The future of the anti-globalisation movementSome initial reflections with a view to consolidating its theoretical foundations.
The following document by François Chesnais, Claude Serfati and Charles-Andre Udry was first circulated for discussion during the international conference on globalisation held at La Villette, 30 November 2 December 2000. Its authors are involved in the anti-globalisation movement in France and Switzerland and have written extensively on the subject.
The very rich, but necessarily very dispersed discussion which will take place in the course of the three days of plenary sessions and of the forty workshops which are announced at la Villette, has encouraged us to bring together in a synthetic document reflections that are common to us and that we would like to share with the largest possible number of activists of the anti-globalisation movement, at La Villette and in other forums. The aim of this document is to provoke exchange and debate. We hope that it will be read in that spirit.
Has the anti-globalisation movement a future? That was the headline of a journal published in France in November 2000. We wont spend too much time on the term with which our enemies describe a movement which is well and truly international, therefore globalist, but which is consciously combating an international economic regime which subordinates the existence and the future of peoples to the market and to profit. The answer to the question posed by the journal can obviously only be in the affirmative. The movement has won at least two first-rate successes the withdrawal of the Multilateral Investment Agreement project and the defeat at Seattle of the project of launching the Millennium Round. To this should be added the campaign for the adoption of the Tobin Tax. Launched three years ago by ATTAC, this campaign has already had interesting and instructive political results. They are worth dwelling on for a moment.
No country or great economic and monetary zone has yet adopted the tax. However the campaign has considerably clarified what the political and social, and also fiscal and re-distributive, stakes are. A growing number of economists and politicians, who are not usually inclined to adopt radical postures, recognise that the Tobin Tax is entirely feasible and that it would bring an element of stabilisation to world finance (1). But for the big international deciders and those who support them, the demonstration of the feasibility of the Tobin Tax matters little. There are two reasons for their refusal: the fact that the adoption of the tax and its application would appear both as a major concession to a vast international movement from below to a democratic and social movement enjoying popular support and as a first step in a whole range of measures which would threaten to limit the freedom of financial investors. But this refusal can only reinforce the determination of those who are fighting for the tax and for a fiscal system in line with the nature of financial globalisation. It will lead them to look ever more closely at the economic and social foundations of liberalised and globalised finance. The politicians and the economists who will set themselves up, in the name of the irreversibility of globalisation as the defenders of a parasitical and predatory finance and who will continue to plead the case for the unfeasibility of the tax within the finance ministries and councils of economic analysis, will further discredit themselves.
But there are other campaigns of the anti-globalisation movement that are more difficult to conduct at least from the point of view of explanation and communication either because the issues are less well targeted, or because they take place on terrains where the defenders of the present globalisation the one which is being implemented under the domination of the multinationals and the pension and financial investment funds of the richest countries of the planet have much stronger means of defence and counter-attack. They are also sometimes made more difficult by the absence of clear-sightedness and political courage on the part of certain political and trade union organisations which, however, proclaim themselves to be on the side of the anti-globalisation movement. The transformation of the systems of pensions and the salary savings funds are examples of this, neo-conservative counter-reforms which have been and continue to be orchestrated by the World Bank, the OECD and the European Union.
It is on these questions, where the campaigns are less easy to conduct than on the Tobin Tax, that the rest of this note will centre. In many cases, there is no other choice than to accept conducting the battle on the enemy's terrain. But we should then be aware that he will very often have the means of drawing the lessons from temporary setbacks that he might suffer and of going on the offensive again. A good example is the way in which the dispositions starting from which the negotiations on the liberalising of trade and services (GATS) have begun at Geneva this autumn, repeat a large part of those that were contained in the MAI.
By their action, the different associations and groupings which comprise the anti-globalisation movement have begun to establish among themselves what political analysts have started to call an alternative international public space. Hundreds of thousands of men and women across the world are turning towards the entity whose outlines are still uncertain, but whose aims are so vital, that makes up the movement. This movement has already, in a short space of time, awakened very great hopes. These hopes are often imprecise. The will to create another world than the one which is offered to us by the masters of the world is expressed in a confused and uncertain way, which reflects both the impact of the end of a historic phase of the traditional workers movement (which arose in the 1890s and declined in the course of the 1980s), and the setbacks and defeats inflicted by capital on the working class and its various organisations on an international level.
