Radical media, politics and culture.

Anti-Capitalism...(Part Two)

Anti-Capitalism as Ideology...and as Movement (Part Two)

The "movement" according to the traditional left[44]

One of the features of the scene out of which the "anti-capitalist
movement" germinated in Britain was the relative absence of the organized
left - in particular, the absence of the largest Trotskyist sect in
Britain, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). If Trotskyist groups can
be situated on a spectrum of purism to opportunism, the SWP can clearly
be located at the opportunist end. Any hint of a movement or campaign
developing in response to a state attack, a rise in racism, a war
or whatever, is met by an effort to set up or promote a front by the
SWP. However, efforts to relate at a local level to anti-roads and
similar campaigns fell flat, and their setting up of a front against
the Criminal Justice Bill (CJB) in 1994 also met with little success.[45]

After the CJB, it seems that their high command judged this lumpen
scene not to be particularly fertile for them and should be left alone.
Perhaps the SWP also felt that there was now a danger that, far from
gaining recruits they might actually lose some members to this scene's
more enjoyable, less sacrificial, ideas about political activity.
When the SWP did later try to connect with the anti-"globalization"
activities, it was through a "drop the debt" campaign, which attempted
to appeal to the more liberal and church-linked groups in and around
events such as the Birmingham G7 demo in 1998.

The SWP as the radical liberal alternative

However, sometime after J18, when a "protest" physically attacked
the world's third largest financial centre, and at which the SWP were
almost completely absent, it appears a shift occurred. It was following
the events at Seattle that Trotskyist groups started getting very
excited about what they called the "anti-capitalist movement". For
example, the SWP and Workers Power (another, smaller, Trot sect) attended
the Milan conference of People's Global Action (PGA - see Box, over
page) in April, but were denied speaking rights through the intervention
of RTS types who continue to be the basis of PGA in the UK.

The SWP have also been engaging with the leading progressive-liberal
entrepreneurs, Monbiot, Susan George, Walden Bello and Naomi Klein.
They debate on the same platform with them, invite them to speak at
their annual "Marxism" conference and they publish articles by these
people in SWP journals. They have also launched a new front organization,
"Globalise Resistance", perhaps their major recuperative attempt since
the CJB. As with any other SWP front, its figureheads number non-SWP
people: there is Tony Benn[46] as usual, but also the green media
celebrity Monbiot. Globalise Resistance bills itself as one of the
major organizing groups of Mayday 2001.[47] (That is, they were the
ones making the cops' job easier by encouraging people into the police

The SWP have complemented these debates and this organizational activity
with considerable ideological work in (re-)writing the history of
the ‘anti-capitalist movement’. While
giving a passing nod to J18 - for most of us the first of the "anti-capitalist"
mass mobilizations[49] - the SWP, like most of the Western left, date
the beginning of the movement from the events at Seattle.[50] In a
way, this is justified. Seattle targeted an international Summit,
while J18 in London targeted City institutions rather than a particular
Summit. Moreover, Seattle was not only extremely large (especially
for the USA which has seen so little mass action in recent years)
but also effective in its aims. But, against this, Seattle had other
features which make it controversial as a "start date" for the "movement":
in particular, as mentioned above, it was dominated by a progressive-liberal
tendency, which eschewed violence and which attempted to marginalize
the most radical and militant elements.

Debating with the progressive-liberals and neglecting certain features
of the history of the "movement" serves to position the SWP as the
radical alternative. The SWP's intellectuals can acknowledge the strength
of the critique of "globalization" offered by Monbiot, George etc.
but then go on to demonstrate that these liberals lack both a properly
historical understanding of the logic of capitalism and the organizational
form supposedly capable of ending the "iniquities of capitalism".
This places them on the same side as these liberals and yet at the
same time apparently more critical and practical.
Of course, people will and do find the liberal approach deeply inadequate;
the SWP hope that people's search for a radical alternative within
a context they can define will make the SWP attractive. In a context
which includes other, more radical, alternatives, however, the SWP's
position is jeopardized. While they have given a lot of space and
attention to detail to the liberals, they are wilfully vague about
and neglectful of the anarchists, black bloc, "white overalls" and
others. After Genoa, they couldn't report on events without confronting
these tendencies; but they still managed to do so in a cursory and
inadequate manner.[51]

It might be surprising that someone like Monbiot, who denounced RTS
after Mayday 2000 for taking the "wrong path", now links up with old-style
Trots. But, in a way, it is not surprising at all. The SWP and Monbiot
support each other through their shared activities, giving each other
audiences and publicity. Moreover, both are sincere in their support
for respectable non-violence. Finally, in fact their programmes are
not so different from each other. Those observing the SWP in action
today will be aware that they appear to have shifted to the right.
Indeed, their practice in Globalise Resistance indicates that they
are now trying to position themselves as respectable liberals. Starting
perhaps with their "drop the debt" campaign, there was an increased
attempt to recruit those with liberal criticisms of capital.[52] This
loosening of the party doctrine overlapped with the agenda of Monbiot
and similar non-Marxist liberals. In both cases, there is, implicitly
or otherwise, the demand that the state intervene more to limit international
finance capital. In theory, as Leninists, the SWP would of course
argue that the (bourgeois) state cannot simply be taken over but must
be smashed to make way for a "workers' state". But, as opportunists,
the SWP are virtually like their liberal partners, treating the state
as a reformable, neutral organ rather than a historically necessary
function of capital accumulation.

