These struggles generally retain a defensive character - resisting the destructive effects of globalization - and continue to have to develop without a credible, global political alternative opposed to the dominant system. But they also have dynamic, offensive aspects, rejecting the neo-liberal ideological and social order and affirming new forms of solidarity. True, the working class and popular movements have suffered a series of serious retreats and defeats, whose effects are still tangible, and the bourgeoisie is continuing its attacks. Nonetheless there is a clear change relative to the previous period.
The following text is not meant to paint a complete panorama of democratic and popular resistance, campaigns with an internationalist scope and contemporary solidarity movements. It aims essentially at analyzing the way in which the process of capitalist globalization conditions and affects the emergence of a new militant internationalism, the obstacles that it forms and the opportunities that it offers us in this perspective. It seeks to clarify what new elements may exist in the current situation or in the way old issues are framed today, and in so doing to equip us better to contribute actively to the internationalist renewal. A certain number of political implications (concerning our tasks or elements of our programme) are thus drawn out in the course of the analysis and put forward in various sections of the text. The last part of the resolution only goes back over these political or programmatic issues in a very summary way, without attempting to recapitulate systematically everything that was written along the way.
THE BATTLE FOR SOLIDARITY: A DECISIVE ISSUE
Outside limited activist circles, the very notion of internationalism lost much of its appeal during the 1980s, for a whole assortment of reasons: manipulation of internationalist struggles by the bureaucratic interests of powerful states (from Moscow, Beijing, etc.); the incapacity of the workers’ movement in the imperialist countries to respond effectively to the need for solidarity with liberation struggles in the Third World, which in their isolation got bogged down and became the first victims of the seriously worsened relationship of forces; the successive retreats and defeats experienced by the Northern working class as well; the crisis of credibility of socialism; the pronounced decline of trade union organization; etc.
This devaluation of the notion of internationalism reached its nadir after the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, when neo-liberalism’s ideological offensive reached its peak force. In the last several years an internationalist renewal has been clearly perceptible, which if it deepens can enable the solidarity movement to regain its political dynamism and reconstitute a radical alternative. This renewal is still in the shadow of earlier retreats and defeats. It is also profoundly conditioned by the nature of the process of capitalist globalization and by the social effects of neo-liberal policies.
These two givens - the legacy of the previous period and the characteristics of the present period - must among other things be fully taken into account in order to understand the difficulties that setting an internationalist project in motion runs up against. But analyzing capitalist globalization and the resistance that it is calling forth also allows us to see the considerable possibilities open to an internationalist project today.
The crisis of an internationalist perspective, which began in the late 1970s, got steadily worse on the whole through the early 1990s. In this context, the weight of the reformist, social-democratic and Stalinist workers’ movements, but also of radical anti-capitalist currents, was considerably reduced. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) often occupied the front and centre of the stage, while many of them were losing their original radicalism, becoming institutionalized and becoming more and more dependent on government and para-governmental funding.
Feelings of solidarity with Third World peoples remained a living factor, but became relatively apolitical, leaving the way open to a regressive ideology that could be manipulated by the imperialist powers under cover of urgent humanitarian aid. With few exceptions, international solidarity was no longer clearly, consciously understood as part of a global alternative perspective, within an overall struggle for social transformation.
True, progressive movements and international solidarity initiatives never stopped happening, and this must be emphasized. Some mobilizations were even remarkably broad, like the one against Third World debt in 1989 during the bicentennial of the French revolution. But taken as a whole these movements became more compartmentalized and often lost political coherence (losing in particular the dimensions of anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and revolutionary consciousness).
This fragmentation is what we must overcome today, whatever the cost.
The heritage of the previous period is nonetheless not entirely one-sided. The Stalinist mortgage has been pretty much lifted off our backs, and the necessity of democracy has become much clearer today to the workers’, popular and revolutionary movement than it used to be. This should make it easier to refound a socialist project and a genuine internationalism if only the relationship of social forces improves. At least to start with, the progressive, militant wing of the NGOs accumulated a rich, original body of experience and contributed to renewing our thinking on important issues like development. Anti-racist and anti-fascist struggles and struggles for a right to asylum and in defence of immigrants marked a whole generation in many countries. Feminist movements were able to actively weave connections on a world scale, giving their struggle for liberation the appropriate, truly international dimension; the same is true today of the lesbian/gay movement. Finally a new perception of the ecological crisis and of the interdependence, in this area as well, of different parts of the globe opened up a wide field for activism and fuelled a civic "planetary" consciousness.
From now on all these contributions must constitute essential elements of a new internationalism.
From the point of view of international solidarity, the current period is characterized first of all by the central place occupied by resistance to neo-liberal policies and by the diversity and objective convergence of different forms of resistance. This central place, this diversity and this convergence can largely be explained by the nature and scope of the consequences of capitalist globalization, whose consequences are being felt painfully in every sphere of social life.
