cj#866> Introduction, draft 2

1998-11-18

Richard Moore

Dear cj & rn,

I hesitate to indulge your patience once again, but feedback is needed on
this latest draft of the book's Introduction. I've been discussing the book
project with a few publishers, and now it's time to send a book-proposal
package to a larger number of publishers.  If you can help improve the
draft, that would be most appreciated. Some paragraphs will look familiar,
but the bulk of the text is new, and reflects your earlier input.

The sad fact is that my funds are running low, bringing my own
end-of-millenium crisis. I'd really like to get the book under contract and
be able to complete it before it become necessary to take drastic action
(move back to the states? work again in the computer industry?)   (:<)


thanks for your ongoing help,
rkm

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                          Achieving a Livable World
              - globalization and the revolutionary imperative -
                                   (draft 2)
                     Copyright 1998 by Richard K. Moore
                    comments to: •••@••.•••
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Introduction                                        [18 Nov 98 - 2840 words]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Globalization: a headlong rush into a failed past
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
1998 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the General Agreement on Tariffs and
Trade (GATT), the first of the global free-trade agreements. In Geneva, at a
UN conference celebrating this anniversary, US President Bill Clinton opened
his speech with the statement, "Globalization is not a policy choice; it is
a fact".

This statement suggests a number of questions: What is globalization? Where
did it come from? Where is it heading? Why does the most powerful leader in
the world say he has no choice about it? Is it really inevitable, or are
there alternatives? If so, what are they, how can they be pursued, and whose
responsibility is it to pursue them? This book is an investigation into
these questions.

At the heart of globalization is the doctrine of "free trade" and a belief
in the virtue of "market forces". This same philosophy, with very nearly the
same rhetoric, was dominant in the nineteenth century, when it went under
the name "laissez-faire capitalism". During the Irish Famine in the 1840's,
while hundreds of thousands were starving, Britain refused on _principle to
provide assistance: such assistance would interfere, said the British
Government, with market forces.(1) Today, as disease and famine infest the
third-world, market forces are offered once again by the West as the
prescribed solution.

Laissez-faire policies reflect the political ascendency of capitalist
interests. "Laissez faire" is French for "leave alone", and under this
philosophy governments tend to "leave the economy alone" to be run by
private capital. What this inevitably means in practice is that economic
power becomes concentrated in ultra-large corporations and banks. The late
nineteenth century is sometimes referred to the "robber baron" era, and
then, as now, capitalist interests dominated government policy in leading
Western nations(2). It was a time of child-labor exploitation, dire poverty,
boom-and-bust economic cycles, powerful monopolies, and widespread
government corruption. John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil and a
typical "robber baron" industrialist, bragged about how many state Governors
he had "in his pocket".

The robber-baron era was a peak of capitalist political power in the West. A
grass-roots political counter-movement arose in the form of local and
international labor organizations, socialist movements, and reform
campaigns.(3). Western governments were gradually forced to respond to these
mass movements. The ascendency of capitalist political power was undermined,
and over time Western governments came to represent a balance of popular and
corporate interests.

Anti-trust legislation, regulation of industry and banking, social-welfare
programs, labor-rights legislation -- these all arose during the twentieth
century out of popular opposition to the abuses of capitalism and corporate
power. In America there was the "New Deal" and a "Social Security" pension
program. Economic policies in the postwar (post-1945) era brought high
employment and widespread prosperity. In Britain and Europe there were
extensive postwar social programs, including free health care, housing
assistance, and government operation of transport and utilities. Western
prosperity seemed to climb ever-upward, and the prosperity was being shared
by large segments of the population.

In the postwar era it seemed that capitalist and popular interests had
achieved a mutually beneficial political arrangement in the West. But at the
crest of Western popular prosperity and well being, in the sixties and
seventies, massive movements arose against what was then called "the
establishment". The civil-rights, anti-war, and environmental movements
gained strength and achieved political potency. US President Nixon was
forced to resign in disgrace, partly because of an incident at Watergate,
but mostly because of years of pent-up popular disgust at his policies.

The seventies were a time of what Americans call "liberal" power, with
progressive Democrats in control in Washington, a Freedom of Information Act
stripping away state secrecy, and an Environmental Protection Agency curbing
corporate abuses. The Governor of the most populous state, California's
Jerry Brown, talked about an "era of limits", and an end to unrestrained
growth. Similar forces were afoot in Europe and Britain. Prosperous Western
populations were asserting themselves on a broad front, apparently not
satisfied with their postwar economic gains. The saying, "Give them an inch
and they take a mile", must have occurred to many leaders in the corporate
community.

Then in 1980, with the successful campaigns of Ronald Reagan in the US, and
Margaret Thatcher in Britain, a momentous counter-revolution was launched, a
bold resurgence of laissez-faire ideology. This well-orchestrated replay of
the robber-baron era was called a conservative revolution in the US, while
in Europe it was called the neoliberal revolution. The revolution spread to
the rest of the West, and beyond. It has now become the heart of the
globalization project, and the shared agenda of all leading Western
political parties.

