Friday, July 27, 2007

Brazil Has Come of Age: Castro on Brazil as the New United States

Fidel Castro has used the occasion of the Pan American Games held in 2007 in Rio de Janeiro to think about the development of Brazil and its new role in Latin America. It is interesting to work through his ideas as they relate to international relations, and the construction of an international rule of law order. See Fidel Castro Ruz, Reflexiones del Comandante en Jefe. Tercera reflexión sobre los Panamericanos. ¿BRASIL SUSTITUTO DE ESTADOS UNIDOS?. 23 de julio del 2007 (for the English version click here).

The statement, quite short, focuses on the development of global markets for labor, and specifically markets for sports labor. This market place is private as has been built on the assumption that states will not seek to create monopolistic sub markets for labor within their territory. Within this marketplace, Brazil tends to be a net importer of labor. So is the United States, and Germany as well. Developing countries tend to be net exporters of sports labor. Why? Because labor, like capital, tends to flow (when unimpeded) to those places where it might maximize its return.

Thus, Castro starts his discussion:

A short while ago I was saying about the brain drain that is disgusting. A bit later, a good offensive player on the Cuban handball team showed up wearing the uniform of a professional Sao Paulo team. Betrayal for money is one of the favorite weapons the United States uses to destroy Cuba's resistance. The athlete was a higher education student; he would be a graduate with a degree in Physical Education and Sport, an honorable job. His income is modest, but his professional training is highly appreciated; whatever the sport or specialty, if they attract a large audience and commercial publicity or none at all they are still useful for human growth.
Fidel Castro Ruz, Reflexiones del Comandante en Jefe. Tercera reflexión sobre los Panamericanos. ¿BRASIL SUSTITUTO DE ESTADOS UNIDOS?. 23 de julio del 2007 (for the English version click here).

Castro acknowledges that in a system seeking a singular global labor market, labor will tend to follow returns. In a global labor market, talent will flow to those places where labor can maximize its earning. For states, like Cuba, that tend to have low wages, it is difficult to keep local labor, even when they seek to offer non-financial compensation. This mat be galling, especially for states like Cuba, that invest a tremendous amount of state resources on training labor. For such states, it appears that that wind up subsidizing the development and training of labor factors of production for exploitation by developed states, without any hope of realizing a return on their investment. Or even of realizing their costs to produce the athlete.
This relentless plundering of brains in South countries dismantles and weakens programs aimed at training human capital, a resource which is needed to rise from the depths of underdevelopment. It is not limited to the transfer of capital; it also entails the import of grey matter, which nips a country's nascent intelligence and future at the bud.
Fidel Castro Ruz, Reflexiones del Comandante en Jefe. EL ROBO DE CEREBROS. 17 de julio del 2007 (in English click here). Ironically, Castro uses World Bank research for the purpose of elaborating his own theories. See Fidel Castro Ruz, EL ROBO DE CEREBROS, supra, 17 de julio del 2007 (in English click here) (citing Richard H. Adams, Jr., International Migration, Remittances and the Brain Drain: A Study of 24 Labor-Exporting Countries, World Bank Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network Policy Research Working Paper 3069 (June 2003)). "" Global labor, then, like global capital, serves the interests of the developed states, shifting the costs of development onto the least developed states, and creaming the benefits to augment their own wealth. See Backer, Larry Cata, "Ideologies of Globalization and Sovereign Debt: Cuba and the IMF," Pennsylvania State International Law Review, Vol. 24, 2006.

But, for Castro, global labor markets violate the national principle of classic Marxist Leninist thought. If socialism is national, then efforts to uncouple socialist development of production from the state violate principles of rational economic development. On this basis, it can be no surprise that Castro speaks of the mechanics of global labor movements the way mainstream religion thinks of religious cults: "In Germany, there is a mafia devoted to selecting, buying and promoting Cuban boxers in international boxing matches. It uses sophisticated psychological methods and many millions of dollars." Fidel Castro Ruz, Reflexiones, supra. Thus, criminality is conflated with passivity. The idea is that labor cannot exercise its own free volition in the face of the imperatives of capital not otherwise controlled by the collective of individuals organized as states. As a consequence, though individuals think they are exploiting the global labor market, they are, for Fidel Castro, merely objects of manipulation--to be bought and sold in the market. See Fidel Castro Ruz, Reflexiones del Comandante en Jefe. Cuarta reflexión sobre los Panamericanos. LA REPUGNANTE COMPRAVENTA DE ATLETAS. 27 de julio del 2007 (in English here).

