From Seattle to Genoa

Resolution of AGM

1. Since Seattle demonstrations against neo-liberal summits of WTO, IMF, EU, G8 etc. have developed into a focus for protests against globalisation and – partially – capitalism. It has become possible to bundle discontent and anger about the "New World Order”. The post-Seattle movement has become a political factor which has to be taken into account by the political establishment – of course only in statements and not in real politics, but pressure from the people marching on streets is noticeable. It is also positive that this movement is an international movement where global, but not always internationalist approaches are predominant. At the same time the extent and the character of different protests in fact depend strongly on the situation of the Left and the labour movement in various countries. (This can be clearly seen in the differences between Salzburg and Genoa). Convincing between 200.000 to 300.000 people to march on the streets despite massive repression has not been a sign for a stable international movement but much more an impressive demonstration of the strength of the Italian Left and the labour movement. Genoa has represented the most significant integration of the labour movement in protests so far.

2. Since Seattle the predominance of the Left in this movement has become obvious, especially in Europe. Nevertheless, the movement is a very heterogenous one. Petit-bourgeois critics of globalisation from France such as ATTAC or Rainsons d’Agir (Pierre Bourdieu) and Susan George, Naomi Klein and Walden Bello from North America or the post-"fordism”-concept of Toni Negri (who is more leftist) play a dominating role – not in organisation but in the media and partly also in ideology. These "opinion leaders” have emerged not as a kind of "avant-garde” playing an active and progress-entailing role but as an expression of a movement that is politically not very much developed.

3. Parts of them are against neo-liberalism and not against capitalism in general, but for a different capitalism. It is wrong to think that the movement itself or at least a large part of this movement is anti-capitalistic. Many protestors propagate keynesianic reforms that are illusionary. Proposals like the so-called Tobin Tax are based on an insufficient or even wrong economic analysis of neo-liberalism. (e.g. the "foreign minister” of Attac, Christophe Aguitton, told his fans in Salzburg that capitalism has solved its problems and that the most important matter was that people benefit from this capitalism.) Increasing contradictions in the capitalistic world order, intensified international competition, a permanent crisis in Japan, the collapses in Southeast Asia seen as "future model”, difficulties in threshold countries such as Argentine, Turkey or Russia, an economic downturn in the United States and in Europe are simply forgotten. They spread the opionion that capitalism can also be different if elites just want it to be different. Idealistic ideas about the development of neo-liberalism which are attributed to a short-sighted or malicious policy of the political elites are the background for this. (Pierre Bourdieu)

4. For this reason criticism very often focused on surface phenomena of the system. The critics very often don’t have a deepgoing understanding of capitalist economy, classes and the state. As a consequence, most critics end up with utopian socialist perspectives (in the sense of the early socialism from the beginning of the 19th century) at best. University professors and journalists who criticise globalisation very often see the working classes developing into some sort of "bourgeoisie” and becoming hopelessly integrated. Lacking another social subject for their ideas, they finally just want to put pressure on capitalist governments in order to achieve their goals. (ATTAC for example puts all its hopes on the European Parliament in connection with the Tobin Tax.) Unclear concepts of the civil society are merged with the obsequious lobbyism of the NGOs and toothless consumer protection councils and their boycott strategies against multi-nationals. Putting hopes on semi-colonial states and their elites, on the United Nations (Walden Bello), having hopes to eradicate hunger through debt relief for the poorest countries or hopes for a reform of the WTO is equally naïve. Proposals to avoid multi-nationals by local activities, by cooperation with right wing politicans in local resistance (Susan George) or by a return to traditionally rural and local economic methods (Vandana Shiva) are anachronistic and reactionary.

5. As far as the number of people mobilised is concerned, the traditional Left is certainly more important than the spokespersons of the anti-globalisation movement who have become quite fashionable. Leftist trade unions and their members as well as reformist parties put under pressure through a rank-and-file that is eager to fight for its goals have made up relevant blocks in these demonstrations. This reveals on the one hand first signs of a connection between the movement and the real labour movement but entails on the other hand that also social-chauvinistic positions are introduced by reformists. It does neither make sense to hope that these reformists will change their attitudes, nor is it reasonable to turn away from trade unions in disgust. A political fight for the influence of the working class is indispensable.

6. On the radical left within the movement there are anarchistic-autonomous forces which partly step into the trap of the state´s strategy of "military” confrontation and which at the same time don’t bring in any political perspective, especially no proposals about how the movement can be extended to the mass of wage earners. Something similar applies to the mainly Italian "tute bianche” with its eclectic-ideological mixture of Toni Negri, Michel Foucault and Subcoman-dante Marcos. Most organisations developed out of Trotskyism basically pursued a right policy: the fight for an anti-capitalistic orientation of the movement and the promotion of a movement that involves the working class. In some organisation this perspective was linked with a certain euphoria about this allegedly anti-capitalistic movement and in some others it was connected with a compliance with petty-bourgeois critics of globalisation and their proposals.

7. Numerous commentators and several politicians (e.g. the French Foreign Minister) compare the movements in Seattle and Genoa with the 1968 movement. Is that correct? Yes and no. Today we are in another stage of capitalism. Economic and social disparities and the instability of the whole system are today bigger than at the end of the 60’s and at the beginning of the 70’s. At that time such as today the movement has been made up of intellectuals, young people and parts of the labour movement. After reactionary attacks in the 80’s and 90’s we now have a broader wave of criticism against this system for the first time. Liberal bourgeois (such as Markus Bernath in the Austrian paper Standard) referring to the movement in 1968 and to all Joschka Fischers recommend to slowly adopt the issues of the movement and to involve their "leaders” politically in order to contain the movement – but this is much more difficult today than in former times. The VIPs within ATTAC show willingness to cooperate in this context but the scope for making economic concessions to wage earners and political concessions to the movement is much lower than 30 years ago. The radical Left today is yet much weaker than in the 70’s but in most countries it is stronger than before 1968. The political burden of Stalinism with which all sorts of criticism of the system have been confronted immediately is not that relevant anymore.

8. What are possible perspectives for the movement? In the view of economic and social problems caused by the current world system, the Bourgeoisie relies more on a stronger repression aiming at intimidating the majority of protesters and criminalizing in particular the radical Left. There are inter-bourgeois differences about the extent of repression because confidence in the bourgeois-"democratic” state shouldn’t be shattered unnecessarily. The current propaganda has also been partly successful with its strategy to divide protesters into two groups: well-behaved protesters and violent rioters. This strategy is also supported by liberal bourgeois. Even after Genoa the danger that this movement will be suppressed by the state has not been banned; even if there are chances that the movement will further grow. At the same time it becomes ever more difficult to organise protests at summit meetings because global leaders withdraw to mountain villages or to places such as Qatar. Whether this movement will rise or decline will finally depend on whether the movement can be rooted in the working class at the workplaces and whether a connection with industrial actions will be successful. Young activists have already made experiences with the potential integration of the working class but also with the brutality of the state destroying many illusions about a bourgeois "democracy”. Whether politically necessary conclusions will be drawn (especially the creation of revolutionary Marxist organisations) will be shown in political discussions between different trends of the movement. The state at least has an interest in a military escalation, the Left of course has not. There is a certain danger that radical fighters of the movement will be finally stuck up in the deadlock of terrorism because they are helpless towards repression on the part of the state and because they don’t find another perspective. This already happened in Germany or in Italy in the 70’s.

9. Based on the developing anti-capitalistic tendencies in some layers of our society it will be very important to win over people for the building of proletarian-revolutionary organisations. The mobilisation of people at summit meetings can be reasonable from a tactical point of view but crucial are the construction of organisation and its rooting in the working class step by step. A respective modification of the positioning of some currents coming from Trotskyist tradition can only be welcomed.