anarcho sando on Tue, 20 Aug 2002 15:15:03 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Empire for Beginners - by Rob los Ricos


Empire for Beginners
Reviewed by Rob los Ricos

Empire by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt (Harvard University Press,
Cambridge, MA, 2000) 478 pp. $18.95 paper.

In his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in 1988,
Bush the Elder proclaimed that we had entered into a New World Order. I
was alarmed to hear someone drunk with power-and who knows what
else-crowing over the seemingly unlimited authority the ruling powers had
achieved. The media tried to pretend it never happened, but the concerns
of many, many people-who, like myself, were stunned into disbelief by Bush
I's proclamation of power forced conservative political pundits to
eventually address the President's megalomaniacal statement. Mostly, they
stressed the "fact" that the NWO had been in existence for quite a while
and was nothing new after all. Most lefty-liberals fell in line with the
conservatives and even tried to outdo them by claiming that the NWO was
just more of the same old capitalist imperialism. This isn't so. In Hardt
and Negri's book, Empire they describe how the emergence of the NWO/Empire
represents a new epoch in human evolution, an event so profound as to put
an end to history, not by negating it, but by bringing historical
processes to their conclusion. This (Empire) is it: the ultimate
fulfillment of human endeavor. To the authors, this is not necessarily a
bad turn of events. To me, however, Empire represents the triumph of the
darkest aspects of human capability and must be resisted with every bit of
energy by everyone who treasures life.

When Empire hits the fan

"Our basic hypothesis is that sovereignty has taken a new form, composed
of a series of national and international organisms united under a single
logic of rule. This new global form of sovereignty is what we call
Empire...." -Hardt and Negri, from the prologue to Empire

The most important aspect of this book is its rebuke of all those who have
tried-unconvincingly, yet doggedly-to claim that the neo-liberal era of
global capitalism is merely more of the same old capitalism. This is not
the case. The era of Empire is as different from the era of European
imperialism as that time was different from the ages of the ancient
empires of Rome or Persia.

The concept of sovereignty was developed by the ancient empires. The
ruling emperor was not only a mighty king, but a god incarnate. His word
was thus more than law, but divine writ. His authority not just
unchallenged, but unchallengeable. Sovereignty is absolute authority
embodied in a single person. This concept is crucial to the processes of
historical Progress.

As Europe entered the modern era the idea of sovereignty was introduced
there. Modern sovereignty was invested in a ruler whose authority was
ordained by a single deity, who handed out royal titles as if his very
existence depended on them. With a single divinely anointed, authoritative
power established, most of what we recognize as basic tenets of modern
societies began to take shape: nationalism, capitalism and urbanization
among them.

Having been born and grown up together, capital and the state are
co-joined twins, each dependent on the other. The state created the social
crises capital required in order to move into the Industrial Age. Capital
rewarded the state with wealth. For instance, capitalists needed
desperately impoverished people to destroy in their mines and factories.
The state provided them when it confiscated common lands and thereby
reduced subsistence farmers and prosperous herdsfolk to destitution.

Even before these implementations of sovereign authority, the ruling
powers had turned their coercive forces outward to plunder the fabulously
exotic lands being discovered around the world.

Whereas the various peoples of the European states had been welded into
national identities-for example, Catalans, Castilians, Galicians and
Basques turned into Spaniards-during the era of European imperialistic
conquest, there was no real effort made to bring the conquered people into
the imperial realm as citizens. Once the discovered people had been
relieved of the riches it had accumulated over generations, it was
relieved of its lands and forced to produce trade goods and otherwise
increase the wealth of the ruling powers. Imperial power was represented
in the foreign colonies by administrators who were citizens of the realm.
Those they ruled over were not citizens, and thus were at the mercy of the
administrator's whims.

At the beginning of the modern era, almost everyone on Earth was a
subsistence farmer, hunter, herder, fisher or forager. By the end of the
modern era, the Industrial Revolution had become the greatest force of the
historic process. Industry turned agricultural people into proletarian
masses, accelerated the urbanization of society and enabled European
empires to force their cultures upon the rest of the world.

With the concept of the nation firmly established, a sense of historic
continuity was manufactured. Instead of remembering their ancestral
heritage, the various peoples of each nation were only taught about events
and places within their national boundaries. This gave an illusion of
permanence to the state, which in reality was only a recent innovation.

The war to end history

Rebellions against European imperialism in the Americas started historical
processes which eventually led the world beyond Modernism into a new,
post-modern social order.

