Globalization, labour and socialist renewal

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Conference: ‘The World Crisis of Capitalism and the Post-Soviet States’,

Moscow October 30th - November 1st 1999
Hugo Radice
Whatever disagreements there may be about the past, present and future of the former Soviet bloc states, the political analyses and prognoses on offer are typically national in their focus. This reflects one of the most powerful legacies of twentieth-century political and economic thinking: the theory of ‘socialism in one country’ which triumphed in the USSR in the 1920s was joined by the post-Depression Keynesian theory of capitalism in one country in the 1940s, and the post-colonial theories of national liberation and national development in the 1960s. Despite all the warning signals which could be read in the theories and practices of socialism in the 19th century, it seems that socialists in our own century have been wedded to the belief that ‘real politics’ - the politics of electoral and societal struggle over governments, regimes and policies - was inevitably national in scope. We have paid lip-service to the ideal of internationalism, and we have recognised the constraints that have been imposed on nations and states by external agencies; but for all the rhetoric of proletarian brotherhood and anti-imperialist struggle, we have regarded the nation-state as the central focus of politics. As a result, socialist goals have almost always been expressed in national terms, and socialists have found themselves mired in unending and fruitless debates about ‘the national question’.
I think that one of the must urgent tasks we face now is to escape from this intellectual and political prison of our own making: to forge a politics that is global in scope, and thereby to return to the universalism so eloquently expressed in the Communist Manifesto. But in order to do so, we have to examine the foundations of our understanding of capitalism. Clearly, one essential aim must be to reappraise the global character of capitalism, to see whether there is (to use the time-honoured term) a material basis for international socialism - in what ways capitalist accumulation, reproduction and regulation are now intrinsically global.
However, there is a second component in socialist thinking which requires just as drastic a rethink, and that is labour. Of course, we all accept the alienation of labour as a central feature of capitalism, and analyses of the labour process, the exploitation of labour, labour markets and labour organization have been major concerns for the left everywhere. Yet connecting these concerns of socialist analysis and struggle to a conception of socialism - not to mention a strategy for arriving there - has never been easy. We have argued ourselves sick about the appropriate ways for the working class to organize politically - or more realistically, for socialist intellectuals to organise the working class; about the limitations of syndicalism or of social democracy, reform or revolution. We know that ‘the working class’, wage-labour, is deeply divided, spatially, sectorally, by status and income and occupation, and so we have tried to identify common interests which can ‘unite’ it. But serious attempts to envisage how labour itself could be reshaped have remained on the fringe of socialist thought and practice, often - as in the case of self-management - dismissed as utopian or premature or even diversionary. Thus, for many, many decades until the 1970s no-one paid much attention to Marx’s meticulous analysis of production and work in Capital, instead debating obsessively his much more sketchy modelling of macroeconomic balances and of price formation (the ‘transformation problem’, the ‘theory of crisis’, etc.).

These two issues - globalization and labour - turn out, I shall argue, to be very intimately related. They are related because the ‘globalization of capital’ is the globalization of labour, of capitalism’s material and social relations, of accumulation, class formation and the state; hence socialist politics has to be intrinsically global. But in addition, once we focus on the multiple divisions of labour, we see that only a determined challenge to those divisions can establish a universalist framework for socialist politics.

