The limits of globalisation
Globalisation, we are told, is a wondrous thing. It is bringing the dubious delights of capitalism to every corner of the globe and lifting billions out of poverty. No doubt exists in my mind that this is a truth but it is exactly that, a not the truth. Often the truth, rather than being a singular unbroken thread is a many-faceted thing.
For while the above is true, its also true that for all the billions lifted out of poverty there are billions more cast down into the poverty pit. Whole nations in fact are shackled in these chains. This phenomena is not just restricted to the starving countries you see on your TV screen but increasingly it is afflicting first-world countries.
This is not just because of the traditional avarice of indigenous capitalists but also a fundamental structural shift. Manufacturing and industry is in terminal decline in the first-world. Why would companies produce goods in Britain when they can do it at half-price or less in a country with no serious protection for its workers and they can pay a fraction of the wages they would to a British worker? Last nights Newsnight illustrated this perfectly with its report on migrant workers in China; these workers are denied basic rights of citizenship and are a slave class.
This is leaving whole communities in first-world countries mired in a cycle of poverty and reliance on increasingly thin welfare provision. No investment or support has been forthcoming from successive governments and then these people find themselves demonised as ‘scroungers’. This wretched government is going to push these communities finally under and hold them there until the last gasp of life leaves them.
Another good illustration of the problems of globalisation is the current crisis facing the Eurozone and the European Union. The EU finds itself emasculated in the undemocratic chains woven by nation-states whose governments are not prepared politically to make the necessary leap to democratic transnational governance. We are told that demands for greater national autonomy within the EU are ‘democratic demands’. Nothing could be further from the truth; it is the institutions and practices of the EU that have been created to protect ‘national sovereignty’ that are the most undemocratic. If these ‘ champions of democracy’ want to truly defend it then when will they demand a fully-elected and sovereign European Parliament? Incidentally, the economic woes of the Euro have the same root cause – muddle-headed austerity and too little integration, not too much.
It is tempting for the left, faced with all this, to collapse into offering reactionary, not progressive, political solutions. ‘British jobs for British workers’ being a good example of this type of mistake – manically screaming ‘No to the EU’ being another. Capitalism cannot complete the globalisation process due to its inherent contradictions. Socialism, with its vision of global democratic governance, on the other hand can. However, this will only happen if it opens its eyes to the world around us and seeks again to shape it, not merely react to it with a jerking knee.