Neo-liberal globalization, a new stage in the reconstruction of the world market and the internationalization of capital, is manifested first of all in the economic sphere: the growing autonomy of the financial sector, the drastic but uneven liberalization (at the South’s expense) of capital movements and trade, the multiplicity of mega-mergers, the expansion of the realm of competition, deregulation, privatization, etc. But globalization is not only at work on the levels of trade, industry and finance.
The capitalist globalization now under way is imposing deep social transformations: first of all on the subaltern classes, who are being subjected to a violent process of increasing insecurity and fragmentation; but also within the dominant classes themselves, with the weakening and marginalization of various traditional components of the bourgeoisie and the elites. Globalization is renovating the modes of Northern domination of the South and provoking a general reorganization of space on this planet, with the (uneven) consolidation of regions that are in the periphery of the three poles of the imperialist Triad and the possibility of abandoning much vaster regions to disintegration. It is modifying the dominant mechanisms of political decision-making and calling forth a new overall balance of the centres of power, whether they are economic, political or military, national, regional or international. It is thus assigning new roles to the world institutions founded in the post-war period. At bottom, to conclude, capitalist globalization requires the emergence and stabilization of a new mode of bourgeois domination, on the international level as well as in a considerable number of countries. In fact, in the name of free trade, the neo-liberal order wants to open up to the dictatorship of the markets and multinationals all sectors of social life that still partially escaped their grasp. Again in the name of the right to competition, it is reducing states’ field of action and manoeuvring room in a drastic way, by imposing strict constraints on states while granting an unprecedented freedom of action and decision-making to the big multinationals and financial and industrial oligopolies.
States continue to play a major role-most particularly in the world arena and in matters concerning the most powerful imperialist states. But neo-liberalism considerably limits (including by means of laws) the bourgeoisie’s recourse to its usual systems of domination and socio-political regulation based on major redistributive mechanisms, now considered violations of the right to competition. These modes of domination (social compromises in Europe, clientelist states in Africa, populism in Latin America, economic statism in Asia, etc.) had nonetheless proved their usefulness by allowing existing regimes to consolidate their social bases and throttle any sudden rise of popular struggles.
Neo-liberal globalization thus has radical effects in every part of the world and in every field: economic, social, ideological, institutional, political and cultural. This shows the power and omnipotence of the ongoing process of capitalist reorganization, but also reveals its first Achilles heel: its very breadth creates an objective link - a common fate - that is closer than ever before among forms of resistance carried out throughout the world, among struggles under way on the whole range of battlefields.
By placing the formal decision-making centres further and further away from elected institutions (including in Western countries) and substantially limiting the use of redistributive policies, the neo-liberal order shows itself a particularly crude form of class dictatorship. This is its second Achilles heel, since in times of crisis it cannot claim either a democratic legitimacy founded on an electoral mandate nor a social legitimacy earned by reducing inequality.
Even more than other modes of bourgeois domination, the neo-liberal order’s stability depends on the passivity or division (and thus powerlessness) of the exploited and oppressed. This explains the violence of the ideological offensive declaring that there is no alternative and no hope of change. It also explains the brutality of the social offensive, whose goal is not only to ensure shareholders’ profits through surplus exploitation of labour, but also to block the formation of new forms of solidarity and dissolve old forms of solidarity (embodied in particular by social security and social protection systems in the advanced capitalist countries) in the name of modernity. Capitalist globalization is thus ripping apart the social fabric and making the lives of the lower classes more precarious by generalizing social insecurity and destroying collective rights won in past struggles, replacing them with frayed "safety nets" and targeted, sectoral, individualized forms of charity. Divide and rule: capital’s discourse sets the unemployed against wage earners, private-sector against public-sector, working women against working men, jobs for youth or immigrants against jobs for adults or the native-born. It reduces the world to competition with everyone against everyone else.
Capital’s offensive is formidable, but neo-liberal globalization is also producing antibodies and effectively creating the conditions for new forms of solidarity. The market order attempts to impose its sway in every sector of society, and thus provides a basis for transversal, multi-sectoral convergence among social and democratic struggles. The same institutions are imposing the same neo-liberal policies around the world, which provides the basis for international convergence of resistance movements.
Fragmentation or unity: which will prevail? Success or failure in achieving solidarity will largely determine whether tomorrow’s battles are won or lost.
THE NEW SITUATION
During the previous period, the sectoral dispersal of international solidarity and its relative loss of political coherence were fostered by the structural weakening of the trade-union movement and the defeats suffered by the working class. But today, faced with the violence of neo-liberal attacks, social issues are regaining a more central place in the growth of resistance than they had before, including in the imperialist countries. This in no way decreases the specific importance of democratic, cultural, feminist or ecological struggles; but it can contribute effectively to ensuring their rootedness among ordinary people and in drawing out dynamics that are common to all these fields of mobilization.
The current reorganization of capital on a world scale and the impact of its first crises (1997-98) open up new fields of struggle (against financial speculation and the dictatorship of the markets, for ecological and food security); or increase their importance (against the WTO); or change the context in which they operate (national struggles); or renew their content (demands for democracy and civic rights). It is important to understand how.