More boring "politics"

On this question of the state, many have seen in the UK "anti-capitalist"
mobilizations and their precursors an alternative to the ballot box:
thousands attempting to take some form of direct action because the
institutions of democracy are understood as part of the problem. But
for the SWP, the mobilizations are an opportunity for giving this
alienated means a new-found importance and relevance. Thus they are
promoting the Socialist Alliance as a means to achieve the supposed
aims of the "anti-capitalist movement", attempting to drag people
back into the dead end of electoral politics.[53]

Another exciting feature of some of the "anti-capitalist" mobilizations
and their RTS precursors, at least in this country, has been the way
they have on occasions linked up with workers in struggle. Examples
include the 1997 RTS party-protest with sacked dockworkers in Trafalgar
Square (the "March for Social Justice"), the occupation of Merseyside
docks, and the rail and office occupations in support of striking
tube workers in 1996. In these examples, rather than the passive solidarity
and tail-ending of union initiatives usually offered by those outside
a group of workers on strike, there was an attempt to intervene through
the methods of the direct action movement. In some cases, both workers
and activists were inspired by what happened; they came to a different
view of each other and of the possibilities of struggle linking "bread-and-butter"
issues (such as wages and conditions) with "utopian" desires (revolution,
ecological resistance).[54] As we suggested at the time, the very
weakness of the labour movement - its inability to deliver in its
own terms - was part of the reason why the support in the form of
RTS occupations became so important to some workers' struggles:[55]
as the effectiveness of the mediations of the labour movement has
declined, so "direct action" has become more necessary and relevant.

However, the SWP and other Trotskyists have found other reasons to
be excited about the "movement". In particular, the convergence on
and shut-down of the WTO conference in Seattle involved not just the
environmentalist movement and the anti-debt and sweatshop campaigners
but a substantial demonstration organized by the AFL-CIO, the US equivalent
of the TUC. For the SWP, the "anti-capitalist movement" is and must
be grounded in various trade union struggles around the world. As
such it is also a lifeline to the continued meaningfulness of the
unions: for the Trots, links between the unions and others in the
"anti-capitalist" movement are essential. What the SWP do not fully
acknowledge, however, is the resistance of workers to their unions
even within the mobilizations. Thus, for example, although the trade
unions organized a traditional march at Seattle, many of the workers
on it rejected it and instead joined in the direct action of the more
militant elements.[56]

Why are the unions and elections so important? Because the promise
and ultimate disillusionment that trade union action and electoral
ballots supposedly engender when people use these methods against
capitalism is the principal means through which the working class
is supposed to be enlightened as to the necessity of the Trotskyist
version of revolution. The SWP criticize the liberals' demand for
a Tobin tax as a demand which won't work within capitalism.[57] But
their own strategy of making social democratic demands (e.g., the
"drop the debt" campaign, re-nationalizations and their other electoral
platforms) is different in only one respect: the SWP claim (internally)
that they don't believe that such demands are fully tenable within
(currently existing) capitalism.

The bad faith of the Trotskyists is of course disgusting; one might
wonder how they can respect themselves in setting out to encourage
others to be "disillusioned" - but of course the main people with
illusions are the Trots themselves. However, this bad faith is a function
not of a moral failing but a theoretical one. Leninism links a conception
of capital as essentially the anarchy of the market (and thus a definition
of socialism as state management of capital) with a conception of
the working class subject as passive and capable of no more than a
"trade union consciousness" without the intervention of enlightened
(party) types.[58] The drive for recruitment and building the party
organization as something in practice distinct from a wider social
movement, and their identification of their particular sect as "The
Party", reflects the view that the Leninist party form is the highest
form of consciousness and hence the necessary catalyst for successful
struggle. But it is struggle itself which dispels mystification -
and the educators themselves must be educated. The fetishism of the
party means that the party has its own dynamic - its own needs - and
there's no reason to suppose that they correspond with those of the
particular struggle or the proletariat in general. Indeed, given that
the party endorses the myth of working class passivity, there is every
reason to expect a lack of correspondence. Where correspondence does
occur it is in spite of not because of the party.[59] This is why
those in struggle are so often ahead of the party hacks, despite the
latter's "Marxist" education.

