We are in the midst of seismic shift in international politics. The era of globalisation appears to be at an end.
The nations of the earth are retreating behind iron-cast walls. At just the time when planetary cooperation is most necessary, it is most lacking.
The twin crises of climate change and Covid-19 are drawing attention to our need collective action, to protect the human race itself.
But at this very time, our leaders, and we ourselves, are withdrawing into our protective veils, putting our fingers in our ears, and singing, ‘La, la, la, la, la’.
Initially, there were siren-call, loosely associated with the Left, although critical of the inherited ‘productionist’ nostrums of economic development at any price.
These were the world-wide protests, around the millennium, largely among the young: anti-globalisation movements, Occupy, plus more recently Climate Extinction, and Black Lives Matter.
However, we see a mirror-image rhetoric on the Right. Thinkers, such as Alan de Benoit, for example, have popularised the French word ‘mondialisation’.
While its literal meaning is identical to ‘globalisation’, its political significance is, nevertheless, wholly opposite, even though it deploys much of the same anti-capitalist rhetoric.
This discourse embodies a re-valorisation of the particular, the ethnic, and the national, against the perceived levelling-down tendency of mass-manufactured capitalist culture.
In this case, instead of valuing the presence of other cultures in Europe, for instance, this very adhesion is attacked as a multi-cultural ideology.
‘Multiculturalism’ is seen as an alien imposition, which devalues Europe’s supposedly indigenous, and ‘white’, nativist, cultures: and is therefore a linguistic weapon of the racist far-right.
The dialectical paradox is that both are equally expressions of reaction against the depredations of international capitalism: against both people, and the planet – economics and ecology.
It is also, sadly, the case that it is the Right who have proved most successful at enabling their philosophical insights to penetrate political institutions.
Steve Bannon’s role in electing President Trump is a prime case. But so is the dominance of populist regimes in Europe, such as in Hungary and Poland.
The paradox again is that for both left and Right, the temptation to use political power to defend their authoritarian grip appears irresistible: as in China, Cuba, and Venezuela, for example.
This vocabulary of anti-globalisation/mondialisation, defending localised and national boundaries, is interchangeable at both political extremes, as the threat to democracy spreads worldwide.
We see this again, in the pilgrimage of Frank Furedi from revolutionary communist to libertarian neo-conservative apologist.
His new book, “Why borders matter: why humanity must relearn the art of drawing boundaries”, has been published coincidentally during the Covid pandemic, fortuitously for its sales publicity.
Athough Furedi argues widely, for the recovery of boundaries and distinctions, culturally as well as politically, the latter is highly significant.
His website, Spiked-Online (a successor to the magazine Living Marxism, but now in thrall to the radical right), is paramount in calling for immigration controls and national English distinctives.
How do we construct a new internationalism to address today’s crises?