Globalization: A Coalition to Contain Economic Aggression?
2003 Life After Capitalism Talks
Let me start by saying that my heart is heavy when I think of the destruction my country is wreaking on this beautiful world.
I'd like to thank all of you and all of those around the world who are helping to stop that destruction.
A tacit coalition to contain American military aggression is developing around the world.
Today I'd like to explore a very tentative idea: using that tacit coalition as a model for containing US and other assaults on economic well-being, human rights, and the environment. I present ideas that I hope will be somewhat controversial in the hope that they will provoke discussion and correction.
From New World Order to US Unilateralism
As the Cold War drew to an end, the First Bush Administration projected a "New World Order."
The first Bush New World Order was based on an alliance of elites that would rule the world by pooling their military might.
But after the First Gulf War, the powers proved to have too many conflicting interests to maintain their alliance.
Instead, the dominant powers began constructing a new global economic order. It was based on the kind of free-market capitalism that has come to be known as "neo-liberalism."
This emerging system was imposed through global institutions like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization.
The result is what today is known as "globalization."
But the Second Bush Administration is controlled by people who consider both the New World Order and globalization to be failures.
They seek instead direct, unilateral world domination for the United States.
As the notorious Bush National Security Strategy document of September 20, 2002 put it,
There is "a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise. . . . We will actively work to bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets, and free trade to every corner of the world. . . . We will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively” and by "convincing or compelling states to accept their sovereign responsibilities."
In short, the Bush Administration intends to use its military and economic might to make sure that another world is not possible.
A Global Movement to Contain US Aggression
A global movement has developed to contain US aggression.
It has already had some successes:
It forced US to go to the Security Council rather than just attacking Iraq on its own.
It is at least delaying US attack on Iraq.
It forced the US to reverse its position and offer to negotiate with North Korea.
The elements of the coalition include:
1. World-wide public opinion.
In no country except possibly Israel does public opinion support a unilateral US attack on Iraq.
Public opposition in Turkey is impeding US war plans.
Public opinion in Europe is keeping the US isolated from its traditional allies.
Public opinion in South Korea is a central barrier to US aggression against North Korea.
US opinion makes unilateral attack on Iraq politically costly for the Bush Administration.
2. Popular mobilization
European social movement mobilization is making it difficult for governments to give in to the US
South Korean mass mobilization makes US aggression against North Korea almost impossible.
Overwhelmingly opposed to US unilateralism in general and specifically regarding Iraq and North Korea.
Combination of motives:
Resistance to domination
Alarmed by consequences
4. Tacit coalition of states.
Coalition is contesting US domination of the UN
Security Council coalition demanding US not act unilaterally.
60 non-Security Council members who demanded inspection not war.
This fragile coalition may or may not be successful in blocking US aggression against Iraq. Either way, it will have to develop in the long run into a form of collective security to contain US unilateralism. The alternative is to let the Bush Administration run roughshod over the rest of the world.
US Economic Unilateralism
US unilateralism is emerging in the economic as well as in the military and geopolitical realm.
Examples of US economic unilateralism:
US protection of agriculture in Farm Bill.
US protection of Steel industry.
The US no longer treats the IMF, World Bank, and WTO as means for building a neo-liberal global system.
Rather, international institutions are being used to achieve short-term Bush Administration political needs and direct US imperial objectives:
Massive loans and debt cancellation to Turkey and Pakistan as allies in the "war against terrorism."
Abandonment of Argentina, even though IMF star pupil. Then reversed position due to geopolitical threat of a radicalized South America.
In the domestic US economy, the Bush administration is following the opposite of neoliberalism with its policies of low interest rates, massive tax cuts, huge government spending for the military, and collosal government budget deficits.
It has abandoned even token attempts to coordinate its economic policies with those of other countries.
In sum: Global rulemaking has been replaced by global aggrandizement as the US economic strategy.
A Global Economic Coalition?
What would it mean to develop a global coalition against US economic self-aggrandizement like the tacit coalition that has developed against US military aggression and unilaterialism?
The closest model we have is the North-South Dialogue.
In response to the global economic crises of the 1970s, Third World governments used the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development to initiate a “North-South Dialogue” to develop a “New International Economic Order” based on trade and production policies that would support the development of poorer countries. In several rounds of negotiations, the wealthy nations showed some willingness to discuss such new arrangements. But the Dialogue was terminated by Ronald Reagan.
