Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/215/9142
Build an alternative to
The horrors of Global Capitalism
THE DEMONSTRATIONS in Genoa over the weekend of 20-22 July promise to be the latest in a long list of major anti-capitalist protests that have shaken the capitalist class globally.
Like Seattle, Prague and Nice before it, Genoa has become associated in the minds of millions with opposition to globalisation and capitalism.
Kieran Roberts, International Socialist Resistance
These protests show that a new generation has emerged who oppose capitalism and its devastating consequences.
At the same time they have brought anti-capitalist ideas to the attention of millions around the globe.
Above all else, they are a harbinger of mass movements which will develop over the next period, some of which will place the question of replacing capitalism directly on the agenda.
Under Siege! Global Capitalism and the Socialist Alternative analyses what the anti-globalisation/ anti-capitalist movement represents and provides a devastating commentary on what the continuation of this system means for the working class, the urban and rural poor and the environment the world over.
But it does not stop there. This pamphlet sets out to arm the anti-capitalist movement with ideas to rid the world of capitalism and to provide the movement with an alternative, socialism.
The opening pages of Under Siege show the cataclysmic effects of global capitalism. For instance, the vast sums of wealth accumulated by the world's richest people while millions starve, are a bitter condemnation of this system.
According to the United Nations, the assets of the 200 richest individuals are greater than the combined income of the poorest 2.4 billion people in the world.
These figures demonstrate the point that Under Siege makes - that the terrible poverty found in countries across the globe does not exist due to a lack of wealth in society or even insufficient production.
The technology, resources and knowledge are there to give everybody on the planet the chance to enjoy life to the fullest.
The problem is that the world is dominated by a few hundred multinational companies that own and control these vast resources.
Rather than use this to benefit society as a whole though, the wealth is taken by these big capitalists in profits.
This brutal and iniquitous system is defended by pro-capitalist political parties and governments around the world who act as willing servants for big business.
Meanwhile institutions such as the European Union, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank defend the capitalists' interests on an international scale.
Organisations like the IMF and World Bank are at the forefront of the drive to open up the world's economies to the predominantly Western multinationals.
They demand that countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia and latterly Eastern Europe accept their harsh "neo-liberal" programmes of deregulation and privatisation, cuts in social spending and removal of trade barriers.
THE DIRECT consequences of these policies are poverty on a massive scale and disparities between the rich and the poor which escalate ever upwards.
The wealth ratio between the world's richest and poorest countries was about three to one in 1820. In 1997 it was 74 to one.
At the same time, the vast natural wealth of the poorest countries is being plundered by the multinationals.
Unequal terms of trade, dictated by the imperialist countries, means that exports (mainly raw materials) from the poorer countries are vastly cheaper than the manufactured goods that these countries have to import from the West.
The burden of debts forced on the poorest countries by the big powers kills 13 children every minute in Africa alone.
In 1999, Sub-Saharan Africa - the world's poorest region - paid out US $42 million a day.
However, the continuation of capitalism is not just disastrous for the ex-colonial world. The conditions of the working class and poor within rich and poor countries alike are threatened by the recession that is currently unravelling worldwide.
This major downturn in the world economy comes after several years when the capitalists continually assured us that we had entered a new economic period, that the cycle of boom and bust had been replaced by an era of low inflation and unemployment in the Western world.
Under Siege explains why capitalism cannot escape the cycle of boom and bust, why economic crises are an inherent feature of the system.
Fundamentally, this is rooted in the fact that capitalism is first and foremost driven by the necessity to increase their rates of profit.
Everything else is subservient to this, even production itself.
The pamphlet's authors illustrate this with a quote from Sir Brian Moffat, the chairman of Corus (a European steel company) after he axed 6,000 jobs in early 2001, when he said: "Corus does not make steel it makes money".
Profits are basically derived from the unpaid labour of workers. However this means that the working class is unable to buy back the goods it produces. This creates a basic contradiction, that the capitalists attempt to overcome by ploughing back the surplus produced by the workers into new technology, machinery, buildings and research.
This in turn begins to eat into their profits as the imbalance between supply and demand continues to grow.
