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Whatever Happened to Anti-Capitalism?

category international | anti-capitalism | feature author Thursday February 01, 2007 13:44author by "Apparat" - ISN Report this post to the editors

featured image
ISN's Finglas branch on the move

The G8 will be visiting Germany next summer, and the “travelling circus” of protesters (as it was dubbed by Tony Blair) are already mobilising for the occasion. But it seems clear that the hey-day of summit protests is long past.

The great Seattle protest of 1999 put “anti-capitalism” on the mainstream agenda. Having been consigned to the dust-bin of history after 1989, the idea of a left-wing alternative to capitalism was again being discussed. It came as a bit of a shock for those, like Blair, who thought “socialism” had died out with New Romanticism and other naff 80s movements.

Related Links: Indymedia anti-capitalist articles | Indymedia Summit Mobilization stories | Irish Socialist Network |



Of course, it didn’t all begin in Seattle – people had been organising against the effects of capitalist globalisation for years, and forging solidarity networks around the world. But the mobilisation against the WTO conference in Seattle proved to be the decisive breakthrough – the moment when people started talking about “the movement”, and not just in activist circles.

This was a huge step forward in itself, because progressive politics had been steadily fragmenting for years. It seemed as if “the Left” had become a loose collection of single-issue campaigns, without any common project for changing society. The coalition behind the Seattle protest gave people a taste of unity in action, and they liked what they saw.

Coming up with a name that was more specific than “the movement” proved to be tricky. “Anti-globalisation”, the label chosen by the media, was universally panned; “anti-capitalist” seemed a bit aspirational, when many of the protesters clearly opposed specific features of capitalism, rather than the system itself. And so on.

For a while though, that proved to be a fairly minor problem. Over the next couple of years, left-wing protesters followed the global elite from city to city. When they had a chance to debate the issues, they won hands down, shredding the neoliberal orthodoxy. The summit protests reached a peak in June 2001, when 300,000 people marched in Genoa. Silvio Berlusconi turned the city into a police state for the duration of the summit, exposing the iron fist in the velvet glove of capitalist democracy.

But Genoa also showed the limitations of the movement. When Berlusconi’s government used the full repressive power of the Italian state to defend the summit from disruption, what could the protesters do? The Black Bloc strategy of fighting back on the streets seemed hopeless. To hold Berlusconi to account would have required a much broader mobilisation in Italian society – after all, his government had recently been elected by a majority of voters, thanks not least to the weakness and inadequacy of the Italian Left.

So one of the main lessons of Genoa was this – in order to move beyond summit protests, the post-Seattle Left needed to put down deeper roots in society. By challenging the neoliberal consensus, the movement had given people confidence to take on the status quo. Now its activists could revitalise the structures of the left and the labour movement – or create new ones.

A few years down the line, this hasn’t really happened, at least not to the extent that’s needed. Why not? Well, one problem has been the failure of the traditional far left to connect with the new movement. This isn’t for lack of trying – some organisations got very excited after Seattle and orientated towards its activists.

But there hasn’t been much meeting of minds, and it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that traditional leftists were trying to pour new wine into old bottles. The socialist tradition (or rather, traditions) is still the richest source of ideas for anyone who wants to change society in a more democratic, egalitarian direction. It’s not enough, though, to repeat slogans that worked in the (fairly distant) past and expect people to follow your lead.

Whatever their other weaknesses, the new generation of activists recognised the need for a fresh start. It’s not a question of ditching all the old ideas – many of the basic concepts of socialist theory are still valid, and anyone who ignores them will end up re-inventing the wheel again and again. But it’s definitely time to find a fresh language to express those ideas, and there’s plenty of room for pruning and revision.

Perhaps more importantly, the approach to organisation common on the far left didn’t sit well with the new mood. Tightly centralised parties would find it very hard to accommodate the diversity of post-Seattle activism. Without genuine pluralism in its own ranks, and a less domineering approach to broad campaigning groups, no socialist organisation can hope to win over a generation reared on “decentralised”, “non-hierarchical” forms of organisation.

This is a great pity, because the “movement of movements” badly needed to do some head-scratching about political strategies after its initial successes. Any movement for social change will ultimately have to confront the question of state power – if the state is on the side of the status quo, and using its power to back up the dominant class (as we saw in Genoa), then how do you get around that obstacle?

The socialist tradition contains a range of answers, from the reformist view that you can take over the state through the ballot box, to the insistence by anarchists and Trotskyists that it must be overthrown and replaced with a federation of workers’ councils. But without opting for one approach or another, social movements are bound to run out of steam sooner or later. And the chances of getting the right answer obviously improve, the more we know about past experience.

So far, the global justice / anti-capitalist movement hasn’t come up with a coherent strategy for going forward. It wouldn’t be fair to say that we’ve been treading water since the high-point of Genoa – many activists threw themselves into anti-war activism, and helped to build a remarkably broad movement. But opposition to the Iraq war faced a very similar problem after the mass mobilisation of February 2003 – what can you do when the state simply ignores you?

As one of the Left’s sharpest commentators, Gary Younge, put it last year, we know how to get mad, but we don’t yet know how to get even. And we won’t reach the next level without answering some pretty basic questions about our goals and our methods.

Related Link: http://irishsocialist.net
author by "Apparat" - ISNpublication date Sun Jan 28, 2007 16:16Report this post to the editors

Sorry, I forgot to add contact details to that last piece. Here they are:
http://irishsocialist.net/contact.html

Related Link: http://irishsocialist.net/
author by JK Bowling Alleypublication date Sun Jan 28, 2007 20:48Report this post to the editors

Interesting article but yeah its a question that the "movement" (cough) has been asking itself for years at this stage, with no answers - perhaps begging the question if it was ever really a movement at all, punching above its weight with media coverage which vanished in a puff of smoke once the islamic radicals raised the stakes against western capitalism (among other ideals) in sep 2001. The last 'big' G8 counter summit in Scotland in 2005 maybe had at most five or six thousand people at the demo and blockades on the Wednesday of the Summit - in a country of 8 million and on an island of over 60 million. That's pretty pathetic numbers for a movement that speaks of itself as 'from below' 'of the people' 'grassroots' 'and so on...

Yes I know there are local struggles happening but these summits are supposed to act as a magnet or focal point for international activities and solidarity, a 'high point' of the activist calendar for the year - but if they can only muster a couple of thousand people, with maybe a few hundred committed to physical direct action/property damage, then its never going to amount to much. If there arent one million people protesting against the G8 in Germany this summer then I think people should call it a day with these summit mobilisations. One million people? Yep that's right - that's only one eightyth (1/80) of the population in Germany, or maybe around one in every six or seven hundred people if you look at it as a European destination. That's still a tiny percentage - but it would certainly be a better shot in the arm for an anti-capitalist movement then a few thousand showing up.

Of course that doesnt even begin to touch on the argument of the pointlessness of people travelling en masse to a near police state situation in a completely different country... no doubt some bus or train will be cobbled together from here, you might even see "Globalise Resistance" make its once a year Lazarus style resurrection (maybe its more like the re-animation of Frankenstein's monster), and people will spend several hundred euro each to get chased around a city for a while, then come home - instead of using the time to travel to Tara, Rossport, or Shannon instead.

There wont be any revolution, the G8 will go ahead as planned, dont we all know how the plot goes in this re-run? Yawn yawn yawn.

author by Terencepublication date Wed Jan 31, 2007 18:23Report this post to the editors

The article raises many valid questions for which there are few definite answers. There are probably many reasons why the movement hasn't grown. I for one though think we have to recognise that the fact of the reduction in importance of unions in daily life, the general apathy and most importantly the dramatic, powerful and very very effective propaganda by the mass media are important factors. Time and again people tend to brush these aside. Another important consideration is that many people now consider themselves as classless. They see the very concept of class as being old fashioned and would tend to think of themselves as possibly people with careers, consumers and so on. There are still many others, especially those doing relatively okay, who will argue with you all night that in fact there is no problem and believe we live in a very democratic society. They fully have faith in the futile electoral system to change things. And when they see a problem, they put it down to people -as in we live in a democracy, so if people want to change X they can and since it is not changed, then it must be the people's fault. Of course there is a certain grain of truth to this. At the same time though if pushed on this point, any suggestions that problems are structural or due to the influence of corporations tend to get poo-poo-ed as verging on conspiracy stuff.....

I think the success of the mass media at completely de-educating and distracting the public can be measured in the incredible interest in things like Big Brother, celebrities and corporate owned and control sports. If some big celebritity was to arrive anywhere with good advance notice, they will get just as many people as any G8 summit.

So on the one hand, we probably all feel that people don't have the time or the money to go to these summits, but if there is a big concert on, you find people with gladly fork out 80 euros and take the day off, although it has to be acknowledged that going to a summit can involve danger whereas the latter is fun or pleasure.

So what is the way forward then? That is of course what is being asked in the main article. The short answer is that I don't know, but it would seem, we have to be willing to take on board more recent analysis of society and what makes it function, tick and behave. There is amongst the Left wide acceptance of class analysis and that is valid to a point, but there are other ways of viewing the society, probably more sociologically and try to perceive how individuals see things looking outwards from their individual perspective and with all the baggage, history, effects and consequences of living in a mass media and mass advertising world.

