Defense of Humanity Requires the Radicalisation of PopularStruggles
Samir AMIN, January 2007
I. Capitalism, an obsolete system which has become the enemy of humanity
Capitalism, like all historical social systems, has fulfilled, in its rising phase, progressive functions (compared with those of the political systems which have preceded it): it has freed the individual from many constraints imposed upon him by earlier systems, it has developed productive forces at an unprecedented scale, it has fused multiple communities into the nations that we know, it has laid the foundations of modern democracy. Yet, all these achievements were marked and limited by its class nature: the “free” individual is in fact nothing more than “ a well-off male bourgeois”, while the persistent patriarchate has kept the female half of humanity in subordinate positions; the benefits of democracy are reserved for him; the exploitation of nature has been linked to the logic of a financial calculation dominated always by the short term, giving rise to serious threats to the longer term; the rights of nations have been reserved for those belonging to the dominant centres while those of the dominated and colonized peripheries have been systematically denied. As the successes of its globalized expansion increased, the limitations of capitalism have grown steadily, reaching today tragic dimensions.
Contemporary globalized capitalism no longer offers an adequate framework for the pursuit of the emancipation of human beings, individually and collectively. Capitalism is not only a system based on the exploitation of workers (and especially the working classes), it has become the enemy of humanity.
Modern imperialism has nothing to offer to the large majorities of peoples in Asia, Africa and Latin America (75% of the population of the planet); here, the continuation of its development, beneficial as it may be to the privileged few, under certain conditions, requires in return the massive impoverishment of the others (in particular the peasant societies which make up close to the half of humanity), even considers sometimes for many of them practices which take on the character of genocide. The continuation of the domination of capital over the totality of these peripheries, the peoples of which are as a result in constant potential revolt (the “tempests zone,” today in the criminal jargon of the masters of the system the so-called “rogue” states and the nests of terrorists) requires a militarization of globalization. Such a process rules out a genuine democratization associated with social progress as a real possibility for those peoples.
In the opulent centers of the system, capitalism has no longer much to offer to its peoples beyond a consumerism that is alienating and destructive of the individual, the relationships of human fraternity, the genuine emancipation of women, the liberating dimension of the practice of democracy. It must be made clear that these “advantages” are distributed in an increasingly unequal manner. For the ancient forms of “enterprising bourgeoisies’” practices modern capitalism has substituted those of the dictatorship of the plutocracies. The constant manipulation of the peoples in question (among other things to set them against the major victims of the system-- the peoples of the peripheries - in the name of a so-called “clash of civilizations”) is supported by the monopoly the said plutocracies have on the media, reducing democracy to practices devoid of meaning and scope, destroying thereby its legitimacy.
At the global level the accumulation driven by the exclusive logic of profit from capital means the accelerated destruction of the natural bases of the reproduction of life all on the planet; the depletion of non-renewable resources (oil in particular), the irreversible destruction of biodiversity, and the gigantic ecological destructions which, eventually, may even threaten life on the planet. Here, it must be made clear that these destructions result in an increasingly unequal access to the “benefits” which they provide in the short term to the privileged. When President G. W. Bush declares that “the American way of life is not negotiable”, he actually means the exclusion from the prospect of any “catching up” all the peoples of the three continents, in order to save to the imperialist nations only (first the United States, but behind them the Europeans and the Japanese) exclusive access to the squandering of the resources of the whole planet.
The forceful opening of new fields for the expansion of the dominance of the established plutocracies-privatization of public services (education, health) and the productions meeting basic needs (water, electricity, housing, transports) end always in the exacerbation of inequalities and the destruction of the fundamental social rights of the popular classes.
The exclusive logic of the short term rationality of making calculations of return on equity is an invitation to the explosion of criminal or potentially criminal developments (especially through biogenetics).
Capitalism has become the enemy of all of humanity. As such, it must be considered as an “obsolete” system. I may even say “senile,” despite the apparent successes of its ongoing expansion. The defense of humanity commands that we move into ways based on fundamental principles other than those which command the globalized capitalist/imperialist accumulation and reproduction.
