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September 2001 • Vol 1, No. 4 •


by Carole Seligman

It’s clear now. The hundred of thousands of protesters—youths and workers—who marched on the G-8 summit of the world’s wealthy states in Genoa, Italy, in July opposed the capitalist system itself, not just the “excesses” of that system. This represented a major shift in the politics of the movement from the Seattle protests of two years ago. And this is obviously the reason that the repressive forces of the state escalated their violence. In Papua New Guinea three anti-globalization protesters were killed on June 26. In Gothenburg, Sweden in June 2001 police shot at protesters. In Genoa, Italy, this July, 24 year old Carlo Guiliani was shot through the head and his bleeding, dead body run over by police, and scores of other protesters were beaten, injured and imprisoned by Italian police and paramilitaries.

The state “monopoly on the use of force”

Italian Interior Minister Claudio Scajola justified the use of force, boasting to New York Times reporter Melinda Henneberger: “A state must never lose the monopoly on the use of force….” [August 8, 2001]. This statement gets to the heart of the forces of globalization we are up against: The dictatorial rule of the capitalists protected by the capitalist states’ monopoly on the use of force and violence.

The underlying truth about how the world economy is organized is beginning to be widely understood in the wake of the vicious means the capitalist states have employed to attack the mostly peaceful protesters at the capitalist summits of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the G-8 summits. It is now becoming clear to many millions that the capitalist states act on behalf of the capitalist owners of the wealth of society and the means by which that wealth is produced.

Why oppose globalization?

Why do hundreds of thousands of young people and working people feel so strongly opposed to globalization? One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist or a statistician to observe the wealth gap all around us in our every day lives. Beggars on every corner in downtown San Francisco, a wealthy city with rents well over $1000 a month for a small apartment. Millions of homeless, including children and whole families, even workers with jobs, are on the streets and camping in miserable shelters in every U.S. city of any size. And the wealthiest country of the world has made cutbacks in social services that effect everyone—drastically underfunded public schools, decaying transportation systems, massive incarceration of youth, a boom in the building of prisons, the lack of basic health services for growing numbers of uninsured working people, accompanied by an explosion in preventable diseases such as TB, pneumonia, hepatitis, as well as diseases caused by environmental degradation (such as asthma, cancers, lung diseases, and many others). These facts are obvious to any one with their eyes and hearts open.

This little statistic may tell the whole story: The 200 richest people in the world own assets which combined are greater than the income of more than 2 billion people at the other end of the economic scale!

The wealth gap—some shocking statistics

Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are corporations, not countries. And the total sales of the largest of these corporations (General Motors, Wal-Mart, Exxon, Mobil, Ford, and Daimler Chrysler) are bigger than the gross domestic products of 182 countries. During the recent period of intense globalization between 1980 and 1996, the per capita gross domestic product of 59 countries declined. What this means for ordinary people is this: 200 million more people lived on less than $1 a day in the year 2000 than in 1987! Half of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day in 2001! In case you are questioning the source of these staggering figures, they’re from the World Bank itself.

The trend evident in all these statistics is that while overall wealth and productivity have grown worldwide, the gap between the capitalist owners and the working people has widened, even in the wealthiest countries. In the United States, the wealthiest one percent of households have greater net worth than the bottom 94 percent of all Americans combined! The average Chief Executive Officer now earns 416 times more than a worker.

In the United States, the accompanying horror of two million people in prison, (mostly non-violent offenders of reactionary drug laws), and 5.4 million people under some sort of supervision by the criminal justice system, points to the instability of the capitalist system itself. Instability? How else can one explain such a high percentage of working people under the direct control of the state in the wealthiest society known in world history? The system not only cannot work on its own, it requires the repression by the prison-industrial complex and the fear and low-wage pressure that such an enormous system of social control exerts on the workers.

Militarism and globalization

Another integral factor that cannot be ignored is the “New World Order” of U.S. imperialist militarism. This militarism is evident in the ongoing use of sanctions against Iraq, enforced by American and British military might; the U.S. financial and military support of Israel’s brutal military occupation and murderous repression of the Palestinian people; the arming of brutal reactionary governments and paramilitary death squads in Colombia and Indonesia, to name only two of numerous examples; the bombing of Vieques, Puerto Rico despite the overwhelming vote against it by the people of Vieques; the war of aerial bombardment against Yugoslavia in 1999.

This military expansion and growth continues despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting absence of any so-called “justification” for the addition of new weapons of mass destruction. Now this military expansion includes a revival of president Reagan’s discredited Stars Wars Missile “Defense” system.