For those who would be inclined towards the above analysis, there are some who perhaps see the only way of breaking this deadlock or rather bursting this mass media bubble can only come via the salvation of the consequences of Global Warming and or Peak Oil as having any chance of 'waking' up the masses or raising awareness politically. I would have been of that persausion myself, except over recent years whilst watching how the responses and (lack of) actions have been and the interest of the public it seems there is no chance of change occuring spontaneously due to these things. It seems the mass media is quite firmly able to control and shape the agenda on any given topic. In others positive change will not now or ever happen on it's own and there is no easy solution here. An analogy can be drawn with the often quoted concept that if a nation goes to war, they will learn the lesson not to do it again. But quite often that lesson is not learnt, or worse is denied and nothing comes of it. Indeed we often find amongst warring nations that several members of a family over a few generations had been killed in war. Thus even at this micro level, they don't appear to learn anything.

For change to occur amongst millions, you must have a simultaneous reaction and feeling occuring in synchrony. The mass media is probably the only means to achieve that. And the powers-that-be control the mass media. That is why some people have vain hope in global warming crisis, because that would impose more or less simultaneously on everyone, except it will be the mass media that will interpret this and shape the view of it. Hence back to our central problem.

And so we actually have to consider the prospect that the command of resources by those in power is so great and because of the structural advantage, it is extremely unlikely that positive social change can come about. It may well be that in previous times, when revolutionary activity and awareness was much higher that humanity had achieved it's highest probability of success back then.

Maybe we need a global clock called the Revolutionary Clock, similar to the Doomsday Clock, except in this case I think the Revolutionary Clock is nowhere near 12:00 at the moment.

author by EOMpublication date Thu Feb 01, 2007 17:05Report this post to the editors

I'm not a political theorist by any means, but I'm old enough to remember the Papal visit of 1979, (which was certainly the biggest mobilisation that I was ever a part of , until the big anti-war protest march in London in 2003).

I'm wondering whether we can really judge the health and strength of a "movement" or whatever, by the feet on the streets. Look what happened to the church in Ireland in the aftermath of JPII's visit. Look at the anti-war movement for that matter.

Of course you could put a lot of this down to things like the tipping point theory, or agree with thinkers like Tourish who reckon that a lot of these "movements" function like cults whereby the central leadership's need to control their members is undermined by the size of the population of the group until the whole thing collapses. But I don't know.

A historical perspective might be, I guess, that the Irish independence movement was on its last legs in 1916, having suffered a huge loss of members who (surreally when you think about it) went to fight in the British army. They had no money or popular support to speak of in the wider population. However, the combination of the executions of the leaders of the rising and the attempt to introduce conscription turned things around to such an extent that the movement was able to wage an efficient guerrilla war which, while not ultimatley successful in establishing the Republic, came out out with a major set of concessions in the treaty and the set up of the Free State.

One of the things about those executions of course, was that they left the field open to a new central group, who brought somewhat fresh insight into the situation post 1916. Maybe the anti-capitalism movement needs a few new people (although I'm not advocating executions).

author by zmagatushpublication date Thu Feb 01, 2007 17:50Report this post to the editors

The problem is that this debate is not happening within groups involved in political activity - which is a shame, because for all the divides and sectarian bickering, events like this give voice and raise the awareness of a movement around the world. People see stuff happening on the news and they wonder about it, what is it, whats going on, why are those people protesting or rioting in the streets.

Even for groups like the Black Bloc - they cant do their thing on their own unless there's a huge amount of other people in the streets supporting them (or at least acting as a buffer from the cops) - but they dont seem too bothered about not having any opportunities any more to smash up the physical manifestations of multinational capital... which is a real shame.

"Anti-Globalisation" or "Anti-Capitalism" is dead and gone, with all its hopes in the grave.

author by w.publication date Thu Feb 01, 2007 18:18Report this post to the editors

The anti-capitalist movement was never going to overthrow capitalism and it contained within it it's own defeat - the protests were bound to reach a critical point (Genoa, for me) at which they couldn't get any bigger and when the state would figure out how best to deal with these mobilisations. Since then it has been in decline but the energy that wass there hasn't gone away it has just been channelled into more long term organising.

In the US we can see a huge resurgence in Anarchist ideas off the back of the anti-capitalist riots. Groups like the Industrial Workers of the World and the recently re-started Students for a Democratic Society have chapters in most states with lots of young members who came to politics through the anti-cap movement.

Closer to home I can see even in my own organisation (WSM) the amount of people who are now serious anarchists whose first point of contact was Reclaim the streets, Mayday04 or G8 protests. The grassroots gathering (indirectly) spawned several popular initiatives like the camp in rossport and seomra spraoi. While the anti-cap movement didn't have the ability to mobilise the proletariat to overthrow capital it certainly did inject a lot of new blood into the left - which will hopefully continue to grow, organise and push for a revolutionary change in society.

author by Terrypublication date Thu Feb 01, 2007 19:23Report this post to the editors

I’m not sure how widespread the idea that we live in a classless society is, 57% of adults in the UK claim to be working class, see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6295743.stm

It probably differs from country to country according to history, and even in the U.S., where you would expect the idea of classlessness to be most pronounced you have people identifying themselves as ‘lower middle class’ (meaning ordinary working people) and the majority of people in opinion polls saying the government is run for ’interest groups’ not the people.
Likewise the state will use class rhetoric to achieve its ends - something frequently done by the right in the U.S., so the Regan administration tried to, unsuccessfully, role back the gains of 70s environmental legislation in the 80s by portraying environmentalists as elitists getting in the way of the ordinary blue collar joe.

I take Terence’s point on the influence of the mass media, but we should also look at how the mass media influences us, that is revolutionaries and left wing activist types, for instance how much do you think your pessimism is influenced by the fact that the corporate/state media just doesn’t report on instances of popular resistance, likewise to what extent was the significance we all gave summit protests a product of the heavy media coverage they got (due to their sensational nature and their locations at places where a lot of the world’s media is located, there to cover the summit anyways).

The problem with a lot of left analysis of the “anti-capitalist movement” is it ignores where a large part of that movement had its origins, namely in environmental direct action in Britain in the 90s, and once you factor that into your thinking summit protesting can be seen as a step backwards into an isolated activism, away from things which were more significant, particularly the anti-roads protests.
This is of course not applicable to Ireland, where as w. rightly says something of a new movement sprang up
(influenced by media coverage of summit protests).

I generally agree with what Terence says about environmental issues, but things like climate change and peak oil are perhaps too diffuse and abstract to build a movement around.
I think it is a different matter for environmental destruction on a local scale or developments which contribute to climate change and so make the issue ‘real’ and immediate.
For instance opposition to road widening and gas pipelines in Britain partly base their arguments on climate change. That is of course in a situation where that issue gets much more media coverage than here, but that is starting to change.
Ultimately however it is possibly the consequences of capitalisms responses to the environmental crisis which could launch a radicalistation (e.g. green austerity) or the results of the crisis as it deepens - the effects of both of which on individuals will be determined by class (and other forms of inequality).

author by JK BApublication date Thu Feb 01, 2007 20:33Report this post to the editors

W.'s point about new movements springing up is incorrect... all those movements were around for a very long time (as Terry says about the eco heads from the UK in the 90s), the WSM has been in existence for 20+ (?) years now and only recently AFAIK had enough members to make 2 groups/branches in a city of one million people. Not trying to be a smart ass but as regards building a movement it simply isnt happening. The physical manifestations like RTS - while probably written off by serious class struggle types as being childish or a mere shallow response to much deeper problems - were a huge way to get people involved and interested, and also, whisper it, they're exciting and fun, you're much more likely to remember it and be energised by it for further actions than any organisational meeting (without a doubt), discussion, or bookfair.

For each new group that springs up one disappears... the early 90's in Dublin had an alternative pirate radio station called RadioActive/DARC for example, gone in a puff of smoke. Other groups, organisations, and locations came and went.

But now stuff like RTS has vanished here, and you'll get some intake of people into other projects, getting more involved, but the opportunities for reaching out to possible other "recruits" (cant think of a better word!!) have evaporated. After the J18/Mayday thing died in the UK, both the anti-cap and pretty much as a consequence the anarchist scene found themselves floating aimlessly, able to organise meetings and gatherings of like minded people within a very, very small spectrum of the left, but not having any fun or doing anything that created a bit of a buzz, in the public - and yeah possibly in the media too. At last years London bookfair there was a meeting on a 'campaign for real anarchism' or something like that, i.e. can we call stop posting bitchy posts to each other on libcom and urban75, and actually organise something real in the streets again?

I reckon that Ireland is about 3/4 years behind the UK in terms of the evolution of that scene, without any stuff happening in the street I'd predict that people will simply get bored and drift away from political activity. If you're in a scene that constantly talks about revolution, and you hear reports from Mexico, France, Greece etc about exciting things going on, but it not being replicated here, it becomes very draining with no positive outlooks or potential developments ("burnout")

I'm not sure I buy the whole 'media dont report on it' conspiracy any more - for example everyone knows about Rossport but why are there only 200 people showing up at the solidarity days? (sorry, different, bigger question, but possibly related) - and there was huge coverage of the G8 in advance of 2005 that would have been the exact same scare mongering as in Genoa in 2001, except in Genoa there were 300,000 people on the streets and in Auchterarder/Stirling there were maybe 5,000 in the streets (and fields).