II. The necessary radicalization of peoples’ struggles
The aggressions of the globalized oligopolistic capital under the control of the financial plutocracies clash with the growing resistances of the peoples of the entire planet, with ripostes which make counterattacks a real possibility. It must be observed, however, that so far the resistances and the ripostes have been crumbling away. In the opulent countries of central capitalism these resistances are still to be found largely on the ground of defending the gains, daily whittled away by the deployment of liberal politics. In some peripheral societies ripostes crystallize around backward-looking culturalist projects, which, by definition, are incapable of meeting the challenges of the twenty first century. A majority of movements currently in conflict with the new power of the plutocracies do not question the fundamental principles of capitalism, even though they are at the origin of social tragedies of which their popular audiences are victims. These movements grapple with the consequences of the system, without concerning themselves sufficiently with the mechanisms which initiated them. That is the reason why the struggles have not yet succeeded in shifting the balance of power in favor of the popular classes, even if they might have won here or there some significant victories.
The radicalization of struggles-which I take to mean their sudden awareness of the obsolete character of capitalism-governs their capacity to produce positive alternatives. It is necessary and possible.
Despite the extreme variety of the objective conditions of the insertion of the working classes and their nations into the contemporary capitalist/imperialist system, all the peoples of the world aspire to social progress, to a genuine democratization, and to peace. To be radical today is to bring together not to separate the different dimensions of the challenge, that is:
(i) Associate democratization in the management of all aspects of political, economic, social, family, business, school, neighborhood and nation life with social progress for all, starting with the most destitute. A genuine democratization is inseparable from social progress (see my article under this title). The defense of human rights, the right to work, “equal opportunity” as they say, for men and women everywhere, however legitimate they may be (and they are), are not enough; more must be achieved by involving them in a global project initiating a transition towards socialism. Diversity in vision, though respectable not only for what it is but also because it is enriching, must not be an insurmountable obstacle to the construction of the unity of the working classes and the internationalism of peoples.
(ii) Respect the independence and sovereignty of states, nations and peoples and build on this basis a polycentric international system. This is the very condition for reducing significantly the conflicts of interest resulting from inequality in capitalist development, for substituting for brutal power struggles the obligation to negotiate, and for eliminating the unending war of the North against the South which characterizes our epoch. This means definitely the construction of “united fronts” - the renewal of that of the Non-aligned and the Tricontinentale in particular-around common objectives, the replacement of the existing institutions serving the globalized financial capital-the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, NATO, the European Union such as it is, regional projects such as the Free Trade of the Americas, those concerning the relations between the European Union and the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific- by other globalization management institutions. Some steps forward have been taken in this direction, especially in Latin America with the ALBA project, and, for what it is worth, Mercosur, in Asia with the Shanghai group. But we are still far from having managed to put to flight the existing institutions even if they have already lost their legitimacy in the eyes of the peoples. Unfortunately, still many militants of the movements in struggle, notably in the opulent countries of the imperialist centre (the “triad” made up of the United States and Canada-Australia should be added-Western and Central Europe, and Japan) reject the idea of the defense of nations-hastily put in the same category as aggressive chauvinism. In my opinion, whether they like it or not, these people go along with globalized imperialist capitalism.
Radicalization, understood as I have identified its constituent elements, is synonymous with the politicization of struggles and the affirmation of the socialist alternative. By politicization is meant the sudden awareness that there is no social movement which can claim an “a-political” character, even if such a movement may seem a legitimate response to the logics of recuperation deployed by the established political forces and notably by the parties as they are, even if the rejection of the self-proclaimed title of “avant-garde” behind which many of these parties, large or minuscule, take refuge, is perfectly legitimate.
For the moment, radicalization requires that priority be given to routing the project of military control of the planet, at the service of plutocratic globalization.
III. Facing imperialist aggression, there is no getting away from the armed mobilization of the peoples of the South
The current period is one of renewed imperialist deployment, associating the partners of the above-mentioned triad. This association, which makes me describe imperialism as being henceforth “collective” (as opposed to the imperialisms of the past, continuously involved in the conflict between them), would mean-- according to the ruling class of the United States-the unconditional alignment of their subordinate partners. Europeans, without calling into question the leadership of Washington, might wish for a greater participation in the formulation of a common strategy and for sharing the benefits to be derived from it less unequally. In any case, this imperialist deployment constitutes a new “hundred years’ war” of the North against the South, which is a continuation of the unending aggression being carried out since 1492.
