Globalism’s imperial war
March 12, 2003 — Comment
Written by A. Sivanandan
The war on Iraq is the opening salvo in a war to redesign the world to the needs of corporate America.
The plans for it were already in place long before 9/11 – in the September 2000 report of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), for instance, which mapped out a strategy for ‘American global leadership’ well into the future. That among its founder members were Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, now at the centre of the US administration, attests to the seriousness of the project. That its implementation awaited a corporate President ‘elected’ by the corporate machine and not by popular vote attests to its viability. And ’9/11′ presented the occasion, the ‘catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor’ which, the report hinted, would mitigate the unpopularity of war. The impetus for the war, however, derives from the imperative of global capital to break free of the geopolitical fetters that prevent it from bestriding the world.
The history of the last thirty years is the history of the ‘struggles’ of global capital to overcome the three major obstacles to such domination. In the first phase – a rough periodisation would put this between 1970 and 1980 – it was confronted with a resurgent working-class movement both in Europe and the United States. The oil crisis (1973) and the defeat in Vietnam, followed by Nixon’s impeachment, added to America’s woes. In Britain, the miners brought down a Tory government, and public sector workers embarrassed a Labour government, which was toadying to the IMF, in the ‘winter of discontent’. Capitalism was certainly in crisis.
But in the wings stood a technological revolution – the microprocessor was invented around 1970-73 – which promised to rescue capital from labour by shifting the whole basis of production from labour power to electronics and computers. All it needed for take-off was the defeat of organised labour. Thatcher was the instrument of that defeat in the UK, as Reagan was in the US.
In the ten years (1980-90) that it took to undermine the trade union movement and disaggregate the working class, the micro-electronic technologies gathered pace, transforming not only industry but the whole of society. Capital was now free to roam the globe – for labour, for markets, for resources – facilitated by monetarist policies, by deregulation and privatisation. Which, in turn, shifted the concerns of government from social welfare to social control. And international bodies such as the IMF and the World Bank tied debtor Third World countries into structural adjustment programmes, and so wove them into the global project.
There was still the opposition of the Communist bloc to overcome, though – compounded now by the wars of liberation in Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and Angola, and the rise of left-wing regimes in Chile, Nicaragua and Grenada. But with the overthrow of those regimes by the CIA, the Contras and other American agencies (regime change was more surreptitious then), the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the next great obstacle to global capital was removed.
Corporations now had the whole world to operate in, and the economic policies initiated by the UK and the US in the 1980s – free markets, structural adjustment and privatisation – were reproduced across the globe. New international bodies and agreements, such as the WTO and NAFTA and TRIPs, sealed up trade and patent rights in favour of multinationals and the state itself became the servitor not of its people but of business conglomerates.
Today, there is not one country in the world that corporate capital does not penetrate, not one area of society it does not control, not one aspect of life it does not influence. Food conglomerates determine what we eat, pharmaceutical corporations govern our health, media magnates manipulate our thinking.
But global capital has not finished its marauding yet, or satisfied its greed. There’s still the primal urge to refashion the geopolitical world to its absolute will. Where better to launch that project than in the Middle East, the oil fulcrum of global change?
However, the justification for such a strategy, enshrined in the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive strikes, regime change and full-spectrum dominance, all in the name of democracy, imposed from above, is so manifestly false and immoral that public opinion will not buy it. The march of millions all over the world on 15/2 attests to their disbelief. It was the one thing they all had in common: the refusal to believe the disinformation peddled by the information society. And the moment of disbelief is the beginning of rebellion.
The answer to the darkness of 9/11 is the enlightenment of 15/2.
The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.