The Specter of “Alter-Globalization”


Aleksandr Buzgalin

(instead of introduction)

The specter is haunting the world, the specter of “anti-globalization”. Bushes and Blairs, Liberals and Stalinists, fundamentalists and chauvinists are united in their efforts to exorcise this specter. But our movement grows and develops not only year by year, but even month by month.

However, despite the growing scale of the movement, its theoretical foundations still remain a not so popular theme. And this is an example, – not the only one, but a very remarkable example, – demonstrating how the masses’ social creativity, growing from below and not predicted by scholars in any explicit way, takes the lead over theoretical “program constructions”. Nevertheless, we can specify some basic points of such a theory, that can help us (1) to determine objective grounds for development of this kind of alternative projects, and (2) to formulate possible general principles of this “movement of movements”. Besides that (3), the movement which is named “anti-globalization”, and which we prefer to call the alter-globalist movement, did not grow out of nowhere. Both practical activists and theorists (like C. Aguiton, I. Wallerstein etc.) notice that this movement has many similarities to the “New Left” of 1968 in its genesis, principles, and scale. At the same time, it is obvious that without “old” trade unions and Left parties, events of such scale as those in Seattle, Genoa and many other places would be impossible. And still, the alter-globalization movement is (4) really a new movement.

As such, it demands a dialectic study examining its objective preconditions, genesis (as a dialectical “sublation” of its historical grounds), and its qualitatively new features in their contradictory nature. Following this method, first of all we’ll try to systematize some empirical characteristics of the movement (in the English version of the article, the author omits sections analyzing the international experience, as that has been described well in numerous English-language publications by different authors, and characterizes the “anti globalization”/”alter-globalization” in Russia only briefly). Then, we’ll determine some of its constantly reproduced principles, and at last, we’ll turn to identifying its intrinsic contradictions, after a brief description of well-known theories concerning objective preconditions of the development of alter globalization movements.


1. “Anti-globalization”/“alter globalization” in Russia


In May 2002, the alter-globalization movement in Russia had its first “tough encounter” with authorities during the meetings in Saint Petersburg and Moscow timed for the visits of Bush and leaders of the European Community. In total, 47 our comrades were arrested, many of them were beaten.

These street actions became the most colorful events, which got a good coverage by mass media. However, actually the development of alter-globalization (or, speaking traditionally, “anti globalization”) activities in Russia began, at the latest, in November 2001 (here I’m speaking about the “anti-globalization” movement in the narrow sense, meaning the movement sharing main goals and ideas with movements associating themselves with this name in other countries). At that time, there was a series of public hearings in Moscow, in the House of Journalists and elsewhere, and in many other cities of Russia, and also meetings and street actions, including the meeting on the Mayakovsky square in Moscow on Nov. 9. After that, a series of actions took place in Russia, that were directly associated with themes characteristic of the international “anti globalization” movement. It must be noted, first of all, that those actions had an essentially internationalist character, actually they were always coordinated with international “anti-globalization” actions. (The Nov. 9 events in Moscow, too, were held on the international action day against the World Trade Organization; entering the WTO can have a lot of very serious negative social and economic consequences for Russia.) Perhaps, among the most important “anti-globalization” events of 2001–2002 winter, it is necessary to mention the participation of several Russian representatives in the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, after which the so-called Moscow Social Forum was organized on their initiative. For the time being, the Moscow Forum was a relatively modest event, with several dozens of participants; parallel to it, seminars, meetings, round tables and press conferences were also organized in more than 15 cities of Russia. Interesting discussions were held in Moscow youth political clubs, in the Moscow State University, in academic institutions (including seminars in the Institute of Economic and International Relations, the Institute of Latin America, the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Science), in a number of high schools, both in Moscow and “on the periphery”.

The above-mentioned actions during the visits by the US president G. W. Bush and leaders of the European Community (May 2002) were perhaps the second significant “anti-globalist” street manifestation in Russia. During those events in St. Petersburg and Moscow, arrests of “anti-globalists” were made for the first time, some of our comrades were beaten and spent up to two days at police stations. However, the activities of our “Alternatives” movement, basically, are expressed not so much in street actions as in a constructive opposition work. Here, the most important field of work for us is explaining to people, that there is a really existing alternative to the neo-liberal policies, to the neo-liberal economy, to the neo-liberal ideology. And this alternative consists not in nationalist/traditionalist slogans looking into the past, but it proposes another kind of integration of a different Russia with a different world.

Those “anti-globalization” actions were rather limited in their scale and number of participants. In most cases, from several dozens up to several hundreds people participated in them. They were organized by left political groups, such as “Socialist resistance”, “Defense” left trade unions, and the “Rainbow keepers” group; “Alternatives” also actively participated from the very beginning, and we took part in many street actions. But our work remains concentrated, first of all, in scientific and educational field and in supporting workers’ and citizens’ self-organization in action. In particular, we can mention the “Alternatives of globalization” international conference (Moscow, June 2002, more than 500 participants from 16 countries), the “Siberia is not for sale” Forum (Barnaul, February 2002), etc.

This is the “anti-globalization” movement in Russia, in the narrow sense of the word. It is young, but it has already received certain popularity due to the interest on the part of mass media (this phenomenon should be noted as well). But in the broad sense of the word, the movement of opponents of capitalist globalization in Russia, naturally, has much longer history, as it is linked to a search of real alternatives in economic, social and political areas.

Most important, this is expressed in activities of various social movements and initiatives, emerging mainly “from below” and resisting the liberal market capitalist economy development models that are imposed on Russia today, not least under powerful pressure from the IMF, WTO and other agents of the capitalist globalization. Among these movements, I would put first the protest actions of workers’ collectives, the most prominent being occupational strikes at the Yasnogorsk machine-building factory, at the Vyborg pulp-and-paper mill, and later on, a series of actions in many cities of Russia and Ukraine when workers’ collectives have shown that they are capable to create “from below” another kind of social relations.

These actions can be considered as a real “anti-globalization” movement, not so much because their participants put forward such slogans (as a rule, they didn’t, or at least didn’t make stress on them), but due to the fact that they have demonstrated a creation of another world, – another economy, another social/human relations, – from below. Here, we have a continuation of the struggle initiated by “anti-globalization” movements and their supporters in many places around the world, both in developing and advanced countries. In Russia, we struggle for de-privatizations, against electricity cuts, against wage non-payments, while in Latin America or Africa, people struggle for the right of access to clean water, and everywhere, for preservation of jobs. Nevertheless, the essence of all these struggles is, generally speaking, the same, and we face the same adversary force: the policy of the global liberal capitalist nomenclatura. Workers’ collectives in Russia and landless peasants in Brazil, the unemployed in the Western Europe and founders of real cooperative societies in remote Russian provinces participate in a common struggle. Therefore, these activities should be seen as the best expression of real alter-globalization.

It is necessary to emphasize that, besides the occupational strikes, this protest movement born “from below” used also blocking railways and roads, (unfortunately) individual and collective hunger-strikes (especially among employees paid from budgetary funds, e.g. schoolteachers), and many other forms of social protest. But the main feature of all these actions was the “positive” creative work of building new attitudes to workers’ control and self-management, new management relations, new human relations among those who participated in these struggles. One can read about all that in more details in our published books, as from the very beginning we, representatives of the “Alternatives” movement, were actively engaged in many such struggles, – as colleagues, as advisers, as “comrades-in-arms”.

