No: 1

Autumn 2001

Globalisation: opinions and myths

by Paul Barlow
One achievement of recent protests against the WEF and WTO in Seattle, Washington, Davos and Melbourne has been to place a critical focus upon the phenomenon of so-called "globalisation".

In this sweeping phrase, a variety of seemingly divergent things are lumped together, from trade liberalisation to mobile phones, and foreign investment to the integration of cultures into a world society. Proponents of globalisation laud its virtues as a global trading utopia, while excusing the poverty world trade creates as a mere abnormality.

However, the hype surrounding the term globalisation increasingly draws a sceptical response from many people. They ask: who really benefits and who really loses in the world market place? Such a question places focus upon the drastic inequalities of the contemporary world, and the long history of global capitalist expansion which has produced and continues to perpetuate such disadvantage.

Globalisation is not then a new phenomenon, but a modern description of historical process involving the uneven and often violent development of the capitalist world market. Such processes were identified by Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto.

For the founders of scientific socialism, the consequence of the drive for profit, and the creation of empires for the purpose of expanding the market for commodities and capital, was the eventual creation of a world economy. Yet a world fractured by the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, by increasing inequalities, and even war.

When faced with a catastrophic world war caused by greed and imperialist competition, Lenin drew conclusions about the state of modern capitalism. He recognised the growing phenomenon of finance capital and its parasitic role in directing imperialist expansion of the world market.

"Free trade"

Our situation today sees US imperialism seeking to enlarge its power and wealth. In order to do so, it champions the idea of free-trade and protects the interests of capital by the use of force or the threat of it.

Therefore, if we understand globalisation as a term used to describe the latest features of a long historic process, globalisation is synonymous with the growth of capitalism and the exercise of imperialism by the most powerful capitalist nations.

Profit and poverty

Capitalist globalisation is not an inevitable process, but one driven by the need to accumulate profit. It benefits only the capitalist class, who live off the wealth produced by millions living in poverty and deprivation.

Increasingly, people are becoming aware of the contrast between what the business ideologues and politicians say, and the negative effect of capitalist expansion both upon the environment and the life conditions of people around the world.

Often this leads to anger and passionate commitment, particularly among the youth. This has most recently coalesced into the anti- globalisation protest movement. Such a protest coalition represents a multitude of different groups, and causes, all united by recognition of the common enemy of all humanity.

These protests display a new frontier of opposition to TNCs and the capitalist class. They illustrate how the achievements of capitalist globalisation serve to undermine its own foundation and strengthen the global resistance to its rule.

The unity of purpose of the anti-globalisation protesters shows the potential for a truly united world, developed according to the principle of "human need and not corporate greed", as the popular protest chant goes.

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