6 A turning point
The change of period in the dynamic of struggles is particularly visible if one looks at resistance to the policies of the economic and financial institutions of globalization. These struggles have in fact recently (often in the second half of the 1990s) taken on a new dimension.
The fight to cancel the Third World debt to the IMF went through a long period of eclipse after the late 1980s. It bounced back spectacularly in 1999 during the Cologne mobilizations, the Jubilee 2000 campaign (with Jubilee South as its radical wing) and the repayment boycott decided on by several Brazilian states. In the wake of the 1997- 98 financial crises, social resistance to IMF structural adjustment plans extended from South Korea to Latin America.
For years the OECD had been very discretely negotiating the ultra-neo-liberal Multilateral Agreement on Investment; a few months in 1998 sufficed for the MAI’s contents to cause a democratic scandal in North America and Western Europe. Also in 1998, the fight against financial speculation and dictatorship of the markets took on an unprecedented vigour and political dynamic with the remarkable growth of the grassroots movement ATTAC, particularly in France.
Criticism of unequal exchange and the demand for fair trade for the countries of the South were no longer limited to militant networks. While the foundation of the WTO as a result of the Uruguay Round did not lead to any significant demonstrations, the Seattle WTO conference five years later provoked very major mobilizations (in the US and a certain number of other countries) which evoked an international response.
These developments bear witness to the weakening of the hold that neo-liberal ideology had for a time and the depth of the feeling of revolt provoked by the growth of inequality, the dictatorship of the markets and the hypercompetitive social model that threatens the East and West, North and South. The rejection of the neo-liberal project was first expressed in a spectacular way in a few specific countries - as with the November- December 1995 public-sector strike in France or the January 1997 private-sector strike in South Korea - but each of these national struggles evoked a very significant international response.
Global initiatives followed one another rapidly in the last few years: in 1996 the Intergalactic Gathering against Neo-liberalism in Chiapas called together by the Mexican Zapatistas; in 1999 the international gatherings in Saint-Denis initiated by ATTAC in France; the Cologne meetings with Jubilee 2000; and then the Seattle demonstrations in the US, organized in particular by Public Citizen and the AFLCIO. The rebellion against neo-liberal policies and the dictatorship of the markets has thus very quickly made clear its commitment to solidarity and its internationalist potential. Of course we have a long way to go in order to shape and give content to this internationalist renewal. But a dynamic has already been set in motion; it is now possible to move forwards on this basis.
Capitalist globalization has not created a uniform international economic space; on the contrary, it is tending to accentuate its hierarchical character. The Third World, already bled white by the system of debt, is the first victim: multinationals based in the South have seen their growth abruptly ended; national markets have been onesidedly forced open; destruction of domestic agriculture has speeded up. The Third World is being subjected to further technological subordination and industrial and financial recolonization. The modalities of imperialist domination are incessantly renewing themselves.
The same is true of the reorganization of political space. Territorial control and administrative stability of zones of influence played a very important role in the past in the world relationship of forces. This was a legacy of the colonial era but also a direct consequence of the confrontation between revolution and counterrevolution or between the "blocs" of East and West. Following revolutionary defeats and the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, this role has become much less important, at least in the parts of the planet that are not directly integrated into the peripheral zones of the three poles of the dominant imperialist Triad (North America, Western Europe and Japan). Societies can thus literally disintegrate, as in Central Africa, without the internationally dominant classes feeling a threat to their interests - at least as long as more or less private armies guarantee their access to the natural wealth that they covet.
Solidarity with the peoples of the South thus remains as timely and urgent as ever, inasmuch as the crisis of Third World societies often reaches extremes unknown in the North. At the same time, capitalist globalization tends to tear apart the social fabric including in the imperialist centres, where marginalization and insecurity are also ravaging society. In the North you have the homeless, in the South the landless, while the unemployed and undocumented are everywhere.
It is possible today to combine the traditional (and still necessary) flow of solidarity from North to South with the formation of a common front of resistance, founded on the sense of a common fate in face of the universal deployment of neo-liberal policies.
8 Wage earners
The trade-union movement faced the 1990s and the assaults of globalization in a very weakened position, on every level: organizational, activist and political. Except to a certain extent for the International Trade Secretariats (ITSes), it has also proved incapable of coordinated action at the international level at a time when capitalism is putting workers in every country in direct competition with each other more than ever before. With a few rare exceptions, common organization by the employees of a single multinational - an elementary task, after all, and one that is urgently needed by now - has remained embryonic or even non-existent.
In these conditions, capital has been able to carry out a continuing offensive in the name of the free market. The share of wages in GNP has declined markedly to the benefit of shareholders. The right to a job and trade union rights have been attacked including in Western European countries, as have the protections guaranteed by collective bargaining agreements and ordinances. The trade unions’ social base has been thrown into disarray by industrial and tertiary restructuring as well as by transformations under way in the organization of labour, which are facilitated by new technologies but aimed at a social objective: reinforcing class rule.
