The Truth About the Situation in Libya

By Brian Becker, National Coordinator, ANSWER Coalition 

Aug 13 - Stop Bombing LibyaLibya is a small country of just over 6 million people but it possesses the largest oil reserves in all of Africa. The oil produced there is especially coveted because of its particularly high quality.

The Air Force of the United States along with Britain and France has carried out 7,459 bombing attacks since March 19. Britain, France and the United States sent special operation ground forces and commando units to direct the military operations of the so-called rebel fighters – it is a NATO- led army in the field.

The troops may be disaffected Libyans but the operation is under the control and direction of NATO commanders and western commando units who serve as “advisors.” Their new weapons and billions in funds come from the U.S. and other NATO powers that froze and seized Libya’s assets in Western banks. Their only military successes outside of Benghazi, in the far east of the country, have been exclusively based on the coordinated air and ground operations of the imperialist NATO military forces.

In military terms, Libya’s resistance to NATO is of David and Goliath proportions. U.S. military spending alone is more than ten times greater than Libya’s entire annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which was $74.2 billion in 2010, according to the CIA’s World Fact Book.

In recent weeks, the NATO military operations used surveillance-collecting drones, satellites, mounting aerial attacks and covert commando units to decapitate Libya’s military and political leadership and its command and control capabilities. Global economic sanctions meant that the country was suddenly deprived of income and secure access to goods and services needed to sustain a civilian economy over a long period.

“The cumulative effect [of NATO’s coordinated air and ground operation] not only destroyed Libya’s military infrastructure but also greatly diminished Colonel Gaddafi’s commanders to control forces, leaving even committed fighting units unable to move, resupply or coordinate operations,“ reports the New York Times in a celebratory article on August 22.

A False Pretext

The United States, United Kingdom, France, and Italy targeted the Libyan government for overthrow or “regime change” not because these governments were worried about protecting civilians or to bring about a more democratic form of governance in Libya.

If that were the real motivation of the NATO powers, they could start the bombing of Saudi Arabia right away. There are no elections in Saudi Arabia. The monarchy does not even allow women to drive cars. By law, women must be fully covered in public or they will go to prison. Protests are rare in Saudi Arabia because any dissent is met with imprisonment, torture and execution.

The Saudi monarchy is protected by U.S. imperialism because it is part of an undeclared but real U.S. sphere of influence and it is the largest producer of oil in the world. The U.S. attitude toward the Saudi monarchy was put succinctly by Ronald Reagan in 1981, when he said that the U.S. government “will not permit” revolution in Saudi Arabia such as the 1979 Iranian revolution that removed the U.S. client regime of the Shah. Reagan’s message was clear: the Pentagon and CIA’s military forces would be used decisively to destroy any democratic movement against the rule of the Saudi royal family.

Reagan’s explicit statement in 1981 has in fact been the policy of every successive U.S. administration, including the current one.

Libya and Imperialism

Libya, unlike Saudi Arabia, did have a revolution against its monarchy. As a result of the 1969 revolution led by Muammar Gaddafi, Libya was no longer in the sphere of influence of any imperialist country.

Libya had once been an impoverished colony of Italy living under the boot heel of the fascist Mussolini. After the Allied victory in World War II, control of the country was formally transferred to the United Nations and Libya became independent in 1951 with authority vested in the monarch King Idris.

But in actuality, Libya was controlled by the United States and Britain until the 1969 revolution.

One of the first acts of the 1969 revolution was to eliminate the vestiges of colonialism and foreign control. Not only were oil fields nationalized but Gaddafi eliminated foreign military bases inside the country.

In March of 1970, the Gaddafi government shut down two important British military bases in Tobruk and El Adem. He then became the Pentagon’s enemy when he evicted the U.S. Wheelus Air Force Base near Tripoli that had been operated by the United States since 1945. Before the British military took control in 1943, the facility was a base operated by the Italians under Mussolini.

Wheelus had been an important Strategic Air Command (SAC) base during the Cold War, housing B-52 bombers and other front-line Pentagon aircrafts that targeted the Soviet Union.

Once under Libyan control, the Gaddafi government allowed Soviet military planes to access the airfield.

In 1986, the Pentagon heavily bombed the base at the same time it bombed downtown Tripoli in an effort to assassinate Gaddafi. That effort failed but his 2-year-old daughter died along with scores of other civilians.

The Character of the Gaddafi Regime

The political, social and class orientation of the Libyan regime has gone through several stages in the last four decades. The government and ruling establishment reflected contradictory class, social, religious and regional antagonisms. The fact that the leadership of the NATO-led National Transition Council is comprised of top officials of the Gaddafi government, who broke with the regime and allied themselves with NATO, is emblematic of the decades-long instability within the Libyan establishment.

These inherent contradictions were exacerbated by pressures applied to Libya from the outside. The U.S. imposed far-reaching economic sanctions on Libya in the 1980s. The largest western corporations were barred from doing business with Libya and the country was denied access to credit from western banks.

In its foreign policy, Libya gave significant financial and military support to national liberation struggles, including in Palestine, Southern Africa, Ireland and elsewhere.

