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Date: Thu, 22 Aug 1996 10:19:38 -0500
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Date: Mon, 19 Aug 1996 23:27:26 GMT
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From: Peter Rashkin <cortes@kaiwan.com>

)Date: Tue, 13 Aug 1996 21:49:54 -0700 (PDT)
)From: Chris Faatz <cfaatz@teleport.com>
)Subject: internationalism... (fwd)
)To: Buddhist Peace Fellowship/INEB <bpf-ineb@igc.apc.org>

)/* Written 12:02 AM Aug 8, 1996 by twn in igc:twn.features */
)/* ---------- Internationalism Vs Globalisation ---------- */

Internationalism versus globalisation

By Jeremy Seabrook, Third World Network Features, 8 August 1996

While internationalism would celebrate the achievements, struggles and creativity of the poor, and the equal rights of all peoples of the world to develop in dignity, sufficiency and security, globalisation and global capitalism requires the humiliation of hundreds of millions of people and keeping them in constant insecurity, pitting them against one another in a competitive struggle for survival.

We are all globalisers now. The insistence on globalisation has eclipsed and usurped internationalism; indeed sometimes masquerades as if it were the same thing. It is time to rescue what internationalists have always worked for from the clutches of a rapaciously expansive and ultimately, colonising, globalisation.

We hear the arguments daily from the holders of power; the very fatalism with which they speak about the inevitability, the irreversibility of globalisation, suggests they are aware that control over events is slipping through their fingers. The rhetoric becomes more and more desperate: We must compete in an increasingly integrated world. We must educate and train our people for the challenge of the 21st century. We have to take on the Asian tigers and beat them at their own game.

(Of course, it was our game originally, which is why we find it so disconcerting when they beat us. What’s more, it isn’t a game; it’s deadly serious, particularly for the losers, the people of those countries prematurely used up by work and want, and whose children are dying daily from avoidable sickness and malnutrition.

Globalisation then, means the absorption of all the countries of the world into a single economic entity: a bleak vision of a choiceless future, in which choice nevertheless figures so prominently.

Internationalists spoke of other forms of integration, more harmonious, less violent, more just, long before the apostles of globalisation began promoting their lurid vision of a whole world refashioned in the image of the universal market-place, from every platform, at every conference, at every international gathering, in every transnational meeting-place on earth. That other version of integration required only that the powerless unite, that the disadvantaged combine in order to resist and make common cause against what William Morris 100 years ago referred to as the iron rule of the World-Market.

The fading of that internationalism is the distant, and perhaps most disastrous, consequence of the death of the Soviet Union. It is not the loss of the ideology of Communism that has cancelled hope for the poor: it is rather the absence of any check upon the florid and aggressive necessities of unchecked capitalism.

Whenever poverty and inequality are re-discovered by the media, this is no longer accompanied by a sense of moral outrage. These are now simply facts of life.

Much of the internationalism which animated the early labour movement has now declined into a desultory and ritualistic exchange of fraternal greetings on special occasions; organised labour having been, for the main part, enlisted in the grisly crusade of integrating unequal partners into an interdependent world. For interdependence between unequals means the institutionalising of subordination.

In this sense, the exalted project of globalisation is yet another refuge for racism, because the majority of the world’s poor are non-white, and the rich white or Japanese. The freezing of relationships of existing inequality annuls hope for the poor.

The 1996 UN Human Development Index report states that in the last 40 years the richest 20% of people have seen the differential between themselves and the poorest 20% double: where in the 1950s the richest one-fifth of humanity received 30 times as much as the poorest fifth, this has now increased to 60 times as much. And this outcome occurred even while a potential alternative—however malign—still to some degree inhibited a capitalism as yet unsure of its ultimate triumph.

The governance of the poor countries has ceased to rest with their nominal leaders, and has increasingly been passed over to Western financial institutions, and those transnational entities for whom the preservation of Western dominance is axiomatic. Their talk of poverty abatement, structural adjustment, their touting of economic success stories—once Brazil, now New Zealand, once even Nigeria, now Thailand—are calculated to conceal the real purpose of the integrated world economy, which is the supranational management of worsening inequality.

