anti-globalists oppose imperial trade arrangements. We reject that the rich get
richer. We repudiate that the poor get poorer. We laugh at pundits claiming that
globalization positively entwines world centers via new modes of communication
and travel. We guffaw at the claim that globalization expands democracy and
participation. We live and breathe that globalization is another name for
rewriting international norms of commerce, power, and culture. We see that it
further elevates U.S. and European elites. We feel that it weakens national
governments and populations. We know that it strengthens elite conclaves of
corporate bosses. In short, for us globalization is twenty-first century
imperialism. It’s got to be stopped.
given that we are against international inequity and injustice, mustn’t we also
oppose domestic inequity and injustice? As central institutions of international
impoverishment, the WTO, IMF, and World Bank provide obvious targets. What about
the White House? What about Wall Street? What about local Chambers of Commerce?
What about major corporations themselves? What about the information managers
that trumpet globalization from NBC and CBS to local talk radio, and from the NY
Times and Washington Post to local tabloids? And what about the presidential
palaces, stock exchanges, corporations, and mainstream media from Britain to
Thailand, Peru to Australia, Canada to Japan, and Brazil to India?
if we are against profit-seeking, authoritarian usurping of power, and media
manipulation of information, mustn’t we be for just allocations of resources and
wealth, decision-making that gives each actor a say over their lives and
circumstances, and information and culture that respects truth and addresses the
needs of large populations?
Against profit and competition, we advocate equity and cooperation. Against
exclusion and authority, we advocate participation and self-management. Against
lies and manipulation, we advocate truth and honest exchange.
anti-globalization activism is an international phenomenon, a very serious
business. At stake are not only critical proximate institutions like the IMF and
World Bank, but also the capitalist markets and ownership relations that
engender “globalization” in the first place.
attain the size, comprehension, and commitment to not only stir up awareness,
but galvanize it into sustained activism and to then parlay that sustained
activism into increasing social costs that elites succumb to, we need to design
movement agendas that inspire widespread interest and provide means for
widespread on-going participation. We need movement focuses that are diverse and
multiple, that are local, national, and international, and that are continuous
and not once or twice yearly.
which way for anti-globalization? Some suggestions.
The anti-globalization movement needs to highlight what it is aiming for.
We need to clarify our alternatives for international relations and also for
what we mean by a cooperative and just economy able to improve people’s lives
domestically as well as internationally. We need to crystallize our rejection of
authoritarian trade institutions, of course, but as a foundation for that also
our attitude to corporations and markets and our vision of replacements for
each. Of course, attaining shared goals won’t happen by magic hand-waving. We
won’t conquer the vision problem unless we address such matters together, debate
them, explore them, begin to attain some useful agreements about them, and then
put the results forth as widely as we can. The media and more importantly our
potential political allies repeatedly ask us “what do you want?” Making headway
requires that we answer intelligently, convincingly, and passionately.
We also need to re-emphasize reaching out as widely as possible and
providing means of participation for as many new people as we can interest. We
need to unequivocally understand that our strategic goal isn’t to have a small
army of courageous, creative, insightful, and bold dissidents. We need many in
motion, not few, no matter how good the few may be. And for our goals, thousands
and even tens of thousands are still few. To attain needed size and scope, we
have to correct the appearance that anti-globalization requires traveling to
distant cities and demonstrating in the midst of clubs and tear gas, much less
hurling paving stones and dodging rubber bullets. First, few people will jump
from no involvement to such confrontation in one vast leap, even if they may
become highly militant at some point in their future experience. Second, few
people are in position to do that kind of thing regardless of their desires.
They don’t have the time, the freedom, or the funds. They aren’t physically,
emotionally, familially, or occupationally in a position to act thusly. Or they
doubt the efficacy. So the facts are simple. (i) A movement that can win change
in international trade relations needs millions and even tens of millions and
certainly not merely thousands of participants. (ii) People aren’t really
movement participants unless they are doing things in a sustained, on-going way
within the movement. So (iii) it follows that to grow sufficiently to win, our
movement needs to offer things for people to do where they live and in accord
with their dispositions and possibilities.
Indymedia is an amazing and glorious outgrowth of the anti-globalization
project. But what if these new organizations located all around the world, were
to take up a second agenda? They are now committed and should remain committed
to finding new ways to convey dissenting information to local audiences. That
priority should not stop nor diminish. But what about also becoming the nuclei
around which activism against mainstream media can gel? What about indymedia
organizations sponsoring regional gatherings that set up organizing projects to
raise consciousness about mainstream media and to then plan and carry out mass
rallies and other demonstrations directed at mainstream media? Wouldn’t that add
a new dimension, a new set of focuses, and a whole new tone and dynamic to our
To win we need to generate a trajectory of activism that elites cannot
repress away or manipulatively derail, and which they also can’t calmly abide.
That is the logic of social change in the near and even middle term. But what is
it that threatens elites, that can’t be repressed away, and that can’t be
manipulated off course? The only answer I know of is rapidly growing numbers of
dissidents, varied diversifying focuses of their dissent, and steadily
escalating commitment and militancy of their tactics. To succeed, we need not
just one of these, nor even two, but all three. (i) Our movements need to be
multi-tactical in ways that help each constituency manifest its aims without the
efforts of a few trumping all visibility, tone, and content of the rest. (ii)
Our movements need to be multi-issue, enabling each constituency to mount its
priority claims and aspirations, with none drowning out the others and each
finding means to support the rest. For example, can’t globalization activists
mobilize on behalf of the work of living wage activists, of unionists striking
their employers, of solidarity workers trying to find international space for
East Timor, of anti-war activists bracing to aid Colombia, and with people of
color organizing against police repression, racist violence, and impoverishment?
(iii) Our movements need to have a militant edge that graphically displays a
rising tide of anger and commitment, but which also remains in close touch with
the main body, operating to propel its growth. In other words, if aggressive
civil disobedience is the largest manifestation of our dissent at the targets we
pick, it will have little power. On the other hand, if aggressive civil
disobedience grows naturally from and resides comfortably atop a growing
mountain of broader dissent, with hundreds of thousands and then millions of
people in country after country involved below but no less visibly than those
who are most confrontational—then we will be on the road to serious social
change. All this has been getting steadily better in many respects in recent
months, and we need to keep these aims in the forefront as we proceed.
Finally, we also need some clarity about violence. It’s simple. The state
has a monopoly of it. What that means is that there is no way for the public,
most particularly in developed first world societies, to compete on the field of
violence with their governments. That ought to be utterly and blatantly obvious.
Our strong suit is information, facts, justice, disobedience, and especially
numbers. In sum: politics. Their strong suit is lying and especially exerting
military power. A contest of escalating violence is a contest we are doomed to
lose. A contest in which numbers and commitment and increasingly militant
non-violent activism confronts state power is a contest we can win. Yes, the
impetus to manifest anger is powerful. But there is nothing courageous or
strategic about charting a path directly into the lion’s mouth. Our tactical
sense must couple to strategic plans aimed at winning. We can have teach-ins. We
can have rallies. We can have marches. We can have strikes. We can build our own
blockades. We can utilize all manner of creativity and playfulness amidst our
dissent. We can go out and talk to people. We can obstruct. We can destroy
property when doing so sends a clear and coherent message. We can hurl back tear
gas canisters in self defense and tear down walls and other obstacles to remain
mobile. But to attack the police with the intent of doing bodily harm, whether
with stones or Molotov cocktails, simply invites further escalation of their
violence. It does nothing to hinder elite agendas but instead propels and
legitimates them. Anger-fed violence is hard avoid in some situations, I well
know. But avoid it we must.