The expectations are nevertheless immense. It seems to us that the only way not to disappoint these expectations is to begin without delay a discussion on the ways to consolidate the theoretical bases of the movement and also to clarify its political boundaries. This could enable us to reduce the number of times that we place ourselves on the enemy's terrain in order to oppose him. What is involved is being able to conduct the battle more often than is the case today by being able to refute the postulates and the approach of the dominant discourse, as well as clarifying how another world is possible. In the same way is posed, as a matter of urgency, the building of a social and trade union space, for debate and for action, which would have a European and world dimension.
The fact that two of the organisations which have called and organised this conference and these debates, Espaces Marx and Actuel Marx, situate themselves in the continuity of the theoretical work of Marx and Engels is for us a further encouragement to present a short written contribution in this sense. We think that the anti-globalisation movement must learn how to base itself today on the theoretical foundations left to us by the most profound and incisive critiques of capitalism by critiques which obviously need to be renewed in the light of the experience of the 20th century and of the evolution of contemporary capitalism and imperialism.
It is in this spirit that we submit for discussion the following reflections. We present them in order to launch the debate. As others associate themselves with this approach, the formulation of the questions and the outlines of replies will certainly evolve. Our reflections concern almost exclusively the anti-globalisation campaigns in the advanced capitalist countries. Why is this? Because we adopt one of the fundamental principles of internationalism, namely that we have to conduct the discussion and the political combat in our own country. And for us that means not just France, Germany, Belgium or Switzerland taken individually but the advanced capitalist countries as a whole, and above all those of the European Union.
It is quite possible that the international conference at La Villette will be called upon to take a position on the Palestinian struggle; on the civil war in Colombia (which represents a social confrontation between on one side the peasants and the majority of the pauperised population, and on the other, a traditional oligarchy, having integrated into its ranks the bosses of the drug trade), as well as on the Plan Colombia, already being put into practice by the United States; and almost certainly on the repression in Brazil which daily endangers, at the hands of the great landowners and of the Cardoso government, the lives of leaders and activists of the MST who are fighting on the issue, so fundamental in a country like Brazil, of the ownership of the land. We will support every initiative in this direction. But the object of our contribution is to clarify some of the things that are at stake in the campaigns that are being conducted here, in the countries placed at the centre of world capitalist domination.
2) Go further in challenging marketisation
It was highly significant that the political campaign against the WTO, as well as the demonstrations that took place at Seattle and in other cities in November 1999, were placed under the slogan the world is not a commodity. And in fact, the liberalisation and deregulation of investments and exchanges and the resurgence of the fetishism of finance in its most extreme forms have led to a new accentuation of the fetishism inherent in the commodity. The more the geopolitical space in which capital can freely move in order to buy, produce and sell at a profit expands, (something which capital has been able to ensure in the last decades of the 20th century thanks to the conservative counter-revolution and its allies), and the more enterprises of very unequal strength, and with them their workers, can be placed in competition at a very long distance and even from virtual sites, the more the definite social relation between men themselves [assumes] the fantastic form of a relation between things (2) For several decades the workers movement, in particular in the old industrial countries of Europe such as the United Kingdom, France, Italy, lulled itself with the illusion that the fetishism inherent in the commodity and in money had been contained trough the social and political institutions which came out of the unfinished and canalised revolution of 1944-45. In the framework of the globalisation of capital, these illusions have been brutally swept away. Today the social relation of the producers to the sum total of labour is imposed on the workers once again and with renewed strength, in the form of a social relation between objects, a relation which exists apart from and outside the producers (3).
The slogan the world is not a commodity has therefore the very great merit of positioning the political movement of resistance to globalisation, which is confronted with capitalist forces who want to erect as far as they can the economy into an autonomous sphere, placed above society, removed from control by the peoples in the name of the primacy and superiority of the market. What is at stake in the movement born in Seattle is therefore the creation of relations of a new type between the workers and peasants of different countries. Relations which would reduce the anonymity and the exteriority of commercial exchange, indeed which would eliminate it, in such a way that the international division of labour and world trade could become the expression of relations that the producers, controlling everywhere their conditions of existence and work (what we often call for short their means of production), could freely establish among themselves. Relations that would allow them to share out the time between free time (whose use would be constantly reinvented) and time devoted to production, which would be enriched since it would be based on the full initiative of all the producers.
We find in Marx's Grundrisse a perspective or an anticipation which was audacious for that time, which defines exactly what the anti-globalisation movement is tending towards and what it must succeed in accomplishing: to make the world market no longer the space of the connection of the individual with all, but at the same time the independence of this connection from the individual, but a space where, after [these connections] have developed to such a high level that the formation of the world market already at the same time contains the conditions for going beyond it, real community and real universality are created (4).
