Anti-globalisation movements: a case of anarchism?
The term globalisation is highly contentious and contested, defined in various ways by scholars and those affected by it. It usually describes important changes occurring to global economic structures and the effect these changes are having on national and global economies, various cultures and politics. Globalisation has its supporters and opponents. Its opponents however been more vocal and have articulated their opposition in more visible, expressive and combative ways. This therefore explains the high visibility of the anti-globalisation movement, also known as the global justice movement with its diversity of participants and different forms of dissent. This movement represents the people’s resistance against the adverse impacts of globalisation underpinned by neo-liberal values (Curran, 2006).
The so-called “anti-globalisation movement” showcases a significant illustration of social conflict and contentious political behavior for the past few decades in history. A growing number of boisterous and well-attended protest events against the neoliberal globalisation these days have provided evidence of the rise of a transnational movement where domestic and internationally-represented protests have developed solidarities and stirred public debate committed to challenging neoliberal policies and institutions (Ayres, 2004).
The various names of the anti globalisation movement
The anti-globalisation has, as mentioned above, several names, some of which may be conflicting or overlapping. The understandings may vary between the traditional leftist, the non-traditional leftist to the innovatory. Some even insist that this is not a movement but a ‘field’ (Aguiton, 2001). Alex Callinicos (2003) from the UK suggests that majority of the anti-globalisation activists are not anti-capitalist. (Callinicos, 2003, pp 14-16.) Christophe Aguiton from France, a leading figure within the World Social Forum (WSF), tentatively identifies three ‘poles’ in the global justice movement - ‘Radical internationalist’, ‘nationalist’, and ‘neo-reformist’. The first overlooks both capitalism and the nation-state, the second is more of a Southern response, and the third is the type of ‘global governance’ tendency which is strongly present within the WSF (Rikkilä and Patomäki 2001).
Starr and Adams from the USA identify significant, ‘modes’ within the anti-globalisation movement: ‘radical reform’, which is state-friendly; ‘people’s globalisation’, related to the WSF; and ‘autonomy’, known for the ecological friendliness and democratic qualities of freely co-operating communities (Waterman, 2003).
Mario Pianta from Italy, divides the responses to neoliberal globalisation into ‘supporters of current arrangements,’ ‘reformists,’ ‘radical critics favouring another globalisation,’ ‘alternatives outside the mainstream’, and ‘nationalist rejectionists’ (Waterman, 2003).
Overview of anti-globalisation movements
The World Social Forum (WSF) has become the most popular forum associated with the recent international wave of protest known as the 'anti-globalisation movement'. The forum is promoted by a group of Brazilian, French and other non-governmental organisations, trade unions and individuals. An informal Forum event, known as the ‘Call of Social Movements’, has been attendedby many WSF participant bodies. (Vargas, 2003)
The term ‘Global Justice and Solidarity Movement’ (GJ&SM) was proposed by the WSF, for the general wave of protest against corporate-dominated globalisation, and against the US-sponsored neoliberalism/neo-conservatism and war (Cleaver 1998). Moreover, the movement changes shape, reach, scale, target and aims as per the events. So, sometimes it may be focussed against neoliberal economic globalisation, whereas at other times against the US-led war on Iraq. (Waterman, 2003).
It is easier to categorise the GJ&SM by what it is not than by what it is :
◗“It is not an international labour or socialist movement, though unions and socialists are prominently involved;
◗ It is not a 'transnational advocacy network',(Keck and Sikkink,1998).
though it is much marked by the presence of international and national NGOs;
◗ It is not a reincarnation of the international protest wave following 1968, though Che Guevara icons are still popular, and it includes other clear echoes of the sixties and seventies;
◗ It is not an anarchist movement, though anarchists, autonomists and libertarians are highly active within it;
◗ It is not a nationalist or thirdworldist movement, though nationalist, third worldist and anti-imperialist forces and notes can be clearly identified within it;
It is, on the other hand, not too difficult to identify a rising number of processes that have provoked this movement. These include:
◗ the increasing predominance, in the international sphere, of multinational corporations and international financial institutions, along with the neoliberal policies that have been imposed on both North and the South
◗ The shrinking of the public sphere and reduction of State social programmes and subsidies;
◗ the feminisation of poverty, the commodification of women (the sex trade), the simultaneous formal endorsement and political denial of women's and sexual rights;
◗ de-industrialisation, unemployment and the informalisation of employment;
◗ the ideology of competitiveness as the court of first and last appeal;
◗ the undermining of market protection (primarily of weaker national economies);
◗ the simultaneous preaching and practical undermining of traditional structures and notions of national sovereignty;
◗ the simultaneous creation of new international institutions and regulations, alongside the marginalisation of the United Nations and such agencies as the International Labour Organisation (ILO);
◗ increasing talk of and the continuing undermining of ecological sustainability; corporate attempts to copyright genetic resources, to genetically modify foodstuffs, to commercialise them and then coerce people into buying them; the continuation and even increase of militarism, militarisation and warfare despite hopes raised by the end of the Cold War;
◗ the increase in globalised epidemics and threats to the climate;
◗ the demonisation of immigrants, asylum-seekers, and of Islam and other 'others’. ' (Waterman, 2003).
