Counterplanning from the commons:
labour, capital and the 'new social movements'
Craig S. Benjamin Terisa E. Turner Departments of Sociology & Anthropology and Political Studies University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1 (519) 787-0609 or (519) 823-8009
Counterplanning from the commons: labour, capital and the 'new social movements'
Abstract: This article examines contending frameworks for the analysis of the contemporary cycle of popular struggles, including the eco-feminism of Carolyn Merchant, the urban social movement theory of Manuel Castells, and the socialist ecology of James O'Connor. Proceeding from a critique ohnical and political divisions of the working class and capital. Proceeding from this basis, and from an analysis of the articulation of the debt and ecological crises to global capitalist restructuring and gendered resistance, we move beyond Mahoney’s claim that only transnational banks benefit from DFNs (Mahoney 1992: 83), to initiate a multi-level inquiry into the complex network of interests and relationships conditioning the advocacy and resistance to debt for nature swaps.
In the second section of this paper, we outline our theoretical framework in greater detail. We present the argument that individuals and groups who directly produce the majority of the goods and services needed for the reproduction of their own labour power and the labour power of others, have a direct interest in preventing capitalist commodification of communal relationships, the environment and public space. Furthermore, we argue that those individuals and groups whose relationship with capital is primarily defined by reproductive labour have a unique social power to appropriate and abolish the technical/structural divisions of the working class in the struggle against capitalist enclosure.
In the third section, we examine international capital’s efforts to restructure relations of production in order to restore capitalist hegemony and accumulation in the face of widespread worker revolts. We argue that capital used the energy crisis of the 1970s to deepen the international circuits of production and finance. This process of economic restructuring involved a period of intensive inter-capitalist conflict and recomposition out of which emerged a potential alliance of the owners, investors and managers of large, globalized capital. This restructuring, however, failed to protect accumulation from the demands and the insurgency of the working classes as they tried to capture a share of the petroleum and finance dollars. As a consequence, the crisis of capitalist hegemony and accumulation deepened.
In the fourth section, we examine the history of popular uprisings against subsequent economic restructuring measures introduced in the early 1980s through the mechanism of debt repayment programs. These revolts against debt repayment, we argue, have the potential to unite critical gendered-class interests in a broad-based struggle with the social power to transform the relations of gendered exploitation. We develop this argument in relation to a short summary of women’s organizing in Ecuador.
In the fifth and sixth sections, we examine the rise of corporate environmentalism as a key element in global capital’s strategies to resolve the present cycle of crisis and struggle in its favour. Drawing on case histories of debt for nature swaps enacted in Ecuador, we argue that DFNs, like other corporate solutions to the debt crisis, support the recomposition of global capital, open new opportunities for commodification and exploitation, and undermine working class struggles to organize alternatives to the destructive model of capitalist accumulation. On this basis, we advocate a firm stand against DFNs as part of the project of building a popular movement of reappropriating popular control over the means of subsistence, and of exerting locally defined values, meanings and forms of social relations, in opposition to the “new enclosures” organized by global capital and its allies (Midnight Notes 1992: 318.)”
II. Theorizing crisis and struggle
In this paper we seek to understand debt for nature swaps in the context of a global struggle in which women in general, as well as women and men among groups of peasants, indigenous peoples, squatters, migrant labourers and other diverse subject groups have emerged as the central protagonists. To date, scholarly analysis of this contemporary cycle of working class struggles has been dominated by a sterile debate between mainstream marxists and various post-structuralist and “post-marxist” social movement theorists (e.g., Laclau and Mouffe 1987; Wood 1986). As with most elite debates, the vigour with which the social movement debate has been waged only serves to reinforce “the tacit unspoken assumptions” shared by the contending intellectuals (Chomsky 1978: 31). In this case, we would argue, the tacit assumption is that capitalist relations of production are confined to the waged workplace. Within the parameters of debate set by this assumption, popular struggles over access to social services, the preservation of natural environments, or how power is shared in the household, in Laclau and Mouffe’s words, “necessarily depend, therefore, to a large extent on the way in which the social agent is constituted outside the relations of production (Laclau and Mouffe 1987: 103, emphasis in original).”
Having started with an assumption that capitalist relations of production begin and end at the factory gates, the social movement debate precludes from consideration the possibility that unwaged labour performed in the home and in the community, for example, is organized by a gendered division of labour that is part of capitalist relations of production. Writing on recent struggles by Mexican women “to procure land for housing, demand social services, and protect and gain access to natural resources,” Lynn Stephen notes that the failure of social movement theorists and mainstream marxists to consider the link between popular struggles and the gendered division of labour under capital “certainly renders rather invisible the participation of hundreds of thousands of (Mexican) women motivated by class- and gender-specific social roles (Stephen 1992:82). ”
Developing a systematic analysis of the articulation between contemporary social struggles and the formation of gendered-class interests and social power within the capitalist division of labour requires a reconceptualization of labour exploitation and relations of production. In this section we trace three points of an alternative theoretical framework which argues that popular struggles are constituted in and against the hierarchical exploitation of labour, land and society. The three points of this framework pertain to: 1) the importance of those forms of labour sometimes called “reproductive labour” to capitalist relations of production; 2) the construction of “reproductive” labour and related social struggles within the technical and political division of labour under capital; and 2) the articulation between these struggles and capitalist restructuring.
Claudia von Werlhof has observed that “[e]ighty to ninety percent of the world population consists essentially of women, peasants, craftsmen, petty traders and such wage labourers whom one can call neither ‘free’ nor proletarian (von Werlhof 1988c: 171).” Unless the capitalist organization of production is confined to a very small “internal moment (Laclau and Mouffe 1987)” in the life of society, any reconceptualization of the operation of the capitalist model of accumulation and struggles against it must begin with the labour of this eighty to ninety percent of the world population.
Despite the evident differences among these subject groups, tribal peoples and small peasants, migrant labourers, petty traders, and ‘housewives’ share the general characteristic that, in addition to any waged labour they might perform, they also perform without compensation a substantial part of the labour necessary to sustain their own life and the lives of others (von Werlhof 1988a: 16). The labour involved in sustaining human life takes many forms, including cultivating and preparing food, providing for the physical needs of children and the aged, teaching skills, attitudes and forms of behaviour to young people and providing psychological and sexual services to adults. Depending on the worker’s location within the world system and the gendered, ethnicized divisions of labour within the working class, this work involves to a greater or less degree cultivation of non-commodified natural environments, building networks of cooperation and social support among family and community members, negotiating the use of public services and public space, and transforming capitalist commodities into sources of physical and psychological nourishment.
Before we consider more closely why most of this labour is unwaged, and why certain subject groups perform so much more of this unwaged labour than others, we should first be clear that the fact that this labour is unwaged does not mean that it is “unproductive” for capital. To the contrary, it is critically important to capital that the work of producing and sustaining life gets done because, in fact, capital cannot function without workers available to sell the central commodity of capitalist production, disciplined labour power (Cox and Federici 1975; Federici 1975; S. James 1976). The fact that the world’s labour force is organized in such as way that this labour-power is available to capital, while capital pays little of its production is central to the profitability of the capitalist system of production. “Only on this very basis does the 'real' process of capital valuation and accumulation begin (von Werlhof 1988a: 16.”
The necessity to capital of paying for some, but not all the work of producing labour-power is crucial to the organization of the working class itself. Access to a wage, allows the worker to produce some of his or her labour-power through the purchase of commodities. But the wage can never be adequate to purchase all the material, psychological and sexual services necessary to produce the proletarian’s labour power from day to day and over his or her entire lifetime. While the full-time waged worker will inevitably perform some of labour of reproducing their own labour power, the same wage contract allows the worker to command the commodity nexus allows the proletarian to command the labour of any spouse, family member or kinsperson who, for whatever reason, does not have access to the same scale of wage remuneration (Caffentzis 1980: 250).
Commenting on the power of male wage earners to command the labour of women and other shadow workers, von Werlhof has written, “Every wage-worker receives as compensation for his alienation and exploitation the right and the guarantee to a woman, that is the right to exploit her as a 'natural' object. So far, very few wage-workers have rejected this non-collectively bargained, life-long bonus (von Werlhof 1988b: 109 - 110). ”
This relationship between workers is necessarily conflictual. While the unwaged or low waged members of the household are dependent on the wage of the full-time wage earner, the full-time wage earner has an interest in maintaining that dependence. Elsewhere (Turner 1991b), Turner has used the term “the male deal” to describe the importance of the complicity between capital and male wage workers in organizing the exploitation of unwaged or low waged workers. The term “male deal” is borrowed from Carol Dauda who describes the existence in some pre-capitalist societies of an implicit or explicit agreement among men to cooperate in the control of the labour and fertility of the women in the their households (Dauda 1992). Turner has taken up this term to describe the imperative under capitalist relations of production to recreate this deal so that male wage workers can function as an intermediary in capital’s exploitation of unwaged and low waged workers. This intermediary function of the male dealer includes supervising, coercing and disciplining the unwaged labour performed within the household and community. It also includes carrying out systems of violence, harassment and exclusion that defines the division of high and low wage jobs throughout an industry. Finally, the male dealer is responsible for the propagation of systems of violence, racism and sexism that maintain a hierarchy of wages throughout the global circuit of capital (Turner 1993).
This male deal is reinforced by the symbolic constructions that define the majority of the world’s workers into the world of non-human nature. This symbolic association of women and colonized peoples with ignorance, savagery and sexual wantonness justifies the exercise of violence and repression needed to exploit their labour and, indeed, renders this labour invisible. ‘To earn a wage means to be a part of a social contract, and there is no doubt concerning its meaning: you work, not because you like it, or because it comes naturally to you, but because it is the only condition under which you are allowed to live. But exploited as you might be, you are not that work (Federici 1975: 2, original emphasis). ” In contrast, not only has the work of producing labour power been imposed on women, “but it has been transformed into a natural attribute of our female physique and personality, an internal need, an aspiration, supposedly coming from the depth of our female character (Federici 1975: 2).”
