Anti-globalisation: ideological poison for the proletariat

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The ideology of 'anti-globalisation' is an emanation of the bourgeoisie. Its role is to derail any attempt by the working class to understand the world and draw the necessary conclusions, to drag all those who begin to question the current system back into the fold of the defence of democracy, of the capitalist state. It is thus a real danger to the working class.

The anti-globalisation movement has recently begun to give itself a new name in some countries (for example in France). It is using the term 'altermondialisation' - the 'alternative' to globalisation - as though it represented a new and important alternative to the current world order. As we shall attempt to show, this is not at all the case. The brilliant discoveries of anti-globalisation

The basis of anti-globalisation ideology is the denunciation of the 'neo-liberal' policies adopted by the major powers since the 1980s, which have allegedly placed the entire world in the hands of the great multinational companies, subordinating all human activities - agriculture, natural resources, education, culture, etc - to the pursuit of profit. This is sometimes described as a process of commodification and standardisation of products - everything is up for sale, in short.

The world is run by the dictatorship of the market. This dictatorship has at the same time stolen political power from democratically controlled states, and thus from the citizens of the world.

Thus the anti-globalisation lobby raises the battle-cry: 'our world is not for sale'. They demand that the law of the market must not guide political policies. Political decision-making must be restored to the citizens, and democracy must be defended and extended against all financial diktats.

In sum, the anti-globalisers have reinvented the wheel. It's some revelation that capitalist enterprises only exist to make profit! That, under capitalism, all goods are turned into commodities! That the development of capitalism means the globalisation of exchange!

The workers' movement did not wait until the 1990s and the new wave of clever academics and radical thinkers who have come up with all this. All these ideas can be found in the Communist Manifesto, first published in 1848:

"The bourgeoisie has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single unconscionable freedom - Free Trade�The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage-labourers�

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere. The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of reactionaries, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood."

Thus, the anti-globalisers claim to be offering a new analysis and a new alternative while at the same time suppressing all reference to two centuries of struggles and of theoretical endeavours by the working class, aimed precisely at understanding the bases for a truly human future. And little wonder: the better world proposed by the anti-globalisers does not look forward, as the workers' movement has always done, but backwards, to a mythical rural past of happy little enterprises and local exchanges - or, more prosaically, to the period between the 1930s and the 1970s, which for them represents a lesser evil compared to the liberalisation which got underway in the '80s. After all, that was the period of 'Keynesianism' in which the state was a more obvious actor on the economic stage.

However, before rushing to choose the years 1930-70 over the last two decades, it's worth recalling a few of the characteristics of that period.

Let's not forget that Keynesian policies did not solve the crisis of 1929 and that massive unemployment had returned to most of the western economies by the end of the 30s; let's not forget the second world war; let's not forget the catastrophic situation of the working class during the world war and for some years after it; let's not forget that since 1945 not a single day has passed without war and that this has resulted in the loss of tens of millions of lives. And finally, let's not forget that at the end of the 1960s, capitalism plunged into an economic crisis which led to the inexorable growth of unemployment.

This is the 'better world' the anti-globalisers look back on so fondly, the lost paradise destroyed by the multinationals!

All this is the expression of a classic ideological manipulation by the bourgeoisie: to present two apparently opposed alternatives which turn out to be the two sides of the same coin.

One of the clearest examples of this false alternative is the argument that the state has withdrawn from the economy, leaving a free hand to the giant companies which are undermining democracy and the general interest. This is a total fraud. The state has never been more present in the economy than it is today. It's the state which regulates world trade and fixes the interest rates, customs tariffs, etc. The state is still the leading economic actor, with a public expenditure which makes up an increasing portion of GNP and of the ever-swelling budget deficit. This is the so-called 'powerless', 'absent' state in the model country of liberalism, the USA. It is virtually impossible to mention any economic, political or social sector in which the state doesn't have an important, if not preponderant role.

And the state is not the guarantor of a better world, where riches are more equally distributed: it's the state which ruins this world, through war, through attacks on workers' wages, pensions and social benefits. It's the state which bleeds the working class dry to stand up to the crisis of the system.

