Transcript: Michael Denning on Global Activism | Feb 03, 2001

A slate with two Doric columns reads "Michael Denning. American Studies, Yale University. 'A global left? Social movements in the age of three worlds.'"

David Galbraith stands behind a wooden lectern in a wood-paneled room. He's in his forties, clean-shaven, with longish straight brown hair. He's wearing glasses, a gray tweed suit, white shirt, and brown tie.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "David Galbraith. University of Toronto."

David says IT'S A
GREAT PLEASURE TO INTRODUCE
MICHAEL DENNING
THIS AFTERNOON.
PROFESSOR DENNING TEACHES
IN THE DEPARTMENTS
OF ENGLISH AND AMERICAN
STUDIES AT YALE UNIVERSITY.
HE'S ALSO TAUGHT AT
COLUMBIA AND WESLEYAN
HE DID HIS GRADUATE WORK
AT YALE AND AT THE CENTRE
FOR CONTEMPORARY CULTURAL
STUDIES IN BIRMINGHAM.
PUBLISHED TWO BOOKS
IN THE LATE '80s.
COVER STORIES: NARRATIVE
AND IDEOLOGY IN THE BRITISH
SPY THRILLER, IN 1987.
AND ALSO IN 1987,
MECHANIC ACCENTS:
DIME NOVELS AND WORKING
CLASS CULTURE IN AMERICA.
BOTH WERE IMPORTANT IN
BRINGING TOGETHER
LITERARY ANALYSIS AND
CULTURAL STUDIES.
1997, HE PUBLISHED
THE CULTURAL FRONT:
THE LABOURING OF
AMERICAN CULTURE
IN THE 20TH CENTURY.
THIS IS A RICHLY
DOCUMENTED, THEORETICALLY
SOPHISTICATED ACCOUNT
OF THE TRANSACTIONS
BETWEEN THE AMERICAN
LEFT AND CULTURAL -
THE WORLDS OF CULTURE.
IT IS, I THINK, ONE OF THE
MOST IMPORTANT WORKS
OF AMERICAN STUDIES
AND LITERARY THEORY
TO BE PUBLISHED IN
THE LAST TEN YEARS.
HE'S CURRENTLY WORKING
ON AN INTRODUCTION
TO MARXIST CAPITAL.
THE MYSTERIES OF CAPITAL,
AND THE STUDY OF CULTURE
IN THE AGE OF
THREE WORLDS.
IT'S THE LATTER TOPIC
THAT PROVIDES THE TITLE
AND THE THEME FOR THIS
AFTERNOON'S LECTURE.
"A GLOBAL LEFT?
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS IN THE
AGE OF THREE WORLDS."

[applause]

David walks away from the lectern and sits on a couch nearby.
Michael Denning walks up to the lectern. He's in his late thirties, clean-shaven, with short brown hair. He's wearing glasses, a gray shirt and a brown tie.

He says THANK YOU.
I'M VERY PLEASED TO BE
HERE AT THE CENTRE
FOR THE STUDY OF
THE UNITED STATES.
A YEAR AGO TODAY, MANY
EYES AROUND THE WORLD
WERE FOCUSED ON SEATTLE
WHERE AN EXTRAORDINARY
STREET PROTEST AGAINST
THE MEETING OF THE WORLD
TRADE ORGANIZATION
WAS TAKING PLACE.
IN THE YEAR SINCE THEN
THE BATTLE IN SEATTLE
HAS BECOME A TOUCHSTONE IN
CONVERSATIONS AND DEBATES,
HOPES AND FEARS OVER
THE PRESENT CRISIS,
AND THE REAL MOVEMENT
WHICH IS ABOLISHING
THE PRESENT STATE
OF AFFAIRS.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Michael Denning. Yale University. ¡A global left? Social movements in the age of three worlds.'"

David continues MY TALK TODAY COMES OUT
OF SUCH CONVERSATIONS.
WITH THIS NEWER LEFT,
I'VE REGULARLY ASKED,
WHAT IS THIS NEWER LEFT
I'VE REGULARLY ASKED
ACTIVIST STUDENTS?
FIVE YEARS EARLIER, NAOMI
KLEIN WRITES IN
NO LOGO,
CAMPUS POLITICS WAS
ALL ABOUT ISSUES
OF DISCRIMINATION
AND IDENTITY, RACE,
GENDER AND SEXUALITY, THE
POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WARS.
NOW THEY WERE BROADENING
OUT TO INCLUDE CORPORATE POWER,
LABOUR RIGHTS, AND A
FAIRLY DEVELOPED
ANALYSIS OF THE WORKING
IN THE GLOBAL ECONOMY.
IS THIS TRUE?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
WHAT KIND OF INSURRECTION
WAS THE BATTLE OF SEATTLE?
IF INDEED IT WAS ONE.
WHAT KIND OF MOVEMENT
LAY BENEATH IT?
IF INDEED THERE IS ONE.
THE AFTERNOON I'D LIKE TO
TAKE THE WTO PROTESTS
IN SEATTLE AS A STARTING
POINT TO MAKE SOME
PRELIMINARY, INDEED
SPECULATIVE ARGUMENTS
ABOUT SOCIAL MOVEMENTS OVER
THE LAST HALF CENTURY,
DURING WHAT WE MIGHT CALL
THE AGE OF THREE WORLDS.
AN AGE THAT MERGED IN
THE WAKE OF THE GLOBAL
30 YEARS WAR OF
THE 20TH CENTURY,
AND WHICH MAY HAVE ENDED IN
1989 WITH THE NEW TIMES,
OUR PRESENT CRISIS, AN
AGE WHEN THREE WORLDS
SEEM TO RESOLVE INTO ONE.
AN ERA OF GLOBALIZATION.
PUT BLUNTLY, DESPITE ALEX
COCKBURN'S FORTHCOMING BOOK
ABOUT SEATTLE,
FIVE DAYS
THAT SHOOK THE WORLD,
WE KNOW THAT IT
IS NO LONGER 1917.
BUT IS IT STILL 1968?

[laughter]

