Publikation Globalisierung - Soziale Bewegungen / Organisierung Towards another International?

von Michael R. Krätke

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Februar 2007

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Transnational Social Movements Against Global Capitalism

Michael R. Krätke


»Get rid of capitalism and replace it
With something nicer!«

Slogan at the mayday demonstration in London 2001

1. Social movements - new and old

Today’s anti-globalist movements look very much like the “new social movements” of recent decades, as opposed against the “old”, that is the socialist and working-class based movements of earlier times. However, there are more similarities than clear cut differences between “old” and “new” social movements. The picture of the “traditional” and “class-based” social movements of the 19th century as depicted by the votaries of “new”social movements is historically ill informed, to say the least. We should know better than to believe in the now conventional and highly misleading picture of a homogenous, tightly organized, unified working class movement. As a matter of well established historical fact, those move-ments were anything but univocal, nor homogenous, and they did not constitute just one single collective actor in a single social drama with one clear cut “big issue”, the issue of socialist liberation (cf. Katznelson / Zolberg 1987; Calhoun 1993). There were different movements with varying degrees of mobilization at different times and there were different organizations and different collective actors, more often than not compound actors. Working-class collective identity used to be highly contested; notions of “class” and “class struggle” were as much analytical concepts as they were symbols of political and social identities. And highly con-tested ones, as heated debates raged on over who should be included in the working class and who should be excluded, whether manual workers or industrial workers or “workers of all kinds” should belong to the one class, whether divisions between skilled and unskilled, male and female, industrial workers and artisans should be taken into account or not. Working-class based movements brought forth and tried various forms of organization and collective action - from clubs to parties, from friendly societies and multi-functional trade unions to co-operatives in various guises. Women and non-industrial workers, small artisans and casual workers were everything but absent from the “old” movements. Religious, national and ethnic divides were not subdued by an alleged predominance of an ideal “average” industrial worker dominating all and every labour movements.

Another myth transported by the fashionable grand “meta-narratives” of postmodernism refers to the clear cut sequence of “materialist” or “economic” values or goal orientations first and “non-materialist” values and orientations much later, that is only in recent decades. A myth that lies at the heart of the fancy “post-materialism” thesis, but is historically as flawed as any other of the fairy tales of which the bulk of so called theories about “New Social Movements” is made of. The early labour movements of the nineteenth century were as defensive of “life-worlds”, as moralizing, as bent upon politicizing various aspects of everyday life, as eager to wage moral crusades for a better world, as prepared to challenge the extant division between public and private spheres as the New Social Movements are according to the now standardized tales. From the chartist movement onwards, they were more often than not going far beyond the scope of purely class movements engaging in battles for citizenship and citizen’s rights as well as they were battling for working men’s rights proper (cf. Calhoun 1993). In a specific sense, and due to the actually much higher level of labour mobility and labour migration until 1914 (even in comparison with the present stage of “globalization”), they were much less confined to national borders or ethnic communities than they are today. Journeymen artisans, migrant workers, even migrant working class communities played a considerable role in an ongoing exchange of ideas, practices, people between those movements, establishing links and even “networks” of relations between members of movements from different countries, spurred by several waves of forced, political emigration in the 1840ties and after. Some kind of grass - roots internationalism “from below” already existed long before the first, short-lived international organization of the labour movements was created in the 1860ties. And it provided a base for “internationalism” at least among certain groups of workers throughout the European continent until 1914.

2. Anti-globalism as social and political movement

According to influential papers like the Economist or the Financial Times the recent surge of mass movements “against globalization” embody some kind of “anti-“ or even “counter-capitalism”. However, the “new” movements are rarely denounced as being socialist or communist. Anarchists may be part of it, even social-democrats and trade unionists of different brands, but socialists they are not. The very fact that they doe not flock together in a struggle for some kind of economics and politics different from capitalism, some sort of “socialism” or “communism” makes them a moving target difficult to hit for the veterans of many ideological battles on the right as on the left. Marxists of different strands are to be found in its ranks and files, even among the few “leaders”, but they are a tiny minority. Clearly on the fore are spokesmen and -women supporting moral and political criticisms of global capitalism, arguing against the big multinational corporations, against the power of financial markets and / or pleading the cause of the losers of globalization. If there is anti-capitalism or anti-imperialism, it is of a special breed, lacking the determination and comprehensiveness of earlier socialist movements. Globalization is the catch and buzz word that dominates the political debates in today’s anti-globalist movements. What is more, the intellectual debates and much of the books and pamphlets circulating within the movements are not very far from the world views as exposed in the writings of many of the more enthusiastic votaries of the “globalization” proper, the “hyper-globalizers” as they are called in academic parlance. Globalization myths and, accordingly, many hardy, even foolhardy statements of highly contested and disputable “facts” are disseminated by the alleged critics and adversaries of globalization. In the writings of authors like Noreena Hertz or Naomi Klein you will easily find statements that could be regarded as summaries of the neoliberal cause, praising capitalism for its unrivalled achievement in generating wealth and bringing forth unprecedented economic growth in most of the world (cf. Hertz 2001, p. 10). For many, at least for the dominant spokesmen / -women of the movement, the problem is not capitalism, not even capitalism as a world system, but a specific set of false policies, and /or some false developments or developments going just too far - like the de-regulation and liberalization of financial markets in recent years that have led towards what is perceived as a dominance of financial markets and financial capital in the present world economy (cf. f.i. Bello e.a. 2000; Patomäki 2001). For some, it is the uncontrolled power of multinational corporations that is to be blamed for all the discontents of the present era of world capitalism and that has to be checked accordingly (cf. f.i. Klein 2000). So, it is not capitalism as such, not even capitalism as a world-system, but rather certain aspects of it or certain sorts of capital together with certain practices of capitalist enterprise that is to be blamed.