Because of Libya’s economic policies, living standards for the population had jumped dramatically after 1969. Having a small population and substantial income from its oil production, augmented with the Gaddafi regime’s far-reaching policy of social benefits, created a huge advance in the social and economic status for the population. Libya was still a class society with rich and poor, and gaps between urban and rural living standards, but illiteracy was basically wiped out, while education and health care were free and extensively accessible. By 2010, the per capita income in Libya was near the highest in Africa at $14,000 and life expectancy rose to over 77 years, according to the CIA’s World Fact Book.

Gaddafi’s political orientation explicitly rejected communism and capitalism. He created an ideology called the “Third International Theory,” which was an eclectic mix of Islamic, Arab nationalist and socialist ideas and programs. In 1977, Libya was renamed the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. A great deal of industry, including oil, was nationalized and the government provided an expansive social insurance program or what is called a welfare state policy akin to some features prevalent in the Soviet Union and some West European capitalist countries.

But Libya was not a workers’ state or a “socialist government” to use the popular if not scientific use of the term “socialist.” The revolution was not a workers and peasant rebellion against the capitalist class per se. Libya remained a class society although class differentiation may have been somewhat obscured beneath the existence of revolutionary committees and the radical, populist rhetoric that emanated from the regime.

As in many developing, formerly colonized countries, state ownership of property was not “socialist” but rather a necessary fortification of an under-developed capitalist class. State property in Iraq, Libya and other such post-colonial regimes was designed to facilitate the social and economic growth of a new capitalist ruling class that was initially too weak, too deprived of capital and too cut off from international credit to compete on its own terms with the dominant sectors of world monopoly capitalism. The nascent capitalist classes in such developing economies promoted state-owned property, under their control, in order to intersect with Western banks and transnational corporations and create more favorable terms for global trade and investment.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the “socialist bloc” governments of central and Eastern Europe in 1989-91 deprived Libya of an economic and military counter-weight to the United States, and the Libyan government’s domestic economic and foreign policy shifted towards accommodation with the West.

In the 1990s some sectors of the Libyan economic establishment and the Gaddafi-led government favored privatization, cutting back on social programs and subsidies and integration into western European markets.

The earlier populism of the regime incrementally gave way to the adoption of neo-liberal policies. This was, however, a long process.

In 2004, the George W. Bush administration ended sanctions on Libya. Western oil companies and banks and other corporations initiated huge direct investments in Libya and trade with Libyan enterprises.

There was also a growth of unemployment in Libya and in cutbacks in social spending, leading to further inequality between rich and poor and class polarization.

But Gaddafi himself was still considered a thorn in the side of the imperialist powers. They want absolute puppets, not simply partners, in their plans for exploitation. The Wikileaks release of State Department cables between 2007 and 2010 show that the United states and western oil companies were condemning Gaddafi for what they called “resource nationalism.” Gaddafi even threatened to re-nationalize western oil companies’ property unless Libya was granted a larger share of the revenue for their projects.

As an article in today’s New York Times Business section said honestly: “”Colonel Qaddafi proved to be a problematic partner for the international oil companies, frequently raising fees and taxes and making other demands. A new government with close ties to NATO may be an easier partner for Western nations to deal with.”

Even the most recent CIA Fact Book publication on Libya, written before the armed revolt championed by NATO, complained of the measured tempo of pro-market reforms in Libya: “Libya faces a long road ahead in liberalizing the socialist-oriented economy, but initial steps— including applying for WTO membership, reducing some subsidies, and announcing plans for privatization—are laying the groundwork for a transition to a more market-based economy.” (CIA World Fact Book)

The beginning of the armed revolt on February 23 by disaffected members of the Libyan military and political establishment provided the opportunity for the U.S. imperialists, in league with their French and British counterparts, to militarily overthrow the Libyan government and replace it with a client or stooge regime.

Of course, in the revolt were workers and young people who had many legitimate grievances against the Libyan government. But what is critical in an armed struggle for state power is not the composition of the rank-and-file soldiers, but the class character and political orientation of the leadership.

Character of the National Transition Council

The National Transitional Council (NTC) constituted itself as the leadership of the uprising in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city. The central leader is Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who was Libya’s Minister of Justice until his defection at the start of the uprising. He was one of a significant number of Western-oriented and neoliberal officials from Libya’s government, diplomatic corps and military ranks who joined the opposition in the days immediately after the start of the revolt.

As soon as it was established, the NTC began issuing calls for imperialist intervention. These appeals became increasing panicky as it became clear that, contrary to early predictions that the Gaddafi-led government would collapse in a matter of days, it was the “rebels” who faced imminent defeat in the civil war. In fact, it was only due to the U.S./NATO bombing campaign, initiated with great hurry on March 19 that the rebellion did not collapse.

The last five months of war have erased any doubt about the pro-imperialist character of the NTC. One striking episode took place on April 22, when Senator John McCain made a “surprise” trip to Benghazi. A huge banner was unveiled to greet him with an American flag printed on it and the words: “United States of America – You have a new ally in North Africa.”

Similar to the military relationship between the NATO and Libyan “rebel” armed forces, the NTC is entirely dependent on and subordinated to the U.S., French, British and Italian imperialist governments.

If the Pentagon, CIA, and Wall Street succeed in installing a client regime in Tripoli it will accelerate and embolden the imperialist threats and intervention against other independent governments such as Syria and Venezuela. In each case we will see a similar process unfold, including the demonization of the leadership of the targeted countries so as to silence or mute a militant anti-war response to the aggression of the war-makers.