The moment of truth in the SWP's approach is their attempt to relate
to working class struggles: that is, their attempt to grasp the recent
mobilizations as an issue of class. This makes their analysis superior
to that of the progressive liberals. The problem is, first, how the
SWP identify the class with its representation (i.e. the labour movement),
and, second, the way that they relate to such working class struggles:
as hacks rather than as human beings. Given what many of us have experienced
of this party "hack-tivism" over the past 20 years, not just from
the SWP but from the other Trots (most notoriously perhaps the example
of Militant in the poll tax struggle), it is perhaps understandable
that some feel threatened by the interest taken by the Trots in the
"movement" following Seattle. However, we would suggest that the threat
of the SWP taking over through one of their fronts is perhaps more
apparent than real.[60] The SWP have been in crisis for some time:
the death of Tony Cliff, the re-organization of the branch structure
and the problem of how to relate to the Socialist Alliance have each
undermined the smooth functioning of the party machine.
Moreover, the very amorphousness and lack of structure of the "anti-capitalist
movement" in this country makes it difficult for the SWP to take over
in the usual way. Further, the opening up of the party, and its reduced
ability to close up again, offers the possibility of many of its members
being less hack-like. Their decreased certainty in their specialist
role may make them as individuals less of a block on the class struggle.

Perhaps the real threat, if any, of the SWP and their ilk is that,
by successfully defining a terrain in which they represent "radical
politics", they actually put people off "radical politics" in the
broader sense. Of course, most people in the UK who have been to the
"anti-capitalist" mobilizations already know of the SWP and their
manoeuvres, and are not likely to get involved with them. However,
the mass presence of the SWP can still serve to put off those people
who hoped that the "movement" was an alternative to the same old boring

The relation of Ya Basta! to the mobilizations

For some people in the UK, the approach of Ya Basta! - the white overalls
tactic - has made them appear a refreshing new approach which is militantly
"anti-capitalist" yet which goes beyond both the lack of organization
of the black bloc and the crude workerism of the Trots. An indication
of the influence of Ya Basta! is the adoption of the white overalls
tactic by other groups with semi-humorous names (e.g. Wombles in the
UK and Wombats in Australia[62]). The political background of Ya Basta!
(in the remnants of the autonomia movement) and their own inspiration
(the Zapatistas) also appears to give them some credibility. The ability
of Ya Basta! to achieve their aims - hi-jacking trains, running social
centres, resisting the violence of the cops - adds further to their
appeal: here, it would seem to many, is a tendency powerful enough
to make "anti-capitalist" desires a concrete reality.

Symbols for citizens

However, some have experienced the practice of Ya Basta! on demonstrations

as hardly any less alienating than the old style Leninist parties
whose "outdated" approach they have supposedly transcended: they are
essentially another hierarchical organization which, to achieve its
aims, will effectively stifle other tendencies in the crowd.[63]

And what are those aims anyway? The reasons for dressing up in white
padding and fronting a demo include that of supposedly exposing the
brutality of the cops[64] and defining a new "middle way" between
violence and non-violence. In an Italian political climate in which
violence is almost routine, Ya Basta! have to at least present themselves
as confrontational to gain radical credibility.[65] Yet it is a symbolic
form of confrontation; and indeed all their public statements stress
the importance of "symbols" and "communication".
Ya Basta! hotly deny the accusations that their confrontations are
pre-arranged with the cops, citing real injuries to their people (e.g.
in Milan, January 2000) as evidence.[66] Yet after Genoa, the white
overalls leader Luca Casarini, bleated that the police deceived the
white overalls by disregarding mutually agreed guidelines![67] Ya
Basta! sneer at the notion of the spectacle[68] because they do indeed
think that the message counts for more than the practice that carries
it. Their activity is oriented essentially towards "civil society"
via the mass media.

But who do they think is witnessing their actions through the media?
Who are these poor souls who need Ya Basta!'s symbolic confrontations
in order to grasp the nature of the cops? The rejection of a "blue
collar" identity on the part of Ya Basta! and the other white overalls
is linked with a "post-Fordist" despair that the working class itself
can be the subject of history.[69] Hence, particularly in northern
Italy, the audience to which Ya Basta! is attempting to appeal would
appear to be the same middle class student constituency which defines
the background of their leadership.

In the south of Italy where conditions are much harsher, more supporters
of Ya Basta! are from working class backgrounds. But the involvement
of more proletarian elements in Ya Basta! is part of the very recuperation
we are describing. The focus on the media and aim of exposing the
cops, which would seem superfluous to most working class people, derives
from the leadership of the organization as a whole, which is middle
class and university-educated.