The way globalized plutocracies view the world is presented in the insipid term of “globalization,” as if the latter could not assume a form other than that which it does at the present. Actually, the violence of the contradictions which oppose the interests of the peoples and nations of the peripheries of the system to those of the dominant sections of the globalized capital has become such-at our time-that the globalization in question must be militarized, guaranteed by the military control of the planet as proclaimed by the rulers in Washington.
The United States’ project, backed by their subordinate European (and Israeli for the concerned region of the Middle East) allies is to establish their military control over the whole planet. The Middle East has been chosen in line with this perspective, as a “first strike” region for four reasons:(i) it has the most abundant oil resources of the planet and their direct control by the United States would give Washington a privileged position placing their allies - Europe and Japan - and their potential rivals (China) in an uncomfortable position of dependence with respect to their energy supplies; (ii) it is located at the heart of the ancient world and makes it easier to carry out the unending military threat against China, India and Russia; (iii) the region is currently going through a process of weakening and confusion which enables the aggressor to secure an easy victory at least for the initial stage; (iv) the United States has a staunch ally in the region, Israel, which has nuclear weapons.
The US project aims exclusively at placing the entire region under Washington’s military control (disguised as exporting “democracy”) and to maintain in it a neo-liberal order to their exclusive advantage. Washington has also taken over in its own name the fantasies of Zionism; the splitting up of the region into micro states along ethnic or religious lines, the
exercise by Israel of a kind of a “protectorate” over those states, in the wake of that of the United States.
The implementation of the project is advanced: Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan are occupied and destroyed, Syria and Iran openly threatened after Lebanon. But the bankruptcy of the project is no less visible; peoples’ resistance does not weaken, the Lebanese people teach a lesson of unity in the defense of its combatants, denying thereby the expectations of Tel Aviv, Washington, and the Europeans. With simple means, the Lebanese resistance gave trouble to enemy armies over equipped thanks to the airlift established from the US base of Diego Garcia (hence the usefulness of these bases in the criminal world project of Washington). Now that the people’s armed resistance in southern Lebanon has demonstrated its effectiveness, all the efforts of the United States and of Europe will aim at imposing its disarming, in order to enable Israel to achieve an easy victory in the next aggression. It is necessary today more than ever before to defend the peoples’ inalienable right to armed resistance in the face of the imperialist aggressor and its regional agents.
The project does not threaten only the “Greater Middle East” region with death. The deployment of over 600 US military bases distributed over the whole planet is intended to establish the domination of Washington over the whole world, including its subordinate associates of the triad, compelled-for lack of matching military and political means-to align themselves with the unilateral hegemonism of the United States, the only means for them to partake of the benefits derived from the plundering of the planet in favor of the new imperialist collective .
At this prospect also the United States and their associates have developed a new military doctrine, aimed at giving them an “absolute superiority” over all of their adversaries-the peoples and the nations of the South. No doubt this superiority is nothing new. Produced by the unequal character inherent to the development of capitalism, it enabled since 1492 the North to assert itself against the “South”, even if it was at the price of long wars of colonial conquest (not including the wars between the imperialist powers of the North). This absolute superiority had been called into question for some time by the soviet military power as well as by the military and political self-assertion of the countries of liberated Asia (China, Vietnam) and a few others (e.g. Cuba). The new political juncture and the imbalances which characterize it have enabled the dominant classes of collective imperialism to imagine a new model of “war” which would no longer require the occupation of land and the difficulties and risks involved in it.
The new “war” is reduced to massive aerial bombardment (to which victims cannot give a similar response), and to the destruction of all the infrastructures and victims’ means of survival. This form of “war”, which does not exclude the possibility of resorting to nuclear weapons-“if necessary” as proclaimed by G.W. Bush-and all the other weapons of mass destruction (even if they were “prohibited”): anti-personnel mines, fragmentation bombs, cluster bombs, all used by Israel, chemical and biological weapons. The aim of this form of war is quite simply to terrorize entire populations, or even, in case of resistance (described as “suicidal” by the new military experts of the Pentagon), to eradicate them (genocide). Daniel Ellsberg informs us, through the publication of Pentagon documents, that the genocide in question was considering the elimination of up to 600 million human beings (100 holocausts writes Ellsberg) in an endless series of “preventive wars”. The United States is the terrorist state, the rogue state par excellence. Speeches on international law, humanitarian law, and democracy have no meaning whatsoever in the face of these realities. One must defend himself, prepare his defense, compel the plutocracies leading the system to fall back and renounce their project. One can then speak of the law under conditions which will enable it to blossom.
