Is globalization dead?
Do recent international political developments at the centers of the capitalist global empire – the electoral victory of Donald Trump in the United States and the exit of Britain from the European Union – herald the end of globalization? If so, what capitalist or non-capitalist alternatives have emerged to replace it?
Latin American Marxist and Vice President of Bolivia’s left-wing government Alvaro Garcia Linera in a recent article entitled “Globalization as an ideology is dead and buried”** puts forward a compelling analysis arguing that what we are witnessing today is the collapse of the ideology of globalization or the “the end of history as the end of “"the end of history"” – the phrase coined by the conservative ideologue Francis Fukuyama and which symbolized capitalisttriumphalism in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union --the supposed triumph of the free market and capitalism over ‘socialism’.
Globalization as an ideology
Linera argues that “Globalization, as an overarching discourse or ideological horizon able to move collective hopes toward a single destiny and vision of material welfare has shattered into a thousand pieces.”, and that “Britain's decision to abandon the European Union, the most important state unification project of the past 100 years, coupled with Donald Trump's electoral victory that rode on vows to boost protectionism, build a monumental wall to stem migration, and ditch trade pacts have annihilated the biggest and most successful liberal dreams of our time.”
While Linera views globalization as primarily an ideological creation launched by its chief protagonists Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan some 35 years ago that is, “the biggest ideological trickery of recent centuries”, the impact of neoliberal policies resulting in the “devastation of productive economies and relentless blows to the middle class” have left people disgusted and angry, thus tipping the balance in the recent elections towards “a fearful retreat behind borders and a return to political tribalism”.
Back to Marx
Karl Marx uncovered the inherently expansionist nature of capitalism and the tendency towards ever increasing centralization and concentration of capital. His analysis is an important contribution to understanding the process of globalization – nationally, continent-wide and then globally.
Linera (drawing from the works of sociologist Giovanni Arrighi), posits that each successive phase of this globalization process was driven by a ‘hegemonic state’: Genoa in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Netherlands in the 18th century, Britain (19th century) and the United States (20th century). “Each hegemon acted as a catalyst to globalization (firstly commercial, then productive, technological, cognitive and finally environmental) and to the territorial expansion of capitalist relations.”
According to Linera “a distinctly recent development in this globalizing process is its construction as an ideological project or bid to unify the political beliefs and moral expectations of men and women worldwide” that is, globalization.
Linera claims that there is no viable global alternative on the horizon, that “there is no "global" alternative for now as far as collective hopes are concerned” and humanity is “without direction or certainty” facing a “void that follows a period of history”. However, in the same breadth as it were he infers that the contours of what has emerged as an alternative for the twenty first century is materializing within the revolutionary struggles and movements in Latin America, where the beginnings of the unravelling of the ideology of globalization began in the first years of the twenty first century.
The anti-neoliberal mass upsurges that laid the basis for the election of the revolutionary governments of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to Evo Morales in Bolivia, and the ongoing albeit now protracted struggles in these countries, represent the most advanced frontline struggles against neoliberalism. Hugo Chavez attempted to describe the alternative – both its overall trajectory and the building blocks of the here and now – as Twenty First Century Socialism.
However, Linera warns that globalization has taken its toll on the masses – “its moral cost and social frustrations [which] themselves become an obstacle to finding immediate alternatives to globalization.” This statement strikes a chord when we observe the situation that we face in the Philippines today.
Here too the electoral victory of Duterte represents a certain turning point: the end of the post- Marcos ‘Edsa regimes’, thrown out by a people disgusted and desperate for a change. The masses, worn out by decades of neoliberal rule that has destroyed jobs and livelihoods through contractualization, the stalling and subverting of land reform, destroying industrial and rural production, privatizing services driven by the profit motive instead of the public good and depressing communities.
Linera’s article is an important contribution to understanding the broad brush strokes of the specific conjuncture and the nature of the period that we face. It provides useful insights to understanding the challenges that we face in advancing the struggle in the Philippines.
In the Philippines too the alternative is unclear. While Duterte raves against some aspects of neoliberal globalization and the oligarchy that implemented the neoliberal policies, such as the contractualization of labor, he has neither the political will or strategies in place to deliver on his promises. The left too has been unable to put forward and win popular support for a transitional socialist alternative. However, as Linera points out, this ideological void in which capitalist society finds itself, presents the socialist movement with a unique opportunity to put forward solutions to the way forward, out of this impasse.
* Ramani Silva is the head of the international desk of the Partido Lakas ng Masa and Chairperson of Transform Asia Gender and Labor Institute.
**The article “Globalization as an ideology is dead and buried” by Alvaro Garcia Linera can be accessed at http://worldcrunch.com/opinion-analysis/globalization-as-ideology-is-dead-and-buried and http://links.org.au/garcia-linera-trump-brexit-globalization.