[Marxism] Globalisation and anti-globalisation as the ideology of imperialism

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Thu Apr 1 00:54:13 MST 2004

By coincidence, I found this text at
http://www.topia.com.ar/articulos/35-int-petraseng.htm which makes some
pertinent comments (I wish I could read Spanish fluently):

"(...) Few words have gained as much currency in such a short period of time
(since around 1986) as Globalization.í Although used in different ways it
generally denotes a multifaceted process characterized by increased
international flows of capital, goods and services, information and cultural
values, and ways of doing things ñ and an associated interconnectedness of
social phenomena (Therborn, 2000) and, at a different level, economic

However, in these terms, the term globalization explains little of what is
actually going on across the world and, as noted by most contributors to a
special theme issue of the Cambridge Review of International Affairs (Desai,
et. al., 2000), serves better as an ideology, a means of masking what is
going on or to promote a certain desired form of action or thought, than as
theory, an explanatory device -- or even as a means of describing well the
dynamics of a supposed paradigmatic (and historical) shift.

For one thing, the term entirely eludes reference to the structures of
political and economic power or the practice (foreign policy) in which these
structures are imposed by some states, or peoples, on others. The reality of
this institutionalized practice is better described, and explained, by use
of a term given to Marxist discourse but abandoned by many: imperialism.

Oddly enough, this point has been grasped well by some supporters and
advocates of neoliberal capitalism than by the many critics of corporate
capital or neoliberal globalization in the AGM [=anti-globalisation
movement]. In this connection, Martin Wolf (Financial Times, February 5,
2002) writes of the ritualistic concern with unbridled corporate powerí
expressed by the critics and protesters at this year's meeting in New York
of the World Economic Forum as paranoid delusion.

However, in defense of the many critics and opponents of corporate global
power it could be said that if it can be demonstrated that these
corporations do indeed have command of a large measure of economic, if not
political, power, which is used in the (their own) interest (profits), then
the concern with corporate global power of critics such as Anderson and
Cavanagh, Susan George, Martin Khor, David Korten, and closer to home
(Canada, that is), Maud Barlow and Tony Charles, among many others, denotes
neither paranoia nor delusion.

However, Wolf is also correct in pointing out that corporations are not
unchallenged masters of the universe; nor are they autonomous agents of the
system or as powerful as critics claim.  Indeed, [t]he change seen over the
past twenty years is market-driven globalization unleashed, consciously and
voluntarily by governments.  Wolf makes an important point here. But where
the defenders of market-driven globalizationí such as Wolf are remiss (and
knowingly so) is in failing to point out that some governmentsí indeed do
have the will and capacity to unleash such power, and that they do so on the
basis of an imperialist agenda. (...)

One of the biggest myths propagated in the double ideological turn towards a
discourse on globalization and civil society is that of a powerless state,
hollowed out and stripped off its functions vis-a-vis the economic
development process, prostrate before unbridled global corporate power
(Weiss, 1998). But in actual fact, the welfare states in the North and the
developmentalist states in the South while partially dismantled have been
neither weakened nor reduced in terms of its various powers; rather, they
have been restructured in various ways to better serve the interests of the
transnational capitalist class." (see the full article at the mentioned

Let us suppose that "globalisation theorists" were correct in their
extrapolation of the "balance of forces", such that governments are really
powerless against global corporate power. In that case, (1) any concern
about, or involvement with government power would be a waste of time, and
indeed it is not clear that politics has anything to do with government
anymore. (2) global corporate power is everywhere. In that case, politics no
longer has any particular focus, nor is it clear that politics can have any
efficacy or that political movements exhibit any definite political pattern.
That is just disorienting, and the "Leftism" which embraces this
potty-party, world-is-round ideology of hot-air just shows it cannot
understand what is radical in the modern world.

In reality, "globalisation ideologies" are primarily the result of the
deregulation of money, commodity and capital markets, plus the result of the
effect that deregulation had on government policy and activities. But this
development reflects a change in the balance of power within the hierarchy
of the bourgeois classes, more than anything else, favouring big business
and the nouveau riches.

But the differentia specifica of globalisation theories is that they
abstract from the analysis of social classes and from an analysis of class
power, i.e. these theories represent a regression in class conciousness,
including the political awareness of what different strata in society are
doing and the direction in which they are moving. This is tantamount to a
miseducation of the new generation.

The only valid interpretation of "globalisation" from a socialist or Marxist
point of view is a constructive interpretation in terms of "world socialism"
(or if you don't like the term "socialism", some other term). In this case,
we focus on how the trends which globalisationists describe actually
increase and promote the possibity of realising a free, just and egalitarian

The globalisationists as well as anti-globalisationists just spread apathy,
pessimism, disinterest in politics and a sense of powerlessness and
incapacity, because they discuss symptoms without identifying their true
cause, and they don't have any cure either, because their own theory makes
it difficult to understand what you actually have to do.


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