The new war technology would present a second advantage: that of the “zero dead war” (for the aggressors naturally). This “requirement” meets a marked development in the societies of the North which would no longer accept the butcheries of earlier times. The doctrine of “zero dead” would be capable, according to its originators, of making peoples accept the genocide of others. That may unfortunately be the case with respect to the people of the United States, at this juncture. Regarding the peoples of Europe the authorities have so far opted for silence.
The peoples of the South can meet the challenge only through preparation-militarily-to the confrontation. “Disarm, we are going to attack you” proclaim the media in the service of imperialism. To this invitation, the strangeness of which can only be matched by its ignoble character, the peoples and the states of the South have only one answer: develop their military capabilities to the required level and the appropriate forms in order to deter the enemy.
The twentieth century had witnessed the progress of the deployment of the national liberation movements of the peoples of the periphery. Many of the popular movements have been compelled to take up arms to respond to the violent interventions of imperialism. They have done it victoriously, formulated an appropriate military theory and a strategy, models of which have been supplied by the Chinese people’s army and those of the guerrillas in Vietnam, Algeria, Cuba and the Portuguese colonies. Their effectiveness rested on the double principle of a wide popular mobilization (involving the politicization of the armed forces and their participation in the progressive social transformations on the agenda) and of the acquisition of suitable combat equipment and techniques. The military writings of the Bolsheviks, Mao Zedong and Amilcar Cabral gave shape to the theory of the “fish in the water” made possible by the fact that the enemy was fighting on the terrain of the societies of the periphery in revolution.
In the capitalist Third World national liberation struggles have led to the construction of local bourgeois authorities of diverse natures, ranging from neo-colonial submission to the radical bourgeois attempt to impose a less unfavorable international order. The military doctrine of Third World states is a function of their political and social character, in other words of the national bourgeois illusion of the project of which they are the bearers. In this framework, armed forces have been conceived primarily as internal police forces. This being so, the radical systems derived from the national liberation movement had initiated a process whereby this conception can be challenged, however they remained prisoners of the bourgeois character of the ruling class, which cannot tolerate the substitution of “armed people” for the concept of conventional army. Moreover, the perception of the diplomatic game intended for supporting the nation in its conflict with imperialism rested on the Soviet alliance, expected to provide modern armaments and to keep alive the threat of a more sustained intervention if the need arises. At the same time, however, these regimes have never conceived of a conflict with imperialism other than in a temporary fashion. This is why in the Arab world, they thought they could drive a wedge between their direct enemy (Israël) and its American and European allies: they kept their two options open on the diplomatic front, the Soviet alliance being capable of being modulated (even abandoned) should the westerners take serious steps towards the recognition of their rights. We know how radical regimes have fallen in this trap and, even before the disappearance of the Soviet Union, have themselves initiated a rapprochement with the United States and Europe, without being paid in return. On the contrary, the enemy took advantage of the opportunity to overthrow the nationalist regimes or bring to an end the radical tendencies, and submit the countries in question to the dangers of compradorisation.
Today, within the framework of the United States’ project and collective imperialism, rapid deployment forces have been put in place to prevent the aggressor from being forced to be bogged down in endless wars. Their logic is therefore necessarily the product of that of the pre-emptive war decided “before it is too late, that is before popular national political and social forces manage to seize power.” The goals of rapid deployment are therefore to overthrow a government deemed incapable of blocking a radical popular movement, or a government forced, out of weakness or demagogy, to call into question the imperialist status quo. This strategy means that the taking over must be perfectly controlled, in other words that a new government can be put in place during the very operation. Military means must be capable of hitting hard in a short time to destroy the ability to organize resistance. But it must also be “of little cost” for the aggressors and end in, for them, an insignificant number of corpses lying on the ground.
As a counterpoint, the creation of a deterrent force in the service of the people of the Third World is not a question of pure military technique and armament, but primarily a political question. Hence the creation of this force must necessarily be based on two pillars: a popular army (the ideal of the "armed people"), and effective military means.