Trade unionism generally is thus going through a twofold crisis. On the one hand, it has largely lost its traditional function of representing wage earners to the bosses and management (all the more so since capital has broken with its earlier redistributive policies). On the other hand, its influence has decreased substantially and is often limited today to its bastions of bygone days - usually meaning the public sector or the biggest private companies (notably in the metal industry).
The problem goes so deep today that a simple reorientation of the existing union movement could not solve it. The reorganization under way in capitalism must be followed by a general reorganization of the workers’ movement. It will have to simultaneously internationalize itself (finally or once more); renew a dialogue with the wage earners and ensure participatory democracy on a daily basis and in struggles; radically increase women’s role and leadership and regain influence among minorities and immigrants; organize or help to organize temporary workers and the unemployed; win back influence in the working class and society as a whole; and truly take on the struggle for liberation as its own and thus regain the political capacity to counterpose global alternatives to neo-liberal orientations.
At least in certain countries (such as France, the US, South Korea and Norway), a renewal has been visible in the past decade or last few years in part of the trade-union movement, as well as in unemployed people’s capacity for action and organization. But this promising development is still hesitant, uneven and sectoral. There also remains much work to do, in face of international action by trade-union bureaucracies, to help with the formation (particularly in the South and East) of radical, independent unions and breathe new life into coordinating structures (such as European works councils).
In order to move on to an overall transformation, a true reconstruction, overcome its divisions and restore to the working class the means to struggle effectively, the trade union movement must begin in particular by profoundly democratizing itself, and by linking itself more systematically in a convergent struggle with grassroots and social movements in all their diversity.
Agriculture is one of the sectors where the recent development of capitalism has been particularly drastic, with the development first of agribusiness and then of genetically modified food. This development, which began about 30 years ago, has taken on an unprecedented scale in the context of capitalist globalization. One of GATT’s main mandates to the WTO is to impose the neo-liberal market order on the whole of agriculture all over the planet. But this offensive by big capital is calling up profound resistance, in which peasantries whose very existence is threatened are converging with many other sectors of society.
The fight in defence of peasant agriculture is perceived today in very different political terms from yesterday, and this is one of the major characteristics of the current period. Its importance has obviously been recognized for a long time by Third World countries where the majority of the population is rural, but even in this case peasant resistance was often analyzed as purely defensive. Now the general import of this fight is more clearly visible: it turns out to be vital even for industrialized countries where the majority of the population is urban, and it contributes to the elaboration of a vision of a society different from that incarnated by capitalist agribusiness.
The disastrous consequences of the development of capitalist agribusiness are in fact felt far beyond the sphere of agricultural production alone. They concern consumption (food quality), the environment (water and soil quality) and ecological equilibria (preservation of ecosystems and biodiversity; impact on the biosphere), rural development (landscape; maintaining population levels and public services in the countryside), employment (impact of the rural exodus on joblessness), culture (homogenization of diet) and the structures of imperialist domination (Third World dependence on food imports).
As a result agricultural workers’ or peasants’ organizations (the Brazilian MST, the French Peasant Federation, etc.) have been able to get involved once more in a global struggle for social transformation and link up with wage earners’ trade unions and other social movements. Militant cooperation has taken shape between Southern and Northern peasantries (with in particular the formation of Via Campesina). Collaboration between consumer protection movements and peasant defence of agriculture has been strengthened in a common fight for food security.
The neo-liberal model of domination, which depends for its stability on the fragmentation of social movements more than on their integration into a collective project, increases all forms of inequality (class, gender, community, regional, etc.), exacerbates oppression and fuels the resurgence or reinforcement of deeply reactionary ideologies. Women are experiencing the full severity of each of these regressive mechanisms.
Women are thus the first victims of increasing job insecurity, to the point where their right to work is being challenged even in countries where it had been won through head on struggles. Given the responsibilities assigned to them in the family as in local communities, they are also hard hit by another side of the neo-liberal model: the systematic creation of a state of generalized social insecurity, a process which is far from being limited to job status alone. The rise of religious fundamentalism in certain countries (Afghanistan!) has consequences for women that are truly tragic; but even in other parts of the world they face reactionary ideological campaigns that are attacking their dignity and fundamental rights, such as the rights as citizens, right to choose and right to health care (including contraception and abortion, but in some Southern countries they also face forced sterilization imposed in the name of population control).
The struggle for women’s liberation is therefore becoming more and more timely, and remains a point of intersection in the overall fight for equal rights and social transformation. Faced with capitalist globalization, its international dimension is becoming more prominent, as the organization of the Women’s Global March in 2000 bears witness (with its two-dimensional struggle against the patriarchal and capitalist order), as does the progress made in organizing feminist movements internationally.