Secondly, the “alter-globalization” movement in Russia interacts with other traditions of political opposition to the present capitalist system, to its global leaders and ideologists. It is necessary to emphasize, that the left (communist and socialist) opposition in Russia has actually been existing since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. However, in most cases, it is oriented not so much towards a search of another model of integration and internationalism, as towards a criticism of the present-day global system of world imperialism (as supporters of these ideological tendencies prefer to speak) based on patriarchal values and moods, on the nostalgia for the Soviet system, and sometimes, on the Russian chauvinism or nationalism. Here we can mention the Russian Communist Working Party (mainly Stalinist in its views), a number of other radical left groups, and also the “National Bolsheviks” headed by Eduard Limonov (Savenko). A little different is the position of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation CPRF), the largest oppositional political organization; its slogans perhaps resemble a left social democracy, but in its attitude to global capitalist system, CPRF most often appeals not to the ideas of new internationalism, but rather to Russian patriarchal traditions, Russia’s greatness, and the need to defend and preserve its unique identity. Additionally, one should note that in Russia there is also a right opposition to globalization, represented by a number of nationalist and Orthodox Christian organizations (including monarchists), calling to a resistance to what is, from their point of view, the global Western (American, “Jewish”) expansion, in order to ensure a kind of autarchic development of our country and its “revival” as a unique and independent great power. Certainly, such an opposition to globalization is completely different from the “alter-globalism”, from the movement for another world integration we’ll now speak about.

So, there is a rather complicated situation in Russia, when supporters of another model of world integration must “fight on two fronts”. The first, basic struggle, naturally, is the struggle against those who are imposing on our country the neo-liberal model of economic, social and political development. The “second front”, – in many cases, unfortunately, no less important, – is explaining the dead-end and, in many respects, harmful character of patriarchal-conservative, past-oriented criticism of globalization, of ideas of national isolation, and especially of “great-Russian” chauvinism. However, we should take into account that there are objective preconditions for such tendencies in Russia. These preconditions include the real responsibility of not only Russian, but also Western global capitalist nomenclatura for those catastrophic, crisis consequences of privatizations and other liberal policies, geopolitical and cultural/ideological transformations that have taken place in our country; the destruction of the Soviet Union that struck a painful blow at the social status and patriotic feelings of many citizens of our country; the destruction of the united social and cultural “space” that existed on the territory of the Soviet Union; the aggressive and primitive westernization of culture, and many other reasons that were repeatedly analyzed by the author of this text.

Today it is more important to us to connect the movement for another globalization as an ideological and political current with real social struggle for creation of another world, developing “from below”. Apart from the movement of workers’ collectives mentioned above, it is necessary to take into account that there is a lot of progressive public organizations in our country, that really function as structures emerging “from below” and creating new social relations, working in such areas as wildlife protection and management, educational initiatives, cultural and spiritual development, solving problems concerning disabled people, and in many other fields of social work, both those traditional for Russia and new ones. It seems to me that here we can find very important possibilities of development of the “alter-globalization” movement. Among specific, practical actions and campaigns, which can unite today these public organizations, the “alter-globalization” movement, and probably many “traditional” left political organizations, I would name the following: the continuation of the struggle (that began several years ago) against the government version of the Labor Code, – now it has entered a new stage, because the new Labor Code has been already accepted, and a strategy of fighting negative consequences caused by this must be developed; opposing the plans of housing and utilities reform being outlined by the authorities; opposing ongoing commercialization of education and health care.

Carrying out such united actions and campaigns of resistance to the neo-liberal models of developing barbarous capitalism in Russia (with negative consequences aggravated by globalization) means real prospects for the “alter-globalization” movement in our country. But I want to emphasize that actually, such a movement only begins to grow in Russia, though it develops intensively, in tough struggles and in a dialogue with the international movement.

This text is focused, first of all, not on the description of the “alter-globalization” movement or movements, but on studying their nature. That is why now we would like to turn to examining the objective preconditions, which created our movement.


2. Technological, economic and social preconditions for “alter-globalization”


2.1. Preconditions for “alter-globalization”: “a network society” (“a society of knowledge”)


One of the popular paradoxes, often cited by critics of our movement, is that the “anti-globalization” movement has grown due to one of the most well-known phenomena produced by globalization: the Internet. It is a real paradox expressing a real contradiction: the global information (network) technologies, the development of which has been caused by the progress of productive forces, at the boundary of centuries became one of the major, really functioning foundations of the “anti-globalist” struggle. How and why?

First of all, there is globalization and globalization: objective process of internationalization of technologies and cultures is one thing, and the global capital as a particular, historically determined form of this process is another thing. Such distinction goes back to the classical heritage of Karl Marx, and I’ll address it in more details below. Now I’m emphasizing that the “alter-globalization” movement has grown, in many aspects, due to the Internet. This is an empirical phenomenon: Zapatistas in Mexico, landless peasants in Brazil and high-brow intellectuals from “Le Monde Diplomatique” who initiated АТТАC, work and interact with one another using the Internet; the World Social Forums were organized mainly through the Internet; the success of actions in Seattle, very important for us, was achieved due to the Internet and mobile phones.

However, the essence lies not in the fact that computers, the Internet and mobile phones are very useful for organizing mass events and actions. The connection here is much deeper. The major fundamental features of information (network) technologies, about which M. Castells and others wrote, are those that allow, – and, moreover, make optimal and necessary, – those forms and principles of the social organization that are embodied in practice by the new social movements and, first of all, by the “alter-globalization” movement.

A neo-Marxist interpretation of the basic features of “the network society” was proposed by the author earlier. So, here I can take advantage of the results of this research and offer some conclusions.

First, the phenomenon of knowledge means developing of a resource that is, by the very its nature, unlimited in contents. If, for a while, we abstract from the market form of knowledge and from the private property in this sphere (and the “alter-globalization” exposes this “abstraction” as a practical requirement), it reveals itself as a “product” that increases the more, the more it is “consumed”. Really, “de-objectification” of knowledge, of cultural phenomena leads to growth of the knowledge, to progress of culture. “Consuming” knowledge, a scientist increases it; “consuming” Newton’s knowledge, Einstein didn’t destroy achievements of the predecessor, but “sublated” them, thus having increased and developed the knowledge. We observe the same thing in the development of mathematics, or even of language, and the same occurs in art and education.

Second, a network, contrary to a hierarchy, is, essentially, a flexible, mobile, open and accessible entity (like sea or air space are open for everybody, if they aren’t controlled by military or by pirates). Market, commercialization, private property are forms of social relations as badly compatible with network technologies and the world of knowledge, as serfdom and feudal-monarchic social organization were badly compatible with industry (this conclusion was substantiated in our previous works).

Third, the world of knowledge and network organization is democratic by its very nature: in this world there is a place for all and everybody, and everybody needs it. And it is necessary and useful to everybody in a different, specific way, it is the world of open access to unique and individualized “products” (any knowledge is unique, any work of art is individualized). It can be entered, and is in practice entered (as it was mentioned above) by unemployed and professionals, peasants and intellectuals, they all are included into this world in their own ways that differ (I’m repeating this again!) from one another, though often they solve common problems. One example: at the World Social Forum plenary session on problems of free access to knowledge, a dialogue took place between programmers from the USA, struggling for free software, and peasants from Latin America, struggling against exclusively high prices for high-quality seeds and cattle breeds, main part of those prices being the “intellectual rent” (both sides in the dialogue emphasized that this rent is received not by “intellectuals”, but by corporations that had bought their intelligence).

Fourth, new principles of organizing activities and communications are expanding into social life even in areas where new technologies are absent. For example, the production activities of landless peasants in Latin America based on traditional industrial-agrarian technologies, considered from the social and economic point of view, show a tendency to network-building.

Summing up, we can suppose that “a society of knowledge” (“a network society”), by its very nature, assumes (if we abstract from market and private property) realization of such new principles of social organization as:

– limitless and at the same time unique character of resources;

– general accessibility, openness, flexibility of networks and corresponding forms of social life;

– democratic and “inter-structural” (whether it concerns professional, regional, or social structures) character of organizations.

As such, these principles are in a fundamental contradiction with the principles of modern social, economic, political-ideological system the author (following the tradition of K. Marx, V. I. Lenin and A. Gramsci) calls the global hegemony of the corporate capital.


2.2. Global hegemony of the capital as the negative precondition for “alter-globalization”


For liberals, it seems obvious that globalization is an objective process, a synonym of progress in new conditions, and consequently, that there is and can be no alternative to the development of TNCs’, IMF’s, WTO’s, NATO’s power, and anybody who disagrees with it is an enemy of progress.

“Alter-globalists” agree that at the boundary of centuries, the world develops in conditions of growing integration of technologies, economies and cultures; this process is indeed objective. But we strongly disagree with the thesis that the present absolute power of “global players” is the only possible economic, political and cultural form of this process of integration. We say (and this conclusion is proved in hundreds of publications, including those by prominent scientists like I. Wallerstein, S. Amin etc.) that the world nowadays faces not simply a new stage of internationalization of the economic and social life that threatens nations’ and states’ sovereignty, but specific social form of this process characteristic for “late capitalism” (E. Mandel’s term). The world deals not simply with globalization, but with a global hegemony of the corporate capital. It is really a hegemony – an “integral”, total power of capital as a single economic, social, political and cultural/spiritual force; it is the power of capital personified primarily by the narrow group of global players (TNCs, IMF/WB/WTO “unholy trinity”, etc.), connected with the G7 establishment, and this power of capital covers all the world.

The global power of capital assumes, first, a “total” market, penetrating every aspect of human life. And it is not a market of freely competing atomized enterprises, but a “total” market as a fighting space of huge networks whose centers are TNCs. All of us, – as workers, consumers, dwellers, – become half-slaves of these spiders wrestling among themselves, captives of their webs, turning into McDonalds’ clients, a “Pepsi generation” and, as a whole, into petty-bourgeois consumers.

Second, the hegemony of the capital is now mostly the power of virtual fictitious financial capital “living” in electronic networks. A virtual “black box” has been created in the world, containing huge financial bubbles (hundreds of billions, even trillions of dollars) inflated both due to international speculative gambling in the First World and due to manipulations with debts, financial speculations on national assets and other forms of financial oppression of Second and Third World countries.

Third, the global hegemony of capital assumes nowadays not simply an exploitation of hired workers through selling and buying labor force, but also a total submission of worker’s personality. The creative potential, talent, education, – all aspects of life of a professional worker are appropriated by present-day corporations in the First World, while not only in the Third, but also in the Second World semi-feudal methods of exploitation, locking workers in a ghetto of backwardness, become more and more widespread.

Fourth, very well-known is the system of methods by which the First World monopolizes key resources of development (know-how, high-skilled labor etc.), absorbing the overwhelming part of natural resources and exporting dirty technologies and social “dirt” to the Third and Second worlds.

Fifth, we have the global political and ideological manipulation, informational and cultural pressure.

Such a system of world hegemony in economy (a new quality of markets, money, and capital), politics and ideology leads, by virtue of its internal contradictions, to the development of a certain set of forms and methods of resistance to the global power of corporate capital, producing tendencies of counter-globalization and counter-hegemony.

The total, comprehensive nature of the power of capital in modern society creates a negative precondition (a basis for dialectical negation) for equally comprehensive “sublation” of that power.

Simplifying the theoretical model, we can say: the universal, comprehensive power of the global market and global capital, penetrating all areas of human life, subjugating us as workers and consumers, citizens and personalities has inevitably created an equally comprehensive, mass and resolute alternative movement. If we return to theory (NB! in this case we speak only about a theoretical hypothesis which must be checked by comparing it with practice), this alternative to the global power of capital, the negation and “sublation” of that power (the dialectical logic works here) is seen theoretically as:

– comprehensive, all-encompassing but anti-total, based not on a totalitarian unification (that is typical of the global capital), but on uniqueness, originality, independence of actors;

– anti-hegemonic, superseding the power of capital and economic, political, cultural/spiritual oppression of a man in non-alienated forms of a dialogue of equals;

– alter-global or perhaps post-global, i.e. furthering the process of internationalization due to overcoming its present-day limits caused by the corporate capitalism;

– post-corporate, i.e. developing achievements made by corporate structures, removing their bureaucratic, hierarchical restrictions hindering development of open associations.

Such is, I repeat, the theoretical hypothesis constructed on the basis of applying the dialectical method to the study of the process of “sublation” of the global power of the corporate capital.

Here, so far, we don’t substantiate an answer to the question most important for the Left: whether such alternative can leave untouched the very foundations of the present mode of production, first of all, the capital, – whether it can be not an anti-capitalist (or at least post-capitalist) alternative first and foremost? Below, the author intends to reveal the objective contradictions of alter-globalization, leading to a dialectically complicated answer to this question. The solution proposed by the author, basically, is not original: in the framework of [late] capitalism, there is a space for its partial social reforming on the global scale; but such reforming, even if it takes place, (1) can be made only under a powerful pressure on the part of opposition, including (maybe, first of all) “alter-globalists”, and (2) never will provide a transition to a qualitatively new, non-capitalist type of integration, that is the only kind of integration capable to resolve deep contradictions of capital’s global hegemony.

Before starting comparing the characteristics described above with empirically observed features of the movement, the author would like to remind reader that the phenomenon of comprehensive submission of personality to external forces has already for a long time been quite familiar to the critical Marxist philosophy, which has elaborated the category of “alienation”, following the philosophical discoveries by Hegel and Marx.


2.3. “Alter-globalization” as the alternative to international alienation.


The phenomenon of alienation became most obvious empirically and, at the same time, investigated theoretically in the second half of 1960s; not incidentally, it was the time when the “New Left” movement developed (the author mentioned the “New Left” as “progenitors” of “alter-globalization”). Then it became empirically and theoretically clear for the Left, that the problem of oppression of personality in the world of the “late capitalism” cannot be reduced to the exploitation of labor, to the appropriation of surplus value by capital. The studies of alienation and the “New Left” revolt against the alienation became a prologue to the present start of primarily positive movement against the alienation known by the name of “globalization”, that we call here “the global hegemony of capital”.

Alienation is an essential concept for the further study; therefore, we’ll examine it in more details on the base of widely known theses belonging to the Hegelian-Marxist tradition.

This tradition leads to understanding alienation as a world where essential powers of man as a species-being that transforms the nature and society according to known laws of their development, have become alien to an overwhelming majority of members of the society. They seem to be “appropriated” by dominant social system and by “converted forms” lying open on its surface and having an appearance of a thing or an institution (a typical example is money as a thing subordinating man to itself).

Qualities and capabilities belonging to man as the creator of history (goals and means, process and results of man’s activities, human feelings and relations to other people) turn themselves into a universe of external, alien social forces, insubordinate and unknowable to man. These social forces – the division of labor and relations of exploitation, the state and the tradition, money fetishism and religion – seem to appropriate human qualities and thereby transform Man the Creator into a function, a slave of those impersonal forces.

The relations of alienation are characteristic of all levels of social life: the material-technological level (division of labor and transformation of a person into “partial worker” subordinated in his/her activity to a technological system), the social/economic level (a person as a function of the capital, of the market), the political and ideological levels.

The result (and the precondition of a new alienation-reproducing cycle) is the human self-alienation, a life when an individual person perceives himself/herself as a function of the external world.

This world, the world of alienation, seems to transfer human qualities to external social forces (for example, to a piece of paper with watermarks). We say “seems”, just because this world of false social mirrors is created by people themselves, due to objective reasons first and foremost. But for the same reasons, only ugly figures “from behind the looking-glass” and their antics (making money, career etc. as an end in itself) are perceived by us as the only real, matter-of-course world (remember the amazingly apt metaphor from the tale about the naked Emperor!). Moreover, in the world of alienation, as a rule, we cannot live and develop ourselves outside these alienated social mechanisms – outside the division of labor and exploitation, outside the market and the state…

Let’s repeat: we produce ourselves, through the very our life, this appearance of a social order and history being created not by man but by external forces; however, during the epoch of the human “prehistory”, we couldn’t have lived and developed in a different way. And the alienation is always opposed by social creativity – Man’s real capability to create history directly (see below more details on this). By virtue of it, a certain measure of alienation has always been characteristic of the “prehistory”. The world of alienation never has had an absolute power.