The political objective of the rapid deployment force being to overthrow a regime, it is essential to make this objective impossible (or extremely difficult at the very least). A dictatorial local authority, accepted out of passivity, will remain always vulnerable, even if for one reason or another it became the target of the Westerners. A real popular national government, supported by a popular army in its image, reduces considerably the vulnerability inherent in the status of "underdeveloped" country. Rapid intervention becomes ineffective then in the sense that the imperialist order can only be restored by the military occupation of the country, compelling the adversary to fight on its own terrain. Imperialism then has hardly more than this option, or, alternatively, that of committing a genocide by massive bombardment (even atomic), which would require a true fascisation of Western societies.
The recent developments in the Middle East invaded by the armies of the United States and those of its faithful allies (Israel, in particular, and some European countries) are a good illustration of the points made here: the "easy" initial victory in the invasion of Iraq, the political failure of Washington's project and the rise of resistances in this country (in spite of the inadequacies which characterize them), and the failure of the Israeli army kept at bay by the popular resistance in South Lebanon. I refer here the reader to my discussions of these issues elsewhere (see "Derailing the USA, Israel and their allied countries.")
However one cannot be satisfied with armed popular resistance as the only possible response to aggression. It is necessary to supplement its potential dissuasive power with effective, modern “anti-rapid deployment forces" equipment. Dissuasion requires that a Third World country have, in spite of the massive destruction which it undergoes following a first strike, a significant response capacity on a second strike, inflicting thereby heavy losses on the rapid deployment forces or on targets located in the enemy camp . As a result, rapid intervention will become an uncertain adventure.
Mobile missiles provide the answer to the issue of the required means of dissuasion since the probability that they escape destruction by a first strike is high and that their capacity to reach enemy targets in response to a strike is not less so.
The question of the "proliferation of nuclear weapons" and more particularly the threat under which imperialists keep Iran accused of developing a "dangerous" nuclear capacity find their place here.
It is not our intention to develop here the analyses called for by the "Islamic revolution." From the point of view of what interests us here I will make only two observations. The first is that the regime of political Islam in Iran is not by nature incompatible with the integration of the country into the globalized capitalist system such as it is. The second is that the Iranian nation as such is a "strong nation" whose major, if not all, components -- working classes and ruling classes -- do not accept the integration of their country in the globalized system in a weak position. There is of course a contradiction between these two dimensions of Iranian reality, and the second accounts for the orientations of Teheran's foreign policy which testifies to a will to resist foreign diktats.
The fact remains that it is Iranian nationalism -- powerful and, in my opinion, historically quite positive -- which explains the success of the "modernization" of the scientific, industrial, technological and military capacities undertaken by the successive regimes of the Shah and Khomeinism. Iran is one of the rare states of the South (with China, India, Korea, Brazil and perhaps some others but not many!) to have a "national middle-class" project. Whether the realization of this project is, or is not (and I believe it is not), in the long run possible is not the object of our discussion here. Today this project exists, it is definitely there.
It is precisely because Iran constitutes a critical mass capable of trying to impose itself as a respected partner that the United States has decided to destroy the country by a new "preventive" war. As is well known, the "conflict" is about the nuclear capacities that Iran is developing. Why wouldn’t this country -- like all the others -- have a right to it, up to and including becoming a nuclear military power? On which right can the imperialist powers, and their Israeli toy, pride themselves to award themselves a monopoly over weapons of mass destruction? Can one lend credence to the speech according to which the "democratic" nations will never make use of them as would the "rogue states"? Yet it is known that the "democratic" nations in question are responsible for the largest genocides of modern times, including that of the Jews, and that the United States has already used the atomic weapon and refuses today the absolute and general prohibition of its use? Unfortunately, Europeans are also aligned on Washington's project of aggression against Iran.
The "non-proliferation" treaty is in itself unacceptable, even if -- under pressure -- many states of the South subscribed to it.Denuclearization -- highly desirable -- must apply to all, starting with the over-equipped countries, the United States first, as it must apply to Israel (not signatory to the treaty). Failing that, proliferation far from increasing risks will contribute to their reduction, as some French military experts say openly.
The states and the peoples of the three continents are confronted with the same challenge that imperialist capitalism always represented for them. But the economic situation which characterizes our period is unfavourable to the fast development of their capacity to respond to aggression, the compradore bourgeoisies being by and large those who monopolize power there.
Under these conditions, priority must be given to the organization of armed popular defence, whose effectiveness has been shown in southern Lebanon. Defending the absolute right of popular organizations under these conditions becomes a major responsibility for all. In fact, the very idea of "disarming Hizbollah" is unacceptable. At the same time, the development of popular struggles must no doubt give itself the objective of removing from power the compradore local leading classes or, at least, forcing them to cohabit with the organization of popular forces.