Today’s movements do not lack an element of utopianism either, a view of a better, brighter world of justice and peace in the future. However, this is not as clear cut as the utopia’s of the older labour movements used to be. Labour movements worldwide even had their real utopia’s to refer to - some of them hailed by virtually all of them like the Paris Commune, some of them ardently contested like the great examples of Soviet Union or Red Vienna, just to mention a few. Today’s anti-globalists might find similar examples in some area’s of the world: Examples of local self-government defying the apparently overwhelming logic of neoliberal recipes of economic policy and especially intriguing as they occur in coun-tries and regions belonging to what used to be called the 3rd world until recently. Nevertheless, these examples are hailed and cherished, but not presented as models for the rest of the world to follow. If there is a common denominator for the variety of anti-globalist movements, it is not to be found in some kind of alternative model or concept. The movement as it presents itself today to the eye of the sympathetic beholder is imbued with traditional liberal concepts like the idea of self-determination - against the dictatorship of foreign or global capital - and the overarching ideal of “justice” in economic relations. Justice for all, especially the weak, the losers and the victims of globalization so far, that is what they share as a common value. Hence the popularity of the label “global justice movement” that some use to denominate the peculiar stance of the new movements.

Recently, these movements have gained a lot of attention and sympathy in the mass media. Of course, they created big media events like the mass demonstrations in the streets of Genoa and other sites of international summits and the media-professionals were grateful for that. It is a mass movement of young people mostly, so it is attractive again for that reason for the media. But journalists are not stupid, at least not all of them. So they quickly realized that these movements are not all that radical that they are cracked up to be. Regarding the proposal of a Tobin-tax which is certainly the most wide spread idea bringing together larger parts of the anti-globalist movements in different parts of the world, this is by origin and by impact a highly conventional, even liberal reform perfectly fitting into a world of softly regulated (financial) markets. Only die hard market fundamentalists might find it hard to digest. Objections to it are of a purely pragmatic nature. Whatever its difficulties and its merits, it can hardly be regarded as a “revolutionary” measure that would turn the world of financial markets upside down.


3. Internationalism and the varieties of anti-capitalism

In comparison with the Internationals of the labour movement, the new anti-globalist movement has a much broader scope, but not any larger impact. In terms of actors involved, it displays a larger diversity as it is not made up of political parties and / or trade unions, although both political parties and trade unions, at least factions of both, are taking part, their representatives “unofficially” showing up in ever larger numbers at the larger mass events like the World Social Forum (Porto Alegre I , II and III). Dominant are movements like Attac which are certainly not political parties but rather loose networks of local clubs without a clear cut centralized nor hierarchical authority structure and only a minimum of common articles or constitutional documents. Attac is peculiar as it is a mix of an organization of individuals and of collectives (legal persons or already existing organizations) joining a larger compound. In this respect, it is highly comparable to the traditional Labour Party as it existed before recent reform efforts by so called modernizers came into sway. Trade unions, but also co-operatives and other firms - like some of the leading left wing periodicals in France -, local and regional groups and farmer’s associations, tenant’s associations, citizen’s initiatives have all joined and they are participating in a structure of local committees ( more than 200 in the case of France) all over the country that act as the movement’s constituencies. Within two years, it has spread all over the EU member states and some of the future member countries where very similar groups have sprang up under the same name. It exists now in more than 40 different countries. They have not replaced already existing and well established NGO’s but rather build informal alliances with them, using already existing informal networks and expanding them. Cooperation is widespread, especially in the field that these new movements characteristically share with the “old” labour movements - that is popular education. All of them are first and foremost learning organizations, educating themselves and each other, whether in the garb of summer or winter schools or universities, evening and / or weekend seminars or else. Where possible, they make use of the still existing infrastructure for educational activities as they have been built up by the trade unions, the co-operatives and other organizations in many European countries. Which is of course, an element that makes them rather attractive for young intellectuals and students.

The World Social Forums in Porto Allegre as well as the European and the Latin American Social Forums have made it quite clear that these movements are no longer dominated by Europeans and / or North Americans. Attac has spread out and sprung up in North America, in most Latin American countries, in Japan as well as in some African countries. Movements and NGO’s from 3rd world countries as well as trade unions and farmers’ associations or other varieties of “poor people’s movements” are now clearly in the majority. And similar groups from the former “socialist” countries have recently joined in increasing numbers. Still and the apparent regularity of highly popular mass meetings like the World Social Forum notwithstanding, there is no international organization binding together what is a de facto international movement of movements from an ever increasing number of countries in the world. But these world or continental fora, what one might call the international conferences of the anti-globalist movement, have already much more participants, demand a much larger organizational effort, have a much wider impact than the conferences of the former and still existing internationals ever had. Until this very day, their success depends upon unpaid voluntary work of thousands of people in several hundreds of local and regional and national committees charging themselves with the difficult task of preparing the next world wide meeting for the movements’ activists.