We in the ANSWER Coalition invite all those who share this perspective to join with us, to mobilize, and to unmask the colonial agenda that hides under the slogan of “humanitarian intervention.”


If I had some serious difficulties before beginning this week’s session, the first part of the session did little to help my situation. If anything, it actually made it worse.  This is because I had expected the lecture… I really don’t know what I expected… but I know it was something really big. Afterall it was a huge topic DEMOCRATISATION AND THE STATE IN LATIN AMERICA. But here was Tom‘s brief outline:

  • Geography & history matter
  • The development of democracy
  • Does democracy matter?

It got me really thinking because the concept of “democracy” that is so popular today, with the general public, the elite and especially the international community, is political. But given that we had established the primacy of politics and the difficulty seperating politics from economics I naturally expected the talk on democratisation to have a lot of politics and economics running through it. This is because “…democracy assumes a high minimum level of affluence and well-being, successful democratisation must be predicated on continuing economic performance… continuing economic performance is the foundation for sustainable democracy and national stability.”

But then… Why history? Why Geography? I finally got the point half way through the lectures: THEY REALLY DID MATTER!!! The spatiotemporal aspects of any form of governance could be said to be the most important determinant of its success. This took my mind back to the fundamental questions of knowledge raised by Socrates.

According to this Great Grand Father of mine, definition of a moral quality is not a matter of what people think. His argument is that we cannot determine what goodness, or justice, or piety, is by conducting a poll. As a result, whether something or someone has a given moral quality is also not a matter of mere opinion. Whether an act or a person is good, or just, or pious,  is not something that can simply be settled through the ballot. In the dialogue Euthyphro we see a good example of Socrates’ belief that moral qualities are real, not conventional. According to Euthyphro piety can be defined as what the gods all love but Socrates contends that even if all the gods agree about which things are pious, that doesn’t tell us what piety is. If the gods love something because it is pious, then its being pious must be something independent of their loving it – something independent of opinion – something objective.

The etymology of the  word “democracy” is  from the words demos “people” and kratos “rule” conjoined together to mean, literally, “rule by the people”. This can be said to be the only objective truth about democracy. When we begin to spread it to different places and give it different interpretations, it takes the form of the social milieu in which it is interpreted. Rule by the people will therefore be a very age and location-specific thing. The concept of ‘democracy’ should not therefore be considered ‘good’ without contention simply because it has been tested and it did work in one part of the globe at a particular point in time.

The one major challenge that Plato’s critique of democracy still poses is the question of  whether the citizens of today’s democracies are interested and informed enough to take part meaningfully in the democratic process. Can today’s self-proclaimed democracies boast of being societies where people are “their own governors”– where they are well enough informed to be effectively in control of their commonwealth and their lives? Do the citizens of these societies really understand why wars are declared, resources committed, debts incurred, relations denied, and so forth? Could it be that a majority of citizens live in a cognitive haze that reduces them to voting on the basis of uninformed convictions, catchy slogans, and altogether vague hunches and feelings? These questions all raced through my mind as I listened to Tom deliver the “tale of woes” that was the political history of Latin America spanning about 200 years. What was churning was not just the

  • 450 political assassinations  •20 coups •140 guerrilla wars or revolutions •113 crises
  • Argentina in four years (’73-6):–45 assassinations–3 revolutions–15 riots…

I could not say what was authentically Latin American and what was American or US. When statements came up like…

  1. Munroe Doctrine, the US began a  long history of intervention and influence in its backyard establishing its own sphere of influence in the Western Hemisphere. More than 30 interventions in Central America and Caribeans in early 1900s to 1934.
  2. Central America: long US backed personal dictatorships: Samoza, Trujillo, Duvalier

… I could not help but arrive at a conclusion… To effectively understand the concept of democratisation in the world today, one must go beyond trite observations and homogenous definition like “a form of political regime in which citizens choose, in competitive elections, the occupants of the top political offices of the state” (Bratton and Van de Walle 1997) This definition did not mention the role of external actors… hence it is not a complete definition of democratisation.

Carothers, T. (2010) Takes a step in the right direction by saying that “… it is a mistake to assume that democratization—especially open national elections—is always a good idea. When tried in countries poorly prepared for it, democratization can and often does result in bad outcomes—illiberal leaders or extremists in power, virulent nationalism, ethnic and other types of civil conflict, and interstate wars.” The question is: if ‘they’ are poorly prepared for it, who then advocates for it in the first place? Carothers however plays an interesting tune and increases the rhythm when he goes on to add

“To prevent such results, certain preconditions, above all, the rule of law and a well-functioning state should be in place before a society democratises. United States, and the West generally, should rethink their approach and commitment to democracy promotion. In some countries, staying with an existing autocratic regime is a better alternative.”

May be… just may be, if many nations could be allowed a free hand at self-determination, we would have different stories to tell. Yes we may have had stories of another form of ‘democracy’ that has been forged out of the unique experience and geographical peculiarities of the Latin American region – but can this ever be possible when there is this “invisible hand” always coming from outside to determine when there should be peace and when there should be chaos? The preconditions of democratisation proposed by Carothers are themselves only possible within a democratic state. This is therefore an ideal too simple to conceive but unfortunately too difficult to achieve.