David continues MY TALK TODAY
HAS THREE PARTS.
I'LL BEGIN BY LOOKING AT
THE WAY SOCIAL MOVEMENT
THEORY HAVE LOOKED
AT INSURRECTIONS
AND MOVEMENTS.
I'LL THEN TURN TO THE
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS OF THE AGE
OF THREE WORLDS, THE
LIBERATION MOVEMENTS OF 1968,
AND FINALLY, I'LL SUGGEST
THAT THE WTO PROTESTS
IN SEATTLE REPRESENT A
DISTINCTIVELY DIFFERENT
FORM OF SOCIAL MOVEMENT.
HOWEVER IT WAS NOT
A MOVEMENT THAT WAS
INAUGURATED IN SEATTLE.
RATHER SEATTLE MARKED
THE U.S. MANIFESTATION
OF 20 YEARS OF POPULAR
INSURRECTIONS
AGAINST THE GLOBAL
ENCLOSURE OF THE COMMONS.
SO THE FIRST PART IS
CALLED FROM INSURRECTION
TO MOVEMENT.
MY REFLECTIONS TODAY GROW
OUT PARTLY OF TEACHING
A SEMINAR ON SOCIAL
MOVEMENTS IN SUBALTERN
INSURRECTIONS, DURING
WHICH STUDENTS MADE
PRESENTATIONS ON THE
MILITIA MOVEMENT,
THE OCCUPATION OF ALCATRAZ
BY AMERICAN INDIANS,
THE WATTS RIOT
OF 1965,
AND THE L.A.
RIOT OF 1992,
THE IRANIAN REVOLUTION,
THE BOSTON ANTI-BUSSING
MOVEMENT, THE
ASSASSINATION
OF HARVEY MILK AND THE
GAY RIGHTS MOVEMENT,
THE ABORTION
RIGHTS MOVEMENT,
AND THE TOMPKINS
SQUARE RIOT.
TWO THEORETICAL ISSUES
RECURRED THROUGHOUT
OUR DISCUSSIONS.
FIRST, HOW DO WE UNDERSTAND
THE RELATION BETWEEN
INSURRECTION AND MOVEMENT?
HOW DOES ONE CONNECT
AN EVENT, A RIOT,
A STRIKE, AN OCCUPATION,
AND ORGANIZATIONS,
SHOP COMMITTEES,
NEIGHBOURHOOD
ASSOCIATIONS,
INFORMAL CAUCASUS,
CONSCIOUSNESS-RAISING
GROUPS,
PUBLISHING COLLECTIVES?
AND SECOND, HOW DO WE
SORT OUT AND JUDGE
THE RANGE OF
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS?
NEW AND OLD, GOOD AND
BAD, LEFT AND RIGHT?
THE FIRST QUESTION THEN
SIMPLY IS HOW TO GET
FROM THE EVENT,
THE INSURRECTION,
TO THE MOVEMENT?
HOW DO WE INTERPRET THE
FIVE DAYS IN SEATTLE?
IT'S THE RARE SOCIOLOGIST
OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS THAT
INVOKES HERMENEUTICS, THE
SCIENCE OF INTERPRETATION,
BUT THE RELATION BETWEEN
INSURRECTION AND MOVEMENTS
RAISES THE CONUNDRUMS OF
THE HERMENEUTIC CIRCLE.
FOR INSURRECTIONS
UPRISINGS, DEMONSTRATIONS,
RIOTS, THE GENERAL STRIKES
THAT SHAKE THE WORLD,
ARE ALWAYS AN ENIGMA,
LYING SOMEWHERE BETWEEN
THE HIDDEN, INVISIBLE
RESISTANCES
OF EVERYDAY LIFE, AN
THE REGIME-CHANGING
REVOLUTIONS THAT
MAKE HISTORY.
EVEN IF THEY ARE APPARENTLY
PLANNED BY SOME PARTY,
SOME NETWORK, SOME
GROUP OF CONSPIRATORS,
ORGANIZERS, INSTIGATORS,
THEY TEND TO EXCEED
THEIR SCRIPTS, LEAVING
INSTIGATORS BOTH
CLAIMING AND DISCLAIMING
RESPONSIBILITY.
INSURRECTIONS ARE
UNEXPECTED INTERRUPTIONS,
A SIGN OF THE NEW, AND AS
A RESULT BECOME SOCIAL
TEXTS OPEN TO COMPETING
INTERPRETATIONS.
THEY ARE SOCIAL DREAMS,
THE OVER DETERMINED
MANIFESTATIONS OF SOME
SUBTERRANEAN CONTENT.
A MOVEMENT OR A MOMENT.
SOCIAL THEORY PRESENTS
FOUR MAIN METHODS
OF INTERPRETING
INSURRECTIONS.
THE FIRST WHICH WE
CAN SEE IN RANAJIT GUHA'S
GREAT WORK,
ELEMENTARY
ASPECTS OF PEASANT
INSURGENCY IN
COLONIAL INDIA.
RESISTS ANY NARRATIVE
ASSUMPTION OF INSURRECTION.
SURVEYING 110 INSURGENCIES
SPANNING A PERIOD OF 117 YEARS,
HE OFFERS NO LINEAR
NARRATIVE CONNECTING
OR EXPLAINING THEM.
NO MAKING OF THE ENGLISH
INDIAN PEASANTRY.
NO HISTORY OF THE
INDIAN REVOLUTION.
INSURRECTIONS FOR GUHA
ARE GIVEN NARRATIVE FORM
NOT BY THE INSURGENTS
BUT BY THE MAGISTRATES,
THE OFFICIALS
AND THE POLICE,
THE PROS OF
COUNTERINSURGENCY,
AS HE CALLS IT.
AGAINST THESE
NARRATIVES FROM ABOVE,
THE HISTORIAN WHO TAKES
THE REBEL'S POINT OF VIEW
CAN ONLY, AND I QUOTE,
IDENTIFY COMMON AND
ELEMENTARY FORMS OF
REBEL CONSCIOUSNESS.
THIS MIGHT LEAD US TO A
PROPERLY FORMALIST READING
OF THE BATTLE OF SEATTLE,
A POETICS OF INSURGENCY,
READING THE LOGIC OF
THE CROWD'S ACTIONS
IN THE SIGN SYSTEMS OF ITS
DISCRIMINATION OF TARGETS,
ITS INVERSIONS
AND DESECRATIONS,
ITS WORLD TURNED
UPSIDE DOWN,
ITS POPULAR CONSCIENCE
AND COMMUNAL SANCTIONS,
ITS MEANS OF
COMMUNICATION,
PARTICULARLY IF
WE FOLLOW GUHA,
RUMOUR, HIS GREAT
ANALYSIS OF RUMOUR,
AND THE ROLE OF RUMOUR.
THIS MODE OF INTERPRETATION
COMES PARTICULARLY
TO THE FORE WITH
INSURRECTIONS WHOSE POLITICAL
MEANING AND NARRATIVE
SEEM OBSCURE.
THINK ONLY OF THE READINGS
OF THE 1992 L.A. RIOTS.
BUT ONE CAN SEE IT IN
SEVERAL COMMENTARIES
ON SEATTLE, PARTICULARLY
THE STREET DIARIES
THAT PROLIFERATED
ACROSS THE INTERNET.
AND ALEX COCKBURN'S STRENUOUS
ATTEMPT TO REJECT
THE NARRATIVIZATION, THE
MYTH-MAKING, HE CALLS IT,
OF THE EVENTS BY, AND I
QUOTE, LIB LAB PUNDITS,
FLACKS FOR JOHN SWEENEY
AND JAMES HOFFA,
MIDDLE-OF-THE-ROAD
GREENS, AND A RECYCLED
BINFUL OF POLICY WONKS.

[laughter]