Those who control the vehicles of this noble endeavour often speak of themselves as if they were helpless functionaries, compelled to comply with higher laws, as if they were merely carrying out orders, were sacerdotal intermediaries of a providential distribution of human destinies. They don’t put it quite like this. They invoke economic realities, the necessities of the market, as though these things were aspects of universal natural laws. The market is our master, proclaims Michael Heseltine. In a more spiritual age, this would have been called idolatry.

It is now considered both improper and unthinkable that anyone should try to stand in the way of the global economy, as it rolls over the world, crushing ancient patterns of living, destroying benign symbiosis between resource base and humanity, breaking modest ways of answering need, evicting people from forests, subsistence agriculture, forcing them from the security of traditional settlements, and sweeping them up in vast involuntary migrations to a single destination—the stifling, loveless embrace of the universal market.

People object in vain that the global free market is not even what its defenders and proponents claim for it. It is not even free. Only goods and capital are permitted to move unhindered around the globe, while people and labour are not. Free markets, captive people. When they try to escape from the ghettoes, the enclosures, the camps, the kraals, the homelands, the free trade zones—which are also sometimes graced by the term countries—in which they are confined, they are called economic migrants and sent home.

Home to the places where the regimes, the ruling elites, the emissaries and representatives of a misshapen global unification, have been suborned to ensure that the real flow of wealth is maintained from poor to rich; at a rate which no one really knows - some say it reaches at least $400 billion annually, when terms of trade, transfer pricing within transnational companies, usurious debt and the brain drain, and all the multiple forms of dispossession dreamed up by the ideology of political economy are all taken into account.

And here is an interesting paradox. The West—the official West, that is—talks endlessly about its abhorrence of racism. All European countries, the US, Canada and Australia have enshrined this sacred principle in legislation of various kinds. But how is that racism to be kept at bay in the civilised Western heartlands? Only by perpetual economic growth and expansion, which alone will keep the people of the West from those melancholic distractions which convulsed Europe earlier this century, from that racism which animated centuries of imperialism in the centuries that preceded it.

And how is that growth and expansion to be assured? Why, as it always has been: by the exploitation of primary commodities and the resources of others, by control of trade, by the exploitation of workers on plantations, in agribusiness and on industrial estates, in the spreading sweatshops of the cities, in the infernal workshops, forges and factories in the towns and cities of the South. Only this way can the rich countries remain rich enough to keep their fractious and insecure peoples from turning against marginalised and threatened minorities.

In other words, the official detestation of racism at home can be given practical shape only by practising it more an more intensively abroad. This is how the age of imperialism has survived all the liberation movements and the struggles for freedom from colonialism. Organised, institutionalised hypocrisy has woven an elaborate fabric of concealment to shroud the real relationships between North and South; any discussion of which is rigidly excluded from mainstream political discussion in the West. This is why we, in the popular imagination, figure primarily as givers of aid, as rescuers, as deliverers, as bestowers of assistance, instruction and wisdom to a poor, suffering, wasting Third World.

The distaste for racism in the West is merely another luxury of privilege, paid for by turning over lands of Brazil to vast agribusiness enclosures, and sending the people to squat in the violent suburbs of Nova Iguacu in Rio and the favelas of Sao Paulo; by the million or more young women who have entered the garments industry, where they receive less than $1 for a 14-hour day for the privilege of providing us with the amenity of cheap clothing; by the continued transfer of produce and treasures of most of the countries of Africa at knock-down prices to their former political masters. Racism abroad to serve a non-racial society at home; what a formidable, cunningly wrought construct it is.