The general evolution testifies that the conditions are ripe for a new liberation wave. The Bolivarian revolution in progress in Chavez’s Venezuela constitutes one of its possible avant-gardes. With the victories gained by other peoples in Latin America, it is not Cuba any more which is isolated on the continent, but Washington. In Asia and Africa, opinion from now on is set unanimously against the United States and their allies of the triad. One also observes promising signs of the rebuilding of a front of the South in the debates at the United Nations and the WTO. Conditions are being met that will, among other things, make possible the necessary development of the military capacities of dissuasion. It remains of course that the link which will govern the relations between the governments which will ensure the take-over from those which are in office and their peoples will continue to be subjected to contradictions which oppose the projects of these governments - probably of strict "national" nature, nothing more, at best - and the interests of the working classes. But here also a radicalization of the struggles is the only means of increasing the chances of moving towards the formation of national, popular and democratic powers.
The importance that I have given to the military dimension of the challenge is essential. This is because the area of the "Greater Middle East" is today central to the conflict which opposes the imperialist leader to the peoples of the whole world. Derailing the project of the establishment in Washington is the condition for giving advances in any area of the world the opportunity to asserting themselves. Failing that, all these advances will remain extremely vulnerable. That does not mean that the importance of the struggles led in other areas of the world -- in Europe, in Latin America, and elsewhere -- can be underestimated. That means only that they must fit into a global perspective which contributes to defeating Washington in the area that it chose for its first criminal striking.
IV. Arguments and limits of the moderate options
The radicalisation of struggles is not an option for many social movements as it is being said today. The arguments put forward to justify the adoption of moderate positions are numerous. In general one invokes the necessary realism and the need to avoid isolating oneself in a far left vault. This is all the more so as the small radical minorities are likely to be strongly tempted, once more, to proclaim themselves "avant-gardes", to refuse systematically the criticism of others, and to turn a blind eye to the rapid transformations which affect contemporary societies.
These arguments are serious, and they should be taken as such. Beyond the real important questions that they raise and to which it is necessary to provide answers, they also often mask analyses of the situation, stances and related strategic options which must not be less subjected to criticism.
The page of the first historical wave of experiments carried out in the name of socialism having been turned, capitalism appears to many as the last frontier of our time, and its description as senile, while all indications of its success ("the end of history") are in the news, could even make one smile. Under these conditions, popular movements would be compelled to adhere to capitalist logics, should give to their struggles modest objectives, to push back "neoliberalism", of course, but to promote only the alternative of managing a “capitalism with a human face".
The analysis which I have proposed prohibits such conclusions. This is because the redoubled violence in the relations of domination of capital which characterizes our time is not the product of the extravagances of extreme neoliberalism, but a requirement of the reproduction of capital under contemporary conditions. I had concluded from this that capitalism is an obsolete system, not in the sense that it is going to disappear on its own, dying peacefully of "natural" causes (as Negri would have us think) but in the sense that its reproduction will require from now on the exercise of an increasing violence. We have thus reached the stage when the peoples must get rid of it, threatened as they are, failing this, to see humanity condemned to barbarity.
This analysis does not rule out the possibility that popular classes propose immediate objectives for their struggles, undoubtedly modest, but necessary to regain confidence in their power. But it should be stressed, in my opinion, that these possible victories will remain vulnerable and fragile as long as they do not fit in a movement which, while gradually gaining power, assigns to itself the goal of leaving capitalism.
Many militants of our time -- especially in the centres of the world imperialist system -- do not believe any more that the struggles can fit in the system of nations which, according to them, would have lost their relevance because of deepening globalization. And as nation and state are largely indissociable, they develop strategies which deliberately ignore the question of the power of the State in order to substitute for it the combat in "civil society". The absolute priority given often by Europeans to the objective of " saving Europe", as if “the Europe” in question could be other than what it is - which is not likely in the foreseeable future -- finds its base in the rejection of the obvious relevance of the diversity of national realities. And as by the same token the life of political parties fits in with the combat for State power, they challenge the relevance of "party politics".
