Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Thoughts on RASEL strategy

What is RASEL? Radical School?

The question, 'what is RASEL?' has been raised a lot recently. My initial idea is that we should think of ourselves as a 'radical school'. Firstly, let’s look at the 'radical' aspect. For me, 'radical' means two things. Firstly, it means aiming to take action to dismantle all forms of oppression (the state, capitalism, patriarchy, racism, etc.) Secondly, it means organising in a democratic, non-oppressive way, for example by trying to avoid reproducing racism, patriarchy etc. As we've discussed, this dual aim of aiming for radical transformation whilst organising in a radical way is a traditional anarchist idea. The 'school' aspect of the 'radical school' means that we learn about (including through action) different forms of oppression and how best to take action, paying attention to the successes and failures of other groups, as well as our own experiences.

In terms of external actions which will come out of RASEL, I think there are three categories:
1) RASEL 'students' support projects or join groups we think are good (e.g. we might decide to help Solfed with a project)
2) We change the way outside groups or projects function. For example, we might bring new meeting processes to outside groups we're involved with which we learn from RASEL. Or outside groups might hear about us and copy aspects of what we do, as other RA groups have done already.
3) We start new radical projects where we think there is a gap. An example is the abortion clinic protection project.

External project ideas

Here are some of my preferred external projects, as I think they help build revolutionary change, some of which we've already started working on:
* Supporting workplace organising and strikes.
* Building or supporting alternative 'prefigurative spaces' such as the field, community gardens, co-ops, green energy projects etc.
* Apply popular pressure on local and national governments (particularly to give more power to communities)
* Direct actions such as eviction resistance.
* Propaganda/media work/community outreach.
* Radical youth education project.
* Community stall to get new ideas.
* Networking with organisations on projects throughout London and the country.

What does RASEL contribute that others don't? 

The above question was raised in the strategy meeting. I'm not sure that RASEL does anything which isn't already out there. Radical education already happens. There are also many groups engaging in bottom up activism. My impression is that there aren't often many new (useful) ideas in politics. So I'm not sure we add anything particularly original. At the same time, what is out there in London and Britain more widely is pretty threadbare and needs a lot of support and also, I would imagine, inspiration. We don't have mass militant unions. We don't have mass community movements like the 200,000 strong la PAH in Spain or the MST in Brazil or shack dwellers movement in South Africa. We don't have radical community organising like is widespread in Latin America at the moment. Our revolutionary ethnic minority movements don't come near the Black Panthers and our radical women's groups don't touch the 20,000 strong Las Mujares Libres. I can't think of a single grass roots or libertarian socialist organisation in England with 200 active members.[1] This is despite the fact that there seems to be broad mass support for leftist ideas, as seen by the popularity of Corbyn.

One problem I hope we can help solve is that activist groups tend to reproduce patriarchy, white-supremacy, and also classism which alienate a lot of people. 'Activist elitism', is another major problem leading groups to be pretty insular and not very accessible or welcoming to less politically experienced people.  I'd like RASEL to find ways of tackling these in our group, and then help inspire changes in the wider activist movement.  

However, being nicer to each other is not the whole solution. The Leninist SWP dwarfs any libertarian left groups despite not exactly being a beacon of non-oppressive behaviour. Here, I think it's worth adding that I suspect an aspect of the current 'activist elitism' that puts people off the libertarian left is to dismiss large scale transformative or revolutionary visions as inherently hegemonic and oppressive.[2] So people that desire or need big changes go looking elsewhere, including Corbyn, or even the SWP or UKIP, who are more than happy to offer big visions of change. So on top of all the other stuff mentioned, I'd like us to discard this restrictive ultra-small-scale straight jacket and bring back big visions and ambitious planning to the libertarian left.  

Interested in other people's thoughts.   

