Iraq, Libya and Syria are all in the news today for, seemingly, unrelated reasons. However, a common thread does bind them together and that is the failure of international governance and its structures, as they stand at least, to solve peoples problems. This is entirely due to the fact that although capitalism is globalising the world, and in a rudimentary fashion, planting the seeds for future world governance, it is doing so in its usual haphazard, uneven and undemocratic fashion.
In many ways, the United Nations is the epitome of that; rather than function as a genuine forum in which the peoples of the worlds are represented and their concerns it is instead, again as it stands, a body that is imprisoned by the vested interests of powerful nation states and also in other instances the vested interests and tiny despotism’s and dictatorships. When considering reform of the UN, a vital task, one of the first principles needs to be a shift of power away from national governments to differing groups of people and their concerns.
I do not take the line that these bodies should be dismissed out of hand because of their flaws because ultimately, and I accept this is far, far in the future; well beyond my life-span; I want to see a system of governance arise that is truly transnational. The urgent need for that is shown in the three instances above, if a proper international system of governance existed, in all three cases the perpetrators of heinous crimes against humanity would be properly, and as importantly, evenhandedly dealt with. It is not just globalised economics, which is a material fact that cannot and indeed should not be reversed, but globalised politics that demands this.
Similarly, I do not accept that we should descend into a knee-jerk ‘anti-imperialism of fools’. Imperialism is a complex web of highly situational and often conditional relationships which are no longer marked by military colonisation and direct political rule. It, indeed, would be impossible to sustain such a regime on a large-scale nowadays. Dominion of bigger, ostensible stronger but actually inwardly decaying, capitalist powers is enforced through agencies such as the IMF more often than through NATO. Similarly, opponents of ‘imperialism’ [sic] are often not the progressive hero’s of old, crusaders merely for equal national rights, but often are reactionaries who reject the progressive side of globalisation and whose victory would be a disaster for all concerned.
So, what does this all mean for the left? It means, that rather than reject globalisation and find comforting ‘morally superior’, but practically useless solace, in propagandist demands when it comes to big issues (such as the calling for phantom ‘international brigades’ to be sent to Libya) we have to raise a series of demands which,rather than seeking to halt capitalist globalisation, seeks to finish the job it has started in a even and democratic fashion. In other words, we take what is good from their agenda and complement it with democratic demands of our own which seek to logically advance the process. We may well for example therefore demand urgent reform of the United Nations, demand that we institute a system of international law which is both functional and enforceable in an even-handed fashion (by bodies that are transnational in nature but not dependent on or beholden too any individual nation states), and demand that institutions of economic oppression and slave-holding such as the IMF be transformed from top-to-toe (and if they can’t be, abolition and replacement considered). This is a forward-looking agenda for real change and it is one that current international crises urgently demand we fight for rather than burying our heads in the sand to changed realities and urgent necessities.