Clearly, the first three internationals have been dominated by white, male and mostly European working class people, representing only parts of the actually existing labour movements of their day. The first international (IWA, International Working Men’s Association), founded in 1864 on the initiative of French and British trade unionists, remained a clearly Western European affair, its impact upon North America restricted to the circles of mostly German speaking immigrants. As far as it took any action and interfered in world politics, it was in a classical symbolical and highly intellectual way - by issuing pamphlets and declarations, the declarations issued by its London based General Council concerning the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune being the most prominent examples. In 1870/ 71 it was at the height of its fame and public response, mostly due to its alleged role as the clandestine organizing force behind the Paris Commune. As a body for mutual information and exchange it hardly started to work, although initiatives for the organization of systematic surveys on the life and working conditions of working class people in several countries were announced - and in one, exceptional case, the enquête ouvrière as prepared by Marx himself, actually launched - with a rather modest success. First and foremost, the international acted as a body for propaganda and as such, propagating the idea of independent, working class based political parties, labour parties with a clear socialist orientation, it succeeded - although an actual split over the issue of the political organization of the working class was only avoided by what amounted to disbanding the international. But its real and increasing influence among the emerging industrial working class in Europe depended upon its actual and repeated assistance in industrial conflicts: The IWA was for quite some time, between 1864 and 1872, able to manage and coordinate activities to support industrial strikes in various European countries, trying to prevent the importation of blacklegs, collecting money, organizing public support for the workers actually engaged in industrial action. Hence, it was more than a mere propaganda society and did its share in organizing solidarity actions across borders, however small in size and scope (cf. Knudsen 1988).

Like its predecessor, the Second International rose and flourished in an age of nationalism. It was based upon working class communities within the borders of already established “nation” states, its members being well established socialist parties regarded as representative for at least a larger proportion of the working class in their respective home countries. As some smaller strands of working class movements, especially anarchism, were excluded, it achieved more of an “ideological” unity than the first international. Its “internationalism” was clearly opposed to the prevailing mood of nationalist, even chauvinist confrontation between rivalling industrial and imperialist powers that the conservative, liberal, even Christian political parties of the bourgeois right and centre adhered too and propagated. The dominant form of internationalism in the high times of classical “imperialism” was to be found in the international conferences of the national socialist parties that had joined the Second International. As an organization, it looked much more impressive than its predecessor, em-bracing more parties, much more members and being more thoroughly rooted in the industrial proletariat of the leading industrial nations of the capitalist world. It also fared somehow better as an organization, at least as far as its impact upon some pieces of national legislation was concerned. With regard to labour legislation it had some influence, although limited, both on the national and international level. As an alliance of socialist political parties, many of whom were already represented in national parliaments it provided some symbolical joint action - declaring its intention to resist any European war by more or less all means. In fact, it was the only forum available for socialist parties for a long time where they could debate their views on foreign and international politics proper and take something like diplomatic action. When the real test for joint, international action according to its many declarations came in July and August 1914 it failed - some courageous exceptions notwithstanding - and perished within days as an international organization.

The Third International, the Comintern, founded in 1919, was meant to be much more than just an international association of proletarian parties of the radical left. It was conceived of as a supranational organization, in fact a super-party of world-wide reach, a highly centralized body that should be in control over its various national member parties. Communist parties were not to be regarded as independent organizations, acting within the framework of national politics, but just as the national sections or branches of a world-organization, a Bolchevik world party with its centre firmly rooted in the Soviet Union. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was, as a state and at least officially, a remarkably internationalist enter-prise, not referring to any particular territory or people or nation as its “natural base” but aspiring to embrace the whole socialist world to come (cf. Anderson 2002, 14). From its very beginnings onwards, the Comintern did whatever it could - starting with the famous “Twenty -one conditions” of membership, dating from July-August 1920, to impose as strict a discipline on its member parties with respects to the central and highest authorities of the Comintern as possible and transforming them into “bolshevik” parties in the process. In fact, the Comintern did everything it could to destroy the independence of national communist parties and to put them under strict control from above, launching purges and reorganizations again and again and summoning party officials from all over the world to report back to the Moscow head office. From its very beginnings, it was an instrument of the foreign policy of the Soviet Union and its member parties agreed sooner or later that their main function and duty was or should be to serve the SU and to defend it at all costs. The Comintern was meant to support revolutionary movements in all parts of the world, but first and foremost it did so by building, more or less from scratch and overnight, communist parties in all parts of the world where they did not yet exist, providing money, weapons, expertise and refuge as well as training and education for the leaders and higher officials of those parties. It did so with considerable success especially in Asia, India and China being the main targets of this type of international politics. As an instrument of Soviet foreign policy, the Comintern was sacrificed without hesitation in 1941 when it seemed convenient as a gesture towards the Allies. Although it changed into something different after WWII, the communist world movement without an official organizing centre was still hinging upon the crucial support of the Soviet government and its allies or vassals in the 2nd world.

The older three internationals had one crucial hallmark in common: They were not only ridden by ideological conflicts about the right way towards and the right kind of socialism. They were organizing life-worlds or milieus of their own, veritable “pillars” of a counter-society, confronting the bourgeois word and each other. Not one, but in fact several kinds of international organisations existed beside each other. This multitude of internationals comprised the internationals of socialist or communist parties, the internationals of trade unions, the international associations of co-operatives, and even more, beyond the familiar figure of the three pillars of the labour movement, internationals: the international associations of the socialist youth organizations, of the women’s organizations, and, last not least, of the so called cultural organizations, like the proletarian and clearly socialist sports associations (hikers, cyclists, motorcyclists, gymnasts), the free thinkers associations, the associations of musicians and singers, of nudists, of artists, of environmentalists (the famous Naturfreunde in the countries of continental Europe), of first aid activists (the proletarian samaritans, Arbeitersamariter) and so on. For more or less a century they co-existed, all of them having their world conferences, their secretaries, their bureaucratic apparatuses, although tiny as a rule, their international boards with more or less regular meetings, their own funds, normally quite modest, their own publications. World conferences and meetings were organized, even several proletarian, socialist counter - Olympics. But apart from all ideological strife, these various internationals never came together and very seldom acted together. Their coexistence without much cooperation mirrored the pillarized, bureaucratized world of formal organizations that the labour movement of the nineteenth century had turned into as it grew ever larger and stronger and came within arms’ length of political power at least in some countries.