In this paper, we adapt Ivan Illich’s term “shadow work (Illich 1981)” to refer to the hidden character of the work of producing labour power within capitalist relations of production. We should be clear, however, that shadow work is not a constant set of specific work activities, but rather a particular relationship both among workers and between workers and capital. This relationships operates in the home or the community where the greater part of the unwaged labour of producing labour power is performed. This relationship also operates in the waged work place where women and other shadow workers are expected to provide additional social and sexual services for the benefit of bosses, supervisors and male dealing co-workers.
Counterplanning from the commons
So far we have emphasized only one dynamic in working class composition; that is, the organization of shadow work through the mediation of male dealers. Another consequence of gendered and racially constructed access to full-time, long term wage labour pertains to general differences in proletarian and shadow workers’ relationship to the natural and social environments. Contrary to Carolyn Merchant who argues that under capitalism only wage workers have a direct relationship with the ecological “base of society” because they extract, process and exchange resources (Merchant 1987: 5), we argue that the relationship of waged labour generally estranges workers from nature in that it allows them to produce their own labour power primarily through the purchase of commodities and through their command over the work of shadow labourers. In contrast, it is in through the relationship of shadow work that workers necessarily rely directly on non- or partially- commodified goods and services, including access to productive land, the assistance of family and friends, and the existence of subsidized child care and housing, both to meet their subsistence needs and to gain some relative autonomy from wages of proletarian spouses or kin. James O’Connor has argued that struggles over “the definition of labor power, the politics of the body, the distribution of child care labor in the home, and similar issues pertaining to the ‘personal conditions of production’” are directly linked to two other forms of struggle sometimes characterized as “new social movements”: struggles over the natural environment and struggles over the built environment of public infrastructure (O’Connor 1992: 3). For O’Connor, this link pertains to the fundamental similarity in the way in which capital exploits labour power, the environment and public space, namely, that capital exploits each as a commodity, even though capital does not pay the full market price of their production (O'Connor 1990: 1).
There are two implications of this relationship: 1) since capital does not pay the full price for the reproduction of its conditions of production, labour power, land, air and social infrastructure must be reproduced by household labour, ecological processes or the state or the conditions will be exhausted; and 2) because the price that capital does pay for the production of labour power, land, air and urban space is not determined by exchange value, in times of crisis capital will attempt to lower costs and restore accumulation by reducing its contribution to their reproduction. As a consequence, O’Connor argues, capital’s relationship to the conditions of production tends to their exhaustion (O'Connor 1990: 4).
A large body of literature on rural communities and the environment supports O’Connor’s hypothesis that at particular historical conjunctures in the organization of capital and the working classes, women, as well as women and men among groups of peasants and indigenous peoples, may increase their exploitation of subsistence resources as a short run survival strategy and so exhaust the capacity of the environment on which they depend to rejuvenate itself (Mackenzie 1991: 246-7; see also Agarwal 1992, Collins 1992). At the same time, women and men who rely on access to their natural environment as a basis of subsistence and autonomy, also develop an extensive experiential knowledge of nature. As Brinda Rao notes, this experiential knowledge, combined with the relative autonomy afforded by access to non-commodified resources, can form the basis of a struggle against the male deal, and by extension against the organization of capitalist relations of production. “Despite their level of oppression,” Rao writes,
rural women still maintain real and potential sources of power, which they can use against men. The sources of women’s power, and the forms in which they are manifested change with ecological conditions. And these conditions in turn, change depending on the level and forms of women’s power. Ecological crises provide not only the pretext and context for struggles by women redefining their identities but also much of the content of these struggles. Scarcity of water and other ecological resources have the potential for both encouraging and hindering movements of women fighting for access to the conditions of production, as well as for new self-definitions which break oppressive capitalist and patriarchal molds (Rao 1989: 82).
We would argue that petty traders, squatters, welfare recipients and others who rely on public spaces and the provision of social services, develop a similar experiential knowledge of the non-commodified aspects of the built environment and can use this knowledge to develop a social power similar to that described by Rao. We describe the process of developing the potential social power of the particular relationship between shadow workers and the basis of their own survival and autonomy as counterplanning from the commons (Benjamin and Turner 1993).
In summary, we conclude that the relationship between capital and shadow labour is prone to crisis and struggle in two ways. Firstly, capital depends on the work of women in general, as well as women among groups of peasants, indigenous peoples, migrant workers and other non-proletarians, to perform most of the work of producing the commodity labour power. Because capital does not negotiate a wage contract with its shadow labourers, it relies on intermediaries such as male wage labourers, to discipline their labour. This organization of reproductive labour also conveys varying degrees of social power to shadow workers as they use their relationship to the natural environment and other areas of non-commodified production to struggle against their exploitation by rebelling against the male dealers and against capital.
Secondly, precisely because capital does not pay the a market price for the production of labour power and the natural and built environments, in periods of crisis capital will tend to exhaust these conditions of production by intensifying exploitation while at the same time reducing its support for their production. As we will see, the threatened exhaustion of the social and ecological fabric of production and human life establishes new opportunities for the strengthening of solidarity within the working classes.
III. Capitalism in crisis
The contemporary debt-nature crisis and the proposed corporate solutions such as debt for nature swaps have their origins in the intensification of popular struggles against capital in the mid- to late 1960s. The post-WWII era had been characterized by an historic compromise between capital and segments of the working class through which capital, for the first time, accepted industrial wage workers capturing a relatively large share of wealth conditional on the productivity of these workers continuing to rise (James 1950: 194). Within the theoretical perspective outlined above, one significant element of this cross-class deal was that a substantial segment of the industrial working class — a segment concentrated in, but not exclusive to the industrialized north — had access to wages sufficient to enable them to displace the work of reproducing their own labour power almost entirely to non-waged members of their household. In others words, the base of male deal had been broadened.
By the late 1960s, however, the rising demands of both waged and unwaged workers shattered the post-WWII productivity deal (Arrighi et al 1989; Broad 1991; Cleaver 1989; Midnight Notes 1992). The social struggles that ended the deal centered not only on the wage share of labour, but also on the valorization of women’s work, third world fightback against colonial and neo-colonial exploitation, and indigenous people’s resistance to the alienation of territory and territorial rights by the capitalist nation state, as well as struggles for the recognition of civil rights for people of colour and gay men and lesbians. Significantly, many of these struggles succeeded in bridging the gap between shadow and waged labour, despite the efforts of the nation state, the comprador unions, household patriarchs and other male dealers to maintain this separation (Cleaver 1989: 21; see also Linebaugh and Ramirez 1975; W. Cleaver 1975).
In this section, we briefly examine the cycle of global crises and popular struggles that proceeded from the shattering of the wage-productivity deal. Beginning with the imposition of the energy crisis in 1973, we trace key elements of capital’s efforts to restructure production relations through crisis and of popular resistance to this restructuring. We delineate capital’s general strategies of attacking workers’ real wages, globalizing circuits of production and consumption and expanding the range of human activities, natural resources, and social infrastructure circulated through market exchange. We also show how the failure to contain working class insurgency through energy crisis-induced restructuring has led to the deepening spiral of economic restructuring and popular uprisings characteristic of the debt crisis.
The energy shock and the recomposition of global capital
In August 1973, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) imposed an embargo on oil shipments to the West. The oil embargo had two general consequences for the world economy: first, in the short term, it led to a massive hike in the price of oil, which along with labour is a centrally strategic commodity in capitalist production (Nore and Turner 1980); second, in the long term, the higher price of this strategic commodity contributed to rising interest rates and inflation, a consequence made possible by the US government’s decision in 1972 to abrogate the Bretton Woods currency agreement. OAPEC’s imposition of the oil embargo was intended to achieve a new consensus between the Middle Eastern and North African oil exporting states and their national working classes, firstly through a display of defiance intended to appeal to pan Arab nationalist pride, and secondly through the creation of new possibilities for public spending, including the expansion of the police and military (Cleaver 1989:24; Turner 1991a). Western capitalists and capitalist states may have been inconvenienced by the embargo, but on the issue of higher oil prices there was a significant convergence of interests between international capital and the supposedly renegade Arab state leaders (Cleaver 1989:24).
The primary importance of the energy shock is that it provided advanced segments of international capital an opportunity to forge new circuits of accumulation and to restructure relations of production. Immediately following the embargo, the governments of the Arab as well as non-Arab states in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) took control of oil production, sales and pricing by nationalizing the majority of concessions up to then held by transnationals. This move allowed the OPEC states to command a significant share of the profits generated by the rise in oil prices. This sudden sharp rise in petrodollars flowing to OPEC countries was multiplied by a period of easy credit as northern banks moved to take advantage of inflationary interest rates. Together this flood of oil wealth and bank loans into the oil producing countries and, indeed, to much of the third world led to a boom in public and elite spending. This wealth, we should note, came those private and public corporations not yet integrated with energy or banking capital, as well as from the international working class which was suddenly faced with rising oil prices and an inflated cost of living. We should also note that by and large, petrodollars and third world loans were recycled to US and European transnationals by way of trade, construction contracts, interest payments and direct investment. As a direct consequence of oil crisis financed industrialization, the US government and transnationals alone were able to increase transactions with OPEC countries five-fold, generating a $38 billion capital account surplus over the period 1974 to 1977 (Sassen-Koob 1987: 65). In short, the oil crisis-induced internationalization of the circuits of production and finance channelled money from pockets of workers and small capital, through the hands of a new third world transnational class and back to US and European capital. We consider the implication for the changing composition of the working and of capital in turn.
