An A-Z of the “global justice” movement

Submitted by Anon on 9 October, 2004 - 12:01

A is for ATTAC

The biggest “movement for another globalisation” in France, which has a large international network. It has a considerable overlap with official politics, for example in the French Socialist Party. But some revolutionaries are active within it.

ATTAC France was launched in June 1998, following a call for an “Association for the Tobin Tax for Aid to Citizens” in the December 1997 issue of the magazine Le Monde Diplomatique. It now has more than 30,000 members, and other national ATTAC groups tens of thousands. For Tobin Tax, see T, below.

There is an ATTAC-Britain, but, according to ATTAC’s president, Bernard Cassen, “Britain is an exception [in the growth of ATTAC], since there the ground is already occupied by powerful NGOs like Oxfam, Friends of the Earth and War on Want...”

The international ATTAC movement defines its aims as follows:
* to reconquer space lost by democracy to the sphere of finance,
* to oppose any new abandonment of national sovereignty on the pretext of the “rights” of investors and merchants,
* to create a democratic space at the global level.
Marxists have criticised ATTAC for its narrow focus on finance, rather than capital in general, and its adherence to “national sovereignty”.
See the ATTAC website and the interview with Bernard Cassen, quoted above.

B is for Black Bloc

The most publicised, but not necessarily the biggest, component of anarchist participation in the “new anti-capitalist movement”.

According to a sympathetic (US) anarchist website: “A black bloc is a collection of anarchists and anarchist affinity groups that organize together for a particular protest action. The flavor of the black bloc changes from action to action, but the main goals are to provide solidarity in the face of a repressive police state and to convey an anarchist critique of whatever is being protested that day”. They explain that “black bloc” is a method of organising, not a movement. Not all anarchists support it.

Sometimes (not always) “black blocs” have been groups all dressed in black, masked, and bent on violent confrontation with the police.

Click here to find out more

C is for counter-power

(Or “autonomy”, or “anti-power”). The concept of organising an alternative social power as a counter to existing authority. Strange overlaps can be found here between the “ultra-left” of the movement, anarchists and “autonomists” like the Disobedienti, and the “right wing”, like ATTAC. Marxists desire counter-power, in a sense, but see it as a matter of working-class organisation and struggle face-to-face with capital, not as a project for “civil society” in general, or for establishing enclaves away from capital.

D is for Disobedienti

Formerly known as Tutti Bianchi or White Overalls, in Italy. They explain: “The fact that we don’t call ourselves ‘anarchists’ stems both from the history and the present of the European far left, whose most advanced and intelligent currents have long bridged the gap between ‘socialists’, ‘communists’ and ‘anarchists’...

“There’s a long tradition of anti-authoritarian communists who antagonised Stalinism, the Soviet Union and the party-form itself, guys like Anton Pannekoek in Holland and Otto Ruehle in Germany...

“Our theoretical approach still derives from Karl Marx’s Grundrisse [a rough draft of Capital, written in 1857-8, and containing many thoughts never finalised by Marx for his published book]... thinkers like Toni Negri... and the notion of ‘cultural hegemony’ devised by [the Italian revolutionary Marxist] Antonio Gramsci 70 years ago. At the same time, we are beyond all that and have a clear Zapatista influence in the way we speak, organize and take action.”

See the Disobedienti web site and our discussion on the relevance of Grundrisse today

E is for Euro-left

The working-class left needs to unite across Europe. A lot more work needs to be done to create a solid political basis for that unity.

In the June 2003 Euro-elections there were two “Euro-left” lash-ups. One, the Party of the European Left (PEL), was initiated by Italy’s Rifondazione.

Rifondazione has sometimes worked with the radical left, but for its Euro-party it linked up with the French Communist Party (junior partner in government for many years recently of the Blairish French Socialist Party), the German PDS, and some other old Communist Parties or ex-Communist Parties. More unrepentantly old-style CPs were left out.

The European Anti-Capitalist Left (EACL), a loose network of more radical groups, published a manifesto for the June elections, signed by the French LCR, the Scottish Socialist Party, the Greek group Synaspismos, the Left Bloc of Portugal, the Red Green Alliance of Denmark, the British SWP, the Luxemburg left, and two Spanish groups.

And by the Respect coalition in England, one of whose leading candidates, Anas Altikriti, declared that his religious beliefs told him that there will always be rich and poor but that can be kept in check so long as the rich are charitable to the poor! Which gained its strongest votes by appealing to Muslims to vote as Muslims for George Galloway as a “fighter for Muslims”.

In hard positive political commitments, the EACL manifesto was no less weak and lightweight than the PEL’s.

It lacked a clear working-class focus as much as the PEL manifesto did, referring only to “an extraordinary mobilisation of all progressive forces”, or “the radical forces... anti-capitalist and ecologist, anti-imperialist and anti-war, feminist and for citizenship, anti-racist and internationalist”..

It denounced the European Union in paranoid-nationalist terms — “Governments are more fragile, but the EU... is a machine to destroy the social and democratic gains that the working classes have won in 150 years of battle” — and in the same document proposed the most naïve demands on the same capitalist EU which it had said “cannot be reformed” — for the EU to “renounce the use of war” and adopt the Tobin Tax (an international tax on foreign-exchange transactions) as “a step to attack neo-liberal capitalism”.

Solidarity and Workers’ Liberty are developing discussions with other revolutionaries, across Europe, for a more solid political basis for Euro-left unity.