Suddenly, in an orwellian switch of rhetoric, it was government officials
themselves who talked about government being "too big". The history of the
previous century was forgotten, along with the reasons why social programs
and regulation had been introduced in the first place. All the credit for
existing prosperity was given to capitalism, now referred to fondly as "the
efficient private sector". The regulation and social reforms which had made
capitalism bearable were re-defined as "government interference". "Reform"
came to mean the dismantlement of reform.

The results of this revolution could not have been more predictable -- as
reforms were removed, the old abuses reappeared. It's as if a time machine
had simply taken us back to the nineteenth century, only on a global and
more destructive scale. Once again corporate power reigns supreme, child
labor is making goods we buy in our stores, labor rights are being
undermined, unemployment is considered "good for the economy", wages are
declining, once-strong national economies are collapsing, and corporate
profits are skyrocketing. Commerce, trade, and finance are being monopolized
on a global scale, with ownership in each business segment being
concentrated into the hands of a few transnational corporations (TNC's).
Corruption of government -- and of public debate -- has become so thorough
that officials no longer try to hide the fact that their primary agenda is
the care and nurturing of corporate profits.

Modern globalization also brings new problems that weren't part of the scene
in the nineteenth century. The size of modern populations and the ravages of
unrestrained development are combining to destroy the life-systems of the
Earth itself. Ozone depletion, global warming, destruction of topsoils and
rainforests, pollution of air and water -- these trends threaten the
survival of life on Earth and they are being accelerated by globalization.
In addition, the various "free-trade" treaties such as GATT and NAFTA are
transferring sovereignty to corporate-controlled commissions such as the
World Trade Organization (WTO). As nations are thus disempowered, democracy
itself becomes irrelevant.

Why was this historic revolution launched in 1980, in particular? Was it a
political reaction to the ungrateful uprisings of the sixties? Was it a
necessary response to changing global conditions? Why have leading Western
governments abandoned widespread prosperity as a national goal, in fact if
not in principle? Why are government leaders so eager to sign away
sovereignty to faceless international commissions? What happened to the
fervent nationalism that seemed to characterize wealthy interests prior to
1945? Why are we not seeing popular opposition to capitalism on the scale
that arose in the robber-baron era? These questions will be investigated in
Part I of this book.

The goal of Part I is not to criticize capitalism, corporate power, or
globalization. There are many excellent critiques already available on
bookstore shelves (and in this book's bibliography). The subtitle of Part I
is "understanding the dynamics of today's world", and the emphasis is on
understanding the political and economic forces that are at the root of
globalization. Indeed the picture that emerges is a dismal one -- that
cannot be avoided -- but the aim is to understand why, not to bemoan our
fate nor to identify capitalism as an enemy to blame.

The goal of Part I is to _empower. By understanding the root causes of
globalization, and by seeing where the globalization process is taking us, a
perspective is gained which reveals a glimmer of hope for humanity.
Globalization brings fundamental re-alignments of political forces, and this
creates the conditions for a new kind of international political movement.
There is a window of opportunity in which Western populations can rise up
together, in each of their nations, and assert their democratic
sovereignties.

Western democracies have, so far in history, represented not the ascendency
of popular sovereignty, but rather a particular political compromise. This
compromise -- an unwritten social contract -- has allowed wealthy elites to
set overall economic policy while granting to Western populations a number
of privileges and benefits. Globalization brings the abandonment of the
social contract, and this "betrayal" of Western populations, long staunch
allies of the capitalist system, has created a new political landscape in
the West. This new landscape creates the opportunity for a broad-based,
grass-roots movement that bridges the partisan divisions which have long
plagued the Western democratic process.

In every crisis, according at least to the Chinese symbol for crisis, there
is both danger and opportunity. Globalization is a crisis and it brings a
clear-and-present danger to humanity. The opportunity is for people
everywhere, from all walks of life, to wake up to the dire threat that faces
them, and to do something about it. This is what is meant by the
revolutionary imperative.


How this investigation is structured
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
At a recent workshop on political activism, I learned about a "change
formula" which helps clarify how social change occurs. The formula states
that the force for change is related to _discomfort level, _vision, and
available _means. If people are _comfortable with existing arrangements, they
are unlikely to seek or favor change. Even if they are very uncomfortable,
they won't usually be eager for change unless they share a _vision of
something better. And even then, with both discomfort and vision, little
progress can be made until a practical _means has been identified by which
the vision can be realized.

Part I of this book addresses the issue of _discomfort. Globalization
represents perhaps the gravest danger ever to face humanity. This turns out
to be a relatively straightforward case to make. The evidence is abundant
all around us, and only a steady diet of corporate propaganda and official
doubletalk keeps so many people from recognizing the evidence for what it
is. Besides the evidence presented here, a bibliography is provided listing
several outstanding books which have looked in more detail at the various
aspects of globalization and corporate power.

Part II seeks to articulate an appropriate _vision for a livable world. This
turns out to be an investigation of a quite different kind. While
understanding the threat of globalization is a matter of interpreting
available facts, identifying an appropriate vision calls for a consideration
of system dynamics.

