3. Anti-globalisers

Submitted by Spassmaschine on December 17, 2009

What do you think of movements like anti-globalisation ? What is your position ? On the one hand there are young people who hate capitalism and criticise parts of it. On the other hand political groups have their anti-globalisation campaigns in which these young people are merely possible recruits or a mass for political manoeuvres.

Anti-globalisation is a by-product of a wider situation that appeared in the 1990s : labour's bigger and more conscious resistance to a defeat it has suffered since the second half of the 1970s. This defeat is now met with an active resistance on most continents : in countries that have gone through drastic market "modernisation" (the US, Britain, Australia, New Zealand...), in countries where modernisers are partly held in check (France, Italy...), in Latin America where wage earners' and peasants' actions combine, in ex-Third World countries (India, Bangladesh...), and in ex-State capitalist regimes (China). On a world scale, there's a lot more working class response than twenty years ago but, as it doesn't go beyond the present stalemate of the class struggle, it's unable to create a new social compromise as stable and as durable (but by no means eternal) as Fordism was, and unable to produce the political forms that would structure such a compromise.

So, we have a situation where a renewed worker militancy cannot not offset the globally downward trend of the workers' lot. That reaction goes together with a surge in opposition from various social groups on a wide range of issues: few of them are initially and finally antagonistic to capitalism, but they fuel discontent that's as inflammable as volatile. These are strange times when the largest ever peace demonstrations support big bourgeois States because they stand for peace (France and Germany, particularly) against others who go to war (the US and Britain). At the same time, the left turns liberal in one way or other. So there is at present no real "reform party" as there nearly always used to be. Anti-globalisation stands in the middle of this predicament.

In the 1960s and 70s, leftism was political: it aimed at creating a party and vainly competed with already declining worker bureaucracies like the French, Italian or Spanish CPs or the left of the Labour Party. Antiglobalisation, on the contrary, claims to be first and foremost social: social movements, social forums, social centres... It wishes for the State to be by-passed, not conquered. Instead of building a new (popular or worker) State, antiglobalisers want to provide everyone with new rights to limit State power. Parties are out, NGOs are in. Whereas "moderate" antiglobalisers call for a (strong) State to implement a new Keynesianism, a sort of popular New Deal, "extreme" antiglobalisers act as if the State might die of its natural death. They nurture the illusion that the State could wither away on its own because social change would be happening everywhere, as is hoped by sub-comandante Marcos and theorised by J. Holloway: Change the world without taking power.

This is a mimic (some would say a "recuperation") of the communist critique of politics and political revolution (see our next answer). The communist standpoint is that revolution does not take central political power, revolution destroys it - or there's no revolution.

It's no accident that the most openly radical and non-pacifist wing of the movement, the Black Bloc for instance, withdrew from the public eye after September 11, 2001. After the assault on Manhattan and the Pentagon, outright and justified violence was perceived by the vast majority of antiglobalisers and social forum participants as anti-democratic, as an attack upon the common people. Smashing bank windows or clashing with riot police seemed a (minor but ill chosen) equivalent of two planeloads killing thousands of people in the World Trade Centre. To us, violent means are not superior by nature to peaceful ones. But a movement that renounces violence renounces historical change, and contents itself with whatever doses of change the existing system will permit. A few months before "9/11", the repression of the Genoa demonstrations in July 2001 had already proved that fun and peaceful civil disobedience are no match for a political power set upon crushing popular resistance under its iron heel : as far as the function of the State is concerned, the Italian police were better Marxists than the Tute Bianche.

There's no point trying to oppose grassroots antiglobalisers to their leaders and thinkers, like the Trotskysts trying to play the workers of the CP against the Stalinist bureaucrats. The rank-and-file usually gets the leadership it wants and deserves. Antiglobalisation is not a screen that we should tear for revolution to appear in its true light. There will be a rupture between a number of antiglobalisers and the organisations they're now involved in, but it will only happen in troubled times. Our best contribution to that future break is to be as clear as possible about the nature of antiglobalisation.