Check out Workers’ Liberty international and the Euro-left (and EACL and PEL) documents on this site.

G is for People’s Global Action

A coordinating body for the strand in the movement made most famous by the Disobedienti [see D, and N for Negri].

According to them, “PGA is not an organisation and has no members. However PGA aims to be an organised network... PGA grew out of the international Zapatista [see Z] gatherings in 1996 and 1997, and was formed as a space for direct and unmediated contact between autonomous groups...”

Their hallmarks are: “A very clear rejection of capitalism, imperialism and feudalism, and all trade agreements, institutions and governments that promote destructive globalisation... of all forms and systems of domination and discrimination including... patriarchy, racism and religious fundamentalism of all creeds.

“A confrontational attitude... A call to direct action and civil disobedience... An organisational philosophy based on decentralisation and autonomy.”

M is for Le Monde Diplomatique

The title, translated into English, is simply “The Diplomatic World”, and originally this monthly magazine was an international-affairs supplement to Le Monde, a daily which has approximately the same place in France as the Guardian has in Britain.

Improbably, it has become the main organ of an important strand of the “new anti-capitalist movement”, ATTAC and similar.

N is for Toni Negri

Whose book Empire, written with Michael Hardt, has become a best-seller in the new anti-capitalist movements. The political current with which Negri is broadly identified is called “autonomism”. Key ideas: that the world system today is not “imperialism”, but “Empire”, a more diffuse network; that the revolutionary force is no longer the working class, but “the multitude”, which by “refusal, desertion, exodus and nomadism” can produce “a kind of spontaneous and elementary communism”.

Check out a review of Empire or read more on autonomist Marxism

O is for NGOs, Non-Governmental Organisations

These are organisations run not for profit, but not by governments either. Some are very old, and in no way left-wing — churches, for example. But there are an increasing number of NGOs which provide information and material criticising global neo-liberalism, and which sometimes organise local activist groups. Oxfam, War on Want, and Amnesty International are well-known in Britain.

World-wide there are hundreds of thousands of NGOs.

Opinions in the “new anti-capitalist” movement vary, from those seeing NGOs as the core of a new global “civil society” which can begin to counter global capital, through those who see the more radical NGOs as valuable resource-providers so long as the activist movement keeps its political independence and edge, to those seeing them as just the liberal face of 21st-century capitalism.

R is for the Rifondazione

The Italian Party of Communist Refoundation, Europe’s largest radical-left party, with 100,000 members.

All across Western Europe, the old Communist Parties have decayed or dissolved themselves since 1989-91, or morphed into old-Labour-type parties, like the French Communist Party today. The one exception was the Italian Communist Party.

Its majority has renamed itself Democratic Left and is pretty much Blairite. A minority formed Rifondazione. A lot of activists to the left of the old Communist Party joined the new party.

The old Moscow-style “Communist” element in Rifondazione, initially large, has diminished, and the party now declares itself strongly anti-Stalinist. It is more left-wing and has a more democratic way of operating than the old Communist Parties: but see E for Euro-left.

S is for Social Forums

The first World Social Forum was organised in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in January 2001, as a counter to the World Economic Forum, which was then having one of its regular meetings in the luxury Swiss resort of Davos.

The WEF brings together representatives of multinational corporations and governments to decide how best to shape the world for global capital. The World Social Forum wanted to assert social values against it.

The initiative came from ATTAC-France and the Workers’ Party in Brazil (see L for Lula).

The first WSF was huge, with 20,000 participants. Large numbers of international delegates from better-off NGOs and lots of UN agencies mingled with thousands of local activists — and two ministers from the French government.

Porto Alegre 2002 was even bigger (50,000) and decided to call for Regional Social Forums.

T is for Tobin Tax

The headline demand of ATTAC. It means a worldwide tax of 0.1% on all currency-exchange transactions. At present such transactions — exchanging dollars for euros, or pounds for yen, and so on — run at the huge rate of $1.9 trillion a day.

Marxist critics of the Tobin Tax say it is suitable neither as an immediate stepping-stone demand (because it does not start from grass-roots workers’ struggles, and yet it would need a vast international mobilisation to enforce it on all the world’s governments and all the vested interests of international finance); nor as a full-scale answer to capitalism (if you have that vast international mobilisation, why limit yourself to taking only 0.1% from the super-rich?).

More on the Tobin Tax on this site

W is for workers

Many of the strands of the “new anti-capitalist” movement see their battle as one of “the people” in general against capital (or, for ATTAC, against international finance; for some anarchists, against firmly organised structures of any sort). Marxists see the interface between wage-labour and capital as the pivot of the whole system, and the key force for change as workers’ struggle against capital. Some supposed Marxists, however, have tended to sink their politics into the idea of “the people” in general, as in the SWP’s “Respect” coalition.

More about workers on this site

Z is for Zapatista

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) originated in the Chiapas rebellion, an armed uprising by 2,000 Mayan Indian peasants in southern Mexico in January 1994. But their leaders proposed a different strategy from other other “armies of national liberation” or guerrilla forces, stating that they did not wish to take power, and instead trying to develop a “counter-power” in alliance with other left-wing forces.

They have had a big influence on the “new anti-capitalist” movement, especially its anarchist and autonomist strands.

See here or here for more on the Zapatistas or go here for background on Mexican politics

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