Reading materials on BRIC, Asia
Resistance to globalisation
From the point of view of international solidarity, the current period is characterized first of all by the central place occupied by resistance to neo-liberal policies and by the diversity and objective convergence of different forms of resistance. This central place, this diversity and this convergence can largely be explained by the nature and scope of the consequences of capitalist globalization, whose consequences are being felt painfully in every sphere of social life.
Neo-liberal globalization, a new stage in the reconstruction of the world market and the internationalization of capital, is manifested first of all in the economic sphere: the growing autonomy of the financial sector, the drastic but uneven liberalization (at the South’s expense) of capital movements and trade, the multiplicity of mega-mergers, the expansion of the realm of competition, deregulation, privatization, etc. But globalization is not only at work on the levels of trade, industry and finance.
The capitalist globalization now under way is imposing deep social transformations: first of all on the subaltern classes, who are being subjected to a violent process of increasing insecurity and fragmentation; but also within the dominant classes themselves, with the weakening and marginalization of various traditional components of the bourgeoisie and the elites. Globalization is renovating the modes of Northern domination of the South and provoking a general reorganization of space on this planet, with the (uneven) consolidation of regions that are in the periphery of the three poles of the imperialist Triad and the possibility of abandoning much vaster regions to disintegration. It is modifying the dominant mechanisms of political decision-making and calling forth a new overall balance of the centres of power, whether they are economic, political or military, national, regional or international. It is thus assigning new roles to the world institutions founded in the post-war period. At bottom, to conclude, capitalist globalization requires the emergence and stabilization of a new mode of bourgeois domination, on the international level as well as in a considerable number of countries. In fact, in the name of free trade, the neo-liberal order wants to open up to the dictatorship of the markets and multinationals all sectors of social life that still partially escaped their grasp. Again in the name of the right to competition, it is reducing states’ field of action and manoeuvring room in a drastic way, by imposing strict constraints on states while granting an unprecedented freedom of action and decision-making to the big multinationals and financial and industrial oligopolies.
States continue to play a major role-most particularly in the world arena and in matters concerning the most powerful imperialist states. But neo-liberalism considerably limits (including by means of laws) the bourgeoisie’s recourse to its usual systems of domination and socio-political regulation based on major redistributive mechanisms, now considered violations of the right to competition. These modes of domination (social compromises in Europe, clientelist states in Africa, populism in Latin America, economic statism in Asia, etc.) had nonetheless proved their usefulness by allowing existing regimes to consolidate their social bases and throttle any sudden rise of popular struggles.
Neo-liberal globalization thus has radical effects in every part of the world and in every field: economic, social, ideological, institutional, political and cultural. This shows the power and omnipotence of the ongoing process of capitalist reorganization, but also reveals its first Achilles heel: its very breadth creates an objective link - a common fate - that is closer than ever before among forms of resistance carried out throughout the world, among struggles under way on the whole range of battlefields.
By placing the formal decision-making centres further and further away from elected institutions (including in Western countries) and substantially limiting the use of redistributive policies, the neo-liberal order shows itself a particularly crude form of class dictatorship. This is its second Achilles heel, since in times of crisis it cannot claim either a democratic legitimacy founded on an electoral mandate nor a social legitimacy earned by reducing inequality.
Even more than other modes of bourgeois domination, the neo-liberal order’s stability depends on the passivity or division (and thus powerlessness) of the exploited and oppressed. This explains the violence of the ideological offensive declaring that there is no alternative and no hope of change. It also explains the brutality of the social offensive, whose goal is not only to ensure shareholders’ profits through surplus exploitation of labour, but also to block the formation of new forms of solidarity and dissolve old forms of solidarity (embodied in particular by social security and social protection systems in the advanced capitalist countries) in the name of modernity. Capitalist globalization is thus ripping apart the social fabric and making the lives of the lower classes more precarious by generalizing social insecurity and destroying collective rights won in past struggles, replacing them with frayed “safety nets” and targeted, sectoral, individualized forms of charity. Divide and rule: capital’s discourse sets the unemployed against wage earners, private-sector against public-sector, working women against working men, jobs for youth or immigrants against jobs for adults or the native-born. It reduces the world to competition with everyone against everyone else.
Capital’s offensive is formidable, but neo-liberal globalization is also producing antibodies and effectively creating the conditions for new forms of solidarity. The market order attempts to impose its sway in every sector of society, and thus provides a basis for transversal, multi-sectoral convergence among social and democratic struggles. The same institutions are imposing the same neo-liberal policies around the world, which provides the basis for international convergence of resistance movements.