The characteristic of the so-called “anti-globalization” movement as the positive alternative to alienation seems paradoxical. However, as I have noted above, although this movement, in its most conspicuous and “loud” expressions (mass actions in places where agents of globalization are meeting), looks as, first and foremost, rejecting existing forms of globalization, – it is, basically, also a positive creation of new forms of social organization, and this is what “alter-globalism” affirms in its substantial actions (culminating in World Social Forums) and in the daily work of new social movements. This is the intrinsic content of “alter-globalization”. And the variety of forms and fields of activities of participating organizations and movements is the multi-alternative that extends as widely, as forms and mechanisms of alienation in the modern world are widespread and diverse.

That is why “alter-globalization” could be characterized as the movement for overcoming alienation [in all diversity of its global varieties] that differs from the traditional left movement (a struggle primarily against the exploitation of hired workers).

Summarizing some traits of the “alter-globalization” movement (movements) and taking into account challenges and preconditions that are being formed in the present-day world due to the development of network technologies, the global hegemony of capital and all-encompassing alienation, we can determine certain persistent characteristics of our movement.


3. The principles, contradictions and role of “alter-globalization” movements.


Before offering first generalizations to a reader, I would like to say that the “alter-globalization” movement is still only in the beginning of its development; in all its expressions, it is linked both to the traditional forms of opposition and to the dominant forces of alienation. Concerning this new social reality, the author will try below to single out its own specific features, abstracting from above-mentioned “impurities” which it is connected with, and which sometimes suppress or, at least, deform its really new quality. Here we’ll follow the logic of comparative analysis of the objective preconditions for the genesis of the movement and of its empirically observable characteristics.


3.1. Main principles of the movement


As we have already noticed above, the “alter-globalization” movement emerged in the epoch of development of network principles of organization. And as such, first, it became a model of network social organization even in areas where technological processes (in a proper sense) still belong to a previous stage (mainly the industrial one). In the “alter-globalization”, in many cases, the social form has “shot ahead”, becoming an oppositional, “off-system” but real social challenge for the development both of economic and technological structures. Among the basic characteristics of the network organization, as one of the principles of “alter-globalization”, let’s single out such traits as:

– non-hierarchical character, decentralization, mainly horizontal and/or functional co-operation of participants;

– flexibility, mobility, changeability of forms and configurations; easy and fast creation and disintegration of structures;

– openness of a network for “input” and “output”; general accessibility of network resources, first of all, the information ones;

– equality of network participants, irrespective of their role, scale, resources; not only non-commercial, but also anti-market character of activities;

– secondary character of forms and structures relative to contents of activities;

– uniqueness of a network.

I repeat that all the above-named features are abstracted from the reality where they are “mixed” with traditional ones, of an organization to some extent bureaucratic, to some extent commercial, to some extent closed. However, it’s an effective abstraction that is constantly realized in practice. Almost every protest action was organized as a special unique network open for any participant who comes with his/her/its resources (but with “stronger” or “richer” ones supporting others). Everyone could use freely all common resources and the “brand” of such a network, cooperate and carry on a dialogue with any other participant. The configuration of these networks constantly changed, and after the action the network as such dissolved itself, giving rise to new ones. Every action had its organizing committee, but it was always open for everyone had no chairman or “general secretary”.

Second, the “alter-globalization” has grown as an alternative to the capitalist globalization. As the positive, dialectic negation of the global hegemony of capital, of the total system of man’s subjugation, our movement acquired in its practice the following features that are becoming unwritten but actually respected principles:

– internationalism of the movement; from the very beginning it arises, first and foremost, as an international one, and this concerns the circle of its participants, the goals of its activities, and the character of its actions (international campaigns against the global establishment, international social forums etc.); the movement started and proceeds as a movement transcending state boundaries, and here lies its special worth and significance, as it represents not a nationalist-statist (and in this sense past-oriented) alternative, but a universal, “post-globalist”, future-oriented one;

– inter-class and inter-ideological character of the movement opposing all forms of alienation and hegemonism and not only exploitation of hired workers (the protest actions and World Social Forums had just such a character concerning both their goals and circle of their participants);

– anti-hegemonic (and, in its most advanced forms, anti-capitalist) character of the movement whose slogan is, not accidentally, “the world is not for sale”; even the moderate part of the movement supports removing from control by markets and capital and making public goods of land, water and principal natural resources, on the one hand, and of knowledge, education, cultural values and systems of satisfying basic human needs (food, housing, health care); radical “alter-globalists” (including the author) consider it necessary to go further, up to changing the now-dominant world of alienation as a whole, moving towards “the realm of freedom”.

Third, as it was already noted, our movement by its very nature (and such is the nature, the content of practical actions) is built as an alternative to alienation in all its various forms and kinds (the World Social Forums express this philosophical theme in much simpler and more vivid formulation: “Another world is possible”). In this connection, it is not surprising that the following empirically observable principles of the “alter-globalization” movement are constantly being reproduced:

– solidarity, cooperation and responsibility as alternatives to alienation (in practice, here lies the origin of constant emphasis on “economy of solidarity”, “socially responsible organizations”, “participation democracy” and other forms of co-operation in economy, politics and social life);

– organization of the movement according to principles (I wrote about them previously), that are quite similar to the well-known theoretical model of an alternative to alienation: free, voluntary working association; the practice of the movement has shown that, – abstracting from “impurities” that come from the world of alienation, – it is being built as a union that is open for everything, purely voluntary and informal (the movement has no statute and no program, only some “framework” principles stated in the WSF Charter); the basis of membership in the union is not money (e.g., fees) or authority status (formal affiliation with a structure with certain “powers”, like the state, parties), but practical participation in the activities (the principle of working association, in theory; the principles of mobilization and participation, in practice);

– self-organization and self-management as mechanisms of vital activity of the movement in forms of network democracy, consensus democracy, participation democracy, etc. (in combination with the principle of working association, these mechanisms provide an opportunity of practical participation in decision-making for everyone: you simply leave association with whose position you essentially disagree and participate in the work of the one where your voice is heard, where a dialogue, maybe a vehement debate leads to an agreement, – or you create a new network; structure that is the most open, capable of dialogue, adequate to citizens’ interests becomes the most popular and active one).

In sum, we can draw a conclusion that the “differentia specifica” of this movement consists in the genesis of a qualitatively new, mass, international and relatively persistent (as far as we can judge now) social phenomenon that goes beyond the basic principles not only of the late capitalism and capitalist globalization, but of all the world of alienation as well.

Let’s repeat: the movement becomes, in practice, an alternative not only to the very essence of globalization and capitalism, but also to “the realm of necessity” as a whole.

However, it lives and develops within the framework of this world, inheriting its many features, and it is the successor of previous forces opposing capital. As such, it is characterized by powerful contradictions.


3.2. Contradictions of the “alter-globalization”


The “alter-globalization” movement is fundamentally contradictory, and this can be seen with the naked eye. There are internal, dialectical contradictions characterizing of its essence, and there are external contradictions showing its “otherness” in the present-day world. The latter ones are the most obvious, so we’ll begin our study from them.

The above-stated opposition between the world of alienation and our movement is inevitably reflected in the latter’s own character. From the moment of its birth, the “alter-globalization” movement has been developing in transitional forms, combining its own new qualities and qualities of the modern global capitalism; without that, “alter-globalists” couldn’t exist in the present system. Moreover, this coexistence is itself a contradictio in adjecto, as it is a real contradiction between the “alter-globalist” nature of movement and its existence within the system of global capitalism, expressed both in struggles, conflicts, arrests and, in some cases, in a cooperation.

As such, the movement is inevitably characterized by contradictions directly following from that.

The first is the contradiction between the principles of voluntary working association, that are immanent to the movement, on the one hand, and the necessity of using financial and political/legal mechanisms and professional activities in our own work, on the other hand.

As a rule, this contradiction is solved in such a way that functions concerning professional activities, financial support, political representation are assumed by active nongovernmental and political organizations sympathetic to the “alter-globalization” movement and constituting a significant part of its participants, while the movement itself in its actions (from demonstrations to scientific conferences) is relatively independent on any rigid restrictions and can afford to be open, network-like, flexible and built on the basis of cooperation of persons, activities and associations, and not of money, capitals and corporate structures.