What the anti-globalisers are saying to all those who ask questions about the state of the world is this: the choice is between liberalism and state capitalism, when the real choice is between socialism or barbarism.

The source of wars, of poverty, of unemployment, is not the so-called liberal revolution imposed by super-powerful multinationals, but the mortal crisis of capitalism, which no policy of the bourgeoisie, whether Keynesianism or liberalism, can resolve. False alternatives

The anti-globalisers claim to be anti-capitalist. But all their policies boil down to a criticism of the 'excesses' of this world and to proposals aimed at safeguarding democracy. Behind the whole melange of issues and proposals they put forward lies the old left-wing reformism which the revolutionary movement has fought against for over a century.

Let's look first of all at the idea of a 'solidarity economy', in other words the global extension of all the experiences of cooperatives and self-management which have always meant no more than the self-exploitation of the workers. Linked to this is the notion of the citizen's initiative, according to which each individual can play his part in improving the state of the world. This approach ignores the division of society into classes and ties the proletariat to the bourgeoisie by pretending that everyone is an equal citizen as long as you have enough democracy.

The ideas of a more just management of the economy, of fair trade and all the rest, are also part of this warmed up version of the old reformism. For decades the social democrats have bleated on about the fairer distribution of the fruits of growth. Such conceptions deliberately hide the fact that capitalism is a system in crisis, and that the ruling class, far from sharing the benefits of growth, is compelled to make the working class pay for the crisis.

In any case, who is supposed to be in charge of this fairer distribution of wealth, if not the state? The fulminations of writers like Naomi Klein and George Monbiot against the policy of privatisation exposes what lies behind anti-globalisation ideology; the defence of the public sector, of the state.

But the anti-globalisers also claim to be internationalists. It's true that the various organisations who campaign for 'global justice' exist in many countries, are in contact with each other and repeat the same slogans. But this has nothing in common with working class internationalism. One of the key demands of the anti-globalisers is for protectionist measures to defend small countries or small farmers and traders against the multinationals. In other words, they want workers to identify with the national interest of small states - when the class struggle can only advance by breaking ties with all national interests and all nation states.

As a matter of fact, one of the main unifying themes of the anti-globalisers is opposition not just to the multinationals or the World Trade Organisation, but to the USA. What they denounce above all is US domination of the world market, not the world market as such. And when they call for a stronger democratic state, this is above all a plea for America's imperialist rivals to stand up to the USA's attempts to maintain its global hegemony. Again George Monbiot was quite explicit about this when, in one of his many articles for The Guardian, he called for European unity and the extension of the Euro as a bulwark against US war-mongering. This is about as far away from internationalism as you can get - calling for resistance to one imperialism by binding yourself hand and foot to another. It is no accident that the anti-globalisation movement now plays a central role in the pacifist deception - and thus in the march towards new imperialist wars. A real danger for the working class

Why has the bourgeoisie invested so heavily in publicising the anti-globalisation movement?

We can answer this at two levels. In the most general sense, the democratic ideology which is so crucial to the maintenance of capitalist class rule cannot do without the idea that there is a political opposition to the status quo.The strong grip the old socialist and communist parties once held over the working class has been weakened by its experience of left-wing governments and the collapse of Stalinism, and there has been a growing need for a new and more credible 'anti-capitalist' alternative to the right.

More specifically, the bourgeoisie cannot afford to ignore the fact that within the proletariat more and more people are posing serious questions about the current state of the planet. To a large extent they come from a generation which has little interest in traditional politics and tends to be openly distrustful towards the old left parties.

This is why the anti-globalisation movement, with its ideology of local self-activity, of libertarianism and syndicalism, its mish-mash of a hundred different mini-causes and sub-movements, is so well placed to lead this embryonic questioning into the dead-end of bourgeois ideology.

The refried leftism of the anti-globalisers is thus an important instrument of the ruling class, which needs above all to hide the simple truth from those it exploits and oppresses: capitalism cannot be reformed, improved or made fair. It needs to be destroyed and replaced by a global communist society, and this cannot be achieved without class struggle leading to the world revolution.

H, 4/10/03.