Politics, economics, the environment, and world order are all _systems. In a
livable world, these systems need to work together in harmony and they need
to be stable and robust. The notion of livability leads naturally to the
identification of certain fundamental principles, or _requirements for a
livable world system. By considering these requirements, along with economic
and political forces, the necessary architecture for a livable world can be
identified. There are, it turns out, not that many degrees of freedom. That
is to say, if we really want to achieve a livable world, we don't have all
that much choice about what it will look like -- the problem comes with a
lot of built in constraints.

Part II will be investigating questions like these: What does democracy
mean, really? What would a functioning democratic process look like? What is
sustainability, and is it feasible? What would its consequences be? How can
it be achieved and managed? How could different societies be expected to
interact if they were dedicated to the principles of democracy and
sustainability? What does systems analysis tell us about a stable world
order? Is a world government a good idea, or would it be inherently
unstable? Are there alternatives that promise greater stability?

Part III seeks to outline the _means by which global transformation can be
accomplished. We will investigate questions like these: What can be learned
from the experience of previous social movements? How can an effective,
democratic movement be created across a broad social front? How can it
remain democratic and not be captured by power-seeking, would-be "leaders"?
How can it be democratic and also achieve movement-wide unity? How can the
established Western regimes be expected to respond? What tactics have they
used in the past to suppress popular movements? What is the importance of
non-violence, as a movement strategy?

Many previous movements have failed at the very point of victory. The
victory of the French Revolution, for example, led to bloody chaos while the
Russian Revolution led to dictatorship. These movements managed to defeat
the old regimes, but when victory was won a power vacuum was created, and
into it leapt those hungry for power. A _democratic, _locally-based,
_non-violent movement can be not only the means of achieving victory, but it
can also become the basis for democracy in the new world. If the movement
models itself on its own vision for a livable world, then as it develops it
becomes the society it seeks. Thus no power vacuum is created, and the
transition can be smooth to livable, democratic societies.


The prospects for success
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
There remains a fundamental question: Is there any reason to believe that a
global grass-roots movement is possible or likely in current circumstances?
Are historical conditions right for such a movement to arise?

Globalization itself, I suggest, has created, and is creating, conditions
which are favorable to the development of such a movement. To begin with,
globalization is creating the economic conditions for massive unrest and
discomfort. In addition, the development of a functioning global society is
creating a cultural vacuum. Our cultures, our political traditions, and our
identities are oriented around nations as the largest unit of society. As
economics and politics operate more and more globally, we are set adrift as
to who we are, what society we are part of, and what the values and rules of
our societies are.

Into this vacuum are rushing fundamentalist religions, racist nationalistic
movements, neo-fascist movements, messianic cults, and various other radical
ideologies and agendas. In this respect we can compare current conditions to
those of the Roman Empire. The administration and trading systems that Rome
established connected diverse cultures into a larger society. None of the
existing religions matched the scale of the new society, and evangelistic
religions such as Mithraism and Christianity rushed in to fill the vacuum.
The gods offered by the Romans themselves, apparently, didn't have
sufficient appeal.

The only "god" offered by today's global regime is market forces, supported
by its trinity of growth, deregulation, and free-trade. This "religion" is
hardly satisfying as the foundation of global culture, and there is little
wonder people everywhere are searching for new cultural anchors, or reaching
back nostalgically for old ones. US Congressman Newt Gingrich comes to mind,
with his sentimental praise of an idealized Main Street America. The
prospects for democracy are endangered during such a time of cultural
instability, given the comfort many find in easy answers and repressive
fundamentalist ideologies. But in a time of searching, enlightened ideas may
also find an audience. Cultural instability provides a favorable opportunity
for mass movements, of whatever variety.

Of particular significance is globalization's abandonment of traditional
Western privileges. The relative privilege of Western populations has
traditionally provided a mass constituency in support of the established
capitalist system. As more and more Westerners come to realize that
globalization is betraying this unwritten social contract, many of them are
looking for new solutions. This creates an opportunity for mass political
movements in the very heart of the beast -- the Western fortress of global
capitalism.

As the millennium approaches, I believe it is fair to say that anxiety
regarding global instability and social deterioration is at a very high
level worldwide. Old systems really are falling apart, and the new global
system has not managed to instill confidence or cultural identity. The
objective conditions, I suggest, are almost ideally favorable for mass
movements. The challenge is for responsible people of good will everywhere
to rise up and make use of this opportunity. The window of opportunity is
closing fast, as nations are being disempowered by "free trade" treaties,
and popular will is being made rapidly irrelevant.

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(1) Robert Kee, "Ireland, A History", Abacus, London, 1982, pp. 82-85.
(2) Howard Zinn, "A Peoples History of the United States", Harper Colphon
Books, New York, 1980, Chapter 11, "Robber Barons and Rebels", pp. 247-289.
[European reference to be added]
(3) Zinn, Chapter 13, "The Socialist Challenge", pp. 314-349. [European
reference to be added]
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