But the anti globalisation movement cannot be limited just to major protest events, nor to events that have occurred since 1999. It can also be traced both back and down, at least to the ‘food riots’ that were provoked by the International Monetary Fund in the South of the eighties, during which there were urban protests against the externally-imposed end of food subsidies. Widespread protests against ecologically damaging dam projects, as promoted by the World Bank and other developmentalist local elites, have also been witnessed during the eighties and earlier. For example, there were big demonstrations against the poll tax in the UK in 1990. Moreover, throughout the 1990s, there were myriad protests across the South against the Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs) (Aguiton, 2001).
A chief example of the US-initiated neoliberalism has been the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has provoked widespread protest in both Canada and Mexico. In Canada, the initial national-protectionist campaign was turned into one of international solidarity, first with Mexico specifically, then with Latin America more generally, thus leading to the formation of the Hemispheric Social Alliance, which also included the USA. In Mexico, the launching date of the NAFTA (January 1, 1994) was used to start the Zapatista movement in the severely globalised, marginalised and exploited state of Chiapas, in the South of Mexico (Zapatista Index website).
The Zapatista movement initially appeared as as a classical armed guerrilla movement started by the discriminated and land-hungry Mayan ethnic communities of Chiapas. It then revealed entirely novel characteristics: an address to the Mexican civil society, a high-profile internationalism, and a better understanding and use of both the mass media and alternative electronic communications. This can be seen in the speeches and writings of the movement’s primary spokesperson, Sub-Commander Marcos (Rafael Guillén) a university-educated non-indigene, who had been trained in guerrilla warfare in Cuba. (Olesen,2005).
There were other major contributors to the new movement, particularly as part of the rising wave of protest against unemployment, privatisation and cuts in social services throughout the nineties, specifically in Europe, noreover, there was an increasing development of ‘counter-expertise’, embedded in international and national NGOs which had been honed at various UN conferences through the 1990s, specially the 1992 World Conference on Environment and Development and the 1995 UN Fourth World Conference on Women. (Abramsky, 2001).
Finally, the social movements of the seventies and the eighties movements can be said for having served as forerunners to the rise of the New Social Movements. The movemenst have expressed ‘identity’ more than ‘interest’ and represented women, indigenous peoples, and sexual minorities. These became noted in the South as well as the North (Alvarez et al.,1998). They also brought to public attention various hidden forms of alienation, and suggested new forms of ‘self-articulation’. These movements also raised issues that the old international ‘interest’ movement had ignored or marginalised (Omvedt, 1993a).
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Objectives of the movement
1. Comprehensive globalisation
Before addressing the objectives of the anti-globalisation movement, it is important to understand whether globalisation refers only to rules governing economic exchange or whether it also includes rules of social and political engagement. Literature on this question suggests that the Anti Globalisation Movement (AGM) clearly shares the latter view. Therefore, it can be labeled as a Comprehensive Globalisation Movement (CGM) (Smith, 2009).
The CGM requires a holistic definition of globalisation, wherein social and political integration is met alongside economic integration. The various groups within the movement differ in the relative importance they attach to each “pillar” of globalisation, but everybody more or less agrees that the existing policy discourse prioritises economic integration or unrestricted markets. Advocates of free trade advocates claim that the benefits of trade in free markets will automatically “trickle-down” to all sectors of society. However, they ignore the politically difficult issues of distribution and environmental sustainability, issues which are subsequently excluded from consideration in agreements that are drafted largely by trade bureaucrats and their corporate advisory panels. Thus, many of the CGM participants believe that the problems we face are not caused by faulty economic reasoning, but are a result of policies that come out when non-experts are able to influence economic planning and introduce social and environmental and regulations (Eschle and Maiguashca, 2005). Herein trade regimes are negotiated in complete isolation from many important international agreements on human rights and environmental protection. These institutional contradictions should be addressed; the goal of ensuring free trade must not trump other social goals (Smith, 2009).