The new American-style state was not based upon the divine right of kings,
but on the popular will of the citizenry. By the turn of the 20th Century,
the few nations which had not exchanged the rule of nobility for that of
elected legislatures were suffering political turmoil. When revolutionary
forces of the masses finally succeeded in crushing the regimes of local
aristocracies, a schism formed which was to prevent the development of
Empire for as long as the conflict remained unresolved. This was the Cold
War era, which began with the Bolshevik coup in October of 1917.

The historic conditions for the emergence of Empire were created during
the modern era. People no longer identified themselves as different ethnic
or racial groups, but as nationalities. WWI was an attempt to divide the
world into permanent national entities and spheres of Euro-American
influence. The Russian Revolution upset the effort, not only by
challenging the dominant form of capitalism (liberalism) with a
socialistic one, but also by serving as an example of how even the most
backward, underdeveloped nation could rapidly industrialize and grow into
a powerful, modern state. This was not appropriate for Empire, which
requires a single world with every country appointed its specific imperial
role.

It was tragically naive of the non-Europeans to fall for the ideals
promoted by the ruling powers. The lie was that each nation could develop
its own economy along the industrial and economic paths forged by European
and American states in order to gradually develop into societies identical
to those of the First World. The reality is that the power and wealth
enjoyed by the First World is dependent upon the exploitation of the
resources and people of lesser developed places. In order to keep those
resources available to the ruling powers, lesser developed nations must
remain so.

This was one of the reasons WWI was fought-to divide the world's resources
among the already industrialized nations. Though U.S. President Woodrow
Wilson lied that this war was fought to make the world "safe for
democracy,"  its true result was to ensure that democratic rule be
reserved for those who could be trusted to look out for the interests of
the ruling powers.

The lie of progressive development is a lovely one to believe, which is
why so many people continue to believe it to this day. During the late
modern era (the 19th Century), the ideologies of Progress (Manifest
Destiny, historical determinism, dialectical materialism, et al) evolved,
one from the other, in order to rationalize the horrific "sacrifices" made
to further Progress. Genocide, ecological ruin, slavery-no crime against
Earth or its inhabitants was so great as to be unabsolvable through the
anointment of wealth upon its perpetrators. As long as enough wealth was
generated through plunder, slaughter and exploitation so that the ruling
powers could benefit, all sins were forgivable.

Such corruption isn't a symptom of modernism, but is the cornerstone of
its very existence. Indeed, it would not have been possible for the
imperial powers to stifle development, or exploit the people and resources
of distant lands were it not for massive political and economic
corruption. Its economy would collapse without periodic infusions of
corrupt profits-dirty money.

In contrast to this corruption, the Russian Revolution was an
abomination-an attempt to create a counter-Empire. The Soviet Union had
all the attributes of the fledgling Empire, including a nationalistic
doctrine that could lead people in any country that desired to achieve
modernity through economic development, into the Industrial Age.
Unfortunately, for the communists their development was achieved through
brute force, rather than economic persuasion or liberal Progress.
Communism's corruption was based upon coercive power more than creation of
wealth. Unable to generate vast amounts of reserve wealth via racketeering
and shadow economies, the Soviet economy was unable to keep pace with
America's rampant militarization, which itself was fueled by economic and
political corruption.

The Soviet economy collapsed spectacularly. Suddenly, there were no more
obstacles to the final implementation of Empire-the groundwork was
complete. The project of reducing people to workers, forcing them off
their land and into ghettoes, had been a monumental success. The urbanized
masses were transformed into proletarians, powerless people dependent upon
industrial production for their survival. Even agriculture became
industrialized. Most farmers in industrial states now work for
corporations, rather than farming land they own. They would be called
peasants or campesinos in other countries, but that would be rude to point
out in an industrialized, wealthy nation like the US.

When its rival imploded, the path was cleared for the coming of the one,
true Empire. People's lives have been reduced to monotony, their
allegiance to the ruling powers unquestioned by minds too dull to conceive
of any alternative. Loyalty to schools, corporations and states is
instilled in their minds. This is the time of the Pepsi Generation, the
culmination of the historic march of Progress.

