Introduction to Midnight Notes 12: One No, Many Yeses

Submitted by Fozzie on April 22, 2018

Since the end of the Cold War and the supposed triumph of the "global economy," specters of anti-capitalist struggle have swirled into life around the planet. For example, the Zapatista uprising in January 1994 revived the great anti-liberal Revolution of 1910 and helped throw the economic planning of the Mexican state, and the Mexican economy, into crisis. The general strike in France in December 1995 resurrected the Commune, blocked the social welfare cuts the French government had planned, and led to the electoral victory of the Socialists, who are at least promising a shorter work week and an end to "austerity." Finally, the South Korean workers' season of general strikes from December of 1996 to March 1997 ignited the Asian crisis and ended the dreams of endless profit booms for investors and speculators in "emerging markets."

Midnight Notes returns in the midst of the second great crisis of the post-Cold War era brought about by these struggles. In Midnight Oil (1992), we evoked the working class struggle which caused the Gulf Crisis. Both the Bush and Hussein regimes tried to crush it with bombs and to obscure it with TV images and nationalistic rhetoric. In One No, Many Yeses we examine the second great crisis of the post-Cold War era. This time it is officially expressed not as a military-diplomatic affair, but as a set of financial crises. Instead of seeing bombed and burning cities, we hear of stock market crashes and currency exchange catastrophes in Asia, Mexico and South America. But the same "specter" is responsible.

On the one side, these and other struggles have not yet blocked the continued rule of capital and the extension of more direct capitalist relations of production and consumption to a vastly larger area of the earth. On the other side, they preview the crisis of the neoliberal phase of capitalism itself. Does planetary capitalist expansion and reorganization set the stage for capital's defeat or its successful colonization of greater areas of human life? Has capital bitten off more than it can swallow in its more recent leap forward? Will it choke on an indigestible humanity resisting both reduction of life solely to existence as labor power and the incessant imposition of austerity in all its guises?

These and other working class struggles have forced some of capital's thinkers and planners to respond, as witnessed by George Soros' famous Atlantic Monthly piece, warning capital that "the uninhibited pursuit of self-interest" which is not "tempered by the recognition of common interest" will spell disaster for the system (Soros 1997: 48), and also as witnessed more concretely by the willingness of the World Bank to engage in negotiations and planning with the non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Does this, for capital, signal the start of something new, the first halting steps toward a new phase of capitalist development after the neoliberal processes of clearing away the deals and powers of the working class accumulated during most of this century?

On the other side, is the planet's complex and contradictory working class itself edging closer to a new phase of offensive against capitalism after a period of micro-social resistance? Amidst many struggles and efforts at developing new circuits of discussion and action, some key moments of the past several years have been the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico and the Intercontinental Encuentros Against Neoliberalism and for Humanity initiated by the Zapatistas and held first in Chiapas in 1996 and then in the Spanish state in 1997. We see these efforts as an important part of a slow and still uncertain beginning of new possibilities for the world anti-capitalist struggle. This issue, the first in a new series from Midnight Notes, is one contribution toward exploring how the class struggles of the decade are reshaping both sides of the class dialectic. Borrowing a phrase from Gustavo Esteva, the title of this issue is "One No, Many Yeses," as one contribution towards hastening the end of capitalism (One No) and supporting the development of new socialities (Many Yeses).(1)

I. The Many Names of Capitalism

How has it been possible after decades of governmental guarantees of subsistence to its population that the very notion of such a guarantee has been put into doubt in the highest levels of world planning? Why are so many people starving, fleeing genocidal slaughters, dying of quite curable diseases, anxious about their literal survival even though they are "fully employed," or even finding themselves enslaved a century and a half after the end of slavery? What and/or who is responsible?

The answer is obvious: the development of capitalism. But this is not the capitalism of past, it is a new animal. The during the last decade the anti-capitalist movement has increasingly proliferated the names of the beast, from "globalization," to "neoliberalism," to "structural adjustment," to "the new enclosures," to "recolonization," and to "a new international division of labor." These terms have all been used recently to describe the planetary political economic developments since the beginning of the world capitalist "crisis" in 1971-73 (with the end of the Bretton Woods system and the oil price boom). It is worth while to note some of the differences between these names, so that we can get a clearer sense of the relation between cause and effect, for, as chaos theory has taught us, even a slight perturbation in a cause can bring about major instabilities in the effect. Indeed, until the movement has a better consensus as the meaning of its "One No," we will be hampered.

Let us take each name in turn.

(A) Globalization. Madonna images in Botswana, computers produced in Bangladesh, Burger King in Beijing, exchanging yen in Chile have now become standard experiences. Those who try to explain these recent developments look to a change in the production, consumption and exchange of commodities and money since the early 1970s (Barnet and Cavanagh 1994). Though the world market for commodities, capital and money existed for centuries before, the "globalization" theorists argue that until recently most production, consumption and exchange took place within national (or at least national-imperial) frameworks. This has now changed. Transnational corporations and banks and supranational agencies like the World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) are "delinking" themselves from political attachments to nation-state "homes." They have "deterritorialized" and "globalized" themselves and as a consequence have the capacity to move capital, money and expertise at will to the places of highest return. They can produce, market, borrow on a global level while the legal and financial framework for this global capacity for movement and integration has been slowly but definitively put into place. Consequently, nation states, provincial governments, municipalities, local officials, and labor unions are now increasingly helpless in controlling the movement of capital, money, and jobs. "Corporations rule the world," in David Korten's phrase, along with their allies in the supranational level (the IMF, WB, WTO, UN) (Korten 1995).

