Comment on this article |
Email this article |
Manifesto 2007: Tearing Down the Seven Pillars of Neoliberalism
by Attac France
Email: mbatko (nospam) lycos.com
26 May 2007
In June 2007, the governments of the seven most important industrial countries and Russia will meet at a G8 summit in Heiligendamm. Neoliberal globalization and deregulation orient econmic policy in the profit interests of international financiers and corporations.
TEARING DOWN THE SEVEN PILLARS OF NEOLIBERALISM
By Attac France
[Attac France published “Manifesto 2007” after two years of intense internal debates. Short-term and medium-term alternative measures to neoliberalism are developed. Attac France encourages public debate and meddles in the election campaign. “Our method is diametrically opposed to the neoliberalism and the “sterile all or nothing.” Sand is thrown in the gears of the finance capitalist machine so it finally gets stuck. The following introduction of the Manifesto is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.attac.de/aktuell/rundbriefe/sig/SiG58.pdf.]
With the beginning of the 1980s, we entered a new era of capitalism, the era of neoliberalism. This project systematically destroys all political, social and ecological restrictions for the activity of capital. Its methods are universally known: transformation of all relations into commodity relations, freedom of action for businesses and investors and expansion of the hunting area for transnational corporations over the whole planet.
The goals of neoliberalism are unmistakable. More weight should be given to owners of capital who already have very unequal relative strength in relation to wage earners. Neoliberalism produces great inequalities and lives from them: inequalities between social classes, between countries and also between men and women. Lower wages are reserved for women. Women play the role of “social shock absorbers” when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the World Bank forces indebted countries to destroy their public services – educational system, health system, child care, canteens and so forth. Beyond their daily work, they are now forced to assume tasks that the community no longer funds. Finally, neoliberalism promotes individual conduct that reflects the conventional image of masculinity – the race for power and money, competition and aggressiveness to the disadvantage of values like solidarity and cooperation.
Neoliberalism is enforced through intensified discipline imposed on workers, pressure on their purchasing power, the shattering of social security systems and – as a logical consequence – the shameless allocation of extremely high incomes to the wealthiest managers, shareholder5s and creditors.
In the production area, a new hierarchy arose between big businesses and smaller and medium supplier enterprises. The stepladder of different clients has watered down the social and ecological responsibility of large societies. The international expansion of the spheres of action of these societies began before the genesis of neoliberalism but gives it new power. French multinationals like Carrefour, Suez, Vivendi, Veolia, EDF and Telecom France are among the most aggressive corporations.
In the area of agriculture, an unbridled productivism and introduction of genetically-modified species ruin rural agriculture, destroy the environment and damage the diversity of species.
The new social world order is inseparably connected with the hardening of the hierarchy of power between the richest states with the United States at the top and the poor often heavily indebted countries. The United States sucks in the savings of other countries and invests them where considerable profits are expected. Europe also strives for this privileged predator status without achieving the same efficiency. So-called “threshold countries” like China and India enter this circle of the new world economy by selling the output of their workers at cut-rate prices and intensifying the competition with wage earners of the “first world.” Extorted with the threat of job loss, these workers stand with their backs to the wall to maintain the social achievements gained in hard battles over the course of the past decades. The policy of the European Union hardly protects against this downward spiral. Rather it contributes to accelerating the downward suction within the union and in the rest of the world.
The indebtedness of many states that belong to the “third world” (as the states of “command socialism” constituted the second world) has become an unbearable burden on account of the enormous rise of interest rates imposed by the United States from 1979. Although paid back several times, these debts are used by the IMF and the World Bank as a lever to force these countries under the yoke of the neoliberal order.
We have identified seven main pillars, pillars of neoliberalism, not pillars of wisdom. These seven pillars must be torn down to build a solidarian, ecological and democratic world.
FREE TRADE AND THE FREE CIRCULATION OF CAPITAL
Free trade is the opening of all trade barriers through the gradual cancellation of tariffs, non-trade tariff barriers and quantitative limitations on the exchange of goods and services irrespective of any social, ecological and human rights considerations. Thus the dogma of unbridled free trade – and this is its openly admitted goal – destroys the state’s ability to carry out independent economic policy corresponding to the expectations of its citizens. Many bilateral agreements on the initiative of the United States joined by the European Union (EU) enforce these new rules. The World Trade Organization (WTO) helps these new rules gain universal authority.
