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Anti-globalism and Counter-globalism

30 May 2003 to 31 May 2003

The Institute of Culture and History (Faculty of Humanities, University of Amsterdam) and the International Institute of Social History (Amsterdam) organised an international seminar about the impact of globalisation on radical social movements.

Purpose of the seminar

The subject of the seminar are the radical social movements which either resist globalization (anti-globalism) or formulate an alternative globalism (counter-globalism). The hypothesis to be discussed is that present-day resistance movements have changed in character compared to those of the sixties/eighties: they have become fundamentally more supranational in organization, target and goal. In other words, the hypothesis is that globalization marks and redefines not only the present world order but also the movements which turn against it. The seminar will hopefully result in a book on the basis of the most appropriate papers.

Globalization will be defined as supranationalization. This includes, firstly, the political aspect of the overcoming of the national state by a new global sovereignty; and, secondly, a reconfiguration of the underlying economic, ecological, informational, demographic and other processes in such a way that they can no longer be understood as interacting national processes but are to be grasped primarily as an integrated global whole.

It is not the purpose of this seminar to discuss the process of globalization itself. Globalization is a complex phenomenon. It does not historically proceed in a straight line. At the heydays of the colonial empires around 1900 the world was more 'globalized' than around 1930, when communism, fascism and crisis/protectionism served to renationalize the world. The present stage of globalization can be said to have begun either with the neo-liberal wave represented by leaders like Reagan and Thatcher around 1980 or, more decisively, with the crash of the Soviet empire during 1989-91. But it remains the question whether globalization, as defined above, indeed provides the groundswell of the present era, or whether nations and national states will remain the predominant building blocks of world society.

The purpose of the seminar is not to research the accuracy of the hypothesis of globalization. It starts from the fact that, regardless of the reality or irreality of the globalization phenomenon, there have come into being movements that perceive such a process and are determined to in some way react to it.

The new point about these countermovements is not that they perceive a global opponent. That has always been the case. The classical countermovements were mainly socialist/communist and/or nationalist/anti-colonialist/anti-imperialist. The communists saw the whole of world capitalism as their enemy. Anti-colonial movements realized that their metropolis was part of a colonial world. Nevertheless, these movements did in each separate country aim primarily for the overthrow of the locally governing powers. They set it as their task to create independent nation-states or, having overthrown the government, to provide these states with another politico-economic system.

Presently the struggle is not in the first place oriented towards changes within a certain state but against the world system as such. The system as a whole is the target. It is embodied in the WTO and various other international organizations. It acts militarily through operations in the name of an alleged 'international community'.

The new counter-movements are organized in a supranational way. They are mobile brigades looking all the time for national states where they can act. Che Guevara was a predecessor of this kind of non-nationally rooted globalism. For him the world revolution was not the sum of national revolutions. As for Osama bin Laden, the world revolution was the movement itself, which 'landed' now here, now there.

This is the central hypothesis to be discussed at the seminar. Is it really the case that present-day resistance movements can be distinguished from the classical ones by the fact that they are, firstly, not primarily targeted against particular states but directly against the institutions of the capitalist world order as such; and, secondly, that they are organized in a new, supranational way? 'Globalism' would then be a fertile concept for grasping the nature of new resistance movements. Or is this an illusion and are these movements in reality still mainly nationally rooted and oriented?

None of these movements is as such new. Marxism, fundamentalism, regionalism (in the sense of regional nationalism) and patriotism did, all of them, already exist. The hypothesis is that they have renewed themselves by reorganizing themselves in supranational ways and setting themselves new supranational goals.

The hypothesis has some obvious problematic sides to it. Leftist counter-globalism fits the best. It is supranationally organized and takes aim directly against the New World Order and its insti-tutions. Rightist anti-globalism also aims directly against a perceived 'liberal world government', but it is not and cannot be organized supranationally. It concerns patriottic movements rooted in separate states and in that sense not fundamentally different from the old resistance movements. Though not always, Muslim fundamentalism is in some cases indeed supranationally organized. In such cases it functions as a self-appointed mobile representation of the global Muslim community, with the world as its arena. The goal is always supranational, namely one islamic world. However, in practice, ef-forts are still targeted in the old way against two states in particular: Israel and the United States.

Most problematic from the point of view of the hypothesis are the regional nationalists. These are classical resistance movements which are nationally organized and aim for national goals, mostly separatist. See Tamil Tigers and ETA. Perhaps there exists a principled anti-globalist vision of regionalism as the counterpart to a unified world. However, some regionalist movements have a positive view of globalism. They hope for a unified world of regions, from which the intermediary level of national states is removed. This might be called a form of counter-globalism. The question remains, though, whether for regionalist movements this is more than a purely tactical thing. All four types of movements will be treated at the seminar. A balanced treatment will hopefully result in some general conclusions concerning new resistance movements.

Programme and contributors

Morning session: Anti- and counterglobalism: Is it a new phenomenon? (chair: Marcel van der Linden)

Erik van Ree (University of Amsterdam): Challenges to the New World Order: anti-globalism and counter-globalism (26 pp, 107 Kb, word document).
Discussant: André Gerrits (University of Amsterdam)
Matt Feldman/Roger Griffin (Oxford Brookes University): The Conservative Revolutionaries as precursors of anti-globalization.
Roots of 'Rootedness' by R. Griffin (37 pp, 144 Kb, word document)
Between 'Geist' and 'Zeitgeist' by M. Feldman (38 pp, 127 Kb, word document)
Discussant: Marcel Maussen (University of Amsterdam)
Kevin Coogan (Autonomedia/New York): Against NATO and the UN: the far right roots of the first postwar 'anti-globalist' movement in America and England. (30 pp, 142 Kb, word document).
Discussant: Ruth Oldenziel (University of Amsterdam)

Afternoon session: Towards new Internationals? (chair: Michael Hanagan)

Michael Kraetke (University of Amsterdam): Towards another International? Transnational social movement against global capitalism (38 pp, 97 Kb, word document).
Discussant: Gerd Junne (University of Amsterdam)
Ronaldo Munck (University of Liverpool): Global Social Movements or Sorel in Seattle (27 pp, 78 Kb, word document).
Discussant: Sean Chabot (University of Amsterdam)

Saturday 31 May: Morning session: Will the left be anti- or counter-globalist? Factors determining the choice. (chair: Cas Mudde)

Michael Hanagan (Vassar College, New York): Labor internationalism and opposition to globalization: antiglobalism and counterglobalism (31 pp, 138 Kb, word document).
Discussant: Luc Fransen (University of Amsterdam)
Pascale Dufour (Carleton University, Montreal): Resistance against poverty, resistance against globalisation: a single fight? A comparative perspective on new forms of social protest (32 pp, 147 Kb, word document).
Discussant: Ronaldo Munck (University of Liverpool)

Afternoon session: Anti- and counter-globalist tendencies among the extreme right (chair: Erik van Ree)

Harvey Simmons (York University, Toronto): The French and European extreme right and globalization (44 pp, 131 Kb, word document).
Discussant: Meindert Fennema (University of Amsterdam)
Cas Mudde (University of Antwerp): Globalisation and the extreme right backlash (21 pp, 72 Kb, word document).
Discussant: René Gabriels
Leonard Weinberg/Jeffrey Kaplan (University of Nevada Reno/University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh): Right-wing extremism in the western world and the question of globalism (16 pp, 59 Kb, word document).
Dicussant: Matthew Feldman