For Castro, public rule of law systems must be state centered. The purpose of economic activity--of which capital and labor markets form a part--is for the benefit of the state, and through the state, for its citizens. That requires strict control of both capital and labor markets, political control of economic activity. Private markets, and private rule of law systems, are incomprehensible, or at least not legitimate. Private law systems cannot escape the imperative of political control. As such, private systems--global labor and capital markets grounded in free movement--must serve the interests of the states form which the bulk of the activity is controlled.
As such, "The trend towards the privatization of knowledge and the internalization of scientific research companies subordinated to big capital has been creating a kind of "scientific apartheid" which affects the vast majority of the world's population." Fidel Castro Ruz, Reflexiones del Comandante en Jefe. EL ROBO DE CEREBROS. 17 de julio del 2007 (in English click here).

Thus, Castro describes the system in terms of theft. What in the English version of the "Reflextion" is rendered as the passive "brain drain" (see above) is rendered in the original Spanish literally as a more active "mind theft" ("robo de cerebros")
Fidel Castro Ruz, Reflexiones, supra. And he characterizes the action by those who exploit the global labor market in sports as traitors. What in the English version is translated as "betrayal for money," in the original Spanish version is better rendered as "treason for money" ("La traición por dinero"). "What, from the technological and economic points of view, has been the worst problem faced by poor countries? The brain drain. What has been their worst problem in patriotic and educational terms? Talent theft."Fidel Castro Ruz, Reflexiones del Comandante en Jefe. Cuarta reflexión sobre los Panamericanos. LA REPUGNANTE COMPRAVENTA DE ATLETAS. 27 de julio del 2007 (in English here).

It is in these terms that Castro understands a rule of law: and fleshes out his long held views of the illegitimacy of globalization based on private law systems. "Last Sunday, July 22, around noon, the sad news was received that two of the most outstanding athletes in boxing, Guillermo Rigondeaux Ortiz and Erislandy Lara Santoya did not show up for the weigh-in. Very simply they were knocked out by a punch to the chin, paid with American bills. No countdown was needed."
Fidel Castro Ruz, Reflexiones, supra. Where economics and politics cannot be separated, globalization is possible only through state planning, private systems cannot be legitimate. This basic understanding drives much of what Cuba is attempting. It explains the differences in view of what constitutes law and its rule. It has given rise to the new experiment in regional trade associations--the ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas).

And for Castro, Brazil occupies a curious place in the constellation of global labor markets. It is clear that Brazil is joining the group of states that can afford to exploit global labor markets for its own advantage. At the same time, its own historical and economic experiences should make it sensitive to the hidden political subordination inherent in global labor markets.
It is totally unjustified to seek political asylum. If Brazil is not the final marketplace, it makes little difference. There are wealthy countries in the First World who would pay much more. The Brazilian authorities have declared that whoever wishes to defect must prove the real necessity for seeking asylum. It is impossible to prove the opposite. Even beforehand, we know their final destination as mercenary athletes within a consumer society. I think that they have offended Brazil by using the Pan American Games as the pretext for their self-promotion. In any case, we consider the declarations of the authorities to be useful. Fidel Castro Ruz, Reflexiones, supra.
Again, something is lost in the translation. The English version speaks of those seeking political asylum. The Spanish version describes those who desert ("los que desertan") the nation. Castro expresses the ope that the change in official Brazilian policy suggests that Brazilian authorities are offended by the spectacle of well trained athletes from developing states deserting their homeland for financial gain. But the facts he relates suggests that Brazil has joined the family of nations that find global labor markets in sports a valuable tool of national policy.

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