Ours is not the first age of globalization. The percentage of trade that was international in nature as a percentage of global trade was as high around 1900 as it is now. Our argument is that the juxtaposition of globalization, democracy and tyranny made an explosive mix that caused W.W.I. And something similar may happen today.

Russia rolled tanks into the heart of Georgia. Georgia started as the kingdoms of Colchis and Iberia, about three thousands years ago, making it three times older than Russia in any sense (and six times older than the state that Ivan the Terrible started in Moscow). The breakaway pieces of Georgia artfully amplified by Russia recently did not exist then. Curiously, Russia has been doing extremely well economically in recent years. What is it afraid of? Well, we will argue that it does not feel afraid enough, and it needs fear to buttress itself.

It’s a great illusion to believe that the sheer evocation of profitability from commerce with a country can stop tanks rolling from that country. The experience of the USA with Hitler is very clear in this respect: in spite of tremendous trade with the USA, Hitler declared war to the USA.

Lenin used to say that capitalists were so greedy that they would sell him the rope to hang them with. (This is roughly what happened; for example, at least one US capitalist helped Stalin develop Caucasus oil in Baku, and became “Hero of the Soviet Union”.)

Arguably, “selling the rope that will hang us” is exactly what we (in the West) have been doing recently, on a much larger scale. By displacing more and more crucial economic activities to anti-democratic countries, the capitalist masters of the West have been allowed to be much more greedy than basic safety requires. Should this process be allowed to persist, a World War is unavoidable. Let me please explain this.

The present World Order is strictly military.  The economic aspect of the World Order is mostly an illusion. Diverting more and more crucial industries to anti-democratic countries makes them ever stronger.  As soon as the antidemocratic countries feel stronger, militarily, than the democratic countries, they will strike militarily.

Why such a gloomy assessment? Why will strength, far from bringing democratization (as the Bush administration erroneously believed), bring war instead? Why will it even trigger war? Because when people feel threatened, they accept to be led by mean, vicious leaders. The removal of the threat economic expansion leads to makes the situation worse.

Indeed, the antidemocratic countries started weaker. That weakness is itself perceived as a threat inside an anti-democratic country. So, as long as the anti-democratic country is weak, its own anti-democratism is justified (by its own perceived weakness). This is a stable arrangement, until the day when most of the people of the anti-democratic country feel so strong that they do not feel threatened anymore. At this point the mean, vicious leaders on top cannot justify their mean, vicious rule with their old excuse of being leading a weaker, hence threatened, country. They have to invent something else, because the anti-democratic leaders, their class, their companions, their children, and the fascist structures that support them will naturally want to keep power. (One can see this mechanism at work in Russia since the collapse of the USSR, with various transmogrifications of communists into oligarchs, and of KGB officers into statesmen.)

How will the mean, vicious leaders stay on top although their rule is not justified the old fashion way anymore? How to keep power? How to keep on having a fascist system in place when the justification for it, that perceived threat that weakness provided it with has now disappeared? Only one way, the ultimate way to justify total fascism, namely total war. Since the old threat has disappeared, the old, mean, vicious leaders create a new, all too real one. This mechanism of fascism graduating to outright war against exterior enemies has happened many times in the last three millennia. There are literally thousands of examples.

In the present world, the anti-democratic countries did not strike yet, because they do not feel strong enough, yet. Yet, each factory transferred to them makes them stronger.

Can we extract a practical lesson from all this? The West should sit with itself, and think about all this in depth. A solution will be to restrict trade with non democratizing countries, while rewarding more those that are going the right way towards real, irreversible democratization (in a similar process as the one for entering the European Union). For example the strongly democratizing countries of the Americas or Europe should be rewarded, and trusted ever more, diverting trade to them.

Technology and economic transfers towards dangerously nationalistic, non democratizing countries should be reduced immediately (one should not forget that giant transfers of dual use technologies to Nazi Germany allowed for Hitler’s aggression in W.W.II).


Patrice Ayme.


P/S: How did W.W.I start? Global trade was as high around 1900 as it is now, and going higher. That was the entire problem: development brought instability. The (mildly) fascist system in Germany felt surrounded. Feeling threatened by the economic rise of a newly democratic Russia, and of republican, imperial France, German generals with US encouragement (from “Colonel” House, Wilson’s right hand man) plotted an attack on their quickly ascending rivals. This exposes another twist: in the end, democratic countries develop more durably, and in much more stable way. So the fascist regimes feel ever more threatened. In Germany, the fascist structures felt threatened by Russia, France (that helped develop Russia) and last but not least, by the Reichstag, which wanted ever more powers, and was wondering why Germany could not be democratic, like France (or… Russia…).

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