Empire: You will be assimilated

So far, the retelling of history has been fairly predictable, a classic
Marxist rendition of the development of contemporary industrial societies.
Marx and Engels proposed faith in the proletarian masses to one day seize
control of the state and therefore the means of production. Then we'd all
live in a workers' paradise according to their fairy tale. It is Hardt and
Negri's description of Empire that makes this book worth reading, despite
the Marxist fundamentalism that skews their perspectives. In their
discussions of the composition, function and goals of Empire, the authors
truly bring it into focus for all those who are concerned with the various
aspects of globalization, yet fail to grasp its totality. The failure to
see the big picture is what makes the many critics of Empire sound naive
and hopelessly foolish in their shallow attempts at reform.

An ex-lover of mine, a Leninist, once related a story about a cab driver
she'd encountered who'd been involved with the Industrial Workers of the
World prior to the Palmer Raids. They talked at length about class
struggle, the suppression of the IWW and current events. He summed up by
saying, "You think it was bad back then, wait 'til they have the whole
world."

Empire's definitive quality is its omnipotence. It is everywhere and
manifest in all our daily activities. Empire represents the triumph of
Western Civilization as embodied in capitalism. All cultures, ethnicities
and other categorizations of human beings have been commercialized, turned
into different varieties of consumers. Our differences have been turned
into marketing devices.

The nationalism that dominated the Cold War era has been forsaken for a
borderless land of opportunity for economic endeavor. Regional differences
are merely justifications for the hyper-exploitation of workers and
resources. Whereas in the postmodern era there were three worlds, now
there is one that has absorbed all three and scrambled them in the
process.  Shopping centers, sports stadia, financial districts and
industrial parks are indistinguishable in any country-Canada, Vietnam,
Mexico or Nigeria. The same is true for shantytowns, homeless people's
camps, landfills and ghettoes.

Human existence has become banalized to the point of meaninglessness, the
alternative being horrific irrelevance. The former, present and future
proletariat are offered the incentive of the shopping mall while menaced
with the specter of homeless beggars. The Third World has migrated to the
First, the First exported to the Third, while the Second is being
destroyed. The mega-wealth being generated by these processes is being
reserved for the elite, who will invest it to further increase its own
wealth, while less and less is left for the multitude to compete over.

As factories disappear from what was once the First World, the former
members of the proletariat take their places among the
multitude-unskilled, landless workers whose financial stability is always
in doubt. The multitude has taken the place of the proletarian masses, who
still retained some distinguishing characteristics as people. The
multitude has one identity, one function-consumer.

In former times people could find fulfillment through spiritual service to
their communities, or through helping their communities become
self-sustaining. The forces of Empire will not tolerate such alternatives.
All activities by all people must serve the needs of Empire-to increase
the wealth of the wealthy. Governments, non-governmental organizations,
even religious organizations all enforce the same omnipotence of Empire by
solidifying areas where imperial presence is weak and by sanctifying
imperial power.

The historic union of twin power shared by capital and state is a thing of
the past. International capital needs no state support, unless such
support better suits its needs. Corporations are wealthier, face fewer
social or legal restrictions and are not usually held accountable for
their actions by the multitude. Their institutions-the World Trade
Organization, International Monetary Fund, etc.-shape laws and regulate
economic activity. If it weren't for its function of protecting Empire's
interests from the retaliatory outrage of the multitude, government would
have little justification for its continued existence.

The state must sustain itself through terroristic wars against its own
citizens. The state is the muscle backing up Empire's demands. In
addition, the United Nations must maintain the illusion that lines on maps
have relevance, or it loses its own relevance. Current political
boundaries must be maintained, no matter how many Rwandas, Kosovos,
Kashmirs, Kurdistans. UN peacekeeping forces enforce the lies of maps in
order to keep Empire functioning smoothly. National identities must remain
intact, not because they are just, fair or even functional, but because we
have reached the post-historic era. Nation-states that exist now have
always existed and will always exist, thus says Empire.

Empire and Its Discontents

In the preface to their book, Hardt and Negri admit they were working on
their analysis in the very earliest stages of Empire's emergence, between
the end of the Gulf War and before the NATO invasion of Yugoslavia. Events
since then have shown that they "misunderestimated" (in the word of Bush
the Lesser) Empire's insidious nature. Or perhaps they chose to understate
the corruption and violence inherent within the New World Order. This is
understandable, given the authors' progressivist love of the state. To
apologists for the state, atrocities like genocide and widespread
political repression are minor inconveniences that must be tolerated in
the interest of historical development.

