[sixties-l] Anarchism and the Anti-Globalization Movement

From: radtimes (resist@best.com)
Date: Tue Sep 04 2001 - 18:16:34 EDT

  • Next message: radtimes: "[sixties-l] Farm known for sex, drugs -- now deaths"

    Anarchism and the Anti-Globalization Movement

    by Barbara Epstein [UC Santa Cruz]

    Monthly Review

    Many among todays young radical activists, especially those
    at the center of the anti-globalization and anti-corporate
    movements, call themselves anarchists. But the
    intellectual/philosophical perspective that holds sway in
    these circles might be better described as an anarchist
    sensibility than as anarchism per se. Unlike the Marxist
    radicals of the sixties, who devoured the writings of Lenin
    and Mao, todays anarchist activists are unlikely to pore
    over the works of Bakunin. For contemporary young radical
    activists, anarchism means a decentralized organizational
    structure, based on affinity groups that work together on an
    ad hoc basis, and decision-making by consensus. It also
    means egalitarianism; opposition to all hierarchies;
    suspicion of authority, especially that of the state; and
    commitment to living according to ones values. Young
    radical activists, who regard themselves as anarchists, are
    likely to be hostile not only to corporations but to
    capitalism. Many envision a stateless society based on
    small, egalitarian communities. For some, however, the
    society of the future remains an open question. For them,
    anarchism is important mainly as an organizational structure
    and as a commitment to egalitarianism. It is a form of
    politics that revolves around the exposure of the truth
    rather than strategy. It is a politics decidedly in the

    Anarchism and Marxism have a history of antagonism. Bakunin,
    writing in the late nineteenth century, argued that the
    working class could not use state power to emancipate itself
    but must abolish the state. Later, anarchists turned to
    propaganda of the deed, often engaging in acts of
    assassination and terrorism in order to incite mass

    In the early twentieth century, anarcho-syndicalists
    believed that militant trade unionism would evolve into
    revolution as a result of an escalating logic of class
    struggle. Marx (and also Lenin) had pointed out that
    constructing socialism would require a revolutionary
    transformation of the state (and ultimately a withering
    away of the state based on class). Anarchists, however,
    criticized Marxists for tending in practice to treat the
    state as an instrument that could simply be taken over and
    used for other ends. Anarchists saw the state not as a tool,
    but as an instrument of oppression, no matter in whose
    hands. The Stalinist experience lent credence to that

    The anarchist mindset of todays young activists has
    relatively little to do with the theoretical debates between
    anarchists and Marxists, most of which took place in the
    late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It has more
    to do with an egalitarian and anti-authoritarian
    perspective. There are versions of anarchism that are deeply
    individualistic and incompatible with socialism. But these
    are not the forms of anarchism that hold sway in radical
    activist circles, which have more in common with the
    libertarian socialism advocated by Noam Chomsky and Howard
    Zinn than with the writings of Bakunin or Kropotkin. Todays
    anarchist activists draw upon a current of morally charged
    and expressive politics.

    There is considerable overlap between this contemporary
    anarchism and democratic socialism partly because both were
    shaped by the cultural radicalism of the sixties. Socialists
    and contemporary anarchists share a critique of class
    society and a commitment to egalitarianism. But the history
    of antagonism between the two worldviews has also created a
    stereotype of anarchism in the minds of many Marxists,
    making it difficult to see what the two perspectives have in
    common. Anarchisms absolute hostility to the state, and its
    tendency to adopt a stance of moral purity, limit its
    usefulness as a basis for a broad movement for egalitarian
    social change, let alone for a transition to socialism.
    Telling the truth to power is or should be a part of radical
    politics but it is not a substitute for strategy and

    There are also things that Marxists could learn from the
    anti-globalist activists. Their anarchism combines both
    ideology and imagination, expressing its fundamentally moral
    perspective through actions that are intended to make power
    visible (in your face) while undermining it. Historically,
    anarchism has often provided a too-often ignored moral
    compass for the left. Today, anarchism is attracting young
    activists, while Marxist socialism is not, or at least, not
    in the same numbers. What follows is an effort to make sense
    of the reasons for this attraction.


