a debate: globalization, capitalism, marxism, and world government

1998-06-05

Richard Moore

A marxist friend and I were debating the possibilities of overcoming
capitalist power recently, and the nature of a `new regime', and we got
into a debate about globalization, marxism, and world government.  I hope
you, or many of you anyway, will find the exchange below of some value.

rkm

------------------------------------------------------------------------
Said my friend...
  >globalization was for
 >the first time described by Marx and Engels in  "German Ideology" and
>specially in the 1848 Manifesto.  It is far from being an accident or a bad
  >course of History but it is embodied in the essential logic of capitalism.
   >It will bury capitalism...


I find this analysis indefensible, although I've seen it oft repeated.  It
does not fit with the available evidence, which is overwhelming and
undeniable.

Globalization is all directed toward a single objective, and that is the
monopolization of world power and wealth by a handful of TNC's, the elite
who control them, and the bureacracies designed to serve them (IMF et al).

The best models to look at, revealing where globalization is heading, are
the 7-Sister petroleum `majors' which were the first TNC's (a hundred years
before their time), and whose evolution gives a precursor of the future of
all the other TNCs, which are now, decades later, following rapidly down
the same path.

In the early days, oil companies fought each other tooth-and-nail, stealing
territory, price-cutting, driving each other out of business, and all those
other things competitive capitalists do so well.

But as the global industry matured, early in this century more or less, it
settled down into a comfortable, gentlemanly _clique.  The majors
_collaborate to control production quotas, to manage distribution and
prices, and to present a generally united front toward regulation, OPEC,
etc.

Structurally, the oil industry is more like _feudalism than _capitalism.
That is, it is about "wealth management" more than it is about "wealth
growth".  To be sure, Exxon Corp functions as a corporation which must show
growth and profits, but the growth comes through _overall increase in
petroleum consumption, not by Exxon trying to put Shell out of business.
The clique manages the industry collectively, as a `cash cow'.

When this same kind of `feudal' arrangement -- ie, market monoplization by
a clique of TNCs -- occurs in _all market segments (food, transport,
communications, etc. etc), as it _is rapidly doing under neoliberalism (a
term we all now are familiar with), then we can expect the dynamics of the
global economy to shift radically.

We are now experiencing the `shakeout' period of globalization, when the
big TNCs elbow each other for position, and they collectively force the
smaller companies out of business.  Also being forced `out of business' by
the TNCs are _nation _states, which are being robbed and sabotaged, and
which are being brought under the strict, legalized, irreversible dominion
of TNC-controlled institutions such as the WTO & IMF.  During _any shakeout
period, one sees instability, competition, temporary price reductions,
bankruptcies, and mergers.

In a few years, when nation-states have become powerless,
population-suppressing puppets of the global regime, and when all wealth is
owned and all commerce is managed by a community of overlapping TNC
cliques, then the elite and their TNC's will _regularize the system.  That
is to say, they will organize themselves to collectively manage the world
as a `cash cow' just as the oil majors currently manage the petroleum
industry, or how the Britsh East India company managed India back before it
became a British Colony.

The historical precedents are clear in this regard, and Marxian predictions
of capitalist collapse are simply invalid -- they are based on linear
extrapolation from too little data, and they take into account too few of
the operating forces.

`Materialism', like most `-isms', suffers from insisting that all
phenomenon be modelled by a specific mechanism, and the world just doesn't
work that way.  There are micro-economic factors, macro-economic factors,
cultural and political factors, and, most of all, there is `elite agency'
-- the conscious and calculated acts of whatever elite happens to be
running a given society at the time.

These factors do not add up in a linear way; they are not mathematically
modelable.  Decisive events in one domain can dominate the system one time,
and be insignificant usually.  To understand and to predict, one must
consider the whole gestalt of factors.

In this regard, one could well note that the `neoliberal program' was not
some natural evolution, following some materialist program, but was a
conscious, well-orchestrated political program launched by an elite who
were well enough organized in their efforts to get Reagan and Thatcher
elected, to supply them with Milton Friedman and a battalion of other
neoliberal advisors, to support the whole campaign in the mass media, etc.
ad presentum.

How, precisely, will the `world managers' `regularize' the system?  One can
only speculate, but one thing is for sure: they will _not allow it to
collapse out from under them!  They more than anyone else value a
centrally-controlled, predictable, stabilized regime.

At a stroke of the pen, for example, the casino-capitalism international
financial system can be made stable, when the appointed time comes, just as
it was destabilized by a stroke of the pen when Bretton Woods was
intentionally abandoned.