To me these judgements appear to be founded on hasty a priori, mixing right and wrong. Globalization is not a raw “objective” data of which one can only be part. The globalization that exists really is a strategy, that which is being promoted by the authorities of the dominant plutocracies. One cannot substitute for it "another globalization" without destroying it first, and for that, one needs to restore the dignity of nations and the sovereignty of peoples and states. The individual and the civil society in which its action fits have not already become subjects of history (as Negri claims); they remain fully conditioned by social relations peculiar to capitalism. Political parties (as a very general rule) undertake their action within the strict framework of the reproduction of capitalism as if they were themselves convinced of its timelessness. Criticisms which are addressed to them are thus perfectly founded. But one will not reduce the scope of their discouraging practice by ignoring them, but by inventing new forms of political organization of the working classes. Admittedly, parties, within this framework, are commanded by the "logic of organization", while radicalization imposes that a "logic of struggle" be made to prevail. Except that the logic of organization dominates in the majority of "civil society movements" as well as in the "big parties". And that the logic of struggle will assert itself -- gradually - only when the struggles themselves are radicalized.
The necessary criticism of our own past - the historical experiments of the left and of socialism in the twentieth century -- leads to extremely diverse readings, the importance of which for the rebuilding of the forces carrying a better future must itself be one of the central objects of our debates. There are certainly those who are nostalgic for this past, who refuse to face up to their own defeat and to try to understand the reasons behind it. But these do not weigh much any more and are condemned to disappear. There are also those who condemn this past from a perfectly a-historical viewpoint and do not try to understand why it has been what it was. Limiting themselves to a unilateral and exclusive recall of its not very democratic processes, to say the very least, to its drifts, including wild or even criminal ones, they propose to us a reading of "the evil Empire" which is almost the splitting image of that of the neoconservatives of the United States and of the dominant media. Undoubtedly those do not draw the same conclusion from it: that capitalism has finally restored the reign of "the good Empire", since these militants (the Italian movement “autonomia” constitute the most extreme model of them) stand nevertheless, in principle, in the anticapitalist camp.
It remains that a-historical readings inspire almost necessarily ambiguous positions vis-a-vis the real challenge of contemporary capitalism. Because there will always be views of the future from the right and the left, associated with a critical reading of the past from the right and the left. And if one employs the very general term of "alterglobalism" to describe the visions and the proposals that one deduces from it, there is an alterglobalism of the right and and an alterglobalism of the left. The first inspires backward-looking stances that one can find in the opulent societies (a kind of "radical ecologism" testifies to this reality, as shown with much force by the book by Jean Jacob, L’Altermondialisme, aspects méconnus d’une nébuleuse [Altermondialisme, ignored aspects of a nebula], Berg. Int. Ed, Paris 2006, and by many critiques of 1968 and its aftermath) as well as in those of the hard-pressed peripheries (para religious and para ethnic fundamentalisms give evidence of their reality). The alterglobalism of the left cannot drink in such illusions, it can proceed only by going beyond the past through a historical critique of the limits and shortcomings of the experiments of the contemporary lefts. Between the right and the left there is always a center associating analytical elements and contradictory propositions. There is thus an "alterglobalism of the bobos". I use a term of the Parisian jargon here because it fits perfectly; the "bobos" (stands for “bourgeois bohèmes” meaning "bohemian bourgeois") are recruited in the middle class of the opulent centres; they are critical of the mode of existence proposed by capitalism, sometimes a little nostalgic for the remote past, but not very interested in the real concerns of the working classes, in particular those of the South.
The arguments and the analyses which I have criticized here carry much weight and inspire attitudes which I call "moderate", or at the very least give them a pre-eminent place in the choices of actions to be carried out. They give an a-critical legitimacy to "humanitarian" actions, often going as far as the proclamation of a "right - even duty -- of interference", being unaware of the objectives of imperialism (the real existence of which they underestimate or fail to recognize) which loom large behind these interventions. Can one be unaware of the fact that it is in the name of this "duty of interference" that NATO (i.e. the United States and its subordinate allies) actively contributed to the destruction of Yugoslavia and that efforts are being made to give legitimacy to the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq?
