Monday, August 6, 2012

A short history of Globalisation; neo-liberalism and Orwellian Doublespeak

I wrote last month about how London and New York represent the "twin cities" of globalisation - the two Anglophone metropolises of the world.

Globalisation is an Anglophone invention, brought about by the efforts of the former British Empire and its counterpart, the USA. It really began in the 19th century, with the British Empire's control over the Indian subcontinent, and expansion into large parts of Africa. By the start of the First World War, the British Empire and the USA were Anglophone rivals for the world's mercantile resources, so the USA was its natural successor after the rapid decline of the British Empire after the end of the Second World War, thirty years later. The USA filled the gap vacated by the British Empire's decline, dominating the world's commercial interests as no other power before.

Both the British Empire and the USA, as world powers, saw the world with a mercantile mentality: unconstrained by borders, nationality or culture. This was what gave the British an advantage over their imperial rivals back in the 19th century, and was the same thinking that led to globalisation today.
Britain's control of India was perhaps the first large-scale example of what we would called "globalisation"/"neo-liberalism" - the control of a nation's resources for commercial, private sector, interests - the "East India Company", that ran much of the subcontinent as a British imperial fief, but also ran as a private company. The "Hudson Bay Company" in  British Canada worked along similar principles.

This precedent set by the "East India Company" was continued across the Atlantic when, late in the 19th century, the kingdom of Hawaii was seized by American businessmen in a coup, when they became unhappy with the commercial policies of Hawaii's queen - it shortly afterwards became a part of the USA.
Barely ten years later, into the early 20th century, the USA continued this spirit of private enterprise when American commercial interests went so far as to encourage the creation of a new state in Central America to build a canal: Panama's independence from Columbia was bankrolled by the American government with the understanding that newly-independent Panama would grant them a slice of land to build the Panama Canal on. This land then remained US territory until the end of the 20th century.
Through the rest of the 20th century, the march of what we now call "globalisation" continued in these Anglophone parts of the world, with the USA leading the way, when Britain's light was fading. Staying in Central America, Guatemala remained a virtual fief of the "United Fruit Company" - a left-wing government was ruthlessly put down by the CIA in the early '50s. The same story was true in Iran in 1953 when a left-wing government was kicked out and the Shah replaced by the CIA due to strong British and US private oil interests. The Suez Crisis later in that decade was also a story of commercial power, but in this case the USA lost patience with the British attempts to maintain power above their station, and so lost much of its commercial links to the Middle East, to be replaced by the USA.

What we see here is a common strategy that would be familiar with any multinational CEO today: ruthless expansion into new markets, stout defence of its commercial interests, and the elimination of risk from other rivals. To an extent, every past world power has followed this strategy, but (with the notable and important exception of the Republic of Venice) no other has been as been able to grant so much power to the commercial (private) sector, and thus benefit from the ruthless and unprejudiced mind of business for the sake of greater imperial power.
It was the Venetian Republic that successfully used this model to dominate trade in the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages, the British Empire that first saw the true benefits to this system and applied it on a world scale, and the USA that improved upon and refined it again.
In the 21st century, we now see that this system has been refined even further: where the private sector makes the public sector subservient to it, and the whole world is a open marketplace. This is also called "globalisation".

I said in an earlier post here that globalisation is equivalent to the economics of fascism applied on a world scale. Also called "neo-liberalism", this system that was first indulged by the British Empire and refined by the USA, allowed the private sector to grow beyond national boundaries; encroaching into markets in the Developing World, and thus increase its consumer base (from new markets) as well as lower its overheads (using cheap foreign labour): a win-win situation for the private sector.
Globalisation is therefore the economic end-goal of fascism: as both systems call for the indulgence of private sector big business by the public sector, allowing these corporate oligarchs to maximise their profits and minimise their losses, while advocating a system that breeds Social Darwinism. The most efficient way to do this is by allowing a free market that is global; reducing employee rights and wages to the minimum possible; the obliteration of "union" representation; giving multinational corporations advantageous tax benefits representative to their scale; ensuring that the oligarchs have an in-built advantage over smaller rivals; indulgence of politicians; ensuring the state covers for any private losses; and so on.

This system of globalisation is also supported at its most cunningly disingenuous manner through a masterly piece of Orwellian Doublespeak.
For the private sector, whose natural aim is the amoral maximisation of profit and the minimalisation of costs, feeds the world a mantra that capitalism in this current form is that most expedient to a free, democratic society. But the reality tells us the opposite.
It depends what you mean by "free". The corporate oligarchy's perception of our "freedom" is freedom from government "interference": there is no safety net, no "rights", nothing should be taken for granted - everything is up to you. No-one is going to help you, least of all the private sector. In this vision, we are all slaves to the corporate oligarchy. To them, we are all commodities, sources of income - nothing more. This is "fascism" to you and me, albeit a smarter version of what existed in Europe during the Second World War.
And their idea of "democracy" bears little relation to the common-held view on the street. They are happy for you to vote whichever party you want, as long as those parties all agree to maintain the status quo: hence the system of political patronage. You are more-or-less free to say whatever you like, as long as you don't dare change anything. And if you do, then the law and the police are already on their side. This is more commonly called "authoritarianism", albeit with the indulgence of pointless chit-chat.
In that sense, globalisation is the next (final?) step on the evolutionary scale of economic fascism, where the corporate oligarchy no longer needs to use state violence to achieve its ends: much smarter and more subtle now, it simply achieves them feeding the clever language of freedom and democracy to the people, while delivering economic slavery and autocracy.

In his novel "Nineteen Eighty-four", George Orwell's dystopia was ruled by a regime that used three mantras of "Doublespeak" to keep the population fooled from their nightmarish reality. One of them was "Freedom is Slavery".
What the corporate oligarchs want us all to believe is that slavery is freedom.      

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