[1] I’m not considering the People’s Assembly, Momentum or the Leninist SWP.
Update: The IWW has over 1200 members. 
[2] Much of these ideas originated with bored, often privileged, middle class young people wanting to drop out of capitalism in an individualist way but having no conception of class solidarity. They have drawn on explicitly anti-logic post-modern thinkers, and seemingly confused academics like autonomist Marxist, John Holloway - author of 'Change the World without Taking Power' (a community garden is communist revolution?). [For this claim see this video from the 35 minute mark to the 38:20 mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwMC8H739NU … (It goes without saying that Zizek and Callinicos, also in this video, are clowns.)]

Even worse are those that promote the idea of anarchism being about creating "temporary autonomous zones" such as: ‘a quilting bee, a dinner party, a black market ... a neighborhood protection society, an enthusiasts’ club, a nude beach’. The implication being that oppressive,violent, environmentally destructive, poverty-inducing, warmongering institutions magically disappear by people getting naked at the seaside. Update: The author of this quote is Hakim Bey and since writing this I've been informed Bey has since been disowned by the anarchist movement (e.g. his books stopped being sold at Freedom House) due to him being a paedophile, and his promotion of these ideas around anarchism seems to have been a part of a ruse to get access to children. Hearing this makes sense to me as without some ulterior motive, I struggle to see how someone would promote such nonsense. It worries me that Bey's ideas were not rejected within the libertarian left sooner, as they are clearly not radical in any way. Instead they were promoted. For example, the passage I quoted was from influential anarchist activist, and Loughborough lecturer, Uri Gordon and he was using the passage in his 2008 book 'Anarchy Alive' to say anarchism is about promoting cultural experimentation 'for its own sake' with the aim of 'self-realisation'. I.e. for Gordon and co. anarchism is trying to make the most out of life under capitalism - the most power-friendly, non-radical idea I can imagine [Gordon book available at: https://libcom.org/library/anarchy-alive-anti-authoritarian-politics-practice-theory-uri-gordon-0 The Bey passage is on p. 41].

I suspect much of the traction these ideas get is also from single issue direct action groups, which think they are anti-capitalist, but are actually reformist (capitalism is the under-lying legal framework – not the individual activities within this framework which they resist). And due to the nature of single issue activism, they aren't able to end capitalism, so dismiss the idea of revolution, justifying their dismissal by appealing to autonomist arguments. 

Friday, 6 November 2015

Thoughts from facilitation training

The Radical Assembly had facilitation training on Tuesday. It doesn't sound like the most exciting thing in the world but Roger Hallam, one of the founders of the housing co-op network, Radical Roots, gave the training and some interesting questions came up. 

How do we introduce ourselves?
Roger explained that a good facilitator will introduce the meeting by saying what the group is, some guidelines we use to conduct meetings, and what the meeting is for. This is so that newcomers or people that have been out of the loop for a while get a better grasp of what is going on. And it helps give guidance to the meeting. As far as I'm aware we skip the first part in RASEL of explaining what we are. I think this is because we haven't fully agreed as a group. I suspect answering the question 'What is RASEL?'  will help us clarify with each other what we should be doing and how we should be doing it. And this will help us have more productive meetings. Hopefully, agreeing the flier text will help with this. There has also been talk of a strategy day, which I think might be helpful.

Exclusion and common knowledge 
We spent most of the workshop practising dealing with problem behaviours during the training. I've been told that we are quite 'on it' in RASEL in terms of not being exclusionary or oppressive in terms of gender, although at times we have slipped up. But one thing Roger highlighted was that activist groups can also be exclusionary by using lots of technical political language. I imagine this also includes taking for granted that people will understand political arguments on a range of social issues from immigration, to gender, to parliamentary politics, to economics and so on. And being snobbish about people that don't approach each issue from the most radical angle is a common complaint of leftist groups. I'm not sure how far this is a problem in RASEL but it’s something else to consider and keep an eye on. Especially if we wish to keep newer people engaged.  

I do think in RASEL we've been addressing this to a large extent by engaging in self-education so that there are not a few leaders with far broader political knowledge than others. There are plans to record some of the discussions in some way on the website for new people, which I think will also be useful.