Fragmentation or unity: which will prevail? Success or failure in achieving solidarity will largely determine whether tomorrow’s battles are won or lost.
The neo-liberal model of domination, which depends for its stability on the fragmentation of social movements more than on their integration into a collective project, increases all forms of inequality (class, gender, community, regional, etc.), exacerbates oppression and fuels the resurgence or reinforcement of deeply reactionary ideologies. Women are experiencing the full severity of each of these regressive mechanisms.
Women are thus the first victims of increasing job insecurity, to the point where their right to work is being challenged even in countries where it had been won through head on struggles. Given the responsibilities assigned to them in the family as in local communities, they are also hard hit by another side of the neo-liberal model: the systematic creation of a state of generalized social insecurity, a process which is far from being limited to job status alone. The rise of religious fundamentalism in certain countries (Afghanistan!) has consequences for women that are truly tragic; but even in other parts of the world they face reactionary ideological campaigns that are attacking their dignity and fundamental rights, such as the rights as citizens, right to choose and right to health care (including contraception and abortion, but in some Southern countries they also face forced sterilization imposed in the name of population control).
The struggle for women’s liberation is therefore becoming more and more timely, and remains a point of intersection in the overall fight for equal rights and social transformation. Faced with capitalist globalization, its international dimension is becoming more prominent, as the organization of the Women’s Global March in 2000 bears witness (with its two-dimensional struggle against the patriarchal and capitalist order), as does the progress made in organizing feminist movements internationally.
In the wake of the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, Washington proclaimed the emergence of a new world order. This has not put an end to either wars or nuclear threats. In fact the neo-liberal disorder fuels international and regional conflicts.
In the epoch of market globalisation, relationships of imperialist domination have not disappeared; they rest even more than before on the effects of inequality within a global system. In the countries of the South, therefore, the anti-imperialist struggle is as relevant as ever. The constant renewal of inequality among countries and regions is at work in every part of the world. This can contribute to reviving tensions among states, and can also be the basis of many national and regional demands. The importance of the democratic principle of peoples’ rights to determine their own fate, their rights to self-determination, is thus confirmed.
But in the present context, national and regional demands, however legitimate they may be, can lead to conflicts between communities that can even fuel a dynamic of “ethnic cleansing”. For one thing, these demands do not fit as naturally as they used to into an anti-imperialist and socialist perspective, which would guarantee that they had a dimension of solidarity and universalism. For another, capitalist globalization reduces the role and effectiveness of the political spaces in which people organized and expressed themselves as citizens; without such spaces, understanding mutual rights and defining a future of solidarity become particularly difficult.
Similarly, while annexing territory has become less important to the great powers, at least in some parts of the world, controlling communications routes and systems and access to natural resources, markets and supplies of labour remain essential. States’ military capacities are proving to be just as decisive as in the past, as the US’s use of its supremacy in this domain bears witness. The European Union is thus seeking to unite its forces and make up for its lag on this terrain. As for the refusal of the great powers (such as the US and France) to begin a process of nuclear disarmament and stop the modernization of their arsenals, this has also relaunched the world arms race - with Pakistan and India in particular moving forwards with atomic tests.
Imperialist interventions are often hidden today behind humanitarian emergencies, as with the Kosova war. Nevertheless, in the wake of this war NATO during its 50th anniversary affirmed its strategic ambitions in Eastern Europe (and beyond Eastern Europe in Asia) and conferred on itself a right of action throughout the whole world, if necessary independently of the UN. As a result tensions among the great powers, between Washington, Moscow and Beijing, have been given a new, long lease on life. NATO appears today as the military arm of the neo-liberal world order, a military counterpart to the IMF, World Bank and WTO in the economic realm.
In recent years the weakening of the antiwar movement has constituted a major obstacle to the development of internationalist mobilizations. This weakness must be urgently overcome: by reinforcing the fight for nuclear disarmament, carried on jointly today by Pakistani and Indian movements as well as on a world scale by the network Abolition 2000; by reinvigorating the anti-imperialist struggle against NATO as well; and by once more situating the solution of national and regional issues in a socialist perspective, a perspective of solidarity and social transformation, so as to put an end to the dynamics of communitarian conflicts and banish the spectre of ethnic cleansing for good.