Anti-leftism disguised as concern about democracy – the playbook hasn’t really changed

Celia Szusterman has a post up at Open Democracy about Cristina Kirchner and she doesn’t like her or her policies one bit.

I first have to say something about Open Democracy. Their mission statement is

free thinking for the world

which I am all down with. It just seems that they are not very discriminating in who they give a platform.
They let an economist with the British central bank proclaim that he was rethinking or even reinventing macro-economic thought while he still pushed deficit reduction.
They let a bunch of war mongers argue that the US could pound Iran into submission and therefore should.
And now they let Mrs Szusterman have her day.

She starts by denigrating Mrs Kirchner as a person, arguing that even her late husband didn’t trust her to make decisions. And of course, in Mrs Szusterman’s narrative, the achievements of Nestor Kirchner and his wife are not really theirs but instead tied to

the benign role played by the favourable world conditions of 2003-07.

the global context was highly favourable as a result of the financial extravagance of rich countries and the emergence of China and India into the global circuits of production and consumption.

What isn’t mentioned is that the world economic outlook was not worse in the 90s, 2001, 2002 with strong growth in the US, China, and India when neo-liberal policies wrecked the country.
In fact, in Mrs Szusterman’s opinion, president Kirchner tends to label those that

accuse her of authoritarianism, [as] “neoliberals” who are intent on “destabilising the national and popular government” (“nac & pop” as it is known colloquially).

There’s no mention there that neo-liberalism is a political (and economic) project that aims to render the state powerless when it comes to the welfare of the average population.
In addition, while she implies that Argentina’s economic recovery was commodity driven, this is not borne out by the facts.

Mrs Szusterman paints herself as a democrat who is worried that president Kirchner

…uses the national broadcasting network to question the integrity of journalists who publish critical articles.

but what doesn’t get mentioned here is that profit-oriented media will oppose any non-profit attempts to limit their owners’ power. This is very obvious in Europe and the US where the only outlets that offer at least a little pushback are publicly financed and do not have to scramble for advertisement money and therefore ratings. Yet if a latin-american president uses public media to push back against privately owned media (like Chavez or Kirchner) suddenly freedom of press is at stake. Cencorship doesn’t have to be overt and financial constraints are more effective at censoring opinion than overt state control. But in the neo-liberal mind set where free markets equal free people, this is ignored.

But, according to Mrs Szusterman, Argentina’s growth is not even that great:

This account ignores inconvenient facts such as that Argentina’s growth (of 3%, taking a long view), is no better than Brazil’s or Chile’s…

What does “taking the long view” even mean? It cannot refer to the period since the abandoning of the neo-liberal experiment during which Argentinian growth rates (with the exception of the impact of the Great Recession) are more in the vicinity of 8%. A period, by the way, during which both Brazilian and Chilean annual GDP growth was lower.
Also, if we’re talking commodities, it might be interesting to reflect on the fact that while Argentina sold off its oil company in the privatization madness of the neo-liberal years, Brazil kept control of theirs and could therefore profit from the rising oil prizes. And of course the model country Chile is torn by protests given its neo-liberal organization. GDP growth is a terrible predictor of population welfare.

Mrs Szusterman is also not happy about how president Kirchner handles the Argentinian bank:

In the same remarkable speech, she referred to the global league table of central bankers published by Global Finance magazine, in which Argentina’s Mercedes Marcó del Pont – in a distinction shared only with his counterpart in Ecuador – was awarded a “D”. Mrs Kirchner’s riposte was sarcastic: since one of the criteria for assessment was the relevant central-banker’s determination to confront political interference, had “Mercedes” been awarded an “A”, “she would have found herself in a serious problem with me”.

Bill Mitchell has written in detail about central bank independence and how this is another tenet of neo-liberal faith. So neo-liberals giving someone who rejects neo-liberalism a bad grade for doing so…

After this full-on assault on president Kirchner’s qualifications, Mrs Szusterman returns to her alleged concerns about subversion of democracy. In the most charitable interpretation, this is really her main issue and because she doesn’t trust others to care enough, she tries to strengthen her case by attacking Cristina Kirchner on everything else as well.
This charitable interpretation doesn’t really hold up, though, when she writes:

When he was again elected president in 1973 following his return from exile, Perón chose his third (and eminently unsuitable) wife to run as vice-president. His death in July 1974 opened the doors to her disastrous presidency and in turn, to the bloody military dictatorship of March 1976 (which lasted until 1983).

Because, you see, it weren’t the anti-leftist (and anti-democratic) militaries and their anti-leftist (and arguably anti-democratic) enablers in Washington that are to blame for the dictatorship – it’s the leftists that were ousted. In the same way that for Mrs Szusterman it isn’t the neo-liberals that brought Argentina to the brink of ruin and are fighting tooth and nail to regain power that are to blame, it’s the leftists that try to repair the damage. This smacks quite a bit of Kissinger’s “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”

This entry was posted in belief systems, democracy, economic policy, media, neo-liberalism, standards of living, wealth distribution. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Anti-leftism disguised as concern about democracy – the playbook hasn’t really changed

  1. Pingback: Is Open Democracy just a camouflaged propaganda tool? | Reality-based World View

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