Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Morgan Stanley and the "China Market"

On a day when the Bush administration is denouncing the New York Times for publishing further accounts on the CIA's destruction of torture tapes to suggest that some leading figures in the administration were for it (it is getting harder and harder to analyze the administration, since the liars are having difficulty keeping their lies straight) and Bush justice department and judicial would-be appointees are keeping mum on the torture technique known as waterboarding (which the Democrats are trying to fight and Senate Republicans are in effect defending), the really big news for U.S. state monopoly capitalism is that Morgan Stanley recorded its first quarterly loss ever, thanks to its financing of subprime loan predators, and sold an investment in itself to the China Investment Corporation, a Chinese State Company, of nearly five billion dollars.

Morgan Stanley is of course the successor a few times removed of J.P. Morgan Co., which was one hundred years ago the leading syndicate of finance capital, in the U.S. In those days, J.P. himself was still with us (when he died in 1913, his syndicate, challenged only in the U.S. by John D. Rockefeller's rival syndicate of finance capital, controlled 13 percent of the investment capital of the world) and forcing in 1907 his political enemy, Theodore Roosevelt, to turn to him to bail out the U.S. government in the midst of a financial crisis.

The Morgan Syndicate was also to be involved with other finance capitalists from other countries in "banking consortiums" that sort to exploit and control the collapsing Chinese empire, turning to various war lords to protect their interests, using Chinese middle men for economic purposes, and benefiting from the gun boat diplomacy of the imperialist powers who protected their various commercial concessions and extra territoriality (their right to set up cities within Chinese cities and administer them by their own rules) in China while they did with Chinese currency and the Chinese economy pretty much what they wanted, fighting among themselves for wealth and power over Chinese resources and labor.

Besides saying the obvious, "oh, how the mighty have fallen," we as Marxists might raise some difficult questions. If the Chinese state invests in Morgan Stanley, what does that mean in regard to Chinese state involvement in Morgan Stanley's global and U.S. policies? Also, can the Chinese state as it, according to economic reports, seeks to keep Chinese currency relatively cheap in order to foster increasing exports, control its own capitalists and keep from getting deeper and deeper intertwined with global imperialism (even if it doesn't want to be, will not its investments force it to be)?

Can China's commitment to a social market economy really develop, or will it become a Chinese version of state monopoly capitalism, albeit when where the state plays a more central role and is not so clearly controlled by capitalists?

Also, is it possible that China can use this growing economic power in leading global capitalist syndicates like Morgan Stanley to effect progressive changes in their policies, the way many liberals and progressives in the U.S. seek to steer investments toward what they see as socially useful causes?

I don't have any answers to these questions, but I am asking them on a day that old J.P. Morgan would be turning over in his grave, if he were informed by the stock ticker of what had happened.

Norman Markowitz

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