We'll see what happens in Germany this year. There's loads of mails flying around about that, people getting hyped up about it, I'm sure the local media there is doing press right now on what the autonomen are planning - i.e. people know about it. I'm still betting on a damp squib.

author by anonpublication date Thu Feb 01, 2007 21:14Report this post to the editors

I read an interesting article in ZMag or some NGO that I will try to find the link too which pointed out that the WTO round talks failed of their own accord and that we anti-capitalist failed to notice. The difficulty of the talks the subsidies and the southern world grouping together more effectively means a new overall WTO agreement has been stalled for years already.

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=6929

author by dunkpublication date Thu Feb 01, 2007 21:18author email fuspey at yahoo dot co dot ukReport this post to the editors

and from that new action?

who knows, but it was worth a try.

At the recent world social forum in Kenya last week, attempts were made in Barcelona to further horizontalise that system while trying to create a new tool for "us" to use:

"It is hoped that this experiment will create a new space for global civil society to work in and out of from, both during the WSF and beyond."

thats led to where we are now, discussing how best to assist the construction of the imc-kenya network:

"if there is audio recorders and other radio things there, then perhaps audio stories could be done, emailed or posted to the outside imc-kenya team, then those stories uploaded to site with the audio links. but this also might mean that the imc-kenya might become more a reference for a more radio type site/ collective. these could also be sent around the local / african / amarc simbani stations under "imc-kenya" collective work. My understanding is that radio is the tool of communication out there, why not take the IMC story down a new avenue and work with that. Makes sense seeing as it was the radio heads that were supporting for the wsf. id be really on for pursing this as that is what we tried to establish as part of the listening nodes and radio support here from barcelona. And im hoping that soon, we might be using the radio tool/network in far more creative ways than as present.
It was also mentioned that mobile phones are taking off there. I know they are probably a bit behind here, but in no time the phones will be able to pick up terrestrial radio and maybe net radio too. if that was the case then the imc-kenya as a radio network with the site as a support tool, then that might have huge potential"

from
[Imc-africa] 2 -Future of kenya.indymedia.org : as a radio network with an IMC
http://lists.indymedia.org/pipermail/imc-africa/2007-Fe....html

related links:
Global Listening Nodes
https://docs.indymedia.org/view/Global/WorldSocialForum...Nodes

Indymedia radio support for WSF 2007 from Kenya
http://www.indymedia.org/en/2007/01/878667.shtml

http://kenya.indymedia.org/

changing the world: collaboration needed
http://indymedia.ie/article/80584

radical radio network:
http://indymedia.ie/article/71892

hopefully seomra spraoi in dublin might try to set up a communication node for future experiments, we had tried to have them onboard for last weeks project but were unable to get it sorted. But last week was just the beginings: looking forward to live connections with Zapatistas next month, followed by Ecologists from Brazil the following month.

We hope to provide tek assistance for groups that seek it to improve this network.

Perhaps this helps....?

anti capitalism, a new tool and space for the struggle, (and it was always there) radio
anti capitalism, a new tool and space for the struggle, (and it was always there) radio

author by Chrispublication date Thu Feb 01, 2007 22:23Report this post to the editors

Excellent post. To me the fact that the "movement" has lost direction is not surprising; it never seemed to *have* any direction in the first place. Oh, sure, it's against lots of stuff - trade agreements, heads of state, capitalism, war, the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Israeli oppression, yadda yadda yadda (continue laundry list of grievances at your leisure).

But what precisely is it *for*? What positive changes does the movement propose, and how do you get those changes accomplished? RTS is a good example. OK, cars are bad, etc. What streets do you propose turning into pedestrian arcades? How is traffic re-routed? How do you get popular support for the plan you come up with? Or is the point just to fuck around and not accomplish anything?

The left/anarchism was successful when it agitated FOR ideas that were popular and easily understandable. Universal sufferage, the 8-hour work day, and so on. Being anti-everything is a) reactive and b) so vague that most people can't identify with it let alone support it.

My 2p.

author by .:.publication date Thu Feb 01, 2007 23:30Report this post to the editors

"the great Seattle protest put anti-capitalism on the mainstream agenda" .

it didn't. the telly pages stayed the same. The horoscope columns went unshaken. The sales of pulp fiction and movies didn't drop. There was no mass rejection of the capitalist lifestyle its benefits or assurances. Yet there was an increase in revulsion at capitalist exploitation and a connection made between global capitalist models and ecological destruction, ignoring the equal or worse ecological
destruction caused by the previous centralised marxist soviet empire. But the mainstream agenda continued regardless. If you don't believe me take time to compare the front page subject material of any national commercial newspaper for the 3 year period in question & quantify the agenda.

Perhaps more people thought "anti-capitalism" was on the mainstream agenda. It is rather like suggesting that the American Irish lobby didn't exist till John Major as prime minister became the first British PM to field exclusively Irish related questions (to his amazement and discomfort) on an official visit to the USA.

I remember very clearly The Guardian's (mainstream leftish newspaper) photo of a man (with dredlocks) being dragged by same along th road in Seattle by a cop. The caption read "capitalism lives to fight another day". Thereafter a generation who had been forged against the macro-social backrgound of millenialism, the birth of EU intergration (& thus locally felt globalisation) and excessive belief in their ability to change abuse of the enviroment ("all you need to man is switch off the lights!") briefly not only found common purpose as expressed in t-shirts, shared prejudice, and culture industrial products and writers but somehow believed they were a "movement" and even worse for the most part believed they were producing or experiencing the first manifestation of such sentiments in either local, occidental or global history. Ironically the penetration and success of internet commercialisation afforded individuals and groups subset identity structures and constructs. Without which we would not even have had indymedia...., I was there when the Bank of England was forced by the "masses" to close its doors and stop its business - no matter the next day it was back to the usual.

Chris, groups such as RTS grew out of very specific conditions in the UK and common ground between ecological and road campaigns, squatters and rave - but the methodology owed more the "provocationists" of the Netherlands who themselves disbanded after only 4 years activity in the late 60's. They held that no "point" was needed to believe in change, merely the provocation of a society which itself held nothing was wrong. Our generation (if I may use that term so loosely) has already internalised those groups and their attitudes, as we have internalised the hippies, diggers, beats, colour telly, washing powder, shampoo that doesn't make you cry, and mobile phones. What has altered is the macro-psychological background of millenialism. We are as a planet no better off now, we are no closer to a solution for climate change, no closer to the "millenial goals" of eliminating poverty, we are no closer to anything - yet as this 21st century waxes on - these challenges have lost their passionate urgency amongst the masses. That is a phenomona which has been seen many times before. The changing use of the word "modern" and "modernity" at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the last - being one prime example. Somehow the masses felt more "modern" and "capable" of changing "the world" between 1895 and 1900 then they did from 1901 to 1910. & then they for the great war. Which took the complacent little smirks of their modern faces.

I daresay the writer of this article is still "anti-capitalist" & many of th writer's friends are too. I reckon the commentators above are as well. I'm pretty sure that I am. & I have a sneaking suspicion that most of the readers are. so what then - does this question about a movement really mean????
So if "Seattle or anything similar since put Anti-capitalism on the mainstream agenda....... why did we need indymedia then or do we organise these radio things now ?" In short I maintain all that occured was the near-construct of a new sub-identity in Occidental culture. that's all, but it's enough. Turn off the lights now ;-)

author by tomthebombpublication date Fri Feb 02, 2007 00:19Report this post to the editors

The above rant is based on the premise that the article claims anti-capitalism was the media's sole agenda, obviously it wasn't. All the article is saying is that it became a small part of the discourse where it wasn't before. Everything else you said is just pure wank to be fair, save it for your blog.

author by michaelcpublication date Fri Feb 02, 2007 15:08Report this post to the editors

I agree that the 'non-heirarchal' nature of the participants and groups has thrown up serious problems....at last years G8 it was interesting and very frustrating to see how the lack of coherant structures of information dissemination and authority contributed to a feeling of complete impotence.
I have huge problems with authority based on power but authority based on knowledge and competence is absolutely essential.
We all had the same aim at Gleneagles, all moved in the same direction, all even looked vaguely similar - we were, to all intents and purposes, an army - I for one would have taken orders that day.
That nobody stood forward and/or was allowed to give those directions, contributed greatly to the non-event.
Of course there are all kinds of difficulties raised in coming to such decicions about tactics and vesting authority in groups and individuals. But the weaknesses exposed (when faced with 'heirarchal' state forces) in the movement need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

author by Laurence Coxpublication date Fri Feb 02, 2007 16:19author email lcox at iol dot ieReport this post to the editors

While I'd agree with a certain number of the points made in the article, it (and most of the comments to date) reflect a limited perspective of what the movement is:

(1) The main strength of the movement of movements is, and always has been, in the global south. The big numbers for consistent, long-term participation are in Latin America (Brazilian landless people's movement, indigenous movements in the Andean countries, workplace and community movements in Argentina etc etc) and Asia (eg Narmada anti-dam movement, Karnataka Farmers Union etc etc). Not that there aren't movements elsewhere (see Francois Polet's book *Globalising resistance: the state of struggle* and the update published in Le Monde Diplo a year or so back), but these are where the big numbers are (perhaps unsurprisingly since most human beings actually live in Asia...) Not coincidentally, these are where there have been significant regime changes linked to (not necessarily representing) the upsurge of movement activity around the world. These are also of course the countries where a massive impact of neo-liberalism has encountered strong popular traditions of organisation and resistance.