The Socialist International, though, is a little bit of a different matter. When it was revived or refunded in 1951, it became an organizing centre that tried to promote, even to
create similar socialist parties in other parts of the worlds, especially outside of Europe. It did not try to establish closer links with the other internationals, as far as they still existed. In fact, and according to the general attitude of socialist parties in Europe, it severed its links with the other organizations that were once vital elements of the labour movement at large and still existed in the 1950ties. Curiously enough, the socialist parties in Europe lost much of their “embeddedness” in a larger movement and most of its links with a then still vivid proletarian milieu ( or life-world) from the 1950ties onwards, whereas some of the larger Communist parties in the West, especially the PCF and the PCI, preserved them. The SI, although until 1989 still officially an international association of socialist parties and engaged in a battle for democratic socialism and a classless society, became an international club of parties sharing some ideas and concepts, but hardly bent upon joint international action, not even in terms of symbolical politics. As some of its most important members came into power and became used to the status of governing parties from 1945 onwards, it became a forum for discussing both domestic and foreign politics where member parties were involved. It provided channels for clandestine diplomatic action whenever governments and even parties were not on speaking terms (as, f.i., during the Algerian war, or in the case of the Isrealo-Palestinian conflict).

As the Comintern did before, the SI started to support and promote the building of socialist parties in those parts of the world where they did not exist before, especially and with increasing success in the countries of the 3rd world. It is now an organization with a bias towards the socialist parties in 3rd world countries and not anything like the older internationals, dominated by European parties. Still, a lot of the influence exerted by the Socialist International still depends upon the assets coming from the member parties in the rich countries of the “North”. Take, for example, the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation, supported by and closely linked to the German Social Democratic Party: Its worldwide impact is due to the fact that it a public body, financed by state subsidies coming from the central state level, and acting on behalf of a still large and well organized political party, closely associated with some of the largest and richest trade unions of the world. As the events in Greece, Spain and Portugal in the 1970ties clearly showed, the Socialist International was able and willing to interfere with the internal affairs of other countries, at least unofficially, and support the reconstruction of socialist parties in several countries with the clear intention to help them to come into power. In some cases it succeeded.

The old argument in favour of internationalism was twofold: Industrial capitalism, the one driving force behind the making of a world market, was a rising world economic order and it was changing societal structures and political regimes everywhere in more or less the same way. As all countries were supposedly bound to become capitalist and parts of a capitalist world economy, and as the majority of the people of all countries were bound to become proletarians sooner or later, anti-capitalism was inevitably to become a world wide movement. As workers in all countries and regions of the world were supposed to meet the same hardships in their everyday struggles with the same foe, capital, it was quite logical to urge them to unite their forces in one common, world wide battle waged against capital everywhere. And the new society to come, socialism, was conceived of as a new world economic order and a world society, in fact, the brotherhood of men come true. “Socialism in one country”, national socialism appeared to be just a wild idea, the extreme form of utopia, as ridiculous as the small socialist colonizing projects in the outskirts of the New World in the early decades of the 19th century and as likely to fail.

Nonetheless, internationalism of the old, socialist type, as embodied in the various internationals, hardly ever came close to anything like joint action across borders. Practices of or institutions fit for transnational politics did not exist. Still, during the long 19th and the short 20th century, two complementary forms of macro-politics and macro-economics prevailed, that were both at odds with internationalism proper: What has been proclaimed as “socialism in one country” on the one side, was already practised as “capitalism in one country” or “national capitalism” on the other. Both practices prevailed not only throughout the period of “de-globalization” that the interbellum actually was, but even for a long time after. Whatever there existed of a larger regional or, with more than slight exaggeration, world order, was an order imposed by some hegemonic power and largely, although never thoroughly, aligned with the type of economic and societal order of the homeland of the respective hegemon. Dominant as they were in their times and spheres, neither the British nor the US-American variant of capitalism were ever meticulously copied or cherished as the one and only superior model of capitalism by other capitalist nations. Neither was the model of socialism Soviet style in the other countries of the 2nd world. Decolonization did not radically change this.

Apart from the hierarchical and centralized Comintern and its counterparts in the international association of communist trade unions, internationalism was for most of the time a formula for political interactions between national players, including those that did not play much of a role in the context of the domestic politics of their homeland. Once in while, the internationals acted as a forum of an international socialist public opinion and made judgements on the actions of member parties (especially in matters of foreign policy). It may be enough to mention the socialist international’s attitude in the case of the Suez crisis, when two member parties were actually involved in a neo-colonial war, openly defying the authority of the United Nations. Again and again, the internationals acted as a makeshift channel for what one might nearly describe as “diplomatic” activities between political parties that were in government in some countries and belonged to the opposition or were even suppressed and forced into some kind of more or less clandestine existence in other countries.

The socialist international, however, has been strongly affected by two interlinked changes in the postwar world: By the “anti-imperialism” of the 1950ties and after and by the shift away from nationalism as it occurred during the era of the Cold War - and most remarkably there, where nationalism has always been cherished without reservation, on the right and by the new formation of Christian-democratic parties occupying the place of the former bourgeois conservative and liberal parties. Conflicts between capitalist states - in the guise of and inspired by antagonist “nationalism” - were subdued and superseded by a new strand of “internationalism”, uniting all the votaries of a “free world”, a “free market econo-my” and “democracy” in the face of the common enemy - second world communism. Taking sides with anti-imperialism and with anti-communism at the same time brought forth a rather peculiar blend of syncretistic, hybrid ideological expressions as many of the new liberation movements in the colonial and post-colonial countries were either clearly nationalist or prone to embrace some kind of rather authoritarian state socialism (in one country, of course, and to be run by new, national elites rising from the ranks of the liberation movement) (cf. Anderson 2002). By its very alliance with a large array of movements that were quite different from the European or American labour movements, and bent upon their own “national” breeds of (African, Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese etc.) “socialism”, the internationalism cum anti-imperialism became a highly syncretistic hybrid of ideological diverse elements. For the socialist parties in Europe, it became a largely accepted moral obligation to support nationalist parties and movements with a rather narrow perspective of “independence” and a “national” state of their own. Before, the call for solidarity was accepted with respect to “brother” or “sister” parties, or, more often than not, to brother unions in other countries opposing the same sort of foes in different national settings (cf. Landauer 1959; Sassoon 1997). But internationalism, apart from the public support for industrial action by working men in other countries, as political action did not amount to much more than similar symbolical action directed at governments, parliaments and constituencies in different countries. As an organizing centre for joint actions across borders, it did not so much fail but never live up to this expectation. Solidarity actions in case of industrial conflicts, a core activity for the first and, although to a lesser degree, to the second international, became the domain of the trade unions proper.

