Liberation Theology in Crisis

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sat Dec 30 07:52:47 MST 2000

Pat says:

>  > Date:          Fri, 29 Dec 2000 11:47:11 -0500
>>  From:          Yoshie Furuhashi <furuhashi.1 at>
>>   It is no mere coincidence that both
>>  secular leftists & Liberation Theologians began to speak of change in
>>  political paradigm & strategy: from "individual emancipation of one
>>  country after another from the capitalist system by taking power" to
>>  micro-politics of "civil society" (sometimes coupled with
>>  "anti-systemic movements" a la Wallerstein and/or "regionalism" a la
>>  Samir Amin).  What do posters think of this change?
>Yoshie, are you bothered by semantic niceties adopted  by some of
>our comrades, who basically share the same premises of the need for a
>revolutionary socialist project, but because of the balance of forces
>are compelled to tone down language? I plead guilty not to a
>paradigmatic change but to working on microprojects using dressed-up
>marxian (Harveyite) analysis ( ) because
>that's the way we've got a tiny bit of influence over both
>public-policy discourses AND movement strategy/tactics in, e.g.,
>the fabulous union/community struggle against Jo'burg municipal
>services privatisation.
>I don't think people who use "civil society" (like the Zapatistas)
>are selling out (see the argument of Petras, e.g., in Against the
>Current); the Jo'burg innovation by Mzwanele Mayekiso (who's doing a
>doctorate at Columbia Planning) is the prefix "working-class" so as
>to keep class analysis alive (see, Township Politics, Monthly Review,
>1996) (also in the 1996 Socialist Register, Mzwanele and I addressed
>urban social movements from a marxian standpoint). And Amin's latest
>work on regionalism is helpful, I would say (in the current issue
>of Socialist Register, two SA trots and myself have a chapter on the
>question of the region as a unit of analysis to be tackled by the
>working class, in the context of the world's worst uneven
>development). (Amin, by the way, gave a fabulous talk in Dakar a
>fortnight ago at the gathering of the African social-movement
>Left and Jubilee South, really setting the stage for excellent
>critical analysis.) The other interesting political-strategic
>arguments on regionalism that I've been picking up are coming from
>Walden Bello and also Robert Biel in his excellent new Zed press
>book, The New Imperialism.
>In the light of adverse existing conditions in most places,
>and the enormously complicated struggle associated with building
>coherence and momentum in the nascent international anti-capitalist
>movement, why not chill out on vocabulary, comrade, and help develop
>the underlying issues associated with resistance to commodification,
>stratification, and superexploitative gender and environmental
>relations? The opportunity has never been better!

I'm sympathetic to your & Amin's argument for regionalism.  However,
it is _hard_ to believe that you guys represent the mainstream of
those who speak of "civil society," etc.  Aren't most of them like
Iris Marion Young ("reform...the United Nations, 'the best existing
starting point for building global democratic institutions'...where
imperial powers 'seek legitimacy for some of their international
actions' and where states 'at least appear to be cooperative and
interested in justice'" at
trade unionists & NGO-types in rich nations who advocate
"social-clause fair-trade"; etc.?

Arrighi, Hopkins, & Wallerstein argue that "the most serious
challenge to the capitalist mode of production occurs when 'popular
movements join forces across borders (and continents) to have their
respective state officials abrogate those relations of the interstate
system through which the [neoliberal] pressure is conveyed'" (at
And you say: "I interpret this line of argument as saying uneven
development is being exacerbated by globalisation, hence the
class-forming process -- by which a global proletariat is created
(and ultimately forms the basis for global social justice) -- is
being perpetually disrupted by the destruction of working-class
power.  Partly for technical economic reasons similar to those Keynes
considered, I endorse this point of view" (at
However, aren't popular movements capable of having "their respective
state officials abrogate those relations of the interstate system
through which the [neoliberal] pressure is conveyed" also capable of
seizing the state power of their respective nations?  More
importantly, aren't movements incapable of doing the latter also
incapable of doing the former?  Whither regionalism without state

In other words, my question concerns less the vocabulary of "civil
society" (though I do confess my dislike of it) than a matter of who
is to carry out the projects that you advocate; how to create a
movement capable of doing so; whether the projects you advocate may
not be the kind that would remain an impossibility without state
power actually in the hands of the masses, autonomist and/or
world-systems glosses notwithstanding (and if that's the case, don't
talks of "civil society" merely give aid & comfort to the
anti-statist current of thought & activism which refuse to consider
nation-states even as sites of Transitional Demands, thus rendering
regionalism an impossible dream?); etc.


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