In the previous article I mentioned how neoliberalism came about following the End of History paper written by an American political scientist named Francis Fukuyama in 1989. I described how it was encouraged through free trade agreements in New Zealand and elsewhere. Towards the end, I showed how it made the Global Financial Crisis possible and how the world leaders largely ignored the warnings. In this article I show how and why resistance is starting to push back on neoliberalism and why it would not be a bad thing if it succeeded.
Have you ever thought about the factory where your cellphone was made and the conditions that the factory workers worked in – do the female staff have maternity leave; are they paid regular wages; do they get regular rest breaks and a meal break for full time staff? It might not necessarily be so. The economic footprint of the west has been great for countries like China, India, Brazil and others with weak labour laws, where companies trying to avoid having to show legal and moral decency to their staff have set up shop to take advantage of the cheaper labour.
Or what about the mines from which the rare earth elements needed to make the components in the phone? Have you heard about the children working in cobalt mines? A few days ago Google and Apple were named in an American lawsuit brought about after deaths of Congolese children in mines where they were made to work for not even $1 a day.
As human rights N.G.O.’s become aware of such abuses, they are supporting lawsuits being brought about by families and representatives of the victims. Others include Amnesty International supporting people of the Niger delta in their fight against oil companies who have crippled the environment, causing major health issues, loss of income from the fisheries.
But Governments have been slow to recognize the growing discontent among people in many countries. And indeed some have tried to deflect both the growing body of evidence neoliberalism has failed, but also the many and growing numbers of critics. Why? $$$ Many of the politicians who advocate for corporate socialism – which is what neoliberalism basically is – are bankrolled by wealthy donors who will pull their funding if their demands are not upheld, and scared of the backlash they meekly do as these people want. I am talking about the Koch brothers in America; media mogul Rupert Murdoch in Britain; mining billionaire heiress Gina Rinehart in Australia, but also Chinese billionaires such as Lin Lang.
But in recent months there have been signs of a coming push back in countries that had embraced it. In Chile after years of being held up as the poster child for market economics as a result of the reforms enacted by dictator Augusto Pinochet, impromptu protests erupted on a massive scale across Chilean cities – 800,000 people took to the streets in Santiago; tens of thousands elsewhere, simply tired of watching a very few select people get disproportionate gains in their wealth whilst the average Chilean was made to make do with much less. 16 people were killed by security forces who were taken by surprise at the intensity and the anger being expressed. President Sebastian Pinera has promised reforms, but these are largely cosmetic and do not address the underlying social inequality driving the protests.
But these problems are not restricted to up and coming nations. Even G7 nations are not exempt from the back lash. Similar underlying problems may have fuelled the Gillet Jaunes (Yellow Vests) protest movement in France that appeared with little warning after a plan to increase the tax on petrol was announced. Within a matter of days, several hundred thousand people were demonstrating on the streets of Paris day in/day out. Whilst President Emmanuel Macron has announced policy changes in an attempt to woo the protesters and get the violence to stop his centrist government and the conservative wing of French politicians will be looking nervously abroad and hoping that no contagious protest movement springs up any time soon.
In Part 3 I return to explore how Fukuyama’s idea was flawed from the start, and why what I like to think of as the “Second coming of history” is perhaps more appropriate.