Restructuring the working class
The extended circuits of finance and production forged in response to the oil crisis strengthened capital’s capacity to take advantage of low-cost labour wherever it could be found or developed. Combined with innovations in technology and the recomposition of global capital described below, these changes have enabled capital to drive down the wages paid to the full-time waged proletariat while at the same time transferring a greater portion of production to non-proletarian workers employed on a part-time or casual basis (Broad 1991; Sassen-Koob 1984; Midnight Notes 1992).
In the first stage of restructuring, capital took advantage of the large, low wage labour pools of the global periphery by exporting parts of the manufacturing and assembly process to overseas export processing zones. This, in turn, had an impact on production relations in the core cities, in part because the ability of capital to pursue low wages abroad reduced the bargaining power of organized labour in the industrialized north. Labour in established industries was reorganized through increased automation, a shift to batch as opposed to mass production, and the introduction Japanese-style team management. By and large, however, these industries were transferred abroad and new investment in the north concentrated in electronics and other emerging high-technology industries favouring automation, batch production, team management as well as dispersed work sites (cf. Sassen-Koob 1983; Hall and Jacques 1989; Harvey and Scott 1989). As a consequence, between 1973 and 1988, average weekly wages for full-time workers in the US dropped by 20 percent, while in the same period the ratio of capital investment to workers tripled. Also beginning in 1973 work stoppages in the US began falling. By 1981 work stoppages were 35 percent of their 1974 level. Between 1982 and 1992, work stoppages fell by more than half. In other words, “workers virtually ceased striking altogether (Midnight Notes 1992: 60.”
At the same time, an increasing number of women and men were entering the waged workforce in the industrialized north. “From 1980 to 1990, the work force increased by 20 percent, and the percentage of people over 16 in the waged work force reached an historic high of 66 percent (Midnight Notes 1992: 60). ” Much of this expansion can be accounted for by the growth in part-time and casual jobs. Between 1973 and 1983 growth in part-time employment generally far exceeded the growth of full-time employment in most Western nations. In the US, part-time employment grew by 19.7 percent while full-time employment grew by 14.8 percent. In Canada, part-time employment grew by 52.3 percent while full-time employment grew by 18.4 percent. In West Germany and the United Kingdom, full-time employment actually declined by 4 percent and 6.7 percent respectively, while part-time employment increased by 65.4 percent and 19.7 percent (de Neubourg 1985: 561). In addition to the growth of casual wage labour, the first phase of economic restructuring also led to a substantial increase in the number of women and men working in sweatshops, engaged in homeworking or otherwise participating in the informal economy in both core cities and in the periphery (Sassen-Koob 1983; Sen and Grown 1987: 62, 66).
There are three points to be noted about capital’s increased use of part-time and casual, as well as unrecorded labour. Firstly, although some of these changes in employment patterns may be explained by a shift in production to new industries such as electronics employing more part-time and casual labour, a significant portion of this change is due to the growth in low-waged and semi-skilled jobs concentrated in business and personal services such as clerical work and institutional care for children the infirm and the elderly (Sassen-Koob 1984:152-155). In effect, “a great portion of the work is housework that has been removed from the home and located in the market: wages for housework, but outside the home so productivity can be monitored and intensified (Midnight Notes 1992: 61). ”
Secondly, the fact that much this low-paying casual employment is an extension of the relationship of unwaged shadow work into the waged workplace is confirmed by the fact that much of this low-wage service sector work is performed by women and other non-proletarianized workers (von Werlhof 1988b: 109 - 110; Broad 1991; Mies 1986 ). Using data from the US census, Sassen-Koob calculated that between 1970 and 1980 the US workforce as a whole became increasingly polarized between the highest and lowest paying jobs within their respective industries. Once these figures are broken down by gender, however, it is clear that for women there was little polarization. Rather between 1970 and 1980 women’s wages were consistently restructured downward toward the lowest income classes (Sassen-Koob 1987: 72). The likelihood of being employed in low-wage, casualized labour in the US also varied considerably by ethnicity and country of birth. According to the 1980 census data for the five US states with the highest rate of immigration, almost half of immigrant women in these states held low-paying service sector and manual labour jobs compared to 25 percent of non-immigrant women (Bach and Tienda 1984: 18).
Finally, women and men worldwide engaged in low-waged, casual labour as a survival strategy necessitated by the circumstances of economic restructuring. In addition to the losses in household incomes resulting from the restructuring of industrial labour, debt and oil financed development projects uprooted millions from a basis of subsistence predicated on access to natural resources. (Sassen-Koob 1987). The reconstruction of waged labour as waged shadow work helped channel women’s survival initiatives to the maximal benefit of capital (Safa and Antrobus 1992: 54).
In summary, we can see how in the aftermath of the 1973 energy shock, capital tried to restore its rate of accumulation and break the social power of working class movements by reconstructing the majority of waged work as low-paying, insecure and closely supervised shadow work. To achieve this reconstruction, capital had to undermine the established industrial trade unions by dismantling and relocating much of the industrial base of the core countries and drive an increasing number of first and third world women, as well as third world men, into low-paying waged jobs by cutting off their access to income previous obtained through the wages of proletarian spouses and kin.
Despite the extent of restructuring catalyzed by the energy crisis, However, these austerity measures were largely unsuccessful so long as working class uprisings had a chance to secure a greater share of the flow of petrodollars and unconditional loans characteristic of the 1973 to 1982 period. Growing unemployment in North American and Europe and increasingly diffused circuits of production alone were not enough to prevent workers pressing for and sometimes winning wage concessions (Cleaver 1989). In the oil producing countries, in particular, and in the associated countries that supplied much of the labour force for oil industry, the petroleum bourgeoisie, also failed in their efforts to contain their national working classes.
Initially, capital hoped that new wealth flowing into OPEC and the associated states would help keep a lid on working class insurgency (Turner 1990: 8). The vulnerability of state to popular uprisings, however, was demonstrated in Egypt in 1976 and 1977. When President Anwar Sadat asked the World Bank for new loans, the bank attempted to impose conditions typical of what are now known as structural adjustment programs, including reduced government subsidies for basic foods.
When his creditors insisted on these changes despite Sadat’s warnings of possible consequences, the subsidies were cut. The result was a dramatic, overnight explosion of popular anger... Within 24 hours Sadat was forced to rescind the cuts and the creditors supplied the loans without the previous conditions being met (Cleaver 1989: 33).
This message was reinforced in 1979 when 80,000 Iranian oil workers went on strike. With the active involvement of some two million women and children living in Iranian oil towns they succeeded in closing down the world's second largest oil exporting operation, cutting off all oil to the Shah's military, as well as to Israel, Portugal, Britain and South Africa, and taking approximately five million barrels of oil out of the world market for each day of the strike. In this uprising against the Shah, the Iranian regime was explicitly identified and repudiated as a broker for US and European oil corporations (Turner 1991).
Restructured capital and the new male deal
We have argued that by the late 1960s international capital faced a crisis of profits and power. Because of this crisis, sectors of international capital responded to the “energy crisis” sparked by the OAPEC oil embargo by deepening the global circuits of production and finance and then used these circuits to attempt to restructure relations of both waged and unwaged labour. As we can see from the Egyptian and Iranian examples of popular insurgency, however, the initiative phase of economic restructuring led not to a resolution of capital’s crisis, but a deepening of gendered-class struggle.
Before considering how global capital has tried to manage this deepening cycle of crisis and struggle through the mechanism of the debt crisis, we first briefly outline three key changes in the composition of global capital organized through the oil crisis-induced internationalization of the circuits of production and finance. These three changes correspond to the increased competition and concentration among the largest, most globalized sectors of international capital, the rise of a significant class of third world investors, and the expansion of the managerial class of international capital.
Firstly, the energy crisis, like any sudden change in pricing, accelerated inter-capitalist competition. Naturally, those corporations with large investment resources at hand and experience in operating at the transnational level were in an advantageous position to take command of these new opportunities. The response of the major oil transnationals to the energy crisis is a good illustration. In 1970, the transnational oil corporations controlled 94 percent of world crude oil production. As a result of post-embargo nationalizations, their total share had declined to 41 percent by 1981, with the share of the seven largest oil transnationals falling from 64 to 22 percent (Tanzer and Zorn 1985: 32). This declining share in production was only partially compensated by the fact that the largest transnationals were able to maintain rights to buy and sell crude oil supplied by the newly nationalized production operations. The energy transnationals also responded to the crisis by intensifying a process of new exploration and diversification begun in the early 1960s partly in response to the struggles of US energy workers (Cleaver 1975). But most significantly, by the late 1970s the failure of the transnational oil corporations to restore their rate of profit through other means led to an intensive round of buyouts and mergers within the industry. Tanzer and Zorn, for example, note that in the early 1980s “oil companies found that it cost as much as $15-$20 per barrel to discover new reserves, while buying up other oil companies could effectively provide proven reserves at $5-$6 per barrel (Tanzer and Zorn 1985: 38].” These struggles among the transnational corporations created new opportunities for speculator capital and concentrated the wealth and power of the industry into fewer hands, but ultimately failed to pull the industry out of stagnation and crisis (Tanzer and Zorn 1985: 39).
Secondly, the increase in wealth flowing to the south by way of crude oil sales and bank loans provided an opportunity for a segment of the third world capitalist class to divert a substantial part of this wealth for the purpose of foreign investment. Not surprisingly, the OPEC states made the most spectacular entry into transnational investment: the OPEC states’ investments in the US jumped from $796 million in 1972 to $11.8 billion in 1974 (Sassen-Koob 1987: 65). Similar patterns, albeit on a lesser scale, may be found throughout the world. It is estimated that of the total $368 billion in foreign debt contracted by Latin American states throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, $100 billion was transferred abroad in the form of private savings and investments (Petras and Brill 1988: 186).