Globalization and the political economy of ‘transition’
Globalization has become a hot topic among intellectuals, politicians and capitalists during exactly the period since the collapse of the Soviet system was confirmed in 1989. Prior to this decade, deeper cross-border economic integration among capitalist countries had of course been evident since 1950, with trade and capital flows growing significantly faster than output, and the political consequences had been equally visible in the growth and evolution of inter-governmental organizations at the regional and global levels. But it took two decades of crisis following the end of the long postwar boom (1945-70) for the consequences to become clear in the disintegration of the national economic models of welfare-state-Keynesianism in the advanced capitalist countries, and post-colonial developmentalism in the Third World. As a consequence, we can now see that the collapse of Soviet communism took place in a very particular international context.
Now, I do not deny that many writers have drawn attention to the role of hard currency indebtedness in increasing the pressure on Soviet-bloc regimes in the 1980s, and later the evidently semi-peripheral or peripheral level at which the bloc’s various national economies were reinserted into global capitalism; others have charted the key role of the IMF, the World Bank and the European Commission in the restoration of capitalism in ‘the East’.1 In part, this way of interpreting the so-called transition rested very simply on a comparison of levels of economic development: in similar vein, back in the mid-1980s during the second wave of economic reform in Hungary, the question was raised of how a capitalist Hungary would make out - trying to preserve Swedish levels of welfare with Portuguese levels of productivity.
The problem lies with the understanding of global capitalism that informs this recognition of the ‘external’ aspects of post-Soviet political economy. It seems that all too often, this understanding is essentially that of the 1960s: of the post-colonial struggle of third world nation-states against dependency and underdevelopment. In this view, the former Soviet bloc states are depicted as following the path of Latin American or worst still African states, into a sort of neo-colonialist dead end characterised by an alliance between foreign economic exploiters and rapacious local comprador ruling classes. There is plenty of evidence for this interpretation: the role played by the export of raw materials from the post-Soviet economies, the importance of foreign loans in meeting budget and payments deficits, and the way in which foreign direct investment has focused mainly on exploiting highly-profitable domestic consumer markets. At the same time, post-Soviet politics seemed to centre very much on reconciling the cosmopolitan transnationalism of the free market, and the (often ethnic) nationalism which the emerging regimes deployed to establish their political legitimacy.
In a curious way, however, the left had, and still has, an analysis of capitalism very close to that of the Soviet regime, both with regard to the Third World, and the advanced capitalist countries.
To begin with the former, I do not wish to suggest that dependency theory and the analysis of centre-periphery relations in global capitalism were driven directly and solely by the ideological requirements of the Soviet regime. But clearly there was a great deal in common between the theories that underpinned anti-colonial Third World nationalism of the 1960s, and the then current Soviet analyses of imperialism - and both reflected the very real confrontations between the imperial powers and their former de jure and de facto dependencies in that period. And just as the Soviet view of the Third World seemed less and less credible as the Soviet Union pursued classic ‘great power’ tactics in the Brezhnev era, so dependency theory lost credibility in the Third World as the strategy of autonomous economic development - based mainly on import-substitution - foundered in economic disorder and indebtedness. But whether it was financiers in the capitalist heartlands, or Third World elites themselves, that were responsible for the transition from the ‘new international economic order’ postulated in the 1970s to the abject crisis of Third World indebtedness in the 1980s is neither here nor there. It was already very clear in the 1970s that post-colonial regimes in the Third World were indelibly marked by their particular insertion into global capitalism: not only were merchants and latifundistas closely linked to ex-colonial capital, but in addition small but powerful sections of the urban middle and working classes too.2 But despite the evident ambiguity of economic nationalism in the Third World, the left felt obliged to theorise it as a struggle for national liberation.3
In striking parallel, the Soviet theory of state monopoly capitalism in the advanced capitalist countries in the 1960s had a great deal in common with the Keynesian analyses that dominated economic discourse within the latter. Both assumed that, left to ‘its own’ devices, capitalism was characterised by unacceptable exploitation, inequality and a tendency to stagnation and crisis. They shared not only an underconsumptionist macroeconomics, but also a view of the state as a distionct economic agency above or apart from capital, capable of regulating it to the benefit of one or other of the great classes: in short the redistributive state. In Hungary in the 1970s, I was struck by the fact that one view of Western capitalism was shared by both the regime and its dissidents: namely, the post-Keynesian analysis of Galbraith, which saw capitalism as a rather stable economic order regulated carefully and effectively by big business and the state.
