Tuesday 17 June 2003

We can seize the day

The task is not to overthrow globalisation but to use it for a democratic revolution

by George Monbiot

George Monbiot Last week Jack Straw illuminated the depths of his political cowardice by shining upon them the full and feeble beam of his political courage. He proposed to alter the constitution of the UN security council. He would like to double its permanent membership, though without granting the new members the privileges accorded to the five existing ones. He must know that this scheme will be rejected by the proposed new entrants, yet he fears to tread more firmly upon the toes of the incumbents.

But Straw is desperate to save this undemocratic instrument of global governance. He wants to save it because it provides a semblance of legitimacy for a global system otherwise crudely governed by Britain's principal ally. By tearing down the security council to go to war with Iraq, George Bush has ripped the veil off his own intentions. The ambitions of his project now stand before us, naked and undeniable. Straw, like a frantic tailor, is seeking to restore his client's modesty. He knows that a naked emperor cannot govern unopposed for long.

Straw's scheme is a response to two colliding realities. The first is that the principal instruments of political globalisation are in trouble. The security council, the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, having already lost the support of the world's people, are now losing the support of their principal sponsor. Other nations are beginning to face a stark choice: they must either accept direct global rule from Washington, or bypass the superpower and design a new, multilateral system of global governance.

The second is that economic globalisation, driven by corporate and financial integration, sweeps all before it. It destroys, but it also creates. It is extending to the world's people unprecedented opportunities for mobilisation. It is establishing a single, planetary class interest, as the same forces and the same institutions threaten the welfare of the people of all nations. It is ripping down the cultural and linguistic barriers that divide us. By breaking the social bonds which sustained local communities, it destroys our geographical loyalties. It forces us to become a global political community, whether we like it or not.

Simultaneously, it has placed within our hands the weapons we need to attack the existing means of global governance. By forcing governments to operate in the interests of business, it has manufactured the disenchantment upon which all new politics must feed. By expanding its own empire through new communication and transport networks, it has granted the world's people the means by which they can gather and coordinate their challenge.

We may, in other words, be approaching a revolutionary moment. Economic globalisation has made us stronger than ever before, just as the existing instruments of global control have become weaker than ever before. But the global justice movement, vast and determined as it is, is in no position to seize it. The reason is simple: we do not possess a political programme. Without a programme, we can only oppose. Without a programme, we permit our opponents to select the field of battle.

We hesitate to develop one for two reasons. The first is that hundreds of disparate factions have buried their differences within this movement to fight their common enemies. Those differences will re-emerge as we seek to coalesce around a common set of solutions.

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