As I write, Washington has just been subjected to a weekend of left-wing protests that even the conservative-oriented Washington Times estimated brought 500,000 demonstrators to the nation’s capital. The March for Women’s Lives, with its shrill advocacy of abortion, overshadowed the antiglobalization rally protesting the meetings of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and G-7 finance ministers. Since mobs disrupted the Seattle session of the World Trade Organization in 1999, the antiglobalization movement has staged protests at every major event associated with the “New World Order” of transnational corporate banking and industry.
That the two rallies should overlap is not surprising, but there is one aspect that has not received the attention it deserves, not even from critics on the right. The promotion of abortion is a direct assault on the family. There is another function of the family that is also under attack by the left, however: its role as a unit of production meeting material needs with dignity and independence.
The popular case for capitalism has long rested heavily on the image of the entrepreneur—the self-reliant, imaginative, independent business owner who is the backbone of the middle class and of republican government. This image is not weakened by the fact that most people are not entrepreneurs but employees. They benefit from the role businessmen play in their community and aspire to join their ranks. The ideal entrepreneur is seen working alongside his employees, rearing a family, and participating in local affairs. Personal success brings a wider prosperity and a sense of social responsibility.
The eclipse of the independent businessman (and woman) by the spread of the large corporation has bothered traditional conservatives. When entrepreneurs become managers, local stores are driven out of business by large retail chains, and factories that serve as the basis for a community’s economy are moved overseas by distant corporate directors, conservatives see vital pillars of social stability destroyed. And as the expansion of global supply chains have put the competitive squeeze on middle-class American incomes, families have been further endangered by the means chosen to cope with the stress.
The division of labor in the family between breadwinner and homemaker has been largely eliminated by the need for two incomes to meet expenses, often putting children at risk without parental supervision. Increasing consumer debt has undermined the dream of home ownership as refinancing feeds equity into the maw of deficit spending. The inability to save for retirement and to fund the education of children makes families ever more dependent on government programs such as Social Security and public schools.
The campaign against globalization and transnational capitalism would seem to give those on both the left and right a common enemy. The left, however, cares no more for the family business than it does for the family itself. Its agenda is entirely hostile to the concerns of conservatives across the board.
The foundation of the left’s approach to all economic issues comes from Marx and Lenin. At the Washington rally, there was even a protester waving an old Soviet flag. In Marxist theory, the long-term trend of capitalism is for the largest firms to gobble up all of the smaller ones. The corporations with the greatest financial resources survive and expand, exploiting the economies of scale that come from mass production and market power. Ownership of industry becomes more centralized in fewer and fewer entities until a few great financiers control it all. This remaining capitalist class becomes increasingly wealthy, in contrast to the growing misery of the proletariat, which has been expanded by the downward mobility of the small businessmen who have lost out in competition to the giant combines.
The left may denounce this process on moral grounds, claiming that it is exploitative, or on political grounds, claiming that it concentrates political power as well as wealth, but they do not want to stop it or reverse it. It is part of the “progressive” self-destruction of the capitalist order that will pave the way for revolution and the establishment of a new socialist order. Society must be stratified by the elimination of the middle class so that only a small oligarchy of the rich stands against the rest of society united in an increasingly discontented working class.
The elimination of the middle class, not just economically but spiritually, is a prerequisite for revolution. The left’s assault on “family values,” “traditional morality,” and orthodox religious belief is meant to complement the economic destruction being wrought by the inevitable grinding process of monopoly capitalism. The more chaotic, empty, and frustrating life becomes for the petite bourgeoisie, the better are the prospects for the radicals.
Take, for example, the American Friends Service Committee. It claims to embrace Quaker religious doctrine but actually reflects Marxism, as shown by the following critique of middle-class aspirations:
Conventional images of “pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps” and other notions of individual success promote the idea that anyone can succeed in the United States if only they [sic] try hard enough. While individuals who succeed “against the odds” are held up as models, the communities they come from remain poor—and the structures that maintain a grossly unjust distribution of wealth and resources do not change.
This statement appears in a policy statement on immigration and racism. It is meant as a warning to immigrants not to be tempted by the capitalist ideology of achievement but to remain loyal to an alien—and alienated—proletariat supporting radical change in a society that the AFSC believes is rapidly losing its white majority.
One of the great success stories of the United States has been its ability to elevate the working class into the middle class. As a result, the United States has had a more moderate and stable domestic order than most countries, within which conservative social values could take root. It is this “reformist” approach that radicals find most dangerous to their ambitions. Increasingly, the left depends on foreign elements to bring down the middle class in ways that will not only undermine the living standards of working-class Americans but of independent business owners as well.
