Q: Prabhat Patnaik in his column in the Peoples’ Democracy (Vol. XLI No. 19) wrote: “As Trumpism, and the ultra-Right in general, comes a cropper, since it does not face the basic issue of the hegemony of finance, and as the Left acquires greater clarity on the need for delinking from globalisation in the event of the hegemony of finance continuing to persist, the bankruptcy of the “liberal bourgeois” position will drive more and more working people into supporting the Left. This is already happening, with the rise of figures like Corbyn, Sanders and Melenchon; it will gather momentum if the Left sheds its residual ambivalence on globalisation”. Is it possible in today’s context to ‘delink from globalisation’ ? What does it mean by shedding ‘residual ambivalence on globalisation’ ? I feel that fighting globalisation and organising resistance to it is different from ‘delinking’ from globalisation.
Tulasi Das, Vijayawada
Let us consider any aspect of neo-liberal policy, say privatisation of education. If we are to oppose privatisation of education then we must provide for larger State expenditure on education. This would require either larger tax revenue, or a larger fiscal deficit, or a switch of State expenditure to education from other uses. If larger tax-revenue or expenditure-switch is not to hurt the poor, which the Left obviously would oppose, then resources must come from the rich, or through a fiscal deficit. But taxing the rich, or increasing the fiscal deficit, would immediately attract attention and opprobrium in international financial circles. The credit-rating agencies would downgrade the country’s rating, which would cause difficulties in managing the balance of payments, and create expectations of a rupee depreciation. Because of this, within the regime of globalisation, there would be an outflow of finance, further compounding the problem, and so on. The only way therefore that any progressive agenda can be introduced at all is if the country is willing to impose controls on capital flows, especially financial flows, and on trade flows too (for managing the balance of payments). The imposition of such controls is what is meant by “delinking” from globalisation. The introduction of any progressive agenda is possible only if the country is willing to delink itself from globalisation, the exact degree of delinking in any situation depending on the circumstances.
If the country is unwilling to delink itself from globalisation, then all talk of pursuing a progressive agenda is just talk. Similarly all talk of “fighting globalisation” or “organising resistance to it” will remain mere words in the absence of a willingness to delink from globalisation. As the case of Syriza, which came to power on the promise of fighting the dominance of finance capital over the Greek economy, shows, its unwillingness to delink from globalisation (which in the context of Greece would have entailed delinking from the Eurozone) meant a betrayal of that promise. Greece being a small country, whether Syriza was in a position to do this can be debated (small countries may have to get together to fight the hegemony of finance); but the basic point is that there is no fighting globalisation, unless this fight is backed by a willingness to delink from globalisation. Such delinking in today’s world, for large countries like India (which have a large and diversified production structure), is not only possible but necessary, if the baneful consequences of globalisation on the lives of the working people are to be successfully reversed.
Put differently, the hegemony of globalised capital can be fought in one of two possible ways: through country-based struggles of workers and peasants, or through a co-ordinated globalised struggle against it. The latter is not a possibility at present since there is no co-ordinated international workers’ struggle, let alone a co-ordinated international peasants’ struggle. The only struggle we have is at the national level, but if this struggle is to be meaningful then a willingness to delink from globalisation is essential.
Many on the Left do not see this. This is precisely what can be called an ambivalence within the Left towards delinking from globalization. The political advance of the Left in today’s world, when the working people everywhere are turning against globalisation, depends on shedding this ambivalence, and placing before them a progressive agenda, as opposed to what the fascist or proto-fascist forces, who blame not the hegemony of finance but “the other”, eg the Chinese, the Mexicans, or the Muslims, for the working people’s misery, are doing.