(2) On a European scale, the biggest consistent participation, for much the same reasons, has been in the Mediterranean countries, notably Italy and Spain. The Anglo world has been a relative late-comer: significant if one only defines the movement in terms of summit protests and a handful of sects such as the SWP, but not a good indicator of what matters. Important though J18 and RTS are / were, they are not the most important thing on the European playing board.

(3) Within Ireland, the most interesting thing has not been Mayday and Gleneagles, important though these were. It is that (like Latin America and Asia) there are long-standing popular traditions of community self-organisation among poorer rural people and the urban working-class as well as the more conventionally organised left and the new kinds of movements - but (unlike those other continents) attempts at making links between the two have been very sketchy and have not gone very deep. Not that we aren't aware of each other's existence, but with a handful of honourable exceptions these are essentially separate events.

I don't believe that the solution is to say "new movements bad, old movements good" or come to that "activism bad, community organisation good", or to try to convince whole organisations or networks to jump from one thing to the other, in whatever direction. It is to try more seriously to build links between ourselves, and find ways in which (in Dublin for example) we can get working-class community groups, the organised left and the new movements working together on something that matters to all of us.

Like, for example, working on a genuine counter-summit which would be more than a nice conference with celebrities but some kind of genuine popular decision-making forum proposing concrete alternatives to the neo-liberal twaddle that we're being sold from all directions - and with a goal of working towards actually making some of these things happen.

I don't know what kinds of campaign or issue could actually bring us together like this, or how we could actually manage to work together; enough attempts have been made for it to be clear that goodwill and effort alone will not do it. But it is clear that there is no single "magic lever" that can change things: if we want anything more than micro change on single issues or another few decades of sectarian sniping at each other, we have to find a way of working together.

author by Apparatpublication date Fri Feb 02, 2007 18:54Report this post to the editors

Some interesting comments.

To answer Laurence’s point first: I should perhaps have stated more explicitly that this article was mainly talking about “the movement” in the developed world. I’m well aware that people were mobilising against capitalist globalisation in the south long before Seattle, and any realistic time-line of the global movement would start with the Zapatista rebellion in 1994, not the anti-WTO protest five years later.

Obviously, a lot of the points made in the article simply aren’t relevant to Latin America, for example, where different strategies for confronting state power have been discussed and put into practice all over the continent, from Argentina to Mexico. Activists in those countries never really needed to be told that they should focus on local struggles, they were working on that level all along.

As far as Europe and North America are concerned, I think it’s too cynical and defeatist to say that there never was a movement at all, that it was all media hype. There was something tangible there alright, although it was hard to pin down: people found it irritating when journalists like Naomi Klein and George Monbiot were promoted as spokespeople for the movement by the media, but it was probably inevitable. There were no representative structures, outside of the social forums. Although they had a limited shelf-life, summit protests were very effective for a couple of years, they crystallised a mood and put the issues surrounding globalisation on the agenda.

As I remember it, even before the Genoa protests many people recognised that this would probably be the “last big one”; after that, the tactic would start going stale, as the media got over the novelty and the power elites figured out how to contain and neutralise protest. I was re-reading Klein’s “Fences and Windows” a few weeks ago (it’s a good, contemporary account of developments between Seattle and the 9/11 attacks), and the final article in the collection, written towards the end of 2001, argued for activists to go beyond summit protests and orientate towards local campaigns – while keeping sight of the big picture.

That was a sensible conclusion. Despite the globalisation of capital, the nation-state was and is still going to be the main arena for political conflict. You can organise a protest against the IMF, but you can’t mobilise people to overthrow the IMF, it’s too abstract. I think a lot of people got carried away by the fashionable talk about the decline of the nation-state. Having heard so many times from politicians that they were powerless to act against global capital, they thought “ok, we’ll just by-pass governments and go straight to the real masters”. But this approach was disempowering in the long run. National struggles are the only ones that can actually threaten the status quo, although international solidarity is still essential (this has always been the case, but more so now than ever).

But what was missing from Klein’s article, and a lot of the thinking at the time, was engagement with practical political questions. It’s fine to say you should organise in local communities and try to mobilise people there, but on what basis, in what political frame-work? If you want to go beyond what Laurence calls “micro change on single issues” you have to come up with a strategy for dealing with the state. As I said, this can vary from reformism to anarchism and everything in between, but you can’t simply ignore the problem. As long as our societies are controlled by states that defend the interests of big business above all else, “micro change” is all you can hope for.

Anyway, we shouldn’t forget why the movements against neoliberalism in Latin America are much more advanced than they are in Europe: because people in those countries were at the sharp end of neoliberal policies for a long time, they had to mobilise themselves on a huge scale. That kind of mobilisation hasn’t happened yet in Europe, although we may have seen some of the first examples over the last while. So there’s a limit to what activists can do without it.

France seems like the main country for keeping an eye on over the next while. In the last couple of years, you’ve had the “no” vote to the EU constitution and the defeat of the CPE. Jose Bove has just announced that he’ll be running in the presidential elections as the candidate of the “gauche antiliberale”, so it’ll be interesting to see if he has much of an impact.

Here’s a link to an article by Daniel Bensaid of the French LCR about the “return of strategy”. The writing style is a bit ponderous but some interesting points. The LCR itself is an interesting group: although it comes from the Trotskyist tradition, it’s rejected the model of a tightly centralised, almost monolithic party that’s very common on the far left. It has five organised platforms, all of whom have the right to distribute their literature to party members and hold meetings in the party HQ.

“We are coming to the end of the phase of the big refusal and of stoical resistance-Holloway’s ‘scream’ in the face of ‘the mutilation of human lives by capitalism’, slogans like ‘The world is not a commodity’ or ‘Our world is not for sale’. We need to be specific about what the ‘possible’ world is and, above all, to explore how to get there.”
http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article1199

And here’s a couple of articles outlining some of the problems caused by the traditional practices of the far left, in a movement that had enormous potential:

http://www.mikemarqusee.com/index.php?p=133#more-133

http://www.mikemarqusee.com/index.php?p=41#more-41

author by BluePantherpublication date Fri Feb 02, 2007 19:26Report this post to the editors

Theres a reason the anti-capitalist protests have died down; because people realise that capitalism is good. It allows anyone to get rich so long as they succeed

author by Pink pantherpublication date Fri Feb 02, 2007 19:59Report this post to the editors

As the billions of people living on a couple of dollars a day can testify.

author by Allyatespublication date Fri Feb 02, 2007 22:42Report this post to the editors

It is often noted that in the post USSR world; the 'left' faded out like the end of some movie.
Which is exaclty what happens.

See the 'left' is not really the 'left'. A Socialist worth his salt knows damn well whats happened to left; and its not lack of enthusiasm for a freer and more democratic world, a reverse to what Bush and relgious extremeism wants.
It is the root of class war, which is that the wealthy, growing ever more brash and unafraid, pay themselves millions per annum while little girls in Afghanistan that cannot count to 11 never mind know what 9-11 is are being blown up by bombs built by the rich on stolen wealth; sourced on a bill never to be paid.
Class war never ended, its just that the rich won. For now.

So how does this relate to you. Well look at whats going on now, weak unions and growing nationalism, yes nationalism, not since after WW2 could a European government be swayed by the economics of the workers fears.
The Polish plummber, the Irish Ferries wage dumping attempt, but the fear is the foriegner. Taking 'our' jobs.
No socialist could ever utter such a word; thats a thing for a nationalist. Socialists are inter-nationalists. So why did Blair (a third-wayer) ban skilled Rumanians from taking jobs in Britain?
Growing nationalism, the sick black heart of Captialism is greed for the self. MY job, MY mortgage, MY debt, MY country.

The 'left' is gone, it went when Stalin voted for 'socialism in one nation', essentialy national-socialism.

The Febuary Revolution was the true revolution, it was the first true democratic event since Athenians threw out Pisistratus on the promise from Cleistenies thet Athens would be a democracy. Except a socialist moderates that promise of votes, rights and equallty under the law, into the reality that class-war exists, that the only way to end it is by socialist revolution. There will be no more wage slavery, no wages to those who would steal it from workers.
No nation needs a leech class.
We live in REPUBLIC's, not democracies.

How many really have read Marx today, who picks up an economics book and appreiciates what is in it? Only those who would serve private capitalism, thus the 'left' is very thin on the groud of properly educated socialist revolutionaries. No economist seriously claims that Marx's understanding of economics was wrong. They might criticise his alternatives but not his knowledge of it.

