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Le Monde diplomatique -The year 2000



<A central phenomenon is the way in which every country is caught up in
the dynamic of globalisation. A second capitalist revolution is underway.
But many are determined to oppose it.>



Le Monde diplomatique
<http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/en/

December 1999

The year 2000
_________________________________________________________________

As we approach the threshold of the year 2000 - a mythical date that has
long served as a synonym for the future that is about to become our
present - we inevitably pause to take stock of the state of the our world.
A central phenomenon is the way in which every country is caught up in the
dynamic of globalisation. A second capitalist revolution is underway. But
many are determined to oppose it.

by IGNACIO RAMONET
_________________________________________________________________

As we approach the threshold of the year 2000 - a mythical date that has
long served as a synonym for the future that is about to become our
present - we inevitably pause to take stock of the state of the our world.

The central phenomenon is the way in which every country is caught up in
the dynamic of globalisation. A second capitalist revolution is under way.
Globalisation is reaching into every corner of our planet, and shows as
little concern for the diversity of political regimes as it does for the
independence of peoples.

The world is experiencing a new age of conquest, reminiscent of the days
of colonialism. But whereas the protagonists of previous phases of
conquest and expansion were national states, this time the drive for
global domination is coming from big companies and conglomerates, major
industrial groupings and the private finance sector. Never before have the
world's masters been so few in number and so powerful. These groupings
have their bases within the "triad" of the United States, Europe and Japan
- but half of them are based in the US. What we are seeing is
fundamentally an American phenomenon.

This concentration of capital and power has intensified in the course of
the past 20 years, driven by the revolution in information technology. A
further leap is about to be taken, powered by the new developments in
genetic engineering. The privatisation of the human genome and a general
patenting of life forms are opening new prospects for capitalist
expansion. A major privatisation of all things related to life and nature
is in the offing, opening the way for a power perhaps more absolute than
anything the world has known.

Globalisation aims to conquer markets rather than nation states. The
interests of this modern power lie not in the conquest of territory - as
in the days of invasions and colonialism - but in the appropriation of
wealth.

This conquest goes hand in hand with considerable destruction. Whole
industries have been wiped out in every region of the world. The result
has been social suffering: mass unemployment, underemployment, precarious
employment and exclusion. Fifty million unemployed in Europe, one billion
unemployed and underemployed in the world as a whole. We have the
over-exploitation of men, women and - even more scandalously - children,
300 million of them, in conditions of unprecedented brutality.

Globalisation also means the plundering of our planet. Large corporations
are ravaging the environment on a massive scale; they are exploiting the
wealth of nature which is the common property of humanity; and they are
doing so with neither scruple nor restraint. This goes hand in hand with
criminalisation in the world of banking and finance, involving the
recycling of sums in excess of $1,000bn a year - more than the annual
gross national profit of one third of humanity.

By turning words and things, minds and bodies, nature and culture into
commodities, we are further aggravating the world's inequalities. Although
global production of basic foodstuffs currently stands at 110% of world
needs, 30 million people still die of hunger every year, and more than 800
million are under-nourished. In 1960 the richest 20% of the world's
population had an income 30 times higher than that of the poorest 20%.
Today the wealth of that 20% is 82 times higher. Of the 6 billion
inhabitants of this planet, barely 500 million live in comfort - leaving
5.5 billion living in need.

State structures and traditional social structures are in the process of
being swept away, with disastrous results. Almost everywhere in the
countries of the South, the state is collapsing. Outlaw zones are
developing, chaotic ungovernable entities, outside any rule of law,
descending into a state of barbarism in which gangs of plunderers are
holding populations to ransom. New kinds of dangers are already with us:
organised crime, mafia networks, financial speculation, large-scale
corruption, a spread of new pandemics (Aids, Ebola virus, Creuzfeld-Jacob
disease etc), pollution at new levels of intensity, religious and ethnic
fanaticism, the greenhouse effect, desertification, nuclear proliferation
etc.

At a time which is supposed to be the triumph of freedom and democracy in
aworld largely rid of authoritarian regimes, censorship and media
manipulation are making a paradoxical comeback, more powerful than before
and taking many forms. Seductive new "opiums of the masses" offer false
dreams of better worlds, distracting people's attention from the real
issues and attempting to direct them away from civic and political action.
In this new age of alienation, within this framework of "world culture"
and the globalisation of the message, communications technologies are more
than ever playing a central ideological role.

The result of the speed and abruptness of these changes is to destabilise
the world's political leaders. For the most part they feel that they are
being overtaken by a globalisation that is changing the rules of the game
and leaving them partially powerless, because the world's real masters are
no longer the politicians who hold the formal reins of power.

This is why ordinary people have been mobilising and building coalitions
against the new ruling powers - as we saw in November with the
demonstration against the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle. In
their view, the aim of globalisation at the start of this new millennium
is the destruction of the collective good. They see the public and the
social being appropriated by the private and the market. They reject that
process and they are rallying their forces against it.

Translated by Ed Emery




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