The antimilitarist speech is undoubtedly a product of commendable intentions. But it becomes reactionary when in its name one denies people under threat the right to arm themselves to resist the (real) aggressions of contemporary imperialism. Acts of a "terrorist" nature exist, this is undeniable. Their practice is not limited to the actions of certain groups -- Al Qaida constitutes the model of these groups par excellence - dubious after all, if only because their existence legitimates the discourse of the neoconservatives and of those who follow them on the terrain of the "fight against terrorism". It is also a real drift on the part of others who nevertheless are above all resistance and liberation movements. The confusion maintained in this field must be rejected: "terrorism" is not first, it is consequence; it is a product of the inadequacies of the answers given to real challenges with which peoples are confronted. The "counter terrorism" discourse has been prepared for nearly thirty years by the think tanks which conceived it as a political weapon of US imperialism. It is now taken up again without reflexion on its origins, or criticism of it, alas even by a good fraction of the lefts in the opulent countries. The term "terrorism" - vague to perfection - is used to dispose of the debate on violence. Among other things that of military aggressions, of the destruction of cities and villages by unpunished massive bombardments, planned to terrorize (the term is perfectly appropriate) entire populations. The discussion necessary by the left to know how to respond to this first terrorism, to identify effective political and military means and to distinguish them from those which are not so, must in no way be confused with the speech of the dominant media "against terrorism". Finally, moderate arguments support a dangerous slip towards actions of "charity" which cannot contribute to the calling into question of capitalist logics at the origin of the social disasters, substituted for the fight for the right to development, which inspire an impressive number of NGOs.
Moderate alterglobalism "(that of the "bobos") is inevitably misunderstood in the countries of the South, because it does not address the concerns of their popular classes (which constitute the large majority of humanity). A beautiful example of this divorce is given by the contrast which opposes the rise in popularity of maoism in China and the extravagant a-historical and false speech, dominant in Europe and in the United States, denouncing "the odious tyrant" that Mao would have been. One could multiply the examples. The overrepresentation of the moderate currents within many Social Forums, which can be easily explained by the disparity in means (among other things, financial), constitutes thereby a serious threat to the future of popular struggles and is hampering their necessary radicalisation.
The criticism of the moderate options that I have proposed here should not be read like a "sectarian" criticism. It should not be an obstacle to the unitary mobilization against the principal danger of the moment. I defined the latter as the deployment of the project of the ruling classes of collective imperialism and more particularly of the leadership of the United States whose strategy is centred on the objective of the military control of the planet by the armies commanded by Washington, and, to this end, the conduct of preventive wars, the first of which (and not the last) hits and targets the Middle-East. As a result, the left/right criterion is now synonymous with for/against the interventions in question. And within this framework all those who, radicals or moderates, and whatever the arguments invoked, are opposed to “US wars ", have the duty to unite their efforts in their joint action.
One will keep faith in the future if one thinks that the development of struggles can produce, through the requirements of their own internal logics, their radicalization. No doubt at present the predominance of the logics of organization constitutes a major obstacle to this radicalization. The electoral systems of Western democracies give a premium to this predominance, the parties having the major concern of maintaining their positions in the power systems, so much so that they have largely become “parties of the elected" and not of "the activists". But the logic of organization does not concern the "big parties" only, or even the "big organized movements" like the trade unions, it limits as much the options of the tiny vaults, the NGOs, etc., for which the capture of power within the organization becomes a significant objective in the conduct of struggles. But, through the generalization and radicalization of the struggles, the logic of struggles, which is not concerned primarily with reinforcing the presence of the movements in the established power systems, can gradually
win. Still it is necessary that the directions of the movements in question know how to give up the temptation of proclaiming themselves "avant-gardes", whether the reference is to the heirs of the Third or Fourth International, the anarchists or others. This is why I advocate the construction of a Fifth International drawing inspiration from the First -- which recognized the plurality of organizations, ideologies and visions of the future -- and not from the Second, Third and Fourth (ref., Samir Amin, Pour la Ve Internationale [Towards the Fifth International], Le Temps des Cerises, Paris 2006). The deficits of democracy, blamed rightly on the left of the twentieth century, take largely after the options of the Internationals in question.
1-Pas de démocratie authentique sans progrès social [No genuine democracy without social progress], in press.
2-Derailing the USA, Israel, and their allied countries in the front line. Document available in French, English, Spanish, and Arabic on the site of the FTM. Forumtiersmonde.net ; Thirdworldforum.net
3- Towards the fifth International; in, K. Sehm Patomaki (ed), Democratic Politics Globally, NIGD working papers, 1/2006, Tampere, Finland.