How globalisation fueled populist electoral shocks

Dani Rodrik once commented that states and markets are compliments, not substitutes, a fact that has seemingly be neglected for years, there are several indicators that suggest globalisation will soon be forced to come to an end.

Populist parties struggled to gain a stranglehold in mainstream elections for years, in 1998, just two governments in Europe had populists making up the power arrangement, in 2018 the figure stands at nine. 1 in 4 Europeans now vote for populist parties. Significantly, until 2008 and the global economic crash, populist vote share was around or under 10%. At which point, there was a distinct political decision to impose austerity. What has unfolded since, should come as no surprise to the political classes. Crude policies such as universal credit and other welfare reforms, have a direct consequence on election day. Needn’t we name, Brexit.

Kevin O’Rourke has long predicted that if states failed to protect the winners and losers from globalisation, they would soon be forced to dismantle global trade links, citing that even in 1914, advanced trading nations had social provisions for the losers of open trading. The choice to pursue neoliberal globalisation at the end of the liberal embedded compromise, has satisfied the criteria to ensure Kevin’s insight is correct. All indicators signal that globalisation is grinding, slowly, to a halt, trade has a share of global GDP has fallen by 3 percentage points from 61%. Multinationals share of global profits is also shrinking, and Foreign Direct Investment is also decreasing.

Nuanced analysis of voting trends suggests that those at risk of the negative effects of globalisation leads people to vote in a populist manor. For example, research at the University of Bologna has suggested that, those counties most heavily exposed to the Chinese import shock, were most likely to vote to leave the European Union, simultaneously listing immigration as their explanatory variable. In America, for every 1% increase in Chinese imports, voters were 2% more likely to vote for Trump. Interestingly, according to the National Centre for Social Research, concern for the economy was at its lowest post-war level on the day of the Brexit vote, the same can’t be said now.

The elites have long over estimated how long they could implement neoliberal policies without consequence, the electorate is biting back, further austerity will do little to change that situation.

The Capitalist and The Half Bloody Prince- The West and Saudi’s horrific relationship

In a capitalist world where the warfare and fossil fuel industry marry each other and are ideal for the elite to profit of, there is no doubt that Saudi Arabia proves to be a top customer and provider. Despite the country’s countless human rights abuses in their own country as well as in Yemen and Bahrain, business has carried on as usual. The mysterious disappearance and murder of Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi has once again, fired up the debate of whether countries should continue working with Saudi Arabia.

In 2017, the USA sold $110 billion worth of arms to its Arab ally, the UK sold $1.1 billion and Russia sold $3 billion worth of weapons. In a lot of cases, some of the weapons being sold are illegal to use, transfer or stockpile under international law, for instance, the sale of U.K made cluster bombs and their use in Yemen is a breach of the 2008 Convention of Cluster Munitions (a treaty the U.K is a signee of). Saudi Arabia’s involvement and weapon usage in Yemen has not only intensified the conflict but has been a catalyst to what the United Nations has described as “the worst humanitarian crisis” with between 8,670 to 13,600 people dead, 22 million people displaced, a cholera outbreak as well as a famine caused by the bombing of ports and farming fields. The indiscriminate and ruthless attacks by the KSA has made it difficult for aid to be brought in by aircraft.

The Kingdom’s brutal clampdown in 2011 on anti-government protesters in Bahrain through the use of excessive force and suppression is another example of a lack of regard for human rights.

The stench of human rights abuse doesn’t just stretch to Bahrain and Yemen, it reeks at home too. The Saudi Royal Family rule over their people with nothing but tyranny; from the imprisonment of Safar al Hawali after he attacked the country’s close relation to Israel in a three thousand page book, to the lynching of homosexuals to their involvement in the Khashoggi affair. This has all happened while Prince Mohammed Bin Salman shows the world the illusion of “a progressing Saudi Arabia” with the lift of the women driving ban and the opening of cinemas. To add salt to the injury, the KSA has a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council.

When confronted with the question of why countries still do business with the Kingdom, many politicians such as Donald Trump have come out with the same answer which is something along the lines of “Saudi Arabia is a key partner in fighting terrorism” however the extreme, twisted and warped version of Islam the Royal Family promote is the backbone of many terrorist groups in the Middle East, including the so-called “Islamic State” and Al-Qaeda (both which have committed attacks on Western soil). In fact an inquiry has gone into investigating allegations of Saudi Arabia financially funding these extremist groups and it seems as if the allegations have rung true because when asked about the inquiry during the Prime Minister’s Questions in UK Parliament, Theresa May responded that the documents contain “information which may be sensitive to the Saudis”.

Surely for any country which wishes to uphold human rights and fight terrorism, this is more than enough evidence to cut all deals with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, right? Under capitalism its economics over people hence politicians and businessmen completely overlook these atrocities. Luckily for Saudi Arabia, it has good relations with the three biggest competitors (The United States, Russia and China) in the international capitalist free market thus it is not seen as an opposition to them but an ally instead. Why not impose economic sanctions on the country in the same way America did on countries like Cuba, Russia and Venezuela? Those countries were/are opposing competitors to the USA, they are a threat to their position in the capitalist markets. Under capitalism, rivers of blood are allowed to run as long as the cash flows.

So should we, the West continue to shake hands and sign deals with the Kingdom? The answer is no, absolutely not. Their disgraceful human rights record should be enough to discontinue relations with them for any decent human. Will the Saudi’s continue being an ally to Western capitalism? Unfortunately yes and it will continue for a very long time. With the country coming close to scraping the bottom of the oil barrel, these “reforms” brought in by the Crown Prince will open the country up to more foreign businesses and building contracts thus saving it from an economic downfall and putting it one step ahead in staying immune in the international capitalist free market.