Some suggest that the CGM movement is better seen as a positive attempt to resolve the institutional contradictions of the globalisation policy rather than as a knee-jerk opposition to globalisation. For example, Food First International has argued that the structural adjustment programs implemented by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund should not violate existing international agreements on human rights and social welfare (Eschle and Maiguashca, 2005). Yet another effort to harmonise the policies of different global institutions can be seen in the Transnational Resource and Action Center’s (TRAC) insistence that the UN must withdraw from its “Global Compact” with transnational corporations. The Global Compact associates the corporate donors with the UN without any monitoring of corporate compliance with the basic UN principles. TRAC’s report, “Tangled up in Blue,” has denounced the efforts by some of the most brazen violators of fundamental human rights, like Nike and Rio Tinto, to boost their corporate images by enlisting their brands as “Partners” with the UN. ()
2. Global Justice
The first big mobilisation after Seattle was seen on the 16th of April, 2000, when protests sprung up at the annual spring meeting of the World Bank and IMF. The coalition of groups organising these protests was called ‘Mobilisation for Global Justice’, a term adopted by many local groups. (Curran, 2007).
The major aim of protester rallies is to showcase the different effects of the global economic policies. The members of these movements devote tremendous amounts of time, money, and energy to learning and sharing the experiences of other people across the globe. These type of exchanges generate a sense of solidarity because they help clarify the identity of the various global economic institutions.. (Curran, 2007). For example, in Quebec City, the Canadian workers discussed the effects on their communities of the job losses that had been caused by companies’ decisions to relocate to areas with lower wages. Their counterparts in Latin America, who were the supposed “beneficiaries” of the Canadian job losses also described their degraded working conditions, low wages, and the constant company threats to relocate again if the workers decided to organise. People’s Global Action, an important network in this movement organised several cross-continental caravans to promote a greater understanding of the effects of globalisation. (Smith, 2009).
Therefore, the AGM is pretty musch global in the sense that it is actively working to endorse a globally defined vision of justice. It endeavors to dramatise connections between production and consumption, thereby revealing the human and environmental costs that companies prefer to ignore within complex production chains. The movement, also seeks to expose the global economic system as a direct descendent of the earlier colonial system, showing how southern economic and political choices are defined by global economic structures (Curran, 2007).
3. Global Democracy
A common thread binding the demands of all activists in this movement is their demand for democracy. As governments try to coordinate policies at the global level, they have effectively excluded public from decision-making. Thus AGM activists call for greater access to information on the free trade agreements that are negotiated by the governments. (Jacobs, 2007).
Obviously, the structures of global financial institutions are not consistent with the values of democracy that give legitimacy to modern governments. A number of resolutions have been produced by the United aiming to reinforce democratic norms. However, governments have managed to create fundamentally undemocratic institutions like the WTO. (Smith, 2009).
It can be said that the AGM is “anti-global” in one sense only. It resists the attempts made to govern economic decisions solely at the global level. It insists that local control is also required, as most activists would argue, if economic decisions have to be sensitive to environmental constraints and to the needs of all affected. As can be seen, a globally oriented economy responds to people with most richness and not to cash-starved farmers who produce food for the export economies but do not earn enough to buy food for their own families (Jacobs, 2007). A global marketplace will not produce medicines needed to save poor children, rather it will manufacture pharmaceuticals that appeal to the cosmetic desires of the rich. The Russian social theorist Boris Kagarlitsky once pointed out to activists attending teach-ins in Prague, “Centrally planned economies don’t work.” (Kagarlitsky, 2001)
4. Another world
The most important success of the recent wave of protests is that they have managed to derail the once unchallenged assumption that neoliberal globalisation is inevitable. Now economic alternatives are being discussed freely that can replace neoliberalism (McNally, 2002). The Zapatista rebellion has suggested that “another world is possible,” and that rallying cry has choed in many gatherings all over the world. The slogan provides the impetus for the World Social Forum. The challenge for those organising around the Social Forum lies in finding ways to resist the marginalisation of this movement in the mass media. The movement has to foster real public debate about how to organise society wherein people and the environment are given priority over money. (Smith, 2009).