4. The logic of representation and beyond

Regarding the recent wave of anti-globalist movements, some spectators have taken their hopes for already granted and proclaimed something like a new internationalism, a revival or a renewal of internationalism (cf. Bensaid 2002). If so, it is certainly to be an internationalism of a peculiar kind because unlike its predecessors it has never been formally inaugurated and it has no formal organization, no membership, no general secretaries and whatever you need to operate in the field of international politics. If anything, it is an informal international of movements, some of them grassroots movements, some of them very well established, even old fashioned associations. Apparently, it has broken with the age old logic of “national” representation as embodied in the internationalism of the labour movement.

Besides representation, there is direct democracy: Every man and woman, every voluntary association speaking for him- or her- or themselves. Representation in modern terms is inevitably linked to stateness. That is why, in principle, only groups and organizations aspiring to run the state or to become part of it can obey the principle of representation proper. The logic of representation, as institutionalized in various forms of representative government, allows some divergence between representatives and their constituencies. In the history of modern representative governments, the balance has been tipped in favour of the representatives, bestowing on them a large degree of discretion or the power not only to speak for, but also to think and decide for their constituencies, even to make up their minds for them.

As movements and parties and other formal organizations have become separated, the logics of representation have been blurred even on the level of domestic politics in national states. With the rise of catch-all parties, pretending to be un-ideological and striving to become the true and one and only representative of the “people”, the very idea of collective political actors with similar social backgrounds and aspirations has been thoroughly com-promised. As all political parties are acting as if they were in fact representing everybody, they are looking for an ideal, average body of the “good people”, more often than not situated in the fictitious “middle” of society. A middle that is either crammed full, comprising the large majority of society, or void, inhabited by the latest fads of mass media and fashionable social science only.

Social movements, acting deliberately as non-parties, sometimes as counter-parties in extra-parliamentary actions, have rejected the logic of representation. Following the logic of voice, they insist upon mobilizing different categories of people to stand up and speak for themselves. Accordingly, they are wide open, loose and potentially highly inclusive, but always clearly oriented towards an issue or a cause. Depending upon voluntary actions of their members, whose competence and available “disposable time” are their most important assets, they act like citizen’s initiatives or citizen’s committees. They are, at their very core, no civil rights movements but movements of citizens who already know their rights and know how to use them. But they are open to all good citizens with a heart and a mind for the cause or the issue at hand and do not wield any hard criteria for entrance or membership. Typically enough, at regional and even nation-wide meetings of these movements, people who are not regular members of one the participating groups can easily join the public debate. Strangers, outsiders are welcome, as the movements until now do not try to establish any clear dividing line between “them” and “us”. Which, of course, makes them attractive as opportunities to rally for those groups and movements of people perceiving themselves as marginalized, suppressed, excluded and silenced in the world of official politics.

Hence, the anti-globalist movement is comprising non-parties of all sorts, some of them locally based, some of the organized nation-wide, some, quite a lot indeed, already operating across state borders on a larger scope. As non-parties, they do not strive for a share in or access to the spoils of offices and political power. They reject the role of representative and assume the role of the advocate, acting on behalf of those who cannot or dare not speak for themselves, although nobody has formally commissioned them to do so (the classical liberal reproach: who the hell is your client?). Most of these advocates have a mission and are, indeed, self-appointed advocates of a good cause. But beside them, and at least as prominent, are old fashioned representative organizations, unions and associations that represent their members and act by elected presidents, leaders and paid functionaries - very much like political parties or trade unions. Those organizations, among them the very largest participants in the movements, and especially those thoroughly rooted in 3rd world countries, are clearly defining themselves and easily identifiable as specific social movements of specific groups in the populace - the movements of the peasants (both in India and in Europe), and the movements of the landless (Latin-America based) being the best examples. Trade unions and even parties,
or party and union factions, including several European social democratic or socialist parties, are involved, some of them, as for instance the Brazilian PT, offering a lot of unofficial support. But they are not participating as political parties - the representatives and spokesmen of political parties being even excluded and only accepted as private persons.

So, we have at least three highly different types of political organization flocking together and mingling in this new movement: citizen’s initiatives, advocate organizations and representative organizations. All of them have, to different degrees, their own practices of internationalism, the advocate groups challenging the traditional pre-eminence of working class based representative organizations in this field quite successfully. As a matter of fact, and without much trumpeting, the NGO’s new style, blending the citizen’s initiatives and the advocacy organizations, have developed an internationalism of their own, claiming “neutrality” with respect to all “national” interests in international affairs. But unlike the noble Red Cross the new supranational NGO’s or umbrella organizations of many local and regional NGO’s are not pretending to be politically neutral or just taking care of a humanitarian cause. As morally loaded and respectable their causes may be, they still are political organizations with a cause. Their impact depends upon their access to the world of official politics, both on the national and international level.