In the _military domain, the elite have telegraphed their intentions -- the
architecture of the regularized global regime has been articulated and is
being sytematically implemented.

At the top is to be an elite hi-tech mobile `police' force, built out of US
and NATO forces.  Desert Storm was a field-test of how it intends to
operate: hi-tech control-of-theater enables the victim nation to be
systematically clobbered with essentially no casualties among elite forces,
and meanwhile the global media carries a news-free propaganda circus in
support of the `good and noble' intervention.

The seemingly unexplainable reluctance of US and NATO to intervene in the
long Bosnian conflict can be easily understood.  The bloody scenario was
intentionally encourged by the US and others to build up public pressure
for US-NATO intervention, to achieve `legitimacy' for the elite
strike-force concept.  This strategem worked perfectly, and the `balance of
Western opinion', I suggest, has now come to see US-NATO intervention as
something `we need more of' to clean up `trouble spots'.  (Who says you
can't fool all the people all the time?)

The rest of the military global architecture is explained by Samuel P.
Huntington, in "The Clash of Civilizations".  Under a _very thin disguise
of _analysis, this book is actually an elite _policy announcement, from
your same Council on Foreign Relations that earlier guided the US into and
out of WW-2, and has been decisive in every major US geopolitical decision.


The world is to be divided up into mutually-distrusting `civilizations',
each with a `regional hegemon'.  Thus the world won't have peace, and yet
it won't be threatened by global war either.  There will be regional
conflicts, and perhaps untold human suffering, but the elite force will
always maintain total technological superiority and will be able to
`contain' any conflict at whatever level is deemed to be most expedient to
elite designs at the time.   Harry Truman's statement may have some
metaphoric relevance here...

   If we see that Germany is winning we should help Russia and if Russia
   is winning we ought to help Germany and that way let them kill as many
   as possible . . .
                                                Harry S. Truman, 1941


Rumors of the natural death of capitalism are exaggerated.  Like a vampire,
it arises again from the grave, in feudal attire instead of competitive,
but still in charge.

---

  > Among other things, I would like to point out that Marxism is not an
 >ideology;  it is far from being simplistic, but it is firmly rooted in the
>Western thought tradition to reach an overall understanding of the
>complexities of reality;  to describe it as "simplistic" is to ignore
>altogether what is Marxism;  communism is not an idea, but, as Marx and
>Engels said in one of their so called  "works of youth"  (in this case,
>"German Ideology"), it is a process towards the future;  USSR never was a
>socialist state, but rather an extreme form of state capitalism  (and the
>first to say this was Lenin himself);  to tell about "communist states" is
 >nonsense, since in communism the withering away of the state would have
  >already been completed; etc.

I wish someone would come out and say what the hell marxism is and isn't.
It seems to be whatever the person arguing wants it to be, an
ever-shifting, never-erring `vision' of predictive certitude.  You say it's
not an `ideology', but do you have the right to say that?  To millions it
_has been an ideology.  And _please, do _not ask me to read a shelf of
books on marxism, I refuse.  If you can't explain it in a message, then you
don't understand it yourself.  (Kurt Vonnegut insists you explain it to a
ten year old; I consider that an excessive demand for a complex subject.)
(:>)

For the purposes of this discussion, which I believe is on the topic of
`predictions about globalization', then marxism must be taken as an
_analysis.  Perhaps Marx has recanted some of his most important
statements, and marxist experts can inform me on this, but I seem to recall
him saying that "All value is created by labor", and I gather that many who
call themselves marxists believe this fervently.

As a piece of _analysis, I find this statement extremely _simplistic.  It
would in fact seem to be a propaganda message, issued to counter the
capitalist propaganda about what wealth and property are all about, which
is equally simplistic.

As _analysis (rather than propaganda or ideology) it is simply _wrong.
_Many things contribute to _value creation, and investment, management,
creativity, luck, marketing, and many others take their place alongside
labor in any rational analysis -- and this has been true for thousands of
year, long before capitalism or industrialism were invented.


 >Globalization in itself is not an evil:  it is the necessary step    ---for
>both economic and ecological reasons---    to establish a new world order
>(a sane, rational and humanistic one),  to abolish the national frontiers
 >and the state nations and to create a world government.   What is wrong is
  >neoliberal globalization.

Behind this statement are numerous implicit assumptions, none of which have
been established or even mentioned, and all of which can be shown to be
false.  Since you don't state your assumptions, I am forced to, so I don't
take responsibility for how many words that are required.