The free circulation of capital represents the total freedom for investors to invest their capital wherever they want without the least obligations of the affected country. In addition, some of these countries are tax havens.
All this fits together. Production occurs where labor is cheapest, labor law is least applied, environmental care and tax regulations are the most lax and where order prevails. The complete mobility of capital sets wage earners and the social systems of the countries of the capitalist center in direct competition with workers of the periphery for the benefit of the greatest profits of finance capital.
Free circulation of capital and unbridled free trade are the two inseparable sides of the process of total commercialization that touches all human activity and is more and more outside democratic control.
The dismantling of popular sovereignty – occurring in the national and supra-national frameworks – did not fall from the sky. It is the result of decisions of theoretically sovereign governments that were made sometimes voluntarily and sometimes under pressure. The structural adjustment programs (SAPs) forced on the countries of the South (above all in Africa and Latin America) during the 1990s to ensure repayment of their arbitrarily fixed and unjustified debts are a blatant attempt to create a new colonial dependence. Devaluation of the franc CPA (currency for Francophonic Africa) around 50% of its 1994 value forced on the countries of the franc-zone by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank together with the French government was such an attempt.
The European Union provides a typical example for this connection of the conscious abdication of governments and the conscious application of the dogmas of neoliberalism by these governments. The governments met at the sessions of the ministerial councils and European summit meetings that set the frameworks for European development out of “free and unadulterated competition.” The same governments justified these decisions before the people as European “practical necessities” that they created themselves.
Given this situation, people must be able to exercise their sovereignty by really deciding what kind of society they want, what policy they want to see realized and what institutions they would build.
NATURE AS INEXHAUSTIBLE RESERVOIR AND WASTE DISPOSAL
Through the primacy of the economy, neoliberals pushed the deregulations to a point never reached before. Nature is first of all a storehouse that can be endlessly exploited and simultaneously a gigantic public sink. Thus nature is a reservoir and waste disposal. In both cases, the poorest countries pay the high price for this relation to the environment. On one hand, there is appropriation of natural resources and diversity of species by multinationals of the North and threshold countries and on the other hand “reception” of dangerous and environmentally harmful wastes and very intense encumbrance by climate change.
Even if the danger of irreversibility of certain phenomena like global warming caused by greenhouse gases is a consensus of the scholarly world community, it is null and void for President George Bush, official spokesperson of the oil lobby. Many other governments also deliberately ignore this danger. The inevitable exhaustion of sources of energy and mineral resources is only grasped with the vocabulary of the market.
This understanding of nature corresponds to the process of “commodifying” and private appropriation of life and must be irrevocably rejected. A radical new model of development based on acknowledgment of global public goods and community goods (above all water) must be urgently promoted over the whole planet. The responsibilities must be justly divided up between the North and the South. The North has a considerable ecological responsibility compared to the South. This may never be forgotten.
THE UNDERDEVELOPMENT OF DEMOCRACY
Neoliberals have always claimed political freedom cannot be separated from economic freedom. In expanding with countries of the former socialist block, the European Union cites this logic to force them to privatize public enterprises and sell them dirt cheap to foreign interests and mafia groups. The examples of Chile under Pinochet and modern-day China show that economic liberalization does not automatically create the conditions for democracy and that ultra-liberalism or even dictatorship and the authoritarian state may be very compatible. Concerning its “cooperation,” France supports dictatorships in Congo-Brazzaville on account of crude oil (produced by Total), in Chad for the same reason, in Togo (phosphate monopoly) and so forth.
If investors have a weakness for “strong” regimes, they can also make friends with representative democracy whose limitations favor the genesis of an elite aristocracy. The thousands of well-established lobby organizations with massive funds in Washington, Brussels and other large capitols are intent on hindering legislation running counter to the interests of big businesses. In this connection, it is very characteristic that the genetically-modified organisms (GMO) are approved by the European Commission and governments although massively rejected by public opinion in Europe.