The relation of the direct producers to their means of production and to their conditions of work as well as the transformations that this relation undergoes, is one of the most central concepts of Marx, both in the Grundrisse and in Capital (5). It is also one of the most topical concepts, whose modernity appears now in all the struggles against capitalist domination. The associated producers to whom would be given, or who would themselves seize, the political and juridical means of controlling their conditions of work, would then see opening up before them the possibility of deciding the goals of production and the satisfaction of human needs according to a democratically decided order of priorities, in the same way as they would divide time between free time and time devoted to production and determine the ways of overcoming the gulf between work of conception and work of execution.
3) Relations of the producers to their conditions of work and property relations
It is by starting from the vital importance of the relations of the producers to their conditions of work work understood also as a producer of time, of temporality and of space (housing as well as transport) that we find ourselves quite naturally confronted with the question of the ownership of the means of production, of communication and exchange (money). The question of the ownership of the means of production is not the dreadful fetish question that the most consistent anti-capitalists persist in posing, thus demonstrating their nature as dinosaurs of thought, as unrepentant Marxists. As soon as we define as our objective the question that is democratic par excellence: the control by the associated producers of the means of labour that have been accumulated thanks to their intelligence and their work, then the question of the ownership of the means of production, of communication and exchange unavoidably arises. We are confronted with this question as soon as we raise on a national level problems such as the effective control of working time, the foundations and the aims of public services and the satisfaction of real social needs, or at the international level the question of citizens control over among other things, commercial exchanges between peoples.
Perhaps the question of the ownership of the means of production, of communication and of exchange wouldn't be posed as sharply as it is today if it wasn't for the concentration, without precedent in the history of capitalism, of the ownership of these means by the members and/or representatives of a very limited class which shows the first traits of a globalised imperialist ruling class rooted in finance capital, such as Marx had foreseen. The consequence of this concentration is the subordination of all the decisions relative to the use of these means to the strategies of valorisation of capital and of the organisation of its social domination which are proper to this class, a subordination all the more politically and socially intolerable because it is the result of a cold counter-revolution that too many cadres of the traditional workers movement accept with a demoralising fatalism. It is also in reaction to this fatalism that the anti-globalisation movement has been forged.
The accentuation, day by day, in a process of centralisation which is unfolding before our eyes, of this concentration of the ownership of the means of production, communication and exchange, forbids the anti-globalisation movement to close its eyes or to try and avoid the question any longer. The critique of commodity fetishism and of marketisation would quickly reach its limits if it remained only on the level of commercial exchange and of the actions of the WTO and if the anti-globalisation movement remained prisoner of problems relating only to the organisation of the market.
Both the levels attained by financial, industrial and commercial concentration and centralisation, and the monopolistic power crystallised in the industrial groups of giant dimensions and the very great institutional strength that the WTO draws from the unique juridical powers that it received in the Treaty of Marrakesh, very strongly circumscribe the action of a citizens control of the WTO which would operate solely at the level of exchanges and of the market. These parameters affect the credibility of campaigns conducted only on this level. The WTO must be fought extremely vigorously. In the immediate future it is the process of liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation of public services which is being organised in the framework of the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) which must be one of the first targets of the anti-globalisation movement. We are confronted here with an extremely serious extension of the sphere of marketisation to vital services starting with health and education and to culture (6).
We have to combat the GATS by all the means of mobilisation and democratic pressure that the working class and the excluded still dispose of. But also by re-establishing the political and philosophical foundations of the defence of public services and of the forms of public property that that implies. In the case of the European Union, the campaign against the GATS includes the immediate political struggle for the negotiation of these services not to come under the dispositions of article 133 of the Treaties of Maastricht and Amsterdam, which is an instrument for taking responsibility away from countries and giving total freedom of action (in this case for trade negotiations) to the politically uncontrolled top civil servants of the Commission. Even if time is short, the campaign cannot be conducted on the question of sovereignty taken in isolation.
At the heart of neo-liberalism we find the glorification, pushed to its final and therefore extreme conclusions, of possessive individualism (7), of individualism centred on private property. The industrial and media empire of Vivendi, to take only one example which directly affects people in France, is only the logical conclusion. We think that today it has become impossible for citizens workers, unemployed, youth to combat globalisation and oppose to it another society, without the anti-globalisation movement going to the source and addressing again the question of ownership.
4) Are the forms of ownership a legitimate question for capital, but taboo for labour?