Migratory flows are largely determined by the imperialist countries’ economic needs and the disorders of the dominant system (such as wars and famines). Emigration has a history, and shows different sides in different periods. In this respect, the symbolism of the fate reserved for emigrants by the new neo-liberal order is particularly revealing: the undocumented immigrant, a woman without rights, condemned to surplus exploitation in a company or domestic labour even when she acquired a real education in her country of origin. What could be more emblematic of a system that aims at generalizing insecurity?
In other historical contexts emigrants were able despite their difficulties to find a place and a future in the countries they ended up in. Today any such hope is denied them. They live in long-term, extreme insecurity so as to be able to continue supporting their families, which are threatened by unemployment and poverty. In many of their countries of origin the money sent home by emigrants is a major economic resource, which has made it possible for crises to unfold without resulting in irremediable social disintegration. What we are seeing with capitalist globalization is emigration as human sacrifice.
Immigrants have launched astruggle against their clandestine situation, for the right to recognition and legal existence. They have been able to call up important solidarity movements and win significant though partial victories in several European countries. They have opened up a new front in the common fight for dignity, equality and solidarity.
Young people’s future prospects have turned out to be more precarious today than their parents’. This is a drastic change from the post-war situation, and one of the most revealing characteristics of the regressive character of the current period. The truth of this statement is obvious when it comes to employment and social security; but even the right to education for everyone is tending to be put in question, even in parts of the world where it had seemed definitely established. In terms of mobilizations, the situation varies considerably in different countries and milieus. In many cases young people are, at least to some extent, the first victims of the demobilizing ideologies of consumption, individual competition, and electronic and stock market "modernity". Cultural and social resistance to the dominant ideology is being expressed all the same, notably through music (like rap). Finally, in quite a few countries already, politically active sectors of youth have invented new forms of struggle, such as Reclaim the Street in Britain or Direct Action in the US.
Today, youth’s fight for their rights and future, their very particular generational experience, take on a very specific importance. They require the development of specific, internationally coordinated forms of solidarity.
The perception of what is at stake in ecological battles has changed drastically during the last 30 years. The social impact of environmental crises has been gradually integrated into ecologists’ vision, thus giving rise to a true political ecology. The seriousness of the risks run is now better understood by popular and progressive movements, first of all in the areas of major infrastructural projects (such as giant dams) and above all in the areas of energy (nuclear energy; greenhouse effect) and transport (urban air pollution; energy costs) and later of agribusiness (production of genetically modified organisms; mad cow disease; massive use of antibiotics; water pollution; etc.). The vital importance of what is at stake is only confirmed by the threat of abrupt climatic change.
Analyzing ecological crises and their cumulative, global dynamic leads to a radical critique of productivism, particularly in its capitalist version, and of the blind mechanisms of the market. Taking environmental constraints into account, just like taking social needs into account, requires in fact that economic policies be carried out in a long-term and very long- term perspective on an international scale. This is in complete contradiction with free-market dogmas and the dogmas of capitalist globalization defended tooth and nail by the IMF and WTO. It is the foundation for a new key demand, a key element of a contemporary internationalist programme: ecological security.
"The world is not for sale"; this slogan of the anti-WTO mobilizations during the Seattle conference sums up well the recent trend of broad sectors of public opinion that are no longer satisfied with challenging specific policies but are declaring their total opposition to a market order that claims to be universal. This consciousness is "anti-system" and "One World-internationalist" but not necessarily anti-capitalist, particularly for lack of a credible global, socialist alternative. It can be taken in by ideological manipulation by "humanitarian imperialism", and it often goes together with a resigned political realism, here again for lack of alternatives. But it is fostering a real potential for revolt and resistance.
The contemporary critique of the market order speaks to essential issues, in fact: rejection of the supremacy of money and of the individualist spirit of competition that degrades human relationships, causes loneliness and increases inequality (between genders, social layers, countries, etc.); an understanding of the deadly ecological dangers caused by the mad race after profits; and an affirmation of the primacy of politics and citizens’ rights over traders’ rights.
The rejection of the market order has more democratic implications than socialist ones today. But this democratic demand also affirms a civic, egalitarian dimension, which is all the more progressive because neo-liberal globalization tends to empty bourgeois democracy itself of all content. Elected assemblies are letting themselves be deprived of their powers to the benefit of institutions that are neither elected by nor accountable to voters. Laws must increasingly be directly adapted to commercial and financial regulations.
It is not so much national sovereignty that is in question here as democratic and popular sovereignty, whether it is expressed in the framework of a country or group of countries or internationally. Capitalist globalization puts in question the very possibility of making political choices in any field: health care or education, social protection or ecological security, models of development, etc.
In this context democratic civic demands, while basic, take on a new subversive dynamic.
15 Political independence
Since 1997 neo-liberal ideology has lost much of its arrogance. Its hold has considerably loosened. Its model of globalization has already been through several major crises (the so-called financial crises in Asia, then Russia, then Brazil, and the alarm over pension funds in the US), which the current stock-market euphoria cannot wipe out of people’s memories. The IMF’s political authority has been singularly reduced after the fall of the Suharto regime in Indonesia; the WTO’s has also taken a turn for the worse after the Seattle fiasco.
