anti-globalization protests

Stuart Lawrence stuartwl at
Sun Apr 8 19:37:27 MDT 2001

From: "George Snedeker" <snedeker at>
To: <marxism at>
Sent: Sunday, April 08, 2001 19:41
Subject: anti-globalization protests

> Would you consider it a waste of bandwidth to discuss, from a Marxist
> perspective the significance of anarchism and (fetishized?) "direct action" in
> the current anti-capitalism/anti-neoliberalism movement, and how Marxists can
> most effectively interact with anarchists and this movement? If not, I'd be
> interested in pursuing that thread.

>  Stuart,
> let's hear what you have on your mine.
> George

Some of what's on my mind:

Major actions are getting propelled by groupings based on adherence to tactics
(nonviolent "direct action", confrontational black blocks, white overalls) as
opposed to political lines. The critical political continuum young people seem
to be aware of is not from nationalist to internationalist or reformist to
socialist to anarchist but from legal to illegal, passive/nonviolent to

There's constant tension between advocates of property destruction and highly
confrontational tactics, vs. nonviolent/nondestructive direct action, vs. legal
mass demonstrations. The emphasis on illegal tactics reinforces the inward focus
of the movement on its own subculture.  Decentralization and "respect for a
diversity of tactics" leaves the movement open to provacateurs and provides a
cover for undisciplined adventurism.  Radical politics morphs into identity
politics as young people redefine themselves as "anti-authoritarians" and
rebelliously march out to confront the repressive state.

If the victories of Seattle and Prague were based on physically interfering with
the meetings, what's to be done when the meeting is held behind a wall (Quebec)
or in a remote emirate (Qatar)? Where does the logic of "raising the costs"

Activism focused on widely dispersed, heavily protected gatherings of the ruling
class and state elites seems doomed to exclude large numbers of people who can't
afford to travel or who will be barred from crossing borders. And direct action
doesn't substitute for mass organization.

How should the Marxist left be involved in North American "anti-globalization"
organizing and protests (I'll use quotes because that's not a label I think many
participants choose)? What's the alternative to the sectarian grouplets for
activists sympathetic to Marxist thinking?  Is it worthwhile to work in
coalitions with anarchists?

stuartwl at

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