First of all, by any reasonable definition of the word, globalization _is
EVIL.  It is based on cynical deception, abuse of power, the death of
millions, unnecessary starvation and suffering, theft from the many by the
few, oppressive dictatorial governments, torture and death squads, and
destabilization of democratic institutions and whole cultures.  If this
isn't evil, then it'll do until something worse comes along!

You say:
 >Globalization in itself is not an evil:  it is the necessary step...

By this are you saying "The end justifies the means"?  Is this a marxist
precept?  That something evil is _not evil if something _good comes out of
it?  I refuse to accept such a moral precept, and I will be glad to argue
against it on pragmatic grounds as well if you or anyone cares to defend
it.

Besides, submitting to globalization is _not necessary in order for the
current capitalist regime to be overthrown.  In fact the longer we wait,
the fewer options we have to overthrow it.  In this regard I find marxism
to be one of the most _reactionary doctrines I know of!  It _discourages
political empowerment and _encourages people to just ride the roller
coaster and hope for a gold ring at the end of the ride, a final reward in
workers paradise.  In that way it's much like Christianity with its
`heaven', and which is equally disempowering politically.  (Not that
individual marxists and Christians can't be wonderful people and
revolutionaries!, but we're talking here about _doctrine, and _analysis.)
With respect to the heavenly gold ring:

        "All's I can say is `Good luck'"
             - Bob Dylan, from a dream

---

You are also assuming that there is only one possible vision of a "sane,
rational, and humanistic world order", and that it must be based on a world
government.  You are wrong on both counts.

There can be _many visions of a new and better world, and I suggest we'll
come up with a better vision in the end if we are open minded at the
beginning about what its architecture might be.  Insisting on the _sole
validity of a _single vision is politically divisive, which translates into
being politically _fatal, because only in _unity can elite hegemony be
overthrown.

---

A world government is a highly questionable proposition from many
perspectives.  I've written against that world government many times and
will continue to do so.  At this time I'll give three of the
counter-arguments, which certainly is _not a conclusive proof, but at least
it rebuts the notion that a world government is _obviously a good thing,
with no further examination needed.

---
(1) the argument from size

Most of you may be familiar with E F Schmacher's "Small is Beautiful" which
talks about the inefficiencies and wrong-headedness that naturally creep
into organizations as they get larger.  Carolyn Ballard sent me another
book, Leopold Kohr's "The Breakdown of Nations", which takes the notion of
`scale' even further.  He argues the thesis that _wherever you see systems
breaking down and not working you can _always trace it to "something got
too big".

Perhaps these writers don't have it 100% right, but I agree with them that
as the scale of an operation gets bigger, that leads to _qualitative
changes in its performance and its accountability.  With _democracy in
particular, the bigger the political unit, the more difficult it is to
maintain democracy -- the easier it is for elites and power-brokers `at the
center' to usurp power.

That, I believe, is why the US was the first to be captured by neoliberal
forces, and why the US is the leader of the globalization disaster.  The
smaller-scale European nations were able to maintain democracy longer --
which is why, by the way, the elite are pushing through the EU and the
Euro, to move euro-sovereignty up to a larger scale, where they can more
easily usurp power.

From considerations of size, I claim, a world government would be a
disaster.  Democracy would be unmaintainable, leading to some kind of elite
power system.  Who knows what would happen in areas like economic planning,
but one can look at the Soviet experience and only shudder to think about
10 billion tons of corn being grown when 10 billion tons of soybeans were
needed instead, or everything delivered to the wrong destination, or in
mislabled crates, etc. etc.  Bureacracy is a killer and the bigger the
deadlier.

---
(2) the argument from eco-theory & diversity

In ecology, the principle has been generally accepted that an ecosystem is
more robust and adaptable to change if it includes a wide _diversity of
life forms.  If an unusual drought kills off one species, for example, the
it is unlikely to be a sole-link in the food chain, and the ecosystem as a
whole can be expected to recover.  In a mono-culture, on the other hand,
such as a man-made orange grove, an unusual drought might kill off _all the
principal life in the system, all at once.  Furthermore, _evolution occurs
more rapidly in a diverse ecosystem, _especially whenever unusual
conditions kill off a species or two.

Whether the unit is the nation, the cultural community, or the bio-region
-- _some smaller-than-global unit of sovereignty is, I believe, preferable
to a world government, whether your perspective be cultural, political,
economic, or species-survival.

