- Parent Category: Research and Fellows
IIRE Fellows rethink global justice
Changes in the capitalist system and the
rise of the global justice movement are posing big challenges for the kind of
political education we do at the IIRE. We took these challenges into account
three years ago when we renamed our annual fall
Last November many of the activists who
Discussions of globalization on the left
begin with the understanding that capitalism has always been international and
often getting more international. So what's new? Economist Bruno Jetin summed
up our Fellows' consensus at the seminar: there are new aspects compared with
earlier periods of internationalization (e.g. 1896-1914); but globalization is
not a completed process that has made national markets and states irrelevant. A
new book by IIRE Fellow Robert Went (author of the IIRE Notebook Globalization:
Neoliberal Challenge, Radical Responses) argues that the current wave of
globalization goes beyond any previous one inasmuch as all three circuits of
capital described by Marx in Das Kapital - not only trading capital and finance
capital but also productive capital - are being internationalized. In a whole
series of industries (high-speed trains, pharmaceuticals, etc.) the only market
on which research and development costs can be recouped is the world market.
But everyone agreed that no multinational today is truly "footloose",
truly autonomous of any single national market. Jetin raised the question of
whether the process of internationalization and concentration of capital will
continue until there are only two or three companies dominating any given
sector of the economy (given that the
Jetin suggested that there is a limit to the international unification of markets set by national differences in consumer tastes. Other Fellows were sceptical. In many cases consumer tastes (e.g. the demand for artificial sweeteners instead of natural sugar) are created by corporate strategies rather than vice versa. McDonald's provides evidence that global multinationals can take account of local variations without much difficulty.
If today's globalization is unprecedented and even irreversible, then that undermines some of the radical strategies put forward in the global justice movement. Prominent figures like Walden Bello and Martin Khorr for example advocate strategies of "de-globalization". Their arguments are that the nation-state is still the privileged site for democracy, so that a strategy for economic democracy has to be nationally based and require a high degree of national economic self-sufficiency; and secondly that diversity is a good in itself, so that more uniformity across the world is necessarily a bad thing. Jetin criticized these arguments as being blind to class and gender dynamics, treating national "communities" as monolithic, and exaggerating the progressive character of the nation state. All our Fellows seem to agree with his critique. Strategies for social transformation must move more quickly than ever before from the national level to the regional or the international and global level.
On other issues there was less of a consensus. When Jetin argued against the demand to open imperialist countries' markets to dependent countries' products (e.g. agricultural), for example, that raised some doubts. Is it possible to reject the orientation of "everything for export" and at the same time defend the perspective of "asymmetrical protectionism", defending dependent countries' protectionist measures while rejecting imperialist countries' protectionism? Is the vision of returning to small farm production flatly reactionary, as one Fellow maintained? Is the perspective of some kind of neo-Keynesian exit from the crisis ruled out?
Who will transform society?
Labour remains a key actor in the scenarios
for social transformation discussed at the IIRE; that makes updating our analysis
of labour crucial. IIRE Co-Director
Fellow Claude Jacquin introduced a
discussion of how changes in capitalist production and corporate restructuring
have drastically changed the face of the working class. Corporate restructuring
has led to a process of industrial deconcentration and segmentation of the
proletariat, with workers in different categories and regions having
increasingly different situations and even to some extent different interests.
This raised questions in some participants' minds - beyond our already existing
consensus (formulated by
There is no unifying identity common to all the forces joining in the global justice movement today. That does not detract from the central analytical importance of class. Socialist feminists have always made a key distinction: the autonomy of the women's movement from class and political organizations doesnot mean its autonomy from class struggle. But that does not automatically resolve the issue of whether a new unifying identity will emerge for today's movements, unifying class, gender, "civic" and "human" identities, and if so how and what form it could take. Fellow Livio Maitan reported that the Italian Party of Communist Refoundation calls for building a "new workers' movement"; is that ultimately the answer?
The lack of a unifying identity in the
global justice movement also complicates the question of democratic
organization. Former IIRE Director
What then is the role of the party in all this, Rousset asked? One answer was that political organizations embody the choices that movements need to make. As Fellow Penelope Duggan pointed out, this does not necessarily mean that the party is the privileged place where programme is developed. We have certainly been aware since the rise of the women's movement in the 1960s and 1970s that we must take on board the programmatic and analytical developments made within such movements but the party consciously strives to develop a programme that defends the interests of the majority of society. This leaves the question open whether the party must still ultimately be the "keystone in the seizure of power".
The problem is, participants agreed, that this discussion is not happening in the global justice movement today. The movement is not discussing issues of political power; or, as Rousset put it, it has no "strategic horizon". The question was raised: how can these crucial issues be raised inside the global justice movement?
A different kind of politics
Peter Drucker defined a further series of political challenges that the radical
left is facing, particularly in light of experiences like theargentinazo
(Argentinean revolt of December 2001) and Lula's presidency in
Among Fellows' contributions to this
discussion: The evolution of the Brazilian PT need not be a surprise, given
that ten years ago the South African ANC was also co-opted by the neoliberal
state inside six months. Nor should we underestimate the crisis of politics:
look at the immigrants in the
Debates will go on
Discussion on the purpose of the IIRE concluded that its primary purpose is to help train leaders for national organizations who can also be leaders of an international movement. A corollary purpose is that through this process they develop a political analysis that allows them to intervene in the global political debate. For the IIRE, the key question is how to integrate the lectures and lecturers into an ongoing discussion, so that sessions have an overall coherence and the conscious links are made among the reports.
The first test of the insights gained from the Fellows' Seminar will be the Global Justice School 2003. The programme is being finalized and additional students are still applying as we write. But we can already see how the July discussions will reshape the session's curriculum. The economic discussions will tackle issues that were unresolved in July. Lectures on gender, peasantry and ethnicity will be brought together in a bloc on "globalization and social recomposition", which will have a new, stronger focus on developments in the global working class. The section of the new world imperial order will link the discussion of US wars and world domination more clearly to the world's economic architecture, international institutions and regional blocs, and be followed by a section on "globalization and political representation: movements, parties and rethinking democracy". The already existing section on "confronting neoliberal globalization, the globalization of resistance", finally, will be linked to more concrete discussions of alternative trade and financial policies and strategies against neoliberal globalization.