is too much at stake for social change to be a game. But if it were a game, the
side that had the ability to think many moves ahead, anticipate its opponents
moves, know what its goal was and move toward it relentlessly, would have huge
advantages over the side that didn’t.
just read ‘Globalization from Below’ by Jeremy Brecher, Tim Costello, and
Brendan Smith. They have put together a ‘Draft of a Global Program’. This is a
positive program that all the groups in the movement against corporate
globalization can look at, debate, and move forward with. The 7 point plan is:
Level labor, environmental, social, and human rights conditions upward 2)
Democratize institutions at every level from local to global 3) Make decisions
as close as possible to those they affect 4) Equalize global wealth and power 5)
Convert the global economy to environmental sustainability 6) Create prosperity
by meeting human and environmental needs 7) Protect against global boom and bust
go into detail on each point. Under ‘equalizing wealth and power’, for example,
they talk about canceling international debts, about making global markets work
for developing countries, and providing developing countries access to technical
are some left economists (Arthur McEwen, Patrick Bond, Walden Bello, Robin
Hahnel) who have made plans for replacing the ‘global financial architecture’ we
have now with one that would give the third world a chance to develop and get
the first world on a trajectory to environmental sustainability and full
employment. Their proposals include capital controls, taxes on financial
speculation, and social investment and spending by governments.
Between ‘globalization from below’, and these economists, it seems to me that
the anti-globalization forces have plenty of plans to take them forward, for
quite a while. Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t know what we want. We want
full employment at living wages with job security. We want air we can breathe,
water we can drink, food we can eat, and some confidence we’re not all going to
fry tomorrow because of global warming. Fewer prisons, more education, more
health care. A lot of friends in the third world would be thrilled to not have
to worry about being displaced or killed for a hydroelectric project, oil well,
or piece of land.
and every one of these things, and many more of the things we are for, can be
won. And then lost again, because holding on to them while markets, racism,
colonialism, and sexism persist is as hard a fight as winning them in the first
place. Brecher, Costello, and Smith’s wonderful, humane program takes us to a
much better world. But could we keep that world, and those gains? Or would they
be rolled back by the system we’re fighting?
Where’s the harm in thinking a few more moves ahead? How much further than that
would we have to go so that holding on to the gains we’ve won against all the
pressures of the system isn’t something we have to worry about? If we’re strong
enough to get that far, are we strong enough to replace the system with one
whose pressures are in positive directions? Would it be unrealistic to think so
far ahead? Divisive? Would we be accused of being silly dreamers if we did? Is
there anyone who has bothered to read this far who hasn’t been called a silly
not easy to turn a participatory economy into a sound bite, but when someone
asks me what I’d replace capitalism with, I say an economy where people are paid
according to effort, where everyone is skilled and works a fair share of the
skilled and unskilled work, and where prices for things are set by a system that
takes into account their social (how much sweat and pain and danger went into
them) and environmental (how much pollution did they make and what will it take
to clean it up) costs.
Economists (Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel) have worked this economy out in
some detail too, but like all the other proposals, it’s not going anywhere until
it gets taken up and taken over by many, many working people who like it and see
it as one of the moves we’re going to make, together, down the road.
Albert and Hahnel talk mostly about a domestic economy in their participatory
economics books. Their principles of international trade between pareconomies
are that the terms should benefit the poorer economy more than the richer. In
other words, participatory economies would make sure their international trading
decreased global inequality. It’s not surprising that this fits nicely with
Brecher, Costello, and Smith’s program.
enough. But keep dreaming with me for a few more minutes.
Globalization isn’t going anywhere. The kind of globalization we’re seeing now
is, hopefully, going to the trash, but people are going to travel, communicate,
exchange information and ideas, more and more. That’s not going to change (and
why should it?). And in the world today, there are corporate economies that are
bigger than some countries.
(remember you’re still dreaming) imagine we’re quite a few moves ahead. Brecher,
Costello and Smith’s global program has been largely implemented. Amnesty
International is bored for a lack of work, eager human rights workers are
sitting on their heels. Left governments have been elected in a number of
countries, with movements to keep them honest. Corporations are seen as
only people still locked up are violent offenders like Henry Kissinger, and even
they are being rehabilitated. Workers at a Bridgestone/Firestone plant in
Argentina, who are secure with universal health care, free education for their
children supported by the highly leftist police union (you promised you’d keep
dreaming!), with plenty of bargaining power in a full-employment situation, are
now highly knowledgeable about the intricacies of the business and budgets
because their democratic union has made progress breaking managers’ monopoly
over this knowledge, realizes that competition in the international market could
erode all the gains they have made until now. They are competing with
Bridgestone/Firestone plants in Brazil and the US. What are they to do?
Management would like to cut some of their benefits or move the plant, but
doesn’t dare say so, or threaten to close up shop. But these workers are experts
in international solidarity. They already have contacts with their co-workers in
Brazil and the US. They struck long ago to help their co-workers in the US to
retain their jobs. They see no choice but to take over the plant and coordinate
their production with the workers in the same industry in other countries. Cut
out the market altogether and start negotiating inputs and outputs with the
consumer and worker councils that have arisen in other industries.
Afterwards, in the process of planning with workers in the global industry and
consumers of the products, prices would come into line with social and
environmental costs-and the workers might end up retooling and retraining to
produce bicycle tires for domestic consumption.
worker at this plant, instead of doing her taxes at the end of the year, would
figure out how much she wanted to consume and how much she wanted to work. This
information would be put together with everyone else’s preferences and combined
to create a plan for what the economy would produce. She would take part in
decisions on how much to spend on a community center or swimming pool in her
community in a community council where she lived, and decisions on how to invest
and plan for the plant and industry’s future at her workplace. It’s true, she
would have to think carefully about her preferences, her community’s best
interests, and her workplace. She wouldn’t have to worry about market
competition, capital flight, or miserable working conditions.
tens or hundreds of thousands who have already signed up for this project know
that winning reforms in this system is an uphill, but not impossible, battle. To
convince millions more, we will need to demonstrate not only that we can win
changes, but that we can go beyond stalemate and uphill battles to a system
where the pressures are towards freedom, equality, and solidarity and not
friend of mine compared social change to building sandcastles near the surf. You
can build something nice, but the tides are going to wash it away eventually.
I’ve met many people who think of social change, and its advocates, that way:
‘You people sure have a nice castle in mind, too bad it’s made of sand.’ Can we
build something more solid? If we can, we should say so.
you don’t have a plan, chances are you’re part of someone else’s. If you don’t
dream, you’re probably living out someone else’s dream. As silly as it feels
sometimes, maybe it’s worth dreaming a little further.