The result is a crisis such as that which the capitalists now face, of over-capacity or over-production.
The only solution under capitalism is effectively destroying the spare capacity, ie closing factories, laying off workers.
This current downturn is just the latest stage in the woes of the world economy. Global capitalism has been suffering from a serious structural crisis for the last 25 years. Under Siege explains: "Since the mid-1970s world capitalism has moved into a period of organic (structural) crisis and stagnation.
"Capitalism in the last 25 years, despite cyclical fluctuation, is characterised by historical decline, social inequality, mass unemployment, slow growth, and financial and political fragility."
The IMF and World Bank's neo-liberal programmes represent a vicious offensive against the living standards of the working class and rural poor internationally, in order to restore their profits to the levels of the post-war boom period.
This went hand in hand with globalisation and moves towards greater integration of the capitalist economies.
Workers fight back
THE WORKING class and rural poor are not passively accepting this state of affairs however. In many countries worldwide, there have been struggles and revolutionary movements in the last few years.
For instance when the Ecuadorian government carried out IMF-dictated policy in 2000, the ensuing crisis sparked an uprising of workers and the rural poor, who stormed the parliament in the capital Quito.
In Indonesia, the dictator Suharto was swept from power by a revolutionary movement in 1998, in the wake of the economic collapse affecting all of South-east Asia after 1997.
In Europe, a movement of the working class drove Milosevic out in Serbia last year.
These movements give an indication of future developments, particularly in the wake of a major downturn which will shatter any remaining illusions the masses have in the market to deliver a decent standard of living.
Movements like that in Serbia which overthrew Milosevic also show the central role that the working class will play in movements against the effects of capitalism and against the system itself.
While the growth in anti-capitalist sentiment over the last few years represents a massive step forward, there is no clear idea amongst the anti-capitalist protesters of how to challenge capitalism or what the alternative is.
Undoubtedly, though, many of the participants and those sympathetic to them are thinking these questions over and are searching for answers to them.
Under Siege highlights the working class's central role in challenging capitalism and transforming society.
This is because the working class has the ability to bring capitalism to a standstill by withdrawing its labour.
Recently we have seen even small groups of workers such as the French lorry drivers bring practically all of Europe to a standstill in 1997.
It is the working class's specific role in production that gives it colossal collective power and consciousness.
This in turn allows the working class to play a leading role in the revolutionary process and lays the basis for socialism.
Under Siege explains that this is why the CWI sets as a central task the building of new mass parties of the working class - CWI members are aiding this in many countries.
However, the CWI also aims to win workers to our own parties. This is because the lessons of history show that for mass parties of the working class to carry through the fundamental transformation of society they need to have the ideas and programme of Marxism.
THE FINAL section of Under Siege explains what we mean by socialism and sets out how socialism would actually work.
It explains what genuine workers' democracy would look like, in contrast to the undemocratic Stalinist states.
Only a socialist society and democratic plan of production would enable society to end the crisis of capitalism, and the poverty, wars and environmental devastation that result from capitalism's destructive pursuit of profit.
Socialism would allow the working class to plan the use of resources for the benefit of society as a whole rather than in the interests of a small minority of capitalists.
Similarly, it would unlock the mass of human talent and energy that goes wasted under capitalism, for the benefit of all of society.
As the authors of Under Siege say, more than 150 years ago Karl Marx wrote: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point however is to change it".
This pamphlet is a very valuable contribution in arming workers and young people with the ideas that are capable of changing the world and achieving a socialist alternative.
It should also convince many of those working-class people and youth to join the CWI (the Socialist Party in Britain) as the international force that possesses a Marxist programme capable of carrying out the fundamental transformation of society.
MORE BOOKS related to globalisation are available from Socialist Books. These include:
Vital Signs 2000-2001 by Lester R Brown £12.95
Captive State, the Corporate Take-over of Britain by George Monbiot £12.99
No Logo by Naomi Klein £14.99
Marx on Globalisation Edited by D Renton £13.99
Please add 10% post and packing. Make cheques/ postal orders payable to Socialist Books. Address as above. Credit card payments phone 020 8988 8789 or fax 020 8988 8787.
In The Socialist 20 July 2001: