Party of One

By Moberg, David | In These Times, March 2006 | Go to article overview

Party of One


Moberg, David, In These Times


BOOKS Party of One The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future-and What It Will Take to Win It Back, By Jeff Faux, John Wiley & Sons, 292 pages, $27.95

DURING THE DEBATE over NAFTA more than a decade ago, a corporate lobbyist tried to persuade Jeff Faux, founder of the progressive Economic Policy Institute, that he should support the deal. Mexican President Carlos Saunas was "one of us," the lobbyist said. At first Faux didn't understand who the "us" was. Then, he realized, "Despite the considerable political and social distance between Carlos Salinas and me, she was appealing to class solidarity."

"At that moment," Faux writes, "I realized that globalization was producing not just a borderless market, but a borderless class system to go with it."

This is not some shadowy conspiracy. In his new book, The Global Class War, Faux describes the formation of a global elite of political, business, media and academic figures, who often attend the same schools, work directly or indirectly for the same multinational corporations and move in the same social circles. Even if they are from much different countries, they often have common interests. And their common interests are frequently different from-even antagonistic to-the interests of both their individual nations and the vast majority of the population.

All markets need rules that determine who gets what, and the creation of those rules is a political question. This global elite has tried to create those rules through a series of what are misleadingly called "trade agreements," like NAFTA or the World Trade Organization treaty. Members of this elite secretively draw up these agreements and approve them despite widespread popular opposition. There are two main objectives, Faux writes, to secure the rights of global corporations and to restrain the options of governments to manage their economies.

National elites disagree over specific policies, such as the sale of genetically modified food that divides the United States and the European Union. (The World Trade Organization recently ruled in favor of the United States.) But that's no different from the conflicts between competing transnational corporations. When it comes to essential matters, however, Faux argues that they demonstrate remarkable global class solidarity. And in this emerging politics of the global economy, there is only one party, which he dubs "the party of Davos," after the Swiss ski resort where the rich and powerful gather each January.

Like David Harvey's recent book, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Faux provides a persuasive and revealing framework for understanding globalization in terms of class. It's a much-needed corrective to the way in which most news about the changing world economy is viewed, usually through a free market fundamentalist or, less frequently, a nationalist lens. But the class war he describes is still remarkably one-sided, despite the emergence of a relatively weak "party of Porto Alegre"-the populist and left movements that began gathering as a counterpoint to Davos.

But Faux does not fully incorporate into his class analysis of globalization either the growing numbers of left-populist presidents in Latin America or even the political opponents of NAFTA-style agreements within the United States (primarily liberal Democrats but also a few right-wing Republicans). Are these minor divisions within the global consensus or expressions of substantial opposition to the ruling elite?

NAFTA is Faux's prime example of how this global class war works-and how working people in all countries can end up being losers despite the claims of the elite that their trade deals are "win-win" propositions. Continuing the project of Reagan and Bush Sr., Clinton-a key figure in the creation within the United States of what Faux calls bipartisan class war-used his political muscle to push through NAFTA first, not the national health plan more important to his constituency. …

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