If the emphasis on the image smacks of post-modernism, then it is
consistent with Ya Basta!'s politics. They draw upon the Grundrisse,
they say - but in the same way as the late Negri: both abandon the
notion of the proletariat as the universal class capable of grasping
and transcending capital as a totality. Hence they are certainly not
"communists".[70] And not revolutionaries either: rather than abolishing
the state and capital they are struggling - through such imaginary
means as a "general citizenship strike" - for the full realization
of the bourgeois subject in the form of a citizens' income and other
universal rights,[71] and with no sense that these are merely "transitional
demands". The subject of this struggle is the "multitude" - in particular,
the "invisibles", such as sans papiers, symbolized by the wearing
of white overalls.

On the one hand Ya Basta! and the other white overalls take the post-autonomia/post-modernist
line that difference and plurality - i.e. fragmentation - is the movement's
strength, that all sorts of different tactics are necessary. They
even refer to their support for and co-operation with the black bloc
at Quebec and Gothenburg.[72] On the other hand, they have also attacked
those whose tactics differ from their own. Some of them fought against
black bloc types at Genoa, then blamed them for the police violence.
Yet while Ya Basta! accuse the black bloc of being infiltrated by
the cops, they themselves co-operate with the cops all the time. While
a critique of the black bloc approach is necessary, Ya Basta!'s analysis
of tactics here is as mistaken as it is disingenuous. The fact is
that Ya Basta!'s "symbolic" approach simply didn't work at Genoa because
the cops decided to go in really hard: they were concerned that the
crowds at Genoa did not disrupt the conference, as at previous gatherings.
Where Ya Basta!'s methods did work it was in spite of the aims of
the organizers: their shields, helmets, gas-masks and padding were
used by participants not as mere defences but also as real weapons
in response to the attacks of the cops.

Ya Basta! have been criticized by the SWP for being post-modern, for
being elitist,[73] and for being ineffective.[74] Workers Power criticize
them for acting like cops.[75] Ya Basta! respond by accusing these
leftists of being just old-style Leninists stuck in Marxist orthodoxy.
All these criticisms are right. The surface differences between Ya
Basta! and the Trots belie deeper similarities. Insofar as they are
concerned that the struggle should be about such aims as fairer distribution
(of alienated labour), rights of citizenship, democratic control of
resources etc., then all operate within bourgeois thought. The Trots
and the "post-Leninists" of Ya Basta! are in this sense actually mirror
images of each other.

Radicalism as reformism

Ya Basta! emerged from the social centres into which the autonomia
movement retreated after the defeats of the late 1970s. In fact, one
root of their propensity to negotiate with the cops may be the background
of their leading cadre in a 80s Padoa autonomia scene which had become
so small that the remaining activists and the cops were virtually
all on first name terms. Ya Basta!'s particular social and historical
background has facilitated the take-up of particular features of autonomia
as rationales for a recuperative reformism, a defeatism dressed as
the new vision of "social change".[76] The most glaring examples of
this are the institutional links which they trumpet as a sign of their
success. The wider white overalls (Tute Bianche) movement in Italy,
of which Ya Basta! are a part, has been flirting with the authorities
since the early 1990s. Tute Bianche have strong financial links and
arrangements with the authorities. These include their close relationship
with and support from sections of the ex-Communist Party Rifondazione
Comunista[77] and the state sponsorship of some of the social centres
they are involved in. These formal links, as well as their dialogue
with the authorities, their standing for local elections[78] and,
worse still, their setting up of non-profit-making co-operatives (which
have undermined the wages of other workers), the white overalls present
as part of the construction of the "civil society" capable of bringing
about the reforms they desire.[79] What greater evidence can there
be of the weakness of a movement?!

The threat of Ya Basta! is of recuperating the energy and activities
of the more radical people in and around the anti-"globalization"
mobilizations into a reformist project. With their manoeuvrings and
opportunism, the white overalls may be regarded as just another dishonest
racket by many in Italy. But in other countries they appear as the
radical alternative that people have been seeking. Through their occupation
of a "symbolic location", a radical vision - embodied in licensed
social centres - can apparently develop in partnership with the social
relations of capital. Thus "achievable" reform displaces total revolution
as a movement aim.

At some of the "anti-capitalist" events, the limits of Ya Basta!'s
approach have been identified by some of Ya Basta!'s own number; and
the leadership, with their post-modern leftist-reformist agenda, have
not always been able to keep the rank and file in line. At Genoa,
Ya Basta! tried again to enact an alternative to street-fighting with
the cops. But on this occasion the notion of "transcending violence
and non-violence" appeared as what it is - empty rhetoric - and some
"white overalls" joined in the riot. From "white overalls", with a
history of eschewing missile-throwing, this was indeed "doing what
the other doesn't expect", though not in the way the Ya Basta! leadership
would have liked.

From ideology to theory?