The exercise of a social, collective, citizens control over the conditions of the commercial exchanges between peoples, and over the organisation of work and the satisfaction of urgent social needs, implies that we no longer consider the forms of property of the means of production, communication and exchange as a taboo question, a question that the bankruptcy and the collapse of state property, collectivised in a bureaucratic or Stalinised way, has settled once and for all, to the detriment of the struggle for social emancipation and of the workers movement. The question cannot be considered as having become taboo. If the anti-globalisation movement wishes to avoid getting into an impasse and disappointing over the next few years the expectations of all those for whom Seattle was important, the militants in its ranks will have to attack or re-attack, theoretically and politically, the question of ownership.
This is all the more so because the world bourgeoisie in its different national and sectoral components makes no mystery of the importance for it of the forms of ownership of capital. Lets start from the fact that the big industrial and financial groups, the media at their service and the international institutions of capitalism, have ceaselessly launched campaign after campaign against what is left of public property. They demand that governments dismantle and privatise all those sectors, notably in services, which escape the direct valorisation of capital, including even the cases where public ownership of key public services, which had previously suffered from chronic under-investment, have served for half a century as permanent supports for capital accumulation. So they take a lively interest in the extension of private ownership, and also in the forms of that ownership that are most satisfactory for finance capital.
Next, we should take note that the question of forms of ownership is at the heart of the strategy of pension and investment funds taking control of enterprises. One of the principal issues at stake is the establishment of new and ever more onerous forms of domination of wage-earners by finance (for the French, just think of Michelin). Over the last ten years we have seen, within capitals own sphere (and even in those enterprises that have always been privately owned) a complete transformation of the definition even of ownership, of the rights that accrue to it (those of shareholders who have become all-powerful) and of the expectations that the shareholders can legitimately have in terms of the profitability of their share of the property (8). Here the conservative counter-revolution draws its strength from the revitalisation of that very particular institution of capitalism, the secondary equity market. This institution guarantees the shareholders, short of serious financial crises, the liquidity of their shares, the possibility of getting rid whenever they want to of that fraction of their property that has taken the form of shares in such and such an enterprise. The ownership of shares having become liquid, then for the shareholders the physical capital and especially the workers must have the same liquidity, the same flexibility, with the possibility of being thrown on the scrap-heap. It is understandable that these markets have become the scene of battles between powerful coalitions of finance capital, the lever of the centralisation and concentration of enterprises and also of course one of the essential instruments of privatisation.
Finally it should not be forgotten that in the framework of globalisation, the institution of private property is the instrument for the destruction of the industry and agriculture of the least competitive countries. In the framework of globalisation, the most concentrated forms of the private appropriation of the means of production have every freedom, have carte blanche to destroy the previous forms of this property as well as those enterprises that are smaller or financially weaker. Through the liberalisation and the deregulation of investments and exchanges and the opening of all markets to the penetration of the most powerful groups, the globalisation of capital has led to the accelerated destruction of what still remains of small peasant or artisan property. The corollary of appropriation is destitution, expropriation. Expropriation is considered as an abomination when it involves creating or reinforcing the public sector in the name of and in the interest of the collectivity, but as an expression of the natural laws of the economy and an economic benefit when it is the result of free competition.
The question of property must cease to be taboo. The anti-globalisation movement and the workers movement must take it up again. To launch the discussion in our ranks, we deliver the following very succinct first reflections. Social property, of which public property and the public sector are one of the forms, has two bases: the social character of production and exchange and a certain conception of the common good and of the general interest which transcends the individualism and the narrow defence of particular interests that flourish as a result of the glorification of private property.
Concerning the first aspect (9), the social character of production and exchange lays the basis for forms of property which are capable of adequately expressing this social character. These forms must offer a solution to the questions of the sharing out of wealth, but also, just as much, of the purpose of activity. Social property is an imposture, if it is not accompanied by really democratic forms of management and collective control. Therein lay the vulnerability of the enterprises and institutions of the public sector in the European countries, well before their managers, often encouraged by the support of the trade unions, embarked on the perverse and pernicious policy that consists of defending public services at home but undertaking abroad a classic capitalist globalisation of their enterprise, buying up and restructuring privatised public enterprises elsewhere.