Facilitation training and compulsory empowerment?
Roger also explained that one of the reasons Radical Roots expanded to dozens of groups quickly, was that each new member of the network had to have facilitation training. It was compulsory for people to be empowered this way. The result was that people gained an insight on how to have productive meetings and the organisation's cohesion was very strong. I am personally quite receptive of the idea of at least encouraging all people involved in RASEL to get facilitation training. I'd also be interested in refresher training sessions for experienced facilitators. This isn't just to make sure meetings are as high quality as possible (my experience is meetings work best when everyone supports in facilitation. We could also use such trainings to reconsider and update our meeting processes and guidelines). It is also to help empower people in RASEL in whichever way we can. For example, it is a skill that can be used by individuals when engaged in local campaigns with outside groups. I'd be interested in a group training event every few months or so.

Thoughts welcome.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Lessons from Radical Assembly 4

Here is my brief summary of the day.

1. Reports from regional groups
We started the day with reports from regional groups on what we have achieved since May. Without wishing to criticise the other groups, I felt RASEL has achieved the most. In particular, I think our self-education and process-building (largely unique to us, it seems - although others have begun to follow suit) has started to lay the basis for an extremely effective revolutionary organisation. Also, I feel our planned projects of a stall, continuing film nights, library campaign, community assembly work, and solidarity with Bahar, sounded more exciting than the support for outside campaigns which other groups seem to be focussed on. We also seem to be by far the biggest group, and have very low turnover in comparison to the others.    

2. Ideas from Mary, Jen and Anna [names changed]
After the report-back from the groups we split into small groups to talk about how to develop the assemblies. The three people I talked to (all from SE London but not involved in activism) all had ideas which I found really useful. The main theme was that we need to make it EASIER for people to get involved. They want to do stuff but it is often difficult. Particular suggestions include:
(a) Making it easy for people to do actions close to where they live - they don't want to travel far to do actions.
(b) Being more welcoming to newbies, including having more welcoming attitudes and having info materials to help people get up to speed.
(c) More advertising - e.g. posters in Peckham Rye, using Meet-Up, and an events forum/calendar.
(d) Have someone responsible for outreach.
(I also took the note that we need to 'sort out Facebook page', as they had ideas for this, but unfortunately I can't remember the details.)

I agree with all of these ideas, and think we've discussed a lot of it before, and think we should look at them further as a group.

3. Direct action workshops and anti-fascism
We split into about eight groups to have direct action workshops. Workshops were held on a range of issues from environmental activism to sex worker organising. I ended up at the antifascist workshop - one of many topics I know very little about. I learnt that whilst the fascist threat remains small, it is growing.  100 fascists recently marched in Dover and were unable to be stopped. I also learned that there is a lot more to anti-fascism than the street clashes that get filmed for TV. The London anti-fascists engage in a range of educational and public relations work, as well as covert intelligence gathering and sabotage of fascist networks. They also provide training and services to other movements, including recently the Focus E15 mums. Lots of people involved in anti-fascism do this broader work and not the street mobilisations. 

One thing I find very interesting about ant-fascism is that because of the dangers anti-fascists face, in order to maximise safety, they are often forced to use leftist principles in the most extreme ways. For example, the principle of solidarity becomes hyper important in the streets - i.e. you need to literally make the most solid physical block possible - when defending each other against violent fascists. I also like that the anti-fascists have to combine their left-wing (often anarchist) principles, with extremely thorough preparation and organisation in everything they do - an ethos many leftist organisations could probably learn from.

London Antifascists will be giving a training in Goldsmiths College on Oct 25th and I think it would be a great learning experience if a lot of us from RASEL could attend. Alternatively, we might be able to organise our own training.  

When we first set up RASEL, I was scared by how much work we had facing us if we were to build a strong, effective organisation, and it sometimes still intimidates me. However, RA4 was a good chance to take stock of all we've achieved so far and provided plenty of ideas for us to be able to carry on developing and moving forwards. So I found it a rewarding experience. See you soon.    