In the UK, where the recent mobilizations have often been interpreted
more radically, as "anti-capitalism" rather than anti-"globalization",
there is a feeling among some that the high point of the "movement"
has already passed. The RTS street parties, which began in 1995, culminated
in the exhilarating J18 "Carnival Against Capital"; but subsequent
"anti-capitalist" events - Euston N30 in 1999, Mayday 2000 and 2001
- have been smaller and less unambiguously successful. All these events
differ from those at Seattle, Prague and Genoa, which continue to
excite and interest people, in not being Summit-focused. Indeed, maybe
the reason that the UK events have been increasingly less well-attended
is the lack of a particular focus or target. The perception that the
"movement" is already declining reflects perhaps the same partial
UK perspective that inevitably limits the analysis we have presented
Nevertheless, the Summit-centred mass mobilizations cannot in themselves
constitute a movement, as impressive as they are. The attempt to link
these mass mobilizations with particular expressions of resistance
to economic rationalization we have seen in various countries - including
strikes, land rights movements, student occupations - is clearly necessary.
In this sense the ideologues are right. But to observe, correctly,
that the various struggles are linked by a common relationship to
global capital is not necessarily the same as observing if and how
these various struggles are linking up in practice, as a collective

The recognition that various activities and tendencies together comprise
a movement is a necessary part of any movement's development. But
to posit a unity which does not exist - to gloss over contradictions
- cannot in itself serve to create a movement. Yet, for the ideologues,
in order to achieve some form of hegemony it is necessary to claim
that what has been happening is indeed a movement - and thus to freeze
present limitations.

Thus the liberals, leftists and Ya Basta! have made strong claims
that there is a single movement. Except perhaps for the black bloc,
each of the tendencies we have discussed here have sought to define
a particular movement subject which has come about in response to
historically specific conditions. Defining those historically specific
conditions has therefore been part of attempting to grasp the nature
of the "movement". For the most part, their definitions of these conditions
are ideological: "globalization", "neo-liberalism", the emergence
of "civil society" and the "multitude" as the new subject. The black
bloc, by contrast, defines itself simply through a tactic - street-fighting
and damage to property - and thus would perhaps claim to be non-ideological.
But, as we have seen, the tactic is itself ideological insofar as
it is fetishized as a political identity. Each of the four tendencies
we have looked at therefore has an ideological - distorted, one-sided
- grasp of the supposed "movement". Each takes one aspect of the diverse
struggles and practices - the (anti)brand, organized workers on strike,
the invisible would-be citizen, smashing property and fighting the
cops - as the secret of the whole.
But what is the whole - the essence - of the anti-"globalization" phenomenon?

One perspective would look just at the liberal middle class composition
of the "movement" leadership, its support from labour movement representatives,
and their shared reformist programme. Based on this, one would be
led to dismiss what has been happening as having little positive significance
for the class struggle.

A different type of approach to this question would be to ignore the
leadership and ideology entirely and focus just on the radical actions
of many of the participants and the climate of resistance to the forces
of the state they have engendered at the mobilizations. From this
perspective, the anti-"globalization" phenomenon is indeed part of
the class struggle.

We have argued previously that if there is to be an "anti-capitalist
movement" then it must constitute itself as the proletariat,[80] the
determinate negation of capital. This would means not only breaking
with the liberal-leftist hegemony, but also - and indeed crucially
- connecting practically with other sections of the world proletariat.

In terms of breaking with the liberal-leftist hegemony, the emphasis
on ideas and ideologues in the present article in part merely reflects
the fact that the anti-‘globalization’ phenomenon exists day-to-day
as a movement only in a political sense. As a cross-class and somewhat
amorphous phenomenon, there is a struggle over ideology. Hence even
if many of the participants' actions are contributions to the class
struggle, the question of ideologies needs to be addressed.
In terms of connecting practically to the wider working class, of
course the distinction should not be over-stated: many proletarian
elements have been involved in the anti-"globalization" mobilizations.
But they cannot connect to the wider working class abstractly - i.e.,
through the presence at the protests of the trade unions as working
class representations. Such connections can only be made through struggle
itself. The failure to do so up till now, and hence the limits of
the mobilizations themselves, are in large part reflective of the
low level of social struggles. This absence, in turn, is a product
of the historical defeats in the class struggle that we have witnessed
for the past 20 to 30 years. Hence the mobilizations against "globalization"
can become a social movement rather than merely a political phenomenon
only to the extent that they become part of a more general resurgence
of class struggle.

September 2001


Peoples' Global Action - a new International?

The international network Peoples' Global Action, PGA, was formed
in February 1998 as a "common communication and coordination tool
for social movements". PGA was born out of the Encuentros - the international
gatherings "against neo-liberalism and for humanity" instigated by
the Zapatistas.

According to its convenors "PGA has been one of the principal instigators
of the new global, radical, anti-capitalist movement which today is
challenging the legitimacy of global governance institutions" through
global days of action coinciding with summits of the international
institutions. PGA itself has not organized the big actions in London,
Seattle, Prague, Quebec, Gothenburg, Genoa etc.; however, they have
all been networked through PGA. (In fact, most of the above occasions
were intended as "Global Days of Action", with simultaneous protests
all over the world. The first global day of action against free trade
took place during the G8 summit in Birmingham and the WTO ministerial
conference in Geneva, in May '98).