In particular, in the advanced capitalist countries, the social character of production and exchange has never been as marked as it is today. It is the basis of the economy of networks with all the creative synergies for which economists make such a case today. It is to it that the apologists for mergers and acquisitions, who are not at their first contradiction, refer when they have to justify economically and therefore from their point of view socially, the concentration of capital. The goal of social appropriation in its different forms is to enable all those whose direct and indirect activity (for example scientific and technological research and further up the chain, teaching) and their work as wage-earners have contributed to produce wealth in the forms of interactions, of synergies and of multiple and complex forms of co-operation, not only to participate in the sharing out of that wealth otherwise than in ways dictated today by shareholders, but also to intervene in the decisions concerning other destinations for the results of the collective creation of wealth: investments, transfers towards the countries of the Third World, etc. Because there cannot be social ownership in the real sense if it is not accompanied by effective forms of management and citizens control. In certain cases and on certain questions it will be a question of forms of management and control that will involve the workers and the users of this or that sector. In other cases and on other questions, it is the whole of society which will have to participate in decision-taking. Recognising the social character of production and exchange will include, but will also immediately transcend, the self-management of each enterprise or workplace.
From then on a perspective of transformation and not of administration of an economy, even one characterised by large-scale nationalisations implies not reducing capitalism to a separation between those who direct and those who execute, even if this point is important. Put another way, the question of the socialism to come cannot be approached only from the point of view of management, including self-management, but must be envisaged starting from the necessity/possibility of the withering away of the commodity, of the law of value and of the wages system. That is the answer to the generalised competition of all the elements of capital (and therefore also of variable capital, i.e. the workers and the unemployed) which impregnates society down to its innermost recesses.
This approach to the withering away of the commodity and of the law of value is also the foundation which must guide us in the search for answers to how to break with the ways in which the productive forces are organised and used by capital. Ways which lead to the exhaustion of energy resources, the question which is at the centre of an ecological and socialist perspective.
It is only in the interplay between the democratic management of social appropriation and the withering away of the commodity, of the law of value and of the wages system that there will be a genuine radical transformation of the economy and not a new advanced administration of it put in place by a renovated capitalism. This is an outcome which is sometimes presented in perfectly good faith by critics of social-liberalism as a realistic horizon for a democratic socialism.
The perspective that we submit for reflection and discussion is not exterior to many of the present processes of globalised capitalism. It is inherent in the present forms of globalised planning of production by the big groups, their parent companies and their subsidiaries; in the ways in which individual needs are managed, harnessed and moulded by the big supermarket chains (through customer cards, cards that supposedly offer reductions); in the forms even of the changes in the working class (the new supposedly self-employed). These are some of the elements, not exhaustive, which indicate the topicality of this perspective, starting from the internal movement of the capitalist mode of production, in its imperialist phase marked by a regime of accumulation dominated by finance.
5) The fight against mass unemployment and its consequences
Finding solutions to mass unemployment with its train of political and social ills resulting from the process of de-socialisation that mass permanent unemployment sets in motion, is one of the central aims of many associations and groupings of the anti-globalisation movement. The origin of contemporary mass unemployment lies in the liberalisation, the deregulation and the privatisation characteristic of the present phase of the globalisation of capital, as well as in the growing concentration of ownership of it and in the subordination of productive activity to the increasingly narrow imperatives of maximum valorisation. Where there is not mass unemployment we find the working poor and the innumerable mechanisms of exploitation of work that is flexible and available at any time, of which women are the most glaring victims.
But on this question too, the anti-globalisation movement seems to have every interest in consolidating the theoretical bases of the problem. One of the reasons for which the two laws on the 35-hour week were made outside of all control by the workers over their means of production and of work, without them being able to exert the slightest control over the management of the enterprises, private or public and in the process of being privatised, this control being presented as impinging on the prerogatives of management and the rights of present and future shareholders.
The existence of a labour market (which is in fact segmented and multiple), an organised social space where there must take place the sale (or the attempted sale) of their labour power (with its content of intelligence, skill and physical strength) by those whose only wealth it is, is one of the foundations, if not the foundation of capitalism, its major, decisive social institution. The sale of labour power fulfils two functions which are both equally crucial for the social order of which capitalism is the bearer. It is the pre-condition for the appropriation of the results of living labour in production (there can be no surplus value without sale of labour power). But it is also the instrument par excellence of capitalist social domination, which must operate, as far as possible, without resorting to police and judicial repression. The sale of labour power is the most important social link in capitalist society. Whoever cannot sell his labour power is superfluous, he tends to be pushed out of the orbit of society when he is not simply rejected by it, thrown on the scrap-heap. The internalisation of the fear of suffering this fate insinuates itself into all workers. It reinforces all the processes of oppression and domination of women. It permits the sexual division of labour and the inequality of wages between the sexes to be perpetuated, even where there exists equal pay legislation.
