Category Archives: Globalization

Posts looking at globalization as a process, at the impact of globalization, etc.

Stunning Poster Art from Indonesia – #Occupy Jakarta

Earlier today, @OccupyWallStNYC tweeted: “Corporations are organized across borders. It’s time for the 99% to get organized GLOBALLY.” But in fact the Occupy movement went global pretty much as soon as it began.

One of the more powerful expressions of the internationalized Occupy movement has been coming out of Indonesia, where Nobodycorp. Internationale Unlimited is producing an amazing range of political poster art. One of the most striking things about these posters is their intensity. The Occupy movement in Jakarta is grappling not just with underwater mortgages and layoffs, but with military violence and murder, with the problems of Muslim terrorism and with breakaway movements in places like Aceh.

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What should we Occupy next? Or should we stop occupying and start abandoning?

The San Francisco Bay Guardian‘s cover story this week is “Occupy America!” — a call to “take back the country.” It concludes:

the important thing is to let this genie out of the bottle, to move Occupy into the next level of politics, to use a convention, rally, and national event to reassert the power of the people to control our political and economic institutions — and to change or abolish them as we see fit.

It is important — vital even, I would say — to continue the discussion and movement that #occupy has begun, but I think that the time has come also for reflection on where that movement is going and where we want it to go. The Occupy movement has always been a big tent, with lots of different groups with differing agendas operating within it, but there have been some clear tendencies. And I don’t agree with all of them by any means.

Occupy Wall Street?  It was a great idea, a great slogan and it really got things going, but do we really want to occupy Wall Street? Do we want to retake or reclaim Wall Street – that whole sick and perverse congeries of gamblers, shills and greed-heads that passes itself off as an “industry” – for something, for ourselves?  Or do we want to abolish and/or abandon it? I think some of the activities that emerged around banking had the right idea: don’t “occupy” the bad banks and financial institutions with your money; abandon them, taking your money to more positive institutions, local credit unions and the like.

But couldn’t we push that logic further? What about a wholesale abandonment of the whole crappy, corrupt and dehumanizing system.  Don’t occupy it, leave it.  Leave the banks and stock markets, leave the malls and Wal-Marts, and as much as possible shift your money, your energy, your time, your production and consumption to spaces that embody values of human freedom and social and economic justice, of happiness.  Find all the worker-owned collectives in your area and support them. Start your own collective.  Start a co-housing community, a squat, a shared multi-generational living situation. If your family sucks, abandon them, too, and create a new family based on freedom, love and justice.

I could go on in this vein, and hopefully will, in greater detail, but for now let me leave you with some thoughts on another aspect of the Occupy movement…

on the Port Blockades

I was really pleased to see the Occupy movement expanding out from the Wall Street locus to address issues of globalization, and root itself or rhizomatically connect itself with the ongoing alter globalization movement.

But the port blockades were a bad idea.

Sure, the ports are a logistical choke point in globalization’s long supply chain, where a bit of work can cause a lot of disruption and economic losses for the entities involved.

But it’s a distraction and it hurts people we don’t — or shouldn’t — want to hurt.

Occupy Wall Street worked because it was such a powerful symbolic statement. Blocking the doors of local bank branches would not have been as effective, and would have brought a much more immediate police response.  Now that the Occupy movement has captured a lot of attention, taking the struggle to the headquarters of offending Wall Street entities will work fine, but going after local branches still seems to me to be offer a small payout for a lot of stress, and to inconvenience average people in a way likely to turn potential allies into probable opponents.  (Just as some of the stupider acts of vandalism around Occupy Oakland have done with downtown Oakland residents and merchants.)

“Occupying” the ports pissed off some members of trade unions that have historically been important supporters of progressive struggles — against US imperialism in Central America, for instance, on in the general strikes of the 1930s.  Port workers, longshoremen and their ilk were some of the most radical activists in the Bay Area in the first half of the Twentieth Century.  It’s stupid to piss them off, or to get into their turf, without working with them. (One of the reasons the events of May 1968 in France were so threatening and effective was the alliance forged between traditional, blue collar workers and student activists.) And the port “occupations” hurt local economies that were already hurting, probably more than they hurt the big nasty corporate entities we’d like to see suffer.