Sensing this of course, it would seem, Carothers proposes further that “…taking into account the many complications and risks of democratization and democracy promotion is gradualism, which aims at building democracy slowly in certain contexts, but not avoiding it or putting it off indefinitely.” This is the argument that makes me agree more with a Chinese who insisted the China was a democracy… yes! Who says it is not? Unless we want to openly acknowledge that their having elections every five years is not enough self-determination or that we have a problem with the fact that the government has recognised that it is in hostile international territory and does not give the “invisible hand” an opportunity to create disorder; or do we want to acknowledge that it is not only about the rule of law and a strong state (for China has these) which are prerequisites to democratisation; may be we should bring it down to the fact that there is no freedom of expression.

I hope the conclusion is not being drawn that I will prefer to be in an undemocratic state where there is no freedom of expression. That is far from being the case. What I am driving at is that no matter what the names we call them –  oligarchy to bureaucracy; Populism and corporatism; Bureaucratic-authoritarian state to democracy… anyone who knows the difference between theory and reality will prefer to be in a “communist China” than in “democratic Latin America.” It is better to know that you are not free and be alive than to live under the illusion that you are free and end up with a bullet. Many of those assassinated in Latin America where in the second category.

I find it difficult to stop but stop I must. Not however, without indicating that there is need to revisit the whole notion of democracy in this era of “globalisation” . This is because  we have two levels – the Macro and the Micro. By Macrodemocracy I mean when governments create international rules and institutions to deal with issues such as governance, trade, human rights, and the environment. Thus far, the international political arena has been governed by undemocratic rules – countries have little or no freedom of self-determination. This brings in the problem of Microdemocracy which we have been discussing. Its failure could be attributed to the failure of the macro to create the necessary conditions for it to thrive. Could this be the reason why states have been failing? Could it be because there is no macrodemocracy while there is a huge demand for microdemocracy? I am sure to find out next week



As one listens to speeches, participates in national and international conferences, takes a casual browse of television channels or simply log on to the internet it becomes difficult not to conclude that the world has really become a ‘global village’. When one however, also take some time to follow the proceedings of international conferences on climate change, the proceedings of the United Nations, or when one is confronted with news of war going on in Afghanistan, Iraq or threatening to begin between North Korea and South Korea; when one looks at the African and most third world economies where there exist so much to be done to meet up with the rest of the world; the critical mind cannot fail to question whether the so much talk about globalisation is not simply a façade. Many economists, political theorists, developmental agencies, governments and the academia have propounded myriads of positions to the question of globalisation but these seem to be more and more of rhetoric in the face of growing fragmentation in the world.

In this essay I explore the likelihood of the process of globalisation to slow down or even go into reverse in the future. It has five main sections. The first introduces the work by pointing out to some recent happenings in the world; the second looks at the general notion of globalisation trying to evaluate what globalisation is and what it is not; the third, drawing on the experience of third world countries in the areas of trade, growth of multinational corporations and migration, questions whether globalisation is a ‘myth’, the fourth section looks at the future of globalisation and points out certain things that need to be done to prevent the total reversal of the process of globalisation. This is then followed by a conclusion.

  1. Introduction:

On January 1, 2007, the great news was that two more countries from Eastern Europe, Bulgaria and Romania had joined the EU, bringing the number of member states to 27 countries while Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey were also candidates for future membership. As we entered 2011, a great number of Estonians are embracing the joining of their economy to the eurozone in spite of the deepening crisis of confidence in the single currency. This makes Estonia the 17th country to adopt the currency, while scepticism increases in some countries especially the United Kingdom. On the other side of the globe, over 1 million Zimbabweans face deportation from neighbouring South Africa for failure to get the necessary documentation to regularise their stay (Mlotshwa, 2011) and Sudanese began voting on the 9th of January, 2011, as part of a referendum that may create a new State in Africa some Eighteen years after Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Hence while some regions are converging, some are disintegrating. So what then is globalisation?

  1. 2.    Globalisation: Quid Sit?

Globalisation is not new. What is new however, is the understanding of globalisation which has been the basis of many debates. In this section I will therefore look at what globalisation is and what it is not.

2.1.        What Globalisation is:

It has been from the dawn of modern civilisation, the aspiration of dominant empires to universalise, or cause to be present world-wide, their socio-economic, political ideology and their way of life. It therefore involves the days of the European explorers and the era of the colonisers who scouted for slaves and empires to extend their political and economic strength. Globalisation became the new buzzword in 1990s and has been getting much attention since then. According to the proponents of globalisation, the benefits are myriad which inter alia include, heightened mobility of capital, increase growth of multinational corporations (MNCs), intensification of international economic interconnections, improvement of international trade, greater mobility of human resources across countries and greater outsourcing of business processes to other countries.