Propaganda, pleading for their cause in public, constantly claiming and reclaiming the public domain - including the “streets” - is crucial for these movements. They share and they develop some common, basic ideas about the world as it is, its evils and defects, they share and develop a common language of criticism and protest and a common culture of collective mass action in the public domain. Perhaps the best illustration - and partly explanation as well - for the state of affairs in today’s anti-globalist movements can be found in the case of the monthly journal Le Monde diplomatique, best known under its short name diplo. It used to be a remarkable feature of the left in France, persisting until this very day, that its different groups and movements, before the rise of modern political parties, but afterwards as well, were brought together, held together by newspapers. Journals with a distinct view of the world, adorned with several outstanding journalist - intellectuals and a distinct outlook of their own at most of the relevant political matters of the day. In France, as in 19th century Europe, before political parties, there were clubs and journals. Now, in the era of general disillusion-ment with party politics, they are back again and very well alive. The diplo has a staff of professional journalists, it has shareholders - 49 % of its shares belonging to the staff and its readers - and it is a highly successful enterprise, its success being due to its newly acquired rol of intermediary and organizing network - of local and regional nods - of the new anti-globalist movements. Its moral and intellectual influence is completely due to its unceasing critique of “neoliberal” globalization, propagating the view that there is resistance to the dominant strand of “neoliberal” politics all over the world. With more than 1,5 million copies, including the 20 or more internet-versions, sold or circulated every month, in no less than 23 different paper and internet versions in most of the larger languages of the world, including Russian, Chinese and Japanese, it certainly has, what no left oriented journal has ever achieved before, a global impact upon a global readership (cf. Cassen 2003). Which is in the end, a late and rather unexpected triumph of a peculiar style of political mobilization, giving the new movement a touch of gauchisme à la francaise.


5. Do the anti-globalists know what they are fighting for?

Today’s anti-globalization movements are directly facing those supranational institutions that are so typical for and central to the present wave of “globalization”. Their primary objectives are on the level of international or even world politics, their most important targets are the top meetings of the representatives of the member states of these transnational organizations and, first and foremost, they focus upon the very core institutions of the so-called “global governance: Their protests are targeted at the WTO, the IMF, the Worldbank as well as at officially non-political, non-governance organizations like the World Economic Forum, formally a private, non-state agency. Still, some of the most remarkable institutions or transnational bodies characterizing the current wave of globalization like the International Standards Organization (ISO) hardly draw any attention. Others, like the ILO, are either ignored or regarded, although with some reservations, as a potential ally in the field of trans-national economic and social politics. The most remarkable fact with regard to the background and history of the large variety of NGO’s and citizen’s initiatives and action groups that have recently joined in sustained efforts for common, joint action on the level of world politics, remains that they have left the many separate single issues behind that were once their raison d’être. Instead, they have in fact now turned a small group of easily identifiable, common enemies. Although the IMF and the Worldbank have been most frequently and most bitterly criticized, the WTO and the G - 8 have been targeted as not less responsible for the evils of “globalization”.

In all these confrontations, anti-globalists criticize the lack of democratic legitimation of these international bodies. In fact, they are more often than not attacking the role and influence of big multi- or transnational corporations and / or international networks of businessmen lobbying “their” representatives, corrupting these bodies, using them to lobby treaties and agreements through that are designed to serve their interests. They argue either in the name of the weaker and poorer political actors, the representatives of the 3rd world countries, or in the name of another concept of the global common good, different from the common good of the large corporations. Although there are groups that deny the legitimacy of international bodies like the IMF or the WTO outright, the large majority of the anti-globalist movements try just to influence the agenda’s and policies and those bodies for the better. Until now, there have been two clearly discernable conditions for success for such pressure politics from without. First, some, in fact rather few, of the NGOs have become self-consciously global in their concerns and strategies and claimed an active role in transnational politics by setting up transnational advocacy networks (TANs) (cf. Keck / Sikkink, 1998). Such networks, complete with interlocking directorates as in the world of national and transnational corporate governance, think-tanks, elite networks including a considerably large group of movement intellectuals globe-trotting from one event to another, do exist for a quite a long time in increasing numbers and they are getting larger. Some of them are independent, supranational organizations with branches in several countries some of them are in fact alliances or umbrella organizations, backed up by hundreds of trade unions, foundations, church organizations based in dozens of different countries, such as Transparency International and Social Watch International. Second, they had and they have to strike alliances with government representatives that do have direct and undisputed access to those international bodies. Prospective political allies, officially established global players, can be found in different parts of the world. Activists and protagonists of the anti-globalist movement would be more inclined to look for such allies in the countries of the 3rd world, as most evils and most victims of globalization are to be found in the global “South” as they perceive it. Incidentally, such alliances with government representatives from 3rd world countries have been made - more often than not in a purely negative sense, in order to stop or fend off joint actions and / or plans launched by the richer (OECD) countries’ governments. Although there is a developed practice of “transnational” policy making by TANS supported by a widespread commitment to solidarity with the global South, yet nothing like a long term strategy to support the G - 77 against the G - 8 and to take sides with one kind of “globalizing” politics against another has emerged.

Hence, although the “internationalism” and “third-worldism” of the 1970ties is still very much present among the European and North American participants in the movement, it does not prevail above other concerns. Which is of course due to the widespread scepticism about the present economic world order, a scepticism which does not leave out the activities of the successful “developmental states” in South East Asia and elsewhere. Although outspoken advocates of third world “developmentalism” are present in the movement, there is no general shift towards a sustained policy of national protectionism, at least for the 3rd world countries. Nor could there be, as a large part of the movement is based in organizations and movements in 3rd world countries which are bitterly opposed to the developmental policies of their own governments, at least some of them, while they are, by the same token, turning to them as agencies that should and could provide them access to world markets and help them to get fair terms of trade.