    In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,
    anarchism anchored the militant, radical side of the U.S.
    labor movement and left in something like the way that
    Communism would in later decades, in the wake of the
    Bolshevik Revolution. Though there were anarchist
    organizations, most importantly the anarcho-syndicalist
    Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), organization was not
    a strength of the anarchist movement, as it was, later, of
    the Communist movement. Anarchist identity was not linked to
    membership in any organization in the way that Communist
    identity was later linked to membership in the Communist
    Party. Despite such differences anarchism occupied something
    like the position within the broader left that Communism
    later came to occupy.

    The leadership of the nineteenth century Knights of Labor,
    the first large national labor organization, wavered in
    relation to working class militancy. The Knights of Labor
    included reform associations as well as labor unions; at
    times the leadership of the organization discouraged labor
    union militancy that seemed likely to threaten the
    organizations reform agenda. Alongside them, a small
    anarchist labor movement upheld a consistent militancy,
    which contrasted with the stance of the Knights of Labor.
    The wavering support of the Knights leadership for trade
    union struggles made the organization vulnerable to
    competition from the American Federation of Labor (AFL),
    which limited its membership to trade unions.

    In the latter part of the nineteenth century, the frequent
    slides of the economy into depression encouraged widespread
    anti-capitalist sentiment among U.S. workers; in its
    formative years the AFL associated itself with this radical
    sensibility. But in the early years of the twentieth century
    growing prosperity opened up the possibility that skilled
    workers, at least, could gain more stability. The AFL
    renounced its former gestures towards radicalism, proclaimed
    itself concerned only with wages and workplace conditions
    and in relation to broader issues willing to respect the
    power of capital. The AFLs conservatism, its focus on
    organizing skilled, mostly native born workers, and its
    unwillingness to organize the unskilled or immigrants left
    considerable space for a more radical labor movement.

    A radical alternative to the AFL emerged first through the
    Western Federation of Miners and other labor organizations,
    which engaged in militant struggle and were open to
    socialist and anarchist perspectives. The IWW, formed by
    these organizations and others, adopted an explicitly
    anarcho-syndicalist perspective, organized the unskilled,
    foreign-born, and black workers ignored by the AFL, and
    stood for militant, radical trade unionism. The socialist
    left divided along the same lines as the labor movement,
    with some leaning toward the IWW, some toward the AFL. The
    Socialist Party included a left wing that supported the IWW
    and its militant approach to class struggle and a right wing
    that supported the AFL and was inclined towards electoral
    politics. The narrowness of the IWWs conception of
    revolution, which ruled out any engagement in the political
    arena, led many Socialists who at first supported the IWW to
    distance themselves from it over time.

    The IWW conducted a series of brilliant, often successful,
    organizing campaigns, but IWW locals were often short-lived.
    They were weakened partly by their reluctance to sign
    contracts, based on the view that any agreement with capital
    was class collaboration, and partly by the vulnerability of
    the IWWs largely immigrant, often non-English speaking,
    constituency to harassment by employers and legal repression
    by the government. Ultimately the IWWs approach to
    revolution was displaced by the Bolshevik Revolution,
    enthusiastic support for which swept the U.S. left,
    especially its immigrant constituencies, from which
    anarchism had drawn its support. The Bolshevik Revolution
    also led to a split in and the subsequent decline of the
    Socialist Party, and to the ascendance of the Communist
    Party within the U.S. left.

