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Julie Waterson

One conspiracy too many?

(October 1999)

From Socialist Review 234, October 1999.
Transcribed by Christian Høgsbjerg.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Global Gamble
Peter Gowan
Verso £13

Peter Gowan’s book is a welcome addition to the continuing debate over globalisation. He sets out his analysis of what he has called the ‘Dollar-Wall Street regime’.

Gowan offers us the hard evidence to illustrate the dominance of the US banks, the IMF and the World Bank and, ultimately, US imperialism over the world economy. He argues that the US, in an alliance using the political power of Bill Clinton with the economic power of the banks, engineered the collapse of the south east Asian economies to ensure world domination. Unfortunately, his belief that the collapse of currencies and the movement of the market are determined solely and rationally by the dominant powers hampers his analysis. At times reading The Global Gamble is like flicking through a John Le Carré novel or reading the latest exploits of KGB spies. It is full of unproven conspiracy theories.

It would be wrong to conclude, as Gowan does, that individual capitalists, banks or the state have 100 percent control over the market. Rightly Gowan, like Will Hutton and Larry Elliot, points out the measures that, if enacted, could control sleaze and corruption – like regulation of the stock market and greater control on companies and banks. But, he says,

‘just as capitalism found a way out in the end from the crisis of the 1930s and the war, a way out that offered a greatly improved deal for a large part of humanity, so I believe it could, in principle, again. But I doubt that it will, not because of the nature of capitalism as such, but because a solution would require a tactical radicalism and an intransigence of political will which is difficult to imagine European social democracy as being capable of.’

Here he ends up appealing for a left reformist solution, similar to that of Hutton and Elliott. Much of this appeal is based on contemporary conditions, but his solutions fall flat. His hopes are resting on the shoulders of the now ousted Oskar Lafontaine, the German finance minister who was forced out by the combined forces of big business and the right wing of the SPD:

‘But the new German finance minister, Lafontaine, is certainly different. He raises the possibility of a Keynesianism not so much rooted in the Keynes of redistributing income in the national economy to boost effective demand but in the Keynes of ideas for organising the postwar international economy for growth. The Keynes who sought to propose the kind of “financial repression” and status development strategy for the world, placing productive growth in the saddle and organising euthanasia for the rentier.’

On eastern Europe he examines the development of the reorganised Communist Parties and indicates that the failed economic input from the west after the fall of the Berlin Wall has resulted in wild political fluctuations, with the very real threat from right wing extremists and Nazi parties.

But he harbours a belief that somehow eastern Europe can automatically resist any imposed political or economic domination, particularly from the US.

His illusions in left reformism, Keynesianism and the former eastern European states spoils his powerful arguments against US imperialism.

He ends with an essay on Nato and the EU where he says,

‘We had thought that interwar capitalist society was a thing of the past, a deviation overcome by postwar social progress. But it turns out that the postwar social gains were the deviation and the interwar state and society is again the norm... Europe seems to be drifting toward a divided, turbulent and ugly future.’

The Balkan War showed how right Gowan is. It was a bloody and horrific demonstration of how US imperialism will stop at nothing to remain the world economic and political power.

Unfortunately, The Global Gamble does not hold the answers to how we effectively challenge this domination, but it does offer useful information and many a debating point.

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