David continues IN FAVOUR OF THE ELEMENTARY
FORMS OF INSURGENCY
OF THE STREET WARRIORS.
MOST SOCIAL MOVEMENT
THEORY HOWEVER REACHES
FOR A NARRATIVE, AN ALLEGORY,
NORMALIZING THE UPRISINGS,
MOVEMENT RELATED EVENTS
IS THEIR PHRASE FOR IT,
AS PART OF AN ACCOUNT
THE WAY MOVEMENT
ORGANIZATIONS
MOBILIZE RESOURCES.
MAKING ALLIANCES WITH
DIFFERENT SECTIONS OF
A POLITICAL ELITE, AND
THUS LINKING INSURGENT
POLITICS WITH
INSTITUTIONAL POLITICS.
THE KEY QUESTION FOR
THIS TRADITION OF SOCIAL
MOVEMENT THEORY, THE
RESOURCE MOBILIZATION
TENDENCY, WHICH WITH
VARIOUS AMENDMENTS
AND REVISIONS STILL SEEMS
TO DOMINATE, I THINK,
THE SOCIOLOGICAL STUDY
OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS.
THE MAIN QUESTION HERE
IS THE SOURCE OF THE
RESOURCES, THOUGH FEW OF
THEM HAVE EVER PAID MUCH
ATTENTION TO THE WEIRD
METAPHOR IN LOOKING
FOR THE SOURCE OF WHAT
IS ALREADY A RESOURCE,
A SOURCE AGAIN,
IN SOME SENSE.
BUT FROM THIS
STANDPOINT, THE SOURCE
OF THE RESOURCES IN
SEATTLE WERE THE NGOs,
THE NONGOVERNMENTAL
ORGANIZATIONS, AND THEY,
DESPITE COCKBURN, WOULD
SEEM TO BE THE VICTORS.
THE BATTLE OF SEATTLE,
ACCORDING TO
THE ECONOMIST,
IS ONLY THE LATEST,
AND I QUOTE HERE,
THE LATEST AND MOST
VISIBLE IN A STRING
OF RECENT NGO VICTORIES.
AND
THE ECONOMIST
ARTICLE
GOES ON TO CITE
THE 1992 RIO DE JANEIRO
EARTH SUMMIT, THE 1994,
50 YEARS IS ENOUGH
DISRUPTION OF THE WORLD
BANK, THE 1998 DEFEAT
OF THE MULTILATERAL
AGREEMENT ON INVESTMENT,
AND THE JUBILEE 2000
REDUCTION, AS VICTORIES
OF, AND I QUOTE,
THE NGO SWARM.
IN A CURIOUS REVERSAL,
THE
ECONOMIST
CORRESPONDENT
ARGUES, AND I QUOTE,
THE INTERGOVERNMENTAL
INSTITUTIONS SUCH AS THE
WORLD BANK, THE IMF, THE U.N.
AGENCIES OR THE WTO, HAVE
AN ENORMOUS WEAKNESS
IN AN AGE OF NGOs.
THEY LACK POLITICAL
LEVERAGE.
NO PARLIAMENTARIAN, THE
JOURNALIST MANAGES
TO WRITE WITH A STRAIGHT
FACE, IS GOING TO FACE
DIRECT PRESSURE FROM
THE IMF OR THE WTO.
BUT EVERY POLICYMAKER
FACES PRESSURE FROM
CITIZENS' GROUPS WITH
SPECIAL INTERESTS.
THE SOLUTION, AND
THE
ECONOMIST
POINTS ACTUALLY
TO WORLD BANK LEADER JAMES
WOLFENSOHN AS A MODEL,
IS TO DILUTE THESE
MOBILIZATION NETWORKS
BY MAKING, AND I QUOTE,
A HUGE EFFORT
TO CO-OPT THE NGOs.
THE DANGERS OF THAT
SUCCESS, THAT CO-OPATION...
THAT MOVE FROM INSURGENT
POLITICS TO INSTITUTIONAL
POLITICS, GENERATES
THE THIRD APPROACH.
THE CRITIQUE OF MOVEMENT
ORGANIZATION IN THE CLASSIC
POOR PEOPLE'S MOVEMENTS
OF FRANCES FOX PIVEN
AND RICHARD CLOWARD, ONE OF
THE GREAT BOOKS OF THE U.S.
NEW LEFT, THE NEW LEFT
EQUIVALENT, LET'S SAY,
OF ROSA LUXEMBOURG'S
THE MASS STRIKE.
BEGINNING FROM THEIR OWN
ACTIVISM IN THE WELFARE
RIGHTS MOVEMENT, AND
WRITING IMMEDIATELY
AFTER THE DEMISE OF THE
NATIONAL WELFARE RIGHTS
ORGANIZATION, PIVEN AND
CLOWARD SEE INSURRECTIONS
AS THE EXPRESSION OF
PARTICULAR CONCENTRATED
HISTORICAL MOMENTS.
THEY STRESS THE IMPORTANCE
AND RARITY OF BRIEF
INSURRECTIONARY
MOMENTS WHEN SOCIAL
CHANGE TAKES PLACE.
WHAT'S TRUE OF
REVOLUTIONARY CHANGE
PROVES TO BE TRUE
EVEN OF REFORM,
OR EVOLUTIONARY CHANGE.
SOCIAL SECURITY AND AFRICAN
AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS
WERE THE RESULT, NOT OF
LONG AND PATIENT
WORKINGS THROUGH THE
POLITICAL SYSTEM,
BUT OF BRIEF
INSURRECTIONARY MOMENTS.
NOT OF SOCIAL MOVEMENT
ALLIANCES WITH SECTORS
OF THE ELITE, BUT OF
POLITICAL CRISES AND
WEAKNESSES CREATED BY
DIVISIONS AMONG THAT ELITE.
ALL OF THE LABOUR, CIVIL
RIGHTS AND SOCIAL WELFARE
LEGISLATION OF CONSEQUENCE
IN THE INDUSTRIAL ERA,
THEY WRITE, WAS
ENACTED IN JUST TWO
TURBULENT FIVE-YEAR
PERIODS:
1933 TO '37,
AND 1963 TO '67.
WHAT WAS WON WAS
WON ALL AT ONCE,
AS DISRUPTIVE INDUSTRIAL
STRIKE WAVES,
UNEMPLOYED MARCHES AND
RIOTS CAME TO A HEAD
IN THE FIRST PERIOD,
AND CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE
CAMPAIGNS AND RIOTS CAME
TO A HEAD IN THE SECOND.
IN SUCH MOMENTS
OF UPHEAVAL,
STREET HEAT AND
DISRUPTION, THE WITHDRAWAL
OF COOPERATION SHOULD BE
CONTINUOUS, THEY ARGUE.
MASS PROTEST, NOT POOR
PEOPLE'S ORGANIZATIONS
WINS WHATEVER IS WON.
WHILE ONLY TIME WELL TELL
WHEREVER OUR MOMENT
IS SUCH A MOMENT, THIS
VISION OF A TURBULENT
AND DISRUPTIVE MOVEMENT CAN
BE SEEN IN WHAT I'LL CALL
THE PEOPLE'S GLOBAL ACTION
UNDERSTANDING OF SEATTLE,
AS ONE EVENT IN A
CHRONOLOGY AND GEOGRAPHY
OF GLOBAL ACTION DAYS.
I FOUND THIS ON THE
GLOBAL ACTION WEBSITE.
INAUGURATED, THE
WEBSITE SAYS,
NOT IN THE ACRID MIST
OF SEATTLE'S TEAR GAS,
BUT IN THE HUMID MIST
OF THE CHIAPAS JUNGLE,
AND ECHOING ACROSS
M16, MAY 16TH '98,
AGAINST THE SECOND
MINISTERIAL IN GENEVA,
WITH LARGE DEMONSTRATIONS
IN BRAZIL AND INDIA.
J18, JUNE 18TH OF
'99, WITH A LARGE
DEMONSTRATION IN LONDON.
N30, THE SEATTLE DAYS.
A16, THE WASHINGTON
DEMONSTRATION
IN SPRING OF 2000.
S11 IN MELBOURNE,
AND S26,
THE 26TH OF SEPTEMBER
AGAINST THE WORLD BANK IMF
MEETING IN PRAGUE, IS A
KIND OF OTHER VISION OF THIS.
NEVERTHELESS, PIVEN AND
CLOWARD'S REFUSAL TO REDUCE
THE INSURRECTION TO THE
ORGANIZATION SHARES,
I THINK, THE CURIOUS
AHISTORICITY OF GUHA'S
STRESS ON THE ELEMENTARY
FORMS OF INSURGENCY.
IN BOTH CASES, WAVES OF
SOCIAL INSURGENCY
SEEM TO RECUR IN AN ALMOST
CYCLICAL FASHION,
REPEATING AN INTERNAL
REPERTOIRE OF DIRECT
ACTIONS ON THE PART OF AN
ALWAYS ALREADY SUBALTERN,
THE UNDER OTHERS TO
TRANSLATE THAT CONCEPT
INTO THE VERNACULAR.
SOME SOCIAL MOVEMENT THEORY
HAS EXPLICITLY ADOPTED
THIS CYCLICAL APPROACH.
ANDRE GUNDER FRANK
IN A GREAT ESSAY
TRIES TO TIE CYCLES OF
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
TO ECONOMIC CYCLES.
IN THIS SENSE, IT IS
ALWAYS 1968, 1917, 1848,
1789, AND SO ON.
A FOURTH, MORE HISTORICAL
ALTERNATIVE SUGGESTS THAT
INSURRECTION IS THE SIGN OF
A LONG TERM, UNDERGROUND,
BARELY VISIBLE MOVEMENTS
AND MOVEMENT CULTURES.
THIS, I WOULD SUGGEST,
IS THE LESSON OF
E.P. THOMPSON'S THE MAKING OF
THE ENGLISH WORKING CLASS.
THE MAKING IS A STRANGER
AND MORE INTERESTING
BOOK THAN ONE
MIGHT THINK.
ITS TITLE, ITS BULK, ITS
REPUTATION, ITS INFLUENCE,
HAVE TENDED, I THINK, TO
OBSCURE IT BECAUSE
IT'S REALLY TWO BOOKS
WHICH ARE NEVER RESOLVED.
THE LEGENDARY BOOK IS
THE BOOK OF THE TITLE,
A BIOGRAPHY OF A CLASS,
IMAGINED AS A COHERENT
SUBJECT WITH ALL THE
METAPHORIC ARMATURE
OF MASCULINE BIOGRAPHY
OR BUILDINGS ROMO.
BIRTH, FORMATION, COMING
TO CONSCIOUSNESS,
SETBACKS, MATURITY.
THIS NARRATIVE
HAS THE LINEARITY,
THE SENSE OF PRESENCE,
AND EXPERIENTIAL
FULLNESS ASSOCIATED
WITH THOMPSONIAN
SOCIAL HISTORY FROM BELOW,
AND THIS MADE IT THE
TARGET OF FEMINIST
ALTIZARIA
AND POST STRUCTURALIST
CRITIQUES.
BUT IN FACT, THE ACTUAL
BOOK NEVER LIVES UP
TO ITS TITLE.
ON THE CONTRARY, THE BOOK
ITSELF IS LARGELY A HISTORY
OF AN ENGLISH REVOLUTION
THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN.
A STORY OF MISCHANCES AND
REVOLUTIONARY MOMENTS.
1819, 1832, THAT
DISSIPATED.
A PIONEERING
THEORIST OF ABSENCE,
THOMPSON ARGUES THAT
REVOLUTIONS THAT DON'T
TAKE PLACE ARE JUST
AS DEVASTATING
AS THOSE THAT DO
HAPPEN.
THE HEART OF THE BOOK IS
AN ATTEMPT TO UNDERSTAND
THE ROOTS OF AN INSURRECTION
THAT DIDN'T SUCCEED,
AND THUS DID NOT
BECOME EPIC HISTORY.
TROTSKY'S HISTORY OF
THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION.
THOMPSON SEEKS TO UNDERSTAND
THE MEANING OF WHAT HE CALLS
A QUASI-INSURRECTIONARY
MOVEMENT.
UNDERGROUND CONSPIRACIES
THAT MAY OR MAY NOT
BE THE FANTASIES
OF POLICE SPIES.
EPISODES OF
MACHINE BREAKING,
MASSACRES OF UNARMED
DEMONSTRATORS.
THE SOURCES ARE CLOUDED,
THOMPSON REMINDS US
BECAUSE WORKING PEOPLE
MEANT THEM TO BE CLOUDED.
AND IN AN ACT OF WHAT
HE CALLS CONSTRUCTIVE
SPECULATION, AND I
QUOTE, WE HAVE TO READ,
NOT ONLY BETWEEN THE LINES
OF THE LETTERS SENT IN,
BUT ALSO THE LETTERS
THAT WERE NEVER SENT.
HERE, THOMPSON GENUINELY
CAPTURES THE HERMENEUTIC
DILEMMA FACING EVERY
THEORIST OF THE RELATION
BETWEEN INSURRECTION
AND MOVEMENT.
WE MUST MAKE CONNECTIONS
BETWEEN THE OCCASIONAL
ERUPTIONS, THE MACHINE
BREAKINGS, STORE LOOTINGS,
WINDOW SMASHINGS,
AND THE LONGER DURER
MOUVEMENT CULTURES.
CONNECTIONS THAT
ARE OFTEN DENIED
BY THE PARTICIPANTS.
CONNECTIONS OF WHICH
THEY MAY BE UNAWARE.
IT IS SCARCELY POSSIBLE TO
GIVE A COHERENT HISTORICAL
ACCOUNT OF AN INCOHERENT
PRESENCE, HE WRITES,
BUT SOME ATTEMPT
MUST BE MADE.
AS HE RECONSTRUCTS THE
POPULAR RADICALISM
THAT REACHES FROM THE
REVOLUTIONARY 1790s OF
PAINE, WOLLSTONECRAFT
AND BLAKE,
TO THE UPHEAVALS OF 1832.
AN UNDERGROUND TRADITION
OR POLITICAL UNCONSCIENCE
THAT SURVIVES THE DEEP
FREEZE AND REPRESSION
OF TWO DECADES OF WORLD
WAR AND ENGLISH
ANTI-JACOBINISM.
DOES THE BATTLE OF SEATTLE
SIMILARLY INHERIT
A POPULAR RADICALISM?
A MOVEMENT CULTURE?
AND IF SO WHAT
IS THAT LEGACY?
IS IT A LEGACY OF THE
LIBERATION MOVEMENTS OF 1968?
WITH NOAM CHOMSKY AS
THE TOM PAINE OF U.S.
POPULAR RADICALISM?
WHAT, IN FACT, DO
WE MEAN BY 1968?
PART TWO: 1968.
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS IN THE
AGE OF THREE WORLDS.
1968 STANDS AS A SHORTHAND
FOR A MOMENT OF REMARKABLE
POLITICAL AND
SOCIAL UPHEAVAL,
AND THE APPEARANCE OF A
HOST OF WHAT WERE SEEN
AS NEW SOCIAL MOVEMENTS.
THE VERY TERM SOCIAL
MOVEMENT IS RESURRECTED
IN THE PERIOD.
AND THE EMERGENCE OF
SOCIAL MOVEMENT THEORY AND
RESEARCH IS BOTH A PRODUCT
OF AND A REFLECTION ON
THE POLITICS OF
THAT MOMENT.
IT'S NOT AN ACCIDENT THAT
THE FIGURES I INVOKED
IN THE FIRST PART OF THIS
TALK, GUHA, THOMPSON,
PIVEN AND CLOWARD
ARE ALL SIGNIFICANT
INTELLECTUALS OF 1968.
THE QUESTION OF HOW TO
SORT OUT AND JUDGE
THIS REMARKABLE RANGE OF
POPULAR MOBILIZATIONS
AMONG WOMEN AND
PEACE ACTIVISTS,
FUNDAMENTALISTS AND GAYS,
ENVIRONMENTALISTS AND
WHITE SUPREMISTS HAS
GENERATED MUCH CONTROVERSY
WITHIN SOCIAL
MOVEMENT THEORY.
THE NEW SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
OFTEN INSISTED
ON THEIR AUTONOMY AND
DISTINCTIVENESS.
AND MOST SCHOLARS OF THE
NEW SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
HAVE IMPLICITLY OR
EXPLICITLY ACCEPTED
THAT UNDERSTANDING.
STUDYING THE RISE AND FALL,
SUCCESS AND FAILURE
OF PARTICULAR SOCIAL
MOVEMENTS IN ISOLATION
FROM THE OTHERS.
SOCIAL MOVEMENT THEORY IN
THAT WAY THUS EMERGES
AS KIND OF ANALOG OF
SOCIOLOGICAL THEORIES
OF INSTITUTIONS,
GROUPS OR PARTIES.
A KIND OF ABSTRACT
MODEL OF THE DYNAMICS
OF A PARTICULAR
SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION.
THOSE, ON THE OTHER HAND,
WHO HAVE TRIED TO FIND
A COMMON DENOMINATOR AMONG
THE SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
HAVE BEEN DRAWN TO THE
RELATIVELY ABSTRACT
CATEGORIES OF
POPULISM AND IDENTITY.
THE FIRST, AND I THINK
OF A VARIETY OF THINGS
FROM MICHAEL KAISEN'S
POPULIST PERSUASION,
TO SOME OF THE WORK
OF ERNESTO LACLAU,
THE EARLY
WORK OF LACLAU,
SUGGESTS THAT POPULIST
MOBILIZATIONS ARE CENTRAL
TO THE MASS POLITICS
OF MODERNITY.
THE AGE OF PARLIAMENTS,
MASS MEDIA,
AND URBAN CROWDS.
THUS ALL SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
ARE VERSIONS OF POPULISM,
INVOKING A RHETORIC
OF WE THE PEOPLE,
AND IF ONE FINDS DIFFERENT
ACCENTS OF THAT POPULISM,
CHAUVINIST AND AUTHORITARIAN
AT ONE MOMENT,
EGALITARIAN AND DEMOCRATIC
AT OTHER MOMENTS,
THAT DOES IN THE
OUTWEIGH THE SUBSTANTIAL
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN
THE MOVEMENTS
AS SOCIAL PHENOMENON.
THOSE WHO SUGGEST THAT
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS ARE BUILT,