In practice it is done like it was, for example, during the second World Social Forum (Porto Alegre, 2002). The city municipality and the Rio Grande do Sul state government (dominated by the Workers’ Party of Brazil that is itself a half-party, half-movement) took upon themselves the material and technical support (with all services being paid by participants of the Forum at minimal prices, and with enormous amounts of voluntary work made for free and lodging provided for free by people in the city. Large international movements and NGOs assumed financial support of some delegates from developing and “ex-socialist” countries but the overwhelming majority of participants arrived to Porto Alegre at their own expense.

The solving of this contradiction does not mean that it disappears. It is more than relevant, and sometimes painful (the material inequality between structures from the First and Third Worlds, between “rich” and “poor” NGOs, many NGOs’ dependence on the global capital, – all this creates serious problems). It is resolved and reproduced again, and this is one of fundamental features inherent to the existence of “alter-globalism” at the stage of (the capital’s) global hegemony.

The second contradiction, that reflects the opposition between the world of alienation and the “alter-globalist” movement, is no less obvious: it is the social and economic inequality of participants (from millions of the poorest landless peasants of Brazil to the West-European parliamentarian elite) opposed to their equal rights in dialogue and solidarity within the framework of the movement. This contradiction not only creates a tension inside the movement but also lies behind what is, in fact, rejection of many “alter-globalist” activities by the majority of potentially the most active part of movement, – by workers, peasants, non-privileged section of educated professionals in the Third World and “ex-socialist” countries who actively and constructively struggle against the hegemony of global capital. They really cannot participate in Internet-conferences or in forums abroad relying on their own resources only. Here again, it has become a rule that participants from the First World countries support them and voluntarily channel substantial resources to the development of the movement, to the solidarity with participants from poor countries, helping them in organizing information systems, trips, etc., – all that is one of the means used for solving this contradiction.

The third contradiction demonstrating the antagonism between our movement and the world of alienation is the contradiction between openness and network principle of organization of the movement, on the one hand, and the necessity of interaction with power structures, participating in political processes, – on the other hand.

Among the most obvious manifestations of this contradiction, we can point to (1) the empirically observable, already mentioned dependence of many participants of movement (especially, but certainly not exceptionally, large “old” NGOs of the First World, oriented to giving aid to the less developed countries, the poor) from the subjects of hegemony (the state, global inter-state structures, even TNCs) through different kinds of funds and grants, political decisions of parliaments, dependence on ruling parties, etc. As a result, they become, on the one part, participants in creating the “alter-globalization” networks, and on the other part, agents of the global hegemony of capital (here, the analogy with missionaries in the epoch of colonialism, suggested to the author by Savas Michael-Matsas, is to some extent relevant).

No less obvious is (2) the contradiction (and also the dialectical unity) between Left political parties, on the one hand, and the movement as such, on the other hand. It is expressed both in the empirically obvious form of a campaign for the inclusion of parties among the organizers of social forums (up to now, only NGOs and social movements can be among them), and in the form of less obvious opposition between the mass character, openness, “softness” of network structures of the “alter-globalization” movement and a relative rigidity, fixed character of membership, hierarchical structures of political parties.

Furthermore, there is a challenge of the necessity of practical struggle for incorporation into the really existing political system for the sake of real struggle for a real redistribution of power to the benefit of citizens’ networks. Here the “alter-globalists” confront the contradiction between the need for our movement to retain its specific quality of an open network (that lies behind its success and mass character) and, at the same time, to acquire traditional organizational/institutional forms in order to participate in the life of civil society and in the political struggle.

It is still an open question, to what extent the “alter-globalists” will be able to find forms of “sublation” of all these external contradictions. One of methods to use for that, is not to adapt the “alter-globalization” networks to the rules of the world of alienation, but to change the world of alienation, imposing on it our own rules and forms of functioning, modes of action and interaction. In such a way, in particular, the “alter-globalists” organize their major protest campaigns, that are aimed at changing this world by means of actions that are “beyond the rules” established by it (civil disobedience etc.).

As for the internal contradictions of “alter-globalization”, they are the very essence of this movement. Here again, the above-mentioned principles of the movement are merely manifestations of its deep contradictions. The author isn’t ready yet to expose this methodological position systematically and meaningfully. But I’m ready to claim that one of such deep contradictions, having many empirically obvious expressions, is the contradictory nature of the associated social creative activity as the “generic essence” of the “alter-globalization”.

First of all, we have the contradiction between social creative activity as a dialogue of specific, unique subjects (personalities, communities) and a single process of joint coordinated work, the basis for the joint activity being not uniformity but uniqueness of the subjects (with a unity in strategy). This contradiction is more than clear for the “alter-globalists”, it manifests itself in every aspect of our movement, in every its practical step, when it is constantly necessary not simply to coordinate but to integrate in a united process of (every time different] actions (every time different) combinations of organizations, movements and individuals.

Any participant of the movement can easily develop this theme. Therefore, I’m limiting myself only by pointing to one of consequences of this contradiction: a mobile, flexible, open network organization (a combination of subjects of associated activities creating a new world, if we use the philosophical language), that is as diverse as forms of alienation and interests of a personality are diverse, is both the strength and the weakness of the “alter-globalization” movement. Strength, because these principles make the movement a mass one; attractive for a variety of social strata, groups, individuals; reactive (capable to react quickly to various challenges) and difficult to destroy from outside (unlike an “orderly” structure). Weakness, because the movement becomes unstable, amorphous, easily eroded, “flickering”, strongly reacting to various “viruses” (disagreements, provocations, etc.); the list is easy to continue.

One more among the empirically observable internal contradictions of the “alter-globalization” as a kind of social creative activity, is the unity and opposition between the destructive (first of all, towards the institutes of the global hegemony of capital) and creative (“Another world is possible!”) aspects of our activities.

The former aspect is the most well-known. And it is not by accident.

First, it is more simple and accessible both for being involved in it, and for getting first impressions about the movement: to a common man oppressed by capital (and all of us are, to some extent, slaves to the hegemony of capital, passive conformists), especially to those excluded from “the two-thirds society”, the destructive forms of protest are much closer and easier understandable than the difficult process of associated social creative activity.

Second, in the present-day world this destruction inevitably takes sometimes irrational, perverted forms, that are quite often used for discrediting the movement (a typical image of the “anti globalists” that is deliberately presented to citizens by mass-media is the image of hooligans smashing a McDonalds).

However, the dialectical negation must be a side of our activities. Another thing is, that it can and should be constructive, directed to a replacement of old relations and institutes (structures, rules and stereotypes) of alienation by new relations of human liberation.

But the main substance of our movement is not in protest actions (though they are, for many reasons, the most visible), but in the everyday positive creation of another world (another relations, another values and motivations) by thousands of organizations and movements (only at the II World Social Forum, 4900 structures were represented). The essence of “alter-globalism” lies in this unity of negation and creation.

No less important is the contradiction of “alter-globalism” as a struggle against the world of alienation (“the realm of necessity”) as a whole, on the one hand, and against the modern forms of power  of capital (as a special kind of alienation), on the other hand. And although the hegemony of capital is “only” a form of alienation existing now, – here, in the contradiction between the general and the particular, there are many latent problems.

From this contradiction, two tendencies arise that are very easily distinguished empirically. The first one is represented by numerous social movements and organizations emphasizing “universal” enough forms of alienation (as a rule, corresponding to “global” problems) concerning the mankind and the nature, man and woman, different age groups, etc. The second tendency deals with problems of the struggle against the capital as the class struggle proper.

Naturally, these two lines are closely connected: the global hegemony of capital is “responsible” for the present acute state of global problems, the class struggle today is impossible without struggles for the rights of women, youth, etc. However, it is also easy to see the opposition here: the inter-class and inter-ideological character of “alter-globalism”, emphatic distancing by a significant part of participants of the movement from an anti-capitalist, socialist orientation contradicts the anti-capitalist content of actions of these organizations and the essentially anti-capitalist nature of the movement (as a struggle against alienation, our movement inevitably fights against capital as the social force of alienation that is dominant today).

