The Two-Headed Monster
The October 2018 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report issued grave warnings of dire consequences if we are not able to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 C within 12 years. The authors of this explosive report elaborated that unprecedented and sweeping changes are required to meet this target, which is feasible if the most aggressive interpretation of the Paris Climate Agreement is utilized. Since the publication of this report, warnings from international bodies, including the UN, have only become more alarming.
Amidst the global movements to combat climate change, yet another threat to organized human existence has been underreported. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, in its 2019 Doomsday Clock report addressed to “leaders and citizens of the world,” said,
Humanity now faces two simultaneous existential threats, either of which would be cause for extreme concern and immediate attention. These major threats — nuclear weapons and climate change — were exacerbated this past year by the increased use of information warfare to undermine democracy around the world, amplifying risk from these and other threats and putting the future of civilization in extraordinary danger.
Forces that only accelerate both these threats by way of reckless profiteering, environmental desecration, and heightened militarism are on the rise across the world. Far-right forces, often acting with global coordination, are on the march in the US, Brazil, UK, Bolivia, India, Hungary and so on. Boosted by imbecilic leaders securing power by fomenting hate and division, these destructive movements, generally cozy under the US empire, have kept opposition movements occupied with just repair, let alone systematically attending to the two aforementioned global threats.
Neoliberalism—Not New, Not Liberal, Failed
So what happened to the triumph of liberal institutionalism and the End of History? Fukuyama obviously didn’t mean “History” to be a brief period of 45 years.
Well, neoliberalism was not built to last.
In Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klien helpfully summarizes the three tenets of neoliberalism:
- Deregulation: rampant drawdown of protections on peoples, environment and natural resources in favor of private tyrannies called corporations
- Privatization: wholesale handoff of state and other systems to private, unaccountable power.
- Austerity: slashing of the welfare state. Banishment of the underprivileged to the ‘discipline and wisdom’ of the market, while the wealthy are protected and enriched by the nanny state. Protections come in the form of bailouts, subsidies, tax breaks, public asset sales and so on. Further, the state, itself an institution fundamentally built on violence, dispatches violence to other states for the protection of private, wealthy interests — as evidenced by US imperialism in South America, for instance. Attempts by free people to retain their sovereignty, independence and self-determination are met with coups, invasions, and plunder. The Chicago Boys felt they wrote economic law that modeled human nature by way of market behavior. Apparently, an economics that relies on military invasions to impose itself on the rest of the world is a natural science, discovering inviolable truths.
Now, at the tail end of neoliberalism, as proto-fascist forces around the world amplify their drumbeat, we have incompetent, toothless centrists continuing as is, only elongating their losing record against the right-wing. Faced with the two cataclysmic global threats, there are budding opposition movements around the world attempting to tug the arc of time towards a different future. Many participants have been shaken from stupor recently. Some have been at it for decades, including a relentless and determined guy by the name of Bernie Sanders.
The Man is Only As Strong As the Movement
Much has been said about Bernie Sanders, his long history of fighting corporate power, and opposing various forms of bigotry and hate. It is clear that the American elite does not want him anywhere close to power. Entire estates and empires are at stake. Sander’s democratic socialist movement is a direct reaction to the 45-year old brutal class war under neoliberalism waged upon workers, immigrants, women and racial minorities; while many centrist candidates are simply a reaction to him.
To understand the global impact of a Sanders presidency (almost a tautology given that we are talking about the head of state of the US empire), we must evoke two other poles on the world stage fighting alongside against the same forces of misanthropy, austerity and division: Jeremy Corbyn of the UK, and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil.
Both leaders are battling fascist forces in their respective countries, by way of organizing millions of citizens to advocate for a democratic agenda that puts workers at the center of the struggle for political and economic democracy. An agenda that challenges the lordship of banks and employers, asking the elementary question, “Why can’t we own and control our resources and our work?”
The poor complain; they always do,
But that’s just idle chatter.
Our system brings rewards to all,
At least to all who matter.
-Gerard Helleiner, Development Economist
As with all political terms of discourse such as ‘capitalism,’ ‘socialism,’ and ‘democracy,’ ‘globalization’ has been used and abused repeatedly to serve existing private and state power systems. What is called globalization today is simply one mode of international integration. This mode is marked by the aforementioned coups and invasions by dominant powers like the US and UK to ensure resource control and obedience by other nation-states, trade deals that allow state-subsidized goods to be flooded into other international markets, sanctions to stomp attempts by free peoples to protect their independence and sovereignty, and on and on it goes.
This version of globalization is always on display at the World Economic Forum in Davos, multi-country business podcasts discussing strategies for the next technology wave, and TED talks by economists obsequiously repeating the virtues of the present order that benefits their bosses.
One of the more recent examples of this version of globalization is the revelation that the UK’s National Health Service has been clandestinely privatized piece-by-piece, including various health service contracts. Salivating at the thought of profiting from pain and disease are the American corporations lining up for the feast. As Common Dreams covered,
“This week we discovered just how great a threat Donald Trump is to our NHS,” explained Nick Dearden of trade campaign group Global Justice Now, who is set to speak at the upcoming protest. “That’s why Tuesday’s demonstration will be led by nurses and doctors — to symbolize the millions of people who will stand up for our health service against a U.S. president who simply represents the biggest, greediest corporate interests in the world.”
This version of international integration is not only incapable of combatting climate breakdown and nuclear catastrophe, but is accelerating the pace at which humanity approaches terminal disaster. There is another version of international integration that could give us a much stronger chance of not only averting these disasters, but continuing organized existence of sovereign, free and independent peoples across the world.
One of the core principles of the left and working-class movements around the world has been international integration since their origins. Hence the self-categorization of unions as Internationals. This version of globalization rejects the prior version that only protects investor rights, capital and state power. Of course, the appropriation of the term globalization by these elite interests means anyone opposed to their idea of globalization is primitive and anti-integration. This is simply false. Left-wing movements seek integration by way of solidarity with all peoples and their interests. In big ways and small, they mutually support their actions and struggles — as recently evidenced by Bernie Sanders and his movement extending support to Jeremy Corbyn, Lula da Silva, Evo Morales and associated movements that fight for economic, racial, social and environmental justice.
This is a definitively distinct candidacy and opportunity. Breaking from over a century of American political tradition, Sanders is fully funded by small-dollar donations, shielded from the influences of those who would like to preserve the limited form of globalization that is extremely destructive.
Meanwhile, his competitors do not offer a compelling vision for a sustainable future. As I have covered in Moral Responsibility and the Banality of Evil, liberal centrism, an amorphous mass of ideologies enslaved by markets, profits and neoliberal capitalism, is useful only to delay the descent to bare fascism — a preferred outcome to socialism for the materially privileged.
A New Global Vision
Time is running out to address climate breakdown and nuclear disaster. Programs that empower people, such as Medicare for All, raising the minimum wage, workplace democracy, corporate accountability, bank regulations and stronger unions have all been part of Bernie Sanders’ fight for a long time. Under current dire circumstances and the failure of the neoliberal doctrine, it is a prescient and necessary fight.
While it is true that electing the head of state is but a piece of a larger struggle, Sanders’ movement only empowers the other components related to organized citizen action at the local, state and federal levels. And given the little amount of sand that remains in the hourglass, it’s Bernie or dust.
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