The observation that a substantial portion of oil wealth and external debt had been used to finance capital flight leads Petras and Brill to argue that the new circuits of international finance and production forged in the 1970s allowed a small but influential segment of third world capitalists to be absorbed into the international capitalist class as investors. They argue that the debt crisis later emerged out of the inability of many Latin American states to repay the loans contracted in the 1970s,
is not so much a problem of poor investments within Latin America as a consequence of the investment behaviour of Latin American capitalists operating within the international flow of capital. Local capitalists are transferring their savings to multinational banks which in turn lend capital to Latin American states. These states in turn lend to private capitalists. This behaviour allows private capitalists to protect their savings while risking foreign debt which is guaranteed by the local state. External borrowing and overseas investment has become a lucrative economic way of life for a small but powerful stratum of capitalists (Petras and Brill 1988: 187).
Thirdly, the much discusses “disappearance of the middle class” for capital means the disappearance of precisely that class of male dealers, the industrial proletariat which during the post-WWII productivity was responsible for the supervision and disciplining of a the greater part of the unwaged and unpaid capitalist labour force worldwide. At the same time, the increasingly diffused circuits of production, intensified exploitation of shadow work, and the deepening cycle of crisis and struggle, meant that capital desperately needed capital’s surveillance and managerial capacity.
In part, this need was met through the development of new technologies, particularly in computers, telecommunications and other aspects of the rising “information economy.” Indeed, the development of the electronics industry not only furnished the technological capability of managing the globalized circuits of production, but was itself ideally suited to a diffused production, with assembly divided among several plants in free trade and offshore processing zones and final sales concentrated in the industrialized north.
Nonetheless, the supervision and control of a globally dispersed production process would not be possible without specific forms of human skills and labour. In cities with high concentration of corporate headquarters, an expanding class of corporate managers and technocrats occupies one pole of the increasing polarized hierarchy of wages. Not only are these managers responsible for the supervision and management of labour worldwide, they are the direct consumers of the majority of the reproductive goods and services produced by the lowest waged workers in the restructured working class (Sassen-Koob 1984:157).
Like all male dealers, however, the expanded managerial class remains problematic for capital. In section II, we noted that all people to some degree or other engage in the labour of producing their own health and psychological well-being. This includes people who reproduce their labour-power primarily through their wage or salary and through the power over others that their wage or salary brings, for they must inevitably invest some degree of their own unremunerated labour to draw sustenance from their social and physical surroundings and must depend to some degree on free access to natural and built environments for their rejuvenation as workers. Having invested not only money, but their own unremunerated labour in the social life associated with their high price residential neighbourhood, and depending on the recreation and aesthetic enjoyment association with natural spaces to rejuvenate their work energies, the managerial class resists changes in the organization of capital that might disturb the production of their own labour (Castells 1987: 239; p.m. 1975).
It is precisely this dynamic that is today being played out in the new headquarter cities of the US southwest. As more members of the managerial turn the high wages and relative security of their positions into property investments and long-term commitments to residential neighbourhoods, new anti-growth or slow growth coalitions formed to defend their both property values and the quality of their lives (Abott 1987; Mollenkopf 1983; Smith 1988). Smith and Judd are almost certainly overstating the case when they suggest that the defection of home owners’ associations from the urban growth model may hold the key to a broad-based social transformation (Smith and Judd 1984). The concern of home owners to defend their lifestyles not only against capitalist development but against the encroachment of less powerful neighbours likely precludes the possibility of a truly broad-based social alliance (Di Chiro 1992: 95). At the same time, given the considerable strategic power the managerial class holds in the operation of international capital, their interests and potential for disaffection from specific programs of capitalist growth, are clearly an important factor in the negotiation of capitalist restructuring. The organization of affluent home owners into what Mike Davis has called, “the most powerful ‘social movement’ in contemporary Southern California (Davis 1990: 153),” while hardly a high point in progressive politics, does stand as a warning to international capital.
In summary, the restructuring of international capital that followed the 1973 oil shock has led to the concentration of corporate power among those transnationals positioned to take advantage of the crisis, as well as a rise in third world investment capital and the expanded managerial class. These three frequently overlapping gendered-class actors, we argue constitute the basis of a potential power bloc within capital. We have noted the conflict between the oil transnationals and the OPEC states over the division of oil wealth, as well as the prominence of urban development and air and water quality issues as sites of conflict between the managerial class and capital. Despite these antagonisms and tension points, we would argue that these groups share two gendered-class interests. Firstly, they share a general interest in restoring the rate of accumulation through extending the international circuits of finance and production that were intensified after 1973. Secondly, as we will see in the following discussion of the restructuring of work relations and worker fightback, these three groups share a specific interest in driving down the real wages of the majority of the world’s workers while at the same time protecting the extended circuits of international capital from the popular insurgencies to which it has become increasingly vulnerable. Capital’s response to the debt crisis, we will argue, has been shaped precisely by the struggle to achieve a new consensus over capitalist accumulation reflective of these interests.
IV. The debt crisis and gendered-class struggle
In 1982 Mexico announced that it could not make loan repayments on debt contracted during the previous ten years of economic restructuring. Nigeria, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica and the Philippines followed suit. The initial response by northern banks and the multilateral lending agencies was to reschedule loan repayments and negotiation new loans. These measures were intended firstly, to protect international capital from the consequences of one or more countries repudiating their debts; secondly, to allow debtors to continue to make interest payments to creditor institutions; and thirdly, to use this process of debt renegotiation as a mechanism for imposing precisely the same austerity programs that capital had been unable to impose in the 1970s.
The fact that the “debt crisis” was initially handled on a purely ad hoc basis (Hall 1988:8) indicates the confidence on the part of the creditors that debtor governments would not repudiate the debt so long as there were other options. Part of this confidence was predicated on the fact that, as we noted earlier, over the period of heavy borrowing a small but influential segment of the capitalist class within the debtor states had been integrated into global capital. With substantial investments in northern banks and tncs, this third world transnational capitalist class would likely oppose any action that might endanger the international circuits of finance and production (Petras and Brill 1988: 186). As Manuel Pastor notes, “a significant portion of the interest payments to international banks is ‘returned’ to local elites as interest on the stock of previous capital flight; according to one estimate, for example, interest earnings on previous capital flight amount to about 40 percent of debt payments in Argentina and Mexico and about 70 percent in Venezuela (Pastor 1989: 98, citing Morgan Guarantee Trust 1986). Furthermore, as we will see, maintaining debt payments and meeting the conditionalities set on the release of new loans served the interests of investment capitalists and other important sectors in the third world state by accelerating the process of economic restructuring (Federici 1990: 307-13). Although the economies of debtor states have shrunk under repayment plans, the domestic and transnational capital and the military sector have been able to shift the greatest part of the burden of these adjustment onto the wage share of labour (Pastor and Dymski 1991:211-223). Finally, as has been widely noted, even that portion of third world capital that did not engage in overseas investment, had become dependent on the continued availability of foreign credit for domestic investment (Dietz 1989; Hall 1988; Pastor and Dymski 1991; Petras and Brill 1988).
In the long run, however, despite the apparent mutual interest of international capital and various sectors within the debtor state in maintaining debt repayment and carrying out debt induced restructuring, the question of debt repayment has become increasingly explosive for capital as popular forces organized to repudiate the debt and block restructuring programs. In this section, we examine how capital’s efforts to use the debt crisis to impose austerity have brought into the open the fundamental gendered-class struggles that we argue underlie the process of economic restructuring. On the one hand, the actions of the debtor regimes in trying to carry out austerity programs has led to a profound legitimacy crisis for the state, a key mechanism on which capital has historically relied to build consensus behind the accumulation model. On the other hand, the organization of popular struggles against debt-imposed austerity measures is laying the basis for the reunification of the working class in a gendered-class struggle against the capitalist model of accumulation.
We present this analysis in four parts. First we examine the efforts of global capital to use the debt crisis to as a mechanism in its ongoing struggle to impose austerity on the working class and therefore restructure the relations of production. Secondly, we examine the delegitimization of the state in the face of widespread anti-austerity uprisings. Thirdly, we illustrate the broad ranging social connections of anti-austerity struggles through a representative history of women’s organizing in Ecuador. Finally, we show how capital has tried to manage the contradiction between its need to intensify exploitation and its increasing vulnerability to the popular insurgency which austerity measures and intensified exploitation have produced. Although necessarily only a brief overview of the struggles of the last decade, this section lays the groundwork essential for a reexamination of the rise of a corporate environmental alliance and the contending gendered-class interests at play behind debt for nature swaps.
The primary means by which capital has tried to turn the debt crisis to its advantage is through the introduction of stringent conditionalities on new loans made by the IMF and the World Bank. Typical of these new conditionalities are the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) which, among other things, require debtor governments to switch resources from the production of goods and services for local and national consumption to production for export sale (Elson 1992:30). These programs serve to reverse the “import substitution” model, prevalent in the 1970s in Latin America in particular, that tried to foster economic growth through state interventions on behalf of indigenous industries serving local markets (Cypher 1989: 65). In contrast, as Kathy McAfee has noted, SAPs have two central premises: “that poor nations can work their way out of debt by providing even more cheap labor and raw materials to the industrialized nations; and that the private sector should determine how a society’s resources are used (McAfee 1999: 13).”
In reallocating labour and other resources to export production, World Bank and IMF planners make what Elson calls "an implicit assumption about the capacity of households to absorb real costs of reallocation (1992:31)." Firstly, although SAPs are ostensibly intended to strengthen the debtor nation’s economy, in effect, the combination of debt servicing and the restructuring of agriculture and manufacturing has generally led to a rising cost of living alongside declining wages and large-scale job losses (Safa and Antrobus 1992: 52). Secondly, in addition to promoting exports, SAPs also require cuts to social expenditures and state subsidies on essential consumer goods (especially food and petroleum products), and privatization of both state enterprises and communally held lands (Federici 1990). The resulting hardships in meeting household survival needs have intensified the burden of shadow work, creating greater strain within family and community structures, and encouraged overuse of natural resources (Safa and Antrobus 1992: 61; Sen and Grown 1987: 57). In many instances, household incomes and access to subsistence have fallen below the minimum level necessary to maintain basic levels of health and nutrition (Mackenzie 1992: 10; Safa and Antrobus 1992: 68-9).