A number of key features were common to these shared analyses of developed and underdeveloped capitalism. First, labour - the proletariat - figured essentially as passive victim, capable, with appropriate leadership and in the right circumstances, of acting collectively to overthrow capitalism, but otherwise tossed hither and thither by the anarchy of the market or the oppression of the capitalist state. I will come back to this later. Second, the bourgeois view of the separation of state from (‘civil’) society was internalised in socialist thinking, whether in the reformist notion of using the state to reform or transform capitalism, or the so-called revolutionary notion of the capture of state power: either way, the state was envisaged fundamentally as the pre-eminent instrument for social change. Third, the left also accepted the equally bourgeois idea of the nation-state as the basic unit of global capitalism - an ‘inter-national’ economic order of rich nations and poor, in which economic, political and military hegemony was exercised by some (imperialist) countries over other (oppressed) countries.
Now all these features of left theory (and practice) may in principle be defended with regard to the century from 1870 to 1970, in which the state assumed an apparent supremacy over society and in which world affairs were apparently shaped by the struggle of state against state. How could it have been possible, save in the occasional periods of Comintern enthusiasm for the anti-colonial struggle, to conceive of a real commonality of interest between, say, the industrial workers of Britain, and the miners and plantation workers of the colonial Gold Coast? The overthrow of the monopoly capitalist class and their state seemed the natural and obvious form of struggle for the former, and breaking the colonial yoke was the priority of the latter. But if we look back now to the 1960s, we can see that the left in the advanced capitalist countries was making little or no headway in their struggles, while the national liberation movements of the Third World found their goals of development and dignity rapidly receding.
Why was this the case? Clearly, we underestimated the resilience of capitalism. We had become so accustomed to thinking of it as declining towards an inevitable end; indeed, for the non-Communist left, 1968 seemed to demonstrate the possibility of revolutionary victory not only over Western capitalism and imperialism, but over bureaucratic state socialism (or whatever you want to call it) in the East as well.4 But I would argue today that there were changes under way in capitalism at that time that did not become readily visible until the 1980s; that these changes culminated in the phenomena that bourgeois social science now recognises under the heading of globalization; and that the left has still to grasp the real significance of these changes.
What are these changes? In essence they are changes in the spatial patterns of capital accumulation and reproduction, including important changes in the relations between economic and political power. In parable form: from around 1870, capital adopted the form of national capital, forging an intimate relationship with the state in the management of labour and in the pursuit of world markets, and creating the classic system of imperial rivalries that exploded in world wars and depression between 1914 and 1945. Until 1914, this international order permitted not only the formation of colonial empires, but also a significant degree of interpenetration of the dominant national capitalisms through cross-border loans and investments. But the failure to reestablish a legitimate international financial and trading order at or after Versailles led to a dramatically different pattern of economic introversion, with declines in trade exposure and capital flows, escalating tariff wars and the open espousal of policies of national (or imperial) self-sufficiency5. This introversion reached its apogee in 1950, after which the new international economic order (the dollar-gold standard and the Bretton Woods institutions) framed a remarkable renaissance in international trade and investment flows, accelerated in due course by the steady relaxation of controls on capital movements. Already in the 1960s, economists drew attention to the growing importance of multinational corporations - at that time, almost entirely American in origin - and the potential that they had for undermining the effectiveness of government economic policies; in the Third World, this chimed well with post-colonial economic nationalism and led to relatively restrictive policies towards MNCs, but in the developed capitalist countries governments felt that the benefits of MNC investments in improving employment, exports and technology outweighed the suggested cost to sovereignty.
By 1980, however, the picture had changed remarkably. Most leading enterprises from Japan and from Western Europe had also become multinational in scope; the process of ‘liberalization’ of capital movements was largely complete in the main capitalist countries; and a vast private global capital market had emerged, fuelled by the recycling of the temporary petrodollar surpluses of oil exporting nations, and escaping largely any effective national or international regulation. Within three or four years of the second oil price rise, which had been heralded by many on the left as a triumph for the emerging new international economic order, the Mexican debt default of 1982 set the stage for the dominant capitalist powers to turn the tables, and, led by the singularly pro-business US administration, to begin a determined effort to restore capitalist order.