AND I QUOTE, AROUND
THE TRENCHES OF SPECIFIC
IDENTITIES, TO QUOTE
MANUEL CASTELLS'
THE POWER OF IDENTITY,
ARE ALSO WILLING TO LUMP
TOGETHER MOVEMENTS OF
EXTRAORDINARILY DIVERGENT
IDEOLOGIES AND
SOCIAL CHARACTERS.
CASTELLS IN HIS ESSAY
BRINGS TOGETHER MEXICO'S
ZAPATISTAS, THE U.S.
MILITIA'S AND PATRIOTS,
AND JAPAN'S AUM SHINRIKYO
AS SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
AGAINST THE NEW
GLOBAL ORDER.
FROM AN ANALYTICAL
PERSPECTIVE,
CASTELLS WRITES, THERE
ARE NO GOOD AND BAD,
PROGRESSIVE AND REGRESSIVE
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS.
THEY ARE ALL SYMPTOMS
OF WHO WE ARE.
NEITHER OF THESE VIEWS
ALLOWS US TO UNDERSTAND
THE HISTORICAL SPECIFICITY
OF THE MOVEMENTS OF 1968,
NOR TO TELL WHETHER
SEATTLE MARKS A CONTINUITY
OR A BREAK FROM
THESE MOVEMENTS.
I WOULD SUGGEST THAT THE
MOVEMENTS OF '68
MUST BE UNDERSTOOD NOT
AS VERSIONS OF POPULISM
OR IDENTITY POLITICS, BUT
AS LIBERATION MOVEMENTS.
LIBERATION, NOT IDENTITY,
WAS THE KEYWORD
FOR WOMEN'S LIBERATION,
NOT IDENTITY MOVEMENT.
THE GAY LIBERATION,
NOT IDENTITY MOVEMENT.
THE BLACK LIBERATION
MOVEMENT.
IN FACT I'VE ONLY FOUND
ONE SELF-PROCLAIMED
IDENTITY MOVEMENT.
THE WHITE SUPREMACIST
CHRISTIAN IDENTITY MOVEMENT.
LIBERATION, ON
THE OTHER HAND,
WAS A KEYWORD OF ALL
OF THOSE MOVEMENTS.
FROM THE LATE 1950s, IT
EMERGED AS THE TITLE
OF THE PIONEERING JOURNAL
OF THE U.S. NEW LEFT,
AS WELL AS THE
TITLE OF THE JOURNAL
OF THE AFRICAN
NATIONAL CONGRESS.
IT WAS A KEY CATEGORY IN
THE WORK OF HERBERT MARCUSE,
FRANZ VON OUEN, AND
SHULAMITH FIRESTONE.
AND THIS IS NOT MERELY
A SEMANTIC ISSUE.
FOR THE LIBERATION
MOVEMENTS WERE MOVEMENTS
OF A PARTICULAR
HISTORICAL MOMENT.
THE AGE OF THREE WORLDS.
A PERIOD DOMINATED BY THE
SENSE THAT THE WORLD
WAS DIVIDED IN THREE.
THE CAPITALIST FIRST
WORLD, THE COMMUNIST
SECOND WORLD, AND THE
DECOLONIZING THIRD.
IT IS A MOMENT THAT SEEMS
TO HAVE EVAPORATED AFTER 1989.
THE ONE THING GLOBALIZATION
CLEARLY MEANS
IS THAT EVERYONE THINKS
THERE IS NOW ONE WORLD.
AND THE MOST POWERFUL
ACCOUNT OF THE LIBERATION
MOVEMENTS OF 1968 DEPEND
ON THIS IMAGINATIVE GEOGRAPHY.
ASSERTING THAT 1968 MARKED ONLY
THE SECOND WORLD REVOLUTION.
IMMANUEL WALLERSTEIN
HAS ARGUED IN EACH ZONE
OF THE WORLD SYSTEM,
THE SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
OF 1968 TOOK AIM AT
STATE REGIMES
THAT HAD BEEN THE
PRODUCT OF THE SOCIAL
MOVEMENTS OF 1848.
THE FIRST WORLD SOCIAL
DEMOCRACIES AND THEIR
TRADE UNION AND LABOUR
PARTY APPARATUSES.
THE SECOND WORLD'S
PEOPLE'S DEMOCRACIES
AND THEIR COMMUNIST
PARTY NOMENCLATURA,
AND THE THIRD WORLD'S
POST COLONIAL STATES,
AND THEIR COMPADRE OR
NATIONALIST ELITES.
THE LIBERATION MOVEMENTS
WERE THE PRODUCT
OF THE NEW TECHNICAL
EDUCATIONAL AND OCCUPATIONAL
STRUCTURES OF
CAPITALIST, COMMUNIST,
AND NATIONALIST
MODERNIZATION.
DRAWING ON THE VASTLY
EXPANDED WORLD OF STUDENTS,
TECHNICAL INTELLIGENTSIA'S,
EMANCIPATED WOMEN
AND WHITE COLLAR AND
PUBLIC SECTOR WORKERS.
IT WAS THE FIRST UPRISING
OF THE KNOWLEDGE
PROLETARIAT, AS
NICK DYER-WITHEFORD
PUTS IT IN HIS WONDERFUL
NEW BOOK
CYBER MARKS.
AND THEY FOUGHT THE
STATE, THE WELFARE STATE,
THE WARFARE STATE, THE
INTERVENTIONIST STATE.
THE STRUGGLE OF YOUNG
WOMEN FOR SEXUAL AND
REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM IN
THE BATTLE FOR THE RIGHTS
TO DIVORCE,
CONTRACEPTION, AND ABORTION,
AND AGAINST SEXUAL
HARASSMENT AND VIOLENCE.
THE RESISTANCE TO STATE
ACCUMULATION OF NUCLEAR
WEAPONS, AND STATE
PROSECUTION OF COLONIAL WARS.
THE WILDCAT STRIKES
AND SELF-ORGANIZATION
OF YOUNG PUBLIC
SECTOR WORKERS.
THE DIRECT ACTION FOR CIVIL
RIGHTS AND WELFARE RIGHTS
BY ETHNICIZED AND
RACIALIZED MINORITY PEOPLES.
THE STATE WAS THE TARGET
AND THE STAKE OF THE STRUGGLE.
FROM AL TEZAR'S ANALYSIS OF
IDEOLOGICAL STATE APPARATUSES
TO CHOMSKY'S ATTACK ON
THE NEW MANDARINS,
FROM PIVEN AND CLOWARD'S
CRITIQUE OF THE WELFARE STATE,
TO FOUCAULT'S GENEALOGY
OF THE PRISON,
INTELLECTUALS OF THE
LIBERATION MOVEMENTS BROUGHT
THE STATE BACK IN TO
SOCIAL THOUGHT,
OFTEN RECOVERING THEMES
FROM THE ANARCHIST TRADITION.
IN FACT, IN CHALLENGING
THE UNFILLED PROMISES
OF SECOND INTERNATIONAL
SOCIAL DEMOCRACY,
THIRD INTERNATIONAL
COMMUNISM, AND BANDUNG
NATIONALISM, THEY CAME
TO QUESTION TWO
OF THE FUNDAMENTAL
ASSUMPTIONS OF THE
EARLIER SOCIAL MOVEMENTS.
THE OLD LEFT.
THE NOTION THAT THE AIM OF
SOCIAL MOVEMENT STRUGGLE
WAS THE SEIZURE
OF STATE POWER,
WHETHER BY PARLIAMENTARY
OR INSURRECTIONARY MEANS,
AND THE NOTION
THAT THE PARTY,
WHETHER MASS OR VANGUARD,
WAS THE CENTRAL
VEHICLE OF THE STRUGGLE.
BOTH OF THOSE WERE
POWERFULLY CHALLENGED IN 1968.
THE ERA OF THE MASS PARTY,
FROM THE GERMAN SOCIAL
DEMOCRATS TO PERHAPS THE
ANC SEEMS TO FADE INTO HISTORY
AS A PARTICULAR CENTURY
IN POLITICAL HISTORY.
THERE WERE OFTEN STRIKING
PARALLELS BETWEEN THE LIBERATION
MOVEMENTS
IN THE THREE WORLDS.
GEORGE KATSIAFICAS HAS
POINTED TO PARALLELS
IN STUDENT MOVEMENTS
IN THE FIRST,
SECOND AND THIRD WORLDS.
AND THERE IS A VERY
ILLUMINATING DIALOGUE
BETWEEN DANIEL
COHN-BENDIT,
AND ADAM MICHNIK THAT
POINTS TO THE ANTI-AUTHORITARIAN
COMMON GROUND BETWEEN
'68-ERS ON EITHER SIDE
OF THE IRON CURTAIN.
BUT I THINK THE GENUINE
DIVISION IN THE WORLD
SYSTEM PREVENTED ALL BUT
THE MOST FLEETING OF LINKS
ACROSS THOSE THREE ZONES.
AGAINST THESE MOVEMENTS,
THERE EMERGED
THE COUNTERMOVEMENTS
OF 1968:
MOVEMENTS AGAINST
LIBERATION.
JUST AS THE FASCIST
COUNTERMOVEMENTS OF THE EARLY
20TH CENTURY ADOPTED MANY
OF THE FORMS AND METHODS
OF THE PROLETARIAN
SOCIALISMS AND COMMUNISMS,
SO THE COUNTERLIBERATION
MOVEMENTS ADOPTED THE FORMS
AND TACTICS OF THE
LIBERATION MOVEMENTS.