This contradiction is caused by a dual character of the social base of our movement and is expressed in numerous oppositions arising in present-day “general democratic” and class struggles. One of such expressions is a limited character of activities of a significant part of movements and NGOs participating in the “alter-globalization” movement (a sort of “neo-reformism”). Here we have also a manifestation of the above-mentioned “external” contradiction causing a linkage between parts of the movement and the institutions of the global capitalist system, including states, funds, the UN structures (like UNESCO), the EU, etc. who finance the NGOs’ participation in the movement. In this sense, such moderate groups are less coherent and less adequate to the essence of the movement than its radical part where Left parties have leading positions. However, these “neo-reformist” NGOs (for example, the above-mentioned АТТАC network) attract the largest numbers of people previously not involved in opposition activities, creating networks which indeed got the name of “anti-globalization” in a more narrow sense of the word.

Democratic Left political parties (not neo-Stalinist and/or sectarian organizations) participating in the movement (like the “Rifondazione Comunista” in Italy, the Revolutionary Communist League in France, the Party of Democratic Socialism in Germany, etc), as a rule, link so-called “general democratic” goals and the goals of the struggle for socialism together in a more consistent way. However, they are restricted by their fixed membership, their programs, history, conflicts and splits, etc.; during the decades dominated by liberalism and neo-liberalism, they proved to be unable to overcome those limits and to become a qualitatively new force that the “alter-globalization” movement can grow into.

At the same time, the movements, parties and NGOs are already linked together in the “alter-globalization” movement – through mass actions, social forums, party militants’ activities in movements and NGOs; one of the most vivid examples is the activities of E. Toussaint, C. Aguiton and many other “radical leftists” in organizations struggling for canceling Third World debts, like АТТАC and others. Many leaders in NGOs (like Samir Amin or François Houtart) are more consistent fighters for socialism than some leaders of Communist parties.

That is why a dialogue and cooperation between (opposing each other in many ways) “neo-reformist” NGOs and movements, on the one hand, and democratic left-wing parties, on the other hand, constitutes one of the foundations of real pluralism and progress in the “alter-globalization” movement.

However, here we have also a latent threat of a split, a polarization of the movement into “neo-reformists” dominated by the global players (in that case, as a matter of fact, they’ll betray the movement), and the left wing that will “drop out” of the movement and be marginalized again, the result being – and that’s the main threat – that the movement will find itself without most of rank-and-file activists who participate in it just because the joining of NGOs and Left parties in the “alter-globalization” movement has led to the development of a new quality and produced a powerful social impact, like a reaction between two usually “non-aggressive” substances under pressure, leading to an explosion and release of latent energy.

Preventing such a split and polarization of “alter-globalism” can be possible by not only keeping a constant dialogue of parties and movements, but also, first and foremost, developing a peculiar systemic quality of the “alter-globalization” as a new social movement that, essentially, cannot be reduced to an interaction of Left parties and NGOs. Among ways of advancing to that new quality, let us point to a further development of mass actions as real acts, social dialogues, information networks, and to less-emphasized tasks of elaborating a pluralistic but mutually agreed positive program of the movement and developing a theory of “alter-globalization”, that could also help to determine new practical steps of our movement.


3.3. The “alter-globalization” and Left parties: their role and place in the struggle for social liberation. Problems and prospects of the movement


Examination of the principles and contradictions of our movement has in fact already answered the questions put in the headline of this subsection. The “alter-globalization” movement became a successor to the long, tragic and heroic struggle for social liberation, that, in all its most powerful expressions, – from the Commune of Paris to the Great October socialist revolution, to a series of other socialist and anti-colonial revolutions of the 20th century, to May 1968, – was born from below, as an associated activity of masses. The “alter-globalism” does not supplant but, on the contrary, unites various forms and lines of social liberation activities that have existed before, preserving and keeping in a constant dialogue and practical discussions the diverse structures that help self-organization and creation of another world. Here, our movement’s emphasis on the diversity of alternatives (as well as all its other distinctive features) represents both strength and weakness of this new form. Strength, because we do not impose any uniform on any of participating organizations; the diversity, dissimilarity of organizations, each having its own individuality, is the necessary condition of participation in the movement. Weakness, because the movement thus resembles a hand with fingers spread wide, while to break the wall of the corporate capital’s hegemony, the fist is necessary.

In my opinion, this contradiction contains a latent objective challenge addressed, first of all, to Left parties pretending to be the most conscious and organized force within the opposition to the present global capitalist system: they can and must change their configuration, principles of their construction, forms and methods of their work so that they become in practice (and not just in declarations) centers of “alter-globalist” activities. Let’s stress: they should be not an “organizing and directing” structure, not a vanguard in the old sense, but the “motor” working not only the most actively, but also adequately, in strategy and tactics, to the real conditions our movement is situated in, and also to its intrinsic internal contradictions. The task of the Left is not so much to criticize the “alter-globalization” as not corresponding to an ideal of anti-capitalist opposition, not to urge it to be different, but to comprehend real problems and shortcomings of the movement, its limitations, and to act so as to overcome them, to use its advantages and strength to the full extent, promoting theoretically adjusted and practically effective solutions to the movement’s external and internal contradictions.

To act in such a way, the leftists need new principles and methods of activities. In my opinion, it should be a post-party form of organization of the Left, fit for interacting with new social movements. In that, we have a “leap” in the form of political activities of the Left; here, in my opinion, it is appropriate to make an analogy between the transition from the Narodniks’ “pre-party” (so to speak) forms of activities to the “party of a new type”, caused by the genesis of a clear class opposition between proletariat and bourgeoisie in Russia in the beginning of 20th century, on the one hand, and the transition from “classic” Left parties to post-party forms, caused by complication of social structure in conditions of the global hegemony of new century’s capital, on the other hand.

A hundred years ago in Russia there was an objective need in a proletarian party as the most effective instrument of mobilization of the working class to the struggle, as well as in working class organizations like trade unions and other “public organizations of the old type”. It was inevitable in the conditions of clear-cut class antagonisms when the strategy of Narodnik intelligentsia groups, who formed their circles, “went to the people” or even sacrificed their lives in terrorist act, became outdated and therefore reactionary. Similarly today, a hundred years later, the world sees the beginning (NB! only the beginning!) of the process of “obsolescence” of traditional vanguard (and parliamentary!) parties inasmuch as the “inter-class” struggle against the system of alienation as a whole develops and becomes the top priority. And here, new post-party forms will be the most adequate for mobilizing associations of “social creators” and for interaction with new social movements, including (perhaps first of all) with the “alter-globalization” movement. And inasmuch as (I’m stressing again that measure is important here!) these changes objectively become the determining factor in the struggle against “the realm of necessity”, the question arises: maybe now, a century after the well-known phrase by young Vladimir Ulyanov, it is time for us to say again: “we’ll take another way”?, – not renouncing but dialectically inheriting the experience of socialists and communists of 20th century, just as they inherited the experience of Decembrists and Narodniks?

This leads us back to the problem of relationship between “alter-globalist” activities and the struggle for socialism; in particular, to problems of wide social structure in its relationship to a revolutionary class, movements and parties. The author has already stated above his point of view on the last question. Furthering these considerations, let’s beg to put forward the following, empirically and theoretically grounded, assumption: the “alter-globalization” movement can become one of bases on which an “inner hard nucleus” – a new international democratic socialist and communist confederation, –would be formed.

In this connection, a paradoxical view can be expressed: the rule existing now, that excludes political parties from being among organizers of social forums, on the one hand, and the really significant role many of Left parties have in the organization of the forums, and, especially, of protest actions (once again, I would mention the Brazilian PT, the Party of Communist Refoundation in Italy, etc.), on the other hand, – can become a catalyst of creation of such a confederation. It had already its prototype in joint international actions and interactions of Left parties during the events in Genoa and other places. The next step could be, say, an International socialist political forum or perhaps a network of coordinated forums of various groups of Left parties organized according to the same principles of an open international network as the World Social Forums. Accordingly, main forms and lines of activities of this confederation and this forum (or forums) could serve, for a start, to solving just one, but cardinally important task: a coordinated international and inter-party support to various forms of social creative activities, various (NB! it is essentially important) social alternatives to the global hegemony of capital.