The main consequence of this globalization of corporations has been a widening gap between "North" and "South," which are the operative conflictual terms for this perspective. The globalizing corporations are "integrating only about one-third of humanity (most of those in the rich countries plus the elite of the poor countries) into complex chains of production, shopping, culture, and finance" (Broad and Cavanagh 1995-96).

(B) Neoliberalism. This term has been widely used in South and Meso America and in Europe to describe the contemporary character of the relation of the state to capitalist development. It has not been very popular in the US because of the peculiar US development of the term "liberal." Sometime in the twentieth century it came to signify exactly the opposite of what it implied in Europe and the Americas south of the Rio Grande. (Although now, with the Clinton Administration, there might be a historical rapprochement of the two senses of the term!) "Liberal" outside the US refers to the market ideology and politics which had its paradigm moment in Britain during the 1840s. The liberals of that time demanded (and got) from the British state free trade (the repeal of the protectionist Corn Laws), strict adherence to the gold standard (especially by other nations), the completion of the enclosures (end of common lands) and the repeal of the Poor Laws (and other forms of wage protection). Let us not forget, however, as Polanyi pointed out long ago, classical liberalism did not mean laissez faire (or governmental non-intervention in economic affairs) (Polanyi 1944). On the contrary, for example, if workers combined to force employers to increase their wages, the police and army were expected to break their combinations and strikes; or if South American governments could not pay back their loans to London banks, British gun boats were expected to turn up in their principal ports.

Neoliberalism is a late twentieth century reprise of classical liberalism (after almost a half a century of the dominance of anti-liberal Keynesian, social democratic, fascist or socialist state political economic policies), but with appropriate changes. Thus, the gold standard is now replaced by the rule of "hard" currencies and anti-inflationary monetary policy as defined by the IMF; free trade is replaced by the GATT rules overseen by the WTO; the enclosures are replaced by the privatization of the remaining communal lands and of most socialized property and income; the repeal of the Poor laws is replaced by a much larger legislative "social reform" agenda, since the wage and "welfare" legislation of this century produced a giant system to regulate the reproduction of proletariat in most countries.

The critics of neoliberalism see, through these shifts, an ideological identity between the "market reformers" of the WB, the Clinton Democrats, the Thatcherites and the Salinistas and the nineteenth century Liberals, but the neolibs present a new global boldness in application. The two themes of this ideology (past and present) has been the liberation of capital from the official constraint of reproducing the proletariat (on either the national or global level) and the apotheosis of market relations to the ideal of human sociality. But the level of "liberation" and "apotheosis" has been given an anti-Eurocentric twist, affirming the possibility of any state (regardless of race, color or creed) to achieve capitalistic bliss.

(C) Structural Adjustment. This term originally described a bankers' program devised by the WB and IMF to be imposed on any third world or socialist government that needed to reschedule their loan payments. This program included: (a) liberalization of trade, (b) the end of capital controls and promotion of "free enterprise zones" o "export processing zones," (c) the free convertibility of national currency, (d) an anti-inflationary monetary policy, (d) the reduction of government budgets, (e) the cutting of governmental employment, (f) the end of subsidies for education, health, and subsistence goods, (g) the privatization of government parastatals, (h) the individuation and free exchange of land titles. Almost every government in the Americas, Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia has agreed to impose a structural adjustment program (with more or less rapidity and rigor) in the wake of the Debt Crisis. The WB and IMF claimed that structural adjustment programs would reduce inflation, lead to a favorable balance of payments, reduce government internal and external debt, make national industries more efficient, and force workers to become more productive. All these changes would inevitably, the world bankers claimed, lead to a reduction of a nation's international debt, and so they were justified in requiring these programs as conditionalities for any future loans or payment rescheduling.

At first these programs were largely seen as immediate responses to emergency financial situations in a wide variety of different settings during the 1980s. But soon the cumulative effect of these programs on national capitalists, on the national proletariats, and on the total international debt itself was assessed. Inevitably: the national enterprises were swamped by transnational corporations entering into local markets they were previously barred from, while wages plummeted due to the rise in unemployment, the devaluation of national currencies, and the inability of workers to organize against transnational corporations operating in free export zones where protection of workers was systematically and legally banned. The result has been, on the one side, an actual increase in international debt and, on the other, a recolonization of the economic life of regions that had in the 1950s experienced decolonization (Danaher 1994).

Hence, the critics of structural adjustment have seen in the WB's and IMF's strategy an attempt to "roll back" the economic gains of "Southern" societies that were achieved in the period between decolonization and the Debt Crisis. These gains were supposedly leading to the development of an autonomous capitalist development which was increasingly challenging the dominance of Northern states. This trend had to be stopped if the old hierarchies were to remain intact and the Debt Crisis provided a perfect opportunity for the WB and IMF, as representatives of the North, to sabotage this Southern autonomy and recolonize, in a more subtle and therefore more irresistible way. the nation states of Africa, Asia, South and Meso America (Bello 1994).