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Steps to anarchist revolution


Hi, this video is to offer ideas to anyone interested in working towards a social anarchist revolution - particularly in the UK.  I’ll be taking ideas from the Spanish and other anarchist-type revolutions, as well as contemporary social movements and revolutionary thinkers since the 1800s. As such, most of the ideas are fairly well known already, but I will attempt to present them in a short and simple video, relevant to people living in the UK today.

So let’s start by defining a social anarchist revolution.

The minimal goal, as I understand it, is a community of people refusing to recognise state sovereignty over them and refusing to recognise pre-existing capitalist property laws over workplaces.
Instead, after an anarchist revolution, communities will be managed via networks of community organisations in which all can participate equally, working in combination with democratic workplace organisations. That is, social matters that are currently managed by hierarchical, inter-linked government and capitalist institutions driven for profit and power, will become managed via non-hierarchical organisations, driven only by satisfying human needs and wants.

This type of social set up can also be referred to with a number of other names such as libertarian socialism, or direct democracy.

Now, if we see democratic, self-managed networks of community and worker organisations as the basis of any revolution, the central task for revolutionaries is building these organisations and preparing them for running society. Note that the methods I propose here for building these organisations will simultaneously weaken and reduce dependence upon current systems of power, making it possible for them to be finally discarded.      

It is important to acknowledge that we already have organisations designed for helping communities and workplaces democratically manage themselves.  With regards to community organising, there are two organisations I will mention here. The first is the International Organisation for a Participatory Society (also known as IOPS). The second is the Anarchist Federation (or AFED). Both are non-hierarchical international organisations with local chapters in towns throughout the UK, which aim to move away from state-capitalism and bring about democratic self-management.  

The main revolutionary workplace organisations are firstly, the Solidarity Federation, part of the International Workers Association and secondly, the Industrial Workers of the World union. Both aim to introduce widespread worker control over all workplaces.  

I would argue anyone interested in revolution should, as a starting point, join one of the organisations, as the most important revolutionary projects require many people working together. Personally, I believe the easiest organisation to join as a starting point is IOPS. It has a user-friendly website and is free to join at the moment. However, there are benefits to joining any of the others, or even all 4 of the organisations.  
Once joined up, I would that there are four types of projects which should be central to anarchists when working in these organisations, as they concretely prepare, or fund, the institutions of a future society. These activities are 1) building worker co-operatives 2) building democratic credit unions 3) promoting trade union rights and larger trade unions, and 4) promoting participatory budgeting. Let’s look at each of these projects in turn.

There are many types of co-ops but key components of a co-op compatible with social anarchist ideas is that it is non-hierarchical and that workers have an equal say on management decisions. This is how anarchists want to see work organised in the future and we can begin this today within today’s society.
A corollary of this is that anarchist organisations should seek to build democratic credit unions, which aim to finance local cooperatives. Transferring enough savings to these credit unions would have the added benefit of protecting communities against future financial crises. Events in recent years have shown that this is an ever present threat, but the threat could become larger if investors panic in response to increased trade union activities and participatory budgeting - matters we’ll now turn to.  

By promoting trade union rights, anarchists can help give workers at the bottom more power over the companies they work for, particularly if these workers are part of the SolFed or IWW unions. This would begin moving current workplaces more in the direction of worker self-management which anarchists would like to see in the future.  Apart from using this power to benefit themselves in the short term, through better wages, hours and benefits (perhaps including skills training and education), workers could begin to effect wider company policy in numerous ways that promote social interests over profit. For example, they could push for strong company environmental policies.

In terms of directly promoting anarchist institutions, trade unions could push for company contracts to be given as far as possible to worker co-operatives. Additionally, where suitable, they could insist that their company banks with democratic credit unions. Workers could also use the threat of strike action to support demands to the government to allocate increased resources to community participatory budgeting, something we will now discuss.