In the short term, it is in the re-appropriation of a sector of real social property that we can find the immediate solutions to unemployment and the exclusion of which it is the vehicle. But neo-liberalism will only be effectively combated to the extent that we deepen our social critique and that the anti-globalisation movement projects itself really into the future and links the critique of the present uses of technology to the critique of capitalism.
Today, to a greater degree than ever, private property feeds off the appropriation of the results of the forms of organisation of production, at the heart of which we find the buying of labour power at the lowest price and the multiplication of efforts to economise the quantity of wage labour used. But that is happening at the same time as the liberation of wage labour and the passage from forced labour under the yoke of the labour market and the dread of unemployment, which the capitalist hierarchy forces us to accept, has become possible. Observing the movement of technological development provoked by capitalism and projecting it into the future, Marx wrote a century and a half ago that capital itself is the moving contradiction [in] that it presses to reduce labour time to a minimum, while it posits labour time, on the other side, as sole measure and source of wealth (). On the one side then, it calls to life all the powers of science and of nature, as of social combination and of social intercourse, in order to make the creation of wealth independent (relatively) of the labour time employed on it. On the other side it wants () to confine the gigantic forces thereby within the limits required to maintain the already created value as value. (10)
That is precisely why enterprises and national and international capitalist organisations have deployed immense efforts since the emergence and the extension of what is usually called the micro-chip revolution. The technologies capable of helping to free labour and preserve natural resources have been transformed in such a way that the sale of labour power remains more than ever the natural pillar of the social order: the pillar which must be internalised by each and everyone, form part of their habitus.
To say that we set ourselves the objective of giving the producers control over their working conditions; to affirm the social character of production in the various social forms that must be imposed on the ownership of the means of production, to fight for the reconstitution and/or the extension of public services, is to take a first step towards a radical reversal of the approach to the questions of work and unemployment. But we have to take a step further. We have to be able to show that the role of social and political domination of the majority by the minority which is inherent in the sale and the non-sale of labour power (in other words unemployment and the permanent fear of unemployment) has increased as a consequence of the polarisation of wealth, but also that that this has been happening at the very moment when technology would permit a colossal leap forward in freeing human beings from work. The anti-globalisation movement must embrace the idea expressed by Marx when he says that the realm of freedom really begins only where labour determined by necessity and external expediency ends; it lies by its very nature beyond the sphere of material production proper (11). This is a position that Marxists ought not to keep for their internal discussions, but bring into the whole anti-globalisation movement.
6) Finance capital, private property and the perspectives of sustainable development
At the same time, the impasse of the mode of development dominated by finance capital manifests itself in its predatory behaviour towards nature. It is the populations which are directly threatened by attacks on their conditions of existence, relayed by environmental movements, which have revealed the full measure of the dangers that threaten humanity and nature. It is certainly not a new phenomenon. The production process and the modes of consumption imposed by capital have always neglected the real cost of environmental destruction (in the same way as they neglect social costs). This diagnosis had led Marx to affirm that: Capitalist production therefore develops technique and the combination of social production only by exhausting at the same time the two sources from which flow all wealth: the earth and the worker.
But the exhaustion of nature has taken place over the last thirty years on a scale about which we can no longer keep silent. The processes of production adapted to capitalist relations of production and property (which were adopted in full by the bureaucracies of the countries where state property was dominant), involve a specific combination of machine production with the demands of the profitability of capital, and therefore its rotation, which have an enormous impact on the forms of pillage of energy. The priority given to cars and road transport, which rest on the exacerbation of ownership individualism and on the search for maximum flexibility (lean production, the only competitive one) have acted in the same sense, ever more strongly. After having for a long time sought to deny the extent of the damage, the multinational groups have adopted another attitude. Their lobbyists and their jurists have invaded the forums of international negotiations. They were much more numerous during the Convention on the Climate which has just opened in The Hague than they were at Kyoto. They thus influence the agenda, the content and the rhythm of negotiations. They obtain from the governments engaged in the negotiations a drastic reduction of the anti-pollution norms (for example the level of reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2010). They have obtained that their managing directors are today promoted to the rank of official interlocutors by the Secretary-General of the UN on questions of sustainable development.