We need to force his successors back to the bargaining table.
What should be on the agenda for a New Global Dialogue? Here are some suggestions.
The notorious Bush National Security Strategy speaks of "a single sustainable model for national success." Opening space for countries and peoples to experiment with a wide range of economic models other than neo-liberalism should be a prime agenda item.
The world is entering a downward spiral of global deflation. No country, including the US, can counter this by itself. A global strategy for countering this global spiral is essential for both developed and developing countries.
This requires ways countries can protect themselves from the kind of competitive devaluation that devastated Argentina and Brazil.
It also requires coordinated management of aggregate international demand to provide a stable environment for sustainable development.
In this deflationary environment, countries and communities are even more powerless in the face of global corporations. They are forced to compete for capital and investment with increasingly devastating results. To take one example, the maquiladora industries of Mexico are closing, with loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, because of competition from still cheaper labor areas in Central America and China. How to restrain this "race to the bottom" should be a central concern of a New Global Dialogue.
Bush administration policy is to utilize international debt as a means to crush any country that doesn't obey its will -- witness the devastation wreaked on Argentina. At the same time, it uses the offer of debt relief as a bribe to get countries like Pakistan and Turkey to cooperate with its imperial ambitions. An agreement that demands for debt repayment cannot be used to destroy national economies should be a central goal of a New Global Dialogue. This might involve an international agreement to put a cap on debt repayment, for example as a percentage of export earnings.
The Bush Administration, run primarily by a clique of oil executives and right-wing ideologues, is totally hostile to attempts to deal with global warming and other forms of environmental destruction. Yet the world is clearly plunging into environmental catastrophe. Reorientation of economic growth toward environmental sustainability -- including limits on the US's superpowerful pollution of the global environment -- is a central issue.
Economic development that improves the conditions of ordinary people requires basic human rights of democracy, self-organization, and concerted action. Bush's "war on terrorism" has undermined human rights throughout the world. So have the domestic anti-terrorist policies of many other countries and so have many chauvinistic nationalist and religious movements around the world. The expansion of democracy and human rights should be central to a New Global Dialogue.
What on earth can force the US to come to the economic bargaining table? It may require something rather like the coalition that brought the US to the Security Council regarding Iraq and the bargaining table regarding North Korea.
1. The convergence of social movements represented at the WSF can provide both the common vision and the global coordination for such a coalition.
2. Governments of poorer and smaller countries can make their collective weight felt it they cooperate.
3. The non-superpowers have an interest in resisting US domination and in forcing the US to bargain rather than simply strive to impose its will on an unwilling world.
4. The struggle between the US and the rest of the world for control of the UN is likely to be a central arena for such a struggle.
An additional factor might be the threat by debtor nations to default without a new global arrangement. Argentina’s defaults have already forced the US and other creditor countries to order the IMF to modify its tough stance against Argentina.
Such a strategy is not contradictory to, but rather synergistic with, the efforts by national governments to reject neo-liberalism and develop reformist or revolutionary economic initiatives to benefit their own people.
Such a strategy is also compatible with the struggles within countries to make governments accountable to their people. Indeed, such popular struggles are the main force encouraging governments to resist submitting to whatever the US demands.
Such a strategy is also synergistic with efforts by grassroots groups around the world to assert local control and to cooperate in resisting the actions of global corporations.
The strategy of such a coalition must include changing the US.
The Bush Administration’s drive for world domination does not represent the interests of the American people. Even within the American elites it represents only a narrow and ignorant minority.
An international coalition can appeal to the common sense and the better nature of the American people, who are capable of understanding that 4 per cent of the world’s people would be crazy to try to rule the world.
Such a coalition should target the US in ways similar to those used by Israeli government, the Central American movements in the 1980s, and the recent proposals of Edward Said for the Palestinian movement. They should aim to change US popular opinion, encourage the movement, and ultimately bring about regime change in the US.
It will take cooperation between those in the belly of the beast and those on the outside to make the US safe for the world.
It will be said that such a coalition is “anti-American.” But it will be most effective if it presents itself, and is in fact, pro-American.
There is nothing anti-American about a coalition to contain US aggression, whether military or economic.
Indeed, nothing could be more to benefit of the American people.