Participants in the anti-globalist movement share all kinds of anti-capitalism, most of them quite restricted and usually directed at certain aspects and partial phenomena of the present capitalist world economy, in particular against the alleged dominance of the “financial markets”. But there is nothing like the apparent programmatic coherence of former social movements. More than anything else, the anti-globalist movement is lacking a common idea of the alternative economic and social order it is fighting for. The international organizations of the working class movements found their rallying point in some concept of an alternative to capitalism - socialism at large. Feminists and environmentalists shared similar, although much more vague, notions of the better world of gender equality or sustainable development they were and are striving for. The anti-globalists do not. They cannot deny or combat the very phenomenon of globalization in the sense of interconnections and intercon-nectedness across borders nor can they reject the enlightenment idea of humanity and the world wide community of mankind as they are thriving by both. Hence, everything depends upon the varieties of anti-capitalism as well as the element of utopianism they embrace.

Due to its recent successes in the media and in a series of mass meetings, assembling several tens of thousands of people and even more than one hundred thousand as in the case of Porto Alegre January 2003, the anti-globalist movement is urged by its own unsuspected dynamics as by its newly acquired status of a big political force to reckon with, to make up its mind. Its success as an ever growing mass movement and its attraction for a rapidly increasing variety of movements in many parts of the world hinged upon the very fact that it was kept open and in potential all - inclusive, hence did not or only vaguely define conditions of ad-mission to the movement at large. People, individuals and organizations, are free to join the ever larger movement, the only effort to keep away dangerous or undesirable or strange bed-fellows being directed against overtly nationalist, racist and even fascist anti-globalists from the old and the new “right” in Europe and America. The problem seems to be to identify the common enemy, an enemy who comes in many guises - whether as global corporations, as global capital, as US imperialism or Empire, as finance capital or the financial markets, as industrialism, consumerism, as world trade or world market, as neoliberalism or neo-conservatism - and to sort out “who is who” in the real worlds of capitalism. Who is who and who is responsible for all that is wrong with the new world order and for all the evil consequences of the ongoing “globalization” process, unintended and undesired as they may be.
As an educational and debating movement, the anti-globalists are still looking for some kind of common denominator for the various kinds of criticisms referring to “globalization” and to “capitalism” or the present world order. They do share a belief that they are parts of and contributing to something much larger - a historical movement that might eventually change the world as we used to know it. In this respect, they have an outlook very similar to the one present in the working class movements of earlier times - although they lack the clear cut perspective of some millenium to come. Despite of their confusion about the alternative as well as about the diagnostics of what is wrong with the present world - and the tremendous success of a world view as propounded in Empire by Hardt and Negri (Hardt / Negri 2000) could only be read as an indication of that utter confusions - they seem to agree that politics, even government politics still matters a lot, notwithstanding the grassroots style and appearance of the movement.


6. The perspectives of the anti-globalist movements

Anti-globalism is certainly not all that it is cracked up to be by many of its protagonists. In relation to its opponents - the global power of capital and, more specifically, the power of “global capital” as far as it does exist - it lacks a clear cut strategy. It lacks a clear conception of the kind of powers it is up against. It has no “programme”, just several rallying points loosely knitted together by some vague overarching concepts - or better catch all phrases - like “globalization”, “neoliberalism”, “corporate power” and so on. It does share and even embrace a lot of the standard propaganda formulas about “globalization”. In fact, its amount of shared criticism of what is “bad” about capitalism and the new world order based upon the “Washington consensus” is rather large, but lacks coherence in all respects. Myths prevail, as they actually do in the official ideologies defending and propagating the revival and rise of world wide capitalism.

Hence, in its theoretical outlook it is as diverse as the “old” world of European and North-American anti-capitalism used to be. That variety has been enlarged by the kind of world views that so many and so large movements and organizations from 3rd world countries have brought into the anti-globalist movement. It does not lack the variety of socialist, communist, anarchist outlooks of the older movements either: As in the working class movements of the 19th century, we find all strands and brands of anti-capitalism mixed together in these new movements: The romantics, the reactionaries, the utopians, the various votaries of a turning back to either nature or allegedly former and better ways of life, and, last not least, even social democratic, rather reformist attitudes and proposals.

Anti-globalists agree upon the claim and the shared world-view that “another world is possible”. In negative terms, they agree upon the proposition that the “world is not for sale”. Meaning of course, just “not all of it”. A proposition that could be easily interpreted in the sense of a call to revival and rebuilding of the public domain in advanced capitalist societies; important but not world - shaking. No general farewell to the world of markets is proclaimed but protection of some “home” markets for the “indigenous” producers and consumers is demanded - more often than not in the name of a peculiar strand of local or regional culture that should be respected (cf. f.i. Hines 2000; Bové / Dufour 2001) . On the contrary, and very much in traditional reformist style, the salience of a revival and reappraisal of the public domain in today’s capitalist market economy’s is broadly advocated, although not always clearly stated. If there is a uniting formula, Susan George’s TATA - there are thousands of alternatives - , coined against Margaret Thatchers’ TINA - there is no alternative -, would certainly be a good candidate. If anything, this is a blast of trumpets, much more than three cheers, for reformism. Political action - on the national level and above that - is still possible and necessary. It is indispensable where the movement is in fact advocating a purely defensive stance on a local or regional or national level against the forces of the world market, global capital and, more specific, the hegemony of US capitalism. Accordingly, the movement has quickly turned to old fashioned lobbying on all levels, talking in private to politicians and high government officials, meeting with party and trade union functionaries, not only writing but also talking to various kinds of congressmen and - women on all levels. Their biggest impact until now has been on the political parties and party politicians of the old, traditional as well as the “new” left who sense a potential and a lot of opportunities here. Government and corporate representatives, including high representatives of the institutions under attack, like the IMF or the WTO, have been impressed and attracted as well, publicly recognizing the seriousness and the importance of the complaints as expressed by the anti-globalist movements.