It is in this way that the exhaustion of nature is now becoming a sphere of profitable investment for capital. The creation of right to pollute markets illuminates the consequences of the programme of finance capital. It will permit the developed countries, which are mainly responsible for the emission of carbon dioxide, to continue to pollute. It is extending the norms of financial evaluation to nature and soon to education (the generalisation of the term human capital has been for a long time preparing peoples mentalities for the privatisation of those parts of education that still operate as public services). Who can fail to understand that tomorrow these right to pollute markets will be integrated into the globalised financial markets and that nature will also become a derived product, figuring in the portfolios of institutional investors?
It is the same story with water. According to report of the United Nations Development Programme for the year 2000, 2.4 billion people are deprived of a correct sanitary infrastructure and 1 billion people do not have access to drinkable water. Confronted with this mode of production which carries so many inequalities, the governments of the developed countries, instead of deciding that this scarce resource will escape marketisation, have chosen to accelerate the programme of privatisation of the distribution of water.
As Rosa Luxemburg explained, accumulation and the existence and development of capitalism (are) impossible without a constant expansion in the domains of new production and new countries. She thus showed that arms production had become a sphere of accumulation for capital at the same time as a political means for the metropolitan countries to impose their mode of production on the whole planet. A century has elapsed since these analyses were formulated, a century which saw the great powers tear each other apart in two world conflicts for the conquest of military and economic supremacy. Today, the mode of development dominated by finance capital, incapable of satisfying the needs of the major part of the planet, is looking for a second wind thanks to the private appropriation of activities which escaped marketisation (nature, education). Militarism has not however diminished, as witness the new cycle of increased military spending undertaken since 1999 by the United States (36 per cent of world military spending), the country which constitutes along with the NATO coalition (66 per cent of world military spending), the armed wing that the new world disorder needs.
7) No let-up in the fight against all the laws which reinforce the power of finance
Many of those who have joined the anti-globalisation movement have done so around the fight to install the Tobin tax. By doing so they have expressed their opposition to the power acquired by finance, their rejection of the contemporary forms of finance capital and its rentier, parasitic and predatory features. But the members of ATTAC are not the only ones within the anti-globalisation movement who think that it is high time to put a stop to the total control that finance capital exercises over enterprises through the intervention of pension and mutual funds, insurance companies and international banks, and therefore over the conditions of the creation of value and the way it is shared out. Corporate governance based on the objective of always more value for the shareholder today dominates the management of all the multinational groups which exercise total control over the creation of wealth on a world scale. Management and control by finance capital, completely backed up by the neo-liberal policies of conservative governments and of the defenders of the third way (among whom are the leaders of the French plural left government, who dislike the term) threaten the conditions of existence of workers and condemn to misery the populations of the regions and countries which are not considered sufficiently profitable by capital.
The financial markets, from which the institutional investors and other finance capitalists draw a part of their immense social power, need, in order to function, a regular supply of new liquid funds. These are the parasitic funds which are never directed towards real investments, but only towards stocks and shares which they buy and sell according to speculative movements and the evolution of the conjuncture. Everything that contributes to feeding the markets consolidates the power of parasitic and rentier capital. It is this understanding which is the indispensable contribution of ATTAC to the anti-globalisation movement as a whole. So we can only wonder at the flabbiness with which certain forces which proclaim that they are on the side of the anti-globalisation movement fight against the laws on salary savings funds (and sometimes even welcome their positive aspects). In the case of France these laws represent the first stage of the introduction of pension funds. Their authors dont conceal the fact that their ambition is to thoroughly modify the relationship of forces between capital and labour. In fact, as was written in a report submitted to the Prime Minister (12), it is a question of making salary savings funds the foundation of a new social contract in gestation which would consist of turning every wage-earner into a shareholder. These objectives evoke of course those based on the capital-labour association dear to participation, such as it figured in the founding programme of Gaullism and as it was put back on the agenda in the course of the 1960s. The objectives of Gaullism were situated in the framework of a strong macro-economic growth in which workers, reduced to the state of members of a social community would have received some of the dividends of progress. Behind these mirages, the political objectives of Gaullism, that is the disintegration of the collective organisations and institutions which protected the working class, was then correctly understood and the defeat of De Gaulle unequivocally signalled the opposition of the working class to his projects.
Today, one can certainly simply consider that the worker-shareholder represents a constitutive element of the neo-liberal utopia, which describes to us a world in which every individual would be the possessor of a human capital and of property rights that they would seek to fructify. But this utopia, as old as capitalism itself, is nonetheless founded on objectives and on very real economic and political needs. What is involved is first of all the destruction of the systems of collective protection which have been imposed on capital and which represent an insupportable cost for it. In France, the argument that salary savings funds wouldn't put into question the system of social security to which all French people are attached is a smokescreen behind which are hiding the new converts to support of this law which doesnt even resist an examination of the simple facts.