Now in some important respects the new capitalist order, with its focus on fiscal and monetary stringency, on cutting back the state and eliminating inflation, looked very like the old, pre-Keynesian capitalist order; and when it led to levels of unemployment in the OECD countries not seen since the 1930s, and to fierce attacks on trade unionism and universal welfare benefits, it was easy for the left to fall back on Keynesian critiques and alternatives. But in other respects, the new order was very different: history was not after all repeating itself. Despite repeated bouts of serious international economic disorder - debt crises, payments imbalances, exchange rate gyrations, speculative attacks on currencies, aggressive trade policy actions, the transmission of deflation from one economy to the next - the world economy did not as in the 1920s break up into competing blocs or zones.
The reason for this lie precisely in the changes that are captured, however superficially at times, in the modern concept of globalization. Levels of foreign direct and portfolio investments have soared in the last twenty years, accompanied by deeper cross-border integration of markets and of production. As always, capital accumulation is remarkably uneven, with investments heavily concentrated in the more developed regions of the world economy, and significant regions largely excluded. Most recently, a wave of massive cross-border mergers is creating businesses that are genuinely multinational in ownership and management as well in production and distribution operations.6 At the same time, the rapid growth and deepening of international capital markets has been well-documented, as well as the increasing importance of trade as a proportion of national output in almost every country. In addition, the political regulation of capitalism is increasingly transnational in scope, with the growing importance of regional and global public institutions as compared to national ones.
The response of many broadly progressive writers to these developments is one of scepticism.7 Their real extent and significance, the sceptics argue, has been exaggerated: for them, globalization is first and foremost an ideological construct, forged with the express purpose of rolling back the economic and political gains of the working classes during the postwar years. The ruling classes insist on the inevitability of globalization so that they can say, like Margaret Thatcher, that ‘there is no alternative’ to fiscal austerity and the rule of the market; and the appropriate response to this for the left is therefore to encourage a resistance movement centred on the defense of the sovereign nation-state. If we concede the inevitability of globalization, in this view, we throw away the one political instrument - the state - which has proved capable of taming capital.
This is surely a serious misreading, not only of current developments in capitalism, but also of the history of capitalism, the capitalist state and workers’ resistance. What taming there was of capital in the imperialist centres before 1914 developed in response to the very real threats posed by social democracy and trade unionism; and the national introversion and global fragmentation of capitalism between 1914 and 1950 then allowed the creation of welfare systems, wider employment rights and national economic management which again were demanded by workers, not instituted by a naturally benevolent state. The proto-socialist character of this mid-century welfare capitalism was well understood by ruling classes everywhere, and the Thatcher-Reagan neoliberal crusade was their considered and eventual response - not the wild aberration that Keynesians would have us believe. Above all, the state remains an explicitly capitalist state, not a neutral agency standing outside of class conflict, and even sophisticated left strategies of ‘working from the inside’8 had little chance of success.
Furthermore, we have to question just what national alternative there is to the neoliberal orthodoxy. Given the ever-deeper interpenetration of national capitalisms, the economic interests and political influence of labour and capital are no longer congruent. In country after country in the last 20 years, centre-left governments trying to maintain (let alone extend) more interventionist or progressive economic programmes on an explicitly national basis have met with fierce hostility from all significant business interests. The Jospin government in France is just barely managing to introduce the 35-hour week for two reasons: first, that big business can easily afford it and is more concerned right now about restructuring corporate ownership, governance and finance; and secondly, because it can strongarm the very weak French unions into making concessions on ‘flexibility’ that will ensure that the burden falls on wages, not profits.
In these circumstances, it seems far more realistic to break with the long tradition of seeking national class alliances, and instead seek to build the autonomous power of labour, however ‘utopian’ that may seem to be - especially in the former Soviet bloc where that power was so firmly crushed for so long. But this in turn requires that we examine more closely the divisions of labour which constitute a major obstacle to such a strategy.