This expanded military force of U.S. imperialism, this open breaking with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972 and the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that banned space militarization, this flaunting of new weaponry in the face of the opposition of most of the world’s governments—even the allies of U.S. imperialism—is actually the strongest statement of the meaning of capitalist globalization. That is: globalization is the means by which the U.S. capitalist economy (and to an extent the other wealthy capitalist countries) seeks to confront their capitalist rivals, to maximize their profits at the expense of the workers of the entire world, and try to forestall the inter-imperialist rivalry that has already led to two world wars.

This new weaponry, tested out against the peoples of underdeveloped countries who dare to attempt to gain control over their own resources and raw materials—especially oil, is as much a bulwark against capitalist competitors as against the possibility of social revolution by the exploited peoples of the developing world. Its main purpose is to bully the entire world to go along with the dictates of the capitalist class, who employ their government and state to act as an executive committee for advancing the common interests of that small but powerful class.

The use of supposedly supranational military entities such as NATO (against Yugoslavia) and the United Nations (against Iraq) to enforce U.S. and European capitalism’s economic policies should fool no one. It was clear in both these wars that U.S. imperialism was calling the shots. The continued development and deployment of nuclear weapons as the military auxiliary of the naked rule of the U.S. capitalist class system, even though the horror of its nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still very much in people’s consciousness, shows the lengths to which the capitalist rulers will go to use their monopoly on force and violence to defend their system.

Genuine democracy and capitalist democracy

In a New York Times Op Ed piece (July 20, 2001), the authors of “Empire,” Michael Hart and Antonio Negri, argue that “the [anti-globalization] movements are not anti-American, as they often appear, but are aimed at a different, larger power structure.” They argue, as do many of the liberals in the anti-globalization movement, that the problem with globalization is that the new order of supranational organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and the G-8 have no institutions of democratic decision making. There are two problems with this argument: One problem is the assumption that the purpose of the supranational organizations is anything but the promotion of capitalist business enterprises; and two, the assumption that the national states themselves are democratic.

There is no point in falling for any part of the propaganda by these supranational organizations, that their purpose is a benign one. Their propaganda of ending poverty or global cooperation for peace or helping the environment is only window dressing for their real purpose—to make more profits at the expense of the workers of the world.

“Democracy” in the capitalist countries is empty of real content. In the United States, the two large political parties both represent the same class interests and are able to reach bi-partisan agreement on most of the important issues affecting their class rule, especially on the questions of war and militarization. The millions of dollars required to participate in the election process precludes nearly all but capitalists from participation as candidates. Of course that could change if Labor decided to pursue an independent course and take the idea of a Labor Party seriously and run its own candidates.

This argument, about sharing in the decision making of the global institutions, also presumes that if the “supranational” world organizations like the IMF and the World Bank and other supranational world organizations were to open themselves up to the participation of labor unions and other representatives of the peoples of the world then somehow the workers’ interests for decent wages, working conditions, and environmental standards and protections could be accommodated by these bodies.

Jay Mazur, President of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees (UNITE) and Chair of the AFL-CIO International Affairs Committee wrote an article on “Labor’s New Internationalism” in the Jan./Feb. 2000 issue of Foreign Affairs. He stated this idea of wanting to share in the globalization process thusly: “The fragile institutions of the emerging global economy will therefore be braced by the democratic tonic that gives working people a place at the economic and political table.”

In discussing the blocking of “fast track” trade authority during the Clinton administration Mazur again called for “a seat at the table.” He states that the great world divide “is between workers everywhere and the great concentrations of capital and the governments they dominate.” Mazur considers the problem to be not the system of capitalism itself, but its “excesses”—the huge concentration of wealth and the huge distribution of poverty.

Such statements make clear that Mazur and the U.S. union bureaucracy’s participation in the anti-globalization mobilizations are not, in essence, anti-capitalist. Their participation aims to carry forward the same policy of cooperation with the capitalist class they have been following for the past 60 years—failing to mobilize workers to defend their jobs and advance their wages through use of the most effective tool—the strike, and cooperation in the political arena by supporting Democratic and Republican candidates for government office.

Reform or revolution

The real issue facing the anti-globalization movement is how to replace capitalist globalization’s rampage over the bodies of the people and the environment with a means to end it. The workers of the world have every reason to aid and support each other on an international basis. The stumbling block to real global solidarity is the capitalist system itself. Workers’ internationalism is our answer to capitalist globalization. The working class in every country must take control of the economy and the wealth of each country, establish workers’ governments to defend their rule over the economies, extend material solidarity to the most super-exploited sections of the world working classes, and completely disarm the capitalists and their lackeys.

For those young people who dare to look ahead to a world without borders, a world of genuine human solidarity, a world without war or any motivation to go to war, a world without profit as its organizing principle, the anti-globalization movement can be the first step in the fight against capitalism. The human forces that actually have the power to get rid of capitalism, the working class, came out in force in Genoa. This is the best indication that the struggle for a bright future has begun.





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