In the near term, however, SAPs, having actually ruled out all other household survival strategies, are pushing women and other shadow workers into low paid, insecure waged work in the export sectors. Thus, despite the jobs lost to SAPs, the debt-induced austerity programs have actually meant an increased number of workers, particularly women, engaged in the free trade zone assembly work, participating in the informal economy, and performing industrial homework (Safa and Antrobus 1992: 54; Sen and Grown 1987: 63).
From this summary we can see that debt-imposed economic restructuring has two central characteristics: firstly, SAPs and other conditionalities consolidate the restructuring of the labour force on the basis of low waged shadow work; and secondly, if not opposed by popular forces, SAPs would lead to the exhaustion of labour power, land and public infrastructure predicted by O’Connor (O'Connor 1990: 4). As we will see, however, the power of international capital and the debtor state to impose debt-related austerity measures has been jeopardized by deepening popular insurgency.
Anti-austerity struggles and the delegitimization of the state
Popular rejection of austerity measures and the intensified exploitation and commodification of labour has been expressed through food riots, strikes, demonstrations and other uprisings; through actions to block foreign or local investment; and through resistance to the privatization which such investment entails. Between 1976 and 1986, John Walton notes, “more than half the major countries of Latin America and the Caribbean experienced social upheavals in direct response to austerity measures. Thirteen of twenty-four nations in the region (excluding the mini-states) produced fifty separate protest events (Walton 1989: 309).” The specific austerity measures that precipitated these uprisings
are relatively uniform. Typically, they come in a set that cuts deeply into the subsistence capacity of low-income groups: rescinded government subsidies of food, basic necessities, and gasoline, meaning price rises; cuts in subsidized services, leading to fare increases in public transportation, for example; public spending reductions that eliminate jobs in government and government contract work (e.g., construction). In short, rapid reductions in the standard of living by visible government action is the most common precipitant of protest. Other circumstances that mobilize collective actions are devaluations that soon show up in domestic price increases, inflation, unemployment, and wage freezes (Walton 1989: 316).
In the paragraphs below, we briefly examine two indices of the challenge to capitalist hegemony presented by popular resistance to structural adjustment and related policies: first, the difficulty faced by governments trying to impose SAPs; and second, the fluctuations in price of debt sold on the secondary market in response to these failures. Following this summary, we present a brief case history of Ecuadorian women organizing against economic restructuring. This case history is intended to delineate some of the key dynamics of popular struggles, including the importance of women’s specific gendered-class interests and social power, that have been neglected in most analyses of the subject.
First, as Walton shows, the imposition of structural adjustment programs and similar austerity is widely met with urban insurrection. Structural adjustment conditions have lead to such profound and generalized popular resistance that not only has the imposition of these conditions been curbed by governments but the terms relating to foreign investment have often been unenforceable. For example, the 1989 Ivory Coast SAP especially burdened the working class and according to Faure, "This socially biased policy brought about by the ruling class vested interests created mass opposition which impelled the Ivorian government to back down on most of the austerity measures (Faure 1992:382). ” Similarly, in 1992 Nigeria's military regime let its agreement with the IMF lapse for fear of the "danger of sparking off another cycle of political instability (Africa Confidential 19 February 1993:1-2). ” According to Walton, Latin America regimes seen to be collaborating in the imposition of austerity programs “are palpably threatened by class mobilizations that demand an end to debt exploitation...Governments have been deposed, retired, and seriously weakened by popular insurgencies (Walton 1989: 325). ” Whatever the regime’s own interest in restructuring, in the face of these popular mobilizations, “opposition to the IMF in some form is often a political necessity (Walton 1989: 325). ”
Second, the price of debt on the secondary market is itself a measure of the effectiveness with which popular movements have engaged in various forms of resistance to debt repayment and to the terms of structural adjustment. Anti-austerity struggles coincide with a devaluation of the subject countries' debt on the international market. However between 1990 and 1991 there appeared to be a slight increase in the discounted value of the debt of states which have imposed IMF terms through violent repression of popular movements, or which met IMF directives to sell off large public utilities. For instance, the price of Chile's debt went up from 61 to 89 cents on the dollar between 1987 and 1991. The recovery in secondary market values for Chilean, Costa Rican and Jamaican debt between 1990 and June 1991 suggests "that markets may regain confidence in those countries where the IMF really plays the tough cop (George 1992:68). "
We have argued that the imposition of austerity measures is designed precisely to intensify and control women’s survival strategies, or shadow labour. At the same time, we need more research on the specific actions of women in anti-austerity protests and organization. In the following summary, we suggest some of the likely themes, strategies and obstacles of women’s organizing through one case history. In this summary we draw on the writing of Rocio Rosero (Rosero 1991:59-78) of Development Alternatives for Women in a New Era (DAWN) and coordinator of the Women's Network of the Consejo de Educacion de Adultos de America Latina (CEAAL). Rosero’s analysis is supplemented by Lind's treatment of popular women's organizations (Lind 1992:134-149).
Women’s organizing and class recomposition in Ecuador
In the past, women’s gendered-class struggles have been negated or sublimated by Ecuador’s left political parties and unions. According to Rosero, "the left-wing political parties, like many others in Latin America, regard women as a source of support.... The painting of the feminist school as (advocates of) a satanic theory and an alternative project (to the pursuit of class interests), united with the chauvinism of the political leaders, and also the weak attitudes adopted by the women themselves, have been some of the obstacles preventing consolidation of women's work in the political parties (Rosero 1991:67). ”
As occurred worldwide, Ecuadorian women responded to marginalization by leftist men by organizing outside established formal political bodies. In the late 1970s Ecuador women formed the People's Committee and the Committee of Families of Political Prisoners and Missing Persons. "The overwhelming presence of women at all uprisings and mobilizations made the "March of the Cooking Pots" possible on April 11, 1978, the day the police invaded the Isidro Ayora Maternity Hospital and brutally repressed the demonstrators (Rosero 1991:65). ”
In the early 1980s feminist groups originating in the universities and left parties broke away from old style, male centered hierarchical politics and "concentrated their efforts on the women from the popular sectors, giving support to the creation of autonomous organizations involved in the social protests as a response to the society's general crisis (Rosero 1991:68). ” The social protests focused on a broad range of issues including violence, mistreatment, sexual abuse and the affirmation of women as active subjects with civil and political rights, for the recognition of domestic labour, a reevaluation of women's identity as people, the fight for recognition of women's participation as actual agents in the struggle for land, labour rights, wages, and improved living conditions.
This nexus between feminists and popular sectors questioned "the power not only of the state and privileged classes, but also the power that is exercised in all social relationships: family, spouse, generations, sexuality....(Rosero 1991:76). ” However, the new attempts at grassroots women's organization
"encountered a powerful wall in the social myths against feminism: accusations of misleading divisionism, witchcraft, inverted chauvinism, sexism and so forth.... (Women's) struggles and demands are considered a favor, a concession from the government, private institutions, and men, and not a right for which women must fight (Rosero 1991:68, 71).
Although issues such as equal pay and improved access to the means of subsistence have a specific gender content because of the sexual division of labour, women themselves "have still not gone far enough to question the mechanisms that sustain the subordination, and in this measure, have not been translated into concrete struggles to change the relationships that violate and alienate women and leave the actual system untouched (Rosero 1991:73). ” However, Rosero reports that there is an increasing tendency for the great majority of women's popular organizations to be linked to the neighbourhood, rural workers, and indigenous peoples movements; and to network with women in left groups, the church and in organizations which emerge spontaneously in response to political and economic repression.
Lind reported that in 1987, a number of Ecuadorian feminists who had participated in protests against the repressive government of Febres-Cordero initiated a new umbrella organization, Accion por el Movimiento de Mujeres. This group has since organized several marches and protests in Quito and Guayaquil, including the annual March 8 International Women's Day March and a series of protests outside Citibank and other donor banks to the Ecuadorian state (Lind 1992:143).
In particular Accion por el Movimiento de Mujeres staged a protest outside Citibank in May 1989, after Citibank appropriated $80 million from the Ecuadorian state's account. Citibank informed the Central Bank of Ecuador on May 4, 1989, that it would no longer accept any transactions made by the Ecuadorian Bank because that bank had failed to make payments on one of its loans. The situation was considered grave by Ecuadorians for the economy was already extremely shaky. Furthermore, such an action by a donor bank could set a precedent for other structural adjustment arrangements in Latin America. The situation was finally resolved when Citibank agreed to give another, separate loan to Ecuador with better terms than usual (Lind 1992:143).
From this summary of women’s struggles in Ecuador, we can see that anti-austerity struggles take place within a spectrum of organizing and activism that includes struggles for land, labour rights, and improved living conditions, as well as the specific valorization of women’s work and the transformation of the power relations between women and men. Because they are capable of mobilizing a broad-base of popular support, anti-austerity struggles limit the ability of transnational capital and its allied regimes to impose economic restructuring through the mechanism of debt repayment. The fact that the debt crisis has organized a massive transfer of wealth from the debtor states to transnational capital has been frequently noted Less frequently noted is the fact that in organizing this exploitation capital has laid bare the fundamental antagonism between worker survival and capitalist accumulation. The recomposition of the working class in opposition to SAPs profoundly weakened capital’s hegemony. As a consequence, global capital has been propelled into a dangerous balancing act of trying not only to profit from, but also to manage the debt crisis.