One perspective is plain: The movement will have an impact and it will succeed. The reason is simple. Social scientists had and have been long aware of the “depleting moral legacy of capitalism” (cf. Hirsch 1977), which does occur for various reasons in the long run and, in the end, severs the links between capitalism proper and the bourgeois civil society. Pillorying all sorts of scandals and abuses, the whole world of the new corruption in international finan-ce, branding the practices of MNCs worldwide and crying out in condemnation against the “injustices” of the world economic system, the anti-globalist movement might contribute to revive something like a moral basis for capitalism, at least to revitalize the old bourgeois virtues of fairness, of self-control and moderation. Quite a lot of anti-capitalist rhetoric can be easily swallowed and integrated into the dominant strands of political and economic discourses, especially those with a clear moralizing undertone. Environmentalism has been integrated and has become part and parcel of the public rhetoric of private enterprises in recent times.

But neoliberalism is more than a rhetorical fad. As a worldwide phenomenon, in fact an easy shorthand depicting an overall shift in macroeconomic politics since the early 1980ties, it is closely linked to the third Great Depression in the history of modern capitalism. The way out and what kind of world economy will emerge beyond this Great Crisis is still unclear and all historical analogies have been deceptive until now - the last one being the so-called “new economy” of the late 1990ties. In this respect, the perspectives of the anti-globalist movement are rather bleak. In terms of the comparative history of internationalism, there has never been a transnational movement of similar diversity, scope and scale, and fragmentation. As impressive and attractive as it might look to the eyes of the sympathetic beholder, its limitations are all to obvious:

First, it already has fallen victim to its own success. Until now, the anti-globa-list movement succeeded because it kept growing, attracting ever larger masses of people and numbers of organizations from all over the world. In fact, it has grown into some kind of a catch-all movement, with an ever higher degree of fragmentation. The extreme heterogenity of such a loose alliance has for some time been kept in check by increased networking and by sticking to the broadest possible consensus. But the summit-hopping style of political action, the jumping from one big even to another, the focus upon ever larger, amorphous, confused mass meetings has now become a fetter to any further development of the movement - as far as joint political action, not social events and politically motivated tourism, is concerned. As Porto Alegre III made it very clear, at least for those who still needed some enlightenment in this respect, mass meetings of several thousand people are unfit for anything like a public debate and joint decision-making. Large crowds acclaiming indiscriminately the wildest and the most opposing views are not very fit for strategic thinking. Hence, on the level of the international council of the WSF the idea to stop the mass meetings and change the style of political action is no longer unthinkable. Whether a switch towards more conventional forms of political action will be feasible, is to be doubted.

Second, if such a shift does occur it will render the weaknesses of the movement even more conspicuous. The way in which the movement acted until now, relying upon moral and symbolical action, its “politics by appeal”, was and is nothing but attentism - as it was called in the old labour movement. Waiting for the next summit of world political leaders and / or world political institutions and reacting to it, following the tracks and the “big events” of “high politics”. In between, there is nothing but preparing for the next rush to the next event to repeat the rituals of street protest. The movement has no practice of solidarity actions across borders - although it has at least some of the necessary means for such action. It has no concept how to influence the supra-national policy-making processes and it has no practice nor any kind of a concept for collective resistance to “globalization” processes. Instead, it comes up with highly technical proposals like the Tobin tax that would not change much if implemented, and it does not seem to understand why “simple” solutions for several world problems (like the international debt crisis or the tax havens and offshore centres) are not so simple after all.

Third, its impact depends upon the world media. The public opinion of the “world” - that is the big media concerns in the global “North” - can be impressed and even manipulated, but only if the game is played according to their rules. That is why the problem of symbolical violence turning into something rather close to real rioting - much more familiar in the capitals of 3rd world countries than in old Europe or the old USA - will continue to haunt a movement that has no control whatsoever of the actions of its supporters.

Fourth, an all-inclusive movement of all sorts of movements can hardly bring about anything of a collective identity for its participants - apart from the self perception as belonging to the “good people”. In democratic societies, such movements can not do much more than oppose “we - the people” with “us - the other people”. Any serious resistance will probably blow apart such an Owenite “association of all classes of all nations” and produce even more fragmentation, as will the soft tactics of embrace and even hug the movement as it is practised once in a while.

Fifth, and due to the lack of a clear concept about who the opponent and who the addressee of the action are, the movement lives by a flurry of all kinds of anti-capitalism. An anti-capitalism that is first and foremost built upon and lives by anti-capitalist rhetoric. That makes it attractive to all kinds of groups and movements of the old and the new left. By the same token, the movement becomes vulnerable to all kinds of anti-communist and anti-socialist counterarguments. Superficial and ill-informed as they are, the general and widely used allusions to the complete “failures” of all sorts of non-capitalist economies and societies still work. As the prospects for a socialist world revolution are not very encouraging at this moment, the rising tide of anti-capitalist rhetoric will hardly gain credibility. Inevitably, the movement will have to take up the challenge and to come up with some answers as to the kind of non-capitalist world order it is actually advocating. Notwithstanding the large numbers of participants from the old and the new left, it is not well prepared to do that. And it certainly does not have any clear view as to the prospects of those parts of the world that are still nominally non-capitalist like Cuba or the People’s Republics of China or Vietnam. By all means, the movement will again have to learn the basics of (international) political economy as the labour movements of the 19th century had to learn them.

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