The "hallmarks" of PGA are:

1. A very clear rejection of the WTO and other trade liberalization
agreements (like APEC, the EU, NAFTA, etc.) as active promoters of
a socially and environmentally destructive globalization;

2. A very clear rejection of all forms and systems of domination and
discrimination including, but not limited to, patriarchy, racism and
religious fundamentalism of all creeds. We embrace the full dignity
of all human beings;

3. A confrontational attitude, since we do not think that lobbying
can have a major impact in such biased and undemocratic organizations,
in which transnational capital is the only real policy-maker;

4. A call to non-violent civil disobedience and the construction of
local alternatives by local people, as answers to the actions of governments
and corporations;

5. An organizational philosophy based on decentralization and autonomy.
While it was decided in the second international conference in Bangalore
that the PGA was an "anti-capitalist network", this has not been explicitly
translated into its hallmarks.

The convenors' statement for third international PGA conference resolves
"to fight against oppression, domination and destruction, to unmask
and abolish the institutions and companies that regulate the global
capitalist regime, to build a broad unity based on the respect to
difference and diversity, and to continue defining, practising and
spreading local alternatives to take back control over our destiny.
This hope, that lives in the irreverent determination of our bodies,
minds and feelings, can and must realize our dreams of self-governance,
freedom, justice, peace, equity, dignity and diversity". These bourgeois
ideals are strikingly similar to those lyricized by Subcomandante
Marcos. A critique of the PGA on the level of ideas is insufficient,
but is the practice of the social movements (in the industrializing
countries) and what some have labelled the "new social movements"
(in the industrialized countries) radically different?

The social basis of the PGA, roughly speaking, is two-fold and apparently
contradictory: on the one hand large social movements from "the South"
such as the Brazilian landless movement Movimento Sem Terra or Indian
peasant organization KRRS; on the other hand, from "the North", an
assortment of sympathizers of these movements, non-aligned leftists,
anarchists, environmentalists etc. who admit with some embarrassment
that, at PGA conferences, whereas participants from "the South" feel
they represent tens or hundreds of thousands, they themselves (from
"the North") are quite sure they can only speak for themselves, or
at a push, their "affinity group". Perhaps the closest thing to a
mass movement in the PGA network in "the North" is the Italian pro-Zapatista
network Ya Basta!; though another exception to this rule is the Canadian
Union of Postal Workers who have been responsible for the international
secretariat of PGA.

Within PGA there is an ideological convergence despite material differences.
The peasant and indigenous organizations of the Southern Hemisphere
are resisting proletarianization; these real struggles are expressed
as a defence of and demand for land as a better form of life than
scavenging survival amid the poverty of the shanty towns. This resistance
to capitalist development is mirrored ideologically in "the North"
within PGA by liberal anarcho criticisms of "corporate capitalism"
and a yearning for "small-scale, local alternatives", "sustainable
development" etc. It is redundant to criticize the indigenous peoples
and peasants of "the South" for not having a proletarian perspective;
in any case their resistance to capitalist development might complement
proletarian struggles elsewhere. An example of this could be the land
occupations of semi-proletarianized Brazilians who refuse to be incorporated
into the industrial reserve army. However, that which is a practical
necessity for peasants in "the South" in the face of capitalist development
- the defence of small-scale production - is adopted as a virtue,
as a panacea by many activists in the materially different context
of "the North" precisely because of a lack of, or rejection of, class
analysis. This is particularly the case within the UK "direct action
scene", which, afflicted by a combination of proudhonism and third
worldism, feels the need to pose "positive alternatives to capitalism",
such as eco-villages, local exchange trading schemes and worker's
At its third international conference in Cochabamba, Bolivia in September
2001, PGA was due to discuss among other things a draft manifesto
(available on the web at http://www.nadir.org/nadir/initiativ/agp/en/PGAInf os/manifest.htm),
which represents a theoretical development beyond the "hallmarks";
however, its critique of capitalism is partial, with the emphasis
on multinational corporations and international institutions, trade
liberalization and "globalization"; not on the system of wage-labour

The manifesto rejects free trade, but also the "right-wing alternative
of stronger national capitalism, as well as the fascist alternative
of an authoritarian state to take over central control from corporations".
But what of the leftist or social democratic alternative of state-run
capitalism? "Our struggles aim at taking back the means of production
from the hands of both transnational and national capital, in order
to create free, sustainable and community-controlled livelihoods,
based on solidarity and people’s needs and not on exploitation and
greed." So not a centralized state-run capitalism, then. Is this
"small is beautiful" style self-management of wage-labour? Or communism?
We find the answer later on in the draft: "Direct links between producers
and consumers in both rural and urban areas, local currencies, interest-free
credit schemes and similar instruments are the building blocks for
the creation of local, sustainable, and self-reliant economies based
on co-operation and solidarity rather than competition and profit."