The 'left' is a right wing word to prevent people from approaching some person on the bus; handing them a piece by Lenin and saying to them ' there you go comrade, read that, read a little bit of truth'. It is nearly embarassing, success then, for private capitalist media (owned by less than a dozen very rich and powerful men).

Where is the left? It went the way of the USSR, perhaps even Marx and Engles have been too horribly scarred by that abomination; perhaps even the people in Europe who supported the USSR knowing that it was an abomination have ruined a workers belief in class-war, convinced like UFO dis-believers that there is not any truth 'out there'.

And yes private Capitalism brings much, but it does so grudgingly; as if you should beg for what you get, as if they really need 60% of their billions to live.
They give it over what little they do because they know that there is a critical mass of suffering and greed that people will take before like the prisoners in the cave; they once more step out into the light of truth, only the horrible reality of class-war, they have been kid-gloved their whole lives and learn it too late.

Before any talk of a proper 'left' there must first be a proper re-awakening of workers. Seattle was a testament to great commitiment, but it was too late, the people had gone to slumber.

author by Ciaronpublication date Sat Feb 03, 2007 00:37Report this post to the editors

I too was there in London in June '99, which from memory was pre-Seattle.

In London there was a notable absence of the authoritarian and moderate/NGO left.

The radical direct actionsists created the space that was later to be colonised by the moderate/NGO's climaxing in the coronation of Bob and Bono at last year's G8. The authoritarian left saw it as yet another recruitment ground . The radicals were marginalised and then everyone got marginalised by the open warfare between pre-modernist Islam and modernist Capitalism (two former allies in the defeat of modernist Communism). The NGO's at Gleneagles refused to mention the war....the war came home to London on the last day.

The failure of an anti-war movement to progress past the moderate/NGO and authoritarian left strategy of marching, lobbying, and ever shrinking rallying and their agendas of recruitment, brand placement/profile lifting sees a movement moribund as the war between modernist capitalism and pre-modernist Islam expands and esclates.

There paradigm had shifted for this movement in the post-Genoa/NYC 911 daze.

author by Turlough - bandplayonpublication date Sat Feb 03, 2007 21:36Report this post to the editors

Three years of activist protest against whatever burns out individuals. They got to get qualifications, start regular earnings, get married, get mortgages, get kids, get lives... get lost in the anonymity of mass suburban society. Maybe send occasional protest letters to the papers. Only rave-at-the-world hyperactivists keep it up for a decade or more. Sometimes their kids take up the baton when they become teenagers. So have babies folks, to feed the future protest movements. Some of the babyboomer '60s radicals became peasant organic farmers in the Scottish highlands, the Welsh mountains or West Cork-Kerry. Hope they lived happily ever after..

author by Ezra Niesenpublication date Mon Feb 05, 2007 03:04author email tylermaudib at yahoo dot comReport this post to the editors

I'm an American but I always like visiting the Eire IndyMedia site because you people discuss things a lot more. Anyway, since you're looking for a way to organize people, here's what I've been working on...

About 40 years ago some scientists began studying what was going wrong with the global environment. That was the beginning of the environmental movement.

About 20 years ago, some scientists began searching for a universal brain structure of humanity. That was a reasonable assumption, because your brain structure is a part of your physical structure, and we all share the same basic physical structure.

If everyone in the world shared the same basic brain structure, people all over the world would share the same basic thought patterns and exhibit the same basic patterns of behavior. Sure enough, that turned out to be true.

So to cut a long story short, that universal brain strucutre of humanity has been discovered (or at least, working understanding of it). By now, everything that's going wrong with the world has been broken down to an interaction of fundamental laws of biology and physics.

The first big problem is that the only people who can understand all this science are well enough educated to get high paying jobs turning it into a psychological weapon to help them oppress people ever more efficiently. (Your enemies would pay me a fortune for what I know, but what good is money in a self-destructive economic system?) The other big problem is that for anyone to put all this science together in one place in public would border on political insurgency.

Well, if your enemies insist on deciding the fate of the world according to who can build the biggest psychological weapon, I can play that game, and I can play it a hell of a lot better than they can.

Everyone in the world wants to survive just as badly as everyone else. Everyone in the world needs the same basic things to survive. Everyone in the world has the same basic mental abilities to use to get the things they need to survive. That creates a universal political system of humanity, which doesn't require any politicians to make it function.

Next month I'm giving a free spoken word show at Arizona State University, where I'm going to spell all of this out. I've recorded an earlier version of the show and posted it on my website for free download, I've got a free audio book available through my website, printed copies of the book can be ordered through my site, and half the book and the complete lecture can be read on my site. Sometime in April I should also have a free video of my live show available.

The biggest problem I've run into the last couple of years is that lots of leftist activists have severe emotional allergies to science. As you well know, there's a lot of observable evidence that contradicts what your enemies claim to be true about the world. If you put a bunch of leftists together who insist that science can't possibly explain everything it claims to be able to explain, just because they *feel* this or that to be true, inevitably you end up with a movement whose ideology is equally scientifically invalid to your opponents', which means that all you've done is to invent a new ideology whose claims are contradicted by observable evidence. At that point, the only way you can hope to win is by might makes right. And if your enemies outnumber you and control more material resources, how do you ever expect to win a struggle like that? And why should anyone want to join it? And why should anyone want to go to the trouble of replacing one scientifically flawed ideology with another?

So I've been running into the same problems people have been talking about here: Leftists perpetually trying to solve symptoms of problems because they don't know-- and maybe even refuse to learn-- how to recognize the origins of problems.

If you're outnumbered and outgunned, the only way to win is to get smarter than your opponents. We both come from countries that broke away from the British Empire, so I think you must know what I'm talking about.

21998218v1_240x240_f.jpg

Related Link: http://www.newbookforanewworld.com
author by Shane - personal capacitypublication date Mon Feb 05, 2007 09:47Report this post to the editors

Firstly it's great to see some proper discussion on Indymedia.
As there is quite a bit to respond to I'll only throw in a couple of points.

Dunk's enthusiams for the World Social Forum in Nairobi over the past few weeks had been commendable. I'm here myself at present for other reasons but unfortunately I arrived just after the forum had finished so didn't get to participate.
However from speaking to people who have been working on the ground here for a number of years there is a sense of disappointment in what they feel the wsf achieved.
The feeling is that the agenda became sidetracked by issues those who attended felt were important but these were not necessarily the most pressing issues for Africa.
Also it seems that the wsf wasn't inclusive enough and was of little relevance to most Africans.
But more importantly attendance was disppointing and it seems that the wsf like the G8 protests has had its day.

Inclusiveness is the key issue and any real opposition has to have its basis amongst the marginalised and oppressed people. If we as Europeans come to Africa we must come to listen rather than to impose a western morality.

This also connects in with the point that Ciaron made, we have had this difference of opinion in the past and I am not looking for an argument! But if your actions fail to mobilise broader support it is not necessarily everybody elses fault.
Simply referring to other people as the 'authoritarian left' neither makes them authoritarian nor you a libretarian. It means they have different methods of organisation and possibly different priorities.
In my humble opinion the move you describe towards more moderate groups and NGO's is not a result of those groups taking over from people who were participating in direct actions but rather a result of people who were caught up in the broader 'anti-capitalist' movement failing to educate themselves or developing a long term coherent strategy. This meant that they became co-opted by the establishment and became reformists. The move from 'Anarchist' to liberal is a route that many seem to take.

Discussion such as we see in this thread is always healthy and hopefully with more of it we will learn from the mistakes of the past. As Laurence pointed out we shouldn't get too caught up in the issue of either/or.

I would see the fact that the article contained more questions than answers as representative of where we are in the present struggle but those who fear the legacy of the Russian revolution should be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. As the author said, we will merely end up reinventing the wheel.

author by Terencepublication date Mon Feb 05, 2007 14:22Report this post to the editors

Ezra,

Your mention of universal brain structure etc sounds interesting, but you also hit an quite an important point that many leftist activists have severe emotional allergies to science. Whilst it is probably a good thing to have diversity, I have found that those with an aversion to science tend to have an aversion to the facts of science and what it can and does say about the physical world. As a result you find a severe aversion to any discussion of the population issue and the availability of resources. Sometimes I find that their idea is that post-the-revolution these issues can be solved simply by sharing and then refute the notion of any limits. And while I agree a post capitalist and more egalitarian and just world would make a big difference, we would still face all the big issues and especially the population one. There is a lot of hand wavering that once we move to a sustainable system, all will be well .....

I assume that some of this thinking comes out of the Marxist background where the model in the early part of the last century and quite clearly 'visible' in the Soviet Union was the domination of nature, industrial expansion and an almost blind faith in the idea of progress itself which merged into dogma itself because anything labelled as such was beyond criticism. Of course there are still elements of that present today in the capitalist West.

And in some sense this comes back to some of the points or observations raised by others here about the initial waking of some sections of the population and then the drift to liberalism because of co-option by the system through the media. The media itself as part of its role to serve capitalism plays down global problems whenever it can, always making them seem not quite as bad as they can be and of course always refocusing the origin of the problems on individuals, but cruically the media plays a central role in the myth of progress and it is that promise to deliver that keeps people on board the capitalist project.

