The Left in Never-Never Land
and the Path to Effective World Revolution
(an essay based on three fundamental principles)
Glen T. Martin
A. Principle One: The left has been, and is being, defeated in nearly every sector world wide.
There are many people in the world today who consider themselves progressive or ‘left’ who work for the ‘democratization’ of politics and economics. They understand that economics does not work for the majority of persons on Earth because it is not democratic. They understand that capitalism, in the forms in which we have known it historically, is controlled by the rich for the benefit of the rich. They understand that most governments on Earth, even ostensibly democratic ones, really represent the interests of powerful corporations and big capital.
For these reasons, people on the left understand that most mainstream political activity does not result in the will of the people, or a decent society for the majority, precisely because it is undemocratic. Even in the Western pseudo-democracies, big money, that controls the means of communication as well as the means of production, also controls governments. Politicians garner the popular support of constituents, but in office they act on behalf of their most powerful constituents and the powerful corporations that can get them reelected or defeated, that can make or break their careers.
The course of modern history has been the progressive accumulation of wealth and power for a tiny minority of the planet’s inhabitants at the expense of the environment, the future, and the majority of humanity. Today a few hundred multinational corporations dominate the economy of the entire planet on behalf of a tiny super-rich ruling class of investors. They control communications, politics, transportation, finance, monetary exchange, industry, military development and sales, and all other key sectors of life on Earth. Their power is so great that they even control the process of creating the trade-rules (transcending national boundaries) that apply to themselves and the making of laws within nations that are designed to “regulate” these corporations.
They control the international banking and financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank, organizations with tremendous power to enforce trade policies, loan policies, and property rights regulations in the majority of countries on Earth in the interest of the powerful few (Korten 2001). Under this control, the local autonomy of nations over their internal affairs is eroded and structural adjustment policies force nations to open up their internal economies to penetration by these corporate private interests, often selling off public assets for pennies on the dollar to private interests who then have a beachhead within nations for controlling the internal political and legal affairs of those nations in the interests of foreign investors.
In addition, their control of the corporate ruling class over the powerful imperial nation-states of the world means that they use the foreign policies, intelligence services, and military machines of these nations to enforce and impose the system that protects and promotes their interests. Today, this role largely falls to the United States with its 730 military bases worldwide, its vast intelligence and subversion agencies, and its immense Pentagon of power that can overthrow, subvert, or destabilize nearly any country on Earth within a matter of days (Johnson 2004). Political analyst Michael Parenti writes:
Since World War II, the U.S. government has given over $200 billion in military aid to train, equip, and subsidize more than 2.3 million troops and internal security forces in some eighty countries, the purpose being not to defend them from outside invasions but to protect ruling oligarchs and multinational corporate investors from the dangers of anticapitalist insurgency….
U.S. leaders profess a dedication to democracy. Yet over the past five decades, democratically elected reformist governments in Guatemala, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Syria, Indonesia (under Sukarno), Greece, Argentina, Bolivia, Haiti, and numerous other nations were overthrown by pro-capitalist militaries that were funded and aided by the U.S. national security state.
The U.S. national security state has participated in covert actions or proxy mercenary wars against revolutionary governments in Cuba, Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Portugal, Nicaragua, Cambodia, East Timor, Western Sahara, and elsewhere, usually with dreadful devastation and loss of life for the indigenous populations. Hostile actions also have been directed against reformist governments in Egypt, Lebanon, Peru, Iran, Syria, Zaire, Jamaica, South Yemen, the Fiji Islands, and elsewhere.
Since World War II, U.S. forces have directly invaded or launched aerial attacks against Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, North Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Libya, Iraq, and Somalia, sowing varying degrees of death and destruction. (1995, 37-38)
The socialist movement in Venezuela, and the so-called Bolivarian Revolution now going on in Latin America, has been able to succeed in the “backyard” of the imperial center because the empire has over extended itself in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. But its days are numbered, unless the Latin Americans can initiate something that transcends the vulnerable national sovereignty of their countries. Without real unity and solidarity that goes beyond mere treaties, they will be divided and conquered.
According to some reliable sources such as the Labor Exchange, the Nicaragua Network, and the Venezuelan Solidarity Network, the Pentagon has developed invasion plans and special ops plans to create a conflict with Venezuela as a media excuse for overthrowing President Chavez and crushing the Bolivarian Revolution in its infancy. The U.S. is currently beefing up its military bases in Latin America in preparation for executing this plan.
The tremendous feeling of empowerment and resistance felt around the world in such places as the 1999 Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization meetings provides only the illusion of success for the left. The process of globalization, domination, and exploitation has not been significantly impeded by Seattle, nor by any of the other massive protests to meetings of the economic elite around the world. Grass roots organizing and empowerment, as important as it is, cannot effectively resist those who control the finances of the world, the militaries of the world, most of the governments in the world, the mass-media of the world, and most of the multinational corporations of the world. People power will fail unless it transfers that power into enforceable world law that effectively represents the interests of the ordinary people of the world.