No matter the reason, Empire falls well short of a condemnation of its
namesake. Because Hardt and Negri believe so strongly in the progressive
nature of history, they welcome Empire's arrival with the enthusiasm of
any fundamentalist who sees the master's hand in every turn of events.
Hardt and Negri see within Empire the seeds of its own destruction, though
they fail to disclose upon what they base this vision.

History Happens

To people who believe in destiny, fate, or historical materialism,
determinism, divine will, or other such dogma, when events of significance
occur it is proof of some sort of Grand Design.

So, the development of civilization is seen by many people as the crowning
achievement of human endeavor. However, it can also be viewed as an
abomination against life on Earth. As far as I'm concerned, civilization
represents the triumph of the worst characteristics of human capabilities.

Hardt and Negri agree that capitalism and the state were born and grew up
together as a result of corruption and crisis. Crises helped to establish
the dominance of capitalism and were often created by the state. From the
beginning of this alliance, the state and capital have depended on one
another. If capital falters the state intervenes on its behalf. When the
state grows weak capital recreates it in a manner more beneficial for
itself and in a way that pulls the state through its political crisis.

Capital funded the voyages of discovery and conquest that brought about
the modern world. This benefitted capital, but nowhere near the extent it
benefitted the aristocracies of Europe and their military agents. Whereas
the capitalists reinvested their earnings into colonial plantations and
domestic industries, the feuding aristocracies squandered vast fortunes on
senseless continental squabbles over territory. The states used these wars
to solidify their claim to legitimacy and, of course, capitalists profited
from these conflicts.

It's very easy to see how the deliberate creation of social crises in
order to justify increased state intrusion into peoples' lives leads to
the development of a corrupt civilization. However, Hardt and Negri don't
look into corruption at the heart of the ancient empires. Brute force was
deployed to bring "law and order" to places destabilized by the actions of
the very same forces which later assumed power. This strategy worked as
well for Akkadian warrior-kings as it did for Persian god-emperors, and as
well for Roman caesars as it did for fascist dictators. It's no surprise
that Hardt and Negri don't seem to appreciate the extent corruption
infests Empire, since they don't acknowledge the extent it has shaped
civilization from its beginnings.

Land and Liberty

Tracing the corrupt roots of civilization could have led to an
anti-civilization tendency within Marxist doctrine. That would be heresy,
though. The thought that civilization was a wrong turn in the evolution of
Homo sapiens is a blasphemy against everything progressive-minded people
believe. Western civilization is the logical, only possible course for
human development. Never mind the rivers of blood and the spreading
desertification, deforestation and homogenization of ecosystems
civilization has brought to the world. Civilization is not only good and
proper, but absolutely essential to the lives of human beings-the ultimate
achievement of life on Earth.

According to progressives, industrial society is the epitome of human
endeavor. Once the world has been properly industrialized, say the
Marxists, the proletariat shall be empowered to rise up and seize control
of industry and the state. It shall then lead the world into a new era of
material plenitude and establish an egalitarian utopia, wherein everyone
will share the fruits of industrial society, no doubt portioned out by the
tooth fairy or her flying pig.

The failure of Marxist revolutionary movements is the main indication for
Hardt and Negri's alleged end of history. The workers did not seize
control of anything and in the Imperial Age the proletariat has become
irrelevant. If workers become uppity in one place, industry packs up and
goes elsewhere. Because of the immiseration of the vast majority of people
around the world, there will always be people willing to accept low wages,
unhealthy working conditions, atrocities against human dignity-anything-in
order to earn the right to live with a minimum of economic security.

The only reason this arrangement is acceptable to people is because the
ability to provide for themselves has been taken away from them. The point
of contention between the masses and the state has always been over
control of and access to land. In the Russian, Mexican, Chinese,
Vietnamese-even the American-revolutions, it was the desire of people to
have land to grow crops and otherwise provide for their families that
inspired people to fight against the old imperial powers, not the desire
to control industry.  Industrialism itself would never have been possible
if the imperial states had not forced people off their communal lands and
into destitution. This made them dependent on wages in order to buy their
food at markets, rather than grow it themselves. Until the postmodern era,
it was still possible for landowning people to live with very little
utilization of money if they wished to. What their land could not provide
for them, they could barter for. This independent lifestyle is what people
have fought for repeatedly, throughout the modern and postmodern eras.

In the few instances where the proletariat has fought during a revolution,
it has, more often than not, sided with the reactionary forces of the
state against the genuinely revolutionary forces of the rural masses and
indigenous peoples. Even when the proletariat has joined with the
revolutionary masses, once the battle has been won the workers and their
communist overlords have usually suppressed the redistribution of land and
instead imposed industrialized, unsustainable agriculture upon them, just
as the capitalist states have.

An attempt to reconcile human existence with Earth's biosystems would put
an end to the ideologies of human supremacy, whether of the secular
humanist or divinely ordained variety. To claim that people are but a part
of Earth biosystems and that we need to live accordingly is to spit in
god's face, to turn one's back on thousands of years of historical
progress, to forfeit mankind's triumph over Nature, to admit that
sometimes things happen for no reason, that there is no divine plan
guiding our collective existence, and that we are responsible for the
choices we make in life.

The subjects of Empire seem to be reluctant to take responsibility for
their own lives and instead surrender them to abstract social forces. This
might be due to the hopeless impotence imperial life presents us, with no
alternatives possible, or even imaginable. Add to this the overbearing
pressure of history and it is little wonder that suicide is rampant and
loss of life so routine as to be trivial under Empire.

With no place left to expand capital is forced to return to the same
consumers time and again. New cars, new houses, new computers are sold to
the same consumers who have the old ones. With wages falling across the
globe there will be no expanding markets created through the spread of
industry to previously undeveloped lands. Each abandonment of one country
for another brings another downward movement in the global economy. More
prosperous consumers-better consumers-will be forsaken to create lesser
consumers somewhere else.

With this redundant economic system, we have not only entered a
post-historic era, but a post-capitalist one as well. Capitalism is based
on increase. Investing money to generate profits, thereby creating more
money for more investments to increase production and generate still more
profits. Where the post-capitalist economy fails this equation is in the
increase of production. Production now remains stagnant, if it doesn't
actually decrease. Capitalism has discarded its historical imperative to
increase material abundance. The new goal of the imperial economy is to
boost stock values. Traditionally, stock values increased when a company
increased profits through increased production and expanding markets.
However, the dizzying heights reached by stock markets at the end of the
20th Century were created by downsizing rather than expansion. Instead of
building additional factories and manufacturing new products, corporations
nowadays add to their bottom lines by firing their employees, closing old,
outdated factories and building new, updated ones in Asia. Health benefits
for the work force are cut, as are their wages. Retirement funds are
robbed. The increase in profits generated this way gives stocks a false
value. In order to keep inflating their stock values, corporations must
continue to downsize. This is not sustainable.

The movement of industry between countries may generate profits for the
ruling powers, but they leave economic ruin in the abandoned states. The
sudden loss of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in exports can
devastate most nations' economies.

The Multitude

The effects of Empire upon societies take various forms according to the
level of development each society has achieved in the postmodern era.
Hardt and Negri claim that all cultural and social differences are now
irrelevant, since Empire has reduced all possible identities to one-that
of the consumer. This is simply not true. But to the believers in
Progress, anyone who does not fit Empire's single mold will shortly become
an imperial subject of perish. For the authors it is unbelievable that
there are people who are resisting the encroachment of civilization. The
fact that some people are successfully waging war against Empire is
inconceivable to Hardt and Negri. Rebellions in New Guinea, Chiapas and
Ogoniland, by the U'wa of Colombia as well as First Nation peoples
throughout Canada: all these peoples are struggling to maintain cultural
identities outside of Empire's domain. These are primarily conflicts in
the way people relate to land. People dependent upon intact ecosystems for
their sustenance have no interest in "developing"  the resources of their
homelands, which are fully developed already, and provide for all their
needs. The idea is not to fuck it up and to live within the limits of
one's bioregion.

Resistance to Empire is not always so noble, however. Both Somalia and
Afghanistan exemplify the horrors inherent in xenophobic hatred of all
that Empire promises. Rather than upholding strong connections to the
land, many warlords and tribal strongmen are more interested in asserting
their own authority over that of Empire's. This distrust of foreigners and
their schemes would be a mere nuisance to Empire, except that in the cases
of both these nations, and increasingly in Indonesia, political turmoil is
preventing imperial access to natural resources. Such xenophobic civil
strife has led to tribal and nationalist warfare in Kosovo, Rwanda,
Chechnya-all across Asia and Africa. There is no silver lining to be found
in these conflicts, but one thing they display is that ethnic and
nationalist identities have not yet been supplanted by teaming multitudes
of consumers. It seems as though Empire is not quite as omnipotent as
Hardt and Negri think. The notion that 500 years of genocidal carnage was
necessary and desirable to bring humanity into one all-encompassing social
order shaped by and in the interests of Euro-American economic interests
is nothing short of racist. Hardt and Negri would understand that if they
themselves were not Euro-Americans. To them, the bloody ascendance of
European civilization to global domination is only proper. To many
people-those of us of mixed heritage, indigenous peoples and non-believers
in Progress, it is obvious that there are serious problems with the
direction of civilization. We choose to create different identities for
ourselves, Empire be damned.