Globalisation is therefore defined as, “the growing economic interdependence of countries worldwide, through the increasing volume and variety of cross border transactions in goods and services and of capital flows as well as through the most rapid and widespread diffusion of technology.” (IMF, 1997) Also, it is “the increased interdependence of world economies, investment liberalisation and deregulated policies.” (Dembele, 1998, p.91)

these definitions place more emphasis on economic factors because of the complexity involved in capturing the concept of globalisation in a single definition. In fact, the simple truth is that the definition of globalisation cannot be globalised. Collier divides the economic aspects of globalisation into three – trade in goods, capital flows and migration of people – and states that they are “…so distinct that even the idea that economies have become more globalised depends upon which dimensions you take.” (Collier, 2007, p.80) Since I consider globalisation to be a combination of economic, technological, socio-cultural and political forces and a process by which the people of the world are unified into a single society I think its definition should of necessity include other issues like politics, religion, language and culture. I therefore tend to agree more with Held et al’s (1999) definition which gives a more general view of the concept of globalisation and argues that globalisation is not a singular process but a multidimensional force evident across the cultural, political, ecological, military and social domains Taking Held’s view I will look at some different domains such as politics, religion, culture and language to see if there is such a possibility in these areas. My intention will be to show that globalisation is actually none of these.

2.2.        What Globalisation Is Not

Politics: The political aspects of globalisation can be said to be when governments create international rules and institutions to deal with issues such as trade, human rights, and the environment. While some new institutions and rules that have come to fruition as a result of globalisation such as the World Trade Organization, the area of governance still leaves much to be desired. It would have been thought that with the collapse of communism and the USSR in 1990, there was going to be a greater degree of harmony in the world and that American liberal democracy was going to become the world system of politics. The reality of the world today has never been further from this. China and North Korea still maintain their versions of communism, In Europe and the USA, where there exist democracies, they are varied. Furthermore since the turn of the century, there has been more secessions and as I indicated in the beginning, Southern Sudan is set to become a new country as voting for secession began on 9 January, while the Southern Cameroons National Congress (SCNC) in Cameroon and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State Of Biafra (MASSOB) in Nigeria have not given up the struggle to separate the Nations. The end of the cold war rather ushered in a new system of increasing local, non-state and organisational conflicts hence there has been the ‘increasing localisation’ of conflicts. (Srnicek, 2010) I therefore feel that if there is increasing interdependence in the world today, it certainly is not in the area of politics.

Religion: Religion seems in no period in history to have been more of a divisive factor as it is today. While there are several religions in the world, the there is an increasing growth in the number of atheists and also an increasing call for secularism. This was greatly manifested during the Catholic Pontiff’s visit to the UK ( 16/09/2010). While in the past, there have been attempts at universalising religion, such as the crusades and Jihads; it cannot even be conceived today. Terrorist attacks are given religious connotations and some try to justify their actions using religion, Christians and Muslims slaughter each other in many places like the recent case of Egypt where a suicide bombing at a church killed 21 people and wounded 79 on New Year’s Day. The Daily Times quotes Time magazine as having written that “for months, al Qaeda militants in Iraq have called repeatedly for attacks on Christians — in retaliation, they say, for the alleged kidnapping and detention by Egypt’s Coptic church of two Christian women who are believed to have converted to Islam”. (Daily Times Editorial, 03/01/2011) Even within Christianity there is no unity of purpose, which accounts for the massive proliferation of churches in many developing countries. And within Islam, there are several factions that have been the source of lingering conflicts in many Islamic states such as Iraq. The world is clearly not getting more interdependent in the religious sphere though there is need to mention that there have been some recent attempts to bring certain religions together in what has been called ‘inter-religious dialogues.’

Language: While language may be considered to be a very good tool in breaking down barriers between people and nations, it is clear that it cannot also be considered today to be a veritable tool for international integration. While there is no denying the fact that knowledge of English and some European languages opens a person’s world to almost all parts of the world, it is also a fact that a great number of people still do not understand these languages. Even within the same country, the official language is not spoken by all. (Welch is a UK language which many people in England do not understand and many people from Wales seldom communicate in English.  Also, Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya for 28 years in power speaks only French and cannot communicate in English even though the two languages are constitutionally, the official languages of the country). The increasing number of variants in what used to be ‘One’ English language is a mark of division and not of unity. (just checking on the language icon of my computer showed on Microsoft word 2007 19 different versions of English and 15 different versions of French). Increasing technological advancements in the world today which make high speed translations possible is an attempt to break this barrier.

Culture: The increasing spread of multiculturalism and better individual access to cultural diversity, for example through the exportation of Hollywood Bollywood and Nollywood movies could be seen as a sign that there is increasing interdependence among cultures. However, the imported culture can easily supplant the local culture, causing reduction in diversity through hybridisation or even assimilation. The most prominent form of this is Westernisation. The reaction of the Dependency theorists against the Modernisation theorists as early as the 1960s clearly tells the story of how people think about adopting other cultures. The Modernisation Theory was criticised for being synonymous with westernisation simply because it presented the ideas that could lead to the development of third world countries against a Western background. There was a massive challenge of the ethnocentrism of a political economy derived exclusively from the experience of Europe and the United States and then generalised to the rest of the world, with much reliance on certain value judgments about valued ends of development. (Brohman, 1995) The dependency theorists argued against what they felt was the crusading imperialism of the modernisation theorists arguing that they were not in line with the experience of the Third World countries. To them, the modernisation theory was too simplistic, taking it for granted that everyone will accept western values. While people could be said to be more receptive of other cultures today than was the case in the pre-colonial and colonial eras, the world is still far from experiencing a smooth interchange of cultural values and ethics. Poznan (2008, p.11) acknowledges that “…is it true that globalisation is leading to a homogenised global culture, one in which life in the Netherlands approaches being indistinguishable from life in Brazil” but then pops the mind-searching question “…more to the point – is it leading to a world in which every country looks like southern California?” Answering this question will clearly point to the fact that globalisation of cultures could lead to erosion of cultural authenticity.

