National Sections of the L5I:

Globalisation – the latest stage of imperialism

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Five hundred huge international capitalist corporations – all based in one or other of the advanced capitalist powers but the majority in the USA – hold our planet in a vice-like grip. In the last decade of the twentieth century, this system was given a new name: globalisation.

Globalisation is an intensification of capitalism’s latest stage: imperialism, the rule of monopoly or finance capital. In this stage capitalism is no longer necessary to develop the forces of production; it plays no progressive role. Indeed, it repeatedly destroys, by crisis and war, the possibility of a productive, prosperous and safe existence for the majority of humanity.

Imperialism remorselessly centralises economic life in the hands of a tiny elite. The various branches of the economy – banking, industry and commerce – fuse into finance capital. Money moves rapidly around the globe in search of the highest profits. The export of money capital – foreign direct investment, loans and other financial operations – far outweighs the export of products.

The latest globalisation phase of imperialism dates from the 1980s, when a political and economic offensive from the United States began. This restored US domination over the Third World, the former Soviet Union and America’s capitalist rivals in Europe and Japan.

It led to a broadening and deepening of the rule of finance capital across the planet. It was a broadening in that the bureaucratically planned economies of the USSR, Eastern Europe and China gave way to the market, dramatically so after 1989. It was a deepening in that restrictions on finance capital were removed. Barriers to trade and investment in the South by multinational companies were torn down. Existing international economic agencies (IMF, World Bank) were transformed into debt enforcers and the World Trade Organisation was formed to fight for the multinationals’ global interests. The stock market and the expansion of debt became the mainsprings of “wealth creation”. On this basis a feverish round of concentration and centralisation of capital began.

Globalisation’s instruments, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation, now demand that all countries carry out the same neo-liberal economic and social policy. They insist that there is no alternative to free trade, the opening up of markets, the privatisation of industries, telecommunications, the media, transport, utilities like water, gas, electricity, services like hospitals, schools, care for the elderly and the disabled. All have to yield a profit for the few before they can be offered to the many ... if they can afford it.

Global capitalism rests on the exploitation of the workers in the imperialist countries and on the super-exploitation of its former colonies in the “Third World”. Mining and energy corporations, agribusinesses, banks: all use their technological, financial and trading monopoly powers to seize the raw materials and resources of underdeveloped countries. Other corporations set up production in countries where they can exploit workers even more than they could “at home”. The reason: dictatorial regimes and lower standards of living.

The weak and corrupt ruling classes of the “Third World” have long since abandoned any thought of challenging their former colonial overlords. They act instead as agents for the multinational corporations and the G8. Their local armies and police forces are trained and armed by the USA and the European powers. The CIA and MI6 instruct their secret police in the repressive arts. If any of these states step out of line, a rapid reaction force is sent in to “restore order”.

These “independent” states are anything but. Whenever the peoples of these semi-colonies force their corrupt and oppressive governments to resist, the counterattack is truly brutal.

Yet despite the scale of US domination, imperialism is not a system run by one power alone. It is a system of rivalry and competition for the world’s markets by competing corporations. Only a few of them are fully international. Most are rooted in their home states or trading blocks. Economic rivalry forces the capitalists to use these states and blocs against each other. Trade conflicts burst out; struggles erupt over valuable economic resources. By the very nature of the system, rivalries will sharpen. Today’s reluctant allies are tomorrow’s bitter enemies.

The European Union is forming as a large imperialist bloc. The ruling classes of Germany and France are taking up the challenge of the USA. Russia and China are trying to resist total dependence on the USA, EU or Japan. This has caused a collapse in the prestige of international institutions like the UN and NATO. The US’s current unilateralism is therefore not a sign of unrivalled strength. It is a pre-emptive strike to buttress its temporary world domination against the challenge of emerging rivals.

Fear and insecurity are once more beginning to stalk this “most perfect” of economic systems. Instead of limitless economic expansion, capitalist globalisation threatens humanity with a new period of stagnation and crisis, a struggle to dominate markets and territories. For the middle class and the workers, currency and stock market crashes can destroy a lifetime’s savings. Trade wars threaten to wreck entire industries. In short, a new period of capitalist crises, wars and, therefore, of social revolution lies ahead of us.