Empire's "multitude" is a disgusting attempt to create a sort of
multicultural racism. Anyone of any race or culture is permitted to
participate in the annihilation of social and cultural differences and
share in the plunder gained. Empire buys out cultures and discards what is
unmarketable. Where it finds rich, varied cultures with lovely folklore,
obscure languages and customs, it develops plastic trinkets, videotapes
and brothels for the tourists. The local languages die out, the old
stories are forgotten and everyone becomes an American. Hardt and Negri
alike underestimate the strength, resilience and intelligence of many
peoples. They also do not take into consideration the unexpected
consequences of Empire's actions. Worldwide climate changes are beyond its
control. This will play havoc with agribusiness, whose frankencrops are
also behaving in unforeseen ways. And there are people within Empire who
have come to the realization that they have nothing in common with
Empire's schemes and machinations. So, we are witness to uprisings against
imperial decrees, like the Zapatistas' insurrection against NAFTA and the
international days of action against Empire's administrative bodies-the
WTO, G-8, IMF, WEF, etc. Just as worldwide Empire seemed to be imminent,
widespread opposition has arisen.

The Relevance of Nations-or Not Imperial sovereignty does not reside
within the nation-state, but is wielded by transnational entities-treaty
organizations and financial institutions of regional and global scope. In
many instances Empire relies upon the state to enforce its dicta over the
objections of its citizens and in contradiction to its own laws. States
are becoming increasingly unnecessary to Empire, however. The Democratic
Republic of Congo exists only on paper. In the actual land delineated on
maps as constituting the DRC the federal government controls only a
segment of the country around the capital. The rest of this vast nation
has been overrun by bandits from Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and even as far
away as Angola. In this region, a strong, centralized government does not
suit Empire's needs. The corruption at the heart of capitalism has always
prevented the development of DRC's abundant mineral resources and
potential agricultural production. Most of the people in the DRC enjoy an
easy life of gardening, fishing, foraging and hunting. They are too
preoccupied by dancing and festivals to work for wages. In short, they
have lives that are rewarding and satisfying, with little or no need for
consumer goods. Any government which has tried to change these
circumstances has met with resolute indifference or determined resistance,
and failed. Unable to access the DRC's incredible bounty of natural
resources through economic development, Empire fell back upon
tried-and-true methods to get at them:  conquest and plunder. Since the
invaders are not connected to the land and people of DRC, they have no
hesitancy to clearcut the rainforests in order to plant coffee and cocoa,
or to strip-mine the mountains and thereby poison the local water
supplies. How many Congolese have died during these past five years of
carnage? Three million? Eight million? It doesn't matter, because these
people were not producing anything of value for Empire and were therefore
as expendable as they were irrelevant.

And where did these tiny, impoverished nations acquire the military
capability needed to invade and occupy a country five times their combined
size and at least that much more populous? There are many billions of
dollars being made through this holocaust. What Empire wants, Empire gets.
This sort of regressive behavior doesn't fit into the progressivists' neat
little worldview of purposeful, linear development leading toward utopia.
Unless one drops the pretension that this is not racism, that the utopia
to be achieved will be enjoyed by the Euro-Americans and their lackeys,
and created by the sweat and blood of the rest of the world. The example
of the DRC may be the most extreme but it is hardly unrepresentative of
how Empire functions.

Plan Colombia, a strategy developed by oil corporations and the US
military-industrial complex, will bring about extraordinary political and
economic chaos in Peru, Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. This plan is
based on two goals: the flow of oil through a pipeline and the flow of
funds through a cash pipeline. Political and economic conflict, like that
in the DRC, will likely never affect the flow of either cash or oil from
this region, but will prevent the overwhelming majority of the people
there from benefitting from either pipeline, or from having any say in the
matter.  Cocaine production is the big money item for most rural people in
the region, the only thing that prevents many from complete economic
destitution, which makes the future of the area look frighteningly similar
to conditions in Afghanistan over the past 25 years-rival warlords
fighting over control of coca fields, some controlled by leftist
guerrillas, some controlled by the local state, some by foreign armies,
some by organized criminals.