(D) Recolonization. This view takes the period between the Berlin Conference of 1885 and the First World War as the point of reference for understanding the present conjuncture. The Berlin Conference laid down the rules for a new period of capitalist colonization (or "imperialism" a la Lenin and Hobson) of Africa, but it also set the stage for the colonization efforts of the U.S. in the Caribbean, of the U.S. and Japan in the Pacific, and of all the imperial powers in China and South East Asia. As analyzed by the original theorists of late-nineteenth century colonialism, the "imperialism" game involved militarily conquering large sections of Africa, Asia and Oceania to create guaranteed markets for the home countries' cartels and monopolies, to spur the ascendancy of financial capital, to provide migratory outlets for rebellious workers from the European cities, and to force new masses of workers in the colonies to labor in almost slave-like conditions, all without entering into direct military confrontation with each other! This regime collapsed after the Second World for a number of reasons, not least of which was the recognition by imperialist governments that official colonization had many of the disadvantages of slavery for the masters. It put the costs of reproducing the colony in bad times on the colonizing country, just as the slave had to be reproduced at cost to the master even when there was little demand for the slave-produced commodity.

The contemporary projection of this scenario by recolonization theorists replaces the imperialist countries with the G-7 dominated supra-national organizations like the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO that impose their conditions on previously decolonized countries through a combination of military and economic action. Attempts at direct military conquest ended with the U.S. failure in Vietnam. Consequently a more subtle approach was developed in the 1980s. On the one side, the techniques of low-intensity warfare and "humanitarian intervention" and, on the other, threats to isolate the countries from credit markets and to restrict their commodities from markets in Europe and North America, have created the conditions for a total subjection of Third World economies to the needs of international banks and transnational corporations (the modern equivalent of the late-19th century cartels and monopolies). The processes unleashed by recolonization also expanded the global labor market enormously through the use of "free enterprise zones" and "maquiladoras," while they created a new stratum of "global" managers whose primary loyalty is to the transnational corporations or supra-national agencies that employ them and not to their "own" country. Thus recolonization realizes many of the advantages of colonization without the troubling obligations to reproduce the colony.

(E) New International Division of Labor. This view takes as primary neither the behavior of global corporations and banks (A), nor the behavior of states and national ruling classes (B), nor the behavior of the supranational financial agencies like the WB, IMF and WTO (C). Rather, it starts from the basic problem in any period of capitalist development: production, and hence the integration of capital and labor. Labor and capital are never homogeneous. Labor, for example, is always divided into hierarchies of skills, wages, organic compositions (i.e., mixtures of labor power of varying skills with machines of different value) and these hierarchies are associated geographically across a city, a national territory and, most crucially, the planet. In this view, capitalist production has always been "global," it is simply that the international division of labor has undergone major transformations. The post-1968 transformation has been the latest and perhaps the most consequential for the geographical distribution of production (Carnoy et al. 1993). The older division of labor that put manufacturing industries in the core and agricultural and extraction industries in the periphery has ended. On the one side, the core countries (U.S.,, Western Europe and Japan) have de-industrialized and have focused on the production of services and information, while on the other side, the periphery has become increasingly the center of manufacturing. This has created a new division within the periphery between the Newly Industrializing Countries (NICs) and those which, for a variety of reasons, have been left out (Amin et al. 1982).

(F) The New Enclosures. This analysis was developed by Midnight Notes in the late 1980s (Midnight Notes 1990). It takes as its root historical metaphor for the present neither mid-19th century "Liberalism" nor late-19th century imperial colonialism, but the dawn of capitalism in the sixteenth (or "Iron") century which saw the original (or primitive) creation of a proletariat (both slave and waged). For no one is born a slave or a waged laborer, s/he must be made one by stripping from him/her any alternative but to be a slave (waged or not). The claim is that in every period of capitalist accumulation, the capitalist class must recreate a proletariat by "liberating" it from autonomous access to the means of subsistence. The Old Atlantic Enclosures of the sixteenth century in Europe, the Americas and Africa which involved the driving of European peasants from the commons; the genocide of native Americans who refused to abandon their lands in the face of colonialist demands; and the origin of the African slave trade are the model of this "liberation" (which often ended in slavery!) (Midnight Notes 1992) (Midnight Notes 1990).

This analysis puts to the center of the discussion a fact that the other approaches seem to have forgotten: labor is not only necessary for production, it is antagonistic to capital. The reason why "a great transformation" began during the trigger years (1968-1973) can be provided neither by the logic of capitalist development (from local to global production), nor by the autonomous ideological preferences of the national capitalist classes (from Keynesian to neoliberal ideologies), nor by the "anti-Southern" machinations of the IMF/WB/GATT/WTO or the imperialist G-7 nations, nor by the autonomous creation of a new division of labor. This transformation was a response to the increasingly aggressive proletarian rejection of the three "deals" (or "constitutions" in European parlance) that had been negotiated at the end of WWII: the Keynesian in Western Europe and the US, the socialist in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and China, and the third world nationalist. This world revolution was not capable of achieving a homogenization on a planetary level, however, and the counter-revolution of the New Enclosures inevitably followed, beginning with Chile in September 1973.

The post-1973 task of capital was to create a new planetary proletariat that would generate profits and continue accumulation. This required many changes in production (Fordism to Neo-fordism), in ideology (from welfarism to neoliberalism), in economic strategy (Keynesianism or socialism to monetarism), in technology (internal combustion engines to computerization and genetic engineering), in management (from nation state to supranational agency), as well as much invention, murder and mayhem (often called "risk taking" and "entrepreneurship"). These symptomatic developments have been commented upon by those who have developed the previous approaches. But most crucially this task logically required the elimination of access to means of subsistence, either through communal or non-alienable land tenure, or through pensions, doles, guaranteed employment and other instruments of the social commons that the previous period of class struggles had achieved). The methods used to extirpate this access were and are multifarious and devious, leaving their tangled trail in the field of class struggle for the last quarter century. But, in the process, the self-consciousness and self-certainty of capital as a class has definitely increased, from the hesitations of a Carter, Wilson, Gorbachev and Mitterand to the increasing clarity of a Reagan, Thatcher, Yeltsin and Chirac. The same cannot, unfortunately, be said of the vanguards that stormed the heavens in the late 1960s and early 1970s; for the process of the offensive against capital inevitably undermined and delegitimated the defensive organs of the working class (party, union and neighborhood).