Anarchism and its ideologies
Definitions of anarchism:
Anarchism can be defined as the doctrine that suggests that all the affairs of people should be managed by individuals or voluntary associations only, and that the State should be abolished. (Individual Liberty by Benjamin Tucker, 1888).
This doctrine suggests that the philosophy of a new social order must be based on liberty unrestricted by man-made law and that all forms of government rest on violence, and are therefore wrong and harmful. (Emma Goldman).
Anarchism is the name given to a principle or theory of life under which society is run without government and harmony in such a society is obtained, not by submission to any law or authority, but by free agreements formed between the various groups, territorial and professional, constituted for the sake of production and consumption, and for satisfaction of the various needs and aspirations of a civilised being. (Prince Peter Kropotkin, The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1910).
Anarchism’s influence has been evolving slowly, peaking and waning at different historical points. It refuses to be trampled under the weight of a dominant Marxism, as anarchists hone their alternative views. (Curran, 2006).
Anarchism has today embraced the reconfigured ideological landscape of the early 21st century and made it its own. Those radicals who have been disillusioned with the capacity of traditional oppositional ideologies that challenge capitalism and neo-liberalism, find its analysis quite appealing. These radicals don’t only observe the ravages of neo-liberal globalisation, and the weakness of socialism in stemming them, but also an environmental ruin that seriously threatens both people and planet. Kinna (2005, 21) points out, that one of the contemporary anarchism’s ‘striking features’ is its ‘conviction that political and cultural conditions have altered so radically in the course of the twentieth century that the traditional schools of thought … have become outmoded’. This has catapulted anarchism’s ‘culture and forms of organisation … to the forefront rather than the margins of a transnational social movement’ (Milstein, 2004).
This reconfigured anarchism is termed as post-ideological anarchism. It involves conditioning the practice and spirit of radical dissent today. This anarchism is freed from ideological conformity and there is an open exchange of ideas and traditions. However, there are many ideological anarchists who participate as proud anarchists in oppositional protest. The old anarchist schools of thought along with the new assume highly ideological positions. However, there has been a widespread embrace of anarchist ideas and strategies within oppositional politics (Curran, 2006).
The core values of anarchism are autonomy, liberty, anti-statism and antiauthoritarianism. Anarchism sees hierarchy, authoritarianism and the centralisation of decision making power as detrimental to the attainment of these values. A commitment to an interaction between the means and the ends underpins anarchism’s ideology. It’s a libertarian and anti-authoritarian political philosophy, and has dominant allegiance on the principles of radical democracy, which is usually direct, participatory, transparent and inclusive. The list of values has another addition off late. The new anarchism has enthusiastically embraced the views of radical ecology which suggests that the environmental degradation we today is a direct impact of the destructive power of capitalism. Modern anarchists have now incorporated, the claims of ecologism, and agree that the will to power can degrade both people and nature. However, in the twenty-first century, such core values along with the various strategies to achieve them, can increasingly be interpreted and assembled in different ways. (Curran, 2006).
The conceptualization of post-ideological anarchism can go further when we review other similar observations by authors the diverse elements of post-ideological anarchism are identified and probed into with greater detail in a number of illustrative case studies. Neal (1997) analyses important aspects of our postideological anarchism. He distinguishes between what he labels a small ‘a’ and capital A anarchism. The former refers to a less ideological strand compared to the latter. Moreover, according to him, a capitalised Anarchism is an ideology whereas the lower case anarchism is a methodology. Whereas an ideology anarchism constitutes ‘a set of rules and conventions to which you must abide’, the methodology anarchism is ‘a way of acting, or a historical tendency against illegitimate authority’ (1997). He observes that:
“Sadly, what we have today are a plethora of Anarchists -- ideologues --who focus endlessly on their dogma instead of organising solidarity among workers. That accounts for the dismal state of the movement today, dominated by elites and factions, cliques and cadres …Methodology is far more open -- there is that which works, and that which doesn't, and degrees between those points. If one strategy doesn't work, you adjust until you get something that does work.” (Neal 1997).
According to Neal (1997), a rigid Anarchism violates the true spirit of its philosophy. He argues that an anarchist organisation cannot be controlled, but should arise impulsively from the independent community that conceives it. Also ‘indoctrinated people’ cannot be the same as free people. He suggests that if the capacity to decide on strategies and principles is denied to the people, then they are neither free nor anarchist. (Curran, 2006).
