In the last few years, the movement which describes itself variously as the 'anti-globalisation' or 'anti-capitalist' movement, the 'alternative world' or 'global justice movement' has been in the forefront of protest across the world. Through its speeches, writings and demands everything is being done to give the impression that this movement is the bearer of a new analysis of the current social order and that it holds the key to doing away with all its ills. This is summed up in its slogan 'another world is possible'. What does this 'new social critique' really amount to?
According to the theories of anti-globalisation...
- ... the 'neo-liberal' policies adopted by the major powers since the 1980s, have placed the entire world in the hands of the great multinational companies,
- ... they have subordinated all human activity - agriculture, natural resources, education, culture, etc - to the pursuit of profit.
- ... the world is run by the dictatorship of the market...
- ... and 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 reality, anti-globalisation obscures the experience of marxism and the class struggle
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 have to wait until the 1990s and the new wave of clever academics and radical thinkers to discover all of 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 looks back longingly 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.
The falsification of history
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!
Hiding the bourgeois nature of the state and the bankruptcy of capitalism
All this is the expression of a classic ideological manipulation by the bourgeoisie: to rehabilitate the state and make people believe that it can be used against the excesses of neo-liberalism, or even serve as an alternative to the law of the market.
This ideology argues 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, including in the USA, supposedly the model of neo-liberalism. 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. 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.
Thus, according to the anti-globalisers, the proletarians only have to rally to the defence of the state and of public services. This is the real secret of this 'radically new' theory: state capitalism, whether in its Stalinist or democratic form.
But 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. What the anti-globalisers are saying to all those who ask questions about the state of the world is this: the choice is between neo-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 neo-liberal 'revolution' imposed by super-powerful multinationals, but the mortal crisis of capitalism, which no policy of the bourgeoisie, whether Keynesianism or neo-liberalism, can resolve.
Sowing illusions in reformism in order to hide the necessity for proletarian revolution
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 the lies of the old left-wing reformism which the revolutionary movement has fought against for over a century. The project of a fairer distribution or management of wealth is just a new version of the old social democratic idea of sharing out the benefits of growth.
Let's look 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 condition of the world. This approach ignores the division of society into classes and only serves to dissolve the working class into a mass of citizens, to divert their consciousness into the dead-end of participating in democracy. In the end it is aimed at preventing the proletariat from being able to find a real alternative to capitalist barbarism
Internationalism in words which hides nationalism in reality
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 is done with the aim of conserving the existing order, and thus nations. The only possible form of internationalism is that of the working class, the only class which has the same interests in all countries. It is inseparable from the goal of overthrowing capitalism and abolishing frontiers, which is the precondition for any genuine liberation of humanity.
The internationalism of the anti-globalisers is just the respectable shop window behind which is hidden the real goods: the defence of one imperialist interest against another. 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. Global justice campaigner George Monbiot was quite explicit about this when, in one of his many articles for The Guardian in Britain, 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.
Why has the bourgeoisie invested so heavily in publicising the anti-globalisation movement?
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. Faced with the aggravation of attacks on the working class, the bourgeoisie has a real need for mystifications which can derail the tendency for workers to become conscious of the real situation. 'Alternative worldism' corresponds to this need, posing as a credible alternative to the old left. The demand for a 'real left' makes use of old recipes for a fairer capitalism so that its foundations are not put into question. 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. 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 inter-classism and bourgeois ideology.
By reheating the old mystifications of the left, the bourgeoisie is once again seeking to obscure the simple truth: the only alternative to the destruction of humanity by capitalism in decay is the proletarian revolution and the construction of a communist society. Communism means the end of classes and national frontiers, where decisions are taken on the basis of needs rather than on profits and where each contributes on the basis of their abilities in a society which has solidarity at its core.
The ruling class needs to hide the fact that any serious proletarian movement will inevitably have to confront the very things that the anti-globalisation movement supports: the state, the left and democracy.
The working class must recognise the bourgeois nature of anti-globalisation ideology and see it for what it is: an obstacle to its authentic struggles to defend itself from the growing assaults of capitalism.
International Communist Current, 2/10/04.