Though the key feature of the new enclosures is the cutting off of any access to subsistence independent of capital (hence the cutting off from the past, the tearing out of the roots, the cult of the artificial seen in postmodern ideology), the problem of the creation of a working class and its reproduction is still with capital. It is one thing is to relentlessly drive people from access to subsistence, but it is quite another thing to transform these rootless ones to profit-making workers (be it slave or "free.") This is not an automatic process. The NIDL conception, the one which at least focuses on work, does not problematicize these most problematic of social preconditions for capitalist development.

II. Too Many Nos?

The critique of contemporary capitalism, as described under any of these rubrics, has been extensive, even in the face of the endless pro-capitalist propaganda that spews forth as news, scholarly opinion, and political discourse. A study of the collected recent works of Noam Chomsky would be more than an adequate for an introduction to both the propaganda and its critique.

But there has also been an intense discussion as to how "globalization," "neoliberalism," "structural adjustment," "the new division of labor," "recolonization," and "the new enclosures" can be challenged. Each of the six different (though, of course, overlapping) critical analyses of the post-1973 period of capitalist development have within them quite different political strategies, and within each approach there are quite sharp strategic debates.

(A) Globalization. Those who have taken as their theme "globalization" are debating two paradigms. One is the global approach, which attempts to deal with the system of globalization (trade rules, intellectual property codes, transnational corporate standards of behavior, accountability for the WB and IMF) within that system. This approach aims to create a global counter-force that would "tame" globalization and begin to reduce the wage gaps, environmental pollution, and cultural devastation that it will inevitably continue producing. An international civil society (including thousands of citizen groups, labor unions, environmental organizations) is increasingly confronting the WB, the IMF, the WTO and many transnational corporations on the "global level," in international fora and through international campaigns of public opinion and state action. In effect, this strategy is to develop a "global Keynesianism" that would provide a countervailing power (perhaps a "global Civil Society") against the emerging global super-state and super-corporate economy (Brecher 1994).

The second strategy is the local "sustainable economy" approach. It attempts to combine protectionism, ecological rectitude and preservation of local over global businesses and markets. It is Keynes married to Gandhi. The nation state is given power by local communities to protect local capital and local workers from the exactions of transnational corporations. Capital and labor would become sticky again under this paradigm (Cavanagh 1995); (Korten 1995).

(B) Neoliberalism. One of the most important political groups that has described the present stage of capitalism as neoliberalism has been the EZLN. The Zapatistas have defined their revolt as directed at neoliberalism in all its Mexican guises, and they have urged their supporters to create an intercontinental net of resistance to neoliberalism. But there are tensions within the Zapatistas' anti-neoliberal politics. On the one side, there is a strong element of indigenous autonomy thinking among the Zapatistas, i.e., the view that since the indigenous peoples are "unproductive" and "marginal" they can "drop out" of the dominant economy; and on the other, there is the recognition of the enormous productivity and profitability of so-called marginal territories like Chiapas and of indigenous peoples, which makes it clear that only a strategy of reappropriation of wealth on a national (and international scale) will make it possible for the mass of Mexicans to literally survive in the coming period. The Zapatistas' commitment to indigenous democracy inclines them to a localist "solution" to their insurrection, but their sober recognition of the national and international character of the exploitation of a province like Chiapas requires a much larger oppositional field to neoliberal policies, hence their appeal to a national and international "Civil Society" (a system of associational "tribes" without land!)

(C) Structural Adjustment. Proponents of a Structural Adjustment analysis within the 50 Years are Enough Campaign have debated abolitionism and reform. The abolitionists claim that the World Bank and IMF are incapable of being reformed, since these institutions' fundamental purpose is to expand capitalist relations and impose capitalist development (and immiseration) across the planet. The reformers believe that these organizations can be transformed out of existence through a careful, gradual encroachment on their autonomy. The reformist trend is now dominant in the major organizations of the Campaign.

(D) Recolonization. Some supporters of the recolonization analysis like Nyerere and major thinkers in the Third World Network like Raghavan take a statist approach and call for a new era of Third World nation-state unity in response to recolonization (Raghavan 1990). They envision the revival of efforts like the Non-Aligned Movement of the 1960s and the New International Economic Order movement of the 1970s that would make the notion of "the South" not just a geographical but political reality in the fora of international negotiation. A large spectrum of other thinkers, from Esteva, to Latouche, to Mies, view the revival of the project of development in the South with suspicion. They argue that perhaps the greatest (though least likely) calamity of the 21st century would be a successful capitalist development of the South. Their hope for a post-capitalist life lies not in the Third World Nation state but in the "the archipelago of the informal," "the new commons," and the revival of "subsistence" that lies beyond the reach of both the recolonizing supra-national organizations and their nation-state minions (Latouche 1993); (Esteva 1992); (Mies 1986).

(E) NIDL. The major debates here are in the assessment of the nature of the NIDL and its possibilities for struggle against capital. Those who look on the NIDL as one which throws mass workers and assembly-line industries to the periphery and introduces information and service industries in the core of the world economy argue that this transformation can become very destabilizing for capital if the new "collective intelligence" that capital depends upon develops a self-consciousness of its powers against capital. Others point out that the new industrialized proletariat on the periphery can become the new vanguards of the world movement against capital.

