Sunday, October 1, 2000

The Movement Against Capitalist Globalization and the Socialist Left

After the events in Prague and the recent, impressive demonstration in Tel Aviv, it seems important to review the relationship between the new movement against capitalist globalization, and its local Israeli segment , and the more veteran revolutionary Marxist organizations. This relationship can be one of great mutual benefit or it can be a source of tensions. Since there are usually more than a few many minor sectarian organizations around which will volunteer to lead the mass movement and demand that it immediately adopt a clear unadulterated program of revolutionary socialism, it is our duty to warn clearly against any such arrogant and patronizing posture.
Even among consistent radicals, very few would currently subscribe to the axiom that the fate of socialism is presently in the hands of a specific revolutionary vanguard party. This was probably true at certain stages in the past and there is enough inner logic in the idea to prevent us from dismissing its potential relevance in the future. We might even argue that the existence of such a party is a minimum condition for the overthrow of capitalism. However, neither the overthrow of capitalism or socialism is imminent, though there is still a sound basis that they can be seen as historically inevitable. Given the rise of a broad, international movement against capitalism, the resumption of socialist education and the dissemination of an alternative socialist vision are indeed an urgent task and a duty of all radicals.
However, this duty must be distinguished from any effort to impose a socialist program on the massive, developing world movement against capitalist globalization and its horrific results. Certainly, the idea that the time has come to insert a socialist plank in the movement against capitalist globalization platform seems logical and reasonable. If hundreds of thousands of young people are saying “NO” to corporate capitalism, why should we not suggest that you must have a “YES” or a positive answer to the problems of our time. Though this approach is usually well intentioned it reveals a serious misreading of the nature of the broad movement, it underestimates its collective wisdom and innovative potential. If the attempt to impose a socialist program on the MACG is carried to its full logic, it will harm the movement and the stature of the left within it.
How the Movement Deals with and Solves the Vanguard Party Dilemma
The movement against capitalist globalization is built around a broad coalition of movements. This includes in addition to the strong representation of environmentalist forces, a broad array of radical movements suggesting revolutionary answers to the problems posed by globalized capitalism. No one objects if these, and all other component parts of the broader movement use the presence of the masses in the street for education and organization. Any group, seeing itself as a vanguard party, which would seek to dominate the movement, will find itself marginalized. It will then be able to comfort itself with the condemnation of the petty-bourgeois nature of the movement and its leadership. This, if I recall correctly, seems to have happened many, many times in the past.What Can be Done
The radical left, eschewing ‘vanguardist’ conceptions and pretensions, must be a model of devotion to the general, overall, interests of the movement. There are four key areas that can be addressed at this early point in the development of the movement. These are 1) the maintenance of unity and overcoming difficult contradictions; 2) the fight against cooption of the movement by the political establishment; 3) building and strengthening links with the unions and the organized working class; 4) active struggle for inclusion of groups and constituencies that do not gravitate easily to the movement’s style and substance. This program is the program of the radical left because it is based on the assumption that the interests of socialism and radical change will best be served by the growth and development of a strong and united movement against global capitalism.
Unity, in then present context means preventing arguments and splits around what appear to be serious conflicts of interest between component parts of the movement. When, for example, a government body claims to close down a workplace on grounds of pollution in the air land or water, eliminating tens or hundreds of jobs, the environmentalists must understand the needs of the workers whose livelihood is threatened. But the workers must also be allied with the forces that demand adaptation to environmental requirements that minimize health danger to the general population. In any event, joint demands against the government should include the interests of all parts of the public, except the profit making enterprises. They make the profits, they must make the adjustments to human needs. Yes, people and not profits.
A second aspect involved in the protection and enhancement of unity is the promotion of a movement code of conduct that starts out from the premise of complete freedom of activity along with abstention from any divisive actions. The distribution of written materials can proceed on the basis of the ‘more the merrier’. The uncoordinated use of loudspeakers or indiscriminate and disproportionate of use of controversial slogans are quite obviously a source of potential tensions. Total freedom of expression must not include the right to manipulate or distort the main, consensual messages of the whole movement. A wise leadership will generate a strong movement public opinion against divisive tactics.
One has to be blind so as not to notice the massive attempts by the world financial and business establishment to co-opt the movement or large sections of it.Listen to their latest line: They have put out the word that much of what the movement against capitalist globalization has to say is valid. The demonstrators are invited in for dialogue and informed that much more could be achieved by working in the system and with its institutions - which also want to reduce poverty and lower debt and encourage sound environmental policy. These pious wishes are designed to weaken determination and to undermine militancy. The basic movement strategy is that fighting opposition in the streets will force concessions from the banks and the funds and their buddies. The stronger the opposition is, the greater the concessions will be. Let’s stay away from the cocktail parties and out of the boardrooms. Negotiations are, of course, part of the struggle. But when these will take place, they will be between the direct victims of capitalist ruthlessness and their direct victims – the super exploited workers, the dispossessed peoples. The subject of those negotiations will be practical and to the point, such as the reduction of super exploitation or new safeguards for the environment.
Turtles and Teamsters – All the Way
One of the most conspicuous gains, perhaps one of historical dimensions, was the cooperation between environmentalists and union leadership at Seattle The organized labor movement is a complex affair. As a rule, and this is true in Israel, it seems an integral part of the establishment. But the participants in the MACG should appreciate that there are serious contradictions between the labor movement and the establishment. The potential of the labor movement as a pivotal force for serious social change should never be forgotten or underestimated. This alliance must be forged on every level, with the national leadership of the unions, with the local union counsels and with the workers in the shops and enterprises.The movement against capitalist gobalization is an international movement based on internationalist principles. It must organize, within its ranks men and women, Jews and Arabs, Mizrakhim and Ashkenazim, veteran Israelis and new immigrants, religious and secular. Some sections of the public gravitate towards the movement, and the growing presence of middle-class educated youth in our ranks is evidence of its appeal. However, we must be conscious of a ‘distance’ between the movement, as it is composed today, and broad sections of the public and we must be aware that there are forces who will make every effort to distort and ridicule our message. A large element in our organizational efforts must be outreach to sections of the public, which are underrepresented in our ranks. The movement against capitalist globalization is a movement of the entire people and this should be reflected in its composition.
The benefits of the success of any progressive mass movement to the revolutionary left are obvious. In a period of mass struggle more and more people will respond to its organizational and educational activity. The prestige of the revolutionary left will also rise if and when its activist prove themselves loyal and devoted activists of mass movement as a whole.
Build Unity, Prevent Co-option, Ally with Labor and Reach Out to All