More than that, though, the ports are simply not where it’s at in any real sense.  If you want to “Occupy” globalization, you need to go after the headquarters, the  brain and heart of it; the ports are like the feet or the fingers, or maybe the lower intestine, pipes that things pass through that are not making any real choices.

And there are plenty of big, fat, juicy targets in the Bay Area. Lots of corporate headquarters for companies that are big players in globalization.  Levi Strauss no longer makes jeans in the United States. They moved all that overseas.  Apple doesn’t make any of its cool, fancy gadgets, so popular with hipsters and radicals alike around here.  And both have been implicated in some really bad shit with their workers overseas.  What about Chevron, right down there on Market St.?

If you want to move on globalization — and you should — don’t get distracted. Go for the commanding heights.  And that isn’t the ports.  It’s public perception, media support — and corporate hqs. All of which the port blockades miss.

You say you want a revolution? Well, we need to be smart about it.

Read This: The resistible rise of corporate power

The resistible rise of corporate power: “[The asymmetric power of private business] has grown enormously over the past half century, both pressing for and gaining from the political creation of a deregulated and globalised capitalist economy….

The problem is that the ‘naturalisation’ of the capitalist market – the uncritical acceptance of ‘the free market’ and the idea that there are unavoidable ‘imperatives’ of globalisation – has elided this distinction. It has created the impression that we face ebbs and flows as unstoppable as the ocean when in fact we face institutions driven by power struggles and flawed human decision-making, legitimately open to challenge.

Our political institutions, meanwhile, have allowed themselves to be effectively occupied, or more accurately warrened—because half of the process has not been visible from the surface—by these anti-market (and anti-public) institutions… ”

Read the full article on Red Pepper.

Millenium development goals summit

 

Millennium development goals LIVE: World leaders begin gathering in New York today for a three-day UN millennium development goals summit to review ambitious anti-poverty targets adopted in 2000. Follow updates throughout the summit… (via guardian.co.uk.)

 

Millenium development goals summit day two – live updates: Among today’s highlights at the UN MDG summit, Hillary Clinton is set to unveil an initiative on clean cooking stoves… (via guardian.co.uk.)

 

Five years on: Africa’s struggle to raise a new generation: As world leaders gather to discuss milliennium development goals in New York, the Guardian returns to its pledge to track the live of 10 babies born in countries across the continent up to 2015. We talk to them and their parents… (via guardian.co.uk.)

 

U.N. Poverty Goals Face Accountability Questions: There is little disagreement over the United Nations goal of eliminating dire poverty, but there is plenty of criticism about how leaders are going about it….(via NYT.)

Millennium development goals need more emphasis on human rights: World leaders gathered in New York to encourage progress towards meeting the millennium development goals, a set of eight objectives – ranging from eradicating extreme poverty and hunger to reducing child mortality and achieving universal primary education – to be achieved by 2015… (via guardian.co.uk.)

We Can End Poverty, Millennium Development Goals, 2015: With only five years left until the 2015 deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), world leaders are meeting at a summit in New York (20-22 September) to accelerate progress towards the MDGs.

“There is no global project more worthwhile,” Mr. Ban told the nearly 140 Heads of State and Government taking part in the three-day meeting at UN Headquarters in New York. “Let us send a strong message of hope. Let us keep the promise.”… (via UN.)

 

We’ve made great strides on global poverty – let’s make more | Mark Malloch-Brown: What a difference a decade seems to make. In September 2000 the United Nations general assembly set aside differences and voted unanimously for Kofi Annan’s ambitious blueprint for tackling global poverty. Less than a decade after the end of the cold war, amid growing economic confidence, there was a feeling that things really could get better – for everyone.

Fast-forward a decade, and world leaders are once gathering again in New York for a poverty summit – but this time against a backdrop of financial jitters, climate change fears and rising food prices. Nobody is declaring victory. But as the UN’s development chief who led the drafting of the eight anti-poverty targets that we branded the millennium development goals (MDGs), I believe that setting the goals has been fully vindicated – unless, of course, governments give up on them now…. (via Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.)

 

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Labor 2.0: Supply-Chain Sickness

As reported in The Guardian, after exposure to the toxic solvent n-hexane, at least 62 workers involved in preparing Apple components, including iPhone touch screens, have been hospitalized, many for months, and at least one may have died.

