Saturday, August 27, 2016

Ruminations 63: Walls and Barriers; It's Not Just Donald Trump--Nationalism and the Emerging Consensus on Barriers to Global Society and to the Globalization of Culture and Values

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)

Globalization continues to transform the state, law, economics and culture.  What had started as an efficient means of ordering global production, with a side benefit of economic integration potentially reducing conflict to advance national interests (only recently viewed as antique, tribal and unnecessary) has now morphed to create profound global orderings of economic, social, cultural, civil and political norms.  "Indeed, one can understand the move toward control of civil society as an expression--a rear guard action--that recognizes that, like economic activity in the decades immediately proceeding this one, political activity is no longer a matter for a polity encased within a territorial state.  Rather,  internationalization of politics is an organic process inherent in the processes of globalization itself."(Here).

This post considers the way that discomfort about the emergence of globalization as a economic, social, cultural, political and civil phenomenon has begun to produce resistance among elites--and the cultivation of a renewed nationalism that mimics, perhaps in its most unfortunate forms, the nationalism that became the illness of the inter-war period of the last century.   That nationalism, stoked by national elites unable to effectively embrace their own national ideologies and to protect them unaided by assertions of power and control, may well threaten to divert globalization from its present course.  And worse--globalization appears to have been weaponized in some of its forms (e.g., here). But to what ends?

That globalization has morphed beyond its modest origins and objectives is now beyond dispute.  Everything is now a fit object of globalization. Indeed the last several decades has evidenced the extent to which local realities have been "challenged and integrated into larger global networks of relationships." (Marcelo Suarez-Orozco and Desirée Baolian Qin-Hillirad, "Globalization: Culture and Education in the New Millennium," in Globalization: Culture and Education in the New Millenium (20024) pp. 2 (education)).  Technology has made this globalization beyond trade more plausible. Borders as a barrier to cultural, civic, societal and political penetration becomes irrelevant int he face of travel, and the modern mechanisms of communication.

That morphing of globalization has been accomplished through but with an increasing resistance from, the elites of states whose very difference territorial borders were once meant as a physical manifestation of the aggregates of differences that made each state unique.  Or so traditional theory at its most aggressive would have had it. Empires made this messy even before globalization, and the rise of cultural hierarchies--to which international law, economics, and political theory pandered--reduced the notion to one fit for the most powerful states.  For the others, at least until the middle of the last century, there was territorial organization to suit Empire (European or otherwise) with overlorship shared with local aristocracies  which served empire even as they served themselves and eventually emerged as the embodiment of  national aspiration. But whatever their messy character the premise that states were necessarily (however they came into being and how they included within their borders) unique vessels of law, culture, politics, economics and civil communities appeared to be giving way, and at an accelerated pace from the last decade of the 20th century. But even apex states feared the overwhelming of local culture by globalized taste for cultural artifacts.  The French and their efforts to protect national "culture" through international organizations and law mechanisms provide a telling example, and a harbinger of what is coming (e.g., here). But not just the French (see, e.g., here)

And thus globalization becomes a potent reality altering phenomenon--reality altering in the sense that the premises that appeared nature and universal and that made it possible to support local power structures are swept away in favor of others). Elites viewed this as both positive (they made more money and became more entrenched in their local power bases) but as ultimately threatening (they could be swept away as the masses determined that the structures that supported their authority and privilege was now irrelevant and indeed an impediment to mass desire). By the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, this balance between welcoming and being threatened by the emergence of global economic, social, cultural, political and civil communities and norms  began to move decisively toward the threatening side.  Elites increasingly wanted the benefits of global trade and economic networks, but found the rise of global cultures of social norms, culture, civil organizations and the like threatening to national notions of uniqueness and thus of the authority of local power structures and the legitimacy of their practices.