In all the countries where salary savings funds or pension funds exist, they are used to weaken and then destroy the systems of collective protection, whether they are financed by social contributions as in France, or by taxes. But this challenge is only one stage in the great transformation at which capital wants to arrive. The objective is to dismantle the collective solidarities which have been built up by the working class in the course of history by opposing those who will benefit from savings plans and those, more numerous, who have to live with insecurity of employment and to rely on public (or private) generosity instead of social protection. What has been presented to the French as a pillar of modernity by the Minister of Finances in the National Assembly during the adoption of the law on salary savings funds (4 October 2000) was already an old programme in the 19th century. Marx could thus give it a characterisation which is very up to date: The savings bank is the golden chain by which the government holds a large number of workers. Not only do the latter in this way find an interest in the maintenance of existing conditions. Not only is a division brought about between the part of the working class which takes part in the savings banks and the part which does not. The workers in this way put into the hands of their very enemies the weapons for the conservation of the existing organisation of the society which oppresses them. (13)
Having become dependent for their retirement pensions on the flow of dividends and interests derived from value, as well as on the performances of the financial markets, the former wage-earners who benefit from pension funds begin to have interests in common with capital, that is with those who are extracting surplus-value from workers still in work. To this division is added another, between North and South. The systems of retirement by capitalisation depend also on the appropriation through financial investments and speculative operations of fractions of the surplus value created in the so-called emerging countries. Thus, the satisfaction of the demands of the pension funds and of rentier capital deepens a little more the gulf between the workers of the rentier states and the populations of the rest of the planet and accentuates the neo-imperialist features of globalisation.
We dont think that there can be a consistent anti-globalism on the part of those who would go down this road or who would leave the way open to it.
These are the ideas that we submit for fraternal exchange and debate, aware that on many points they will benefit from being discussed, clarified, amended.
(1) A new document from ATTAC is being prepared by the Scientific Council on the basis of a preparatory report by Bruno Jetin. It synthesises the discussions which arrived at the conclusion that the Tobin tax was feasible and shows up the weaknesses of the positions defended by the Minister and the Ministry of Finance in France.
(2) Marx, Capital, Vol. 1, chapter 1 p 165. (Pelican Marx Library).
(3) Ibid. p 165.
(4) Marx, Grundrisse, p 161 (Pelican Marx Library)
(5) See, for example, in the Grundrisse (p 412 and after of the French edition at Editions Anthropos); and in Capital Vol. 1, chapter 32, (The Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation). The fact that the realisation of the negation of the negation has posed formidable political problems which for the moment are further than ever from being resolved, does not in any way detract from the analytical importance of the analysis in this chapter.
(6) See the pamphlet on the GATS by the Co-ordination for citizens control of the WTO, Alerte gnrale pour la capture des services publics (Full alert on the takeover of public services), April 2000.
(7) See the pathbreaking work of C.B. Macpherson, The Theory of Possessive Individualism.
(8) Frederic Lordon well-advisedly devoted the last chapter of his book. Fonds de pension, pige a cons (Pension Funds, a Fools Game), Liber Raisons d'Agir, 2000, to the claims of the apologists of this new manifestation of private property to establish what Lordin correctly calla the monstrous Utopia of shareholder democracy.
(9) It is especially this that we will deal with, because on common property, especially its concretisation in the domain of water, Ricardo Petrella has written pages that we dont want to paraphrase. To this we could add, in a more and more marketised world, the necessity of taking up again the theme of free access to basic goods. This free access obviously has a cost for society and poses jointly the problems of the ownership and the redistribution of the surplus product. It also poses the question of the withering away of the commodity of which we speak below.
(10) Marx, Grundrisse p 706 (Pelican Marx Library).
(11) Marx, Capital, Vol. 3, chapter 48, pp 958-959 (Pelican Marx Library).
(12) This is the De Foucauld-Balligand report, l'pargne salariale au coeur du contrat social, (Salary savings funds at the heart of the social contract), La Documentation francaise, 2000. A criticism of it can be found in in the chapter Lpargne salariale ou la capitalisation honteuse (Salary savings funds, or shamefaced capitalisation) of the collectively-written book edited by Pierre Khalfa and Pierre-Yves Chanu, Les retraites au pril du libralisme (Pensions endangered by liberalism), second enlarged edition, Syllepse, 2000.
(13) Marx, Wage Labour and Capital. The quotation is in point 6 of the annex.Top