The crisis in capitalist globalisation and the alternative

Mustafa Barghouti
Thursday 20 Apr 2017

Nearly three decades after the global capitalist system was declared victorious, the same system is facing crises on multiple fronts: in economics, democracy, ethics and the rise of racist populism.

Twenty-seven years have passed since Francis Fukuyama hastily described the triumph of capitalism as "the end of history", but now capitalist globalisation is in deep crisis. This crisis manifests as four sub-crises, which are as follows.

First, there is an economic crisis in multinational capital. The most significant feature of this is the profound global paradox between, on the one hand, allowing absolute freedom in capital and investment transfer, free trade imposed by force, free exports and commodities transfer, and on the other hand, preventing the free movement of the labour force.

The issue of refugees and immigration and the attempts of several countries to prevent the entrance of refugees coming from developing countries are but a flagrant expression of the insistence of big capitalist state on preventing the free movement of the labour force.

Of course, the objective is to protect the profits from the exploitation of a cheap labour force in the southern countries or the developing world – or the nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America to be precise – by the multi-national monopolies.

It is noticeable that the campaigns against the immigrants in the USA and Europe are wrapped in the shroud of national chauvinistic bigotry, concealing the real objective, which is preserving an economic system that permits exorbitant profits at the expense of poor peoples. The claim that the purpose of tightening immigration policy s to create job opportunities for workers – in America for instance – is just a cover for the real objective, which is preserving the freedom to make profits from cheap labour forces in other countries.

In this context, isolationist policies devised in a country such as the USA represent a strange irony and a stranger paradox between monopolies driving the wheel of globalisation and attempting to restrict its consequences at the same time. This is a paradox that can’t persist without a solution or a transformation.

Second is the crisis in democracy. The conception of democracy has been reduced in many people’s minds to conducting elections that in several countries have become a mere fig leaf covering the nudity of authoritarian, dictatorial and totalitarian regimes.

In some countries, one can see the hegemony of security or military bodies in holding the reins of control and power, while every now and then allowing the election of fragile parliaments that have no capability, nor influence or control over the governing military or security bodies.

In many countries, buying votes has become something quite normal. In countries like the USA, it is unimaginable to secure the candidature for any real post without possessing millions of dollars for election campaigns – or more than a billion dollars, where the post of president is concerned.

Perhaps one of the important manifestations of the crisis, or its consequences, is the merger between the consituents of political and security control and those of economic control.

Thus, politicians and governmental officials become businessmen or partners in economic projects, or partners in agencies for foreign products. Naturally, corruption has spread like a cancer, provoking anger in the majority of the population, who through their hard work and sweat, their taxes and purchases, finance the profits and privileges of the dominant groups.

Third, there is the worsening crisis in ethical values, the manifestations of which are innumerable. We will consider just a few here.

The latest reports of international human rights organisations show that just eight people possesthe same amount of wealth as half of humanity, i.e. 3,500 million human beings in this world. How can a situation like this be imagined or tolerated?

The second manifestation is the escalating expenditure on weapons and the wars that go along with them, which act as fields for their testing and propagation.

Global expenditure on arms in 2016 amounted to more than $1,500 billion, with Arab countries share making up 28 percent of this. At the same time, the world with its capitalist system is unable to allocate the $12 billion needed to supplying fresh water for all people in the world. This would mean the elimination of many diseases and epidemics.

One aspect of this crisis is the launching of unjustified and destructive wars based on false pretexts, such as the American war against Iraq and its occupation.

This has led to the emergence of terrorist organisations such as the Islamic State group and others, and the fomenting of civil wars such as those escalating in Syria, Yemen and Libya. This mean the destruction of the foundations of these countries while threatening the future of whole regions.

However, the most prominent manifestation of this ethical crisis is ignoring the right of the Palestines to be liberated from occupation and from the racist, apartheid regime in Israel.

Many are continuing to apply double standards in this respect, remaining silent on Israel’s violations of international law and even flattering it while attempting to facilitate the passage of its projects.

Another manifestation is that the UN Secretary General succumbs to Israel's blackmail and intellectual terrorism, rather than backing colleagues and assistants headed by Dr. Rima Khalaf who issued an objective scientific report revealing the reality of the Israeli apartheid regime.

Fourth is the political crisis manifested in the rise of racist populism and the inability to deal effectively and ethically with the social media, which are developing at an astonishingly accelerated rate. Populism is nothing new, as seen in the case of Nazi Germany, where fascist ideologies took power.

What’s new is the complaints about populism from forces that view themselves as democratic. Here, the failure is natural, because it is closely connected to the failure of politicians in addressing the three other crises listed above.

So, is there any alternative to this situation?

Most of the social democrats in Western countries continue to present reformative solutions. At a conference that I attended a few days ago, one of them suggested that the solution comes with ridding capitalism of its greed. This is a fantastic irony, in which moral preaching is the suggested means of dealing with a profound economic crisis.

What’s noticeable in this context is that, in some countries, such as Brazil and India, every social effort for dealing with poverty leads directly to strengthening the system of capitalist exploitation. We have seen this phenomenon before, resulting from granting hundreds of thousands of poor students opportunities for free education in what were once the Socialist countries. Most of these people were transformed into either small or big capitalists, and most of them also forgot the social classes to which they belonged.

In Brazil, former President Lola succeeded in extricating 40 million human beings from poverty, so they became consumers and strengthened the capitalist regime in Brazil, thus producing a political class that overthrew Lola’s party.

The Congress Party in India extricated 150 million human beings from poverty and transferred them to the world of consumption. The result wa that in the next elections the Congress Party suffered the worst results in its history, while the rightist parties – shrouded sometimes in chauvinism – won.

The question is whether extricating people from poverty makes them tools in the existing system of exploitation or makes them a driving force for social justice, changing the entire economic system in their country and the world.

Today, all countries have become part of the process of capitalist globalisation, including China and Russia – first socilist countries.

What happened in India and Brazil shows that the social programmes don’t achieve social justice in the end, unless the entire economic system is dealt with. The world is living in one capitalist system, only under different political regimes.

What’s the alternative?

Is the solution to continue to coexist with thosedangerous crises that we have mentioned above?

Is one form of adapting to reality to indulge the democratic socialist parties by simply searching for government posts through gaining the support of voters?

Or is something deeper, bigger and more radical required as an alternative to the unjust system in which the world lives, accompanied by all its fatal dangers?

Finally, nothing can convince me that a party that adopts social justice and is honest in its attitude is unable or refrain from supporting the right of the Palestinian people to be liberated from occupation and apartheid.

Values cannot be divided, and beautifying reality doesn’t eliminate its horribleness.

Populism will be vanquished when simple, ordinary and exploited people feel that there are forces that listen to their preoccupations and really defend their interests, rather than just seeking their votes for the sake of political posts and gains.


The writer is Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative.

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