Graeber (2002, 72) uses Neal’s distinction to explain the impact of today’s anarchism and suggests that even in 2002 there existed several capital-A anarchist groups. More importantly, he argues that the small-a anarchists who are the non-card carrying radicals of the anti-globalisation movement, inspired by the principles and moral force of anarchism, have become increasingly the ‘the real locus of historical dynamism’. Graeber suggests that anarchism has an ideology, which is non-sectarian and deeply democratic.
“A constant complaint about the globalisation movement in the progressive press is that, while tactically brilliant, it lacks any central theme or coherent ideology … [But] this is a movement about reinventing democracy. It is not opposed to organisation. It is about creating new forms of organisation. It is not lacking in ideology. These new forms of organisation are its ideology.” (Graeber 2002, 70)
Another author Epstein (2001) also shows preference for a looser and non-doctrinaire anarchist position for the new generation of young radicals who are not formally schooled, or even interested, in the radical tradition. The author argues that even though anarchism has at all times attracted several young radicals, however, the ones who are a part of today’s antiglobalisation movement today may not necessarily be interested in old anarchist philosophy or anarchism as a body of theory. Nevertheless, they are inspired by most of its principles and have been impelled by its vision. She says that for younger radicals,
“[A]narchism means a decentralised organisational structure, based on affinity groups that work together on an ad hoc basis, and decisionmaking by consensus. It also means egalitarianism; opposition to all hierarchies; suspicion of authority, especially that of the state; and commitment to living according to one’s values.” (Epstein 2001, 61).
The author uses meaningful method of understanding and conceptualising modern anarchism that echoes our conceptualisation of post-ideological anarchism. In order to determine anarchism’s impact, the author differentiates between anarchism as such and anarchist sensibilities, and between those who relate to anarchism as a tradition and ideology and those who just relate to its spirit and the impact its ideas. In summary, the author marks a distinction between ‘ideological’ anarchism and an ‘inspirational’ anarchism that resonates the philosophy of the post-ideological anarchism. Purkis and Bowen (1997, 3) have also identified a similar phenomenon, suggesting that the ‘terrains of theory and action have changed’ and hence ‘now there are generations of activists operating in many fields of protest for whom the works of Kropotkin, Malatesta and Bakunin are as distant … as … Charles Dickens’. (Purkis & Bowen 2004).
Following a similar discourse, new anarchist theorists have themselves highlighted a comparable process, both as it affects internal theory and external politics. ‘Postanarchist’ theorists bring to light certain comparable developments. For instance, Adams (2004) differentiates between those who relate to anarchism as an ‘ideological tradition’ and those who relate to its ‘general spirit’. He argues that postanarchism’s post-ideological nature is presented in the fact that ‘it is not an ‘ism’’ or ‘another set of ideologies, doctrines or beliefs’ which becomes a ‘bounded totality’ to which everyone conforms (2004).
“… not only in abstract radical theory but also in the living practice of such [anti-globalisation] groups as the No Border movements, People’s Global Action, the Zapatistas, the Autonomen and other such groups that while clearly ‘antiauthoritarian’ in orientation, do not explicitly identify with anarchism as an ideological tradition so much as they identify with its general spirit in their own unique and varying contexts, which are typically informed by a wide array of both contemporary and classical radical thinkers.” (Adams 2004).
Another fellow postanarchist concurs,
“[There] are the equally if not more important, growing numbers of people who just feel dissatisfied with ‘all’ ideologies in general, yet who can also sense the profound resonance a nondoctrinaire antiauthoritarian analysis has within contemporary social movements.” (Bey in Adams 2004).
The relationship between anarchism and anti globalisation
There are several among today’s young radical activists, specifically at the center of the anti-globalisation and anti-corporate movements, who like to call themselves anarchists. However, the intellectual/philosophical perspective that dominates in such circles may be better described as an anarchist sensibility than as anarchism per se. these are different from the Marxist radicals in the sixties, who devoured the writings of Ma and Lenin. the anarchists of this generation are unlikely to study in depth the works of Bakunin. The modern young radical activists associate anarchism with a decentralised organisational structure that is based on affinity groups which that work together on an ad hoc basis, and achieve decision-making by consensus. They also relate it to egalitarianism as in opposition to all hierarchies; suspicion of authority, specifically that of the state; and commitment to a life based on one’s values. The young radical activists, who call themselves anarchists, are not only likely to be hostile to corporations but also to the concept of capitalism as a whole. Most of them envision a stateless society which is based upon small, egalitarian communities. Some, however, see the society of the future as an open question. They see anarchism as mainly an organisational structure and as a commitment to egalitarianism. They view it as a form of politics which revolves around the exposure of the truth rather than making strategy..
