The Global Economy

The Good Fight Against Capitalism

In a war situation, it is necessary to be on either one side or the other. Today, however, for a large number of Europeans, such a choice is impossible. This is because we feel involved not in one fight but two, each very different from the other. The first is the anti-terrorist struggle. It calls for a response as violent as the terrorist attack itself. The Sept. 11 attack cannot be condemned without supporting the U.S. action in Afghanistan. Those who condemn this intervention while rejecting terrorism are hypocrites, because the present adversary is the enemy of all our convictions.

The second problem is of a very different kind. After the collapse of the Soviet system, an extreme form of capitalism, entailing the complete destruction of every form of political or social control of the economy, has prevailed throughout the world. This has resulted in a victory for a financial economy, largely independent of the economy of production and consumption, and in the destruction of the main political institutions—parliaments, trade unions, social laws, and even intellectual debates.

On the world scale, there is a growing gulf between unfettered globalization and the inaction or incomprehension of governments and nations. It is as necessary to adopt a clear position on this situation as it is to adopt a clear stance on the terrorist attacks, to condemn this process known as globalization, which subordinates most of the world to the financial—rather than economic—rationale of global networks. And since the power [of these networks] is largely mingled with U.S. hegemonic might, it is necessary to take sides against this destruction of social demands and political forces, to rebuild political control of the economy. There is nothing utopian about this. It is consistent with what we are taught by economists, who have always stressed, as [Nobel Prize-winning economist] Robert Solow does, that the more advanced an economy is, the more important the noneconomic factors of economic growth are.

Education is the most important factor in growth, and the proper functioning of the states is a crucial factor in economic success. It is this re-politicization that the movements opposed to globalization are demanding. There must be a radical critique of the order—or the disorder—that has reigned from the collapse of the Berlin Wall through the destruction of the twin towers, and its aim must be to end the triumph of financial power, just as an end was put to Soviet power.

So there is a complete contrast between the response to be issued to terrorism and the action that must be waged against the extreme capitalism of the past decade. This assertion will prompt the following objection: Are the two issues not, on the contrary, closely interconnected? Is it not growing inequality and poverty that spark revolts and ultimately attacks? This objection, however, is easily refuted: Combating terrorism is synonymous not with destroying Afghanistan but with eliminating the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, which are motivated not by poverty but by extreme religious fundamentalism, and Bin Laden belongs, more than you or me, to the capitalist networks that he seeks to destroy for religious and political, but not economic, reasons. Economic injustice is one thing, but religious fanaticism is another.

But if we accept the separation of the two issues, are we not confining ourselves to a paralyzing contrast between the two objectives to be achieved? No, because the destruction of terrorism must be rapid, whereas the overthrow of the world economic system can be achieved only by large-scale and long-term social and political movements. The real difficulty is to recognize the separation of the two problems and the contrast between the solutions to be applied to them.

If we are unable to distinguish between them, we can only exhaust ourselves in opposition to the U.S. intervention, even though the latter is attacking a religious and political force that conflicts with all our beliefs. If Europe were to allow itself to lapse into duplicity and confusion, it would lose what little decision-making capability it still has. In the future, we must pursue the main objective of a struggle against unfettered capitalism. But for now, we must destroy the reference point of the authors of the attacks.

What brings the two struggles together is the fact that they must be waged on a global scale, because this is where the most serious problems arise. Our political life must rise to this level. Nevertheless, it must be noted that, despite a few vague statements, this struggle against global capitalism is very far from being accepted as a necessity.

For at least the past 10 years, we have seen inequalities increase and social gains recede. Now all countries are seeking a blueprint for the Left, but hitherto the only proposition has been a “third way” virtually without substance. Obviously the necessary blueprint will be one that can bring the economy back under the control of the states—whose death has been prematurely announced by the champions of global capitalism, themselves driven by movements demanding greater justice and fewer inequalities.

Let us not confuse the two problems that we need to resolve, and let us not allow ourselves to be diverted away from the main task that must occupy us, both now and in the future, by hypocritical opposition to the necessary destruction of the authors of attacks, starting now.