Giving priority to people and promoting solidarity in global change

Meeting of the Socialist International Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, Kingston, Jamaica, 1-2 September 2000

Original: Spanish

Closely linked to the theme of independence is the problem of globalisation that, beyond the wishes of nations, has been imposed in today’s world and considered in different ways by the right as well as the left. Reality must be accepted, but at the same time preventive formulas must be found.

The Socialist International Committee on Economic Policy, Development and Environment working paper of late April 1996, affirms that "globalisation is the most important trend in the world economy", but that it is necessary to avoid the ultra-liberal way, with no rules or social or environmental concerns, which will globalise poverty in the developing and developed countries and will standardise social rights downwards producing negative effects to the environment, and spreading social exclusion. It also says that the international institutions must be fundamentally reformed, both those established by the Bretton Woods Treaty and those rules and instructions of the World Trade Organisation (former GATT) in order to permit a fairer trading system. Likewise, it acknowledges that it is very important to improve the standard of living not only for political reasons but also for economic and social concerns, the issues of which require a focused cooperation, "since globalisation has greatly reduced the effectiveness of economic policy". It also claims a "new system of collective responsibility" to fight against "recycled and obsolete economic beliefs" so that the "multinational corporations and anonymous bureaucrats of influential international organisations - free of the burden of any democratic responsibility - stop making decisions that directly affect the life and welfare of millions of people in the whole world."

The Socialist International Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean (SICLAC) agrees with these concepts in the document and also wishes to emphasise the need for promoting solidarity within global change, as supported at the Oslo Council meeting.

The globalising forces in the Latin American and Caribbean region have obviously limited to the utmost national decision making capacity and increased inequalities within a context of enormous market deregulation and speculative financial mobility, which has led to a removal of social programmes and to increased exclusion.

Foreign debt has undoubtedly increased and the international credit organisations continue to issue loans conditional upon regressive changes in social and economic policies.

Global underdevelopment leads to the loss of social peace in many countries, unless measures to improve trading conditions, or reducing debt, or transferring knowledge are taken. If this does not occur, financial and industrial companies will concentrate an incredible decision making power over the future of millions of people.

It is essential to point out the immoral contradiction existing between the globalisation process and the explosive nature of the social problems that are generated in the regions, which can turn into serious processes of illegitimacy, because it tries to govern the same essential missions as the state, such as education, health and even the working of institutions.

Meanwhile, the more developed countries speak of opening up the economies, but when it is in their interest they attack the same market mechanisms they proclaim, and a new protectionism, increasingly aggressive restrictions to knowledge transfer and bilateralism, used to exclude competitors, appears.

Usually, democracy could impose itself on the excesses of wild capitalism: it fought monopoly and tried to prevent the exploitation of workers. Nowadays, many of the Latin American and Caribbean governments are inhibited by the excesses of globalisation: financial capital evades state regulation, a tendency towards oligopoly increases, social law is avoided and systems of labour relations take an extraordinarily backward step; unemployment grows enormously, the ethics of solidarity disappear, while marginality increases.

Even the OECD Development Centre affirms that financial globalisation is the main cause of "the weakening of national economic policies with respect to other governments, but especially against the global market... This phenomenon has weakened the central banks’ capacity to administer exchange rates, as well as the possibility of them putting into effect governments' monetary independence and tax policy. The states see the base of income tax imposition erode whereas the tax systems are increasingly relying on work and consumption."

With respect to foreign investments in the globalised world, those needed to make the economies grow and unemployment decline, try to set themselves up where salaries and taxes are lower, an intention in the end suffered by the same central countries.

Anyhow, it is clear that the real power is no longer in the companies, but in the financial markets. Not even in political authority, which is being more and more controlled by speculative capital.

Globalisation is really changing the age. Little by little or suddenly, the market or consumerist principles begin to act in the peoples’ minds and hearts. All of a sudden it becomes a cultural struggle.

Imperialism stopped depending on national decisions, being based mainly on financial entrepreneurial decisions, which determine their own transnational policies. In the same way that globalisation further defines and subordinates nation states, including the strongest ones, imperialism is recreated on new bases and with different forms. Transnational enterprises, which transformed themselves into powerful world structures, imposed themselves onto states.

In every country, in every society, no matter what the development indicators are, the specific situations that are most worrying, the immediate challenges that arise, this turn-of-the-century antagonism appears to recur in two somehow opposed, but really similar perspectives: to adapt rapidly to conditions demanded by market globalisation and leave behind national scales, or go back to primitive communities, ethnic, regional or religious identities to defend what is being threatened.

It concerns one of the most dangerous traps that leaves behind the cyclical crisis of a welfare state and the neoconservative response to such a crisis. Those who sing the praises of the market gods, and those who do it to an irredentist country, to the providential leader or to feudal paternalism are singing from the same age-old hymn sheet, are feeding each other and are hindering those actual opportunities of great innovative and reformist coalitions trying to make progress on integration and foresee serious and uncontrollable conflicts today.