Managing the debt crisis
As we have noted, global capital’s initial efforts to manage the debt crisis concentrated more on using the crisis as an opportunity to accelerate economic restructuring rather than on systematically organizing to defend itself against the vulnerabilities that the crisis had exposed. In February 1987, however, Brazil declared a moratorium on interest payments on its outstanding debt. Three months later, as Mike Hall reports,
Citicorp, the parent corporation of the largest and most influential money-center bank, Citibank, added $3 billion to its loan loss reserve and, as a result, took the largest loss in the history of international banking. Despite worries that Citicorp’s action would expose the inability of other US and UK banks to follow suit, by the end of the summer of 1987, twenty-two of the thirty US banks with assets of more than $20 billion, together with all the UK clearing banks, had made special provision against their largest Third World debts. The total losses resulting from these actions amounted to $10.7 billion (Hall 1988: 10).
What the major creditor banks had done, in effect, was to absorb in advance and under their own terms losses equivalent to those that might occur should any single creditor state default. These actions provided the banks, and the international financial system as a whole, protection against the eventuality of just such a default taking place. Even with these provisions, however, the banks remained vulnerable to a moratorium declared by a debtor’s cartel, or to the avalanche effects of a single country repudiating its debts. “Thus for example, in Britain, Lloyds’ and Midlands’ special provisions cover only 50 percent and 42 percent respectively of their aggregate lending to Brazil, Mexico and Argentina (Hall 1988: 10).”
The banks’ actions reduced the leverage that any debtor state might exert against its creditors through the threat of default. As a consequence, capital was able to strengthen its hand against the popular forces organizing to block restructuring and repudiate the debt. This measure, however, did little to defend the capital against the threat of debtor cartels forming on a regional or global basis. Nor did these measures protect the overextended loans of the multilateral banks which were increasing the direct target of popular insurgency.
In August 1990, the US administration under President George Bush took another step toward consolidating the various sectors of capital behind continued restructuring. This new initiative, called the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative (EAI), linked a broad range of economic restructuring programs, including SAPs and the pursuit of a hemispheric free trade zone, to a set of incentives and consensus building measures such as limited debt forgiveness and special aid programs. The initiative also included the provision that for the first time public funds could be used to convert Latin American debts held by the US government and the multilateral banks. In effect, the EAI proposed another level of transfers from the public sector to the US and Latin American transnational capitalists who would be the primary beneficiaries of debt conversion. The EAI was intended not only to consolidate international capital, the third world speculator class and the third world state. The EAI also include specific provisions that appealed to the crucially important managerial class.
Having successfully lobbied Congress to include DFNs in this debt conversion package, a US environmental NGO, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), took the lead in promoting the EAI to its Latin American counterparts. After a meeting in Argentina on April 19, 1991, 51 Latin American NGOs issued a denunciation of the EAI as the latest round of US recolonization of the south. On June 28, 1991 NRDC issued a response and an appeal to the southern NGOs which said, in part, "We realize that problems have arisen with the debt-for-nature swaps that have been carried out in several Latin American countries. Our intent in this case was to avoid similar problems with the EAI by urging that a broad range of NGOs in your country determine environmental priorities which would be incorporated into the environmental framework agreements. We realize the EAI contains serious flaws and that many countries and NGOs may reject this initiative outright. The concept of trying to bring governments and NGOs from the North and South together to address environmental and debt issues poses enormous challenges. Nevertheless, we hope to maintain channels of communication and work together (NRDC 1991).”
In promoting Bush's Enterprise for the Americas Initiative, NRDC and its allies presented to the US taxpayer the debt for nature swap mechanism as a practical measure for rectifying ecological destruction. What went unsaid was the swaps' reliance on taxpayers to pay for bad debts incurred by banks and the state. This vital dimension was erased as part of the process of manufacturing consent around continued economic restructuring. The double edged mediation of consensus building frameworks such as DFNs, targets citizens north and south, in an effort to arrange public acceptance of corporate actions that are clearly at odds with the gendered-class interests expressed through popular resistance to austerity measures.
In the final section of this paper, we return to the subject of DFNs as a tool in the reconstruction of corporate hegemony, as a source of new accumulation, and as a mechanism of capitalist attack on the working classes. As background, we first examine the rise of the corporate-environment alliance utilized in the EAI and necessary to the promotion of DFNs as a capitalist solution to the debt-nature crisis.
V. Incorporating nature
Debt for nature swaps are part of a broad range of new environmental initiatives that emerged out of a corporate backlash against environmental regulation in the US in the early 1980s (Di Chiro 1992). These initiatives are characterized 1) by their claim to resolve the contradiction between capitalist accumulation, on the one hand, and the health of ecosystems and the people dependent on them, on the other hand; and 2) the redefinition of conservation objectives within the larger project of economic restructuring. Thus we argue that corporate environmentalism is part of an effort to construct a new consensus, inclusive of global capital’s own concerns over reproduction of nature and human labour power, but predicated on the necessity of restoring capitalist accumulation.
To be sure, the collaboration of environmentalists and capital is itself nothing new. As we show in this section, the mainstream US environmental movement has historically developed within constraints set first by male-dealing managers and technocrats and later by the high waged urban proletariat. While opposing the worst excesses of corporate destruction of the environment, these male dealers generally accepted that their own gendered-class interests could only be pursued within the development of the capitalist model of accumulation. At the same time, we show that since the early 1980s the collaboration between the mainstream environmental movement and global capital became much more extensive and overt. In the place of an assumed congruity between capitalist development and environmental conservation, we see an active negotiation of the capitalist-environmentalist deal through joint corporate-environmentalist roundtables and advisory bodies, increased corporate sponsorship of environmental organizations, and the entry of environmental organizations into international partnerships with some of the largest, most environmentally destructive corporations and inter-state agencies (Benjamin and Turner 1993b).
After briefly examining the history of the mainstream environmental movement, we turn to a specific gendered-class analysis of the rise of the corporate environmental alliance that has promoted debt for nature swaps and other capitalist solutions to the debt-nature crisis.
Environmentalism and the male deal
The most obvious antecedent to today’s corporate-environmental alliance is the work of Gilford Pichot who founded the US Forest Service in 1905. Closely tied to the Progressive movement fostered by President Theodore Roosevelt, Pichot and other conservationists “argued for a professional, efficient, and technocratic approach (Darnovsky 1992: 17)” that would reconcile industrial and leisure demands on forests, rivers and other natural resources. When faced with a conflict between leisure and industrial use, however, “Pichot and his allies usually supported the developers (Darnovsky 1992: 17).”
Within the contemporary environmental movement, the industry-dominated conservationist school is often contrasted to the ostensibly more radical school of environmental preservation associated particularly with the movement to establish national parks. Preservationist John Muir made the struggle against corporate development of “wilderness” areas a “national cause celebre” with his campaign to prevent the damming of the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park (Darnovsky 1992: 17). US environmentalists, generally claim Muir, not Pichot as their forefather.
Despite the distinctions usually made between the conservationist and preservationist movements, however, we would suggest that both of these early forms of elite environmentalism express relationships of male dealing. In section II, we argued that the secure wages paid to a narrow portion of the working class place members of this proletarian elite in a position to command and benefit from the labour of others. This male deal, we have argued, has three important characteristics. Firstly, this relationship is a central element of capitalist relations of production because it organizes the greatest part of the labour necessary for capitalist production at minimal or no cost to capital. Secondly, this relationship implies a conflict between male dealers and the shadow workers whose labour they command. Thirdly, the male dealers’ access to a secure wage and associated command over the labour of others greatly narrows the scope of male dealers relationship with the natural world and other non-commodified sources of subsistence. In the following paragraphs, we trace three aspects of male dealing in the early environmental movement.
First of all, both the preservationists and the conservationists assumed the existence of areas of “wilderness” remote from human habitation and human labour, but available to serve the needs of a growing urban population. The ability of these early environmentalists to treat areas of the continent as wilderness areas to be preserved for corporate-dominated “multiple, wise use” or as examples of “pristine nature” are predicted on the recent forcible removals of indigenous peoples from that very land (Darnovsky 1992: 18; Wilson 1991: 25-7). Both the removals themselves, and the ability of the preservationists and conservationists to later benefit from these removals, are indicative of the hierarchical organization of power and privilege under capital.
Secondly, the conservationist and preservationist construction of wilderness is constituted within a particular historic conjuncture of capitalism marked by the transfer of industrial production from the countryside to the city that began in the US in the 1830s, and the attendant expansion of the urban working and petty capitalist classes, including clerks, book keepers and merchants, as well as urban factory workers. In opposing large-scale industrial extraction, the preservations sought natural areas for their personal use, primarily for recreation and aesthetic enjoyment. Leisure uses of nature, no less than resource extraction, express the specific gendered-class interests of the male dealers who 1) depended on nature only for those few needs, primarily psychological or spiritual, which they could not buy as commodities or command through the labour of shadow workers and 2) had the means to travel to remote areas to fulfil these needs. Critically, both aspects of this relationship are dependent on capitalist exploitation of nature and shadow workers. “The same middle-class couples who benefited from the capitalist use of nature as resource also needed the antidote of weekend excursions to New England’s lakes and mountains. The same men who were subjected to the stresses of competition needed the balance of nature’s psychic comfort (Merchant 1989: 251)”
Thirdly, this argument that the preservationist and conservationist movements expressed a form of male deal specific to the rise of industrial capitalism is supported by parallel developments in the urban centers. The wilderness preservation and conservation movements were a small part of a wide range of movements around health and leisure issues related to the production of labour power under industrial capitalism. These movements included diverse urban working class struggles to reduce industrial pollution in the waged workplace and the community, to improve sewage and garbage services, to gain access to clean water, and to build neighbourhood social life (Darnovsky 1992 26). In the 1980s, for example, in many North American cities citizen groups organized to block development of vacant lots so that the land could be used as play areas for children. With the rise of the welfare state in this century, provision and maintenance of play grounds would be provided on a more formal and more rigorously supervised basis by municipal governments. Initially, however, the playground movement was a popular initiative organized by women and enacted through women’s organizations. Alex Wilson notes the resemblance between these women’s organizations and the collective bargaining units men were forming in the factories at the same time (Wilson 1991: 24). As waged factory work reduced the hours men spent in the work of raising their children, women’s unwaged workload, and their gendered-class interest in creating recreational space for children, necessarily increased.