The result is an increasing tendency to revive nationalism in its various forms.  One sees manifestations in China; Russia,and the United States each reflecting the distinct political cultures in which they arise but each arising in states that have been the greatest beneficiaries of the global order in their own ways (e.g., An Exhausted Democracy: Donald Trump and the New American Nationalism; The New Nationalism: 'Make My Country Great Again'; A state-led nationalism: The patriotic education campaign in post-Tiananmen China;  Vladimir Putin: Ethnic Russian Nationalist). In the United States, Mr. Trump calls for a barrier against immigration (see, e.g., here).  But that call for nationalist barrier building is hardly distinctive in the world today. The difference is that the direction of barrier building among the rest of the global community tends to be intangible and more clearly focused on those avenues of penetration of social, cultural, political and civic globalization.  These include stricter barriers against NGOs (see, e.g., China, India, Israel, Egypt, Pakistan, Uganda, Russia, Laos, Ecuador, Venezuela, and generally here and here). Civil society, Amnesty Internal has begun to understand, is increasingly viewed as a foreign element within national society (e.g., here) and precisely because it has globalized, effectively leaving the state behind (e.g., here, here, and here). And efforts to restrict the penetration of foreign cultural artifacts like films, music and clothing (See, e.g., Iran (music), RussiaIran (dress), France, India). In the United States and Canada these barriers can be perverse--coming from a strange transposition of politics to culture in the form of appropriation, the effect of which is to produce a ban on cultural migration (see, e.g., here).  But the U.S. and Canada had been heading towards a museum-preservationist view of culture for some time, and lamentably so (see, e.g., here). 

And, indeed,that admixture of globalization and nationalism in the social, cultural, political and clvi sphere has produced a view--perhaps a natural outgrowth of the propaganda wars of the 20th century--the the capacity to penetrate another state through societal, cultural, political and civil norms can be (1) managed and controlled, and (2) weaponized for use in the overthrow of unfriendly states.  In the face of this threat--what had been the growth of international harmonization can be readily converted into aggressive and subversive techniques in war among states. This weaponization is at the center of Mrs. Clinton's smart policy initiatives--strategically and instrumentally managing cultural shifts within states  in which a direct projection of military power would be less effective (see, e.g., here and here). But in response to this barriers are erected--walls are built.  Not Mr. Trump's walls, but barriers potentially much more effectively impermeable. 
And in deed, it is an important player in the thinking of military establishment and their related security apparatus the most important elements of which now appear engrossed with the parameters of 4th generation warfare. Just as Marxists fused law and politics in the 20th century and challenged notions of rule of law, non state actor shave now created conditions for the fusion of war and politics (see, e.g., here, here, here, here, and here). Within this framework, and in this context all civil society organs are potentially revolutionary, and certainly destabilizing. In societies with vanguard party structures, this is threatening. In other authoritarian societies it represents a threat to authority. And in democratic states it represents the power to overturn democratic governance. Mass mobilization, and the ability to manage global social spaces now appear as critical to modern warfare as it is to the establishment and operation of legitimately constituted states, whatever their political system in place. (quoted from here).
These are barriers that may well be going up under Mr. Obama or his potential Democratic Party successor. Ironically then Mrs. Clinton's strategies may have given rise to the response that Mr. Trump represents, but in those states threatened by the American efforts at the use of culture in lieu of war. One cannot, then, understand the "idea" of Mr. Trump without understanding the way in which Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton made that "idea" plausible beyond the United States. But not just the U.S., Mrs. Clinton's analogue is Mr. Putin, whose offensive and strategic misuse of global communities has caused all sorts of mischief everywhere Russian interests might be advanced thereby. The use of globalization in this way should come as no surprise, especially as the global community has moved effectively to make "hot" wars more politically costly. The failure to confront these realities domestically only postpones the inevitable.

But it is not just elites are erecting barriers int he face of easy appropriation made possible by globalization.  Once the masses are appropriately trained--and rewarded--nationalism can become a self policing barrier to penetration by global communities.  The hacking deaths of bloggers and others who were, in their own ways, connected to global civic communities is a case in point. Bangladesh has proven to be a very fertile ground for this (see, e.g., here, here, here, here and here).  This is perhaps a function of the effective disappearance of Bangladesh otherwise as a viable state in the face of economic globalization (see, e.g., here). But not just Bangladesh (see, e.g., South Africa, )