Inter-imperialist contradictions have been intensifying lately and resistance has been encountered even among Third World elites (witness for example what happened during the Seattle conference). Divisions at the top, mobilizations below: it is a promising combination. But in order to take advantage of it social and progressive movements will have to succeed in preserving their political independence.
The European Union would like to line up all progressive and Third World solidarity movements under its banner in the name of resisting the US. But the "European power" it seeks to build is light-years removed from a social Europe of solidarity open to the South and East. The same is true of the politics of protectionist "national withdrawals" that some sectors of the bourgeoisie advocate in the North, particularly including far-right currents or extreme currents of the conservative right. The workers’ movement must counterpose an internationalist, non-nationalist alternative to capitalist globalization.
In the Third World, authoritarian and dictatorial regimes or parties that take measures to control capital movements, as in Malaysia, hope to neutralize progressive movements in the name of resisting IMF dictates. But for us anti-imperialist resistance must remain inextricably linked to democratic and social struggles.
Neo-liberal globalization is spurring on the expansion of the realm of the market, to the point that new qualitative leaps are being made in this respect.
The current expansion of the market is aimed particularly at eradicating what remains of subsistence agriculture in the Third World, and thus threatens entire communities with impoverishment and disintegration. It is also based on a vision of cultural creativity as a mere commercial activity, which should be subject like any other to the rules of free trade - where cultural diversity is not simply crushed under the steamroller of unequal competition - and to ordinary capitalist property law. Cultural products, once sold, can be transformed according to the buyer’s whim, in contempt of any rights of the creator. Human subjugation to the market order is expressed both in the international growth of the sex industry and in the appearance of new forms of semi-slavery at work.
The most vital natural resources, such as water, are progressively being privatized, de jure or de facto. In the name of developing biotechnologies and gene technologies, the market system even demands the right to patent living organisms. This would mean an unprecedented process of privatization, carried out to the benefit of multinationals, whose consequences threaten to be particularly dangerous for humanity at the level of civilization as well as at the social and environmental levels.
In this context a broad rejectionist front is emerging, bringing together very diverse forms of social resistance. The demand for a moratorium - on the production of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), on the opening of a new round of WTO negotiations, etc. - is being made more frequently and more urgently. It expresses a new twofold consciousness: of the seriousness of what is at stake and of the speed at which events are moving. A moratorium, which would put the brakes on the advances the market is making on every front, is aimed at giving time for democratic demands to be put forward more forcefully in face of the dictatorship of economic interests before irreparable damage is done. Although it is first and foremost defensive, this demand also allows a progressive counteroffensive to take shape.
In the wake of the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, Washington proclaimed the emergence of a new world order. This has not put an end to either wars or nuclear threats. In fact the neo-liberal disorder fuels international and regional conflicts.
In the epoch of market globalisation, relationships of imperialist domination have not disappeared; they rest even more than before on the effects of inequality within a global system. In the countries of the South, therefore, the anti-imperialist struggle is as relevant as ever. The constant renewal of inequality among countries and regions is at work in every part of the world. This can contribute to reviving tensions among states, and can also be the basis of many national and regional demands. The importance of the democratic principle of peoples’ rights to determine their own fate, their rights to self-determination, is thus confirmed.
But in the present context, national and regional demands, however legitimate they may be, can lead to conflicts between communities that can even fuel a dynamic of "ethnic cleansing". For one thing, these demands do not fit as naturally as they used to into an anti-imperialist and socialist perspective, which would guarantee that they had a dimension of solidarity and universalism. For another, capitalist globalization reduces the role and effectiveness of the political spaces in which people organized and expressed themselves as citizens; without such spaces, understanding mutual rights and defining a future of solidarity become particularly difficult.
Similarly, while annexing territory has become less important to the great powers, at least in some parts of the world, controlling communications routes and systems and access to natural resources, markets and supplies of labour remain essential. States’ military capacities are proving to be just as decisive as in the past, as the US’s use of its supremacy in this domain bears witness. The European Union is thus seeking to unite its forces and make up for its lag on this terrain. As for the refusal of the great powers (such as the US and France) to begin a process of nuclear disarmament and stop the modernization of their arsenals, this has also relaunched the world arms race - with Pakistan and India in particular moving forwards with atomic tests.
Imperialist interventions are often hidden today behind humanitarian emergencies, as with the Kosova war. Nevertheless, in the wake of this war NATO during its 50th anniversary affirmed its strategic ambitions in Eastern Europe (and beyond Eastern Europe in Asia) and conferred on itself a right of action throughout the whole world, if necessary independently of the UN. As a result tensions among the great powers, between Washington, Moscow and Beijing, have been given a new, long lease on life. NATO appears today as the military arm of the neo-liberal world order, a military counterpart to the IMF, World Bank and WTO in the economic realm.