Despite its known toxicity, n-hexane was used as a cleaning solvent at a factory in Suzou, China, owned and operated by the Taiwanese electronics giant Wintek, which supplies components for a number of well-known brands including Apple.

Chinese workers link sickness to n-hexane and Apple iPhone screens: “Prolonged over-exposure to n-hexane can cause extensive damage to the peripheral nervous system and ultimately the spinal cord, leading to muscular weakness and atrophy and even paralysis, said Paul Whitehead, a toxicology consultant and member of the UK’s Royal Society of Chemistry. It can also affect male fertility. Recovery can take a year or more.

The chemical’s potential risks are well-known in industry, as are safe exposure limits. But the Wintek manager who decided to switch from alcohol to n-hexane for cleaning – apparently because it dried more quickly – did not assess the dangers. It was used without proper ventilation.

(via World news | The Guardian.)

It seems pretty obvious that the manager made the switch to boost productivity – and profits for Wintek – perhaps to meet the insatiable demand for iPhones (and now iPads). Given the absence of unions independent unions, the exploitation common in Chinese factories, and the minimal level of occupational health and safety rules and enforcement, it probably seemed like a no-brainer. After all, the factory wouldn’t have to pay any medical costs.

A large percentage of the workers at comprador factories such as this are migrant workers from rural China – part of the largest wave of human migration in the history of the planet – who, because of Chinese laws on residency (see, eg, hukou – though I am informed this entry is pretty poor), are often effectively illegal immigrants in their own country. As such they have limited recourse to things like official housing and medical care – and are regularly subjected to exploitation by employers and crackdowns by the authorities.

These workers seldom try to complain through official channels about things like working conditions, since they have no legal right to work where they are, and in any case there are a million more rural migrant workers just waiting to take their place. A subjugated workforce, prey to exploitative practices, with few avenues for complaint or redress. The only thing unusual about this case is that the seriously injured workers are getting medical care and that the story has received some international coverage.

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Website of the Week: Resistanbul – YOU ARE INVITED TO THE BONFIRE OF RESISTANCE!

Spokesmen and bureaucrats of multinational capitalist corporations will be in Istanbul, Turkey on 6 – 7 October for the 2009 Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund where they will have decisions to destroy the lives of billions of people.

No doubt, this will be another meeting to save the benefits of capitalist rulers, they will discuss economic packages, reconstructions and austerity politics and constitutional accordance conditions, which only adds another ring to the exploitation chain for the future of the poor and the planet we live on.

First-hand experiences in Argentina, Jamaica, Nigeria, Kenya and elsewhere have long proved that the World Band and IMF policies have no benefits other than indigence and exploitation. IMF and the World Bank, the leading architects of global capitalism, are the primary instruments of the banishment of the poor from their habitat and their homes by urban gentrification politics, commercialization and monopolization of water resources by selling it out to a few international corporations, the condemnation of the local farmers to global capitalist corporations with neo-liberal agriculture policies, and adding new rings to the chains of workers by implementing new employment legislations.

13.000 criminals and possibly even more patrolling forces to protect them will be walking amongst us on those days. Those days will be probably like hell. Police searches, id controls, blocking streets, fencings and so on.

Come on; let’s show them what hell is! Our bonfire will be their nightmare!

We call for a week of global resistance and actions against IMF and WB between 1-8 October. In Istanbul we are planning to organize workshops, exhibitions, movie screenings, conversations and activities against IMF and World Bank. Accommodation for those coming from other cities and abroad will be arranged. If you want to participate in the preparations and the process of mobilization please contact us at direnistanbul@gmail.com

via YOU ARE INVITED TO THE BONFIRE OF RESISTANCE! « Resistanbul – YOU ARE INVITED TO THE BONFIRE OF RESISTANCE!.

Greece – Too Big to Fail?

Paul Krugman – Learning From Greece: “The debt crisis in Greece is approaching the point of no return. As prospects for a rescue plan seem to be fading, largely thanks to German obduracy, nervous investors have driven interest rates on Greek government bonds sky-high, sharply raising the country’s borrowing costs. This will push Greece even deeper into debt, further undermining confidence. At this point it’s hard to see how the nation can escape from this death spiral into default.
(via NYTimes.com.)