All of this, of course, are merely variants of a more ancient impulse--and one best expressed both by Italian fascists on the right and Cuban Marxists on the left. Benito Mussolini once declared:
“...for the Fascist, everything is in the State, and nothing human or spiritual exists, much
less has value, outside the State. In this sense Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State, the synthesis and unity of all values, interprets, develops and gives strength to the whole life of the people.” (Benito Mussolini, “The Doctrine of Fascism”, in: Italian Encyclopaedia of 1932, reproduced in Michael J Oakeshott, The Social and Political Doctrines of Contemporary Europe, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1939), pp 164-68) 
This idea, shorn of its fascist ideology, remains both popular and foundational for the functioning of the state system and the international public-law frameworks which it supports (discussed e.g. here). But it is also at the heart of Marxist Leninist notions of socialist movement and the essence of national vanguard party obligations. That certainly was the view of Fidel Castro in his address to intellectuals in 1961:
Esto significa que dentro de la Revolución, todo; contra la Revolución, nada. Contra la Revolución nada, porque la Revolución tiene también sus derechos; y el primer derecho de la Revolución es el derecho a existir. Y frente al derecho de la Revolución de ser y de existir, nadie —por cuanto la Revolución comprende los intereses del pueblo, por cuanto la Revolución significa los intereses de la nación entera—, nadie puede alegar con razón un derecho contra ella. Creo que esto es bien claro. (Fidel Castro Ruz, DISCURSO PRONUNCIADO POR EL COMANDANTE FIDEL CASTRO RUZ, PRIMER MINISTRO DEL GOBIERNO REVOLUCIONARIO Y SECRETARIO DEL PURSC, COMO CONCLUSION DE LAS REUNIONES CON LOS INTELECTUALES CUBANOS, EFECTUADAS EN LA BIBLIOTECA NACIONAL EL 16, 23 y 30 DE JUNIO DE 1961 ("This means that within the Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, nothing. Nothing against the Revolution, because the Revolution has its rights; and the first right of the Revolution is the right to exist. And against the right of the Revolution of being and existence, nobody --for the Revolution comprises the interests of the people, because the Revolution means the interests of the nation entirely-- nobody can rightly claim an authority against it. I think this is very clear.").

This ancient formula reconstitutes the state as the vessel within which economic, social, cultural, political and civil norms are germinated, acquire their distinctive characteristics and derive their authenticity and legitimacy. It now appears as the great worry of Cuban authorities in the face of their re-connection with a world now both global, and dominated by ideologies of global communities at once outside of their control and to a great extent incompatible with the economic, social, cultural, political and civil life that Jase developed in Cuba as it existed in relative isolation from the flows of globalization. It is not for nothing, then, that Raúl Castro draws on his elder brother--who himself drew on the great fascist dictator of a generation before--to frame the nationalist agenda in thew face of globalization.

Letter from Raúl congratulating UNEAC on its 55th anniversary

Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the Councils of State and Ministers, sent a congratulatory message to UNEAC

Author: Raúl Castro Ruz |

august 23, 2016 09:08:31

Havana, August 22, 2016

“Year 58 of the Revolution”

Dear Barnet:

Dear compañeros of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba:
Please accept my congratulations on this 55th anniversary of UNEAC, which arose during a decisive stage of the Cuban Revolution and has been at the service of culture for more than five decades, considered by Fidel the “shield and sword of the nation.”

Amid the attention and resources that defending our country required at the time, we did not neglect the strategic tasks of education and culture. Indeed, in 1961 we carried out the Literacy Campaign, the most significant cultural event in our history. This was also the year when, shortly after the victory of Playa Girón, Fidel met with writers and artists and delivered that speech of such relevance known as “Words to Intellectuals.”

UNEAC then emerged, headed by the great poet Nicolás Guillén, which, in a unitary spirit, convened the artistic vanguard which joined in the building of Martí’s “trenches of ideas.”

Today we are threatened in the field of culture on two fronts: by subversive projects that aim to divide us and by the global wave of colonization. The UNEAC of today will continue to confront with courage, revolutionary commitment and intelligence, these complex challenges.

My congratulations extend on this date to the founders and to the various generations that have provided continuity to the work begun in August 1961.