Participatory budgeting is whereby local communities meet to discuss and decide how local government money is spent. This is close to how anarchists aim for communities to be managed in the future, instead of being overseen by a hierarchical government.  Participatory budgeting has been tried very successfully in Brazil and Venezuela. For example, In Porto Allegre, the World Bank has found that the system has helped improve health, education and water services. It has also been tested to a small degree in other countries in the world, including many towns in the UK. The task for anarchists should be to push for it to become more widespread, with more recourses dedicated to it.

Apart from being useful in itself to the anarchist cause, through participatory budgeting, communities can support the formation of new non-hierarchical workplaces. For example, if the community agrees to open a new library, the library could be managed in a non-hierarchical way by staff.

Extending participatory budgeting to as many areas of government spending as possible could have multiple positive short and long term effects. For example, communities could invest in public transport and bicycle paths, which could have important long term benefits on the environment.   Networks of communities controlling NHS spending could also prevent the government forcing through NHS privatisation. Such victories could also attract increased public support for anarchist ideas.
It may also be tactically useful for the revolution if local police spending can be brought under the participatory budgeting process, as communities may be able to prevent the police being used by the government to attack the people.

As a part of demanding increased local community control over government budgets, anarchists could draw attention to central government programs that should be immediately cut. For example, anarchists could oppose government subsidies to arms companies that export military equipment to oppressive foreign regimes.

In this way anarchists could build support from networks such as Campaign against the Arms Trade which are also concerned with this type of issue.

In order to further increase funding for community led programs, anarchist and community organisations may also want to push for new measures to prevent corporations and the wealthy evade tax. This year, evasion will cost the UK around £90bn per year – around the same figure as the deficit – which the middle and lower classes are being held responsible for. [1]   

Anarchists could also push a higher tax rate for the richest, particularly the richest 0.1% whose wealth has exploded in recent years without any perceivable economic or social benefits to the country as a whole. In fact, the social consequences of increased inequality have almost undoubtedly been negative. For example, in their ground-breaking study, the Spirit Level, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett document how economic inequality is linked to widespread social problems for at least the bottom 90% of earners in countries such as the US and UK.  Thus Sweden has far better social indicators than the US and UK, despite having far lower GDP per capita and median incomes. Higher taxes for the rich could help address this problem. 

Furthermore, by pushing for tax reforms, anarchists would be helping link anti-cuts activists with participatory budgeting activists, and could help build support for further change.   

With increased tax funds from the very wealthiest, communities could fund a range of new, not-for profit, co-operatively managed services for the public, including better schools, youth clubs, better services for the disabled and public transport, or whatever else communities decide on. All of this would help improve the living standards of communities. This process could also be useful in addressing under and unemployment, creating empowering jobs in all communities throughout the country.  Again, all of these short term benefits could help build broad support for anarchist ideals of collective, democratic action.

Most of the measures discussed here have been aimed at building the foundations of a future society. However, note that almost all these steps also work to weaken current systems of power. For example, through participatory budgeting, central government power is weakened. Through trade union action, the power of corporate directors is weakened. 

Those in powerful positions will inevitably attempt to resist such changes using either economic power or state violence. For example, financial investors may move their money overseas in reaction to tax increases or they may disinvest from companies with strong trade unions. In terms of political retaliation there may be a violent clampdown by the government, just as there was a violent clampdown on unions in the 1980s.
Here, further pro-revolutionary action could be the most beneficial course of action for communities and workers. For example, as mentioned earlier, savers could survive a banking crisis by saving with credit unions. Such credit unions could also keep credit flowing to communities. If an economic crisis occurs in which factories or shops begin closing down, organised workers may be able to react by taking over these workplaces themselves – as happened widely in the 2001 Argentina economic crisis.  Additionally, earlier this year, closed down HMV stores were occupied by ex-workers in Ireland, as a protest against unpaid wages. This was only one step away from the workers deciding to re-open the stores under self-management. This is something that well-organised communities and trade union networks could achieve in the future.

