Review of 'Anti-Capitalism: Where Next?', editor Hannah Dee, Bookmarks £6
It is just shy of five years since the demonstrations in Seattle against the World Trade Organisation heralded the arrival of the anti-capitalist movement. Anti-capitalism did not spring out of nowhere - from the Zapatista uprising in Mexico in January 1994, through to France's 'hot winter' of strikes in 1995, to the 18 June 1999 'Stop the City' protests in London, there were many harbingers. But at Seattle we saw, for the first time in the North, the possibility of challenging and breaking the neoliberal consensus. With the WTO meeting collapsing in disarray, its programme of privatisation and deregulation in tatters, the dynamism of the movement was clear.
Anti-Capitalism: Where Next? was released by Bookmarks on the eve of the third European Social Forum, in London, to take stock of the last half-decade and indicate directions for the future. A series of essays from those who have travelled this far, including Susan George, Naomi Klein and Michael Albert among others, aim to draw on the past year's experience and relate that to the fresh challenges activists face. As the hugely successful London ESF made plain, the twin issues of the occupation of Iraq and the crisis of political representation are coming to dominate the movement.
Luciana Genro draws on her experience as a deputy in the Brazilian parliament, in breaking from Lula's increasingly neoliberal PT to form a new 'Socialism and Freedom Party', while Vittorio Agnoletto, who so bravely spoke against police repression in Genoa, writes of the 'new humanism' informing anti-capitalist political organisation. Klein's essay on the 'global mutiny' confronting the US/UK occupiers brilliantly describes how both resistance in Iraq and resistance in the imperial powers can break the 'Project for the New American Century'. Klein came to prominence as the author of No Logo, a sophisticated assault on the system of corporate branding that dominates our lives. She has since written powerfully on the dire situation in occupied Iraq, and chipped away at the lies surrounding the resistance.
But the book also contains a series of arguments. Susan George implicitly criticises those in the movement who prioritise the war, claiming both that 'no one' could have stopped it and that activists should be wary of 'self-indulgence' in 'refusing to put aside their own cause... to work with others on a winnable campaign'. Her strategy is similar to George Monbiot's - limited demands placed on national and international institutions centred chiefly on economic justice, such as cancelling Third World debt. Alex Callinicos shows how a radical rhetoric can easily accommodate an old style reformism. He is critical of those wishing solely to see the movement as a 'space', but goes further than George in his call for clearer strategies within anti-capitalism. If we avoid the decisive issue of the occupation, he writes, we let Washington off the hook, making it easier for the IMF and other bodies to impose neoliberal economics worldwide. Unity between those fighting Third World debt and those resisting the occupation of Iraq is essential.
If Bookmarks' publication reproduces the diversity of ideas within anti-capitalism, it demonstrates its underlying stability. The centrality of opposition to neoliberalism and its increasingly militarised politics acts as the ideological foundation on which the movement can be further strengthened. It has now demonstrated repeatedly its ability to mobilise many millions, and to tackle significant, concerted opposition - on a localised but brutal scale in Genoa, with greater ferocity and spread under the 'war on terror'. There will be many more such challenges in the future. Anti-Capitalism: Where Next? is invaluable for the pointers it provides in dealing with them.