[Marxism] An anarchist calls the anti-globalization movement dead

Julio Huato juliohuato at hotmail.com
Thu Jun 17 18:48:41 MDT 2004


IMO, the problems of the anti-globalization movement are closely linked to 
their inability to develop a coherent set of goals.  Or what are its current 
goals really?

#1 To sabotage the meetings at the WTO, IMF, or World Bank, and prevent 
agreements?

#2 To reform or altogether dismantle these international organizations?

#3 To stop or slow down the removal of manufacturing plants in the rich 
countries?

#4 To stop or slow down the installation of manufacturing plants in the poor 
countries?

#5 To stop global trade, end poverty in the Third World, and overthrow 
global capitalism?

Of all the goals listed above, the anti-globalization movement as is can 
only achieve #1, sabotage meetings and stop agreements.  Given the nature of 
negotiations in these meetings, where the commercial and financial interests 
of rich and poor countries usually clash, one can only speculate on whether 
stopping particular agreements is a positive thing or a boost to the status 
quo.  So we cannot even say that sabotaging a meeting is making a clear, 
unequivocal statement.  I mean, it can, but it'll be by chance.  I admire 
people who protest in good conscience against "global injustice," and once 
they are in motion we should encourage them to take the next step.  But in 
retrospect, we need to examine whether the chosen instruments fit the goals.

The goal of reforming or even dismantling the WTO, IMF, and World Bank may 
or may not be in the interest of the workers' movement, locally or globally. 
  It all depends on context -- on how the struggle may evolve.  In the 
current conditions, the workers' movement shouldn't oppose efforts to reform 
them so that the interests of the poor countries are better represented.  
These organizations should be instruments for the economic development of 
the Third World, because out of the 6+ billion people on earth, over 4 
billion live in the Third World.  So if they don't fulfill this aim, they 
should be either reformed or dismantled.  Note that we don't need a Marxist 
argument here.  The old bourgeois principle of democracy (one individual 
should have the same formal rights and opportunities as any other) dictates 
the direction of change.

In and by itself, a global change in the democratic direction is not -- 
admittedly --  directly and immediately socialist or communist.  But given 
where we're at, it would be profoundly revolutionary.  Moreover, the 
economic rationale for this change, that is, separate from the democratic 
and ethical arguments (which are very powerful), is being supplied 
(rediscovered, because a quick reading of Engels' Anti-Duhring would prove 
that the idea is much older) by modern economic theory, namely that 
increasing international interdependence (so-called "global externalities") 
turns the need for global democratic institutions ("global collective 
action") into an economic imperative.  Smart economists, like George Akerlof 
or Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel Prize laureates), have used this argument 
frequently.  In the context of modern economic theory, this argument is 
irrefutable.

What's our fundamental difference with Akerlof and Stiglitz on this point?  
It's an important one: They view it mostly as a technical issue.  
Politically, they view their role as that of persuading those in power that 
the argument makes sense, engaging at most in short-distance palatial 
politicking, since "bad" economic interests, ideology, and politics are 
likely to stand in the way of "good policy."  We view it mainly as a 
political issue, an issue of mass action, where our role is to help working 
people get acquainted with facts and analysis, and set themselves in 
collective motion to advance their interests.  Economists like Stiglitz are 
like those old utopian socialists ("utopian democrats," in this case), that 
thought they could persuade the bourgeoisie that socialism was a good idea 
for everyone.  We believe that the emancipation of workers' will be carried 
out by the workers' themselves, and that the bourgeoisie will defend its 
existence tooth and nail.

What if repeated mass efforts to reform the international organizations are 
frustrated?  In due time, and depending on strength and context, the 
movement may decide to turn on the heat and move on to a higher level, like 
demand the dismantling of the international organizations and their 
replacement with others more responsive to the interests of the workers of 
the world.  What is clear now is that it is going to be a long iterative 
process, and that we cannot dictate its tempo.

Are we interested in stopping or slowing down the dismantling of 
manufacturing in the rich countries?  It depends on context.  The fact that 
local groups of workers are forced to defend their factories this way 
(sometimes bolstering the argument for industrial protection raised by some 
groups of capitalists) is a measure of the fragmentation, political 
dependence and weakness of the U.S. working class.  Even worse, IMO, would 
be to let the jobs go without putting up a fight and without getting 
anything in exchange.

IMO, the approach to this issue must change.  It cannot be local.  It has to 
be national, and there must be an international push, which may be an 
occasion to revive the sorely needed workers' internationalism.  Like the 
international struggles of the workers in the 19th century for the 8-hour 
workday and the abolition of child labor in Europe, the principle must be 
that workers in the whole world need and have a right, at the public's 
expense, to some form of lifetime security in their employment.  Not 
necessarily "job security" in the old sense, but full portability of pension 
and health benefits, as well as a functional safety net to cope with the ups 
and downs of the capitalist cycle.  We need to wage a campaign for Jobs, 
Economic Security, and Economic Fairness.

There's an array of arguments based on the respectable bourgeois principle 
of "economic efficiency" in support of lifetime employment security, 
lifetime employability, lifetime basic protection from the risk of 
unemployment, etc., and if we have other sound arguments that may persuade 
broad masses of people of the necessity of this social change, we should use 
them.

Are we interested in stopping or slowing down the installation of 
foreign-owned manufacturing plants in the poor countries?  Again, it depends 
on context.  If people in a Third World country have better alternatives 
than a polluting, smelly, ugly manufacturing plant in their backyard, then 
let them dictate what to do about it.  If they need jobs and are willing to 
take the environmental, social, and fiscal tradeoffs (even if such a move 
offends our refined First-World environmental sensibility), let them lead 
the process.  If they are in a position to uphold and enforce more stringent 
labor, tax, social, and environmental standards, let's support them or, at 
least, let's not be in the way.

As for the goals of stopping global trade, ending poverty in the Third 
World, and overthrowing global capitalism, the anti-globalization movement 
is as fit to tackle these tasks as a kayak is to lead an expedition to 
Jupiter.  We need to distinguish between our propaganda and political 
education, and our tactics.  We have a right to be radical, anti-capitalist, 
anti-commodity production, anti-state, anti-rural/urban split, etc. but we 
also need to be mindful of "where people are actually going" -- to 
paraphrase Melvin.

Julio

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