Full refund within 30 days if you're not completely satisfied.
CAN TURKEY RESOLVE THE LONG KURDISH CONFLICT? – Page 4
NOVEMBER 2011 N o 1111
We need a third way, now
Globalisation has brought economic disaster, but antiglobalisation isn’t the answer. There is an alternative
By Jean-Marie Harribey
Continued on page 10 ECONOMIC CRISIS, POLITICAL IMPASSE
DOROTHY SHOES – ‘Daytime Interior’ (2011)
Where did the left go?
As capitalism faces the worst economic crisis since the1930s, the parties of the left are silent or embarrassed. At best, they promise to put the system right. More often, they advocate brutal austerity to prove their seriousness
The financial sector has brought society almost to breaking point. The economic edifice is tottering, and the ideological veil that hid its true face has been torn away. The high priests of globalisation have ceased their hymn of praise to the efficiency of the markets, and a debate has arisen over its opposite: deglobalisation. This debate is unusual: it does not set believers in the current orthodoxy against non-believers, but divides the economists and politicians who objected to the tyranny of the financial markets, especially during the campaign against the ratification of the European constitutional treaty.
y Serge Halimi
The Occupy Wall Street protests in the US are also directed against the Street’s representatives in the Democratic Party and the White House. The protesters probably don’t know that Socialists in France still consider Barack Obama exemplary, since, unlike President Sarkozy, he had the foresight to take action against banks. Is there a misunderstanding? Those who are unwilling or unable to attack the pillars of the neoliberal order (financialisation, globalisation of movements of capital and goods) are tempted to personalise the disaster, to attribute the crisis in capitalism to poor planning or mismanagement by their political opponents. In France it’s Sarkozy, in Italy Berlusconi, in Germany Merkel, who are to blame. And elsewhere?
Elsewhere, and not only in the US, political leaders long considered as models by the moderate left also face angry crowds. In Greece, the president of the Socialist International, George Papandreou, is pursuing a policy of extreme austerity: privatisations, cuts in the civil service, and delivering economic and social sovereignty to a ultra-neoliberal “troika” (1). The conduct of the Spanish, Portuguese and Slovenian governments reminds us that the term “left” is now so debased that it is no longer associated with any specific political content.
The current French Socialist Party spokesman explains the impossible situation of European social democracy very clearly: in his new book Tourner la page, Benoît Hamon writes: “In the European Union, the European Socialist Party is historically associated, through the compromise linking it with Christian democracy, with the strategy of liberalising the internal market and the implications for social rights and public services. Socialist governments negotiated the austerity measures that the European Union and the International Monetary Fund wanted. In Spain, Portugal and Greece, opposition to the austerity measures is naturally directed against the IMF and the European Commission, but also against the socialist governments … Part of the European left no longer denies that it is necessary, like the European right, to sacrifice the welfare state in order to balance the budget and please the markets. … We have blocked the march of progress in several parts of the world.
inside this issue Occupy Wall Street protests corporate greed, perhaps capitalism itself Page 2 Inside job: Afghanistan’s recordbreaking Kabul Bank losses Page 5 Don’t cry for me: Argentina carries on the his and hers Kirchner reign Page 6 Ivory Coast: refugees fear returning to uncertainties at home Page 8
Latin America’s ‘pink tide’ governments held to account Page 11 History of a word: the label ‘leftwing’ has evolved over time Page 13 Arab Spring: Tunisia prepares to draft a new constitution Page 14 Best foot sideways: the importance of lateral thinking Page 16
Over the past few months, newspapers, books and academic journals have brought the discussion of protectionism, leaving the euro and deglobalisation into the public arena (1). The arguments most commonly cited concern the nature of the crisis facing capitalism, the regulatory framework needed and the issue of democratic sovereignty.
Since the early 1980s, the structures of capitalism have been designed to maximise return on investment (“creating shareholder value”) while systematically devaluing labour. The latter allows the former, since the free movement of capital makes it possible to bring the social and fiscal systems into competition. “Globalisation” stands for the redeployment of capital at a global level, to solve the profit margin crisis that emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the supremacy of the dominant classes, whose financial interests take precedence over ordinary people’s wages, and pressure on the regulatory authorities to conform to the demands of the markets.
It has taken just 20 years to bring down this edifice: in the mid-2000s profit margins in the US stopped rising and loans to the poor, to compensate for insufficient wages, were no longer enough to absorb US industrial overproduction. The shockwaves spread as fast as capital was shifted.
The present global crisis is not the sum of the crises facing individual countries (Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain), which some believe are due solely to internal problems specific to each (strange that they should all manifest themselves at the same time). It is due mainly to capitalism having reached maturity on a global scale, and to the logic of shareholder value creation being taken to an extreme, with everything treated as a marketable commodity,
Jean-Marie Harribey is a lecturer at the University of Bordeaux IV, co-editor of Attac’s books Le piège de la dette publique (The trap of public debt), Les Liens qui Libèrent, Paris, 2011 and Retraites: l’heure de vérité (Pensions: the moment of truth), Syllepse, Paris, 2010 and author of Raconte-moi la crise (Tell me about the crisis), Le Bord de l’Eau, Lormont, 2010
from the production of basic goods and services to healthcare, education, culture and natural resources – in short, the whole of life.
So globalisation cannot be reduced simply to free trade, the mere movement of goods. The law of value has caught up with finance, which now faces an unavoidable task: it must restore the value of work, which is not infinitely compressible, and it must do so on the strength of a material base that is deteriorating or becoming rarefied (2). The financial crisis is really due to capitalist overproduction and a model of development that has reached the end of the road.
One of the key arguments of leftwing advocates of deglobalisation is that globalisation is responsible for destroying employment and industry in rich countries. According to the economist Jacques Sapir, “Up to the mid1990s, the advances in productivity in emerging economies were not big enough to change the balance of power with the dominant economies. But since the mid-1990s there have been very considerable advances in productivity in countries such as China and in eastern Europe. And whole sections of economic activity have been moving out of the industrialised countries” (3). So the inversion of the balance of power between the dominant classes and salaried workers in industrialised countries predates the economic emergence of China by at least 15 years.
In France, the allocation of added value to salaries fell (by around five points gross among non-financial companies compared with 1973 and nearly 10 points compared with 1982) (4), and unemployment surged, during the 1980s. The levels reached during that decade (very low for the allocation to salaries and very high for unemployment) have never really changed since, except during the brief period 1997-2001. So it is right to say that competition between workforces, which has intensified over the past few years, has reinforced the position of the wealthy, but not to claim that the primary responsibility for the decline in employment in the developed capitalist economies lies with the emerging economies.
In rich countries, neoliberalism has led to a division of wealth between capital and labour that favours capital, and changed relative remuneration levels among workers (those on higher salaries have received very large increases, often because their remuneration
Continued on page 2