    In the twenties, thirties, and forties, anarchism was
    supplanted by Marxism, which became the leading form of left
    thinking. The Communist movement was able to create strong
    organizational structures, and was also more able to resist
    corporate-led attacks and attempts at legal repression, than
    the IWW and other anarchist groups had been. The
    vulnerability of anarchism to attack, and the greater
    ability of the Communist Party to resist attacks, were
    illustrated by the case of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo
    Vanzetti, anarchists unjustly accused of a payroll robbery
    and murder in 1921. The leadership of the Sacco-Vanzetti
    defense campaign was expanded to include communists,
    socialists and liberals, at the urging of prominent
    anarchist Carlo Tresca, who recognized that anarchists alone
    would not be able to mobilize mass support. By 1927, when
    Sacco and Vanzetti were executed, anarchism had ceased to be
    a major tendency within the U.S. left. This was partly due
    to the attraction of Bolshevism, but also partly due to the
    assimilation of immigrants in the United States. Previously
    the major constituency for anarchism, by the late twenties,
    most immigrants who might have at one time followed
    anarchism had turned to communism, socialism or liberalism.
    Two of the most important leaders of the Communist Party,
    Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and William Z. Foster, were both
    anarcho-syndicalists before they became Communists. Their
    political histories are emblematic of a broader trajectory
    in the history of the U.S. left. The decline of anarchism
    was unfortunate for the Communist Party and for the rest of
    the socialist left, which could have benefited from the
    anti-authoritarian perspective and moral critique that
    anarchists might have provided.

    In the forties and fifties, anarchism, in fact if not in
    name, began to reappear, often in alliance with pacifism, as
    the basis for a critique of militarism on both sides of the
    Cold War. The anarchist/pacifist wing of the peace movement
    was small in comparison with the wing of the movement that
    emphasized electoral work, but made an important
    contribution to the movement as a whole. Where the more
    conventional wing of the peace movement rejected militarism
    and war under all but the most dire circumstances, the
    anarchist/pacifist wing rejected these on principle. The
    Communist Party supported the anti-fascist allies in the
    Second World War, while many anarchists and some socialists
    refused to serve. The anarchist/pacifist wing of the
    movement also employed civil disobedience, which involved
    personal risks that most people in the more conventional
    wing of the movement were not willing to take.


    Within the movements of the sixties there was much more
    receptivity to anarchism-in-fact than had existed in the
    movements of the thirties. In the thirties, Communists,
    radical trade unionists and others demanded state action on
    behalf of working people and the poor, and succeeded in
    pushing the New Deal toward the left. In a context in which
    the left was, with some success, demanding a shift in the
    orientation of the state, anarchism had little place. But
    the movements of the sixties were driven by concerns that
    were more compatible with an expressive style of politics,
    with hostility to authority in general and state power in
    particular. Relatively few sixties activists called
    themselves anarchists or, for that matter, anything else.
    Especially in the early sixties, many activists rejected all
    ideologies and political labels. Nevertheless, many
    activists were drawn to a style of politics that had much in
    common with anarchism. Many of them, if asked what left
    tradition they felt closest to, would probably have named

    Civil rights struggles in the South pointed to the
    discrepancy between democratic values and the policies of
    those in power. The civil rights movement won the right of
    blacks to vote, and thus transformed the South, largely
    through the use of nonviolent direct action. Anarchist
    ideology was not a factor in the development of the civil
    rights movement. But the beliefs of many Christians, that
    shaped the civil rights movement, had in common with
    anarchism a deeply moral approach to politics and a focus on
    direct action as a tactic. A generation of young activists
    in the North drew inspiration from the civil rights movement
    and wanted to adopt its style, but they were too firmly
    secular to identify with Christianity, and besides, many of
    them were Jews. In the emerging student movement in the
    North, the Christian orientation of Southern blacks
    translated into a politics with a moral base and a style
    that revolved around expression.*

    The early New Left, like the civil rights movement, was
    concerned with the gap between the words and deeds of those
    in power, in particular the contradiction between the
    ostensible liberalism of the Democratic Party and its
    pursuit of the Cold War. The war in Vietnam turned what had
    been a relatively mild critique of liberalism into an angry
    radicalism, which regarded the liberal state as the enemy.
    By the late sixties, political protest was intertwined with
    cultural radicalism based on a critique of all authority and
    all hierarchies of power. Anarchism circulated within the
    movement along with other radical ideologies. The influence
    of anarchism was strongest among radical feminists, in the
    commune movement, and probably in the Weather Underground
    and elsewhere in the violent fringe of the anti-war