In The German Ideology, Marx claimed that, “while the bourgeoisie of each nation still retained separate national interests, big industry created a class, which in all nations has the same interest and with which nationality is already dead.” Speaking to the Democratic Association of Brussels in 1848, Marx argued that
the protective system of our day is conservative, while the free trade system is destructive. It breaks up old nationalities and pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the extreme point. In a word, the free trade system hastens the social revolution. It is in this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, that I vote in favor of free trade.
Marx overestimated the power of big business in his day to push policy in the direction of free trade against the wider interests of nations whose leaders were still rooted in their native soil. The experiments with free trade in the mid-19th century were largely abandoned by all the major states of Europe (and the United States) by 1890, with the exception of England. The continued survival of conservative forces led to the imperialism theories of J.A. Hobson, Rosa Luxemburg, and Vladimir I. Lenin. Luxemburg saw imperialism as the attempt by nationally based enterprises to find new outlets for capital and exports by creating new protected territories for exploitation. Free trade would destroy this kind of imperialism, just as both the classical liberals and the Marxists desired.
Hobson and Lenin thought more in terms of an international class struggle. Hobson believed that low wages in colonial areas would attract production, leaving only a rentier ruling class in the home countries. Lenin believed that imperialism’s superexploitation of the cheaper labor of oppressed minorities at home and in the colonies allowed capitalists to bribe a “worker aristocracy” with middle-class trappings and thus delay the coming of the revolution.
Today’s left approaches international issues with a mixture of these theories. Millions of high-wage manufacturing and professional service jobs in the United States have been lost because of imports. Transnational corporations have relocated factories overseas or have outsourced work to foreign contractors. This has changed the balance of power in the labor unions from middle-class, patriotic “hard hats” in industry to government employees and low-wage service workers at hotels, restaurants, and retail chains. It has also expanded the threat from “free trade” beyond the working class to white-collar professionals and business owners in manufacturing who cannot compete with foreign rivals for contract work with the transnational firms.
Those displaced by foreign competition—or who fear that fate—have swelled the ranks of economic nationalists on the right demanding policies that will restore a “home-field advantage” to American-based business. The “antiglobalization” left is not composed of nationalists, however, but of progressives whose sympathies lie with “exploited” foreign labor. They want to see more wealth and production capacity transferred from the United States (and other major capitalist states) to the Third World in accordance with the ideas of Hobson and Lenin.
At April’s antiglobalization rally in Washington, the lead demand was that the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank write off the debts owed by developing nations so that they could raise new capital for investment in local production and infrastructure. The main complaint from the left about the new Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) is that, by opening the economies of the region to more efficient U.S. farmers, local agriculture will suffer.
Yet CAFTA is not about U.S. exports. The combined economic output of the six CAFTA states (Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua) was only $85 billion in 2002, less than the $92-billion economy of St. Louis, Missouri. CAFTA is really about expanding investment and export-oriented production in Central America, as demonstrated by the agreement’s provisions regarding textiles and investment protections. Though the left has complained about CAFTA’s diminished labor rights, the focus has been on labor conditions in Central America, not lost jobs in the United States. Only American labor unions worry about the negative impact of trade on the United States. The rest of the “intellectual” left in the universities, media, NGO’s and foundations care nothing about America but hope for its demise.
Transnational capitalism is not to be controlled or curtailed by a “retreat” back to nationalism or “protectionism” in the West. The left is not opposed to globalization if it serves a socialist, anti-Western agenda. A typical exponent of this ideology is George Monbiot, a visiting professor of planning at Oxford Brookes University and a columnist for the Guardian. He is the author of two antiglobalization books: The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order and Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain. He offers a utopian vision that is to transcend the “obsolete” nation-state. He argues that world trade should be restructured to open advanced countries to Third World exports while allowing backward economies to develop behind their own protectionist barriers. And, indeed, the WTO has been quite willing to appease the left—and its Third World members—by proclaiming the current Doha negotiations a “development round.” Any support for U.S.-based business or agriculture is denounced, both in the halls of the WTO and in the streets.
Monbiot does not limit his manifesto to trade. He wants a “revitalized” U.N. General Assembly that would abolish the Security Council (on which the United States and Britain have a veto) and eventually move to a directly elected World Parliament. This is clearly not “antiglobalization” but merely another rehashing of the dream of world government that has been a part of left-liberal philosophy since Immanuel Kant.
All Americans, whether they think of themselves as being in the ranks of business or of labor, would suffer in such a world. While transnational corporations bulldoze societies and tear up national flags, the left waits in the wings to pick up the pieces.