Alternatively, in the case of violent suppression by the government, the best way to resist may be even more public protest as happened in Argentina in 2001. There, after the government announced a state of siege on the population in response to economic protests this spurred a far larger uprising, forcing 5 Presidents out in 3 weeks. The chant in Argentina was, “all of them must go”, but without a national network of self-management in place, they accepted provisional government. A similar process can be seen in Egypt recently. However, if a similar event happens in the UK and worker and community organisations are prepared throughout the country, with economic and self-defence strategies ready, they may be able to agree to begin self-managing the country.  

Thanks for listening. Comments and questions on these ideas are welcome. See you soon. 

Sunday, 10 March 2013

"Liberal" myths about Globalisation (Critique of John Green's 1st Crash Course video on Globalisation)

[Click here for the original video]

Transcript and slides (with larger text for references)...

* Hi, today I will be critiquing the first video on globalisation by John Green in his Crash Course on World History.
* I consider John’s video to be analytically in line with mainstream so-called “liberal” commentary on globalisation, found in the news media and in academic scholarship. I therefore feel that critiquing it will show up some of the distortions and biases that we are regularly fed.
*So let’s starts
*To begin, John does not provide a clear definition of globalisation. This is slightly problematic but John does at certain points in the video explain that globalisation includes increased global economic interdependence over the last 30 years, so we’ll use this as his definition.
*With this in mind he states the following: *(1  3:15) ”Global Trade is now anarchic and unregulated, at least by international institutions and national governments. Much of this has to do with academic economists, mostly in the US and Europe who have argued with great success that governmental regulation diminishes prosperity by limiting growth. “
There are many problems with this statement.
Firstly, John’s use of the words anarchic and trade are somewhat misleading when describing today’s international movement of goods.
For one thing, about a third of so-called trade is simply the centrally planned cross-border movement of goods and components within corporations and conglomerates. Another third is thought to be covered by centrally planned outsourcing.  
We also still have significant government interference in international transactions. One example is so-called anti-dumping legislation, which is used by many of today’s richest countries, such as the United States, to protect domestic companies from foreign competition.
With these points in mind, it is difficult to use the word’s “anarchic” or even “trade” to describe today’s movement of goods. 
A second problem with John’s statement is that it is very misleading to say that economists have argued with great success that government trade regulation diminishes growth.
Pro-trade liberalisation economists have certainly not one the argument within the economics field. The most prominent studies arguing that trade protectionism reduces growth have been completely discredited by leading economists such as Harvard’s Dani Rodrik. One former Harvard economist, Paul Bairoch, has stated that the theory that trade liberalisation increases growth is one of the biggest myths in economic history. Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang has pointed out that nearly all of today’s richest countries, such as the United States, developed under protectionist economic regimes. The leading theorist on economic growth, nobel prize winner Robert Solow points out that the where growth has occurred alongside trade liberalisation, the causal direction is unknown.  These are just some of eminent economists which reject the view that trade protectionism limits growth.   
It is also unclear that pro-trade-liberalisation economists have influenced policy-makers. Where trade liberalisation has occurred, it seems that there are two more significant influences. Firstly, in poorer weaker nations, particularly in Africa over the last 30 years and Latin America from around 1980 until around 2000, liberalisation was largely the result of bullying by rich countries and the IMF. John actually acknowledges this.
Meanwhile, where trade liberalisation has occurred voluntarily, it seems that this has reflected rational calculations of interests amongst influential economic groups within nations, rather than some widespread religious commitment to free trade. This can be seen by how selectively free-market doctrine is applied. Let us look at the United States as an example. Tariffs have reduced drastically from 50% in the 1950s, but US companies are still strongly supported against foreign competition. This farm subsidies, oil subsidies, anti-dumping legislation, government-supported research and development, government-procurement, and many other processes. But protectionism is by no means unique to the US. Hence the latest World Trade Organisation negotiations have been unable to produce even a limited deal on liberalisation since beginning in 2001 because almost all parties refuse to drop their own protectionist measures.  Meanwhile the WTO talks themselves even have protectionist intellectual property rules built into them.  