Divisions of labour
In Capital, Marx abstracted from the geopolitical division of capitalism into sovereign territorial nation-states. The first division of labour that remained was the social division of labour between different sectors or occupations, which was founded on the material distinctions between products of labour and on the different concrete labours performed in producing them. Marx was unambiguous about the potential, in a materially wealthy society, for greatly reducing the social stratification typically entailed, for example between town and countryside, artisan and clerk, home worker and factory worker, administration and production, by multiskilling and the rotation of tasks under collective social control - but the character of the tasks themselves was seen as largely determined by the progress of science and technology.
The second and analytically distinct division of labour was the technical division of labour within the workplace, which was radically deepened as the new mode of production matured through the ideal sequence from cooperation to manufacture to modern industry. On this Marx was equally unambiguous, arguing that the detailed division of labour that characterized manufacture was intimately associated with the separation of workers from the means of production; while its intensification under the apparently technical domination of machines within modern industry represented the ‘real subordination’ of labour to capital, and revealed most fully the exploitative nature of capitalism. Here, the formal separation of workers from the means of production, through their expropriation by capital, was made real by the further expropriation of workers’ skills and knowledge - and thus the tendential elimination of the ‘subjective’ element that constantly threatened capitalist control of production. This technical division of labour thus embodied an explicitly capitalist vertical division of labour, between conception (activities restricted to capitalists and a narrow layer of specialists) and execution (the remaining workers).9
Accumulation and technological change generate a complex relationship between the social and technical divisions of labour. To take an example very relevant to the former Soviet bloc economies - or for that matter even the most ‘advanced’ capitalist economy, the USA - labour that is expelled from production due to increased extraction of relative surplus-value in modern industries joins the reserve army of labour. This puts a downward pressure on wages and opens (or reopens) profitable investment opportunities in the ‘sweated’ trades which are based on a more extensive social division of labour (new products) but a more primitive technical division of labour (handicraft skills).
In addition to these two more or less elemental divisions of labour, further divisions are apparent once we move from the analytical level of capital in general, to that of many capitals and competition between them, to pre-existing social, cultural and ethnic divisions, and to the political battlegrounds on which the classes contend. Differential rates of accumulation between capitals, arising from success and failure in product markets or in implementing changes in technology, make for differences in wage rates and earnings for the same occupation between districts or between firms. Different approaches to the management of labour create different payment systems; old pre-capitalist distinctions are transformed into new skill and status differences. Other sources of social difference, such as gender and ethnicity, provide further divisions of labour: for example, gender differences in wages and the tendency for certain occupations to become gendered. The struggles by labour to organize generate a wide range of different types of trade unionism, which both respond to and feed these complex patterns of differentiation. Parties and movements of the ruling classes, not to mention the shifting allegiances of the petite bourgeoisie, create further divisions through political initiatives and through legislation.
All these divisions of labour are intimately connected to globalization in two main ways. First, the world economy has an evolving international division of labour which, through trade and investments, helps to shape the social division of labour in particular countries, and is in turn influenced by differences in the rate and patterns of accumulation in them. The classic colonial division of labour between manufacturing and primary production is still of enormous significance, especially for the vast majority of less developed countries that remain heavily dependent on primary exports. But this was modified in a ‘new international division of labour’10 emerged in the 1970s which involved the growth of export-oriented manufacturing sectors in LDCs; although this has only affected a small minority of countries, it forms part of a wider pattern of more detailed specialization through trade, including a rapid growth of intra-industry trade between advanced industrial economies.
The most important implication of these developments is that they reflect a more integrated global labour market of a very particular kind: one in which, with some exceptions, labour itself is not mobile, but capital and commodities are. In the early history of capitalism labour mobility was frequently forced, particularly through expulsions of surplus agricultural labour, and through trade in slaves and indentured labourers; while in the pre-1914 period international migration brought labour reserves to the USA and other countries of settlement. But in the present period, there are severe restrictions on the free movement of labour. The level of demand for highly-skilled labour makes that part of the labour force de facto rather mobile, while at the other extreme there is the flourishing trade in clandestine migration meeting marginal demand for completely unskilled labour. For the most part, however, the global labour force remains geographically segmented, with strict control over economic migration. So long as the mobility of capital too was restricted, workers in the EU, USA or Japan could be persuaded that this segmentation was in their interest, but increasingly they are at the mercy of ‘divide and rule’ tactics by mobile capital, which have led to downward pressure on wages and labour standards.
The competitive pressures transmitted through international flows of money, capital and goods have generated sharp increases in rates of exploitation of labour. In the era of essentially national economic development, the pursuit of full employment policies involved explicit recognition of workers as consumers, in what the Regulation School characterised as the ‘Fordist model’.11 Today, even if national segmentation masks the global nature of the labour market, the national link between production and consumption is significantly weaker, to the extent that giant firms no longer make that Fordist connection in choosing their business strategies. As a result, beginning in the USA in the 1970s already, labour has once more been treated from the standpoint of cost and exploitation alone: the 1990s version of this in Western Europe and indeed around the world is the call for ‘flexibility’, by which is meant wage cuts, speed-ups, derecognition drives, decentralization of collective bargaining (even to the level of the individual), etc.