A strong embrace,

Raúl Castro Ruz


Carta de felicitación de Raúl por aniversario 55 de la UNEAC

El General de Ejército Raúl Castro Ruz, Presidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros, envía mensaje de felicitación a la UNEAC

Autor: Raúl Castro Ruz |

23 de agosto de 2016 00:08:02

Foto: Desconocido
La Habana, 22 de agosto de 2016
“Año 58 de la Revolución”

Estimado Barnet:
Estimados compañeros de la Unión de Es­cri­tores y Artistas de Cuba:

Reciban mis felicitaciones en este 55 aniversario de la UNEAC, que nació en una etapa decisiva de la Revolución Cubana y ha estado a lo largo de más de cinco décadas al servicio de la cultura, considerada por Fidel “escudo y espada de la nación”.

En medio de la atención y los recursos que exigía entonces defender nuestro país, no descuidamos las labores estratégicas de la educación y la cultura. Precisamente en 1961 llevamos adelante la Campaña de Alfabetización, el acontecimiento cultural más trascendente de nuestra historia. Ese fue también el año en que, poco después del triunfo de Playa Girón, Fidel se reunió con los escritores y artistas y pronunció el discurso de tanta vigencia conocido como “Palabras a los intelectuales”.

Luego surgió la UNEAC, presidida por el gran poeta Nicolás Guillén, que convocó con espíritu unitario a la vanguardia artística y se sumó a la construcción de las martianas “trincheras de ideas”.

Hoy estamos doblemente amenazados en el campo de la cultura: por los proyectos subversivos que pretenden dividirnos y la oleada co­lo­ni­za­dora global. La UNEAC del presente continuará encarando con valentía, compromiso revolucionario e inteligencia, estos complejos desafíos.

Lleguen en este día mis congratulaciones a los fundadores y a las distintas generaciones que han dado continuidad a la obra emprendida en agosto de 1961.

Un fuerte abrazo,

 The Cuban leadership, thus, again, asserts that necessity of building a wall--a national wall, against the unwanted and uncontrolled influx of ideas.  The Cuban leadership--like some of those in the Untied States, in China and across the world, demand the erection of barriers--physical, social, cultural, technological--against a globalization only part of which is viewed as useful. Thus, building walls is not merely the fantasy project of U.S. presidential candidates.  It reflects, instead, a growing and quite important  nationalist movement that embraces states irrespective of ideology, of history or even of placement in the power order of states within international communities.

And it is a dangerous movement. Dangerous to the effectiveness of globalization, to the increasing harmonization of rules and norms in the everyday discourse and behaviors of people seeking to maximize their own welfare--even as they seek to remain loyal to political systems who no longer can remain aloof from their people--or their political obligations (however that is specified under national ideologies). Indeed, the value of social, cultural, political and civic globalization is just its disciplinary effect--it requires governments to operate truer to the best aspects of their ruling ideology, or to change.  It does not require a change in ideology. But at the same time it can serve as an instrument for power and domination in ways that ought to be avoided. But the answer may not lie in the reconstruction of those walls that nationalism once built up int he 20th century--producing a disaster and global tragedy in the form of decades of warfare and odd isolation.

Rather it may be time for the community of nations to come together to engage in candid discussion about the space that ought to be left open to the emergence and operation do global social, cultural. political and civic society. The current approach of the United Nations is sadly obsolete and to a great extent irrelevant (see, e.g. here, and here). It reflects a conceptual framework now long dead. Both challenges can be overcome. But that requires a willingness to confront the realities of state obligations both to remain true to its own ruling ideology but within that to be flexible in the movement of social, cultural, political and civic global communities operate--extracting what is most useful and ensuring, but their own fidelity to the best of their own practices, that these do not supplant native systems--except as it might occur naturally. State that seek to turn their borders into the walls of a museum of culture--protected form all influence abroad--are engaging in a dangerous cgame of isolation that will have deleterious global consequences.  At the same time, societal interactions ought not b¡to be projectiles in the service of the political aims of states seeking to project power beyond their borders.  That balancing is subtle and difficult. But this is part of a conversation that has not yet begun.  And that is to be regretted.

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