Ambivalence towards the state is revealed earlier in the manifesto:
"Economic globalization has given birth to new forms of accumulation
and power. The accumulation takes place on a global scale, at increasing
speed, controlled by transnational corporations and investors. While
capital has gone global, redistribution policies remain the responsibility
of national governments, which are unable, and most of the times unwilling,
to act against the interests of transnational capital."

The PGA web editors report that there are suggestions for amendments
to the PGA manifesto, including "a more critical view of the state
in the globalization process".

*Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was a French socialist often criticised by
Marx, who established a People's Bank offering interest-free credit;
the bank was soon forced into liquidation. In Marx's "The Eighteenth
Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte", he describes how in times of defeat
the proletariat comes under the influence of "ever more equivocal
figures" and "throws itself into doctrinaire experiments, exchange
banks and workers' associations, hence into a movement in which it
renounces the revolutionizing of the old world by means of the latter's
own great, combined resources, and seeks, rather, to achieve its salvation
behind society's back, in private fashion, within its limited conditions
of existence, and hence necessarily suffers shipwreck."

Notes to Part 2

[44] We apologize to foreign readers for whom Trotskyists are
not only boring but also insignificant relative to other leftist groups.
But, from the British context with which we are familiar, the established
left, apart from the Labour Party, is effectively the Trotskyists.

[45] The SWP were hampered by the fact that their opportunism
has always been wedded to a crass workerism. Thus while the CJB was
clearly aimed at marginal groups (travellers, hunt sabs, raves, anti-road
protesters), the SWP, through their front, the "Coalition Against
the Criminal Justice Act", insisted unconvincingly that its real target
was workers' picket lines.

[46] Benn is the former MP and figurehead of the Labour left.

[47] E.g. in the "Directory of organizations"in Anti-Capitalism:
A Guide to the Movement (Bookmarks, 2001). In fact the main organizing
group was mostly anarchist.

[48] Credit where it's due, though: the SWP's papers came in very
handy as kindling for the fires people lit to keep warm.

[49] Some would argue that the first "anti-capitalist" mobilizations
were neither Seattle nor J18 but the events in May 1998 against the
WTO in Geneva and the G7 in Birmingham.

[50] E.g., Chris Harman, "Anti-capitalism: Theory and practice"
in International Socialism #88 (Autumn 2000), p. 4. Also the "Chronology"
in Anti-Capitalism: A Guide to the Movement (op. cit.) starts with

[51] See the reports in Socialist Worker #1759 (28th July 2001)
and the anonymous critique "The SWP, the Black Block [sic] and Italian

[52] The SWP haven't yet dropped "drop the debt", but have been
using this liberal demand - e.g., on their Genoa placards and banners
- as part of their attempt to link the liberal and "anti-capitalist"

[53] "[connecting the different elements of the "anti-capitalist
movement"] means providing credible and united socialist alternatives
to neo-liberalism at the ballot box to prove that there are alternative
conceptions of society on offer."Chris Nineham, "An idea whose time
has come" in International Socialism #91 (Summer 2001), p. 30. There
seems to be a tension among its members around what the Socialist
Alliance should be; while some want it to be the new workers' party,
others want it to remain a popular front (in fact it isn't that popular
at all since there is hardly anyone else in it beyond the members
of the various Leninist sects).

[54] An example of this comes in a quote from A Merseyside dockworker
interviewed for Critique (#30-31, 1998): "You say unable to go back
to the old compromise, but do we want to go back? I don't think I
do! I don't particularly want a politics centred on "the right to
work at all costs". I don't want to see my kids struggling for crap
jobs. I think we're actually going through a revolutionary period,
one where we should be saying "fuck you and your jobs and your slave
labour". If wage labour's slave labour, then freedom from wage labour
is total freedom... [H]ow many socialists within the political groups
that have supported us have or would build a political strategy out
of the refusal of wage work? I haven't come across any, but I know
that's what Reclaim the Streets activists consistently argue and find
that a breath of fresh air... Yer know, when we unite with people
like Reclaim the Streets, we have to take on board what they are saying
too, which is: "Get a life. Who wants to spend their days working
on the production line like that famous poster of Charlie Chaplin
depicting modern times?" I think this is a concept the labour movement
has got to examine and take on board." (pp. 223-5).

[55] "Social democracy: No future?"(Aufheben #7, Autumn 1998).

[56] There is a useful account of the involvement of workers in
the Seattle events in "Promises and pitfalls of the 'Battle of Seattle'"
in Internationalist Perspective #37 (Autumn 2000): "American longshoremen
[i.e., dockworkers] all along the West Coast shut down every port
in solidarity with the protests on N30... several thousand union members
in the union parade saw what was really going on and actively broke
through the 'security' goon line to join up in active solidarity with
the radicals."(p. 12).