The second point of connection between divisions of labour and globalization concerns the response of organised labour and other movements opposed to corporate rule. From a national standpoint, labour’s former collective strength, supported by broadly sympathetic but still electable political parties able to deliver national standards of labour protection, has been severely undermined. Yet already in the 1960s workers achieved some modest successes in organizing at the level of shop-floor representation in particular MNCs, within the overall framework of the international labour bureaucracy. Although such activities barely survived the severe economic pressures of the 1970s, more recently the picture has changed, partly through new global rank-and-file initiatives such as that of the dockworkers, and partly through labour-backed intergovernmental legislative initiatives such as the European Works Council Directive and the labour side-agreement in NAFTA. There are signs too that the venerable but hitherto not very effective International Labour Organization may find a new role to play, given the persistent efforts by advanced-country unions to place the issue of labour standards on the agenda of the World Trade Organization. Meanwhile, the attempt by the rich country club, the OECD, to develop a Multilateral Agreement on Investment designed to accelerate and consolidate the deregulation of international business met in 1997-98 an energetic and successful global resistance organized mainly by NGOs, trade unions, some LDC governments and progressive intellectuals.
So far, so good: but it is a big step from the sporadic and fragmentary successes of international labour and social movement activists to a sustained internationalist socialist movement capable of offering an attractive and realistic alternative to the present social order. The underlying difficulty, it seems to me, is that even if the collective production of workers are increasingly interconnected through the globalization of capital, their labour remains divided in the many and complex ways already described. In the early days of what some called the ‘age of automation', in the 1960s, some important attempts were made to draw out the social implications of new technologies for the organization of work. The Czechoslovak study Civilization at the Crossroads12 argued that the complexity and interconnectedness of the new technologies of the time would require a vastly more skilled workforce, and one that was much more equally skilled: indeed, skill was becoming much more closely tied to human creativity, to active labour, that could only with great difficulty be constrained within the exploitative commodity form of wage labour. ‘Western’ Marxism generated a number of critical strands of thinking, around the labour process (Gorz, Braverman), the division between intellectual and manual labour (Sohn-Rethel), workers’ alternative technologies (Cooley, Hales) and the ‘revolt against work’ (Negri).13 There seemed to be an emerging synthesis in which overcoming the divisions of labour and redefining the nature of work would be a central and immediate political task, not something to be left on one side ‘until after the revolution’. Yet somehow this radical synthesis faded away as workers everywhere tried to defend themselves against the worldwide assault on organized labour which gathered pace in the 1980s. If we looked for signs of hope, they seemed to be found in more-or-less traditional national labour struggles, as in South Korea in 1987, in the waves of strikes that marked the last years of apartheid in South Africa, or the rise of the PT (Labour Party) in Brazil.
Is it possible to get the question of work, the divisions of labour, back on the agenda? Partly, this might be addressed by putting far more emphasis on education. Preobrazhensky, in From NEP to Socialism, took it for granted that the Soviet Union could only secure its survival by mass education so that workers and peasants could play a full part in economic management and political decision-making. Most labour movements during the ascendancy of the national form of capitalist development regarded educational activities as a central part of their work. Yet today the dominant ideology in education is one of training or preparation for work in the narrow sense of being ‘employable’, by and for capital. The education and training systems themselves are subject to a ‘new managerialism’ within which this goal is pursued, and many liberal and progressive people have been persuaded that at least the expansion of post-school education provides opportunities for occupational mobility. But there is no question that the present education agenda is driven everywhere by the demand of capitalists for workers able to carry out the tasks that they set. The result is that, as Richta predicted, there are massive numbers of workers frustrated as much by the stultifying absence of creativity in their work, as by the heavy hand of direct managerial control and the threat of unemployment. There is a real opportunity here for socialists to offer a different vision of work that centres on bringing together the creativity of workers and the needs of society, unmediated by the juggernaut of capital that is concealed behind the anonymity of ‘the market’. Once we envision work as both creative and collective, we can see that the commodity character of labour-power cripples society’s ability to make effective use of its resources.
It is important, therefore, to revive those critical strands of socialist thought that address the issues of education, skills and work organization. I should stress that I am not taking sides in the long-running debate about giving primacy to ‘labour issues’ as opposed to the ‘new social movements’. The sort of labour issues that I have discussed arise just as much in the work of those new social movements: indeed, at root these movements are also about divisions of labour, between rich and poor, men and women, polluters and environmentalists, and the objectives they pursue entail more often than not radical changes in the ways in which production is organised. The key point is that to be able to offer some kind of real alternative that connects with the everyday concerns of people, we have to appeal not merely to the material or moral imperatives that shape them, but to their innate creativity.14 At present, such concerns are restricted to the voluntary sector, which is increasingly exploited by ‘new managerialist’ public sector agencies anxious to reduce the cost of providing basic welfare services; to fringe ‘utopian’ communities whose relations to the ‘straight’ world are often very problematic; and paradoxically to a small band of ‘enlightened’ capitalists whose business rely so heavily on creative and collective work that they have to construct protected ‘reservations’ that prefigure a socialist future.
It may be objected that these arguments are a long way away from the central concerns of this conference with ‘the world crisis of capitalism and the post-Soviet states’. On the contrary, the fact that these states are post-Soviet - that the Soviet road to socialism decisively reached a dead end – requires us to go back to basics. In setting out some propositions on globalization and on divisions of labour, I am addressing the underlying orientation of the left, including in the post-Soviet states. I have argued that a feasible socialism has to deal directly with the realities of globalization, and not just attack its ideology, by breaking with the nationalism that has shaped left politics in the 20 century. I have further argued that socialists can and must develop an agenda about work and its discontents, about the divisions of labour, which can challenge the present capitalist order in a different way from the failed roads of Stalinism and social democracy. These two directions seem to me to be essential components of a democratic, socialist internationalism.