Control of the mass-media alone by a handful of corporations serving the interests of the elite multinational corporations and their globalizing regime inhibits the ability of the global solidarity movement to affect mass public opinion (Smith 2006). The spin on the news filtered from the point of view of the dominant powers playing to the loyalty and lack of independent information for the average media consumer is largely effective in keeping the loyalty of the masses to the domination system of oppression and exploitation.
An entire generation that came through the 1960s in the United States thought that it had created an effective “counterculture” that would flourish and blossom in the direction of a decent world order. The generation to follow was not inappropriately named the “me generation” as the mass media commercialized counter-culture symbols and values and effectively undercut the left’s ability to perpetuate its radicalism through time. “Culture” cannot be the only carrier of revolutionary values, since cultures can be subverted by those who control the mass media and mass communications.
One function of the mass-media is to erase the people’s history. Part of their function is to erase historical memory, rewrite historical events, and rearticulate these events from the point of view of dominant elites. The ruling powers are very effective at “decapitating” and destroying left movements through prostituting them for commercial purposes, disinformation, assassination, payoffs, creating internal dissentions, creating “false flag operations” to give them a bad name, etc. A new generation comes along subject to fresh propaganda and whose historical memory of the struggles and sacrifices of their parents and grandparents is erased. The control of the mass media by the dominant corporate elites is happening world wide. Multinational corporations are buying up radio, TV, and news media throughout the developing world. This movement is no accident. It is essential to ensure control over information and the public mind in order to solidify the global system of dehumanization, domination and exploitation.
B. Principle Two: Without control of enforceable law and the law-making process nothing can be changed and no significant change can be protected from one generation to the next.
Law is the formalization and stabilization of good (or bad) principles of human interaction. Good laws help subsequent generations internalize the wisdom and accomplishments of their forefathers and mothers. Good laws create stable economic, communicative, and political communities that endure, develop, and build on the basis of the accomplishments of the past. Good laws promote and create quality, enduring human institutions, from public utilities to a balanced and diverse media to environmental protection agencies to educational systems to cultural organizations.
This truth has led leftist movements to work to control governments everywhere possible. It is an anti-anarchist truth understood by most except the most naïve anarchists who do not ask the most elementary questions regarding their anarcho-syndicalist visions. Good laws can transform society and human relationships, promoting hard work, mutual trust, and hope for the future. Good laws can create quality health-care systems and quality retirement and social security systems. Good laws also provide the framework for authentic participatory democracy. Good democratic government is possible if the power of big money over the political process is broken.
Yet from the left we often hear visions such as the following: “The new world will be born out of the socio-economic struggle of the masses. Out of that struggle, future leaders will emerge who will create a world of peace with justice. First, there must be the struggle for economic democracy. When that is achieved, the political democracy will fall into place somewhat automatically and with that a freer and more just world order.” The vision here is noble and important, but hopelessly idealistic and without any clear idea of the concrete mechanism by which this might be achieved. The fact of the matter is that, as long as the ruling elite control the means of communication, education, and information, the majority of persons will not be able to politically mature to the point where they can serve as the foundation for a freer and more just world order.
How can the struggle for economic democracy be won in the faces of the immense military, police, legal, financial, and propaganda forces of the present world order? The history of this struggle to date, going on for centuries, shows that it cannot be won on the battleground in which it is being fought. All the advantages fall to the dominators and none to the resisters. They use the system of nation-states in a divide and conquer fashion, destroying efforts and economic democracy in country after country. They use the educational and informational systems to inculcate a false consciousness, a false framing of the issues, and a false comprehension in the population. The powerful lords of the Earth understand very well that control of enforceable law and the law-making process is the key to the kind of world order that we live in and its continuity into the future. That is why they have solidified their control over nearly every nation-state world wide.
The above quotation from Michael Parenti illustrates this point at length. The system of nation-states, now the organizational locus of enforceable legitimate law, has been under the domination of the imperial elite for centuries and continues to be so into the foreseeable future. From the dominant point of view, nothing enduring or significant can take place outside the legal framework provided by the nation-states. Even multinational corporations and elitist organizations like the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, that are sometimes said to flourish beyond the structure of nation-states, are directly tied to the military and legal powers of nation-states. Social Scientists James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer write:
The real significance of the IFIs [International Financial Institutions] is how they magnify, extend and deepen the power of the imperial states and how they become a terrain for competition between rival imperial states. Far from superseding the old states, IFIs have strengthened the strategic role of these states as quarterbacks for the international plays of global capital…. So-called “globalization” would not exist were it not for state intervention, nor would the markets remain open were it not for the intervention of the imperial state in the form of political threats, economic pressure, recruitment of local clients, offers of aid and military force. Imperialism takes many forms, from aid and local development to war and military aggression…. (2005, 37 & 42)
Today, corporations are allowed to sue governments whose environmental or labor laws cut into their corporate profit margin. The function and role of governments everywhere, both imperial and victim, are being converted to serve the interests of global corporations and international investors. No longer are governments expected to protect the common good of the population or to serve the majority of their people through education, infrastructure, economic, and democratic processes. These functions are now being delegated to transnational capital.