(F) New Enclosures. Here too there have been debates as to the proper strategy for organizing a halt to the new enclosures and a leap to a higher level of the planetary proletariat's homogenization and power against capital. Is this a period of working class defeat where the only possible response is to accept a "human rights" deal (fight for accepting a definition of minimum but uniform rights throughout the planet) or is it now time to again reformulate the old strategic maximalist question of the working class movement from its inception: how to expropriate the expropriators?

III. Fallacies of the "Anti-Globalization" Movement

I can't go on. I must go on.
Samuel Beckett

We are not so foolish to claim that we can resolve these debates and answer the all above questions in this issue of Midnight Notes. The "One No!" is still something of an ideal at the moment. It will have to be defined on the basis of a wide ranging anti-capitalist discussion and practice. But we can note that within the field of Yeses there are certain logical contradictions, especially in the anti-globalization struggle.

After providing some leadership to the movement in 1995 and 1996, the anti-globalization campaign, which had its strongest voice in the International Forum on Globalization, has now reached something of a stalemate. This stalemate cannot be evaded for long by opportunistic rhetorical ploys, for it becomes evident whenever issues of immigration, capital flight, and "hot money" are debated--and they all are being debated heatedly in the U.S. right now.

These phenomena are essential aspects of "globalization," for they pose the question of the costs (and gains) for workers and capitalists respectively of the mobility of their labor power and capital. If we simplify a bit, we can see that "globalization," as it is now experienced, is the regime in which capital (in monetary or even physical form) can be moved across national boundaries at very low cost, while workers still must pay high costs in moving from nation state to nation state (especially in the form of lower wages, because they do not have full legal status in the state of their arrival). This asymmetry between the movement costs of capital and labor power makes it possible for capitalists to continually bid down wages, for if workers in a certain nation state refuse to work at wage W, then capital can be moved (at little cost) to nation states where the prevailing wage is substantially lower than W. Hence, capital becomes "global," while workers are stuck with the nation state whose only function is to police them and their desires.

There have been two main anti-globalization strategies that can be categorized by the costs of locomotion. The first is the "localist" strategy, which would make the cost of motion of both capital and labor very high. This strategy, associated with Korten and others, emphasizes the restrictions to capital's movement. It suggests a policy of "local control" of investment capital, with high penalties for withdrawing capital and tough restrictions on the kind of markets localized capital must produce for ("if you produce here, then you should sell here"). This strategy presupposes that the restriction on capital's mobility and the restriction on its markets will create an incentive for capitalists to accept a high wage solution in the negotiations between themselves and workers. (Since, from the capitalists' viewpoint, if your customers will be your workers, then they must have enough effective demand for your commodities to be sold.) This is a "sub-national" Keynesian strategy.

The proponents of this strategy often do not mention, however, the "secret" side of localism: the restriction on the inflow of workers. This restriction is the inverse of the mercantilist restriction on labor mobility, which saw the doom of profit in a tight labor market caused by emigration. For if the capitalists can sufficiently lower the costs of the movement of labor, and the conditions of labor around the planet can be made abysmal enough, then capitalists can import laborers (as something like "mail order" workers), in the way it has been done throughout U.S. history. This would make it easy to create divisions among workers and force them to bid down wages within any locality or community. Consequently, unless these proponents of localism make both the outward movement of capital and the inward movement of workers very costly, the high wage solution will elude them. This strategy would also largely leave unchanged, and even stabilize the present hierarchy of national wages.

The proponents of the other main anti-globalization strategy see in the free mobility of capital and the restriction of the movement of workers the cause of the dramatic lowering of wages internationally ("the race to the bottom," as Jeremy Brecher and Tim Costello call it) (Brecher and Costello 1994). Their solution is to lift restrictions and penalties on the movement of workers from nation state to nation state. They would use the growing supra-national coordinating bodies (e.g., the WTO, ILO, WB, IMF, UN) that have, up until now, been largely built to organize the free flow of capital throughout the planet (under the confusing banner of "free trade") as sites for struggle for global workers' rights. Their demands and slogans include a "global minimum wage" and "workers' rights are universal human rights." They would use the supra-national institutions now under construction the way pro-worker activists had used the post-WWII nation state in Western Europe and North America to impose the right to unionize, restrictions on exploitation, and a high wage policy on capitalists. Those who support this strategy are "supra-national Keynesians."

This approach is, of course, diametrically opposed to the "localist" one. Instead of pushing for the restriction of the movement of capital, it proposes the lowering of the costs of workers' locomotion and demands an "even playing field" for workers internationally, especially in the guarantee of universal rights and benefits for workers independent of their origin. Implicit in this strategy is the increasing homogenization of global wages (and hence a reduction of wages of those workers on the top of the hierarchy). This parenthetical consequence is its "secret" when being advocated in regions of high relative wages.

The tensions between these two approaches remain unnoticed partly because neither strategy has been fully endorsed by the anti-globalization movement. Consequently, this movement seems to be trying to operate both strategies at the same time, i.e., to demand a uniform framework of workers rights and benefits (universalism) while implicitly accepting restrictions on workers' movements (localism). Its internal tensions are often interpreted as between human rights and communitarian presuppositions, or between "sameness" and "difference," in postmodern philosophical parlance. But at their root is a logical contradiction that inevitably hinders the confidence of the movement.