It is hereby obvious that the mindset of today’s anarchist young activists has relatively little to do with the theoretical debates between Marxists and anarchists most of which had taken place the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Instead it is more related to the egalitarian and anti-authoritarian perspective. There also exist versions of anarchism which are deeply individualistic and may even be incompatible with socialism. However, these do not hold much weight in the radical activist circles, who have more in common with the libertarian socialism as advocated by Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn than the writings of Bakunin or Kropotkin. The anarchist activists of today draw on a current of morally charged and expressive politics (Epstein, 2001).
There exists a significant overlap between contemporary anarchism and democratic socialism mostly because both have been shaped by sixties’ cultural radicalism. Both socialists as well as modern anarchists share a critique of class based society and a dedication to egalitarianism. However the history of rivalry between the two views has also given birth to a stereotype of anarchism in many Marxists, thereby making it hard for them to understand the common grounds of the two perspectives. Anarchism’s absolute hostility to the state as well as its tendency to dorn a stance of moral purity, tend to limit its utility as a base for a bigger movement for egalitarian social change. moreover, there are certain things that Marxists can also learn from the anti-globalists whose anarchism combines both ideology and imagination, and finds expression of its fundamentally moral perspective through activities which are intended to make power visible while undermining it. In the past, anarchism has usually provided an often ignored moral compass for the leftists. Whereas, today’s anarchism is attracting young activists in large numbers which Marxist socialism could not. in spite of ts various problems, anarchism’s appeal has increased among young activists, specially tose who are a part of the anti-globalisation movement. however, this description may be somewhat misleading because the movement’s main focus is not to stop globalisation rather it is to change the terms on which it takes place. Therefore, the movement may better be described anti-neoliberalism, or anti U.S. imperialism and a movement against domination by U.S.-based transnational corporations. However since these are cumbersome phrases, therefore the term ‘anti-globalisation’ remains commonly used to describe the movement.
In the history of this movement, one of the most dramatic events occurred in the United States. It was the mobilisation against the World Trade Organisation in Seattle in 1999. A series of demonstrations took place over several days, wherein the young, radical activists engaged in civil disobedience were largely outnumbered by trade unionists and members of liberal environmental organisations. Nevertheless the young radicals were the ones who blockaded the meetings of the WTO, fought the police, and liberated the streets of Seattle, and it was their militancy which brought the attention of the media to a mobilisation which could have otherwise gone relatively unnoticed. The association that was created in Seattle between young radicals, the environmentalists and the trade unionists was loose and it has become even looser since then. Therefore, it is obvious that it is the young radicals who have succeeded in pushing forward the anti-globalisation movement forward (Epstein, 2001).
The anti-globalisation movement consists of several individuals, groups, and coalitions that have taken part in a number of demonstrations all over the world against the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, and the two major political parties in the US that support the existing international order (Ayres, 2004). It includes those organisations which are now mobilising against the Free Trade Area of the Americas. The AGM also overlaps with the anti-corporate movement and consists of groups working against sweatshops, against ruin of natural environments, and many other related issues. All such groups have in common an opposition to the transnational corporations and to the neoliberal government policies that allow these corporations to flourish. In the US, most of the core activists of this movement are young people, in their teens or twenties. Of course, older people are involved as well, including activists and intellectuals related to organisations like Global Exchange and the International Forum on Globalisation. Several activists who are involved in anti-corporate efforts namely Campaign for a Living Wage on university campuses, also consider themselves part of this movement. Besides, there also exists some important links to the labor movement.
Many people in the AGM movement do consider themselves anarchists. These include some older intellectuals and some younger activists who possess experience in movements with other types of ideological leanings, for example, the international solidarity or the anti-imperialist movement, in which anarchism was not a major influence. These activists choose not to identify with any ideological stance. Even then anarchism is the dominant perspective within the AGM movement. (Ayres, 2004).
More people in the anti-globalisation movement are attracted to the movement’s culture and organisational structure than to its anarchism worldview. But even then anarchism remains attractive as an alternative to the version of radicalism that is associated with the Old Left and the Soviet Union. Most activists in the movement do not consider the working class to becoming the leading force for social change (Ayres, 2004). Movement activists relate anarchism to militant, angry protests, with the help of grassroots, leaderless democracy, and with the support of several loosely linked small-scale communities. Most activists who identify with anarchism are usually anti-capitalist and some are even socialists. (Epstein, 2001).