Significantly, neither the conservationist nor the preservationist movements built links with these urban environmental movements. “Drawing inspiration from Romanticism and Transcendentalism,” Darnovsky writes,
preservationists answered the increasing urbanization and industrialization of North America with an often elitist nostalgia. Lacking a social critique, they lamented the detrimental effects of urban development on the soul but failed to challenge the damages it inflicted on the lives of urban dwellers. Thus many preservationists were willing to fight tooth and nail to save a wilderness area, yet were unconcerned about development threats to lands that weren’t isolated from human activity (Darnovsky 1992: 18).
The new entente
Commenting on the corporate domination of such high profile international environmental initiatives as the World Commission on the Environment and Development (Brundtland Commission) and the subsequent United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED), Larry Lohmann wrote that “Seasoned observers... may wonder what is supposed to distinguish the new environmental alliance from the familiar sort of elite ententes that helped land the world in its current environmental mess — the old-boys networks and clubs typified by the military-industrial complex, the World Bank’s web of clients, consultants and contractors, the Trilateral Commission, and so on. The answer is non-governmental organizations (Lohmann 1990: 83-4). ”
There are numerous reasons why sectors of the US environmental movement would pursue such an alliance with capital. To begin with, the mainstream environmental movement has a long history of implicit as well as explicit corporate alliances. The 19th century conservationist and preservationist movements helped define the terms of much of the contemporary wilderness protection discourse in the US. We have seen how the objectives of the conservationist and preservationist movements predicated on the specific gendered-class interests of US industrial capital and its managers and intellectual workers. A new revisionist historical interest in this period (cf. Darnovsky 1992), reflects a perception that the contemporary mainstream environmental movement continues to be rooted in similar gendered-class interests. During the post-WWII productivity deal, public involvement in environmental organizing expanded rapidly. The growth in membership, however, did not reflect a fundamental transformation of the gendered-class character of the mainstream movement. Firstly, the expansion was rooted the temporary extension of the male deal to a larger segment of the working class population. As a consequence of this expanded deal, more workers gained access to sufficiently high levels of wage income such that 1) experiencing nature for leisure or aesthetic enjoyment became a high priority need in the production of their labour power; and 2) they could afford to travel outside their day to day work environment to find this nature (Hays 1982; Wilson 1991). Secondly, the mainstream movement for the most part failed to build links with non-elite interest such as communities of colour. Partly as a consequence, the mainstream movement continued to exclude non-wilderness issues such as the urban environment and subsistence land use rights from the environmental agenda (Bullard 1993; COICA 1989; Di Chiro 1992). Thirdly, despite the expanded membership base, in most environmental organizations these members have very little decision making power within the organization. As a consequence, much of the real organizational power within the mainstream environmental movement has remained in the hands of professional managers, most of whom continue to be university educated, Euro-American men (Darnovsky 1992; Sale 1986).
For all the reasons outline above, many environmental organizations entered the 1980s pursuing gendered-class politics little different from their predecessors a century earlier. At the same time, the outward circumstances of environmental organizing had changed in a number of important ways, many of them directly linked to the contemporary cycle of crisis and struggle. Firstly, a range of investigations carried out at the grassroots level had exposed the extent of capitalist destruction of the environment and human health. The pressure for action exerted within and by all sectors of the environmental movement had led to the creation of numerous governmental regulations intended mostly to screen the quantity and toxicity of industrial emissions being released into the environment. As such regulations were poorly defined and did not address the actual toxicity of the production process itself, they largely failed to meet public demands for substantial reductions in industrial contamination of the environment (Commoner 1987). Secondly, in response to the widely perceived failure of the mainstream movements to reduce industrial pollution, a more insurgent mode of environmental activism was coming to the fore, as typified by the US organization Earth First! (Sale 1986). At the same time, the US government under Ronald Reagan was carrying out a corporate agenda of repealing or diluting any environmental regulation that was seen to be hindering corporate profit-making (Darnovsky 1992: 42).
In 1981, at the request of a private donor who supported environmental conservation, the chief executive officers of the National Resources Defense Council, the National Wildlife Federation, the Wilderness Society, the Environmental Policy Institute, and four other large, US environmental organizations,
many of them with a wilderness orientation, sat down for a power lunch in Washington. The donor who had convened the meeting recommended that they form a loose environmental coalition, one which would include only organizations that were “active,” which he defined as “regularly going to members of Congress and corporations.” Groups such as Greenpeace and Environmental Action, which had large memberships and were national in scope but which defined “active” as “conducting, supporting or advocating direct action against the offending industries,” were to be excluded. The coalition of environmentalists' chief executive officers, which named itself the Group of Ten [with the later edition of two more “active” corporatist organizations], polished its professionalism, redoubled its lobbying efforts, and refined the art of compromise and dealmaking (Darnovsky 1992: 42).
The result of the Group of Ten’s renewed dedication to working within the framework of economic restructuring can be seen in a broad range of new environmental initiatives, including debt for nature swaps, that attempt to reconstruct environmental conservation not as a limit to growth, but as a basis for new strategies of accumulation. Such initiatives include the commodification of endangered eco-systems as sites organized for “eco-tourism” or the extraction of plant genetic material for pharmaceutical and agro-chemical industries, and the endorsement of so-called “green” or “environmentally-friendly” consumer goods (Diamond 1991; Nelson 1993; Tokar 1991). This is environmentalism as a modern enclosure movement: an intensification of capitalist commodification and exploitation, “a regular return on the path of accumulation and a structural component of class struggle (Midnight Notes 1992: 318.)”
VI. Debt for nature swaps: hegemony, accumulation and counter-insurgency
Between 1987 and mid-1991, NGOs and government agencies purchased debt valued at more than US$61 million in 19 DFNs. Although ten countries took part in these swaps, four — Ecuador, Costa Rica, Madagascar and the Philippines — were responsible for 95 percent of the environmental funds generated (Mahoney 1992: 98). These funds were used for a variety of purposes including environmental training, research and education. But the primary use was to manage or expand natural parks and conservation areas (Mahoney 1992: 97).
In this paper we have set debt for nature swaps in the context of a struggle taking place between capitalist and popular forces, as well as among capitalists and capitalist states, over the ways and conditions in which work is performed. Capital’s failure to resolve its crisis of falling profits and declining hegemony through the mechanisms of the energy and debt crises has, we have argued, led to a deepening struggle between capital and popular forces for control over natural, social, and built environments. The rise of corporate environmentalism reconstructs nature conservation 1) as a key element in the process of building and maintaining consensus within the strategic power bloc composed of the owners of the largest, most globalized transnationals, the managers who run these corporations, and the third world capitalists who have invested in them; 2) as an opportunity to employ the interlocking crises of debt and nature to organize and build support for new strategies of accumulation in the interest of these specific gendered-class actors; and 3) as strategy of counter-insurgency aimed directly at those popular organizations most effective in opposing capitalist restructuring.
In this section, we examine debt for nature swaps in the context of the specific gendered-class interests of restructured global capital. After summarizing some of the key criticisms of DFNs as articulated by grassroots organizations and activists, we turn to a detailed examination of the consensual environmental discourse which links the owners, managers and investors in global capital to programs such as DFNs. We conclude this section by tracing the articulation of these interests to two DFNs carried out in Ecuador in 1986 and 1987.
Debt for Nature Swaps: critical issues
In an article written before the first DFN was completed in 1987, Barbara Bramble, then director of international programs for the resources conservation department of the US National Wildlife Federation, stated that financial and political questions aside, all parties involved in DFNs could be assumed to gain from the “benefits of promoting sustainable development (Bramble 1987: 197).” The experience of implementing these swaps, however, has led to considerable debate among academics, government planners, environmentalists and grassroots activists over the degree of effectiveness of this mechanism both in ameliorating debt burden and in conserving specific eco-systems ( cf. Cartwright 1989; Cleary 1991; Couto 1992; Hansen 1989; Mahoney, 1992; Page, 1989). The criticisms made by activists and grassroots organizations are summarized below.
First, the roughly US$61 million in southern debt that was written off between 1987 and mid 1991 is of limited significance relative to the estimated $1.3 trillion in southern debt currently held by private and multilateral banks (Couto 1992: 48-9; IBASE 1992: 14-15; Mahoney 1992). Secondly, DFNs, like other forms of debt conversion, do not result in an actual transfer of funds from the north to the south (Couto 1992: 48-9; IBASE 1992: 27; Mahony 1992:100). Some organizations fear that use of debt swaps may divert attention from the need for such transfers (IBASE 1992: 27). Thirdly, DFNs, like other strategies for debt conversion or repayment, have been criticized by individuals and organizations who believe that any further repayment of the third world debt is unjust, based on the hardship such repayment causes; and on the fact that, in most cases, interest payments have already far exceeded the value of the initial loans, thus leading to a net transfer of wealth from the south to the north (UNESCO 1991:3). DFNs, even if they do not directly contribute to a further transfer of wealth from the south to the north, or to increased hardship in the debtor countries, are seen to be undermining calls for a debt moratorium (IBASE 1992: 15, 27-8).