The media system that advances neoliberal globalization and spreads its ideology plays a central role in restricting democratic practice. It sets the limits of possible political decisions. Only decisions between equals occur. Everything outside the sphere of reason established by the media is demonized as an unbearable phenomenon of “anarchronism,” “group egoism” and “populism.” This last term given a negative meaning is used systematically to bring the policy of re-nationalizing national resources and the redistribution of wealth in favor of the poorer population into disrepute, as in countries like Bolivia and Venezuela.
Casting off this heavy mantel and liberating democracy from its underdevelopment are the indispensable conditions for building another world. To attain this, new forms of participation of the population must be introduced that supplement the classical forms of representative democracy. The educational system must encourage active citizens. Measures ensuring the right to information and the right to be informed must be enacted.
STATE POLICY HELPING OWNERS OF CAPITAL
Neoliberal policy has systematically dismantled state regulations on all planes – locally, nationally, regionally within the European Union and internationally – in favor of the slogan “the market first of all.”
State policy has not disappeared but has assumed other forms. State policy now tries to enlarge the “attractiveness” of regions by enabling businesses located there to realize maximum profit rates. Currency stability and higher real interest rates (given the weak inflation level) are favored to expand the circulation of goods, services and capital which inevitably goes along with a deregulation of the social realm and the nearly complete absence of regulations to protect the environment.
In the scope of this policy, the effort to end unemployment has declined and even disappeared entirely. Social security is no longer seen as a civilization goal but as a heavy burden, according to statements of Medef (French business association) that paralyzes those who dare to take risks: the businesses, their shareholders and rich taxpayers.
State policy has an international dimension. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank founded after the Second World War to give a stable framework for the world economy have been effective police of neoliberalism wherever they intervene. They help destroy the public services and social security systems and protect the interests of international creditors. For example, the IMF has a massive responsibility for the disastrous crises of the 1990s in South Korea and Argentina. However ignoring the responsibility of the state would be dishonest. The IMF is a multilateral organization. If it mainly receives its instructions from the Treasury Department of the United States, its policy is also supported by other governments, including France, its most important European partner. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that includes the richest 30 countries of the world provides governments with studies and guiding principles for neoliberal policy. The IMF is a machine for ideological warfare financed by the governmental side. For example, France paid its contribution of 20 million euro in 2006.
When citizens regain the capacity to intervene, people-friendly regulations will be introduced, existing regulations will be improved and democratized and the privatized services will be transformed into public services.
EVERYTHING FOR THE SHAREHOLDERS OF THE CORPORATIONS
In the corporations, the great upheaval of the 1980s brought a reorientation of business goals. This reorientation only helps the shareholders and leads to a redistribution of the produced wealth between wages and profits to the great disfavor of wage earners. Through payment of astronomical salaries to managers, harmonizing their interests with those of the shareholders was the primary goal.
This practice put in question past procedures of management in the post-war era that were based on a more balanced relation between employees, state authority and owners of capital. At that time profits remained largely in the enterprises and were invested in production facilities. Jobs arose even if they were partly menial positions. In contrast, the profits are apportioned today to the well-to-do classes. This happy fate for shareholders hardly benefits investments that stagnate in Europe. In nearly all cases, the financial transactions are not connected with financing investments as the money market has little to do with the necessities of international trade.
In this neoliberal praxis, all power is surrendered to the shareholders with contempt for other actors like wage earners. Wage earners may not join in decisions that directly concern them like dismissals and outsourcing. The democracy deficit is striking in the corporations. This state of emergency must end.
PERMANENT WAR AND SECURITY POLICY
The “predator economy” of the big powers continues in the “permanent war” over control of natural resources, above all over the energy supply controlled by a few developing countries and needed by the rich countries. This recourse to war is an expression of a general will to domination. The most powerful states subsumed under Washington’s leadership in NATO and its war- and police machine are the military arm of the interests of transnational corporations and the social classes that control them, not of an “invisible hand.”