Evil, evil, evil, evil, stupid!

The willful na´vetÚ of most of Empire's dissidents is obscene. Their
emphasis on dialogue and education will do nothing to change Empire, or
challenge its existence. Empire understands what it is doing. All the
death and environmental ruin it causes are not a series of unfortunate
accidents that occur unintentionally. Billions of people's lives are not
necessary for Empire. If they cannot find some way to serve Empire, or if
they somehow get in Empire's way, they will be done away with.

Under capitalism, the creation of a postmodern, consumer-driven economy
made it seem as if we had entered a post-scarcity era of abundance. In the
post-capitalist, imperial era, economies are built around the concept of
downsizing. Economic progress in lands outside of the Euro-American sphere
of influence will not be tolerated. Industrialization in undeveloped
countries is being carried out by and for Empire. The local people do not
benefit from having their cultures, societies, land, families,
individuality and sense of dignity destroyed. People who act in the
interest of Empire are absorbed into it. However, when industry flees from
one country to a newer, more exploitable one, the economic contractions in
the abandoned country ensure Empire's downward spiral. There are limits to
Earth's resources. Knowing this Empire is placing limits on the
availability of privileges, granted to ever fewer people. These select
few, however, will have tremendous wealth at their disposal. Those who
still lead cheers for economic democracy have yet to get a clue about
finite natural resources, or about imperial economics. Argentina, a
classic example of a developing state that built itself into a First World
economy during the postmodern era, had its economy crushed by Empire.
Argentinean prosperity doesn't suit Empire's needs, just as Korea's or
Yugoslavia's don't.

Hypno-economists want people to believe that China's entry into the WTO
will usher the world economy into a new era of expansion. But wages there
are so low, they will not support families. And to paraphrase Free Market
apostle Ross Perot, the giant sucking sound one hears these days is that
of factories being shipped off to China from every corner of Empire. There
will be no economic expansion-there's no room left for expansion.
Capitalism isn't dying, it's dead already. Yet, its rotting, bloated
corpse staggers on. Capitalism is undead, sustaining itself by feeding on
the living, consuming life in all its manifestations.

Empire presents an interesting analysis of the New World Order, one which
is valuable in helping to understand the power dynamics that define it.

However, I've pointed out above how I think some of Hardt and Negri's
basic precepts-progressivism, Marxism, Euro-centrism-lead them to sad,
predictable conclusions, the main one being their enthusiasm for the
arrival of this horribly dehumanizing Empire under which we live. This
isn't the most serious problem the book presents, though. That would be
the wretchedly obtuse language the authors inflict upon the reader. I
understand that translating philosophical and political theory can create
syntactical difficulties, but some of this is as unforgivable as it is
unnecessary. Hardt and Negri also enjoy redefining words that have
recently taken on new meanings, like "virtual" and "posse." At least with
these the authors made the effort to explain themselves. I suppose it's
everyone's right to use words according to their desires, but it is rather
laborious for readers to have to constantly guess at the meanings of
words, or even the same word used for widely different purposes.

Still, the authors' tortuous literary stylings shouldn't deter anyone with
the patience to wade through such muck. It's very important for us not to
treat Empire as a mere continuation of the same old capitalist society.  
Empire is a different monstrosity, one that recognizes its limitations and
seeks to preserve privilege and fabulous wealth for a very few, while
discarding the bulk of humanity.

Hardt and Negri are enthusiastic about Empire containing within itself the
seeds of its own destruction. They don't know what form this will take and
hey also make the classical Marxist mistake of believing that the
multitude will overthrow Empire by subverting its global nature for their
own ends.

But resistance to imperial power won't come from within. Anything which
takes place within Empire can be recuperated for Empire's own needs.
Anything. Everything. That's its nature.

Resistance must come from without, which means, primarily, creating human
identities that emphasize our relationships with the biosystems we inhabit
rather than with commodities, economics, the state or nationalities. One
thing Hardt and Negri get right is that opposition to Empire must occur
worldwide, or Empire will crush it as resistance rises in one isolated
spot or another.


--- end ----

Rob Los Ricos is a J18 anarchist political prisoner

http://www.infoshop.org/rob.html
http://eugene.indymedia.org/features/prisoners/





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