DFNs have also been criticized as an inappropriate and ineffective method of promoting conservation. By and large, DFNs have failed to generate significant new resources for environmental conservation. Money promised by the debtor government may never be released or may simply be diverted from existing environmental funds (George 1992: 30; Mahoney 1992). Use of this mechanism to promote conservation, however, allows foreign NGOs and government agencies to extend their influence over the conservation priorities and models adopted in debtor country (Cleary 1991: 34-5; IBASE 1992). Among other things, this has meant the entrenchment of a North American “ringed fence” approach to conservation. As the pressures on Bolivia’s Beni Biological Reserve and Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park suggest, creation of such national parks and conservation areas has generally failed to prevent land colonization and corporate resource extraction, much less address the underlying issue of land rights (Cleary 1989: 135; Couto 1992: 48; Gonzalez 1991: 462-4; Kimerling 1991). Indeed, such approaches may actual encourage or legitimize the uprooting of local peoples, including indigenous and peasant communities (COICA 1989; Gray 1991; Gonzalez 1991: 460; Tokar 1990: 26). In addition to the violation of human rights evident in such displacement, dispossession of local communities may destroy patterns of stewardship essential to preserving the eco-system which the park is intended to protect (COICA 1989; IBASE 1992: 20-1; Rich 1985: 58; Tokar 1990). Finally, even when the creation of parks and conservation areas does not directly displace local peoples, the process may undermine efforts to establish local control of resource management or to establish indigenous land title and demarcate indigenous territory (Tokar 1990: 26).
The 1987 and 1989 Ecuador DFNs
We conclude our examination of DFNs with two specific case histories. From this analysis, we see that DFNs are largely public relations and conflict management interventions of value to the leading sectors of international capital which promote them through their home governments and multilateral agencies. Nature swaps are also mechanisms for genetic engineering firms to secure access to research sites in the world's most biodiverse regions.
In 1987 the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) paid $354,000 to US banks for Ecuadorian debt with a face value of one million dollars. In the swap the WWF received Ecuadorian sucre bonds equivalent to the million dollars. A much bigger project at three times the discount rate was organized by the WWF in 1989. This time the Fund and its two partners, Nature Conservancy and the Missouri Botanical Gardens, transferred $1,068,750 to Bankers Trust, Citicorp, Morgan Guaranty Trust and American Express Bank. This bought $9 million of Ecuador's debt which the US groups traded at Ecuador's central bank for the sucre equivalent in bonds. The total yield from the two swaps was $10 million in bonds. This was put under the jurisdiction of a local NGO, Fundacion Natura, which agreed with the World Wildlife Fund to spend all the money to maintain national parks, mark boundaries, draw up management plans and carry out environmental education (Mahony 1992:100). The parks include the Galapagos Islands, over one million hectares on the western and eastern slopes of the Andes (Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve, Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, Sangay National Park and Podocarpus National Park); and one million hectares in the Amazon (Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve and Yasuni National Park). They also include Machalilla National Park, a 40,000 hectare site on the northwestern coast (World Wildlife Foundation 1989).
A number of questions have been raised with respect to the Ecuador swaps. First, to what extent can the parks be protected from destruction under the swaps' terms? Second, what are the implications for peoples living in the park territories of the new authority exercised by Fundacion Natura as the local partner of three US NGOs? Third, who gains and who loses from the research which the swaps organize in the ecological reserves and parks?
Mahony stated that preservation is "a formidable job" in all the Ecuador parks (1992:100). Poachers and illegal loggers have invaded the Andean Podocarpus park. On the Andean slopes, large scale plantation operators have invaded Cotacachi-Cayapas, while landless farmers threaten Cayambe-Coca and Sangay. The World Wildlife Fund (1989:10) reported that local people's tree cutting for fuel and over grazing of goats and cattle may soon reduce parts of northwestern Machalilla to desert. As the result of ongoing oil exploitation in and around the Amazonian parks, thousands of landless people from the western part of Ecuador have moved into both the parks as they are made accessible by oil company roads. In the case of the 'protected' Cuyabeno wildlife reserve, for example, the Ecuador government authorized the construction of several oil roads. Facilitated by the military and by oil workers, over two hundred colonist families occupied the 'wildlife reserve,' as of 1993 (Vickers 1990:7, Adams 1993:37). Many of these colonists are part time oil company employees who seek title to land by conforming to the government's requirement that land be cleared to demonstrate that it is being developed for commodity production (World Bank 1990:12). It is evident then that the Ecuador debt nature swaps do virtually nothing to protect the designated areas. Indeed, as we will see, disruption of indigenous communities and the crowding of these communities onto a smaller land base may, in fact, intensify exploitation of the environment with a resulting loss in biodiversity.
The two interlocking dynamics of colonization and intensive resource extraction serve to alienate land from indigenous peoples and concentrate it in the hands of speculators. As a consequence the indigenous peoples are deprived of access of the important source of subsistence resources (Nugent 1990:226; IBASE 1992:20). In those areas where indigenous people have secured land rights, they have received no support from the authorities in defending their territory from invading colonists and oil companies. In specific instances, the Ecuadorian military has cooperated with national and transnational oil companies, including Conoco and Texaco, to remove indigenous peoples from park lands (Gonzalez 1991).
With respect to the third question, it appears that under the consensual discourse of nature conservation, the privatization of research findings by northern firms is a central objective of the Ecuador swaps. The Fundacion Natura coordinates a project financed by the World Wildlife Fund and Nature Conservancy through which it established an agreement with the US research organization, the Missouri Botanical Gardens. The agreement gives Missouri Botanical Gardens exclusive rights to carry out research on genetic resources in the designated reserves and parks (IBASE 1992:19). The US research institution has no obligation to turn the results of its research over to Ecuadorian organizations or to develop joint research. No reference is made in the agreement to technology transfer. The swaps are in practice facilitating the alienation of knowledge about Ecuador's biological diversity to private northern firms, thus widening the research and development gap, creating new forms of dependency and laying the basis for new types of appropriation (IBASE 1992:19).
Conclusion: the limits of capitalist ecology
The editors of The Ecologist have commented that while the institutional environmentalism represented by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development and similar forums is
interested only in ‘solutions’ that will permit industrial growth to continue, the movements that have been spawned through resistance to enclosure are carving out a very different path. Their demands centre not on refining market mechanisms, nor incorporating text-book ecology into economics, nor on formulating non-legally binding treaties, but on reclaiming the commons; on reappropriating the land, forests, streams and fishing grounds that have been taken from them; on reestablishing control over decision-making and on limiting the scope of the market. In saying ‘no’ to a waste dump, a dam, a logging scheme or a new road, they are saying ‘yes’ to a different way of life: ‘yes’ to the community’s being able to decide its own fate; ‘yes’ to the community’s being able to define itself (The Ecologist 1992: 196).
There is, then, a fundamental gap between the goals of popular movements in relation to the debt-nature crisis and the solutions that capital would impose. This gap is the terrain of gendered-class struggle. In this paper, we have delineated three dynamics of class composition, economic restructuring and gendered-class struggle which we argue are reflected in the promotion of debt for nature swaps as a component of the corporate solution to the debt-nature crisis. The first of these dynamics is the recomposition of capital itself. We argue that the promotion of debt for nature swaps reflects the convergence of three groups of gendered-class actors within or aligned to international capital. These three gendered-class actors are firstly, the owners of some of the largest, most globalized transnational corporations; secondly, those members of the third world capitalist class who became major investors in transnational capital during the period of high oil prices and loose lending in the 1970s; and thirdly, the expanding, predominantly male managerial class which both runs the transnationals and dominates the largest international environmental organizations. On the one hand, the owners, investors and managers of global capital have the potential to form a strategic alliance or power bloc within capital on the basis of their mutual interests in restoring the rate of profit and the hegemony of a global system of capitalist accumulation badly battered by the popular uprisings of the 1960s. On the other hand, the third world investors and the managerial class find themselves increasingly on the front line of social struggle as this economic restructuring threatens to exhaust the ecological and social basis of capitalist production and human life. Corporate environmentalism, we have argued, is part of the new male deal holding this strategic alliance together.
The second dynamic which we traced in this article is capital’s efforts to restructure the relations and conditions in which work is performed. We demonstrated that through a sequence of economic restructuring measures initiated with the oil crisis of the early 1970s capital has reduced workers access to relatively high paying and secure waged work as a means of increasing the exploitation of various forms of low-paid or unwaged, casual or invisible labour typically performed by women in general, as well as by women and men in the urban informal sector and among peasant and indigenous societies.
The third dynamic examined in this paper is the growth in popular insurgency led by precisely those workers whom capital has targeted to pay the price of economic restructuring. We argued that these subject groups not only have the power to resist capitalist restructuring, but more significantly to transform the social relations of capitalist production through their struggles. This potential has repeatedly forced capital to redouble its efforts to carry out the restructuring of labour relations and to do so precisely by attacking the very basis of insurgent social power, namely access to arable land, non-commodified social environments, and public services.
Thus on the one hand capitalist restructuring of labour relations, the enclosure of natural resources and the debt-imposed assault on state spending, have brought on what Gita Sen and Caren Grown have termed a “reproduction crisis (Sen and Grown 1987: 51)” for the urban and rural poor. On the other hand, its is precisely in the face of such enclosures, that broad based movements of women and men are struggling to retain or reappropriate popular control over the means of subsistence, and to exert locally defined values, meanings and forms of social relations in defense of the commons. (Midnight Notes 1992: 317-33; Rao 1989; Varese 1991).
Of popular organization against debt repayments and capitalist restructuring, Harry Cleaver has said, "Either we believe in our ability to craft a new world, or we do not. Those of use who are convinced that we, collectively, have this ability cannot accept being limited to some variation of accumulation (Cleaver 1989: 41)." To accept debt for nature swaps and other new enclosures as any sort of solution to the debt-nature crisis is to accept defeat for the popular struggle to restore the commons even as it is finding its strength. doc name: c:
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