Once upon a time, the term ‘globalisation’ dominated public discourse, presenting itself as the sole available alternative and panacea to all the world’s predicaments. It was viewed as a policy paradigm promising peace, prosperity, economic growth, and human development. However, in recent times, globalisation seems to have vanished from public discussions, with policymakers acting as if it has never existed in human history. Liberalisation, privatisation, and structural adjustments served as the pillars of globalisation as a project of global capitalism. They temporarily obscured the unbridled violence associated with colonialism, capitalism, and imperialism, instead creating a silent structural violence characterized by marginalisation, poverty, hunger, and homelessness. Wars were momentarily replaced by free trade, which, in turn, accelerated the processes of dispossession, destitution, and the deaths of the working people. Capitalist globalisation has laid the groundwork for imperialist powers to maintain their political and economic hegemony directly and indirectly over people, their lands, and resources. The practices of liberalisation, privatisation, and globalisation effectively consolidated wealth in the hands of a privileged few. As a result, the world has witnessed the rise of billionaires alongside extreme poverty and marginalized masses.
The priests of global capitalism and imperialist powers once promised that globalisation would lead to peace, prosperity, and stability for all. However, the true consequences of globalisation have been laid bare by the Survival of the Richest Report published by Oxfam International in 2023. As the world grappled with the ravages of the pandemic, most people found themselves suffering from a cost-of-living crisis that persisted even after the pandemic. According to the report, the reality is grim: ‘the richest 1% have captured almost two-thirds of all new wealth – nearly twice as much money as the bottom 99% of the world’s population’ since 2020. The report further reveals shocking evidence that ‘billionaire fortunes are increasing by $2.7 billion a day,’ while ‘food and energy companies more than doubled their profits in 2022, paying out $257 billion to wealthy shareholders, while over 800 million people went to bed hungry.’ These findings expose the stark inequality that plagues our world today.
Perhaps most disheartening is the fact that billionaires pay less tax than street vendors, perpetuating the stark disparities between the rich and the impoverished. Globalisation has, in effect, created a world of unimaginable prosperity for billionaires and deep penury for the masses. The promises of peace and prosperity have, for many, become a distant dream, while the concentration of wealth among a select few continues to widen the gap between the haves and have-nots. The globalisation has produced a world of unimaginable prosperity for billionaires and penury for the masses.
Crisis seems to be deeply ingrained in the capitalist and imperialist systems and processes, which are designed to serve the interests and expansion of wealth for the powerful elite. Capitalist states and governments worldwide often find themselves compelled, directly or indirectly, to comply with the desires and demands of imperialist forces. Failure to do so can result in facing wars and destabilization. In regions like Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Europe, states and governments have experienced the detrimental effects of capitalist and imperialist actions. These forces have often sought to exploit their resources and disrupt their sources of livelihood, leading to the displacement of people within their own lands, turning them into refugees. The capitalist and imperialist agendas can be seen as exerting significant control over nations’ sovereignty and autonomy, further perpetuating inequality and injustice on a global scale. This exploitation and destabilization have left many countries and regions grappling with challenges that hinder their growth and development.
The impact of capitalist and imperialist systems extends beyond deceiving people in regions like Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East; it also affects their own citizens in Europe and the USA. Rising child poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, and unemployment are evident characteristics of capitalist and imperialist countries as well. The so-called nationalist wars that are ostensibly fought for securing sovereignty and democracy often serve as veils to facilitate the plundering of natural and other resources to enrich capitalist corporations controlled by imperialist powers.
The consequences of capitalism and imperialism are far-reaching, leading to the globalisation of ethnic, cultural, religious, and economic genocides. These atrocities are direct outcomes of the systems in place, which have formed partnerships with religious, cultural, and political reactionaries to uphold a system that ultimately benefits only a select few. The pursuit of profit-driven motives has resulted in the destruction of both people and the planet. One of the most pressing issues stemming from capitalism is the ecological crisis, which has emerged as a direct consequence of the over-exploitation of nature to sustain the profit-driven system established by capitalism. This disregard for the environment and the pursuit of endless growth has had devastating effects on the Earth’s ecosystems and threatens the well-being of all living beings.
The consequences of capitalist and imperialist actions are not limited to specific regions but have widespread implications, impacting both people and the planet on a global scale. Addressing these issues requires a comprehensive understanding of the root causes and a collective effort to promote more equitable and sustainable alternatives. Indeed, there is a growing awareness among people that capitalist globalization primarily serves the interests of imperialist corporations, operating under the dominance of former colonial powers. This profit-driven agenda often leads to the atomization of culture at home and in the workplace, fostering a sense of alienation in the lives of working individuals. Such alienation can have the detrimental effect of weakening the progressive consciousness of the people. Despite the attempt to obscure their failures, the shortcomings of capitalism and imperialism are becoming increasingly evident to the masses. People are recognizing the inherent flaws in these systems, which fail to prioritize the well-being of the majority and instead perpetuate inequality and exploitation.
In response to these capitalist and imperialist crisis, transnational movements advocating for deepening democracy and upholding the interests of both people and the planet are gaining momentum. These movements aim to challenge the status quo and create a more just and equitable world. However, the forces of capitalism and imperialism are not passive spectators. They seek to counter these global struggles by facilitating reactionary movements that wave the flags of reactionary nationalism and exploit religious sentiments. Such efforts are intended to divert attention from the larger issues at hand and undermine the collective efforts against capitalist and imperialist dominance. In this complex and dynamic landscape, it becomes essential for advocates of progressive and egalitarian transformation to stay vigilant, maintain solidarity, and continue the fight for a fairer and more sustainable future for all.
The working people across the world are increasingly recognizing the interconnectedness of their interests and well-being. There is a growing understanding that individual struggles must give way to collective efforts to achieve true emancipation from the challenges posed by capitalism and imperialism. This awareness fosters a sense of solidarity and a realization that the fate of humanity and the planet are inextricably linked. Addressing the pressing issues of our time, such as climate change, social inequalities, and economic exploitation, requires collective action and a commitment to progressive, inclusive, and democratic transformation. It is essential to move away from systems that perpetuate inequalities and prioritize profit over the well-being of people and the environment.
The current global situation makes it clear that the monopoly of capitalist and imperialist powers cannot provide solutions to the pressing challenges we face. A sustainable and equitable future for all can only be achieved through a united effort that seeks to dismantle these oppressive systems. Indeed, there is nowhere to run to or hide from the realities we confront. The only way forward is through collaboration and mutual support, working together to create a world that values justice, equality, and the protection of our shared planet. The collective commitment to this transformative vision is the key to overcoming the hurdles of capitalism and imperialism, paving the way for a better and more promising future. People, planet, and their mutual interests are only alternatives. There is nowhere to run to and nowhere to hide.
Bhabani Shankar Nayak, University of Glasgow, UK