Capitalist ideologues have been quick to perceive the tensions between the "localist" and "universalist" (between the "sub-" and "supra-national Keynesian") strategies and have devised a most cynical response: appeal to "nativism" as far as workers are concerned, and appeal to "globalism" as far as capital is concerned (under the rubrics of "freedom of trade," "progress," etc.) Thus all the monsters of the capitalist past are revived and sanctioned (e.g., racism and slavery) in the context of a neoliberal ideology of "efficiency," "technological rationality," and "global values." The reason why this cynical approach has been so successful up until now is that it has been able to use the "secret" sides of both anti-globalization strategies: for the localists must logically accept the restriction of immigration, while the universalists must logically accept the reduction of wages at the top. These three approaches largely exhaust the possibilities of pairing the high or low mobility of capital with the high or low mobility of labor power, unless, of course, the rules of the game are questioned and transcended to a point when profits cease being the "final determinant" of human action, work, communication and thought.

One of the main political points of this issue is to convince you of two things: (1) the logical stalemate of the two major anti-globalization strategies and (2) the rules of class conflict and wage negotiation defined by contemporary capitalism inevitably lead to working class defeat. Where can we go from here? Once we know we can't go on, we must go on.

IV. New Enclosures, Neoliberalism and "Dialogue" versus Encuentros and Autonomous Struggle

The new enclosures and neoliberalism constitute just a phase of capitalism which is neither "late" nor "final." It came into being as a result of capital's war against the forms of power and organization and the resulting capacity of the working class, in various ways in various places, to establish some material security and supportive sociality. These working class powers inhibited capitalist accumulation and provoked a world crisis for capital. (This theme is developed in our book, Midnight Oil.(1992)) Capital's counteroffensive both reasserted an old enclosures -- such as driving people from the land and making them dependent on waged and monetarized relations -- and asserted a new form of enclosures, notably ending the welfare state, "socialism," Keynesianism, and other aspects of the ways in which sectors of the working class used the state.

The consequences of this counter-offensive, documented extensively since the mid-1970s, have included mass impoverishment, chronic warfare, genocide and ethnocide, vast migrations from the land and across the continents, fractured societies, the demise of unions and other forms of workers' organization and power, and great resistance in almost every area of the planet, though perhaps least noticeable in the U.S. Thus, capital's strategies of new enclosures and neoliberalism have once again intensified and expanded both proletarianization and resistance to it.(2)

Yet capital cannot be simply destructive. It must "develop" the spaces it clears and must absorb the people "freed" from the land or the home into more explicitly and directly capitalist relations. Let us be clear: housework, the raising of children, teaching, peasant/small farmer or communal agriculture, and petty trading -- the reproduction of life -- have all been incorporated into the world capitalist system and form aspects of capitalistically productive labor, that is work from which capital can extract a surplus. What capital discovered in the 1960s was that while productive, these areas (along with the factory) were also sites of resistance to capital, sources of counter-productivity and a drain on the capacity to accumulate. Thus they had to be brought more directly under the control of capital through the wage and the market (while the factory was simultaneously decomposed, restructured, and often moved to new locales).

Neoliberalism has had its "productive" side, such as vast leaps in communication capacity and ease of transport, proliferation of factory production and pockets of high technology in new areas, and expansion of industrial agriculture. But these developments have not absorbed the combined expansion of the working class due to population growth and expulsion from the land, and those workers contribute to accumulation primarily via the extraction of surplus through long hours of work and subsistence wages ("absolute surplus value" in Marxist parlance). The leap to accumulation via increasing productivity of work ("relative surplus value" in Marxist parlance) has yet to be engineered for most of the human race, despite capitalist domination of world production. This is the mass of labor that capital, via neoliberalism and new enclosures, must now digest to turn into fuel for expanded accumulation.

How is this "digestion" to be done? While the neoliberals respond with terror (e.g., executions, the expansion of prison slave labor and other horrors), others warn that, contra Dame Thatcher, society does exist and is not reducible solely to the market, and thus that something more must be included in the process of development than the market and the police. That is, they call again for the state to play a constructive role, though not in the same way as before (World Bank 1997).

To see how this could begin to work, we can look briefly at the process of negotiation that has been started between the World Bank (WB) and the non-governmental organizations (NGOs, which include a wide range groups like the Ford Foundation, Oxfam, the Red Cross, CARE, and Grassroots International). We explore this process not because it is now the dominant aspect of capitalist initiatives, which remain neoliberal, but to suggest directions capital is exploring in response to working class struggles against capital, and thus to suggest what the next stage of capitalist reformism could look like.

Many NGOs have been sharply critical of WB/IMF austerity and "development" programs. Rather than call for the abolition of these global capitalist planning agencies, however, the dominant trend has been to call for their reform. Facing not only the weapon of criticism but more importantly the criticism of weapons and rebellion from Chiapas to Papua, the WB's President, James Wolfenson, has suggested a dialogue between NGOs and the WB, explaining, 'if you want us to reform, you must help us do it.'

Thus, in at least eight nations, mostly in Africa, the WB has funded a vast organizing process of bringing hundreds of large and small NGOs together to meet and develop both a critique of the WB and an alternative development plan. But beyond the dialogues one can begin to see how capital is planning development through the NGOs. From Grameen Banks to local forms of participatory democracy to mutual aid in building roads to support expanded markets, routes to expanded productivity that are instantly part of the capitalist market are to be supported. Women are typically central to these processes. Thus, depending on how far the WB will go, the "reformed" WB and the NGOs proceed hand in hand toward capitalist development "with a human face." Already, of course, NGO critics of the WB are complaining that the WB is failing in its obligations to this process , but nonetheless the process continues.