LEADING MANY, TOO MANY
SOCIAL MOVEMENT SCHOLARS
TO DEDUCE A SUBSTANTIVE
SIMILARITY FROM
THIS FORMAL SIMILARITY.
HOWEVER MODERNITY HAS
BEEN AND CONTINUES TO BE
DOMINATED BY A LEFT-RIGHT
AXIS THAT EMERGED
WITH THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.
AND IF YOU OBJECT THIS
IS TOO TELEOLOGICAL
CONCEPTION, I WOULD REPLY
THAT MOVEMENT AND
COUNTERMOVEMENT
PARTICIPANTS CONTINUED
TO SEE THEMSELVES IN THOSE
TELEOLOGICAL TERMS,
AS PART OF SOME GRAND
HISTORICAL STRUGGLE
TIED TO THE FUTURE
OR THE PAST.
MOVEMENTS AND COUNTER
MOVEMENTS CONTINUE
TO DEPEND ON PHILOSOPHIES
OF HISTORY.
WHETHER SALVATIONAL
HISTORIES OF RELIGIOUS
REDEMPTION, RACIAL AND
NATIONAL HISTORIES
OF ARYAN NATIONS AND WHITE
SUPREMACY OR INDEED
NARRATIVES OF
UNCOMPLETED REVOLUTION
AND EVENTUAL LIBERATION.
IF ONE ACCEPTS THIS AS AN
ACCOUNT OF THE LIBERATION
MOVEMENTS OF THE 1968, WE
CAN RETURN IN THE FINAL SECTION
TO THE QUESTION OF SEATTLE.
IS IT STILL 1968?
MY THIRD PART IS CALLED
DEFUND THE FUND,
BREAK THE BANK,
DUMP THE DEBT.
THAT WAS A
SLOGAN FROM A16.
THE BASIC JOURNALISTIC
ACCOUNT OF THE SEATTLE
COALITION IS THAT IT WAS
AN UNEASY ALLIANCE
OF FOUR FORCES.
DIRECTION ACTION GROUPS
THAT TRAINED AND MOBILIZED
PEOPLE IN FORMS OF STREET
PROTESTS FROM CIVIL
DISOBEDIENCE, AND
STREET THEATRE,
INCLUDING THE RUCKUS
SOCIETY AND THE
DIRECT ACTION NETWORK.
NGOs THAT HAD ORGANIZED
CAMPAIGNS AGAINST THE IMF,
THE WTO, ISSUING
PUBLICATIONS,
ESTABLISHING INTERNET
NETWORKS AND RESOURCES,
AND NURTURING THE EMERGENT
MOVEMENT INTELLECTUALS.
THESE INCLUDE
GLOBAL EXCHANGE,
THE NADER RIGHT PUBLIC
CITIZENS GLOBAL TRADE WATCH,
THE INTERNATIONAL
FORUM ON GLOBALIZATION,
MANY OTHERS.
THIRD, THE AFL-CIO UNDER
THE NEW VOICE LEADERSHIP
OF JOHN SWEENEY, WHICH
TAKE OVER IN 1995,
AND FOURTH THE SMALL
CLUSTER OF MORE OR LESS
ANONYMOUS ANARCHIST
TENDENCIES,
INCLUDING THE BLACK
CLAD MESSENGERS,
THE ANARCHIST
ACTION COLLECTIVE.
AND THERE'S THREE - HERE'S
THE ONE BIBLIOGRAPHIC
NOTE FOR YOU, THERE ARE
THREE REALLY INTERESTING
ACCOUNTS OF
THIS COALITION,
AND THEY COME FROM THREE
VERY DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW.
FROM THE CORPORATE
POINT OF VIEW,
THE FASCINATING LEAK
TO BURSON-MARSTELLER MEMO,
WHICH WAS A GUIDE TO
THE SEATTLE MELTDOWN,
PUT OUT BY A CONSULTING
FIRM TO ITS CORPORATE
CLIENTS ABOUT WHO
THESE ACTIVISTS WERE.
FROM THE CENTRE, WILLIAM
FINNEGAN'S FINE
NEW YORKER
PROFILE,
"AFTER SEATTLE."
AND FROM THE
LEFT, DAN LABOTT'S
"MOVING FOR
SOCIAL JUSTICE,"
ONE OF THE BEST ACCOUNTS
IN AGAINST THE CURRENT,
THAT LEFT JOURNAL
IN THE U.S.
AND THERE'S A KIND OF
INTRIGUING SIMILAR ACCOUNTS
OF THE FOUR TENDENCIES
IN EACH OF THESE.
HOWEVER, THOUGH THIS
PICTURE ACCOUNTS, I THINK,
FOR THE PARTICULAR
SUCCESSES AND TENSIONS
OF THE SEATTLE PROTESTS, AND
THE MORE LIMITED SUCCESSES
OF SUBSEQUENT ACTIONS
WHERE ONE OR MORE OF THESE
FORCES WAS ABSENT, AND I'M
NOT SURE THAT ANY OF THE
MORE RECENT ONES HAVE BEEN
ABLE TO GET ALL FOUR
IN THE STREETS TOGETHER, IT
DOES NOT FULLY EXPLAIN
THE CONDITIONS THAT CREATED
THIS CURIOUS ALLIANCE.
FOR THAT, I THINK, WE HAVE
TO LOOK TO THE EMERGENCE
OF A NEW TYPE OF
THE ANTI-SYSTEMIC ACTION
THAT HAS TAKEN SHAPE OVER
THE LAST QUARTER CENTURY.
A FORM OF SOCIAL RESISTANCE
WHICH IS REMARKABLY
DIFFERENT FROM THE
LIBERATION MOVEMENTS OF 1968.
THIS ANTI-SYSTEMIC TENDENCY
DOES NOT YET HAVE A NAME,
WHICH IS WHY I DON'T LIKE
MY GLOBAL LEFT TITLE.
IF ANYONE HAS A BETTER
NAME, I WOULD LOVE IT.
IT DOES NOT HAVE A
RECOGNIZED CHRONOLOGY.
THE LITERATURE ON
GLOBALIZATION OFTEN
GESTURES TO A MOMENT
OF RESISTANCE,
INVOKING A NEW
TRANSNATIONAL SOCIAL MOVEMENT,
BUT IT'S RARELY TRIED
TO TELL ITS HISTORY.
THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS AND
MY ARGUMENT THAT FOLLOWS
DRAWS MUCH ON AN EXCELLENT
BUT RARELY CITED WORK
OF JOHN WALTON AND
DAVID SEDDON
CALLED
FREE MARKETS
AND FOOD RIOTS.
BUT FIRST EACH BOOK LIKE
THEIRS ON THE FORCES
OF ANTI-GLOBALIZATION,
THERE ARE A DOZEN BOOKS
ON THE FORCES OF
GLOBALIZATION.
AND WHAT FOLLOWS THEN
IS THE BEGINNING
OF A HISTORY, THE BEGINNING
OF AN ATTEMPT TO GIVE
A COHERENT ACCOUNT OF
AN INCOHERENT PRESENCE.
THE ANTI-GLOBALIZATION
MOVEMENT HAS ERUPTED,
I THINK, IN THREE
MOMENTS.
THE FIRST WAVE OF IMF
RIOTS IN THE LATE '70s
AND EARLY '80s.
A SECOND EARTHQUAKE IN 1989
WHEN HISTORY SEEMED TO END.
AND A THIRD MORE VISIBLE
MOMENT INAUGURATED
BY THE UPRISING OF
THE ZAPATISTA
IN CHIAPAS IN
JANUARY 1994.
THE FIRST MOMENT OF THE
ANTI-GLOBALIZATION MOVEMENT
BEGINS WITH AN
UNPRECEDENTED SERIES
OF URBAN FOOD RIOTS.
IN THE SUMMER OF 1976 MASS
DEMONSTRATIONS TOOK PLACE
IN PERU AND IN POLAND.
IN POLAND WHERE THE
GOVERNMENT HAD TRIED
TO RAISE THEM BY
60 PERCENT.
A FEW MONTHS LATER
IN JANUARY, '77,
RIOTS BROKE OUT IN
SEVERAL EGYPTIAN CITIES
WHEN THE GOVERNMENT RAISED
FOOD AND GAS PRICES
IN RESPONSE TO IMF
AUSTERITY DEMANDS.
THREE MONTHS LATER,
DEMONSTRATIONS AGAINST
PRICE RISES IN
KINGSTON, JAMAICA,
TURNED TO LOOTING.
THESE FOOD AND PRICE
RIOTS BROKE OUT
IN THE MIDST OF THE CRISIS
OF THE THREE WORLDS,
IN THE WAKE OF THE
WORLD DEPRESSION
OF THE MID-1970s.
WHAT THE MIDNIGHT
NOTES COLLECTIVE,
ONE OF THE OUTSTANDING
ANALYSTS OF THIS TURN,
CALLS THE CRISIS OF THE
THREE DEALS THE KEYNESIAN DEAL,
THE STALINIST DEAL,
AND THE THIRD WORLD
NATIONALIST DEAL.
EACH WAS FIGURED
AS A DEBT CRISIS.
THE FISCAL CRISIS THE STATE
ECHOED FROM NEW YORK'S
DEFAULT IN THE EARLY '70s
TO MEXICO'S THREATENED
DEFAULT IN 1982.
AND OVER THE NEXT SEVERAL
YEARS, AUSTERITY PROTESTS,
PRECIPITATED BY DRASTIC,
OVERNIGHT PRICE HIKES
RESULTING FROM THE
TERMINATION OF PUBLIC
SUBSIDIES ON BASIC