So basically as I see it, as the rumblings are coming through on the state of the planet -i.e. global warming, widespread toxic chemicals in the environment, end of cheap energy, water shortages, mass extinction of wildlife, overpoulation etc etc, people are getting concerned, but the media is saying its not all that bad and we can continue to deliver so you will be fine. And that is what people want to believe because they need to believe it, otherwise it shakes the foundation in everything they have believed and turns upside down their deeply held belief in ever lasting progress which has largely replaced religion in the strength of its faith. Afterall the drive by Leftists to achieve a better world by changing society is a highly idealist one and of long term benefit. But as the condition of the world deteriorates it is becoming a more practical one and one that will increasingly have more resonnace with people. Capitalism probably knows this and is making good progress in slowing down people making the connection.

author by lizpublication date Mon Feb 05, 2007 14:54Report this post to the editors

good to see this one up for debate. why hasn't the anti-corporate movement gained momentum since seattle? here's me tuppennysworth:

i do not see this as a problem of people's lack of awareness or media but as our failure to believe that we can win, failure to present a coherent strategy for doing so and most importantly lack of consultation with, as opposed to attempting to convert, people. inviting other people to come to our meetings does not count. we could be at theirs.

michael albert of znet is great on this one, saying that most people do not want to join a seemingly losing side. particularly one that doesn' t seem much fun, brings no immediately tangible results and appears from the outside to involve endless meetings & possibly a dress code.

Firstly, as the article above points out we have not seriously tried to build up the kind of alternative social infrastructure that would inspire confidence. what do people in ireland care about? healthcare, childcare and having time to spend with their families. if we were busily helping set up free classes, creches and clinics and recycling, free stuff etc. we would be demonstrating that we can put actions where our ideals are. this is something that anyone can do without belonging to an ideological club and is an inherently political thing to do because it challenges the idea that everything, including socializing, must be paid for. the most popular events i've attended have given free food and that alone amazes people. this is not a plea for 'radical social work' this is a plea for longterm projects. this country is full of underused community centres and the essence of horizontal organizing is to do yourself what is missing in the community, whether or not that thing is overtly 'political'. it will get results, an attitude shift towards doing it yourself.
is the problem that it's just too much like hard work?

Secondly how we behave: at a talk in dublin a couple of months back Michael albert told us he went to a meeting in an american university famous for football. he looked at the attendees and said he could have picked every one of them out & taken them out with a paintball gun cos they all looked the same. turned out not one of them had ever been to a football game or had talked to any of the other students about their ideas. he told them they weren't growing or organizing they were a cult. & smug at that. that's deeply off-putting to a lot of people and cannot be dismissed.

Thirdly, maybe people don't care for good reason: people rally around causes that deeply affect them, particularly where they can see that they can make a difference and are not being recruited or used to make up numbers. if people don't show up either they don't feel strongly, they don't see a potential victory or they genuinely don't care or disagree, which does not necessarily make them 'non-political'.

Are we interested in other people's opinions? Direct democracy means including people and viewpoints that are completely different. what's the point in an alliance of people who think more or less the same and make up 20% of the population? ( basing that figure on the outcome of the 'citizenship' referendum). the most important point is how to deal with challenge. are we really any more wiliing to listen to 'joe public' if s/he disagrees with us than the politicians are or do we assume that s/he just doesn't get it? do we trust people to make their own decisions only if they're the right ones? have we set the parameters of the debate too narrowly?

will we work with anybody? or are environmentalists too hippy and ngos too liberal etc? are we willing to get information from different sources and evaluate solutions from people who don't share our worldview? Stiglitz has some great sugggestions on redirecting global institutions which may never be read by people who consider that reformist.
international conferences & politician's talks are an opportunity to engage in debate but are avoided by many activists.

some of the events designed to be alternative forums have replicated current faults of top-down structures. the world social forum in nairobi discussed the slums surrounding the city minus most of the slum inhabitants who saw no obvious benefit from a conference they couldn't afford to enter. that forum could have mobilized all of those people if it had shown any real possibility of change or benefit or even participation.

on the plus side the global anti-corporate movements have shifted the globalization debate since seattle. i've recently discovered that many academics take agms ( anti-globalization movements ) very seriously, using them as part of a counter argument to neo-liberalism, although unsure how much impact AGMs can have given the commercial forces arrayed against them. (they don't seem to have noticed internal problems of ideological clashes. ) similarly politicians and business people are quite nervous. a recent statement from european business leaders on greater EU services liberalization acknowledges growing resistance among the public and suggests attempting to bypass EU legislation by finding other channels. AGMS have also opened up a space for NGOs to demand more in terms of fair trade and droppping the debt than could have been imagined when the WTO was founded in 1994. we might be worried that we're going nowhere but they're looking over their shoulders & we'd better be right there.

author by dunkpublication date Mon Feb 05, 2007 21:34author email fuspey at yahoo dot co dot ukReport this post to the editors

Bottom line is that the present system is unsustainable and that we have to create new ways of living ecologically....

As the quantum physicist, systems theory, ecoliteracy activist, academic, old hippy dude Fritjof Capra puts it (1)
"It has become increasingly clear that global capitalism in its present form is unsustainable and needs to be fundamentally redesigned. Indeed, scholars, community leaders, and grassroots activists around the world are now raising their voices, demanding that we must "change the game" and suggesting concrete ways of doing so."

So changing the game: creating new tools for communicating with each other, that means talking with but also listening to each others stories. Especially us in the "west", "occidental" or "north" listening to the "south" and not dictating to them, that was part of the listening node experiment described above. I believe we are not pushing the boundaries of how much we could take this, it took over 3 years to get that show hopefully a lot more will start to happen.

Im a lot of things, or, I do a lot of different things. Sometimes on my own but often with groups or collectives where time, tools, resources, etc can be shared aswell as the chaotic system which leads to more ideas that leads to stronger projects. I am an "architect" and have also been part of some "art" projects, I feel these are just 2 areas or disciplines that are in serious need of being confronted or taken on. Taken on in the sense that, in my opinion, there is a serious lack of critical discussion in the communities and from that little awareness of the anti-capitalist argument let alone participation in projects which aim to demonstrate a healthier alternative to present systems. I have tried to bring this discussion into the communities I am or have been part of, with limited success, if any. That could be my poor communication methods or simply because as I see it, those in these communities simply are not interested in "all that political stuff", ie: the architects prefer to "talk about little boxs that look nice". I have tried to get those in the "activist" community to try to participate in those "architectural" debates, I feel a lot more could happen here.(2)

As Liz pointed out there earlier: Believing, having HOPE, knowing your crazy idea is possible and not being afraid of trying it, saying YES rather than "it wont work" : POSITIVITY, one of the reasons I left Ireland was a lot of this. We need to dream more.
On this note remember what FOR can do: Berlin love parade, a protest FOR things but it was also fun.

I wrote a pretty strong piece about that after the Ploughshares court victory : a few points on how the global networks that we are part of ARE changing the world (3), that includes short audio files from Micheal Albert talking about STICKINESS, which is what Liz is referring too, again im not sure if anyone has listened to those audio files?? I was told to mellow out..... thats the thing this situation does require immediate action, i believe.

New working methods, or maybe not new but now being used by a wider group is a direct influence from the anarchist methods of organisation. The hand waving, sitting in circles etc.... For many learning and using these new techniques does not have them saying "Im using anarchist organisational methods", but just "thats a funny way of doing a meeting", David Graeber goes into this in detail and I think its worth hearing(4) him or reading his essays.(5) when he says "then again, the anarchist century has only just begun". Here in Barcelona anarchism has played a huge part of the forming the attitudes people have here, both natives and immigrants like myself. Some argue that Anarchism is impossible to happen (6), but others argue that lots of small methods and experiments of self organisation lead society in a gentle way to more local direct autonomy. On this note I feel it is interesting to look at Gandhi and his successor Vinoba Bhave who had strong anarchist leanings, as well as seeing all as a spiritual revolution. (7)

And in finishing up Id direct people to Indymedia Argentinas excellent freely downloadable short 12 min film which shows where IMC came from and why, but also a fine piece showing how the network grew (8)

Last thing, is there any way of finding out if people are listening to audio, my belief is that few do. I hope I am proved wrong.

Regards from Barcelona, where theres a lot to learn from......

