IMPERIALIST GLOBALIZATION AND THE FIGHT FOR A DIFFERENT FUTURE
by Raymond Lotta
Revolutionary Worker #933, November 23, 1997
This article is based on papers and talks delivered by Maoist political economist Raymond Lotta in November 1996 in the Philippines. Lotta was in Manila to participate in the Anti-Imperialist World Peasant Summit and the People's Conference Against Imperialist Globalization.
These conferences and protest activities were organized in response to the meeting of government leaders of the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) countries.
Important theoretical contributions towards raising theoretical understanding of imperialist globalization were made by the Philippine progressive and revolutionary movement at the conference--including a paper submitted by the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Later this month, a "No to APEC" conference will be held in Vancouver, Canada to protest this year's APEC summit.
I am honored to be in the Philippines joining with you in taking this determined and defiant stand against imperialism. I come from the United States, a hated pillar of the world imperialist system and the biggest oppressor of the world's people. So I feel a tremendous responsibility to be here and to show my solidarity with you. As Maoist revolutionaries in the United States, we understand that there can be no revolution in the U.S. unless the masses are trained to hate what America stands for and does in the oppressed nations. We understand that a key part of building a revolutionary movement in the U.S. is winning broad sections of people to support any and all struggles against U.S. imperialism.
It is fitting that 1996 is the 100th anniversary of the revolt of the Filipino people against Spanish colonial rule. Not long after that heroic rising, the United States sent expeditionary forces to the Philippines as part of its bid for empire and dominance in the Pacific. On the island of Luzon alone, 600,000 Filipinos were killed by combat, famine, and disease. These were orders given by a U.S. general: "I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and the more you burn, the better you will please me."
We could say that these orders set a "standard" for the many crimes of U.S. imperialism to come: Hiroshima, the war of aggression against North Korea, the 1965 CIA-backed bloodbath in Indonesia, the genocidal war in Vietnam and Indochina, the high-tech massacres in Iraq.
Imperialism in the Asia-Pacific region has meant military bases and repressive neocolonial regimes. It has meant superexploitation and sweatshop labor. It has meant the squeezing and ruin of peasant agriculture. It has meant colossal ecological destruction. Imperialism has created a booming "migrant industry"--35 million workers each year leaving their families and homelands in search of livelihood in some of the faster-growing economies of the region. It has fostered a vast "sex industry." This is the system that the imperialist powers and their client states are celebrating at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting. These are the chains of exploitation and domination that they are seeking to tighten and extend under the banners of "trade liberalization" and globalization.
"Globalization"--the ideologues of imperialism chant it like a magical phrase. They tell us that now, "for the first time, we are living in a global economy," that we are entering a "new era" in which capital and technology will spread prosperity to the countries that aggressively find their niche in the global marketplace. They tell us that to "oppose globalization is to oppose the future"; and that our only choice is to get on board the new global economy...or to be left behind.
But the fact is humanity has been living in a global economy for over 100 years--and we know the results and costs of that globalization: the subjugation of entire nations, the wars, the crises, the famines, the exploitation of billions of people. And the fact is we do have another choice, which is to advance our struggles and our common cause for liberation and revolution worldwide. I want to discuss what imperialist globalization is really about and what this means for our struggles.
From its very beginnings, capitalism has had a global character. The rise of capitalism in Europe and North America was bound up with the slave trade in Africa and with the plunder of Asia and Latin America. The industrial revolution in England was bound up with and stimulated the extension of world trade. Capital tends in its motion and development to create a single economic world. Why? Because it is driven by the force of competition to expand, to extend itself, to exploit wage labor on an ever wider and more mechanized basis...in the quest for profit and more profit.
But it was only towards the end of the 19th century that capitalism became fully internationalized. This was the result of a massive increase in the outflow of investment capital from the developed capitalist countries and the relentless search for new areas to exploit. This continuing process of expansion and integration, spurred on by developments in transport and communications, has enmeshed the world in a global capitalist network of production and exchange. And over the course of the 20th century, especially since the end of World War 2, the economic relations of capitalism have more deeply penetrated the economies and societies of the Third World.
The internationalization of the commodity, money, and productive circuits of capital is inseparable from the leading role of finance capital in the accumulation process. Some 300 transnational corporations from the imperialist countries directly own one-quarter of all the productive assets in the world. The largest and most decisive corporations and banks in the capitalist economies are highly global in their operations. In 1995 the foreign operations of the U.S.'s largest transnational corporations accounted for 40 percent of the total sales and a similar share of total profits of these firms. Two out of every five General Motors cars are produced outside the U.S.
The internationalization of capital is a complex phenomenon. Imperialist capital has a global reach--but it remains rooted in national markets (U.S., Japan, Germany, etc.). The "home market" is the "strategic base of operations" for imperialist capital. This is where the largest share of output is produced, where research and development is concentrated, where control and ownership are centered. And to carry out global investment and expansion, transnational capitals cannot do without the economic-political-military support and protection of their national imperialist states. This contradiction--between capital which is highly internationalized but which has a national foundation--gives rise to rivalry, to conflict, and to war between the imperialist powers.
The up's and down's of the world economy, the changing production methods and technologies of capitalism, the way in which capital organizes itself and competes, trends like the transformation of food into an industrial-commercial commodity --all these things profoundly shape our lives and struggles. In countries like the Philippines, we see more and more land on which domestic food crops like rice used to be grown being converted to grow high-value crops like asparagus for export markets.
I have said that the capitalist mode of production dominates and permeates economic activity throughout the world. But the world is not capitalist through and through. In many parts of the Third World, capitalist exploitation is combined with precapitalist and feudal forms of exploitation. Imperialism continues to make use of these economic relations and to reinforce all sorts of backward and reactionary social relations. The alliances between the neocolonial regimes and the landlord classes are part of the whole structure of control and domination exerted by imperialism.
Even though there has been extensive capitalist transformation in the countryside of the Third World--still, in much of Latin America, Asia, and Africa, the peasant question and the struggle for land remain at the heart of the people's struggles. Peasants are still a huge force in the world, as is their semifeudal oppression. And the highest form of peasant struggle--people's war led by the proletariat--is the key liberating component in the great majority of countries in the world today.
I have said that the world economy is highly integrated. But there is a fundamental faultline in the world imperialist economy: the division of the world into oppressor and oppressed nations. The rich countries make up 15 percent of the world's population; yet they absorb 80 percent of the world's resources. This division of the world, and the grossly unequal distribution of productive forces, is an essential and persistent feature of accumulation and of class relations on a world scale.
The imperialist countries are strategically dependent on the Third World as a source of cheap labor, markets, and low-cost raw materials. The oppressed nations are structurally dependent on imperialism. Their economic structures are determined by their subordination to imperialism. Unless and until they make a revolutionary transformation, they occupy a subordinate position in the international division of labor, and their economic growth depends on infusions of capital and the demand for their products from the imperialist countries.
The imperialists talk of an economically and technologically "interconnected world." But this "interconnected world" is a class-divided and conflicted world. A world of contending imperialist capitals. A world split into oppressor and oppressed nations. A world of have's and have-not's.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)