Different experiments can be carried out by different sovereignties, in all
the realms mentioned (cultural et al), and the whole world can benefit from
the successes and failures.  With a world government I fear a sterlilty
would be introduced into societal evolution, a stifling of new growth, of
new models of society.  And out of such a sterility there might not even
come stability, instead we might see a soicietal deterioration.  I've seen
an analysis, for example, of the Dark Ages which said the main reason they
were `dark' is that a monoculture ruled (ie, Rome) which stifled learning,
innovation, experimentation, etc.  "Power corrupts, and absolute power
corrupts absolutely."

---
(3) the argument relating to the presumed `evil of nationalism'

A great deal of the impetus for a world government comes from the
observation that nationalism has led to wars, and that by erasing national
borders we would therefore end the causes of war.

This `observation', I submit, is historically wrong.

We _think it's historically correct because our fist exposure to history,
in pubic schools, subjects us to grossly-distorted historical
interpretations, interpretations designed to serve the purposes of the
capitalist system.  And then the  corporate media continues the myths as it
interprets current events.   Only those who study history beyond public
school ever get a glimpse of what really happened in history, and again in
academia only an incredibly narrow range of interpretations receive much
airtime.  (This general topic of history distortion is covered extensively
by Chomsky, Parenti, and Zinn, among others.)

It is _not popular nationalism, nor ethnic hatreds, nor citizen desire for
more wealth, that has been ultimately responsible for wars in the
capitalist-dominated parts of the world over the past century or two.  Wars
have occurred when one or another segment of the capitalist elite have
arrived at the belief that they could benefit from a shift in imperial
boundaries.

I _laugh when someone refers to "Guns of August" as a definitive
description of WW-1!  That charming but limited book was about _holding
_actions that were going on in Europe.  WW-1 was mainly about the race to
see who good grab the most of the crumbling, thousand-year-old Ottoman
empire.  The decisive action was _outside of Europe; after the War,
European borders went back more or less as before, as they always do.

Even Nazi Germany and WW-2 were about imperialism.  The myth-history blames
it on personalities (Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo) and rampant nationalist
feelings.  But the rise of Hitler was in fact carefully orchestrated and
was funded and guided by German and American elites, and supported by
Western capitalists generally.  It was all part of a game to `shove back
the tides of socialism'.  (General Motors plants built warplanes in and for
the Reich _throughout the war, and collected repartions from the US
government because they were bombed by the US Air Force!)

Within Germany, and within Hitler's own mind, as revealed in Mein Kampf,
rearming and rebuilding Germany was primarily about re-establishing
Germany's right to be a `great power', a right which had been `unjustly'
taken away at Versailles.  This was to be accomplished by subjugating `the
slavic races' to German power.  This is what was meant by `lebensraum', a
populist term for `sphere of interest'.

It was eastward that Hitler wanted to go, and he would have greatly
preferred not to be forced to invade westward, which he did only to protect
his back.  The West knew that but wasn't having it: an imperial Germany
which ruled Russia would be too powerful, would upset the `balance of
power' in the imperial game.  It was _not fascism that brought the West in
against Hitler, the West had applauded and supported fascism, it was the
imperial designs and potential of German military victories that caused the
West to act.  Hitler was mortal, but a firmly-established German empire
would endure.

The upshot of this argument is that wars have been unjustly blamed on
nationalism.  In fact wars have been intentionally started by this or that
elite clique, and `nationalism' is something that has been intentionally
stirred up, via sensationalist propaganda, and convenient demagogic
leaders, in order to marshall public support for war and generate
enlistments in the military.

You may find this presentation over-long, but this is a very important point.

Nations are quite capable of living peacefully alongside one another.  The
US and Candada have done it for years, and Western Europe has done quite
nicely since 1945.  The hundreds of brushfire wars going on in the world
since 1945 can essentially all be traced to adjustments being made by the
collective imperialst system that was set up then.  Even the seemingly
senseless and tribally inspired genocidal wars in Africa can be traced to
the covert intrigue of sometimes the US, sometimes France, and sometimes
the UK, and never for `nationalist' reasons, always for some advantage for
this or that oil company, diamond mine, or other capitalist venture.

If one imagines that capitalist hegemony can be overthrown, then one _must
re-evaluate ones attitude toward the nation state -- and its _presumed
prediliction for warfare -- in the context of that new capitalist-tamed
world.

---

I believe there are _very strong reasons to question the desirability of a
world government, and that there are _strong reasons to entertain the
possibility that a world can be peaceful while having multiple
sovereignties -- _if the world is no longer controlled by an elite for whom
greed and power are the only values.

That's a big `if', but that's the `if' this whole discussion is about: what
should _replace capitalist hegemony?


respectfully yours,
rkm
Wexford, Ireland
•••@••.•••
http://cyberjournal.org


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