In recent years the weakening of the antiwar movement has constituted a major obstacle to the development of internationalist mobilizations. This weakness must be urgently overcome: by reinforcing the fight for nuclear disarmament, carried on jointly today by Pakistani and Indian movements as well as on a world scale by the network Abolition 2000; by reinvigorating the anti-imperialist struggle against NATO as well; and by once more situating the solution of national and regional issues in a socialist perspective, a perspective of solidarity and social transformation, so as to put an end to the dynamics of communitarian conflicts and banish the spectre of ethnic cleansing for good.
REBUILDING A GLOBAL ALTERNATIVE
18 Balance sheet of this stage
Initiated in the 1970s in the US and Britain under Reagan and Thatcher, the neoliberal project was truly able to declare its planetary ambitions only with the disintegration of the Soviet bloc after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. "From here on out we are universal", the advocates of neo-liberalism then exclaimed. During the last decade of the 20th century the new world order was forcefully deployed at the expense of the working class and lower social layers. But nonetheless social resistance has slowed the implementation of neo-liberal policies; and since 1997-98 capitalist globalization has experienced its first large-scale crisis, expressing the specific contradictions of the emerging new mode of domination and accentuating the divergences among the big economic powers.
Capitalist globalization imposes a new framework on all social and democratic struggles. Since the mid- 1990s a rise in consciousness, albeit uneven, has been perceptible. The initial opposition to neoliberal policies is ushering in a more general critique of the dictatorship of the market, a perception of the social stakes involved, and an aspiration towards a global alternative - even a "spontaneous anti-capitalism" - though very often the capitalist mode of production itself is still not being consciously called into question. Resistance struggles are acquiring a marked international dimension.
The current period can be characterized as the beginning of an ideological and political watershed. The capitalist order still has the advantage of the ideological crisis that the workers’ movement has been going through, particularly in the wake of the experience of Stalinism. Capitalism is even decking itself out with the ideology of modernity and progress, propped up by references to "new technologies", which a layer of young people in developed countries is susceptible to. But these progressive pretensions are undermined by the fact that capitalism demands at the same time a virtual right to social regression in the name of its conception of economic efficiency.
Similarly, with the active complicity of social democracy, particularly in Western Europe, the bourgeoisie has managed to sap the traditional bases of trade union action in many countries (job and wage security, unemployment benefits, and housing, health coverage and pensions that could be counted on). This means that from now on the defence of past rights and satisfaction of elementary demands take on a more directly anti-capitalist dimension.
The legitimacy of the new world order is turning out to be socially and geographically limited and problematic, inasmuch as it is incapable of providing a foundation for a coherent development model (particularly in the South, where social fragmentation reigns), of keeping its promises in the Eastern European countries (where the transition to capitalism is creating a wretched situation for the majority of the population that has been stripped of its social protections), of resolving the ecological contradictions of growth (manifest in the areas of energy, pollution, food security, etc.), of responding to workers’ aspirations, including in the most developed countries (right to a job and to social security, etc.).
At the moment the international convergence of popular and civic struggles is often taking place thanks to the coordination of existing networks of resistance to neo-liberal policies and financial or economic institutions (against Third World debt, against the dictatorship of the markets, against structural adjustment, against unequal exchange, etc.). These convergences occur on the occasion of successive major gatherings (like the one in Seattle); but they have not yet given rise to an ongoing mechanism for coordination. They do make possible - and this is necessary - a lasting interaction between currents which, like us, are fighting to dissolve the institutions of the neo-liberal order (IMF, World Bank, WTO, NATO, etc.) and to create alternatives of a different nature, and activist currents whose current goal is to radically reform these same institutions.
More generally, our task is both to contribute to the emergence of a short-term programmatic synthesis for the radical left and to work on redefining a socialist alternative. The essential objective is to develop the central theme of popular control by citizens and to deduce from this the necessity of challenging private property in the means of production. But we must respect the hierarchy of means and ends: our project is to build a society where everyone has access to the prerequisites for a decent life, and our political programme is to show that expropriation is the means to achieve this. This position is not however a precondition for committing ourselves to many forms of social struggle.
In the near future the task is to consolidate this movement of convergence among international resistance networks, since it provides a framework within which a capacity for centralized action can be reconstituted and a new internationalism of social and civic movements can take shape.
21 Programmatic axes
This process of convergence of different forms of resistance to the neo-liberal order can be consolidated around several crosscutting programmatic axes, including:
The goal of social equality must be reaffirmed in face of the rise of inequality and poverty that contemporary capitalism particularly favours. Equality between men and women is a major test in this area. Guaranteeing universal rights, beginning with a minimum wage, is the concrete foundation on which all social progress must rest. In a democratic society taxes must be a means of redistributing wealth and filling social funds. Traditional agriculture must be given means to stabilize itself and gradually move forwards (such as infrastructure, credits and guaranteed prices). The point in each case is putting the objective of equality ahead of the quest for profits.
