to the Monterrey meeting, complying ,in the most servile manner, with Bush's "protocols". In exchange for these violations of Mexico's traditional independent foreign policy, Castaneda asked for nothing. In fact, there was no quid pro quo. Castaneda went further and supported Bush's proposal that foreign aid should be accompanied by greater imperial control and intervention to ensure that the foreign aid funds did not serve any national/popular interests. Castaneda, with President Fox's approval, agreed to greater U.S. customs and immigration control on the Mexican side of the border. The U.S. has responded to Castaneda's servility by closing down thousands of maquiladores (they have moved to China), firing one million workers.

I do not believe Washington "pressured" George as some critics assert. He has a long and undistinguished record of serving his U.S. patrons. His variety of heterodox lamebotismo is both ideological and personal: ideological because he believes that Third World leaders should subordinate themselves to Washington because it is the natural order of the world. As one servile peasant once told me, "There is a hierarchy in the world in which one serves the patron and orders the peons." Personal, because George's reference group for status and success is measured by the accolades he receives from powerful and prestigious personalities and institutions in the U.S.

The great confrontation between the U.S. military empire and the anti-globalization movement was embodied in Monterrey, with Fidel Castro speaking for the oppressed and against globalization and Bush defending militarism and offering less annual aid to the entire Third World than is proffered to the Israeli settler regime.

Castaneda's attempt to limit the popular appeal of Castro's message to the people of Mexico and the world through gross and petty machinations, which gratified his Texas patron. However, in the end, history will remember Castro's speech at the Monterrey Conference as a contribution to the growing worldwide anti-globalization movement.

Future social scientists, studying political pathologies will note the extremes to which lamebotismo was carried by ex-Foreign Minister George Castaneda, in order to secure a visiting professorship at the Kennedy School at Harvard University.