Brooke V. Heagerty, Ph.D.
"Globalization, Technology and the Asia Meltdown"
May 9, 1998, Roosevelt University.
"Perils and Possibilities: Class Responses to Globalization"
In my remarks, I would like to rest on our earlier discussion
as a qualitatively new technology. This is setting the parameters of
- not in a deterministic way - the outcome of the process of society is
in the realm of human action, human consciousness. I will be casting my
remarks in broad strokes - we are all grappling with big processes, big
forces. Remember that these process are in motion, are extremely fluid,
even though I would argue, they are moving in particular and
direction. To get us started I would like to read the following quote
E.P. Thompson from his seminal work, "The Making of the English Working
"Sociologists who have stopped the time machine and, with a
deal of conceptual huffing and puffing, have gone down to the engine
to look, tell us that nowhere at all have they been able to locate and
a class. They can only find a multitude of people with different
incomes, status-hierarchies, and the rest. Of course, they are right,
class is not this or that part of the machine, but the way the machine
once it is set in motion - not this or that interest, but the friction
interests - the movement itself, the heat, the thundering noise..."
I will be looking at the social and political impact of this
new means of production and will address my topic, Perils and
Class responses to Globalization in that context.
I will be utilizing the following model: qualitative change in
brings about a revolution in society. An aspect of this social
is the formation of new classes that disrupt and disorganize the
society. Class relations are expressions of social relations, that is,
way that people relate to one another in the production of their lives
their means of life. They do not relate to one another on just any
They relate to one another through their mutual relation to property.
new classes don't fit and can't exist in the old relationship. They
to have and fight for a new productive relationship. Society cannot
without changing all class relations and a change in class relations
ending the privileges that one class has over others. The new class (or
classes) finally overthrows the ruling class and creates a society in
own image.This is the process we see unfolding today.
To help us see this, we can look at the process of change in
from agriculture to industry.
In the transition from agriculture to industry new groups came
scene who represented the new industrial system. In most countries this
took the form of the capitalist class and the industrial working class.
These classes had to fight to create a new society that they could
within. This had not only its economic expression, but its political
cultural expressions in literature, art, philosophy, in short,
new ideas and ideologies. At the heart of this new society was
production in most areas based on the buying and selling of labor power.
How is the process playing out today?
As electronics infiltrates new areas of production increasing
and replacing the need for living labor, the intricate interconnected
of buying and selling that is essential to the operation of capitalism
As the rapid and easy flow of capital across national border
of all countries into the same shrinking market for labor power, it
puts all workers into competition with their electronic counterparts -
and automated machinery of diverse types - driving wages down toward
lowest level available. The capitalist does not care if production is
by the free labor of machines or by the free labor of slaves. The
indicator of the impact of electronics on production is not employment
but the polarization of wealth and poverty.
A new class is being formed from this process. Its precarious
expresses the incompatibility of today's productive forces with the old
production relations. The new methods of production are increasingly
this class from wages, meanwhile private property rules that those
money do not eat.
This process, is of course, uneven. But overall the pattern is
* U.N Development Report in 1996: world's economy surged
during the past
three decades, but 1. 6 billion people (1/4 of the world's population)
worse off than they were 15 years ago.
* Richard Barnett, Global Dreams, estimates that 2/3 of the
has neither the cash nor the credit to buy anything of note in the
* A U.N. report published last year confirms this: 80% of the
population lives in poverty, 20% on less a dollar a day. Of the
global divide, the impoverished people of Latin America, Asia and
are increasingly being joined by a growing number of poor and excluded
the rich countries. US: greatest income inequality gap of all the
* at it core, the structurally unemployed: never worked, never
again. * also those living on edge of survival: the temporary workers
workers working full-time with no benefits, those working three jobs,
part-time workers, the newly unemployed.
* white collar workers: those making $50 thousand or more have
at twice the rate as in the 1980s.
* According to the US Department of Labor, 1 out of 4 US
either unemployed, underemployed, involuntarily working part-time or
full-time at poverty wages.
The interests of this new class is not to reform the old
system. If consumers
can't work and earn money then the necessaries of life must be
without money. The actual need of this class - and for all humanity -
for the wealth produced by society to be distributed according to need.
This objective economic demand cannot help but come up against,
and ultimately sweep aside any political system that cannot conform to
So here we see, two forces, two sides taking shape: at one
end, a small
group of extremely wealth people who have their hands on the levers of
and on the other, a growing new class of impoverished not just in Asia,
Africa and Latin America but also within the old imperial center.
What is the resolution for each side of this struggle?