GOODS AND SERVICES,
BROKE OUT IN HALF OF
THE DEBTOR COUNTRIES
OF THE WORLD.
39 OF THE 80
DEBTOR COUNTRIES,
REACHING A PEAK
IN 1983, '85,
IN THE WAKE OF THE
MEXICAN DEBT CRISIS.
THESE AUSTERITY PROTESTS
CAME TO BE CALLED IMF RIOTS,
SINCE THE IMF WAS THE TARGET
OF POPULAR HOSTILITY
FOR THE STABILIZATION
MEASURES IT IMPOSED
ON INDEBTED STATES IN THE
SECOND AND THIRD WORLD.
BY 1984, PLACARDS READING
"OUT WITH THE IMF,"
APPEARED IN THE
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC,
WHERE THREE DAYS OF STREET
DEMONSTRATIONS AND GENERAL
STRIKES LED TO CLASHES
WITH THE POLICE
THAT LEFT 60 PEOPLE DEAD.
IN 1985, SUDANESE WOMEN
PROTESTING RISING FOOD PRICES
CHANTED "DOWN,
DOWN WITH THE IMF."
THOUGH THESE AUSTERITY
PROTESTS HAD LITTLE
SUCCESS IN REVERSING
STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT,
A TERM THAT EMERGES WITH
THE WORLD BANK STRUCTURAL
ADJUSTMENT LOANS IN 1980,
THEY DID PLAY, I THINK,
A ROLE IN THE MAJOR SOCIAL
MOVEMENTS OF 1979 AND '80.
THE STREET PROTESTS
THAT TRIGGERED
THE REVOLUTION IN IRAN.
THE LARGEST STRIKE WAVE
IN TURKISH HISTORY
THAT WAS ENDED BY A
MILITARY COUP IN 1980,
AND THE POLISH STRIKES OF
1980 TRIGGERED BY PRICE RISES
THAT RESULTED IN THE
EMERGENCE OF SOLIDARITY
AND THE SUBSEQUENT
MILITARY COUP.
THE SECOND MOMENT
IS LESS VISIBLE.
BECAUSE THE INCIDENTS OF
IMF RIOTS SEEMS TO TAPER OFF
IN THE LATE 1980s.
HOWEVER, THE DRAMATIC
END TO THE AGE OF THREE
WORLDS, THE COLLAPSE
OF EASTERN EUROPEAN COMMUNISM,
THE FALL OF THE APARTHEID
REGIME IN SOUTH AFRICA,
AND THE QUOTE
TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY,
AS MILITARY DICTATORSHIPS
AND ONE PARTY STATES
IN LATIN AMERICA AND AFRICA
BEGAN TO INSTITUTIONALIZE
OPPOSITION PARTIES.
ALL OF THAT OWES
MORE TO IMF RIOTING
THAN HAS BEEN RECOGNIZED.
FOR THE DEBT CRISIS,
AN IMF STABILIZATION
DESTABILIZED STATES OF
THE LEFT AND THE RIGHT.
MANLY'S SOCIAL
DEMOCRATIC JAMAICA,
AS WELL AS DE KLERK'S
APARTHEID SOUTH AFRICA.
THE GOULASH
COMMUNISMS OF POLAND,
HUNGARY AND YUGOSLAVIA, AND
THE MILITARY POPULISMS
IN BRAZIL, ARGENTINA
AND NIGERIA,
ALL DEPENDED ON SOCIAL
CONTRACTS WITH WORKERS IN
THE URBAN POOR FINANCED
BY INTERNATIONAL DEBT.
THE IMF'S CONCERTED
ASSAULT ON WAGES,
ON STATE SUBSIDIES FOR
FOOD AND TRANSPORTATION,
ON PUBLIC SECTOR
EMPLOYMENT, IN SHORT,
ON THE MORAL ECONOMY
OF THE GLOBAL BARRIO,
WAS ALSO AN ASSAULT
ON THE LEGITIMACY
OF THOSE REGIMES.
THIS IS PARTICULARLY IN THE
CLEAR IN THE COLLAPSE
OF YUGOSLAVIA INTO
GENERAL WAR.
YUGOSLAVIA HAD CONTRACTED
THE LARGEST FOREIGN DEBT
IN EASTERN EUROPE, AND
BEGINNING IN 1981,
THE IMF IMPOSED CONDITIONS
THAT LED TO SOARING PRICES,
REDUCED WAGES, AND
SEVERE UNEMPLOYMENT
GENERATING THE DESCENT
INTO THE MAELSTROM.
HOWEVER, THE NEW
REGIMES OF 1989,
IN THE SOUTH AS
WELL AS THE EAST,
DID NOT RESTORE THE
EARLIER SOCIAL CONTRACTS.
RATHER, WE'VE SEEN A
CONTRADICTORY COMBINATION
OF POPULAR UPRISINGS AND
NEOLIBERAL OUTCOMES.
BY 1994, EVEN
THE NEW
YORK TIMES
WAS WRITING,
AND I QUOTE, THE IMF AND
THE BANK NOW EFFECTIVELY
OVERSEE AND SUPERVISE
THE ECONOMIES
OF SOME 30 COUNTRIES IN
SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA.
THE RISE OF
POLITICAL DEMOCRACY,
CELEBRATED IN AN ENORMOUS
SCHOLARLY LITERATURE
ON THE TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY
AND THE THIRD WAVE,
HAS BEEN ACCOMPANIED BY
THE GLOBAL COLLAPSE
OF SOCIAL DEMOCRACY.
IF THIS IS MEANT THE SAVAGING
OF SOCIAL SAFETY NETS,
WELFARE SYSTEMS
AND PRICE SUBSIDIES,
IT HAS ALSO BEEN A GLOBAL
PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC LAND,
PUBLIC INDUSTRIES,
AND PUBLIC SERVICES,
AMOUNTING TO WHAT THE
MIDNIGHT NOTES COLLECTIVE
CALLED, IN A VERY
INFLUENTIAL PAMPHLET
OF 1990, THE NEW
ENCLOSURES.
THE COMMONS THAT HAD
BEEN WON BY THE SOCIAL
MOVEMENTS OF 1848 AND
1968 WERE BEING ENCLOSED.
BY THE LATE '80s
AND EARLY '90s,
A NEW WAVE OF
UPRISINGS TOOK PLACE.
IN VENEZUELA, OF FEBRUARY
'89 INCREASE IN GAS PRICES,
WHICH WAS FELT AS A DRAMATIC
INCREASE IN BUS FARES,
TRIGGERED ONE OF
THE LARGEST AUSTERITY
PROTESTS EVER, AS
STREET BARRICADES,
LOOTINGS AND BUS BURNINGS
WERE ANSWERED BY MILITARY
OCCUPATION, AND THE
KILLING OF OVER 300 PEOPLE.
THE PROTESTS HAD BEEN
EXACERBATED BECAUSE
PRESIDENT PEREZ HAD
CAMPAIGNED AGAINST
THE IMF, CALLING
IT, AND I QUOTE,
A BOMB THAT KILLS
PEOPLE WITH HUNGER.
HE THEN CUT A
DEAL WITH THE IMF.
THERE WAS A GENERAL STRIKE
IN MOROCCO IN 1990,
AND GENERAL STRIKES IN
INDIA IN '91 AND '92
AGAINST THE ADOPTION
OF IMF AUSTERITY
AND LIBERALIZATION
MEASURES.
IN 1992, A POST
MODERN FOOD RIOT,
AS MIKE DAVID CALLED IT,
ROCKED ANOTHER GLOBAL
BARRIO, LOS ANGELES.
HOWEVER, THE THIRD MOMENT
REALLY BEGINS WITH
THE UPRISING OF THE ezLM
IN CHIAPAS IN EARLY 1994.
AS A STUDENT OF MINE SAID
WHEN I WAS ASKING ABOUT
CONTEMPORARY SOCIAL
MOVEMENTS THAT THEY FELT
SOME CONNECTION TO, THE
ZAPATISTAS WERE FIRST.
THEY STARTED ON THE
DAY NAFTA STARTED.
THAT WAS HIS
ANSWER TO ME.
THE ZAPATISTAS WERE NOT AN
URBAN RESPONSE TO PRICE RISES,
BUT A RURAL REVOLT
AGAINST THE ENCLOSURE
OF COMMON LAND.
THE GUTTING OF THE
COMMUNAL LAND PROVISION
OF ARTICLE 27 OF THE
MEXICAN CONSTITUTION.
BUT THEY ALSO,
IN A NEW WAY,
ARTICULATED THE
REVOLT AGAINST WHAT
THEY CALLED
NEOLIBERALISM.
AND IN CALLING FOR THE SUPPORT
OF A NEW CIVIL SOCIETY,
THEY RESHAPED
DISCOURSE ON THE LEFT.
WHEREAS THE IMF STRUCTURAL
ADJUSTMENT AND THE DEBT CRISIS
HAD BEEN SEEN AS A SECOND
AND THIRD WORLD ISSUES
FOR MOST OF THE 1980s,
THE STRUGGLE OVER NAFTA,
WHICH IN THE UNITED STATES
HAD NEVER FULLY BROKEN
FROM THE OLD PROTECTIONIST
LABOUR NATIONALISM, AND
THE PROTESTS AGAINST
THE CREATION OF THE WTO