Participation in the “alter-globalization” movement has already taught many parties, in practice, (1) to abstract from ideological disagreements, not overlooking them but using the differences for solving the problem of building diverse but coordinated resistance to the capital, and (2) to see their goal in achieving unity not in a uniformity of programs, but in coordination of actions (in particular, of a work energizing the “alter-globalization” movement and other social creative initiatives aimed at solving the tasks of the liberation of labor and the human emancipation).

Certainly, on that way Left parties and social movements and NGOs and the “alter-globalization” movement as a whole will confront strong contradictions and very complicated problems, including those already mentioned above, – but one cannot win without entering the battle!

We meet also serious challenges connected with a tendency (already taking shape) when the global capital (states, major parties, corporations and foundations supported by them, supra-national institutions) tries to “hug the “alter-globalist” movement to death”. “Help” and, first of all, tampering with leaders and strongest structures (using temptations by money, status, incorporation in establishment); provoking splits and conflicts, defamation (we have already been accused of being agents of the world Stalinism and of the global capital, reformists diverting workers from the class struggle and ultra-radical terrorists...), – these well-known countermeasures, that are taken against any genuine opposition movement, are widely used against us, too. It’s another matter that the “alter-globalization” movement has a certain advantage here: due to our flexibility and network organization, we are less vulnerable for a frontal attack, we don’t have “leaders”, or, rather, we have too many “centers” and leaders to buy them easily; our structures are so diverse and different that they cannot be discredited all in one, etc. In this sense, we can borrow some principles of Japanese martial arts (that were, in some cases, developed by peasants in order to resist armed professionals – the Samurai), using the strength of the enemy against the enemy himself, for his defeat, and using our own weakness in the interests of our victory.

Finally, one of the major threats for the “alter-globalization” movement (unfortunately, this threat resonates rather well with the very term “anti-globalization” often being used to identify us) is nationalism, growing all over the world and especially dangerous in Russia. It is also a negation of globalization, but a negation “coming from the past”, trying to destroy real positive results of internationalization, and therefore reactionary. However, this theme is too complex for a brief account and, at the same time, it was commented many times. So, here I limit myself just by pointing to the existence of this problem.

In sum, let’s give the following remark: the real place and role of the “alter-globalization” in the whole realm of oppositional social creative activities is best characterized by the practical work of our movement where, as a matter of fact, a diverse, pluralistic, but clear enough positive program of “alter-globalization” has been already developed. Now I’ll try to offer my vision of it.


4. The positive program of “alter-globalization”


Alternatives to the global power of capital are developing as an objective process; we can only study them and, after the study, strengthen positive processes of liberation, not crossing the line beyond which the subjective factor of progress degenerates into a subjectivism that provokes regress. Among the alternatives that are present now and well-known, two kinds of processes should be considered.

First, we have attempts of isolationism, “escaping” globalization. Second, new forms of internationalization are created as a practical and theoretical antithesis to the globalism.

As to the first tendency, it is realized mainly by means of strengthening of the role of national/state entities and their protectionist measures, a policy aimed at independence and protection of economy, culture etc. within the framework of the state against influences of the global hegemony. Linked to this tendency directly is the development of ambivalent, in many aspects reactionary, struggle for independence and “a special way of development” in the Third World (e.g., religious fundamentalism) and in the Second World (e.g. Russian “great-power” chauvinism). Potentially, this path can lead to the formation of large blocs resisting the hegemony of the global capital from reactionary (pre-bourgeois) positions.

From a “straightforward historicist” point of view, this form of defense against the global hegemony of capital looks purely reactionary (a resistance to objective processes of internationalization of production, attempt of replacing late-capitalist forms of alienation by early-capitalist and even pre-bourgeois ones, restriction of cultural dialogue and revival of religious obscurantism and nationalism). However, the dialectical approach, taking into account real “whirls” of time in social and economic spheres, requires considering the actual ambivalence of this path of “counter-globalization”.

In certain conditions (see below) temporary national/state “fencing”, protection against influences of the global players’ “field of suppression” (economic, political, ideological/cultural) may be an acceptable and even necessary, – from the point of view of the “supreme task”, that is, the “sublation” of alienation, – method of fighting the global hegemony.

The temporary protectionism can also be one of necessary preconditions of realizing the strategy of catching-up development by a number of communities (countries, regions, sometimes – particular sectors of economy) in the Third World. Its goal has been (and still remains) a breakthrough to the second echelon (or to the third echelon, if we consider the mid-developed countries of Europe as the second one) of the corporate capital and entering, as a supporting force, the struggle for redistribution of the “pie” of the world hegemony on the base of intensive exploitation of workers, promoting creation of “one’s own” global players, etc.

For some countries of the Third World (the so-called “new industrial countries”) this strategy proved to be realizable, but as a whole, it has not led to an essential change in the balance of forces: these countries have remained among the “subsystems” dependent on global players. However, still more essential is the fact that they, as well as the whole world, are divided by the barrier of the hegemony of capital within themselves: the overwhelming majority of the citizens of “new industrial countries” (unlike in the “society of two thirds” in the North – although it also evolves towards the “society of one third”) still live in the Third World, and only a very limited minority was included, with supporting roles, into the global capitalist nomenclatura circles. In this sense, the end of 20th century has shown that a catching-up modernization doesn’t solve the problem of overcoming the global hegemony of capital, only slightly altering the geopolitical and geoeconomic configuration of the world.

The beginning of 21th century can also open a new way of overcoming the monopoly status of the “big seven” as the “socio-spatial” center of hegemony: by means of the concentration of resources in the “breakthrough” spheres, fast-growing big states of the Third World (first of all, China and India) get a chance to create powerful “private-state” global players, capable to undermine the monopoly in the area of post-industrial development enjoyed by the present bosses of the world. But this scenario, too, even if it is realized, will not change the essential nature of existing relations – the hegemony of large corporate-capitalist structures. Geopolitical and geoeconomic shifts in the balance of power will only add a new type of TNCs (they could be called “peripheral”) to the existing ones.

So, we face the problem of searching for essentially alternative ways of internationalization and for forces capable to realize them. To put it otherwise, we must find in the modern world, using the results of our study of the global capitalism as a “microscope”, the “shoots” of a democratic, socially and humanistically oriented model of internationalization that is one of the transitional forms on the path to the realm of freedom:

Linking the empirical material given above with the theoretical study of the global hegemony of capital allows us to outline contours of a long-term strategy of “alter-globalization”, of counter-hegemony. This program can be fulfilled along several interconnected directions.

We’ll trace out objectively possible alternatives to the basic components of the neo-liberal model of capitalist globalization, first and foremost to such its features as (1) neo-privatization (not only in direct forms of “shrinking” the public property and promoting the private one, but also in forms of redistribution of the property rights and power in economy from the society to the global capitalist nomenclatura); (2) neo-marketization and “market fundamentalism”, de-socialization of economic and public life; (3) strengthening of the “global players”’ power and attacks on democratic rights of citizens; (4) increasing social and economic inequality between countries of the First and Third Worlds, growth of the global “ghetto of backwardness”.

As for the alternatives to those processes, we can point, very briefly, to the following directions of changing the world, restricting ourselves in this text to some kind of a minimum program, demands of socializing and democratizing this system (then, they can and should become a prologue to a maximum program).

First, withdrawal from the sphere of private control and transferring to public management of such public utilities as:

·         natural resources;

·         public infrastructure;

·         cultural goods, knowledge and means of access to them.

It can be done, as a minimum, by developing international, ecological, social, humanitarian norms; as a maximum and an ideal, when a really democratic state exists, – by nationalization. We consider it necessary to promote international regulations establishing uniform rules of access to the use of natural resources and knowledge by all citizens; in the long term, resources of this kind must become generally available, with genuinely full equality for all.