The new role for governments emphasizes internal police and internal security functions directed to protecting the interests and investments of transnational capital (Shiva 1997). People’s struggles, whether violent or nonviolent, are destroyed, subverted, or derailed. Death and starvation are becoming the norm and plans for the future are more of the same. The system of sovereign nation-states is deeply linked to the system of global monopoly capitalism and offers little hope for a transformed future for humanity.
C. Principle Three: Only the creation of democratic world government with enforceable world law will be able to bring this system under control and create a decent world order for all citizens of Earth.
The left has a progressive understanding of the absolute need for democratizing both economics and politics, but is, by and large, still locked into the reactionary dogma of sovereign nation-states, or, even worse, the dream that real change can arise from grass-roots organizing and consensus building independently of all law and government. Here is the Never-Never land of left romanticism. By and large, people on the left think that grass-roots organizing for economic and local political participation has the capacity to transform the entire world order. History has shown repeatedly that nothing could be farther from the truth or farther from reality.
We have seen how the fragmented and fragmenting system of sovereign nation-states plays right into the hands of the multinational corporations and the imperial nation-states. The globalized world financial and corporate system transcends national borders with some multinational corporations having assets larger than some nation-states. This immense constellation of power uses nation-states, their militaries and their laws, to its own advantage while simultaneously avoiding all the constraints and responsibilities that would be imposed by the rule of democratically legislated laws. The very structure of this system, the divisive system of so-called sovereign nation-states, enables them to divide us, disempower us, and conquer us time and time again.
The so-called domino theory is a delusion: there is no way that one nation after another will ever be able to buck this system until the entire world has been transformed. A revolution in Nicaragua will be destroyed from imperial terrorist army bases in neighboring Honduras. A democratically elected socialist government in Chile will be overthrown by a coup d’état and replaced with a right-wing military dictatorship. A revolution in Cuba will be isolated, terrorized, and economically strangled. A thriving socialist union in Yugoslavia will be subverted from within, charged with false crimes, and bombed into submission. And there is no way that international solidarity among NGOs across boundaries can ever transform this system.
The ruling powers defeat progressive governments and movements in nation after nation. They love the fragmented system of so-called sovereign nation-states because it allows them to divide and conquer. Their system of passports and visas controls the flow of ordinary people between nations, limiting the development of solidarity. At the same time money, goods, weapons, “security,” and intelligence personnel flow easily between nations. Global capital has triumphed. It now has all the privileges and powers of the world, while the majority of the world’s people are controlled and restricted as never before for “security” reasons.
This does not mean that the left should give up its grass-roots work or its development of cooperative economic and social forms of organization. These are empowering on the local level and constitute crucial experiments in alternative forms of economic and social participation. However, these alone are not sufficient. The left needs a grander and, at the same time, more deeply democratic vision. It also needs a more realistic vision of what is possible and how to achieve it. We have not thought democratically enough, nor outside the box of traditional forms, and our vision has not been big enough. Realism means the understanding that there can be no liberation for the people of Earth unless we seize control, not of some means of production, but of the planet itself in the form of democratically legislated enforceable world law. Either all are free, and the rights and dignity of everyone on Earth are respected, or no one is free.
We represent the vast majority of people on Earth and their potentially irresistible democratic power. We represent the overwhelming right with respect to creating a decent, free, and democratic world order. Our failure has been a lack of holism: we have not been thinking in terms of the world as a whole and real political and economic control of the world by the majority but only in terms of local struggles and struggles within nation-states. A necessary condition for the success of the left is to create democratic world government that ends the system of fragmentation and begins an era of non-military democratic, legislation on behalf of the rights and dignity of every person on Earth.
Only enforceable world law can control transnational corporations. Only enforceable world law can equitably and safely demilitarize the world. Only enforceable world law can democratize the means of production, communication, and social organization. Only enforceable world law can protect the global environment from collapse (Harris 2005). Only enforceable world law can end world poverty. Only enforceable world law can ensure an equitable, free, and peaceful existence for every citizen of the planet. Only a non-military democratic world government representing the vast majority of the citizens of Earth can wrest control from the ruling financial and bureaucratic elite and democratize the economic and political order for the world. It will happen for the entire world or is will happen nowhere.