  1. Globalisation: A Myth?

Does it then mean that the whole idea of globalisation is merely a chimera? I certainly do not think so and so does McCormick (2002) who thinks that globalisation is the panacea to the problems of Third world Countries “for without it, the developing world and the millions in it who live in extreme poverty will lose the best chance they have of improving their lot in life.”  Such a statement taken in isolation will seem the best possible thing to say in defence of globalisation. However if we hearken to Santayana’s popular quote that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, it becomes expedient to look back a little at Africa’s past, for as John Paul II holds, “if you want to understand the situation in Africa, its past and its picture, we must start from the truth of the African person – the truth of every African in his or her concrete and historical setting.” (John Paul II, 1980, 200)

In so doing, one notices that the present structure of underdevelopment in Africa starts from the incorporation of the continent in to the capitalist system over a period of 400 years. This process began in the 16th century when the mercantile phase of capitalist expansion brought European explorers and traders to the coasts of Africa and was completed in the 19th century with the partition and colonisation of Africa. This latter phase took place under the imperialist expansion of industrial rather than mercantile capitalism, and at a time when the capitalist system was characterised by a number of competing industrial powers. The benchmark of this period was the destruction of the traditional pattern of economic relationships in Africa and their replacement with satellite economies whose primary function was the production of one of a few cash crops or raw materials for exportation to the colonial mother country.

Well, this can be said to have been before independence, so what then is the situation today? To answer this question, I will look at the area of trade and the influence of Multinational corporations.

3.1.        Trade:

BERR (2008 p.34) makes the pronouncement that “to maximise the benefits from globalisation it is vital to have a free and fair multilateral trading system to foster economic cooperation, international trade and investment.” While this is very true, it is also true that though today, for the first time, developing countries have made the most impressive breakthrough into global markets for goods and services other than just primary products, (Collier, 2007) most of the firms established during the colonial era, still continue to play a major role in the export-import trade of the now independent States which were their former colonial preserves. Most of these pay very low prices for the cash crops they export to Europe while they set very high prices for the finished products they import for sale in Africa. Also, the major share of their profits is sent back to their home countries rather than being invested in the African economies where the profits are made. This has the unfortunate effect that a structural imbalance is created in the African economies resulting from their over dependence on the export of one of few primary products and this makes their economies extremely vulnerable to external factors and seriously hinders their internal development.

In a nutshell, the deformed development that took place under colonialism has rendered the economies of present day African states highly dependent, on poor international trade relations. This and other external economic interests have made their balanced developments extremely difficult. The chronic trade deficits of many African countries in the recent past can be attributed to this structural imbalance, and the dependence on exports. This is made worse by the rising prices of imports and the declining prices of exports a situation compounded by the structural adjustment policies of the World Bank and the IMF whose deregulation and privatisation policies implemented in over 90 countries have left the world with a bitter legacy of “…growing poverty in all regions of the developing world, except China.” (Coates, 2002) At this period of increasing imports of manufactured goods for developmental purposes, this decline in export prices relative to import prices is nothing but catastrophic.

According to Green and Seidman (1969), the unfavourable incorporation of the underdeveloped world into the world economy is like a ‘giant price scissors’ that have led to the growing deficits in the balance of trade faced by poor countries.  As a result of these balance of trade deficits, the African countries have been forced to finance imports as well as their development programs through borrowing from foreign sources. This has led to their increased dependence on foreign capital and ‘foreign aid’ from Western governments and donor agencies. These circumstances therefore make it practically impossible for these economies to pursue policies designed to achieve economic independence and hence, economic growth. And as Kiely warns, the study of international political economy ‘‘… should not assume away the existence of the highly unequal international political and economic order’ (2007: 24).To make a bad situation look worse, Collier (2007) presents the fact that a bottom billion of the third world has ‘missed the boat’ and are therefore marginalised in the world economy hence, though “the growth of global trade has been good for Asia…don’t count on it to help the bottom billion. Based on present trends, it seems more likely to lock yet more of the bottom-billion countries into a natural resource trap than to save them through export diversification.” (Collier, 2007 p.87)

3.2.        Multinational Corporations:

The typical expatriate firm operating in Africa today is more and more what has been called Multinational Corporation or “an organised ensemble of means of production subject to a small policy-making centre which controls establishments situated in several different national territories.” (Arrighi and Saul, 1968, p.225) Following from the gloomy and deplorable nature of trade relations between poor and rich nations it is not surprising that many poor countries see the solution to the problem as lying with these multinational corporations. Little wonder McCormick (2002) argues that “multinationals are a powerful force for good in the world. They spread wealth, work, technologies that raise living standards and better ways of doing business. That’s why so many developing countries are competing fiercely to attract their investment.” What McCormick fails to realise is that this in itself is also a can of worms since the natural tendency for foreign investors in Africa has been only to invest in the high profit sectors of the economies, with the level of interest and profit remittance being extremely high in relation to capital invested to the value of production by foreign firms, and to the taxes paid. (Green & Seidman, 1969) Hence, the lucrative profits which are made from these sectors are immediately sent back to metropolitan banks, and/or home offices. This practice hampers domestic capital formation, and results in a net overflow of capital from the African economies to the developed capitalist economies in the form of repatriated profits and royalties. Green and Seidman (1969, p. 128) point out that “…it has been estimated that profits, interests, and personal remittances exported from Africa total as much as one quarter of the continent’s gross annual income.”