The funny thing is though, being Irish abroad, we still have a name for standing up against imperialism and for justice. It upsets me to see what modern ireland is turning into or has already turned into: somewhere that lost its soul.....But then again, some people wake up, even after a deep sleep. 5000 years is the timeframe im thinking, back when newgrange was going up, was it more sustainable then, was life more sacred...? (9)

Dunk

(1) - Global civil society, a description of in "Where Have All the Flowers Gone? (December 1, 2002 )"
http://www.fritjofcapra.net/articles120102.html

(2) - placing urbanism schools in the cities guts + response to ronan
http://easa.antville.org/stories/1561288/#1566554

(3) - a few points on how the global networks that we are part of ARE changing the world
http://www.indymedia.ie/article/77460#comment161103

(4) - Anarchism in the 21st Century"
or
Anarchism, Or The Revolutionary Movement Of The Twenty-first Century
(January 06, 2004)
by David Graeber
and Andrej Grubacic
http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=4796
THE NEW ANARCHISTS (January-February 2002 )
DAVID GRAEBER
http://newleftreview.org/A2368
Audio interview by Indymedia on air radio with David Graeber on anarchism and anthropology.
http://www.radio4all.net/index.php?op=program-info&prog...nav=&
also on
http://radicalradio.org/
no 49. : Indymedia On Air with guest David Graeber et al on Anarchism 112204(58).mp3 (57:53)

(6) - george monbiot on " alvar aalto was an anarchist"
http://easa.antville.org/stories/1041499
see "talking shite" post and listen to audio (imc-radio is currently down...which was serving as the audio archive system)
"whats wrong with anarchism" is an excerpt from "The Age of Consent: A manifesto for a new world order" by George Monbiot. it is read out for later use in film that is being developed and to promote further discussion
15 min 12 seconds

(7) -Vinoba Bhave - hindu anarchist
same link as above under "nonviolent revolution - from india to clowning"
http://easa.antville.org/stories/1041499

(8) - in the eye of the storm: IMC argentina
15min video download :
http://sf.indymedia.org/uploads/qt_download_medium_27mb.mov
more info:
http://www.sf.indymedia.org/news/2002/10/153176.php

(9) - living
http://easa.antville.org/stories/935634

author by action manpublication date Wed Feb 07, 2007 08:56Report this post to the editors

Good piece but isnt this news like 4 years old. The "movement' in the north was already lost by genoa. But in the south it was only getting going. The failure of the WTO at Cancun and beyond said a lot about the changed political reality for the bosses throughout the south. They withdrew their collaboration with the globalisers in the WTO because they had to.

In the north the war exposed the faultlines that existed in the anti g movement. It failed absolutley to transform in 2003. Instead people flooded the streets behind the fantasy that "we can stop the war" so when we didnt, ironically, feb 15th was turned into a defeat. All the hot air about building alliances and process was blown away by the old guard, the trots in Europe and the maoists in the States.

"opposition to the Iraq war faced a very similar problem after the mass mobilisation of February 2003 – what can you do when the state simply ignores you"... is one way of looking at it but of course the state only ignores you when it can. Witness the states brutal supression of pickets at the Oakland docks where people were trying to sabotage the war. Similarly in Shannon, the state hardly ignored the resisters there. There are contless other examples. the big question for anti war activists in ireland right now is why has Shannon airport not been occupied and closed?

author by dunkpublication date Fri Feb 09, 2007 19:24Report this post to the editors

After some interesting discussion here on this feature its gone all quite again, right when we were getting somewhere. I wonder what others views are about what Liz and myself put up, apart from it being "old hat". Is it a case of sitting back and saying "oh well, we tried, but we were never going to win.....", which is part of what Micheal Albert criticised greatly. Or is it that its easy to be against but a bit more difficult to be for something? As stated I believe this is exactly the stumbling block of the ANTI-capitalist movement(s): we are not dreaming enough of those alternatives and then attempting to create them, maybe Im wrong, if so please show us or tell us about them.

One example of being for something and working to make the idea a reality...

Really imagining life in a post capitalist world: This is the general form a sustainable society must take whether we like it or not!

Id like to direct you to an excellent essay I came across recently, while spending time in an eco-village in Torri, outside Ventimiglia, Western Italia. The essay was found in the intentional communities international directory (1). and is entitled "THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE GLOBAL ECOVILLAGE MOVEMENT " (2), in it Ted Trainer what a sustainable society would look like: economics, less production, more decentralised self organisation, fixing stuff, less roads and more food production, permaculture.......

here are a selection of the bits I felt were the most important

I have no hesitation in claiming that the fate of the planet depends on those who are pioneering the transition to The Simpler Way.

put most of our energy into developing and demonstrating alternative lifestyles, settlements and systems, so that when consumer society runs into really serious problems people will be able to see that there is another way, one that is more sane, workable, attractive, just and ecologically sustainable.

We are too relaxed and we are too polite! We should be going out to the mainstream asserting that its ways are catastrophically mistaken, that they are destroying the ecosystems of the planet and impacting severely on the lives of billions of Third World people, that the global economy is outrageously unjust, and that a satisfactory world order cannot be built unless there is transition to The Simpler Way. At present we are not asserting these points loudly enough, consumer society does not understand its need to change, and it does not see us as showing the way to a sane and just world order.

Present system is unsustainable and that we have to create new ways of living ecologically....
As an example of being for stufff and attempting to do something about, I will recount some of the stuff I was involved with in Ireland, where it is now, how it got there and what I learned from it: direct action and attempts to organise for a greener more sustainable city.
Perhaps this is a response to "Some of the babyboomer '60s radicals became peasant organic farmers in the Scottish highlands, the Welsh mountains or West Cork-Kerry. Hope they lived happily ever after.."

So from that Id like to talk about what we tried in Dublin and finish with some of my reflection, having left a bit frustrated to Barcelona where things seem a bit healthier.

our proposal: Can Dublin become a more sustainable city?
We proposed an idea of making a greenway, the botanic spine (3) (a non-motorised bike path, a quiet green route through the city) and proposed that this 18km loop also be a CPUL. (continous productive urban landscape: which means loads of nodal points of food production sparking more food production in cities)
We picked up a film from Cuba about another example of a way cities can become sustainable, this was from a practical reason: they experienced a peak oil crisis of sorts and had to develop a more sustainable food production method, this model is what gave rise to the CPUL model. "The power of community, how Cuba survived peak oil" is the film. (4)

our action: bikes and gardens
started doing cycles and connecting up with bike groups, residents groups, political activists to invite them to participate. Some did and for a while we were having nice social occasions while pushing this idea: trying to turn it into a reality. At the same time we were proposing the idea to the heritage council and the city council, who are the "officials" in charge of making these sort of things happen. Needless to say we got no support from them, and at one point I was roared at down the phone by the main organiser of the DTO sponsored Velo City bikes in cities festival which happened in Dublin, because we had not gone through the official channels and were not a certain type of bike enthuasiest. (5)

We helped set up 2 community gardens on the proposed CPUL: Dolphins barn community garden (6) and the "cursed Earth"(7) garden in Phibsborogh. The first one was a great project which grew from strength to strength until the factory owner pulled the plug on it, but the collective moved out to Finglas and now there is talk of moving back into the city centre and Dolphins Barn, this time 200 metres down the canal at Sallys Bridge. This project was open to all and the group publicised what they were doing in exhibitions, on local radio, on indymedia, and then got coverage in the mainstream media. very few of Dublins "activist" community actually participated in the garden, some did but this was a very small percentage. I had expected a lot more "activists" to participate before things took off, as it was a perfect project to move from political theorising to direct action and plugging into community that could still do with more projects like this. Anyway the garden crew got to know each other and soon it was taken over by the people doing it. Regular times and a website and active mailing list were essential in this project taking off.

The cursed earth garden was a more punky "activist" garden, which had some "others" participating but a very chaotic system of people turning up and doing things made it hard for the others to participate. As far as I know the garden is not being used now, I hope im wrong. Ive asked but heard nothing.

Im just posting this up in attempt to further get this discussion growing and ideally more of you out digging with the gardeners. Its the basis for all, for many it is revolution in action, in all those years since there has been a lot of talk, but as trainer says: "We are too relaxed and we are too polite", i take that as we do really need to shift the playing field. In talking with people still in Dublin and Ireland and others like myself who have left Im putting out a common feeling thats held, especially about Dublin: "Fuck all gets done there, theres still too much negativity and lack of giving things a go. Theres too much shite, talk-talk-talk, not enough laughing and acting the bolix, are we a community?
Maybe its because the Dublin "activist world" is so small? But if this is the case what is being done to counter that, I ask this now that you have a social centre in Dublin...but still we hear nothing from that or see photos..." Im sorry if im being negative, im trying to make constructive criticism.....(8)

I await responses................................

just had a lovely chat there with the person next to me here, about life, love, revolution, smiling, working from the inside out.......
its a whole other angle, i didnt go into: spiritual ecological revolution(9) and living(10) have been previous attempts to address it...??
its really hard to put into words...................all in good time?