The world economy must be reorganized on rational foundations. The fanaticism of free trade must be abandoned, and replaced by a reaffirmation of countries’ right to control their own insertion into the world market and to organize regional co-operation. The debt, which has been paid back several times over, must be cancelled; the imperialist countries must on the contrary pay their ecological debt by transferring the technologies necessary for a sustainable mode of development. This requires putting in place energy and agricultural policies that are co-ordinated and planned on a world scale.
The extension of social rights is held in check by capitalism, which harnesses the potential of technological progress to its own ends and confines the major social and ecological choices to the narrow-minded bookkeeping of profitability. By contrast, new increases in productivity should be used in a socialized way. Shortening the workweek is the simplest way to return to a new full employment, extend the sphere of leisure time, and carry out a turn towards non-productivist development. Extending social protections and managing public services through mechanisms linked as closely as possible to their users are tools with which social needs can be satisfied by non-market means.
The capitalist organization of production and an out of control financial sector transform technological progress into social or ecological catastrophes. In order to make other criteria and other orientations prevail, they must be imposed on the spontaneous functioning of the market. But this tends to raise the issue of property, which can now be addressed once more in a concrete way on the basis of lived experience. The financial sector privatizes profits while socializing its losses, at the cost of fundamental economic instability. Nationalization of banks is all the more on the agenda inasmuch as it is a measure taken in practice in emergencies (as in Mexico and Japan). Insisting on satisfying basic needs, demanding quality and safety, and fighting against corruption make it possible to highlight demands for nationalization or renationalization of transport (British railways, for example, and oil tankers), food, water and electricity.
The point is to counterpose to the model of capitalist growth an alternative conception of development, whose primary goals are meet the social needs of the greatest number of people while effectively taking account of ecological factors and constraints that have major implications for humanity’s future.
22 Finding a new balance
The maturation of resistance to globalization is accompanied by movement towards an indispensable new social and organizational balance. The social movements (trade unions and other grassroots movements) are gradually becoming central again to mobilizations and the most dynamic international initiatives - after having lost that centrality for a long period. This rebalancing is proving to be an opportunity for progressive NGOs (whether their field of work is development, the environment or humanitarian action), since it is giving them a new chance to put down social roots, develop an overall political perspective and actively resist institutionalization (a process that had already destroyed too many NGOs’ independence).
To give coherence and lasting dynamism to international struggles, it is necessary today to recreate a global alternative to the inegalitarian, hypercompetitive, capitalist social model. Developing this global alternative can only be done on the basis of the current experience of popular and democratic movements and on the basis of the social, environmental and political needs that they express.
This demands a considerable effort from progressive and revolutionary parties. They have to be able to make a contribution to strengthening movements’ capacity for unity in struggle and collective thinking; manage to renew the links between past and present struggles in order to make the history of the 20th century intelligible; manage to breathe life into a new, radical, democratic internationalism; manage to begin a thorough updating of their analyses in order to restore credibility to anti-capitalist alternatives and contribute to a process of programmatic refoundation that the social movement must be fully involved in; in short, manage to rely on spontaneous anti-capitalism in order to refound a socialist project.
Progressive and revolutionary parties’ ability to co-ordinate internationally remains very weak today. A renewal is perceptible in some parts of the world (as the Asia- Pacific Solidarity Conference in Sydney in 1998 and its aftermath show). But the exhaustion of the initial dynamic of the Sao Paulo Forum in Latin America and the long-term lack of a party-type initiative in Western Europe show that nothing has been lastingly achieved yet in this domain. It is nonetheless high time for the emergence of an international of parties that is broader than those internationals that exist today.
The member organizations of the Fourth International must contribute actively to this internationalist renewal. Their responsibility here is exceptionally great.
Putting people in competition with each other on the world market is the root of the process of capitalist globalization. It provides a basis (perhaps the first time that there has been such an objective basis) for international forms of workers’ organization. This is in fact the only way to struggle effectively against the effects of globalization. It is also the main guarantee against reactionary returns to nationalism, against fundamentalist temptations, and against the desperate rush into more and more barbarous wars.
Although still very unevenly in different social sectors or parts of the world, new frameworks for international solidarity are genuinely being born, on a terrain that unifies different forms of resistance to capitalist globalization, the neo-liberal market order and the rule of trans-nationals and big banks. The emergence of new forms of organization is being facilitated by regular collaboration among the various networks involved (in the fight against the IMF and World Bank, debt and structural adjustment, the WTO and the commodification of the world, etc.). In recent years a succession of gatherings has made possible the beginning of a cumulative dynamic, in which experiences are being exchanged, commonly pursued objectives are being clarified, and common programmes and action campaigns are being developed. By continuing this process we can test the new, embryonic forms of internationalism in all their inevitable diversity, and distinguish those which are best suited to bring about the broadest convergence of resistance groups, to express the radicalism of the social movements, and to hone alternatives to the dominant order.
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