    In the late sixties, a messianic mood, a sense that victory
    could come any moment, swept through the movement. This was
    linked to a tendency to equate radicalism with militancy, to
    rapidly escalating standards for militancy, and to a
    tendency to equate militancy and radicalism with violence,
    or at least with threats of the use of violence. In the late
    sixties and early seventies, the movement was pervaded by
    rage against the war and the culture that had produced it,
    and wild fantasies of immanent revolution, fantasies
    regarded by those who held them as realistic views of what
    the movement could accomplish with enough effort. In fact,
    movement activists rarely initiated violence. But something
    like madness took hold. In response perhaps to the
    continuing international terror represented by the Vietnam
    War, violent fantasies swept the movement, frightening many
    people out of political activity. The radical movement of
    the late sixties and early seventies mostly collapsed when
    the war in Vietnam came to an end. The end of that movement
    more or less coincided with the end of the draft and the
    exit of the baby boom generation from the universities. It
    was followed by a downturn in the economy which was taken as
    a warning, by many young people who had participated in the
    movement, that it was time to resume their careers or at
    least find some stable means of making a living. The
    generation of students that followed was smaller, more
    cautious, and had no unifying cause.

    In the late seventies activists influenced by a perspective
    that drew from anarchism, pacifism, feminism and
    environmentalism initiated a movement against nuclear power,
    which they hoped would go on to address other issues,
    eventually becoming a movement for nonviolent revolution.
    They created a distinctive style of politics by drawing the
    concept of the affinity group from the history of Spanish
    anarchism, the tactic of large-scale civil disobedience from
    the U.S. civil rights movement, and the process of
    decision-making by consensus from the Quakers. The
    nonviolent direct action movement, as it called itself,
    conducted campaigns against nuclear power and nuclear arms.
    The version of anarchism that circulated within the movement
    called for egalitarian community based on small, autonomous
    groups. The commitments to nonviolence, and to decision
    making by consensus, were intended to shield the movement
    from the problems that had plagued the anti-war movement of
    the late sixties. Groups in various parts of the country
    held large, dramatic protests which helped to mobilize
    public opinion first against the nuclear industry and then
    against the arms race, and a small army of activists gained
    experience in non-violent civil disobedience.

    Mass civil disobedience demonstrations became the signature
    of the movement, and inability to move beyond this tactic
    became a liability. In each campaign a point was reached at
    which the size of civil disobedience protests leveled off
    because the maximum number of people willing to be arrested
    on that issue had become involved. At this point it would
    become clear that civil disobedience protests alone could
    not overturn the nuclear power industry, or the arms race.
    The problems of the nonviolent direct action movement were
    compounded by its rigid adherence to decision making by
    consensus. The decline of the nuclear industry in the late
    seventies and the de-escalation of the arms race in the
    mid-eighties brought these campaigns to an end.


    The approach to politics developed by the nonviolent direct
    action movement has outlasted the movement itself. Activists
    throughout the progressive movement have adopted elements of
    the movements style of politics. The current
    anti-globalization movement has roots in the nonviolent
    direct action movement, with which it shares a structure
    based on small autonomous groups, a practice of
    decision-making by consensus, and a style of protest that
    revolves around mass civil disobedience. Each of the major
    organizations of the nonviolent direct action movement began
    with great promise but soon went into decline, in large part
    due to the structural and ideological rigidities associated
    with insistence on consensus decision-making and reluctance
    to acknowledge the existence of leadership within the
    movement. This raises a question for the anti-globalization
    movement: will it share the fate of the nonviolent direct
    action movements of the sixties, seventies, and eighties, or
    will it gain the flexibility that will allow it to evolve
    with changing circumstances?

    The anarchist sensibility has made important contributions
    to the radical tradition in U.S. history. It has brought an
    insistence on equality and democracy, a resistance to
    compromise of principle for the sake of political
    expediency. Anarchism has been associated with efforts to
    put the values of the movement into practice and to create
    communities governed by these values. Anarchism has also
    been associated with political theater and art, with
    creativity as an element of political practice. It has
    insisted that radical politics need not be dreary. But the
    anarchist mindset also has its doctrinaire side, a tendency
    to insist on principle to the point of disregarding the
    context or likely results of political action. In this
    regard the anarchist sensibility has something in common
    with the outlook of Christian radicals who believe in acting
    on their consciences and leaving the consequences to God.