According to Arrighi & Saul (1968), the investment policies of these multinationals are biased against the development of capital goods industries in Africa and other underdeveloped countries, and are biased in favour of the use of Capital-intensive techniques, their extractive and export-oriented undertakings in these countries. Both of these biases hinder the balanced development of the African economies. While it can be argued that these persons where writing some four decades ago, the reason I am using their thoughts is because I feel that those forms of investments were and still are incompatible with both the attainment of sustainable economic development and any significant improvement in the standards of living of the African people. Moreover, the governments of the African States are no march for the multinational corporations; hence, their efforts to bargain with and regulate the operations of these giant corporations are largely ineffectual. This is because of the fact that multinationals are more powerful than many governments and tend to have their way around several issues. As Miller points out,  “Shell Oil’s 1990 gross national income was more than the combined GNPs of Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Zaire, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya and Pakistan—countries that represent almost one-tenth of the World’s Population.” (Miller 1995, p. 35) With such figures, how then will Shell not buy-off their involvement in perpetrating the loss of human life and destruction of livelihoods in the Ogoni – shell saga that led to the killing of Ken Sero-Wiwa and eight others in 1996?  Green and Seidman note that “the individual African States are usually small in terms of revenue and reserves than the firms whose policies, they seek to control.” And that the high level of dependence of these countries upon foreign investment and foreign aid “results in the determination of ‘national’ economic policy and even the limitation of domestic investment resources by foreign public and private interests.” (Green & Seidman, 1969, p.81)

While it is a fact that globalisation can make the conditions for investment in poor countries more feasible and enhance the movement of capital into these regions, available evidence makes me feel that the poor countries got integrated into the global economy through the wrong end. For “…despite being chronically short of capital, the bottom billion are integrating into the global economy through capital flight rather than capital inflows…so don’t count on global capital mobility to develop the bottom billion, capital-scarce as they are. It is more likely to reinforce the traps.” (Collier 2007, p.93)

When Collier talks of the traps, he means what he calls the Conflict Trap, the Natural Resource Trap, Landlocked with Bad Neighbours, and Bad Governance in a Small Country. What he fails to realise is the fact that his analysis of globalisation supports the fact that rather than being a solution, globalisation is becoming itself a trap. The skewed nature of the world economy structure is such that poor nations are finding it more and more difficult to access the benefits of globalisation because they are ridden with huge debts, rising unemployment, cannot compete favourably in a free trade world and of course the Collien Traps which are both causes and effects of the others and therefore appear together and reinforce each other. But if trade, financial liberalisation and all associated with them are failing to make globalisation benefits global, what about the movement of people across borders.

3.3.        Migration:

There is no doubt that one of the most visible effects of globalisation has been the massive shift in the global demand for labour. The creation of new work opportunities in many richer economies in recent years, due to the shifts in type of industries could account for this. At the same time, lack of development and the absence of employment opportunities in poorer economies have created a labour force more eager, and able, to migrate to take advantage of these opportunities. The result of this has been a significant expansion of global mobility. It is argued that the movement of people from Europe to North America in the Nineteenth century did more to raise and equalise incomes than trade and capital flows and that in recent years, the Indian Diaspora in the United States acted as an important catalyst to India’s breakthrough into the global market for e-services. (Collier, 2007) While it is a truism that the volume of people moving across countries seems to be increasing, so also is it true that the amount of restrictions placed on immigrants has doubled if not tripled in the last few years since 9/11.

In today’s scene, the poor are not welcomed into Europe and the United States in the same way that elites are hence the few who do manage to get in do so at great risks. Some have to sell all their family assets to be able to travel and even when they do, most are not sure of the next day as any false move will see them being repatriated on the next available flight. Many are exploited by ‘people-traffickers’ who take their life savings in exchange for facilitation of passage, Even the vessels used to cross the Mediterranean from Africa are unsafe, and there are reports of thousands who have drowned, Similar stories are told about poor Mexicans heading for the USA, or Burmese entering Thailand and of course the Zimbabweans I mentioned at the beginning. While globalisation has made it easier to move money and goods around the world, it is not true that all people are free to move. It is therefore much easier for people with money and skills to migrate than it is for the poor hence it will not be hasty if I conclude that there is no level playing field for global migrants.

  1. Globalisation: What Future?

There is no doubt from what I have been presenting thus far that greater global integration through trade, investment, financial liberalisation and even migration does not lead to convergence but intensifies the gap between powerful and powerless, rich and poor countries in the world order. What I have succeeded in convincing myself is the fact that globalisation is truly a PROCESS. It is therefore contingent and something in potency with the hope of actualisation. This can only happen if and only if we take cognisance of the fact that issues of development and inequality remain central to understanding globalisation and making it a reality. This should begin with the recognition of differentiation within ‘Third World’ (Schuurman, 2000)

If progress is to be made in the process of globalisation, I feel the first major challenge now lies with the international community firmly taking a resolution towards handling the problems of international security, poverty and regional inequality and most important global warming and climate change. BERR acknowledges that “Meeting the challenge of climate change, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, is clearly integral to how we manage internationally the ongoing process of globalisation” (Berr, 2008, p.viii) These and many more global issues need to be looked at with a growing sense of urgency and greater international solidarity. Meanwhile, the great question of the day still remains as to whether the process of globalisation will slow down or go into reverse in the future. In certain aspects it’s a ‘Yes’, and in certain aspects it’s ‘No’.