[57] E.g. Chris Harman, "Anti-capitalism: Theory and practice"
in International Socialism #88 (Autumn 2000), p. 40.

[58] See "The myth of working class passivity" in Radical Chains
#2 (Winter 1990).

[59] One example - in this case of Militant, another Trotskyist
sec, - is the 1990 poll tax riot. While the leadership condemned our
side's violence and threatened to "name names" to the cops, some of
the rank and file - even some of the stewards - acted as proles rather
than hacks by fighting the cops alongside everyone else.

[60] For one account of the threat of the SWP to the "movement",
see "Vampire alert! The revolution will not be Bolshevised" in Do
or Die! #9 (December 2000).

[61] An example of how the SWP can turn our actions into boring
politics comes from the first post-Genoa picket of the Italian embassy
in London (August 2001). Everyone else in the crowd was standing and
moving freely in the area, but when the SWP (Globalize Resistance)
arrived instead of joining the crowd they separated themselves from
it by going straight behind the crowd barriers erected by the police!

[62] Wombles = "White Overall Movement Building Libertarian Effective
Struggles"; Wombats = "White Overall Mobile Buffer Against Truncheon

[63] See "Ya Basta(rds)!", a report from the Yellow Route at Prague,
in Do or Die #9 (December 2000).

[64] See "Basta la Vista" by Arthur Neslen in Now magazine, at

[65] Politically in Italy, Ya Basta!'s supposed "middle way" means
suspicion from both the right (for their association with autonomia,
linked by the right with "terrorism") and the left (for their institutional
links - discussed below).

[66] For the accusations, see "Unmask simulations in white overalls"
(in the Italian anarchist publication Umanita Nova) at http://italy.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=2 516&group=webcast
(also at http://www.ainfos.ca/en/ainfos07022.html). For Ya Basta!'s
response, see "Who are the white overalls? And why are they slandered
by people who call themselves 'anarchists'?"at http://uk.indymedia.org/display.php3?article_id=67 46
(also at http://melbourne.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_ id=13098&group=webcast).

[67] "In Genoa we expected that more or less the same thing as
usual would happen. They deceived us. Try and remember the meetings
of the Genoa Social Forum with Scajola and Ruggiero: none of the guidelines
agreed upon were respected by them. The police forces used firearms,
even though they had assured us that they would not be. The right
to demonstrate which Ruggiero agreed was an inalienable right which
was run over under the wheels of the armoured police cars." ("No more
white overalls anymore", Interview with Luca Casarini, in Il Manifesto).

[68] See "Who are the white overalls?", op. cit.

[69] "We are not the traditional blue-overall working class, but
a new post-fordist productive subject. We are the faceless or invisible
of the society and the white overalls give us visibility in the spectacular
mediatic space." Finnish white overall introductory statement, PGA
European meeting, Milan 2000.

[70] See "Who are the white overalls??", op. cit.

[71] See, for example, "Basta la Vista" by Arthur Neslen, op. cit.

[72] "Who are the white overalls?", op. cit.

[73] Alex Callinicos, "The future", In Anti-Capitalism: A Guide
to the Movement, op. cit., p. 396.

[74] Socialist Worker #1759 (28th July 2001).

[75] [Anti]Capitalism: From Resistance to Revolution, p. 16.

[76] The point is well expressed by Neil Fernandez, drawing on
arguments made by the group Insurrezione: Autonomia's "theoretical
understanding of the fact that the working class necessarily holds
power which is tendentially disruptive of the realisation of capitalist
imperatives, so long as it remains untied to a full understanding
of the means of integration, can quite feasibly allow a movement from
the original 'workerism' (operaismo) of the 1960s towards a positive
appraisal of various kinds of accommodation, or at least to an abdication
from the need to criticise them wholesale. The idea of global communist
revolution can then be shifted towards a concept of the 'permanent'
contestational occupation of a militant or sub-cultural 'area of autonomy',
corresponding in effect to a form of self-management." (Capitalism
and Class Struggle in the USSR: A Marxist Theory, 1997, Aldershot:
Ashgate. p. 41).

[77] Not only links with the Stalinists but also, to some extent,
with that other great Italian institution, the Catholic Church: one
of the leading white overalls is a priest!

[78] Ya Basta! deny the widely-stated claim that Luca Casarini
(spokesperson for a number of social centres and figurehead for Tute
Bianche) ran for parliament (as a Rifondazione candidate) in last
year's national elections. Farina (from the LeonKavallo social centre),
another leading member of Ya Basta!, ran as a local councillor. On
this, Ya Basta! deny only that Farina was a Rifondazione candidate,
stating instead that he and "many other comrades entered as independent
candidates" ("Who are the white overalls?", op. cit.).

[79] "Who are the white overalls?", op. cit.

[80] Editorial in Aufheben #8 (Autumn, 1999).