In the first half of July 1996, India, for instance, figured in the so-called quality press and television of Britain, not because of the energy, endurance and heroism of its poor in their efforts to survive, but because there was a stampede at a Hindu shrine in Madhya Pradesh, because India will have the largest number of people with HIV in the world within the next five years, because there was another atrocity against low-caste labourers in Bihar, because of government corruption and the usual floods and excesses of nature which come with every monsoon. The relationships in a globalised world are the object of rigorous and tightly-controlled misrepresentation. It is the work of internationalists to unmask this, to celebrate the achievements, the struggles and the creativity of the poor, to recognise our common humanity and the equal rights of all peoples of the world to develop in dignity, sufficiency and security.

Dignity, sufficiency and security. Potent words, for these are the elements of a noble, realisable project of internationalism. It is what a real Commonwealth might have looked like, after the dissolution of empire, if uneven and lopsided development had not been the objective of the former imperial power. Such a version of internationalism must be snuffed out by globalisation, which depends for its success precisely on the avoidance of dignity, sufficiency and security.

A triumphal global capitalism requires the opposite of these modest, achievable things. It requires the humiliation of hundreds of millions of people for the sake of being competitive in the world—to offer their labour at less than subsistence rates in the Dutch auction of a global labour market, whereby planeloads of desperate and terrified Bangladeshi peasants must be transferred to Laos to build a luxury hotel, where thousands of country-women from Indonesia are air-borne to Saudi Arabia as virtual captive domestic labour, where young girls fromYunnan in South China are trafficked to the brothels of Bangkok for the amusement of gilded migrants from the West on vacations and sex-tours.

It requires that the people of the world should aspire to more and not to sufficiency, because this alone will feed the engines of perpetual economic expansionism. It requires that people remain prey to constant insecurity, because this is guaranteed to set them against one another in an ever fiercer competitive struggle to survive.

Globalisation is inherently unstable and violent; and that even before it starts to strike against the limits of the earth’s resource base. The most urgent task is to retrieve internationalism from globalisation—this caricature and distortion of a coming together of global humanity. Globalisation presses a whole planet into the service of a system that has long since outlived its usefulness in serving us, and indeed, frequently no longer even pretends to do so: autonomous, triumphant, while we anxiously await news of the health of the economy, the weakness or vitality of markets recovering from a bout of nerves or a spectacular fall, their buoyancy or depression, as though the market were a perpetually ailing monarch, whose well-being is of paramount concern to his subjects; while all around us, the people perish.

And not only in the poor countries. The UN Human Development Index states that Canada and the USA occupy the first two places in the world. If the USA is presented as the goal and summit of human achievement, with its 20,000 annual shotgun murders, its million prisoners in jail, its 28 million recorded crimes, its addicted, obsessive and isolated humanity, as one person in three lives alone, as well as its prodigality and waste, its loss of cohesion and community, its extremist individualism, and pathological inability to understand all the things that people can and must do together if the world is not to perish—well, if the USA is the object of universal aspiration, then we have lost even the capacity to formulate a vision of what a decent society might look like.

Disengagement, self-reliance, a celebration of the local and of our capacity to answer our needs for ourselves and each other; breaking the dependency—not on welfare, but on a global market - so that our daily bread no longer comes courtesy of transnational conglomerates, and we are not compelled to drink value-added chemicalised beverages because there is no safe drinking water. The satisfaction of all our needs has been enclosed and held captive, precisely by those globalised monopolistic interests which promote themselves as representing free markets. We are then bidden to bless our unfreedoms as the highest liberty.

The language of internationalism has been plundered and distorted for alien purposes. The meaning of words has also been polluted, contaminated by the effluent of hyperactive and insomniac media interests; the resulting incoherence ensures that we can scarcely perceive the difference between human and economic well-being, between the needs of people and the necessities of economic growth.

Global integration means a more systematic abuse of people and their resource base all over the world. For the privileged it means more waste, excess and superfluities while basic needs remain unanswered; for the poor a more total dispossession of livelihood and life. Internationalism is a rescue mission of all the people of the world from a globalisation that represents nothing less than the usurping of the whole of creation by capitalism.