Book Review

Fat Cats and Running Dogs – The Enron Stage of Capitalism, by Vijay Prashad, Common Courage Press, 2003; paperback, 144 pp., $16.95

Vijay Prashad’s Fat Cat and Running Dogs – The Enron Stage of Capitalism challenges the reader to see the Enron/Arthur Andersen collapse as more than a mere accounting or bad corporate culture scandal. Prashad, through mega-research and political economic analysis, places the one corporation and one accounting firm in the context of a system – modern day capitalism. His writing style is poetic at times, using song lyrics, poems and other cultural references and analogies to highlight the analysis. His description of an eighth continent – a “Continent of Sleaze” – is an example. Prashad’s humor is acerbic, always keeping his fire on the sleaze continent’s inhabitants.

Vladimir Lenin, in Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism, written at the dawn of the 20th century, used facts and figures of corporations and capital flow of that time to indicate the direction of the system of capitalism. Much has changed since Lenin’s day, but Prashad utilizes many of Lenin’s methods. (Surprisingly, though, Lenin is not mentioned.)

The book analyzes Enron’s history to project the direction of what many around the world call neo-liberal globalization. And that direction is not pretty. As Prashad comprehensively illustrates, Enron used organized crime and terrorist methods, with the helping heavy hand of the U.S. governmental apparatus, from the CIA to military forces, to rip off, assault and threaten people around the world, in particular in the third world. Prashad also reveals how the right-wing and sometimes centrist governments of many countries abetted these actions for the officials’ own narrow, ill-gotten gains.

Prashad shows that capitalism’s “Enron stage” is not only bad for the overwhelming majority of the world’s people, increasing poverty, exploitation, war, racism and gender inequality, but it is also bad for the planet’s eco-system and can lead to an environmental disaster of unknown proportions. And indeed, while not directly saying this, he shows that the Enron stage is even bad for business and commerce, which, if conducted on a non-exploitative equal-partnership basis, could help satisfy the world’s yearning for sustainable development and peace.

Prashad exposes many of the far-right U.S. ruling class cadre involved in Enron and the Bush administration as also being closely tied to the Pentagon, military corporations, intelligence agencies, drug-running operations and other reactionary interests. He highlights their actions in countries of Asia, Latin America the Caribbean and Africa.

But Prashad doesn’t drown the reader in a pool of desperation, overwhelmed with the many problems. He offers the reader a way to change the situation – through the unity and struggle of millions.

In a chapter titled “Moving on the Contradictions” Prashad writes of movements and organizations around the world that are in motion making a better life for workers and all the people of the planet. However, he only touches the surface of the movements that make up what he calls the “modern day Diggers.” Too much attention is given to U.S. left organizations and not enough to the organizations that represent larger sections of the multi-racial, multi-national working class, communities of color, women, youth, seniors, gays and lesbians, disabled and other sectors of the population and social movements from environmental to labor.

For example, the AFL-CIO and many individual unions are engaging in important solidarity actions with Colombian trade unionists. Yet, not a word is mentioned of that. The left has to join with labor, the nationally and racially oppressed, women, and other social forces in the struggles that they themselves are engaged in. Divorced from this, left thought and initiatives become impotent.

Nevertheless, Prashad makes a significant contribution in answering the challenges on the role of U.S. imperialism put forward by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt in Empire, their analysis of globalization.

I look forward to Prashad’s future writings on the working-class and democratic movements in the United States and their dynamic interaction and connection with our counterparts around the globe. Looking towards building left-center unity against the far-right, which is the strongest engine pushing neo-liberal globalization, is critical in this time of a Bush unending war doctrine. Such attention to these movements and organizations will strengthen the workingclass and its allies and their movements for social justice and progress, which are certainly the makers of history.

– Terrie Albano