First the ‘Yes’ part: The question of globalisation should not be discussed as if it was a ‘one-size-fits-all’ thing. It is clear that in the areas of trade, the spread of multinational corporations and even migration, many poor nations are not benefiting from the advantages of globalisation. For example, Collier points out that “…the exodus of capital from the bottom billion was only phase one of the global integration of the bottom billion. Phase two will be an exodus of educated people. As Somalia continues to fail and other places continue to develop, more Somalis will leave, as there will be more places for them to go. But emigration will be selective…” (Collier, 2007, p.94) This is a pen portrait of what is actually happening now to most of the poor countries. The best and the brightest are the ones who can afford to get to other countries and study and because the situation is bad in their home countries and they have to pay a high price for their education, they tend to look for employment in the more advanced countries and in most cases apply for citizenship. As this process continues, other areas will suffer, there will be a lack of professionals in these countries and their economies and system of governance will continue to decline. A bad economy coupled with bad leadership is a fertile ground for conflict to develop. When this happens, the climate becomes unsuitable for investment and multinationals will either flee or not invest in these countries. The process of globalisation in this instance will definitely slow down.

Also most of the middle income countries and some of the high income countries have recently been adopting protective strategies. With the financial crises in Southeast Asia in 1997, that began in the relatively small debt-ridden economy of Thailand but quickly spread to Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, most of these countries began to adopt protective measures. Thailand’s adoption of the ‘sufficiency economy philosophy’ shortly after the crises was a clear indication of their desire to retreat from the global sphere and implement something that was home-grown. Also the onslaught of the most recent crises that began with the collapse of the Lehman Brothers in the USA in 2007 and has sent ripples and shock waves to most economies around the world demonstrated the new risks and volatility in rapidly changing globalised markets.

Smalley argues that the call for the Regionalisation of Britain is entirely an EU project and condemns the White paper ‘Your Region Your Choice’ while calling for the independence of Britain. I think however that the call for the revitalisation of the English Regions is rather a reaction to globalisation. This is because “regionalisation can be a response to globalisation and at the same time stimulate the microeconomic forces that drive globalisation. Regionalisation and globalisation can thus be, and often are, mutually reinforcing” (Oman, 1994, p.16) The recent moves by the UK governments to strengthen the regions more in an era of increasing globalisation is not in the least surprising since “The global is an extension of the local,” and an examination and understanding of “global actors and events must focus on the local.” (Srnicek, 2010, p.38) In the light of this, I feel that as the negative effects of globalisation keep spreading as fast as its positive side, most countries and regions will tend to revert to strengthening themselves so as to be able to better compete on a global scale. The recent rise of regions like the EU, ECOWAS, NAFTA, and the fact that countries still try to protect their national interests above anything else (The UK not willing to accept the Euro, China still maintaining censorship of communication with the rest of the world), is simply a sign that effective nationalisation and regionalisation are actually the prelude to globalisation. Hirst & Thompson (1996, p.2) make the point that “one key effect of the concept of globalisation has been to paralyse radical reforming national strategies, to see them as unfeasible in the face of the judgement and sanction of international markets” hence, I believe that in the short run, there will be a massive slow down of the process of globalisation as the processes of nationalisation and regionalisation gain impetus and it may only be in the long run that the success of these can therefore act as a catalyst for globalisation.

And now the ‘No’ part: The aspect of globalisation that indubitably will continue to grow is the revolutionary changes in technology, particularly in transport and communications, which ostensibly creates a ‘global village’. In the 19th century, it took a nearly a year to sail around the World, today I can fly around the world in a day, send an email anywhere almost instantly even using mobile phones, be part of global networks like Twitter and Facebook, sending messages to all parts of the world within milliseconds. As a result of technological advances there has been a massive drop in transportation costs that make foreign markets more accessible to trade. Express mail services can deliver mails and parcels to any part of the globe within the same day and billions worth of assets and currencies are exchanged daily around the globe by electronic means at little or no cost. There is no gainsaying the fact that these trends are going to continue and increase in efficiency hence, in this regard, the process of globalisation is not going to slow down anytime in the near future.

  1. Conclusion:

I began this essay by pointing out that while some countries and regions in the world were converging some parts of the world were disintegrating. I therefore sought throughout this essay to inquire why this is happening in this era of growing talk about globalisation. The one theme that cut across all the arguments I put forward was the fact that there was no level playing field and so there was always going to be a problem with globalisation if these inherent injustices are not looked into ab initio. Unless this is done, countries and regions will always retreat to their shells at the slightest signs of danger – the recent financial meltdown being one of such – leading to increasing nationalism and regionalism rather that globalism. In the final analysis however, I argued that while the process of globalisation may slow down or even go into reverse in certain aspects, there are certain aspects where the process has already reached a stage that is irreversible.


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