(1) intentional communities international directory : http://www.ic.org/

(2) THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE GLOBAL ECOVILLAGE MOVEMENT
Ted Trainer, University of N.S.W., Australia.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE GLOBAL ECOVILLAGE MOVEMENT http://socialwork.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/D09TheSigOfTheGE....html

(3) the botanic spine : dublin greenway
http://indymedia.ie/attachments/feb2007/botanic_spine.pdf
http://dublin.ie/botanicspine/
Dublin : first Greenway cycle of 2006
http://indymedia.ie/article/75672

(4) "The Power of Community – How Cuba Survived Peak Oil," - http://www.communitysolution.org/cuba.html

Cuba & Peak Oil Film Shown In Dingle
http://www.indymedia.ie/article/75666

(5) Velo City
http://www.indymedia.ie/article/70101

(6) Dolphins barn community garden
http://www.dolphinsbarngarden.org/
Dolphin's Barn community garden under threat
http://www.indymedia.ie/article/75438
Audio:
-Ruth gives a history of the garden 8mins - http://radio.indymedia.org/uploads/garden-tooth.wav
-Mixing the muck 7.5 mins - http://radio.indymedia.org/uploads/garden.wav

(7) "Cursed Earth" garden in Phibsborogh.
http://www.indymedia.ie/article/75922

(8) lack of give it a go in Dublin ....
global indymedia network project for world social forum in jan 2004
http://www.indymedia.ie/newswire.php?story_id=62497

"indymedia irelands first live stream"
http://www.indymedia.ie/newswire.php?story_id=72507

(9) spiritual ecological revolution
http://easa.antville.org/stories/1515516/

(10) living
http://easa.antville.org/stories/935634

a little blob in a very strange thing which enables many things including spiritual revoltution and smiling
a little blob in a very strange thing which enables many things including spiritual revoltution and smiling

there was a garden, it went away for a while, its coming back soon, maybe there will be more mucky hands...
there was a garden, it went away for a while, its coming back soon, maybe there will be more mucky hands...

author by Chrispublication date Sat Feb 10, 2007 00:31Report this post to the editors

The high point of anti-capitalism and the start of the "war on terror" are perhaps not unconnected.

Consider this article:

"After Genoa: Reform or Revolution"
http://boston.indymedia.org/newswire/display/3386

And:

9/11 in Context: The Strategy of Tension Gone Global
https://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2007/01/360934.html

Related Link: https://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/topics/terror/
author by seedotpublication date Sat Feb 10, 2007 02:18Report this post to the editors

Before this thread descends into another dunk scrapbook, two questions spring to mind from some of the strong contributions above.

When MichaelC bemoans the lack of hierarchy in Gleneagles he misses a somewhat scary counterpoint. There were two groups planning to disrupt the G8, both seemingly loose networks with autonomous collectives who both came up with disruption to logistics as the weak point of the British society - where to make the most impact. Dissent ignored the fence and took to the fields and the motorways and caused chaos. Others bombed the trains the next day and caused death and suffering - and fed the media agenda. But as oppositional tactics the non-hierarchical nature of Dissent didn't prevent them selecting and implementing the most effective tactic.

Maybe the problem is in the oppositional nature of summit hopping - maybe the tools and abilities should now be turned to building institutions and ignoring the spectacle - which only leads one way?

Also - the acceptance / understanding / rejection of the state, and its mechanisms offers within Ireland a potential for republican seperatism and anti-capitalism to find common ground. Has PSF now accepted workers in uniform? Do those opposed to this express deep rooted Irish suspicion of the state?

author by ipsitrixpublication date Sat Feb 10, 2007 09:10Report this post to the editors

Josh has been banged up now for almost 180 days. & there is no sign he'll get out soon. He refused a sub-poena to surrender his material to the FBI. The material related to July 8th 2005. It's a small world but a big place & you can't keep in solidarity with everyone. His blog is called "the revolution will be televised" which makes me feel nauseous. see? I lose my spelling when I feel nousaoues. I think Chris is right to remind us about the "war on terror" thing & how it effected "anti-capitalism". I reckon SeeDot is underestimating the effect the 7/7 bombings had on all the people in Scotland for that G8 no matter why & what they were there doing. I hope we never think that only the people who make it to the gig-summit sites are actually properly "card-carrying members of anti-capitalism". Yes I'm sure everyone felt a bit different on 7/ whether they were In a hoody - In a suit - In riot gear - holding a camera - trying to keep their sheep from being too worried & the windows intact.
But I think the mood of people would have been - must have been - very different on the 7th than on the 6th. & then the G8 gig moved forward - no-one really wanted to gig Russia did they? Especially not after belarus. Or maybe they did. Hardy little hoodies this new generation. Of course Dublin Josh is a Californian and the g8 thing he was at was in San Francisco. Makes no sense to me - but there you have it. This is what "anarchist action" (you've heard of them surely???? had to say in his support :-
"The difference between an anarchist approach to organizing a march and typical authoritarian leftist and liberal methods is that the latter seeks to control the actions of the participants, often squashing attempts at direct action. Authoritarian leftist and liberal groups favor routine, symbolic protests and beg for reforms from the ruling class. This does little in terms of actual resistance to the war or to whatever social condition is being opposed. An anarchist approach rejects all forms of authority and therefore does not set protest laws or try to keep people within boundaries- we believe in freedom and when we take to the streets that is the atmosphere we want. Anarchist Action does not coordinate, plan or participate in direct action, economic sabotage, or any other similar actions, we simply organize a protest space in which people may autonomously enact a diversity oftactics, and express their resistance in whatever way they choose.
http://www.boingboing.net/2007/02/07/vlogger_josh_wolf_....html
http://www.boingboing.net/2006/03/31/videobloggers_prot....html
http://www.joshwolf.net/blog/?p=76

author by Lara Hillpublication date Sat Feb 17, 2007 17:14Report this post to the editors

First up, thanks Dunk for mailing me this link. I hadn't read anything on Indymedia for ages, but this article and the responses have inspired and challenged me. I see it's been a week since the last comment, but here are a few of my responses to the discussion so far:

1) The numbers of protestors who turn up at a summit meeting cannot be taken as an indicator of the strength of the left/alternative movement. The main reason I believe this is that many activists are environmentalists and flying to some summit would be the last action they would want to take. This is all the more true for activists who have read George Monbiot's 'Heat'. I remember at the time of the summit at Gleneagles, there was a vibe that if you weren't going to Scotland, you weren't really committed to the cause. Personally, I'd have more time for people who do small actions on their own steam. By 'on their own steam' I mean carbon-neutral actions: Walk to your local Shell Garage and protest, cycle to you nearest bit of waste land and plant some potatoes. I therefore agree with JK Bowling Alley when he says "people will spend several hundred euro to get chased around a city for a while, then come home - instead of using the time to travel to Tara, Rossport or Shannon instead". This links to what Apparat says about Naomi Klein's conclusions in "Fences and Windows".

2) Chris, I disagree with your post about the movement being anti everything, but not for anything. I see the movement as being pro planet/ecosystem/biosphere/nature, whatever you want to call it. This is the essential reason I support, the initiatives in Shannon, Rossport, Tara etc. Shannon is a less obvious link, but war destroys the environment. I framed the critical mass I attended last year as pro-bike, pro clean air. I love bikes more than I hate cars and I do hate cars. In short, the common reason that I take these actions is that I love this earth. To me the concern and affection for the planet I live on ties into the social justice issue: Contrary to what Terence suggests about the global warming crisis imposing simultaneously on everyone, it is a gradual phenomenon, rather than a once-off cataclysmic event. Its effects have been felt for a long time by the poor. Global warming is a social justice issue.

3) Laurence, good to be remind of the global south. It is important to think of the effect of ecological destruction on the whole planet. Also good idea about a counter-summit. I thought the grass roots gathering in May 2005 (?) was an excellent weekend. I agree it would be better to organise something similar at the time of the next summit.

3) Allyates, I liked your post a lot. I think you hit the nail on the head when you highlight the selfish nature of man. It's a bloody hard challenge to stand against the prevailing thinking of worrying about MY mortgage, MY debt, MY job etc That's why I think every small step against this is essential. Recently an artist friend of mine in London was offered free accommodation in a family's home. It's these gentle gestures against capitalism that I find the most encouraging.

4)Terence, good to hear someone raising the population/sharing resources issue. It's never mentioned in the main stream media I think David Norris is the only political figure I have ever heard address it... must remember to vote for him.

5) Liz, I like your point about setting up free stuff. I remember in the run up to Christmas, I went to the Cultivate Christmas Fair to try and find some alternative. I was kind of disappointed with the stalls selling fair trade T-shirts for maybe €40.00 and all the NGOs with their stalls all offering the same thing. Then I went outside and found Kevin and his friend fixing bikes for free and offering tables of free stuff which people had donated. It was so brilliant. It really captured people's imagination and it had an immediate benefit of keeping stuff out of landfill.

5) I think in general people are over-impresed by the mass media as an evil enemy. I have to admit that parts of the mass media have politicised me. I was introduced to George Monbiot in the Guardian. Lucy Siegle in the Observer was one of the first people who made me think of daily/weekly eco actions. At times when I did not want to bother with my calling as an eco-warrior, there was the London Independent evey bloody day reminding me with an environmental shock story plastered across its front page. 'The Village' has kept me up to date with national struggles. Even the Irish Times would probably run an article praising squat gardens and give out guerrilla gardeners contact details! I heard an excellent documentary on Radio 1 about Rossport and Nigeria. I don't think the media are the real problem. It seems to me that Alllyates point about selfishness is probably more at the root of the failure of the left's revolution.

To finish up, I agree with Dunk about the significance of small methods and experiments. It seemd that last year the right thing to do was not necessarily to fly to a summit, but to stand at the Spire with the Pitstop Ploughshares, to cycle down the middle of a road in front of traffic, to grow some potatoes on land that had lain waste.

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