    The moral absolutism of the anarchist approach to politics
    is difficult to sustain in the context of a social movement.
    Absolute internal equality is hard to sustain. Movements
    need leaders. Anti-leadership ideology cannot eliminate
    leaders, but it can lead a movement to deny that it has
    leaders, thus undermining democratic constraints on those
    who assume the roles of leadership, and also preventing the
    formation of vehicles for recruiting new leaders when the
    existing ones become too tired to continue. Within radical
    feminism a view of all hierarchies as oppressive led to
    attacks on those who took on the responsibilities of
    leadership. This led to considerable internal conflict, and
    created a reluctance to take on leadership roles, which
    weakened the movement. Movements dominated by an anarchist
    mindset are prone to burning out early.


    Despite its problems, the appeal of anarchism has grown
    among young activists, especially within what is generally
    called the anti-globalization movement. This description is
    not entirely accurate: the movements main focus is not on
    stopping globalization but transforming the terms on which
    it takes place, and it shades into the domestic
    anti-corporate movement. The movement might better be
    described as against neoliberalism, or against U.S.
    imperialism and domination by U.S.-based transnational
    corporations. But these are cumbersome phrases. So, like
    most people, I describe this as the anti-globalization

    The most dramatic moment of the anti-globalization movement
    thus far, at least in the United States, was the
    mobilization against the World Trade Organization in Seattle
    in late November and early December of 1999. In the series
    of demonstrations that took place over the course of several
    days, the young, radical activists who engaged in civil
    disobedience were greatly outnumbered by trade unionists and
    members of mostly liberal environmental organizations. But
    it was the young radicals who blockaded the meetings of the
    WTO, fought the police, liberated the streets of Seattle,
    and whose militancy brought the attention of the media to a
    mobilization that would otherwise have gone relatively
    unnoticed outside the left. The alliance that formed in
    Seattle between young radicals, the trade unionists and the
    liberal environmentalists was loose, and it has become even
    looser since then. It is the young radicals who have pushed
    the anti-globalization movement forward.

    The anti-globalization movement includes the countless
    individuals, groups, and coalitions that have joined in
    demonstrations-in Seattle and elsewhere-against the WTO,
    the IMF, the World Bank, and the two major parties that
    support the existing international order. It includes the
    organizations-many of them the same ones, now mobilizing in
    this hemisphere against the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
    It overlaps with the anti-corporate movement. It includes
    groups working against sweatshops, against destruction of
    natural environments, and around a range of other issues.
    These groups share an opposition to transnational
    corporations and to the neoliberal government policies
    that enable them to flourish. Most of the core activists in
    this movement, in the United States at least, are young, in
    their teens or twenties. Older people are involved as well,
    including intellectuals and activists associated with such
    organizations as Global Exchange and the International Forum
    on Globalization. Many activists involved in anti-corporate
    efforts, such as the Campaign for a Living Wage on
    university campuses, consider themselves part of this
    movement. And there are important links to the labor
    movement. Most movement activists are white and culturally
    middle-class, but this is changing with increasing
    involvement of Latinos, particularly in connection with the
    campaign against the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

    There are many in the movement who do not consider
    themselves anarchists. These would include some of the older
    intellectuals, as well as some younger activists with
    experience in movements with other ideological leanings,
    such as the international solidarity/anti-imperialist
    movement, in which anarchism has not been a major influence.
    There are activists who do not identify with any ideological
    stance. Nevertheless anarchism is the dominant perspective
    within the movement. The movement is organized along lines
    understood as anarchist by movement activists, made up
    largely of small groups that join forces on an ad hoc basis,
    for particular actions and other projects. Movement
    activists call this form of organization anarchist. It is
    supported not only by those who call themselves anarchists
    but by many who would not. Journalist Naomi Klein, in a
    defense of the movement that appeared in The Nation, points
    out that this form of organization allows the movement to
    include many different styles, tactics, and goals, and that
    the internet is an excellent medium for linking diverse
    groups. The greatest tactical strength of the movement, she
    argues, is its similarity to a swarm of mosquitoes. This
    anarchist form of organization makes it possible for groups
    that disagree in some respects to collaborate in regard to
    common aims. At the demonstrations in Quebec City in May
    2001, affinity groups formed sectors defined by their
    willingness to engage in or tolerate violence, ranging from
    those committed to nonviolence to those intending to use
    unconventional tactics. This structure made it possible to
    incorporate groups which otherwise would not have been able
    to participate in the same demonstration.