The deepening economic and social polarization reduces the
maneuvering room. The attacks on the once well-paid and privileged
of the imperialist center have cost them a crucial base of support.
and impoverishment in the rest of the world is leading to increasing
unrest. How does a ruling class maintain its position and power under
For the past 15-20 years, there has been a move to restructure
of political and social control in order to contain this inevitable
and the challenge to effects of globalization.
William Robinson in his excellent study 'Promoting Polyarchy'
how US so-called 'democracy promotion' has been extended throughout the
world, in part, to achieve such aims. Its other aim, while seeking to
and channel popular discontent in civil society through the medium of
controlled elections managed by competing elites, is to use that
to build a broad support for and the legitimacy of the changes required
to facilitate the global agenda.
I would like to focus on how this process of restructuring of
is playing out here in the US.
Under both Republican and Democratic administrations, the
of this country has been steadily changing.What we might call the first
stage of this process reflected the introduction of electronics into
unskilled sectors of the economy where, for historical reasons,
were primarily concentrated.
Powered by the so-called war on drugs and the outright attack
working class communities this stage was characterized:
* the undermining constitutional protections gutting of the
the chipping away of basic rights of privacy, and the serious inroads
into a variety of constitutional protections including the freedom of
assembly and due process)
* both the rewriting of the legal power of the police and its
militarization. 1 in 3 small towns now have swat teams, 'militarizing
police brutality suits
* dramatic expansion of the infrastructure of incarceration
Over 5 million Americans are either in prison or under some form of
sanction. Rise in death penalty. The effects of the economic revolution
are now broadening out from the unskilled and semi-skilled to the
well-paid and privileged skilled and white collar workers and who have
for the most part, the bulwark of social support for US policies. As
has happened, political rights and the concept of democracy itself is
A variety of writers and commentators are dutifully providing
and philosophical justification for this new American order.
* Murray and Herrnstein, The Bell Curve: concentration camps
so-called genetically unintelligent poor.
* Alvin and Heidi Toffler in their Creating a New Civilization
that majority rule is an outdated concept and should be replace by
rule of those who have access to society's resources, regardless of
* Deepak Lal, a UCLA economist argued in a paper presented
World Bank assured his listeners that 'an efficient market economy does
not require a democratic form of government for its maintenance."
* A number of individuals such as Strobe Talbott, Foreign
Fareed Zhakaria, Council on Foreign Relations Jessica Mathews, and of
Samuel Huntington have recently written in foreign policy and academic
on the subject, but
* In December this discussion hit the mainstream with Robert
Atlantic Monthly article "Was Democracy just a moment?' which, among
other things, praises what he calls 'hybrid regimes' - a mixture of
rights and repression for capitalism to function in the face of
* For those squeamish at the thought of this future, foreign
Thomas Carrothers advises in Foreign Affairs : 'The shedding of
is painful, but beneficial.'
Presumably, this pain will be as unevenly distributed as the
Sometimes it seems impossible that we will be able to get
of this mess, that we will be overwhelmed by these forces and all the
in front of us. But the history making forces underway show us that
is not, ultimately, the case.
Globalization and everything it brings with it is laying the
for a new kind of international proletarian movement, based on a new
of unity. Increasingly, the people of the world have common interests
grow out of not morality alone, but objective economic interests.
The recognition by this developing class of those common
being and will be formed in the battle for its survival.This is also a
aspect of its development.
This new class is already beginning to make itself heard.
* In India this month,a massive mobilization launched by the
Forum of Indian People against the WTO and Anti-People Policies"
composed of 50 peoples' movements representing a wide range of regions
social groups has issued a statement that "WTO kills us or we kill
* US, various organizations are linking the 50th anniversary
of the UN
Declaration to the issue of economic human rights; National Welfare
Union march on the UN and a bus tour of the US in the month of June
human rights abuses. They are exposing the real nature of poverty in
country and its commonality with the peoples of the world.
* People are, in fact, entering into political activity, and,
Labor Party, they are forming and building their own political party of
the employed and unemployed for the purpose of fighting their rulers
just economically but also politically.
These steps, however embryonic, represent impulses toward
class identity and unity of action of people in the same conditions.
Revolutionary ideology or worldview is as critical to the
this class to complete its tasks as is the practical unity forced by
And what is this ideology, this worldview? Simply, the plain
of the world as it already exists and what it makes possible. It is a
of a world without want, a world without child labor or homelessness
a world where everyone has nourishment for the spirit as well as the
This ideology is based on the understanding that the solution to the
of today lies in reorganizing society without private property
That is, the program of the new class. It is the recognition,
that the aim of the struggle is to gain the political power to do that.
I believe we can say, that given its moment in history, that
growing class of dispossessed unite around this program, this
no force on earth can stop us from transforming the world into the
of which humanity has so long dreamed.
For more information,
Speakers for a NewAmerica, 800-691-6888, or email