To defend their interests, the government of the United States and its regional allies (above all Israel, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan) support backward-oriented or reactionary regimes and thus encourage the rise of religious fundamentalism. In that, they contribute to the development of a terrorism that the United States previously backed.
Intervening in all possible places of the planet with all forms of violence, corruption, subversion and war is not an invention of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism reinforces this intervention. The central role of the United States in this situation of dramatic confrontation and in the intensification of militarism in general is certainly overwhelming. This dominant position may not conceal the role of other developed countries, especially France.
The rise of fundamentalism and fanaticism provoked by neoliberal globalization is used to justify the tightening of security policy in the rich countries. Neoliberalism itself causes the dangers that it supposedly fights through militarization. Iraq is a blatant example in this regard.
Neoliberals have perfectly understood that ideas rule the world. Their ideological restoration began in the 1950s and was dominant in the 1980s. This ideological restoration continues through permanent propagandistic efforts to implant the idea that globalization is inevitable and desirable (since things are as they are) and that there are no alternatives to adapting to it and waiting for its good deeds to spill one day so everyone can then enjoy them. This will take a while, we are told, and cannot be completely realized.
This intentionally resigned and fatalistic discourse is controlled by the big media, by “elites” from administration, politics, the economy and sometimes even the unions. Its “scholarly” foundations are found in the studies of the majority of economists with certain “Nobel Prize winners” at the top.
The breakdown of “command socialism” aggravates the base democratic construction of political counter-models. Speakers and writers of neoliberalism immediately equate these counter-models with “totalitarianism” or “populism.” Opinions differ here. This presents the essential challenge facing the global justice movement for another world.
The institutions of neoliberal ideas rampant for more than a quarter of a century contradict the reality experienced by the great majority of citizens everywhere in the world.
Neoliberals obsessed by crazy ideas of a market spanning the earth as smooth as a billiard ball without any irregularity see a hindrance for the boundless circulation of goods and services, above all audio-visual services, in the languages and cultures, religious faith perspectives and political-ideological convictions, in elements that separate and divide. Their ideal is a consumer who enjoys himself in a Disneyland existing in the same way everywhere on earth.
Like every rule system, neoliberalism must legitimate itself on the cultural plane.
Therefore the United States zealously promotes its film- and entertainment industry which has the threefold effect: contributing positively in its trade balance, presenting an idealized notion of the American way of life and finally (on account of the over-satiation of the film market) marginalizing the cultural creations of other countries who impart their own specific fantasy world. In the bilateral trade agreements negotiated with its partners, the US regularly prohibits public film promotion by canceling quotas for the distribution of national works and even refuses to sign the convention protecting and promoting the diversity of cultural forms. This convention was passed almost unanimously by UNESCO in October 2005.
This policy also has its lingual side. The Anglo-American language of globalization is enforced as the only international instrument of communication. In France, the obligatory use of this language was already an issue in a court case against business forces mad about “everything in English.” This lingual obligation has been contested by unions referring to the right to work in their own language. Nevertheless English is recommended most warmly by the “elites,” some administrators, educators (see the 2004 Thelot report recommending obligatory English instruction) and with special doggedness by the European commission. This language policy is tied to the diffusion of the “business spirit” in the educational system (cf. Lisbon strategy).
Rejection of this policy rightly called culture- and language-imperialism is one of the essential elements of the struggle against neoliberalism. The diversity of cultures (as far as they do not contradict human rights) and lingual diversity should be promoted, above all through cooperation between the large speech areas: Arab-speaking, French-speaking, Spanish-speaking, Portuguese-speaking and so forth. A multi-polar world cannot be monolingual. To this end, the concerned countries that share the French language must promote a Francophony of people, a solidarian Francophony liberated from the chains of neocolonialism.
The delusion of a disinfected world, a “magic realm” a la Disneyland, provokes ethnic reactions that could degenerate to a fundamentalist nationalism or a religious fundamentalism. Both could be perfectly compatible with neoliberal policy. In view of worldwide free trade, rearguard action and regressions involved with free trade, the global justice movement for another world proposes a new internationalism based on respect of languages and cultures of the different partners.