For our purposes, we note several things about these processes. First, capital shows again its understanding that the road to development lies through working class struggle and energy, which must be captured and turned into productivity. Where it cannot be, of course it must be smashed, as in neoliberalism; but where it can be, lies capitalist progress. While, as always, small capitalist development projects have their space and even prerogatives, they will not be allowed to interfere with the broader schemes (hence the source of NGO complaints about the failures of the WB to honor the dialogues).

Second, the line between capitalist accumulation and working class power can be enormously complex and subtle. At one level, who can complain if "development" brings potable water (even if it was capitalist underdevelopment that destroyed clean water)? More complexly, emphasis on such things as women's participation and democracy can challenge local hierarchies and forms of exploitation (which historically often have been supported, perhaps even developed, and certainly exacerbated by capital, as in the marked increase of bride burnings in India based on expansion of the capitalist market into family relations; and see the article on Papua in this issue). Unchannelled, such participatory efforts could lead toward constructing economic relations relatively unoccupied by capitalist relations -- which is obviously not what the WB wants.

Third, the role of NGOs is thus very complex, but once having accepted to negotiate with the devil, it is difficult for them not to cut deals that will steer development onto a capitalist path. Thus, rather than help in organizing for development outside of capitalist relations, the NGOs become the modern version of church and state in "bringing capitalism to the natives."

Fourth, we can begin to see outlines of what capitalist development after Keynesianism/socialism and after the onslaught of new enclosures and neoliberalism could begin to look like. The "new social democracy" will not be statist but substantially "localist," in which the local is not so much mediated by or regulated by the state as engaging in direct relations with transnational capital. Labor not directly working for transnational capital will be channeled into work, often locally planned and organized through participatory schemes, that enables local capitalist development. There emerges a form of "autonomy" -- within the limits of capital's needs.

It is important here to remember just how powerfully the working class itself rejected the state, even while demanding social welfarism from the state. Such rejection, coupled with the general inability of the working class to create a viable alternative to capital, opened ready space for offensives by capital that took neoliberal form. Thus working class rejection meets "non-state" development in which the needs for sociality and security are localized and development is locally managed, in part. "Communitarianism" is, for example, one form of this planning in the U.S. Most assuredly, military and police and fascistic responses, continued neoliberalism, enclosures and ethnocide, await working class refusal to participate.

Fifth, a new social psychology of the worker is being constructed: the eager participant. While Grameen Banks and participatory decision-making are intended to produce the eager participant in the reshaped economy of the regions of historical underdevelopment, childrearing, schooling and changing work patterns in the areas of historical development are intended to produce the worker who eagerly participates, to replace the reluctant laborer of the assembly-line era. Of course this heads toward capitalist paradise: the worker who voluntarily and actively participates in planing and executing her/his own exploitation. In both instances, the category of the "thinking" worker is presumably encouraged, provided however that the thinking can remain confined to capitalist channels.

The "eager participant" and the "autonomous" wage-slave are capitalist uses of working class struggles for a life in which work has meaning and humans freely choose their social and productive relations. It is the impulse for the communal kitchen perverted into the local franchise McDonalds. Capital is here promising what it cannot deliver. Instead of real human control, local autonomy is merely a terminal of the global machine. These plans are a response to struggles, just as the Grameen banks were a response to fear that famine in Bangladesh in 1974, following on war and enclosures which drove millions from the land, would provoke revolution.

We are not arguing that the lowering of wages and smashing of social securities is now over, that capital has decided in general to move beyond neoliberalism and the new enclosures. Far from it. The New Enclosures remains the dominant aspect of capitalism, and resistance to them is at this time necessarily anti-capitalist. The work of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the emerging Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI), the expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement Association (NAFTA) and NATO and the strengthening of the Maastricht treaty are among a plethora of capitalist supra-national organizing efforts, all of which are fundamentally neoliberal and continue the new enclosures.

We are here simply pointing to hints of where capital might be heading if it can begin to control working class resistance and harness it productively. It is not impossible for capital to shift from neoliberalism to new forms of development. In that case, we need to keep two things in mind: this can happen if and only if capital can control and channel working class struggles and energies; and therefore the nature of working class struggles, the class' multifold goals and strategies, must be considered in light of a capitalist strategizing that is far more complex than a simply an unending imposition of new enclosures. While a return to statist social democracy is, we think, an impossibility, at least for generations to come, "constructive" developmentalism is not only not impossible, it is a capitalist necessity if the system is to expand.

At root, it was the Zapatistas, the Papuans, the Indian farmers, and the multitudinous struggles against the WB/IMF which propelled the WB to accept the dialogue with the NGOs. The crisis of Keynesianism was for capital a crisis of its ability to use working class energy productively. It therefore had to attack and destroy working class power. Thus, so-called development schemes remained underdevelopment schemes, destruction of local powers and implanting alien nodes of production emphasizing dead, not living, labor. Yet working class power is the very heart of capital, and capital cannot survive without it. Thus, capital must continue to think seriously about how to use working class energy as the fuel for capitalist development, how to control local moments of power while fostering energy that can produce capitalist development.

In this, agencies such as the WB and IMF are only doing their job. But what of the NGOs who allow the WB to shape the process of discussion and networking in nation after nation, who end up forsaking the possibility of autonomous activity for deals with the WB? What, in short, will be the main relationship between NGOs and the emerging world state of supranational bodies controlled by transnational capital, the new coordinating committees of capital? And how do anti- neoliberal activists address not only the NGOs but also emerging aspects of capitalist developmentalism? Most importantly, how should such activists think about organizing and strategizing, developing clear anti-capitalist plans and routes?