    There are probably more people in the anti-globalization
    movement attracted to the movements culture and
    organizational structure than to anarchism as a worldview.
    Nevertheless anarchism is attractive as an alternative to
    the version of radicalism associated with the Old Left and
    the Soviet Union. Many activists in the anti-globalization
    movement do not see the working class as the leading force
    for social change. Movement activists associate anarchism
    with militant, angry protest, with grassroots, leaderless
    democracy, and with a vision of loosely linked small-scale
    communities. Those activists who identify with anarchism are
    usually anti-capitalist; among these, some would also call
    themselves socialists (presumably of the libertarian
    variety), some would not. Anarchism has the mixed advantage
    of being rather vague in terms of its proscriptions for a
    better society, and also of a certain intellectual fuzziness
    that allows it to incorporate both Marxisms protest against
    class exploitation, and liberalisms outrage at the
    violation of individual rights. I spoke with one
    anti-globalization activist who described the anarchism of
    many movement activists as liberalism on steroids, that is,
    they are in favor of liberal values, human rights, free
    speech, diversityand militantly so.

    The main target of the anti-globalization movement is
    corporate power, not capitalism, but these perspectives do
    not necessarily exclude one another. Some activists want
    regulation of the corporations, forcing them to comply with
    human and environmental rights; some want corporations
    abolished. These aims are not necessarily incompatible.
    Depending on how one defines the limitations to be imposed
    on corporations, the line between regulation and abolition
    can evaporate. There are activists in the movement,
    especially among the more radical, younger people, for whom
    the ultimate target is capitalism. In the late sixties many
    of the radical activists who adopted one or another version
    of Marxism were unwilling to entertain ideas that did not
    fit a socialist perspective. The radical activists in the
    anti-globalization movement tend to have a more fluid
    approach to ideology. Despite their preferences for
    anarchist forms of organization, and the anarchist visions
    some hold of a future society, they are likely to read
    Marxist-oriented accounts of global political economy. The
    decentralized form of the movement and its commitment to
    leaving room for a range of perspectives allows for a
    certain flexibility of perspective. Activists may vacillate
    between various outlooks, remain ambivalent, or combine
    elements of anarchism, Marxism, and liberalism. This can
    lead to ideological creativity. It can also lead to a habit
    of holding various positions simultaneously which, if more
    rigorously examined, would prove incompatible.

    The most heated debate within the movement is over the
    question of violence. The debate over violence within the
    anti-globalization movement in the United States concerns
    violence toward property, and the danger of inciting police
    violence. In Seattle, groups of black-clad young people, who
    later identified themselves as the Black Bloc, smashed
    windows and destroyed property of corporate targets within
    the downtown area over which protesters and police were
    vying for control. These attacks took the organizers of the
    protest by surprise, and, provoked more police violence
    against protesters generally. Some nonviolent protesters
    tried to restrain those smashing windows. In the wake of the
    demonstration some protesters condemned the violence,
    arguing that it discredited the movement as a whole and that
    tactics should be decided democratically, not by small
    groups acting autonomously. Others argued that window
    smashing, and the police violence that it provoked, had
    brought the attention of the media and given the
    demonstration a prominence that it would not have otherwise
    had. In subsequent demonstrations the Black Bloc and others
    with similar approaches have become more integrated into the
    movement and have modulated their actions, while some others
    have become more willing to accept some violence against

    The fact that there is no section of the anti-globalization
    movement in the United States that defends or routinely
    engages in violence against people distinguishes the U.S.
    movement from the movement in Europe. Demonstrations in
    Prague and other European cities have included attacks on
    policemen, and such attacks have come to be expected as a
    part of any major mobilization of the movement.