Greece activates €45bn loans: “Papandreou’s move was immediately welcomed by markets across Europe where stocks marked a sharp rise after weeks of uncertainty. The premium on Greek 10-year bonds fell 60 basis points to 8.2% on the news and the euro strengthened slightly against the dollar and the pound.
But the Greek government’s request is likely to also lead to calls for further austerity measures, demands that will almost certainly worsen public unrest in Greece.”
(via guardian.co.uk.)

With Greece facing austerity measures imposed by the international financial system the like of which haven’t really been seen before in Western Europe, we can expect to see the “public unrest” (read, “riots,” massive anger in the streets, police brutality, bombs) to dwarf that of the past year. Greek radical militancy has a long, proud and aggressive history and militants there will react with understandable fury to the social impact of the anticipated austerity measures. It looks like it may be a long, hot summer on the Mediterranean.

Update on the tensions and continued social crisis in Greece
“Greece is going to hell, it is going to hell and I am glad it is so that we can comeback and start things from the beginning” These were the last words of an anarchist comrade in Greece as we spoke about events that have taken place in recent weeks because of the austerity measures introduced by the Government to tackle Greece’s enormous debt.

Greece’s Premier has likened the Greek economic situation to that of a country in “wartime”, in which he announced that the public must come together in order to “survive”.

Although this wartime reference was used as a metaphor, Papandreou might only too soon find his Government locked in a state of war with the working classes.
(via Freedom Press.)

Austerity measures, IMF and World Bank-imposed policies, and structural adjustment programs have met with increasingly levels of resistance over the years, particularly in developing countries that have been most subject to these “measures.” But in recent years, as part of the broader alter-globalization movement, there have been more and more protests against the IMF and World Bank in the developed nations of the North as well:

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Since the first announcement that Greece would accept the €45b bailout, more information has come out about the anticipated role of the IMF, Europe’s anxiety about a financial failure in Greece leading to further failures in Portugal and elsewhere, uncertainty about German support for a measure that is unpopular with the public, and the response elsewhere in Europe and in the global financial community. And the situation – or at least the assessment – has worsened, with Greece now looking like it will need substantially more than the initially proposed €45b:

IMF chief Strauss-Kahn tries to ease Greece fears: “Inevitably, the prospect of IMF involvement in the Greek rescue has some people worried. The reputation is for painful cuts in public spending, which are unwelcome in their own right and seen by some critics as likely to aggravate an economic downturn.” [emphasis added]
(Via BBC News.)

Greek bailout ‘not limited to €45bn’: “The bill to bail out the stricken Greek economy could mushroom, after world leaders admitted that the €45bn (£39bn) already pledged was just the start.
The country’s finance minister, George Papaconstantinou, said that bailout talks at the weekend with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European partners had gone well, and he was confident Greece would secure the necessary aid by May to finance its crippling public debt without any problem.”
….
“Over the weekend, French and German leaders turned the screws on Greece, insisting that the €45bn international bailout would not go ahead without further austerity measures to slash the country’s ballooning budget deficit.
Lagarde also warned that contributors to the eurozone’s first rescue package would pull the plug if Greece did not honour the terms. She promised to hold Greece accountable for ‘unsuitable economic policies‘.” [emphasis added]
(Via guardian.co.uk.)

Merkel keeps Greece in suspense over rescue: “The German Chancellor was forced yesterday to issue an emergency statement promising aid to Greece — but her words failed to quell bond market speculation that Berlin might not support the eurozone’s €30 billion rescue package.
(via Times Online.)

It’s important to be clear about what these austerity measures and unsuitable economic policies really are. If past experience is anything to go by they will be a major curtailment of social welfare programs – health, education and welfare – combined with an unprecedented opening up of the country to exploitation by multinational corporations. In the past, the IMF and World Bank have acted like Viking raiders – raping, looting and pillaging.

Some Background

One of the better known instances of this kind of assaults, and of the popular resistance to such imposed economic measures, is what took place in Bolivia in the late 1990s:

The Politics of Water in Bolivia: “Etched deeply into the granite walls just inside the entrance of the World Bank headquarters in Washington are the words, “Our dream, a world free of poverty.” Earlier this month in Bolivia, the citizens of South America’s poorest country sent the bank a message once again that the poor aren’t too keen on the part of that dream that involves handing their water over to foreign corporations.
On January 10 the citizens of El Alto took to the streets en masse to demand that their water system, privatized in 1997 under World Bank pressure, be returned to public hands.”
(via The Nation.)

