JOANNE LANDY is a member of the NEW POLITICS Editorial Board.
THE STUNNING PROTESTS IN SEATTLE LAST NOVEMBER and Washington D.C. this spring expressed the growing opposition of environmentalists, trade unionists, and millions of others to a global economy dominated by corporations and unelected, unaccountable trade bureaucrats. The protests inspired progressives to hope that we might be at the beginning of a rebirth of radicalism, both in the United States and on an international scale.
Not so long ago, Margaret Thatcher tried to deflate social movements by telling us that we simply had to accept a world run by giant corporations: "There Is No Alternative," she proclaimed. The global resistance emerging against the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization both in the Third World and in wealthier countries shows that this conservative message is rapidly losing its power. Testimony to the tremendous growth of the opposition movement is that officials of the World Bank are already finding themselves confronted by the threat of major demonstrations if they speak on campuses around the United States (shades of the Vietnam War!), and it looks like every meeting of the international financial institutions, no matter the country in which it is held, will be met by explosive protests as well.
However, the globalization issue raises many crucial questions that the Left has not yet fully thought through, but that we will need to answer as the national and international debate unfolds. It was clear to me as I joined in the spirited protests in Washington, D.C. that it will take time for this new movement to develop its own alternatives to the existing system; in my view, this task is made particularly difficult by the success conservatives have had so far in equating socialism and the public ownership of key economic sectors with the tyranny and inefficiency of Communism.
But with the collapse of Communism, the corporate-capitalist global order stands alone, to be judged on its own merits, and people around the world -- most vocally the young -- are more and more finding that it wreaks unacceptable damage on humanity and the environment. This destruction offers a strong incentive for activists to think through a democratic model of globalization that takes power away from economic and bureaucratic elites and gives it to ordinary people.
In the following symposium, New Politics hopes to stimulate discussion of the kind of alternative globalization the emerging movement stands for, and how to get there. Participants were asked the questions below -- some answering them directly and individually, others weaving their responses into an integrated essay.
This is only the beginning of a critical discussion of positive alternatives to today's realpolitik globalization. We look forward to continuing the discussion in future issues of New Politics.
* Thanks to Stephen Shalom and Thomas Harrison for their help with this symposium. return
Contents of No. 29