The left was the catalyst of the success of the populist right. Globalism was the bomb that was waiting to explode. The left lit it. The splinters are still flying everywhere. Some have got stuck in the eyes of some on the left. This is an essay on removing the splinters from those eyes. We need to face our about-face. Anti-Globalism lit the splinter bomb and then climate-globalism made everyone run for shelter in the slogans of the populist right.
Can we have (climate) globalism without having (capitalist) Globalism?
That is the question.
Some history. The populist right already had success before the anti-Globalist bomb was lit. The reason for this was simple: people felt increasingly like refugees at home, fleeing an invisible threat causing great uncertainty. The initial success of the populist right was to associate something visible to that threat: the other. That secured them a base, but not yet the mass. Then came the populist left weaponizing anti-Capitalism as anti-Globalism. It attacked the European Union, the G-7, the UN security council, the WTO, free trade, the multi-nationals. The populist right concurred: all these supranational institutions were a sign of the other threatening the security of our own, so hard earned, homes. The rest is recent history: the anti-movement won. The masses rallied behind the populist right. The refugee crisis, created by Globalist capitalism, consolidated it all because it gave a face to the other threatening our social security, based on hard working nationalist capitalism. If not a knock-out blow, the left was certainly left sulking as ‘it is all so unfair’. And then the left rediscovered its globalist origins: to fight for people finding a secure home across the globe. The climate crisis is the emergency that embodies that newfound globalism where we are all equal citizens of the earth. The populist right train however has left the station and has no problem, for now, in conflating capitalist Globalism with climate Globalism in defending the rights of ‘us’ against the threats of ‘them’. So the left is left sulking more.
But is this the knock-out punch?
Seen from the UK that certainly seems to be the case. Let’s just follow in Corbyn’s tracks. Winning back the Labour Party from the Third (Globalist) way that uncritically defended the European Union’s neoliberal agenda and even the Western subversion of the United Nations in Iraq, he got entangled in Brexit to the extent of tripping and falling flat on his face. There was no making sense of anti-Globalism combined with a globalism of human rights and therefore of global climate action. Capitalism had sided with the populist right as capital doesn’t care that only a few who hard earned their capital survive the climate crisis. Corbyn exemplifies a story reproduced around the world (not only the West) with many nuances but always the same gist: the left’s indignation is heart felt but highjacked all the same by the populist right. The left can be anti-Globalist but can’t be anti-globalist and is therefore left out of the new political anti-Establishment establishment (unlike the old Establishment which has no ideals and therefore no problem to adapt).
Which brings us to: are it our ideals that leave us vulnerable to a knock-out punch?
The populist left will say yes. That is basically why they opted back in the days to disown their cosmopolitanism and adopt an uncritical anti-Globalist stance. No doubt there was a certain modicum of Rousseau-type ‘backward’ utopianism that rationalized this stance: if only we would go back to small-scale communities peace would follow automatically. I think it is fair to say though that the uncritical adoption of a “Make us Great Again” story is the wormhole quite literally seized upon by the populist right. There is no excuse here. Left intellectuals like Derrida and Deleuze warned against such homesickness but the left (uncritical for themselves, locked up in indignation) thought such warnings only applied to the right. The left felt at home in a cosmopolitanism that deterritorialized those whom they supposedly were fighting for. It failed to see that that globalist cosmopolitanism was the ideal they were fighting for to make come about in the future. If Marx would be here he would have said: Globalism makes it easy for us to achieve globalism, just nationalize the multi-nationals and give all workers internationally their due. The populist left didn’t have that patience. They wanted to revolutionize and get it over with already. So they lit the bomb of anti-Globalism which brought us where we are. In other words: the left lost precisely because it denied its internationalist ideals. The left, by the way, always loses if it betrays its ideals to be populist for the simple reason that it then becomes the right.
So can we have globalism without Globalism?
Well, the answer by now should be simple, we will have to have globalism in order to do away with Globalism. The message of the left should be unashamedly globalist. It should not cut corners for easy gains. People in the West need to understand that they can only be secure if all other people are secure and there is – therefore – only a West in the literal sense. This is the ideal: to make all people secure so they can all thrive. That is not naïve. It is not naïve because we have Globalism and in having it we can tear it down gradually until the harsh capital G has morphed into the soft lower class g. This is not the third way but it is the only way working with what is instead of what ought to have been. Take that Globalist capital and tax it until labour in the South gets its recompense. A global fund of capital taxes to stop climate taxation. There is no pain for the security of the West. There just is pain for those who fell in love with their own myth of hard earned merit. The only way is forward, no excuses.