Globalisation: Six questions and answers

This is an educational leaflet produced by the Spanish Students Union (SE) about the movement against capitalist globalisation.

1. What is globalisation?

Globalisation is the extension of economic relations between different countries to the point of creating a world economy in which every national economy is dependent on the others. No country is self-sufficient, all of them need to exchange products with other countries. The rise of an integrated world economy is not necessarily a negative thing in itself, as potentially it lays the basis for international planning of the economy in a harmonious way. Under an economic system based on social justice and collective property of the means of production (factories, technology, capital) this would allow for an unprecedented step forward for humanity. But the capitalist system is based on the private property of the means of production and the quest for the highest profits for every individual capitalist. This makes development impossible and creates a situation where a small minority becomes massively wealthy while the majority of people on the planet see their living standards fall.

2. Why is there an increase in poverty and inequality?

Today there are 6 billion people living on the planet and it would be possible to produce food for 10 billion. However, hunger, starvation and misery are on the increase (800 million people suffer from malnutrition and 2.4 billion live under the poverty line. The three highest Microsoft CEOs have a combined wealth greater than the amount of money the US spends on anti-poverty programmes. The exchange of products between different economies does not take place in a fair and just way: a small number of powerful multinational companies control most of the wealth (40% of the planet's Gross Domestic Product and 70% of trade) and impose their interests on the rest of the world.

The division of the world economy between the different countries does not benefit all of them equally but condemns the underdeveloped countries to providing the more advanced countries with cheap raw materials (oil, minerals, agricultural products) and cheap labour. This process increases inequality instead of reducing it. The poorer countries are forced to exchange products in which more labour is invested (as a result of their technological backwardness) for products coming from advanced countries, which are more expensive and easier to produce (taking into account the quality and quantity of the means of production). It is quite clear who loses out in the process. Furthermore the world economy is controlled by the Western powers and the multinationals, and they are able to impose prices, trade regulations, and economic policies on the rest of the world. For instance, in 1960 Tanzania needed 200 sacks of coffee to pay for an American tractor and now 30 years later it needs more than 600.

3. Why are the multinationals so powerful?

The domination of the world by a few multinationals flows naturally from the development of capitalism which is based on the quest for the highest individual profit. In order to achieve this, the capitalists are forced to compete against each other, increasing their production, their sales, opening up new markets, exploiting further the existing markets, and moving capital to new countries looking for cheap labour and cheap raw materials, etc.

The result is the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands: a handful of big corporations in the advanced capitalist countries which end up dominating the whole world. Whenever they canmot impose their conditions by economic means alone, the multinationals use the political and military institutions of their countries of origin (governments, parliaments, laws and the armies of the big powers like the US, Europe an Japan) in order to achieve their aims.

Often they try to hide their real interests dressing up these interventions under the guise of the defence of "humanitarian interests". In the past few years we have seen such "humanitarian bombings" in Yugoslavia, Iraq, etc. In order to carry them out they use international institutions which were created and are dominated by the big powers themselves (IMF, World Bank, NATO, UN, etc).

Globalisation is a smokescreen to disguise the real nature of the system. The description which best defines today's capitalism, characterised by the international exploitation of the working class and the peoples of the world by a few superpowers and multinatioanl companies, is imperialism.

4. Is it possible to fight against the IMF and the World Bank without fighting against capitalism?

Another consequence of this unequal exchange which condemns the poor countries to a level of misery is that they are forced to take out loans from the big Western powers or from financial institutions created by them (International Monetary Fund, World Bank, etc), which leads to their complete enslavement. Because of their debts they are forced to accept the economic plans and the international relations imposed on them by the lending institutions. The IMF, the World Bank and the WTO (World Trade Organisation) are all capitalist institutions trying to maintain the stability of the system. The big powers and the multinationals finance these institutions precisely because they control them and determine their policies. It is absolutely impossible to reform or democratise these institutions, because if they ceased to be useful for the multinationals they would stop funding them and would create new ones. The power of the multinationals is based on their ownership of the means of production (machinery, factories, the land and the capital). As long as these parassites are not expropiated and their wealth put under democratic control of the many, it will be impossible to change the current state of affairs.

5. What are the reasons for the demonstrations in Seattle, Prague, Nice, etc?

The policies imposed by the IMF and the WB on those countries receiveing their "aid" are the same as those that capitalists all over the world use to increase their profits: attacks on state education and health care, redundancies and wage cuts, low levels of pensions and other benefits, reforms of the labour laws, privatisation of publicly owned companies and utilities, etc. In the poorest countries these policies are applied at an even faster rate and are combined with the looting of their natural resources by the multinationals. As a result, the gap between the rich and poor increases, as do poverty levels and the destruction of the.environment the world over. The protests which started in Seattle and have been taking place in every city where the IMF, the WB, the WTO and other international financial institutions have met are a reflection of the growing anger of many youth and workers.

6. Is another society possible? What is the alternative of the Students' Union?

The Students Union (SE) has always explained that in the face of the attacks and the exploitation by the capitalists at an international level, we need to fight back with an international struggle of workers and youth. This is why for the last 15 years of our existence we have organised international solidarity campaigns with left wing student organisations from Palestine, South Africa, Mexico, Russia and Indonesia and we have defended tirelessly the ideas of internationalism.

The protests in the cities where the IMF and the other imperialist institutions meet are a symptom of the international opposition to their policies; but if we want to put an end to this injustice what we need is a constant and ever more massive international struggle with the participation of the labour movement leading to a revolutionary transformation of society.

The struggle cannot be limited to protests against this or that multinational or the attempt to close down this or that institution (be it the IMF, the WB, the WTO, etc). Our main aim must be to put an end to capitalism as a system, with the nationalisation of the banks and big monopolies, the expropriation of the wealth accumulated by the multinationals, and to use it to plan the world economy, in a democratic way and with the participation of all the oppressed, in order to fulfull the needs of the many and not the profits of the few. A genuine socialist society (not the bureacratic caricature which failed in the USSR) is the only alertantive. It is not only possible, but also necessary.

This radical change can only be carried out by a revolutionary movement of the working class (the biggest and most powerful section in society which has the power to stop production and put the multinationals on the ropes) at the head of all the other sections of society that are also suffering the consequences of capitalist oppression.