Some Reading

Along with the more general global financial crisis of which it is a part, the situation in Greece is fairly complex, and the role of the IMF and its bailout activities – and their often devastating effects – are similar difficult to make sense of with the limited information given in news coverage. Here are a few resources to consult to begin making sense of these issues and events.

Labor 2.0 meets Labor 1.0

“We are like prisoners… We do not have a life, only work.”
-Teenaged Microsoft Worker

read the story at: China’s Youth Meet Microsoft – The National Labor Committee.

21st-century African land grab

A new twist on globalization and colonialism in Africa:

“Ethiopia is one of the hungriest countries in the world with more than 13 million people needing food aid, but paradoxically the government is offering at least 3m hectares of its most fertile land to rich countries and some of the world’s most wealthy individuals to export food for their own populations…”

read about it here: How food and water are driving a 21st-century African land grab | Environment | The Observer.

globalization without governance – bookforum.com / omnivore

William I. Robinson (UCSB): Theories of Globalization. Alex Evans (NYU), Bruce Jones (Brookings) and David Steven (Demos): Confronting the Long Crisis of Globalization: Risk, Resilience and International Order. From Globalization, Agreement Lathi Jotia (Botswana): Globalization, Education and the Birth of a Democratically Active Global Citizen; and Kathleen R. Smythe (Xavier): The Dangers of Teaching About Globalization. Nayan Chanda (Yale): Runaway Globalization Without Governance. From The Globalist, Stephan Richter on the future of globalism after Copenhagen. A needier era: An article on the politics of global disruption, and how they may change. Globalization on the rocks: David Ransom argues that a corporate shipwreck lies behind the collapse of financial markets. Trade and militarism: Daron Acemoglu and Pierre Yared on the political limits to globalisation. From The National Interest, the increasing disorder of our world will lead eventually to a sort of global ennui mixed with a disturbingly large dose of individual extremism and dogmatic posturing by states. The scary new rich: The global middle class is more unstable and less liberal than we thought. Kidnapping in the developing world is a grim byproduct of globalization, and a strange and shadowy ransom industry has grown to protect and retrieve the victims — but are all the consultants and insurers really just part of the problem? A review of Sonic Boom: Globalization at Mach Speed by Gregg Easterbrook (and more and more and more). In praise of hybridity: Ales Debeljak on globalization and the modern western paradigm. Towards global diversity: The combination of high technology and the market has produced new kind of economy and culture. Globalization unchecked: A look at how Western media suffocates real culture.

via globalization without governance – bookforum.com / omnivore.

Reimagining Socialism: A Nation Forum

Socialism’s all the rage. “We Are All Socialists Now,” Newsweek declares. As the right wing tells it, we’re already living in the U.S.S.A. But what do self-identified socialists (and their progressive friends) have to say about capitalism’s current troubles? We’ve asked them, and you can read their spirited replies in the forum that follows this essay. –The Editors

Reimagining Socialism: A Nation Forum.

Although a year old now, this special forum in The Nation is well-worth reading – not just by people favorably inclined toward socialism, but by anyone who has been made scared for the future and angry about the present by the double-whammy of the financial crisis and the escalating urgency of doing something about climate change.

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The Commanding Heights

PBS produced an interesting documentary on economics and globalization titled “The Commanding Heights” — based on the book of the same name — and the content of that documentary has been made available as an educational resource on the net that “includes a netcast of the complete television series integrated with a broad range of interactive information resources.” Continue reading

Cargo Cult

The BBC has just begun a facinating on-going feature: they’ve ‘adopted’ a cargo shipping container and will follow it on its travels around the world, and through the arteries of globalization, for the next year. The container has a big BBC logo on it, and is equipped with a GPS tracking device, but is otherwise just a standard container and will be used normally in the global shipping business.

A webpage on the BBC site features a real-time map of the container’s  location and its recent movements, and will also tell you what its cargo is at any given time. Continue reading