Towards the forward march of workers led alternative globalisation

Bhabani Shankar Nayak

Is globalisation over after the COVID-19 pandemic? There are three visible signs during the unending Coronavirus led health crisis, which substantiates the end of globalisation thesis. The first sign indicates reversal of capitalist globalisation led by market integrations. The people and their nation states are fighting the pandemic alone. As a result, there is growth of ultra nationalist and right-wing forces during this pandemic. The second sign comes from the response to the global health crisis and search for anti-Coronavirus vaccine demands more coordinated international response. Many countries are cooperating with each other in research and development of vaccine. The third sign comes from the failure of capitalist states and their healthcare facilities to deal with the pandemic. The liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation did not help people during this pandemic. The last two signs reveal that it is imperative for global engagement for better health, sustainable happiness, lasting peace and prosperity for all. It is impossible to have an island of peace and prosperity when the majority of world population suffer in different forms of crisis. Therefore, the search for an alternative system that puts people before profit during all forms of global crisis.

Both the progressive and right-wing forces oppose globalisation today. The progressive forces oppose globalisation as it marginalises the masses and destroys environment by exploiting both human beings and nature. The right-wing forces oppose globalisation for their narrow and nativist Malthusian predicaments. During this pandemic, the progressive forces blame the capitalist state and its failures to face the challenges of Coronavirus crisis whereas the right-wing forces oppose Asians, Chinese and migrants for the spread of the pandemic. In this context, there is a great deal of debates about the extent to which reshaping of globalisation is necessary to transform global economy and politics in post pandemic world. The transformation depends on understanding our own experiences with the history of globalisation. It is time to move away from the preoccupation with the analysis of virtues or perils of globalisation. Such cost-benefit analysis of globalisation is unhelpful to develop an alternative and universal narrative, which keeps people and environment at the core of its analytical vision. The ferocity and proliferation of this pandemic obscures the fundamental global challenges and threats faced by the humanity due to the globalisation of capitalism.

Historically, globalisation of capital is the most dominant force for last three centuries of world history. In terms of the relationship between capital and labour, globalisation has passed through three different but interrelated stages. The first stage of globalisation was a period when labour was absolutely free during the processes of production, consumption and distribution. The second phase of globalisation was dominated by western colonialism in Asia, Africa and Americas. During this phase of globalisation, colonial capital was free to exploit both labour and natural resources in the colonised continents whereas the movement of labour was limited based on the requirements of the colonial powers. By the end of second world war, there was further limitation on the mobility of labour but there was relatively higher freedom for the capital. The third phase of globalisation started with the capital-labour accord with the Washington consensus, which led to greater economic integration of markets driven by free trade in the world. During this phase of globalisation, the developed countries have followed protectionist economic policies and imposed free trade on developing and underdeveloped countries. The free trade was designed by the erstwhile colonial powers in a way that led to the concentration of wealth in the hands of few in the western world.
In order to succeed, the new era of globalisation need to conceptualise globalisation in a different way by moving away from both protectionism and free trade under capitalism. The policies of both protectionism and free trade helps in the concentration of wealth and serves the interests of the same capitalist classes. The processes of concentration of wealth trickled down to the capitalist classes based in the post-colonial countries. This created the conditions for the global capitalist alliances to control global resources in which states have become the facilitators. The welfare orientations of the states and their role in providing public healthcare facilities were transformed and privatised to pursue profit by the capitalist classes, who took over all state resources and facilities. As a result, the states have failed to face global health challenges like Coronavirus pandemic. The competitive and hierarchical culture of capitalism has failed to face this global health crisis.

In this context, the intellectuals, public policy makers, and leaders need to articulate a new wave of globalisation breaking away from its old colonial and capitalist lineages. The ideological and structural delinking of globalisation from its previous regimes and phases.  The ideals of pluriveralism need to be the organising principles of globalisation driven by the workers of the world. The ravages of Coronavirus pandemic and other threats to the survival of human lives and environment depends on our commitment to the principles of cooperation. The framework of democratic dialogue between individuals, states and societies can create meaningful and sustainable alternatives in the world, where ‘one lives for all and all live for one’. The shared vision for a collective global future and its success depends on our ability to embrace differences and celebrate our acentric uniqueness.  The articulation and fundamental commitment to this principle can start a new era of globalisation, which is free and fair for all. Such global perspective can radically transform world economy, where workers become shareholders of capital they produce. In this distinct phase of globalisation, it is important to create cooperative governance systems, which can transform gun, god and globalisation into workers internationalism.

The workers internationalism is not a utopia. The technology and digital revolution can help in realising the goals of workers internationalism guaranteeing peace and prosperity. The workers led democratisation of ownership of technologies and digital revolutions can shape global economy in four significant ways.  Firstly, the use of technology increases productive power of labour. The growth of productive power means labourers need to get their higher share of value that they add and produce by which they can enjoy more leisure time with their families and fellow human beings. Secondly, the workers led digital revolution reduces competitiveness among workers, which can create conditions for greater cooperation among workers.  Thirdly, the use of technology reduces cost of production. It can help consumers to get their everyday products in low cost. The quality of life increases with the declining cost of living. Finally, technology can help in providing information on conditions and cost of production to the consumers.  The flow of information can create an interactive process and environment for the greater understanding between consumers and producers. In this way, technology can create social market as a means of exchange by dismantling digital divide.
The forward march of workers led globalisation based on internationalism is the only way to realise greater goal of the universalisation of global citizenship. This new wave of alternative globalisation and all its possibilities depend on our progressive struggles and commitment for a better world.

Dr Bhabani Shankar Nayak, Coventry Business School, Coventry University, UK

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Jun 1, 2020

Dr Bhabani Shankar Nayak

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