National Sections of the L5I:

The Anticapitalist Movement

Printer-friendly versionPDF version

In the last years of the twentieth century a new wave of overtly anti-capitalist struggles developed in North America, Europe and certain semi-colonial countries. The target of its hostility is variously described as “corporate globalisation”, “neo-liberalism” or, most accurately, “global capitalism”. A wave of protests rocked the global gatherings of the neo-liberal elite. At Seattle, mass demonstrations forced the cancellation of the 1999 WTO summit. Further protests followed around the world against meetings of the IMF, World Bank, World Economic Forum and G8. In 2001 in Genoa, 300,000 marched in the face of bloody repression.

The new anti-capitalist movement challenges particular features of globalisation and imperialism. These include the crushing burden of the foreign debt on the non-imperialist countries and the privatisation of public services. The movement opposes the cuts in social and welfare provision demanded by the IMF and the WTO’s arm-twisting tactics to force free trade upon the South so as to wipe out the rivals of the big corporations. Anti-capitalist activists have also resisted the imposition of the US-designed new world order and the “war against terrorism”.

The anti-capitalist movement is an alliance of different social forces and classes. These include middle class political parties like the Greens, academic critics of globalisation and liberal institutions like many of the Non-Governmental Organisations campaigning against poverty, underdevelopment and global inequalities. The programmes of the NGOs active in the anti-capitalist movement range from calls for more state investment in infrastructure through to third world import substitutionism. Just as their goals are utopian, so most restrict their tactics to legal and non-confrontational methods. They reject class-based politics, promoting instead a broad coalition of “civil society” to restrict corporate power.

Calls for a tax on foreign exchange dealings or the closure of “tax havens” barely scratch the surface of capitalists’ privileges and leave their class power unchallenged. By accepting the patronage of reformist parties such as the French Socialist Party, the Italian Democratic Left and the Brazilian PT, one wing of the movement seeks to regenerate reformism.

This has all coalesced in the World Social Forum, founded in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The clear intention of the liberal wing of this movement is to restrict all action to legal protest. Ultimately, it will seek to redirect the masses mobilised by the anti-capitalist movement into the dead end of electoralism. The struggle to prevent this and to defeat the agents of the liberal bourgeoisie within the anti-capitalist movement is a central task.

The anti-capitalist movement also includes more radical parts of the labour movement: militant trade unions, left reformist parties, ex-Stalinists, vacillating centrists and revolutionary Trotskyists. It has drawn in militant indigenous and poor peasant organisations.

On the left wing of this movement are radical populists, ecologists and anarchists. These forces certainly want to destroy corporate power and the state – but they reject the tactics and strategy needed to do this. It is these forces that have given the movement the name anti-capitalist. But their programme is utterly utopian – they want to “return” to a localised small-scale economy, based on either individual ownership or decentralised co-operatives. Above all, they reject the most important means for defeating capitalism – that the working class should take power.

The anti-capitalist movement is in flux. It can disintegrate, the victim of its own incoherence; it can become an instrument for the recrudescence of a new international reformism, or it can develop to a higher level, fusing with a revolutionised workers’ movement and allied movements of the exploited oppressed and exploited.

To seize the opportunity that the re-emergence of mass anti-capitalism represents, the working class and revolutionary youth need, above all, an organisation with a clear line of march. Out of the formless chaos of competing goals and methods, unity of purpose must be forged. A clear programme of action and a new global party are needed to link the multitude of contemporary struggles to the common goal of revolution.