Something of this phenomenon is at present impregnating the political culture of governance in hard times for Latin America, combined in a same speech and - what is worse - in a same exercise of power, authoritarian forms of market; a decline in political relations and in an update of production and consumption; a personal "decisionism" to manage institutions and to dismantle any instrument of public intervention in the social field.

Globalisation could be an unstoppable process to transform capitalism, diversification and multipolarisation of production systems, to speed up changes produced by the scientific-technological revolution and by the power of communications. But, far from it, it has become a self-regulated world system, supported by a virtual financial circuit of thousands of million of computerised dollars and governed from a handful of offices. Hence, each country’s politics is reduced to disorderly ashes and weeds, when it goes beyond the supervised administration of fiscal accounts.

People have come to the problems of living today, to a globalisation that is seen either as a threat or as an implacable monolithic structure of power, because they have adopted this latest outlook, with resignation or enthusiasm.

The economic problem becomes relevant when identity is defended. The United States and West European peoples are well aware of how the continuity of their democratic systems has become more and more consolidated thanks to development and prosperity.

Inversely, Latin America and the Caribbean have long known that democracy has serious difficulties in surviving in societies affected by crises, underdevelopment and marginalisation.

With the advent of globalisation and the dominance of the market economy, it is necessary and urgent to recognise the particular problems faced by smaller countries, if they are to benefit from the opportunities presented by the growth in the global economy. These particular problems include, among others, and also from unforeseen consequences of the world economic system, vulnerability to crime, now organised globally, involving the trafficking of illegal weapons and drugs, which is a threat to democracy, social stability and community relations; and vulnerability to natural disasters, which destroys critical infrastructure, social as well as economic.

It is not easy to preserve democratic values, when vast sectors do not make up the market, when human beings are stripped of their dignity by misery, when there is no sense of freedom, because there are no options, when ignorance makes it hard to appreciate the true value of respecting disagreement.

When the advanced democracies, encouraging countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to consolidate their institutions, are the same ones that commercially discriminate against them, this becomes a bitter paradox.

Commercially marginalised, they will also remain separated from the financial flows essential to generate resources that are channelled towards investment, the promotion of development and the solution to the foreign debt problem.

SICLAC reaffirms that in the same way that protection of the weakest inside nation states is achieved through the full application of the rule of law, in terms of international relations, the effective protection of the least powerful countries is achieved through the absolute application of international law.

To work to establish an international order based mainly on law, more than on the balance of powers, it becomes necessary to boost and extend multilateralism, both politically and economically. In every forum a co-operative coexistence of free and equal nations must be striven for.

SICLAC upholds the need for regional integration. Integration through economic blocs means wider markets that will, even with their difficulties, help to overcome the deep structural crisis the Latin American and Caribbean economies are going through, by promoting real investment flows and production on a greater scale.

The state’s crisis demands changes and modifications in the role of the state itself in order to achieve its essential purposes. This is a time of broad regional spaces, where economic development depends not so much on a particular country but on regional integration, which at the same time helps to avoid the negative effects of financial speculation boosted by globalisation.

One of these purposes must be the commitment of each state to promote and maintain the practice of good governance within their own countries, as well as effective economic management.

It is necessary to create within the respective regions, a system that makes their integration easier, on the basis of essential general democratisation: a compatible exchange rate, a free trade exchange, shared regulations and a common will to set the rules of the game in accordance with their own interests, without hegemonic aspirations or false competition, strengthening the establishment of solid political bases of integration.

Another difficulty raises the subject of foreign debt, which by not being solved will make it much harder to develop economic policies with clearer game rules. The Socialist International Council held in Brussels decided to conduct a campaign for the annulation of foreign debt for the poorest countries. SICLAC declares that in the case of intermediately developed countries, it is necessary to find methodologies that are consistent with their development.

It is true that communism is a programme that has no future, but any programme based on selfishness and injustice is also a programme with no future and will inevitably lead to a moral crisis generating different processes of social dissolution.

SICLAC considers it a priority to achieve, in all sectors, the creation of productive and stable employment, and considers it the state’s undelegated obligation to guarantee social security benefits.

Finally, SICLAC reiterates that there can be another version of globalisation, which it is going to work for. If the idea of solidarity is incorporated, what is still unobserved, can mean an increase in efficiency as well as in production and, if effort were fundamentally ethical, even in justice, rejecting the ideas and logic of marginalisation, inequalities, social exclusion and non-sustainable development.

In order to achieve this, SICLAC observes that it is not afraid of being against the prevailing political current, insofar as it neither compromises its own convictions nor forgets its principles: the only fish that always swims with the tide, is the dead fish.

SICLAC reiterates that serious problems of economic shortage are being faced. It is aware that economic stability is essential. But the real challenge is to grow with fairness.