Monday, September 6, 2010

What is the World Social Forum and Why Does it Struggle Against Globalization

Globalization sounds good, until you find out more.

The idea that I might sell my tomatoes abroad to countries unable to produce them, but whose citizens like their taste, sounds reasonable and mutually beneficial.

Unfortunately, that is not the way that the globalization of trade and finance have operated.

What often happens is developing nations are encouraged to specialize their production in one or a few export oriented products. Low-wage work is what the developing nation can usually offer.

Developing nations are encouraged to have lax environmental and labor regulations so that work in their nations remains very cheap.

Developing nations are encouraged to sell off their national resources and government owned industries to western corporations.

The upshot is the populations of developing nations often end up with a decreased standard of living because their natural resources and capital have been essentially pillaged.

At the same time, work leaves the western developed nations for the low-wage, poor environmental policies of the developing world.

Pretty soon western populations in developed nations have high unemployment and few well paying manufacturing or production jobs. They are stuck in low-wage "service" sector jobs.

Globalization didn't work for them either. Pretty soon these formerly middle-class workers in developed economies are defaulting on their home and car loans. When their banks become insolvent, the government bails out the banks and other financial institutions while leaving the citizens broke, homeless, and unemployed.

The World Social Forum seeks to combat this type of pillaging in both the developing and developed nations.

The link above is to an article that examines this process. Here is an excerpt:

"The great range of actual measures carried on under the label of globalisation, however, were not those of integration and development. Rather, they were processes of imposition, disintegration, underdevelopment and appropriation.

They were of continued extraction of debt servicing payments of the third world;

depression of the prices of raw materials exported by the same countries;

removal of tariff protection for their vulnerable productive sectors;

removal of restraints on foreign direct investment, allowing giant foreign corporations to grab larger sectors of the third world's economies;

removal of restraints on the entry and exit of massive flows of speculative international capital, allowing their movements to dictate economic life;

reduction of State spending on productive activity, development and welfare; privatisation of activities, assets and natural resources; sharp increases in the cost of essential services and goods such as electricity, fuel, health care, education, transport, and food (accompanied by the harsher depression of women's consumption within each family's declining consumption);

withdrawal of subsidised credit earlier directed to starved sectors;

dismantling of workers' security of employment;

reduction of the share of wages in the social product;

suppression of domestic industry in the third world and closures of manufacturing firms on a massive scale; ruination of independent small industries;

ruination of the handicraft/handloom sector;

replacement of subsistence crops with cash crops and destruction of food security;

removal of ceilings on landholdings;

dispossession of tribal lands and the handing over of forests to corporate interests;

developing dependence of peasants on the new (and profoundly hazardous) products of biotechnology;

dumping of hazardous wastes in, and the shifting of harmful processes to, the third world;

use of women as sweated factory labour;

growth of prostitution amid large-scale unemployment;

invasion of images aimed at making women consumers of the beauty industry;

entry of multinational media corporations and their cultural products;

and systematic development of islands of consumerism amid a vast sea of poverty.

Little wonder that, far from becoming more integrated and prosperous, the world economy is today even more starkly divided.

By the indices of the World Bank, 45 per cent of the world lives on less than two dollars a day, and the number of the poor worldwide has grown during the 1990s.

A third of the world's labour force is unemployed or underemployed because of the economic order ruling today. At the same time, in 1993, the top one per cent of the world's population received a larger share of the world's income than the bottom 57 per cent;

the top five per cent had an income share approaching that of the bottom 85 per cent. "


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