What Anti-Globalization Protesters Should Seek
The Alternative to Capitalism
Today we feature guest author Jan Pole of the World Socialist Movement.
Unless anti-capitalist protesters take the time to study what exactly capitalism is and how it operates they risk not advocating a viable alternative. (We are assuming of course that they want to be pro-something and not merely anti-capitalist, not merely a feeble counterweight within capitalism to the excesses of certain international capitalist organisations and corporations.)
One danger is that the anti-capitalists will be diverted into campaigning to try to put the clock back by returning to the simple market economy that may have existed in early colonial North America.
This is an important strand in Green and anarchist thinking as exemplified by the slogan "small is beautiful". We are offered the idyllic picture of an economy of self-employed smallscale producers producing for a local market or of an economy composed entirely of LETS schemes.
This wouldn't be capitalism but it wouldn't be possible either, if only because enough to feed, clothe and house the world's present population would not be able to be produced on this basis.
More sophisticated Green thinkers, sensibly, don't want to go that far. What they advocate is a steady-state market economy, a variant of Marx's "simple reproduction". The idea is that the surplus would be used not to reinvest in expanding production, nor in maintaining a privileged class in luxury but in improving public services while maintaining a sustainable balance with the natural environment.
It's the old reformist dream of a tamed capitalism, minus the controlled expansion of the means of production an earlier generation of reformists used to envisage.
But it is still a dream because it assumes that a profit-motivated market economy can be tamed, and made to serve human and/or environmental needs. History has proved that it can't be; capitalism has shown itself to be an uncontrollable economic mechanism which operates to force economic actors to make profits and accumulate them as more and more capital irrespective of the consequences.
This mechanism first came into operation in the 16th century and since then has spread to dominate the whole world in the form of the world market. Capitalism today could in fact be described as the profit-motivated, capital-accumulating world market economy.
Other anti-capitalist protesters see this fact that capitalism is a world system as being the problem and the solution as being to break it up into separate capitalisms operating within national frontiers behind protective tariffs walls.
This hardly justifies the description "anti-capitalist" of course, and parallels a nasty strand of nationalist thinking which has always associated capitalism with a sinister "cosmopolitan" conspiracy. Indeed, the danger is that, in the absence of being presented with a credible alternative, it is here that the "anti-capitalist" protests will find the loudest popular echo.
The US labor unions took a nationalist line in Seattle and in Britain the Green Party has already endorsed the reactionary "Save the Pound" campaign.
So, given that anything that rejects technology and the existence of one world is a non-starter, what is the credible, viable alternative to capitalism as a world system of production for profit and uncontrolled and uncontrollable capital accumulation?
It's where all the productive resources of the Earth have become the common heritage of the people of the world — "make the Earth a common treasury for all", as Gerrard Winstanley put it right at the beginning of capitalism—so that they can be used, not to produce for sale on a market, not to make a profit, but purely and simply to satisfy human wants and needs in accordance with the principle of, to adapt a phrase, "from each region on the basis of its resources, to each region on the basis of its needs".
For more information see www.worldsocialism.org
For additional perspectives see Debacles of Globalization and
Fred Foldvary's editorial Globalization & Globalization
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