Leeds, October 1999

Correspondence to: Hugo Radice, Institute for Politics & International Studies, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT. Email:

1 see e.g. Andre Gunder Frank, ‘Soviet and East European ‘socialism’: a review of the international political economy of what went wrong’, Review of International Political Economy1/2, Summer 1994; several papers in the special issue of Labour Focus on Eastern Europe, ‘’The European Left and EU enlargement’, no.56, 1997; and most recently, Boris Kagarlitsky, ‘The new periphery’, Links 12, May/August 1999.

2 see Osvaldo Sunkel, ‘Transnational capitalism and national disintegration in Latin America’, Social and Economic Studies, vol.22 no.1, 1973.

3 The other side of the coin was that the Soviet regime, for all its adherence to realpolitik, is still seen by many has having offered crucial support to (for example) Cuba and the ANC.

4 It pains me to admit that many of us had illusions about China. See Bettelheim, Sweezy and all the others!

5 See J M Keynes, ‘National self-sufficiency’, New Statesman & Nation, 1933 (in Collected Works vol.XXI).

6 e.g. DaimlerChrysler, Deutsche Bank/Bankers Trust, Vodafone/AirTouch, and the 3-way merger of Alcan, Pechiney and Alusuisse.

7 For a detailed outline and critique of the sceptical response see Hugo Radice, ‘Responses to globalization: a critique of progressive nationalism, ‘ New Political Economy, forthcoming, vol.5 no.1, March 2000.

8 See London-Edinburgh Weekend Return Group, In and Against the State, Pluto Press 1980.

9 The vertical division of labour has been exhaustively analyzed in value-theoretical terms in an unpublished paper by Anthony Barzey, ‘Towards a labour theory of technological change’ (1999)

10 First systematically analysed by Folker Fröbel, Jürgen Heinrichs and Otto Kreye, The New International Division of Labour, Cambridge UP 1980 (German original 1977).

11 Notably Michel Aglietta, A Theory of Capitalist Regulation, New Left Books 1980 (French original 1977).

12 Radovan Richta et al., Civilization at the Crossroads, IASP 1968.

13 André Gorz, Strategy for Labour: a Radical Proposal, 1964; Harry Braverman, Labour and Monopoly Capital, Monthly Review Press 1974; Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Intellectual and Manual Labour: a Critique of Epistemology, Macmillan 1978; Mike Cooley, Architect or Bee?, Hogarth Press 1987; Mike Hales, Living Thinkwork, CSE Books 1980; Tony Negri, Revolution Retrieved, Red Notes 1988.

14 A central argument in Richta, Civilization at the Crossroads.

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