    In the context of the debate about violence in the United
    States, within which violence against people is excluded,
    the differences between the advocates of violence and those
    who are willing to countenance violence under certain
    circumstances are not clear-cut. In the early eighties
    activists, especially religious activists, did things like
    attempting to damage missiles as part of nonviolent direct
    action. Destruction of property can be part of a nonviolent
    politics. During the Vietnam War, pacifists and former
    Catholic priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan led raids on
    draft centers, destroying draft files by pouring blood on
    them and, in one instance, by the use of homemade napalm. In
    the eighties the Berrigans and other Christian pacifists, in
    a series of Ploughshares Actions, invaded arms-producing
    plants and attacked missiles with hammers and bare hands. It
    seems to me that the importance of the current debate over
    violence, in the anti-globalization movement, lies less in
    whether or not the opponents of violence to property
    prevail, and more in what kind of ethical guidelines the
    movement sets for itself. What is important is whether the
    movement establishes an image of expressing rage for its own
    sake, or of acting according to an ethical vision.


    The traditional socialist left in the United States now
    mostly consists of several magazines and journals, a few
    annual conferences, a small number of intellectuals. Hope
    for the revival of the left appears to lie with the
    anti-globalization movement and the young radical activists
    at its core. There are reasons to fear that the
    anti-globalization movement may not be able to broaden in
    the way that this would require. A swarm of mosquitoes is
    good for harassment, for disrupting the smooth operation of
    power and thus making it visible. But there are probably
    limits to the numbers of people willing to take on the role
    of the mosquito. A movement capable of transforming
    structures of power will have to involve alliances, many of
    which will probably require more stable and lasting forms of
    organization than now exist within the anti-globalization
    movement. The absence of such structures is one of the
    reasons for the reluctance of many people of color to become
    involved in the anti-globalization movement. Though the
    anti-globalization movement has developed good relations
    with many trade union activists, it is hard to imagine a
    firm alliance between labor and the anti-globalization
    movement without firmer structures of decision-making and
    accountability than now exist. An alliance among the
    anti-globalization movement and organizations of color, and
    labor, would require major political shifts within the
    latter. But it would also probably require some relaxation
    of anti-bureaucratic and anti-hierarchical principles on the
    part of activists in the anti-globalization movement.

    For several decades radicalism has been at low ebb in the
    United States, present in innumerable organizing projects
    but lacking focus and momentum. The anti-globalization
    movement provides focus and momentum, and holds out more
    hope for a revival of the left than any other movement has
    over the last two decades. The radical ideology that
    prevails among its core activists represents a soft and
    fluid form of anarchism. It is open to Marxist political
    economy, prefers small-scale communities but does not
    necessarily rule out the need for larger ones as well, is
    suspicious of structures of authority, especially the state,
    but does not necessarily deny the need for state power in
    some form. Actually existing anarchism has changed and so
    has actually existing Marxism. Marxists who participated
    in the movements of the sixties tend to have a sharper
    appreciation of the importance of social and cultural
    equality, and of living according to our values in the
    present, than did many members of previous generations of
    Marxist activists. If a new paradigm of the left emerges
    from the struggle against neoliberalism and the
    transnational corporate order, it is likely to include
    elements of anarchist sensibility as well as of Marxist

    * I am indebted to John Sanbonmatsu in my discussion of the
    expressive politics of the sixties.
    BARBARA EPSTEIN teaches in the History of Consciousness
    Department at UC Santa Cruz and is working on a book on the
    underground movement in the ghetto in Minsk, Belarus, during
    the Second World War. She is the author of Political Protest
    and Cultural Revolution: Nonviolent Direct Action in the
    1970s and 1980s (University of California Press, 1991). She
    would like to thank John J. Simon for his careful reading of
    several drafts of this article, and for editing suggestions
    which clarified and strengthened it.

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Sat Sep 08 2001 - 14:33:08 EDT