In a speech in 1999, Henry Kissinger, secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford, candidly remarked that globalization is another term for U.S. domination.1 Such clarity tends, in itself, to negatively answer the question posed in the title of this talk. How can anyone argue that U.S. domination—or using the less polite term, U.S. imperialism—is compatible with social justice?
Until recently, a pervasive sense of there-is-no-alternative left us with a
debilitating pessimism. Seattle was, arguably, the long-awaited antidote. Where social democracy had seen the power of capital and was cowed by it, the Seattle protesters recognized that building a decent world meant actively resisting it. In this defiant understanding that resistance creates the space for hope, the chain of protests initiated by Seattle fell in with a tradition that saw realism in historic terms, rather than in a fetishism of the present
At one time, a defeated left in the United States, facing the onslaught of neoliberalism in the 1980s, pointed defensively to social democracy in Europe. This reduced socialist vision was founded on a static analysis that ignored emerging capitalist contradictions, already tearing apart even the Swedish model. Exemplifying the impoverishment of this kind of thinking, James Galbraith now designates the United States as a social democratic model for Europe—even after the social safety net has been further torn by Clinton’s Democrats. This is a so-called social democracy without a social democratic party (let alone government), with the lowest levels of unionization in the advanced capitalist world, no universal public healthcare program, the largest prison population anywhere, and a lower life expectancy for blacks than in many “underdeveloped” countries
“A continental welfare state, modeled on the comparatively successfulsocial democracy of the United States. That’s the ticket. Do it the American way.” This recipe for what path Europe should follow isn’t the Economist calling for a new realism, or the voice of American imperialism talking through the Wall Street Journal, or even a stolen quote from a member of Tony Blair’s cabinet caught in private conversation. It’s the concluding lines of an article on an alternative for Europe published in the New Left Review, once the home and hope for a rejuvenation of creative Marxism