BEGAN TO CREATE A NEW COMMON
SENSE, AND NEW FORMS OF
ANALYSIS ON THE LEFT,
AS A DECADE OF BATTLES
OVER SO-CALLED IDENTITY
POLITICS BEGAN TO VANISH.
THE GLOBAL PUBLIC SECTOR
STRIKEWAVE OF 1994 TO '97.
THE EMERGENCE OF
THE NEW VOICE,
AFL-CIO LEADERSHIP
IN THE U.S.
THE GROWTH OF STUDENT
ANTI-SWEATSHOP ACTIVISM.
ALL THIS LAY BEHIND
THE SEATTLE COALITION.
MANY WRITERS HAVE REMARKED
ON THE SEATTLE ALLIANCE
OF TURTLES AND TEAMSTERS,
ENVIRONMENTALISTS AND UNIONS.
BUT I WAS MORE
STRUCK BY A SECOND,
MORE UNLIKELY ALLIANCE.
FOR THE EMERGENCE
OF THE WTO, THE IMF
AND THE WORLD BANK AS
TARGETS ALLOWED
A REMARKABLE CONQUER
DOT BETWEEN TWO HALVES
OF THE LEFT DIVIDED
SINCE THE VIETNAM WAR.
THE RELATIVELY NATIONALIST
SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC LABOUR LEFT,
AND THE ANTI-IMPERIALIST
SOLIDARITY LEFT.
BUT THIS THIRD WAVE IS NOT
SIMPLY THE EMERGENCE
OF IMF RIOTS AND WTO
PROTESTS IN G7 COUNTRIES,
MAY AND JUNE OF THIS YEAR
WITNESSED GENERAL STRIKES
AGAINST GOVERNMENT
RESTRUCTURING AND AUSTERITY
PROGRAMS IN SOUTH KOREA,
SOUTH AFRICA, ARGENTINA,
URUGUAY, NIGERIA
AND INDIA.
THE NIGERIAN STRIKES WERE
PROVOKED BY FUEL PRICE INCREASES
RESULTING FROM IMF PRESSURE.
AND IN INDIA, WHERE 20
MILLION WORKERS WENT OUT
ON MAY 11TH, A STRIKE
LEADER SAID, AND I QUOTE,
THE STRIKE WAS AIMED
AGAINST THE SURRENDER
OF THE COUNTRY'S
ECONOMIC SOVEREIGNTY
BEFORE THE WTO
AND THE IMF.
A DECADE AFTER THE
UPRISINGS IN VENEZUELA,
THE ELECTION OF HUGO
CHAVEZ AS PRESIDENT,
HAS MARKED ONE OF THE FIRST
SIGNIFICANT WORLD LEADERS
TO BE THROWN UP BY THE
ANTI-IMF MOVEMENTS.
THESE DISPARATE EXAMPLES
REMIND US THAT IF THEY
SHARE A COMMON STRUGGLE,
EVEN A COMMON FOE,
THEY DON'T ALWAYS SHARE
THE SAME ANALYSIS,
THE SAME STRATEGY, OR EVEN
THE SAME NAME FOR THAT FOE.
THE THIRD MOMENT, THE
PERIOD SINCE 1994,
HAS SEEN THE DEVELOPMENT
OF NEW ANALYSES,
NEW THEORIES, NEW
MOVEMENT INTELLECTUALS.
SEVERAL OVERLAPPING
THEORIES STAND OUT.
FIRST, THE ATTEMPT BY
STUDENT AND CITIZEN GROUPS
AND NGOs FIGHTING IN WORLD
FORUMS TO SET ALTERNATIVE
RULES FOR THE
WORLD ECONOMY.
A KIND OF GLOBAL
KEYNESIANISM,
A GLOBAL SOCIAL
DEMOCRACY.
HERE, THERE IS A DEBATE
OVER WHICH FORUMS CAN
BE REFORMED, A SORT OF FIX
IT OR NIX IT DEBATE
ABOUT THE WTO, BUT THIS
ALSO INCLUDES THE CODES
OF CONDUCT CAMPAIGNS OF THE
ANTI-SWEATSHOP MOVEMENT,
THE STRUGGLES FOR
INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS
FOR LABOUR, WOMEN'S RIGHTS
AND THE ENVIRONMENT,
AND THE CREATION OF
ATTACKS ON GLOBAL
FINANCIAL TRANSACTIONS.
A SECOND TENDENCY
IS THE EXTRAORDINARY
PROLETARIANIZATION OF
MILLIONS OF THE WORLD'S
PEOPLE ON A GLOBAL
ASSEMBLY LINE,
WHICH HAS LED TO A
DOUBLING OF THE WORLD'S
WORKING CLASS, HAS
GENERATED A KIND OF GLOBAL
SYNDICALISM, A TENDENCY
LOOKING TO SOCIAL MOVEMENT
UNIONISM, PIONEERED IN THE
1980s BY THE NEW UNIONISMS
IN BRAZIL, SOUTH AFRICA,
AND SOUTH KOREA.
AND NOW LOOKING TO THE NEW
FORMS OF ORGANIZATION
AND MILITANCY OF YOUNG WOMEN
IN THE GLOBAL MAQUILADORAS:
THE EXPORT PROCESSING
FIRMS OF TOYS,
TEXTILES AND
ELECTRONIC PRODUCTION.
THIRD, A MORE DISTINCTLY
SOUTHERN THEORIZATION
IS THE MOVEMENT THAT
CALLS IT RECOLONIZATION,
OR WHAT THE NIGERIAN
SINGER FELA WOULD CALL
THE SECOND SLAVERY.
AND THAT IS GENERATED
FORMS OF WHAT USED TO BE
THE OLD NON-ALIGNED
MOVEMENT, A SENSE
OF NEW SOUTH-TO-SOUTH
CONNECTIONS.
AND ONE SEES THIS, I
THINK, PARTICULARLY
IN THE RHETORIC OF HUGO CHAVEZ
AND HIS KIND OF PASSING
OF THE TORCH FROM CASTRO TO
CHAVEZ AS A SPOKESPERSON
FOR THE THIRD WORLD.
AND FINALLY, THE ANALYSIS
OF THE NEW ENCLOSURES
HAS BROUGHT FORTH A
REMARKABLE REIMAGINATION
OF THE COMMONS.
NOT ONLY AS A NEW LAND WAR
BRINGING THE STRUGGLES
OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES TO
THE FORE IN THIS MOVEMENT,
BUT AS A WAY OF SEEING
THE COMMODIFICATION AND
PRIVATIZATION OF ASPECTS
OF SOCIAL LIFE
NOT IMAGINED EVEN A
COUPLE OF DECADES AGO.
PARTICULARLY
LIFE AND THOUGHT,
OR AS WE NOW SEE THEM,
GENETIC MATERIAL
AND INFORMATION.
BOTH OF WHICH
CAN BE PATENTED.
THIS REMAINS A SKETCHY
ACCOUNT TO GIVE A COHERENT
ACCOUNT OF AN INCHOATE
AND INCOHERENT PRESENCE.
NEVERTHELESS, THE
EFFORT, I THINK,
IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT
WOULD BE WRONG FOR US
TO SEE THESE APPARENTLY
UNCONNECTED UPRISINGS
AGAINST RECOLONIZATION,
GLOBALIZATION,
NEO LIBERALISM, THE
GLOBAL ASSEMBLY LINE,
THE NEW ENCLOSURES, AS
SIMPLY ANOTHER CYCLE
OF INSTANCES OF THE
ELEMENTARY FORMS
OF INSURGENCY.
OR AS INSTANCES
OF NEW FORMS
OF IDENTITY POLITICS.
FOR BETTER OR WORSE, THE
LIBERATION MOVEMENTS
OF 1968 HAVE GONE THE WAY
OF THE THREE WORLDS,
THE THREE DEALS THAT
THEY CHALLENGED.
THE RHETORICS OF THE NEW
POLITICS OF NETWORKS, LINKS,
OF VIRTUAL COMMUNE
CHALLENGES NOT ONLY
THE ORTHODOXIES OF OLD
SOURCE DEMOCRACY
AND COMMUNISM, BUT THE
ORTHODOXIES OF 1968.
WE DO NOT, A YOUNG GERMAN
WROTE IN
THE NEW TIMES
OF THE FIRST GLOBAL
REVOLUTION, TELL THE WORLD
CEASE YOUR STRUGGLES
THEY ARE STUPID.
WE MERELY SHOW THE WORLD
WHY IT ACTUALLY STRUGGLES.
THAT, I THINK, REMAINS
THE TASK OF A CRITICAL
AND EMANCIPATORY
CULTURAL STUDIES
FACING WHAT MAY YET
BE A GLOBAL LEFT.
THANK YOU.

Classical music plays as the end credits roll.

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Telephone: (416) 484-2746.

Big Ideas, TVONTARIO, Box 200, Station Q, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. M4T 2T1.

Producer, Wodek Szemberg.

Associate Producer, Mike Miner.

Sound, Horst Mueller.

Executive Producer, Doug Grant.

A production of TVOntario. Copyright 2001, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Watch: Michael Denning on Global Activism