The problem of overcoming the private property on knowledge deserves a special commentary. The genesis of postindustrial technologies makes promotion and realization of the new principles of organizing the information space and development of culture an especially important sphere of resistance to the capitalist globalization. The goals of (1) free, open-access distribution of cultural goods (that implies only compensating the costs that are very low when the number of users is big), based on the elimination of private property on knowledge; (2) developing means of their use (open-access, free of charge information networks, plus computerization available for all); and (3) free-of-charge education for all, with public support for pupils from poor families, – become the key elements of struggle against the global hegemony of capital in the information age. The universal open access to knowledge and education becomes the foundation of democratic integration of peoples based on progress in culture and creativity.

The fulfillment of these demands is the essential meaning of the well-known slogan of “alter-globalists”: “The world is not for sale!”

In addition to this, within the framework of the “alter-globalization” minimum program, there is also a possibility for activities aimed at withdrawal from the sphere of the corporate capital power of certain “oases” of economic, social and cultural life and realizing the tactics of “globalization from below”. Such “oases” integrated from below could consist of networks of cooperative societies together with local government bodies, ecological and other unions following, in their practical work, some limited set of “rules” defining new (humanistically, ecologically, socially oriented) models of integration. If a system of international institutes, similar in their role to the “unholy trinity” and focused at the supranational regulation, will be established, – and a base for that already exists, as there are alliances of cooperative societies and other such international structures, – those “Lilliputians” (cooperative societies etc.) can become a serious challenge (though still not competitors) for the global players.

However, these islands of “globalization from below” can become a significant phenomenon of counter-hegemony only on the condition that, second, parallel “echeloned” programs of international “alter-globalization” social action are developed by mass democratic movements and NGOs oriented to the struggle against the neo-marketization and de-socialization of economic and public life.

The top-priority role here must belong to the international movement of hired workers reviving on a new qualitative basis; this can be easily demonstrated by examining the contradiction between the global organized capital and the disorganized, “dismembered” labor). The following demands should become its strategic slogans:

·         worldwide leveling of wages of workers of similar qualification (in particular, introducing international norms setting the minimal salary at levels that are not lower than living standards in a given region), first and foremost through redistributing resources now concentrated in the “fictitious” sector (financial gambling, military expenses etc.);

·         realization and extension of internationally recognized standards in areas of social protection and labor safety, rights of workers concerning participation in management, etc.;

·         international scrutiny of national labor legislations, including use of sanctions against countries (and TNCs!) violating workers’ rights (maybe on the model of sanctions applied to human rights violators);

·         a democratic, based on the international solidarity, solution of problems concerning migration of labor.

At the same time, the following goals can become key common points for all sectors of “alter-globalization” social movements and NGOs:

·         restriction of “fictitious” sector of the global economy (financial gambling, militarism, bureaucracy, mass culture etc.), using, at least, the mechanisms of taxes, normative regulations etc., and redistribution of the money spent in that sector towards solving social, ecological and other global problems;

·         support to globalization from below;

·         radical democratization of institutions regulating global political, economic and humanitarian processes.

Undoubtedly, both those groups of demands can become, and really become, a common platform for Left political organizations. Many of those demands are supported by the broad audience of mass democratic movements.

Third, our tasks include developing a positive alternative to the absolute power of global players and fulfillment of a set of demands aimed at a radical socialization and democratization of the system of regulating processes of internationalization. Such demands have already begun to be put forward during the mass “anti globalization” actions. They are:

·         automatic cancellation of all regulating acts and norms issued by supra-state institutions (be it the IMF, WTO, or any other similar organization) if they violate democratically adopted national norms. The international norms can have superiority over national ones only on condition of their ratification by democratic institutions of the states;

·         democratic organization of institutes determining key parameters of international cooperation in the areas of economy and  finance, labor, education, wildlife management, science and culture (forming them like the European Parliament is formed or, at least, by nomination of national representatives in the international bodies at sessions of national parliaments);

·         developing, on a maximally democratic basis, regulations restricting TNCs’ activities;

·         dissolution of military blocks and increasing the role of international security forces (at least, as a palliative, the United Nations forces).

It is easy to continue this list of demands, as they have already been put forward by the social and political forces fighting against the global hegemony of capital. Certainly, all of them will not be realized until we become strong enough. However, constant promotion of these demands (“Carthage must be destroyed!”) shows that there are alternatives to the capitalist globalization and that they consist not in isolationism but in even more full and progressive integration: “Another world is possible!” The struggle for these demands is extremely important; and they are themselves a mobilizing force.

Fourth, the goal of equalizing levels of development in the First and Third Worlds, – not through deterioration of life in the First World but through changing the system of world economic relations, – becomes a truly international goal. It is well-known that the incomes of several hundreds of the richest families of the world exceed the incomes of a quarter of citizens of the Earth who live below the internationally recognized poverty line; that the military expenses of NATO countries and, first of all, of the USA exceed the sum needed for realizing the transition of the world to the model of sustainable development of Man and Nature; and this list can be continued easily. But our main task is creation of new social relations that ensure the orientation of economy to equitably meeting social priorities while rejecting militarism, financial gambling, standards of the “consumerist society”.

To the above-listed points of the minimum program, we should add such well-known demands as:

·         cancellation of the Third World debts;

·         introducing uniform international, ecological, social and humanitarian norms (including the above-mentioned demands of a minimum wage at a level not lower than living standards; of obligatory primary and, for most countries, secondary education, etc.) whose realization must be financed internationally (for example, through significant reductions of NATO countries’ military budgets etc.);

·         the United Nations’ priority in decisions concerning global geopolitical issues etc.

Who will solve these problems? As a matter of fact, we have already started to answer this question. First of all, it will be the growing forces of the international “alter-globalization” movement.

However, there are many other potential participants in those activities. With all contradictions arising here, the states that have found themselves in a “ghetto of backwardness” can join the forces resisting the hegemony of capital (under certain conditions, as we have said above). Based on the previous reflections, we can assume that some countries of Third World can become subjects of counter-hegemonic actions, if they are ready for realizing some steps including, at least:

·         coordinated policies of self-defense against the hegemony;

·         openness of their countries to a cultural, educational, ecological etc. dialogue in spheres of non-alienated human relations;

·         creation of international alliances based on a new type of international cooperation between countries with different levels of development;

·         international cooperation with counter-hegemonic forces in the First World countries.

It is clear enough that isolationist-fundamentalist regimes in countries of the Third World (be that fundamentalism Islamic, “Communist” or any other, say, Orthodox Christian) will be unable to make such steps. Hence, the most basic task within these countries is the struggle for reorientation of their counter-hegemonic activities.

In addition to this, let’s not forget that among such states, there is also Cuba, which can become, under certain conditions, the center of crystallization (“the homeland”) for counter-hegemonic forces who should integrate all mentioned-above directions of practical resistance to the global hegemony of the corporate capital, and many those not mentioned.

At last, fifth, there is also the most important task of developing a complex theoretical model (and, accordingly, a program of actions) of the counter-hegemony, as it is well-known that a social creative act, like any other creative act, begins with building an ideal image of the future actions.

And, while the realization of practical steps named above will meet a lot of objective and subjective obstacles, there are fewer obstacles in the way of the theoretical work, and the need in it is no less.

Summarizing, I’ll stress again: all this is no more than a minimum program; its realization will help only to reform the present system, to produce a significant (but not qualitative!) shift towards greater “socialization”, “humanitarianization” and “ecologization” of the global capital. However, we have to fight seriously and for a long time even for this “global reform”. And only in the process of nurturing not only “anti-globalization”, but also anti-capitalist forces, – as international forces, comparable in power with the global capital, – in this struggle, we’ll be not only able but also obliged to put into agenda the goals of changing all the world of alienation qualitatively.


* * *


Yes, our alternatives still seem poorly realistic now, and our forces appear to be insignificant in comparison with power of global players. However, half a century ago the struggle against colonialism also seemed something “romantic”, while today many prefer not to remember this shame of the First World at all. And if we’ll be resolute, active and creative in our programs and actions, we’ll manage to prove in practice that another world is possible.


Inicio IniciativasPonenciasDocumentosMama Coca

©2003 Mama Coca. Favor compartir esta información y ayudarnos a divulgarla citando a Mama Coca.