For us, amidst many struggles and efforts at developing new circuits of discussion and action, the key moments of the past several years have been the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, and the Intercontinental Encuentros Against Neoliberalism and for Humanity, initiated by the Zapatistas and held first in Chiapas in 1996 and then in the Spanish state in 1997. We see these efforts as an important part of a slow and still uncertain beginning of new possibilities for the world anti-capitalist struggle. Most critically, these efforts are intitiated by people in struggle, not by NGOs collaborating with the WB. They are autonomous, self-defined. They bring together people from a multiplicity of struggles in a dialogue to learn from each other, to think about how to support one another and together create a means to overcome the world capitalist system. We do not argue that the Encuentros are the only such entity and process, only that they are important in themselves and as representing, through their autonomous self-development, the process of developing new capacities to struggle.

In this edition of Midnight Notes we open the first of a series of issues intended to explore and discuss the current shape of capitalism and class struggle. We ask the reader to participate with us in this effort.

V. The Articles in this Issue

This text presents four pieces. In "From Structural Adjustment to Land Mobilization to Expropriation," a World Bank Watcher details how the IMF was unable to make its land policy work, which provoked a crisis in Papua New Guinea. The control of land remains fundamental for capitalist development schemes, and despite terrible destruction inflicted on the population in the name of progress, people's struggles inflicted a defeat on the IMF and its subservient government. In fact, this defeat marked the beginning of the Asian Crisis.

Hugo Aboites, in "Globalization and the Transformation of the Mexican University," details the twists and turns of battles over the state's efforts to reshape Mexican universities to meet the imperatives of the capitalist world economy. Control over knowledge and the workers who produce and manipulate knowledge is critical to capitalist production, so the state has been required to reshape the universities. While the details in Mexico may vary from those in other parts of the world, the story illustrates capital's intent and efforts everywhere. In Mexico, students and faculty have not acceded quietly to the plans, and though those plans have managed to move ahead, the battles continue.

"Resistance to Neoliberalism: A View from South Africa" was written as a paper for the second Intercontinental Encuentro by South African Comrades for the Encounter. In this piece, the authors show how "homegrown structural adjustment" emerges from the particular class composition of South Africa, in the aftermath of the freedom struggle, within the context of global capitalist initiatives, into which South African capital and state seek to insert themselves. The paper also illustrates contradictions

in the process and suggests avenues of struggle against the neoliberal project.

We close with a chronology of class struggle in Asia and Oceania from 1995 to the present. We believe that a careful examination of the movement of workers struggles for wages and land hold the key in understanding the unfolding of the crisis. One chronology of struggle is worth a thousand corporate annual reports!

VI. Future Steps

In the near future, Midnight Notes plans additional issues. We propose next a discussion and analysis of the Encuentros and their relation to the Zapatista struggle. Already we have some material: reports from the Encuentros some of which can be found on the web at: and at, and a lengthy draft of a piece by some Midnight Noters which builds on the work of the encuentros ("Towards a New Commons," a short version of which is available at the above sites and the full version at ). (If you are not on the net, we will mail you the short version of "Towards the New Commons," if you send us a self-addressed stamped envelope with postage for two ounces.)

For that issue, we seek to explore the meaning and uses of the Encuentros with an eye to strengthening them, as we expect there will be more, and in any event the process of planetary connections of anti-capitalist struggles must expand. We are therefore interested in articles in this vein which respond to the encuentros or to "Towards the New Commons." We expect to publish the issue on the Encuentros in the spring of 1998.

Beyond this issue, we intend to focus on research and analysis about the developments of class struggle on a planetary level. We have many questions. On what basis can unity among complexly diverse sectors of the class, which is fragmented hierarchically, be established? What are the forms of organization being developed by the working class that can facilitate unity and cycles of struggles that will overcome capital? The key term today seems to be "network." While we find much that is problematic behind this concept, still we can think of networking that needs to be done.

One network that needs to be developed is one focused on analysis in the service of overcoming hierarchies and strengthening unity-with-diversity within the class against capital. Understanding capitalist strategies is one part of this effort, but such work needs clearly to connect to developing struggles. At a minimum, this network needs to do two things: circulate knowledge of particular struggles throughout the planet and simultaneously circulate understanding of the strategies used to create and develop these struggles.

The task first requires reports and analyses that would provide rich material for deepening class analysis. The issues related to this knowledge include how to make the reports and analyses accessible and usable (including but not limited to the web); how to share the work of analysis and synthesis, evaluation and interpretation, to reduce duplication; how to develop better frames of analysis and ways to critique each others' frames or methodologies. Much of this used to be done by parties or supra-national entities from the first to the last International. While not seeking to replicate past organizational practices, how we can strengthen networks of people and groups working on these issues without the discipline and coherence of party structures is not clear and needs to be discussed.

But one cannot understand a struggle without having some knowledge of its strategy. Thus we need to develop our strategic discussion and analysis as well. To foreshadow one point to be addressed in the next issue, at least one glaring weakness of the second Encuentro was its very limited progress in strategic thinking, including on the topic of networks. While important issues were raised and questions posed, progress in resolving them was very limited.

Thus we conclude with a call to participate in an expanded discussion of analyzing class struggles -- capital's side, the working class' side, and their development. We hope the pieces in this issue help spur thinking about the struggle, and thus more effective class struggle. We hope further to present many analyses of particular struggles in many sectors and locales of struggle around the planet, as well as discussions of developing planetary working class anti-capitalist strategy.


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