With these points in mind, we can see that John’s statements range from unhelpful to misleading when it comes to understanding global economic developments in the last 30 years.
Now, let us move onto another key point in John’s video.  
·         (1  5:52) “While die-hard Marxists deny this – global capitalism has been good for a lot of people”
·         *He puts forward two arguments in favour of this statement... (Clip of John mentioning economic growth and poverty reduction)
There are major problems with these statements
Before considering John’s arguments in favour of global capitalism, it should first be acknowledged that he somewhat misrepresents Marxism, by implying Marxists don’t see positives in capitalism. In fact, central to Marxism is the idea of history as progress, with societies going through economic stages from feudalism, to capitalism to communism. In this context, Marx and Engels praised capitalism and saw it as progressive for non-industrial countries to go through a period of industrial capitalism. It is therefore somewhat misleading for John to imply that die-hard Marxists would deny that capitalism has been good for a lot of people. There may be many non-Marxists who disagree that capitalism has been a good thing, but this is a separate discussion.
Now, let us look at the arguments that John puts forward in favour of capitalism, which happen to be very similar to those put forward by Marx and Engels.  He points to (1) increased economic growth and (2) material poverty reduction, which are usually intertwined. 
 The first problem here is that John uses unclear terminology to describe the current global economic system. What we have around the world is not capitalism but varying types of state capitalism. We mentioned some of the state-capitalist elements of the United States above and state capitalism is also prevalent in East Asia, the region of most economic growth and poverty reduction in the last 30 years. As just one example, whilst China has made some pro-capitalist reforms in the last 30 years, Chinese state-owned enterprises are still responsible for between a third and a half of economic output.
 Furthermore, whilst John does state that he does not want to confuse correlation with causation, this is empty after he has just said that it is clear that global capitalism has been good for a lot of people – the clear implication being that capitalist reforms have led to growth and poverty reduction throughout the world. However, this is an extremely contentious claim.
Firstly, if John is still referring to the last 30 years, it is misleading to imply that it has been a period of economic success. East Asia is the only region in the world where economic growth and poverty reduction have not slowed or reversed in the last thirty years. Total world economic growth has actually been lower than it was during the preceding 30 years. For example, one measure of the economic problems in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union is that life expectancy actually dropped in the 1990s and only reached the level of the late 1980s again in 2009. Another example is that Sub-Saharan Africa has suffered a near complete economic disaster in the last 30 years after moving towards arguably the most purely capitalist economic regime in the world under IMF supervision. This is following a comparatively promising period up until the mid-1970s under more state-led policies. Latin America is only now recovering in the last decade after pro-corporate reforms in the 80s and 90s, which the region is now moving away from. In the United States, since the 1980s real wages have stagnated or declined for most workers.  Economic growth has also slowed in many European countries. All of this is overlooked in John’s celebration of the last 30 years.
Furthermore, in East Asia, where there has been growth alongside pro-market reforms, it is unclear what the causal direction is. That is, respected economists have argued that East Asia’s integration into the global economy has happened in response to productivity growth rather than the other way around. This is the opposite causal direction John suggests.

Setting all this aside, many oppose the idea that economic growth and material poverty reduction necessarily justify social systems, as John implies. For example, due to its oppressive nature, many reject the view that Stalinism was justified despite its record-breaking economic growth and widespread material poverty reduction. This is even setting aside the mass murders. Similarly, many reject that slavery was justified by economic growth. Furthermore, slave owners argued that slaves often lived healthier, longer, more secure lives than wage labourers. How often this was true is debated to this day, but even if it was true 100% of the time, many would still argue that this would not justify slavery.  If John is one of these people, in order to be consistent he needs to put forwards another argument for the current global order than economic growth and material poverty reduction. 

To conclude, as with many mainstream so-called liberal commentators, John puts forwards a misleading image of world order, and spurious arguments in favour of this order.
We will see more of this in part 2, when we will be looking at Johns’ second video on globalisation.
Thanks for listening.
See you soon.

I have written the references in larger text in these slides. Click to expand the slides...