16 February 2006
Daily Times (Pakistan) Socialism or global division?—George A Papandreou
view: Socialism or global division?—George A Papandreou
We must rethink the nature of employment in an increasingly automated, borderless, and mobile global economy. As capital is globalised, so basic labour standards should be global. Forced labour, child labour, and discrimination in the workplace must be eliminated
For the first time in history, we have the knowledge, the technology, and the wealth to design a different world. We have the resources to “make poverty history”.
But, though we have the power to change the world, we are not taking the steps needed to do so. In 2000, the world’s governments adopted the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which aim to halve global poverty by 2015. Yet the international community has lacked the political will needed to meet these basic responsibilities to humanity, causing people to lose faith in politics. Unless we take action, our citizens will lose hope in the power of democracy — or find hope in extremism, fundamentalism, and violence.
To restore people’s trust not only in politics, but also in their own potential, our policies must guarantee responsible governance and institutions that work for and with responsible citizens. As the largest political organisation in the world, the Socialist International can unite the world’s citizens around a new global agenda to achieve these goals.
Our first challenge is to democratise globalisation. We must reconfigure globalisation from the bottom-up, bringing in the two-thirds of the human race that is currently excluded from the process, on terms that reflect the socialist principles of inclusion, cultural diversity, and sustainable development.
How can citizens have a democratic say in world economic development when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank work on the principle of “one dollar, one vote”? There can be no real democracy when we have a massive concentration of capital and power in the hands of the few; when multinational corporations challenge the power of democratically elected representatives; when organised criminals can buy off police officers, judges, and politicians; when monopolisation of the media erodes fundamental freedoms.
Democratising globalisation will take time. But we can accelerate the process by strengthening regional cooperation and integration. This calls for new channels of cooperation with progressive forces in other parts of the world — in China, the United States, India, and the Arab world. To tackle global problems, we need to strengthen and democratise international institutions like the United Nations. But we need to look beyond reform of the Security Council and start creating a democratic global architecture that puts globalisation at the service of citizens, not markets.
Today, the top priority for socialists is to re-establish a balance between economic productivity and social justice. While we have some successful precedents, such as the Nordic model, it is difficult for nations to achieve this balance. As capitalist markets give way to vast commercial networks, and as market economies become market societies, governments and unions are increasingly restricted in scope.
This has disempowered and divided our citizens. Citizens of developed countries increasingly feel like mere objects of consumerism, while citizens of developing countries struggle for daily survival. In both cases, but in different ways, people feel impoverished.
To be sure, we have very diverse societies, but we also face new forms of inequality. Lack of labour standards in one part of the world undermines the social welfare of workers in other parts of the world. Mass migration from poor countries has created fear and xenophobia in richer countries, especially among the working class.
Similarly, free trade has turned farmers and service workers in the developing and developed world against each other. Environmental concerns have become a “blame game”. The developed world fears the depletion of vital resources by the developing world, which in turn blames the developed world for destroying the environment in pursuit of profit.
To bridge these divides, we must rethink the nature of employment in an increasingly automated, borderless, and mobile global economy. As capital is globalised, so basic labour standards should be global. Forced labour, child labour, and discrimination in the workplace must be eliminated.
We must also make our own politics more democratic. We must fight exclusion from our political parties, just as we fight exclusion in our societies. This means welcoming migrants and minorities, creating more opportunities for women and the disabled, and empowering citizens through education and participation.
Empowering citizens means giving them both the power to decide and the knowledge to decide well. In PASOK, the Greek Socialist party that I lead, we are undertaking far-reaching reforms in this direction. Likewise, the goal of the Socialist International is a world governed not by free markets, but by free people. —DT-PS
George A Papandreou, leader of PASOK and former foreign minister of Greece, was recently elected president of the Socialist International