The strategy of the left must be grass roots organizing not just economically and on local political levels. It must be organizing and promoting transformation on every level simultaneously. Ordinary people involved in local struggles over local issues worldwide must simultaneously understand their struggle within the context of a collective struggle of the majority of human beings for an economic and political world order that represents their interests and needs. This can only happen if they empower a truly democratic world government founded on the inviolable sovereignty of the people of Earth.
As a world movement we must operate on many levels and on many issues. Some of us must work at the level of national governments, contacting supreme court members, members of parliaments, and prime ministers to urge them to think in terms of the emerging Earth Federation. Others working on environmental issues, labor issues, human rights issues, or cooperative economic issues must simultaneously recognize and promote their struggle as part of the movement for democratic world government under a Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Others will be working at the level of provisional world government, building the reality of a new world order within the rotten shell of the old, unjust world order.
We must lobby leaders of nations and members of parliaments just as effectively as we organize in solidarity with peasants to resist the destruction of their lives by the multinational corporations and the national governmental forces that serve as agents of these corporations. We must convert lawyers, judges, factory owners, businessmen, parliamentarians, labor leaders, civic leaders, human rights workers, economists, professors, and people from all walks of life. This should be quite obvious and should explode the romantic dogma that somehow only the poorest and most marginalized, or that somehow only the industrial working class is pure enough to effect the needed revolution. Nonsense. Every human being, even some wealthy ones, can potentially see the truth of the three principles outlined in this essay. Wherever we find ourselves placed as individual human beings: in women’s groups, in labor groups, in educational institutions, in political movements, in labor or industry: we must work for democratic world government as an integral part of the process of educating ourselves and others for economic, social, and political liberation.
We do not need to reinvent the wheel. A great deal of work has already been done and the institutional framework for democratic world government has already been laid by the World Constitution and Parliament Association and other world federalist organizations since the 1940s (Tetalman and Belitsos 2005). A quality Constitution for the Federation of Earth has already been written and the campaign for ratification of the Constitution has already begun (Martin 2005). Progressive people of the world need only give their support to this movement in addition to their quality work on the host of issues that confront them in the struggle.
Article 17 of the Constitution places ratification of the Constitution by the people and nations of Earth, and hence the beginning of democratic world government, well within practical reach of the people of Earth. All that is necessary is a vision of the truly transformative possibilities that the Constitution sets before us. Only 25 nations are necessary to initiate the first operative stage of democratic world government. From this beginning, when the poor majority of the world see that there is indeed a way out of the nightmare trap in which they are now locked, the Earth Federation will grow overnight to include the vast majority of nations and peoples of Earth. Freedom for the Earth will be at hand, because freedom can only be realized when the vast majority of the world are truly the source of the democratic legislation that represents their interests and their rights.
Transformation will never come from the dominators and exploiters. It can only come from the will of the majority of persons on Earth. This is our spaceship Earth. This is our world, not theirs alone. We have the duty and the right to take control of the Earth in the name of the vast majority and the welfare of future generations. Creating genuine world democracy is the only truly practical and realistic possibility for creating a decent world order. We citizens of the world must unite! We have nothing to lose but our oppression and our chains. And what we have to gain is truly the meaning and destiny of human life on planet Earth: one world, one humanity, one peace with justice, one unity in diversity, one truly democratic world order.
A Constitution for the Federation of Earth is found at many websites, including: www.worldproblems.net, www.wcpa.biz, www.worldparliamentgov.net, and www.radford.edu/~gmartin). It is also found in many books, including Harris (2005) and Martin (2005).
Harris, Errol E. (2005). Earth Federation Now! Tomorrow is Too Late. Sun City, AZ: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.
Johnson, Chalmers (2004). The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic. New York: Henry Holt & Company.
Korten, David C. (2001) When Corporations Rule the World. Second Edition. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press.
Martin, Glen T. (2005). World Revolution Through World Law. Basic Documents of the Emerging Earth Federation. Sun City, AZ: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.
Parenti, Michael (1995). Against Empire. San Francisco: City Lights Books.
Petras, James and Veltmeyer, Henry, et. al. (2005). Empire with Imperialism. The Globalizing Dynamics of Neo-liberal Capitalism. London: ZED books.
Shiva, Vandana (1997). “Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge.” Speech at the University of Colorado, Boulder: 4/29/97. Boulder CO: David Barsamian, Alternative Radio.
Smith, J.W. (2006). Economic Democracy: A Grand Strategy for World Peace and Prosperity. Sun City, AZ: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.
Tetalman, Jerry and Belitsos, Byron (2005). One World Democracy. A Progressive Vision for Enforceable Global Law. San Raphael, CA: Origin Press.