Sunday, February 15, 2004

Globalism’s malcontents
Shelley Walia

Chomsky and Globalisation
by Jeremy Fox. Icon, Cambridge, UK. £4. Pages 80.

The Sorrows of Empire
by Chalmers Johnson. Verso, London, UK. £20. Pages 389.

Chomsky and GlobalisationPROSPECTS are not bright for ordinary people. US protectionism leaves its society a welfare state meant only for the rich. Market discipline is not for the rich, but for the poor. "The rich people, Chomsky argues, "are going to have a nanny state protecting and subsidising them." The neo-liberal reforms used by the global system are clearly meant to trick people into thinking that the West is using democratic principles to usher in an environment of freedom and equality.

Jeremy Fox in his book examines Chomsky’s views on the new world order where the ‘Euroamerican elites must inevitably grow richer, while the rest of the world could revert to the conditions of Blake’s "dark Satanic Mills." The rich countries ignore the rules, subsidising the multinationals at the cost of the poor countries. Free trade is certainly not free. GATT or the IMF or the WTO operate on the advice of the rich nations with the sole purpose of the final control over the economies of the poor nations.

Apparently, poverty is on the increase and the rich are growing richer. William Finnegan in his book Cold New World is of the view: "While the national economy has been growing, the economic prospects of most Americans have been dimming. For young people and males and those without advanced degrees—for, that is, the vast majority of working Americans, real hourly wages have fallen significantly over the past 24 years. What the triumphalism of most American business writing ignores is a frightening growth in low-wage jobs. This growth has left 30 per cent of the country as workers earning too little to lift a family out of poverty."

Profits and natural resources are sucked back for the benefit of the rich. And if this exploitation has given rise to the inflow of migrants looking for jobs, the West sees it as an onslaught on their cultural advancement. They need to be forewarned of the future wars between the rich and the poor along with a more intense racist scenario. The Arab world, as long as it remains backward, and is sucked dry by Western interests in its natural resources, will continue to resort to violence to counter the hegemony of Western economic power or what Chomsky calls "predatory capitalism" which brings about short-term profits for the few elites and no long term social changes for the many.

Globalisation, therefore, is a shift from the local to the global, a hasty and headlong movement by the Third World to get incorporated into the seemingly blissful economic prosperity espoused by the neo-liberal West. It is a process "whereby state-centric agencies and terms of reference are dissolved in a structure of relations between different actors operating in a context which is truly global than merely international." But here you do not have a level playfield. The national governments begin to have lesser and lesser influence, as all power passes on to the corporate world. The developed countries of the West have "handed responsibility for determining national interest rates over to their Central Banks, thereby abandoning national capital controls and eliminating the formal barriers between domestic and international markets." A fair competition is only a camouflage for keeping the working force in a state of insecurity and total control so as to lower the production costs and raise the profits. This economic hegemony over the rest of the world becomes essential in the case of America if it desires to feed its insatiable desire for more military bases and exercise imperialism over ever nation that comes under the attention of its foreign policy. This is ably argued by Chalmers Johnson in his recent book The Sorrows of Empire. His intent is to examine the elaborate ideology of neoliberalism "that has obscured America’s international endeavours before the triumph of unilateral militarism and to reveal how militarism has displaced and discredited America’s economic leadership."

Looking back at the last few decades, it is clear that America and its buddy —the United Kingdom—were plagued by "stagflation" (high rates of inflation combined with low economic growth), high rates of unemployment, large public sector deficits, two major oil crises, racial strife and to top it all, the terrible defeat in Vietnam. By the 80s, Japan had displaced the United States as the world’s leading creditor while the US became increasingly unable to cover the costs of imports leading to its becoming the world’s largest debtor.

In this scenario, we saw the rise of conservatism under Reagan and Thatcher who withdrew the state from much interference thereby privatising investments in public utilities and opening domestic markets to international trade. The idea was to introduce a feeling that there would be an increase in the average income, and poor nations would prosper more rapidly than the rich leading to the birth of the global village where market integration and prosperity would be the main trends. This new dispensation was termed "neoliberal" or as it is commonly known to the public, "globalism" or "globalisation." This was classical liberalism now relabelled as "the new economy" which puts the US and Britain as "the privileged vanguard of an evolutionary process that applies to all nations." However, this was nothing but absolute deception and its claims of ushering in technological developments and a "win, win" perspective were a cover up for the underlying agenda to advance the interests of the Anglo-American political elites at the expense of others. This "white man’s burden" is nothing but hypocrisy or racism. It is critically important to understand that the doctrine of globalism is in the words of Johnson, a "kind of intellectual sedative that lulls and distracts its Third World victims, while rich countries cripple them, ensuring that they will never be able to challenge the imperial powers."

Indeed, Johnson’s book is essential if we are to offer any resistance to the military-economic might of the West. It is our responsibility to be watchdogs of the government and to see through the superficial appearance of Western triumphalism. The illegitimacy of the state capitalist institutions has to be grasped and an uncompromising critique of the veiled doctrine of globalisation as well as our fast MacDonladised society must bring us to a new vision that would enable people to put aside false success and even personal security to resist the hegemonies at work in our contemporary world of delusion and exploitation.