This week’s news, comment and analysis

In this edition: how Mexico’s drug wars relate to economic globalisation, how the German Left Party is navigating the new global cartography of power, the British national obsession with immigration, and more on the oil spill.


The price of oil

The oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico highlights so clearly the nature of what has become a suicide pact between the working class and the capitalist state. A Louisiana shrimper made the point of expressing his hope that this mistake wouldn’t make people stop off-shore oil drilling, even as millions of gallons of oil were being pumped into the very waters where he made his living, because much of his family had jobs on the oil rigs: [The map above is what the oil spill would look now if it was over London, from Strange Maps.]

The War for Drugs

In April 2007 Ciudad Juárez—the sprawling Mexican border city girding El Paso, Texas—won a Foreign Direct Investment magazine award for “North American large cities of the future.” With an automotive workforce rivaling Detroit’s and hundreds of export-processing plants, businesses in Juárez employed 250,000 factory workers, and were responsible for nearly one-fifth of the value of U.S.-Mexican trade. The trans-border region of 2.4 million people had one of the hemisphere’s highest growth rates.

Just three years later, as many as 125,000 factory jobs and 400,000 residents have vanished. More than ten thousand small businesses have closed, and vast stretches of residential and commercial areas are abandoned. It is no surprise that the Great Recession temporarily shuttered factories and forced layoffs in a city intimately tied to American consumers. Mexico’s economy contracted by 5.6 percent in 2009, far worse than the United States’s “negative growth” of about 2 percent.

But Juárez has suffered from much more than recession. Its murder rate now makes it the deadliest city in the world, including cities in countries at war with foreign enemies. On average, there are more than seven homicides each day, many in broad daylight. Some 10,000 combat-ready federal forces are now stationed in Juárez; their armored vehicles roll up and down the same arteries as semis tightly packed with HDTVs bound for the United States. Factory managers wake up in El Paso—one of the safest U.S. cities—and go to work in the plants of a city bathed in blood. [READ THE REST]


The Left party and German foreign policy

Germany’s longstanding uncritical support for Israel and close relations with Washington have proved to be an increasing hindrance to the pursuit of German economic interests in the Middle East. In particular growing tensions between Israel and Turkey have worried political circles in Germany.

Turkey, traditionally a close ally of Germany, is not only an important axis for the transport of oil and gas to Europe, it is also an important trade partner for European and above all German companies, serving as an economic springboard towards the east. Two thirds of Turkey’s foreign trade is with Europe and above all Germany, which is also one of the most important suppliers of armaments to Turkey.

At the same time, Turkish trade with Arab countries has doubled since 2002. Turkey is currently involved in establishing a foreign trade zone with Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The German Tagesspiegel notes: “Turkey already serves many international companies―from Microsoft, to various automakers even up to the wine gum producer Haribo―as the supply center to the entire Middle East region.”

Under these conditions the Left party has seized the initiative to urge the German government to undertake a careful change of course in its Middle East policy. It is demanding that the government exert increasing pressure on Israel and not allow itself to be drawn into a further escalating conflict on the side of Israel and the US, as is already the case in Afghanistan. The participation of prominent Left party members in the Gaza aid convoy serves this purpose. [READ THE REST]


Aftershock: Notes from a Silo Nation

During the late 1990s and early 2000s there was a lot of buzz about an economics writer called Thomas Friedman. Friedman was the Pangloss of globalisation. His books and journalism constituted one breathless paean to global free markets – an endless parade of twenty-year-old dotcom millionaires interviewed in Singapore coffee houses. There’s one passage where he has his shoes shined by an elderly beggar woman, and then speculates on her pride at being able to contribute to the global economy – written in prose so self-satisfied that Francis Wheen wondered how the woman restrained herself from punching him in the face.

Post-crash, Friedman’s work seems strikingly naive. In the protectionist backlash people are increasingly suspicious of globalism. The average UK citizen wants more immigration control, troops pulled out of Afghanistan, withdrawal from the EU and locally sourced food. Read the comment threads on any national or regional newspaper website and you’ll find our collective dream is of a silo nation: nothing gets in, nothing gets out.

For localism has a dark side. As well as Prince Charles’s babble about British cheese subsidies and supermarket regulation it has produced a fierce hostility to migrants. People think of economics as zero sum. Let too many migrants into the UK, they reason, and soon there won’t be enough food or money for the rest of us. If a migrant gets a job, someone else must lose theirs. If a migrant applies for housing benefit, it goes straight out of your paycheque. It is fair to say that loathing of immigrants has become a national pathology. [READ THE REST]


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