The main aim of the anti-globalisation movement is to counter corporate power, not capitalism, however these perspectives may overlap with each other. Whereas certain activists want corporations to be regulated, and made to comply with human and environmental rights, other activists want a complete abolition of corporations. These aims may not be fully incompatible. Based on how one looks at the limitations to be imposed on the corporations, the line between regulation and abolition can diminish. For many activists in the movement, specially the more radical, younger people, capitalism is the ultimate target. They have a more fluid approach to ideology. Although they subscribe to anarchist forms of organisation, and hold anarchist visions of a future society, they are not likely to have read Marxist-oriented accounts of global political economy. The movement’s decentralised form and its commitment to allowing room for a variety of perspectives allows for a certain flexibility in views. Activists may subscribe to different outlooks, remain ambivalent, or may even combine elements of anarchism, Marxism, and liberalism. This may eventually lead to ideological creativity and can also lead to a habit of holding various positions simultaneously which at times may become incompatible.
The most controversial debate within the movement is over the question of violence. The violence within the anti-globalisation movement in the United States was targeted towards property, and involved the danger of inciting police violence. Seattle saw groups of people clad in black clothes smashing windows and destroying property of corporate targets within the downtown area where protesters and police were fighting for control. Such attacks took the organisers of the protest by surprise, and, no doubt provoked more police violence against the protesters. Obviously, the nonviolent protesters tried to restrain those smashing windows (Ayres, 2004). The demonstrations witnessed subsequently protesters who condemned the violence, arguing that it discredited the movement as a whole and so such tactics should be decided democratically, and not by small groups who act autonomously. However, there are others who argue that window smashing which lead to the police violence has succeeded in bringing the attention of the media to the event and thus given it a prominence that it would not have achieved otherwise. (Ayres, 2004).
The differences between the advocates of violence and those who support the countenance of violence under certain circumstances are not clearly marked. The early eighties activists, especially the religious activists have attempted to damage missiles as a part of nonviolent direct action. Thereby, destruction of property can be viewed as part of a nonviolent politics. Even in the Vietnam War, pacifists and former Catholic priests have led raids on draft centers, damaging draft files by pouring blood on them. In the eighties, some Christian pacifists, invaded arms-producing plants, attacking missiles with hammers and bare hands. Therefore, the importance of the current debate over the use of violence in the anti-globalisation movement lies in what kind of ethical guidelines the movement sets for itself. What matters is if the movement establishes an image of expressing rage for its own sake, or for acting according to an ethical vision.
In the US, the traditional socialist left mostly includes just magazines and journals, a few annual conferences, and a small number of intellectuals. Thus the only hope for any sort of revival of the left lies solely with the anti-globalisation movement and the young radical activists who form its core. However there are reasons to fear that the anti-globalisation movement may not be able to increase in the way this would require. A movement that’s capable of transforming structures of power will have to involve some strong alliances, many of which will require more strong, stable and lasting forms of organisation than the ones that now exist within the anti-globalisation movement. Thus the absence of such structures may be one of the main reasons for the reluctance of many people of color to get involved in the anti-globalisation movement. Though the movement has got good relations with several trade union activists, it is difficult to imagine a strong alliance between labor and the anti-globalisation movement. An alliance of the anti-globalisation movement and labor will require major political shifts..(Epstein, 2001).
For many years, radicalism has been low key in the United States, only present in several organising projects but lacking momentum and focus. The anti-globalisation movement can be seen to provide this essential focus and momentum, and therefore gives out more hope for a revival of the left than any other movement has over the last twenty years. The radical ideology prevailing amongst its core activists is representative of a soft form of anarchism. It can be viewed as something which is open to Marxist political economy, and that which prefers small-scale communities but may not necessarily rule out the need for larger ones as well. It is suspicious of structures of authority but may not necessarily deny the need for state power in some form. It is apparent that the “actually existing” anarchism has changed along with the “actually existing” Marxism. The Marxists who took part in the movements of the 60s tended to have a sharper appreciation of the relevance of social and cultural equality. So if a new paradigm of the left does emerge out of the contemporary struggle against neoliberalism and the transnational corporate order, then it is more likely to include elements of both anarchist sensibility and Marxist analysis.
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