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Unmasking Globalization: the Dynamics and Antinomies of Imperial Power


For presentation at the Robert Kenny Prize proceedings, University of Toronto, May 30, 2002.


The object of this essay is to unmask globalization as imperialism. To this end, we begin by pointing towards the limited dynamics of the anti-globalization movement. As see it, this movement is fundamentally flawed in ways that will limit its capacity to bring about fundamental change.  For one thing, the issue if not globalization in one form or another; it is imperialism ñ the projection of state power under conditions of a renewed form of US-led imperialism. Until this problem is grasped and dealt with in thought and practice the forces of opposition to, and resistance against, the ësystemí cannot be mobilized and fully engaged.

Our argument along these lines is constructed as follows. First, we turn towards the ubiquitous search for an alternative form of development ñ and globalization. We argue that there is both more to and less than meets the eye in the Anti-Globalization Movement on which the Left has pinned its hopes and expectations. We then turn towards the concept of ëimperialismí as a tool for analyzing the dynamics of global developments and of the forces of opposition and resistance. In the following section we address, and challenge, the mythical notion of a powerless state, undermined by a process of globalization.

We then turn towards an extended discussion of the form that imperialism is taking in the current context. To this end we begin by discarding the notion, advanced by Hardt and Negri, of an ëempire without Imperialism.í We then turn towards various alternative conceptions of the ënewí imperialism ñ liberal, ëpostmoderní and ëneomercantilist.í In this intellectual and ideological context, as well as in the current context of worldwide developments, we show that imperialism is very much on the agenda and that the US State is leading this project.

In the following two sections we examine the question of ëdemocracyí and its meaning for both the agents (and ideologists) of imperialism and its opponents in the popular movement. At issue here is the nature of the state and its relation to ëcivil societyí -- and the different forms taken by ëdemocracyí as well as its alternate uses.  For the most part, the idea of ëdemocracyí has served as an ideology, to obfuscate and camouflage the interior design (and fascistic fist) of the imperialist project. At the same time, ëdemocracyí has served the popular movement in creating spaces for the accumulation, and mobilization, of the forces of opposition and resistance.  In this sense ñ development ëfrom belowí ñ democracy can be viewed as a two-edged sword, with a progressive side.

In the last two parts of our argument we turn back towards the Anti-Globalization Movement before reviewing the form that the struggle against neoimperialism has taken on the Latin American periphery of the system. Here we bring into focus three waves of sociopolitical movements in the mobilization of the popular forces of opposition and resistance. We argue that these movements provide the best opportunity for progressive change and the forces of social transformation in the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.  However, the political problems involved in this process are considerable. We argue, or conclude rather, that the Left needs to overcome its penchant for sectarian politics and unite in a common struggle.

Neoliberalism and the Search for an Alternative ñ the Dynamics of Anti-Globalization

In the wake of the financial crisis, which hit Mexico in 1995 and then spread to Asia and elsewhere in 1997, the neoliberal model of capitalist development has been seriously tarnished, abandoned by all except for a few ideological diehards. Even erstwhile ideologues of free market capitalism such as Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the now disgraced ex-president of Mexico but once the darling of the international neoliberal jet set; George Soros, self-appointed guardian of the world capitalist system,President of the Quantum Fund and the Soros Foundation, and ëretiredí financier, expert manipulator of the free market in speculative capital; Joseph Stiglitz, formerly chief economist at the World Bank; and ñ most surprisingly perhaps ñ Michel Camdessus, until a few years ago managing director of the IMF, all have turned against or distanced themselves from neoliberalism (Soros in Bordegaray, Soledad and Toti Flores, 2001: 66-67; Stiglitz, 1998; Salinas and Mangabeira Unger, 1999; and Camdessus, 1997). These and other erstwhile advocates of capitalism in its neoliberal form, while wedded to the notion of globalization in its diverse dimensions, have joined critics in the search for an alternative form of organizing and developing the economy.

The shared concern -- not to put too fine a point to it and to exaggerate only slightly -- is not with globalization per se (globalization or anti-globalization) but the form that the alternative to neoliberalism should take. At stake, as George Soros (in Bordegaray, Soledad and Toti Flores, 2001: 67) notes, is the survival of global capitalism. To prevent its destruction, he further notes, fundamental reforms are required ñ and not those that have dominated economic and political developments over the past two decades. These neoliberal reforms, designed to take the state out of the process of economic development, to reduce its weight and role (and power); to restore the power of private property and the workings of the free unregulated market, as argued by so many critics in the Anti-Globalization Movement, in fact constitute the ëproblemí -- the source of the crisis that has beset the system as a whole. The issue, in other words, is: what form the alternative to neoliberalism should take? What changes, for example, are needed in the financial architecture that supports the international flows of productive and speculative capital? What sort of regime should there be put into place to control the ballooning free flow of speculative and volatile short-term capital? What should be the institutional framework of this new regulatory regime...and what connections should there be to the broader institutionality of the system? And within this framework what sort of policies should be pursued and implemented vis-‡-vis ëgood governanceí -- and the neoliberal program of stabilization and structural adjustment and measures? That is, how are we to move beyond and away from the tarnished  ëWashington Consensusí identified by Williamson (1990)?

The problem behind these questions was first clearly posed, in 1996, by Robert Kapstein, Director, at the time, of the trilateralist US Council on Foreign Relations. As Kapstein saw it, the problem was rooted in a tendency of neoliberal or free market capitalism, freed from all constraints and state regulation, towards excessive social inequalities in the distribution of global resources, and income, leading toward social discontent the forces of which could be mobilized politically in ways that are destabilizing for democratic regimes and the system as a whole. However, on the Left of the political spectrum, within the Anti-Globalization Movement (AGM) the concern is not so much with the (potential) political instability as with the moral issue of unfairness or injustice represented by a system in which, as the UNDP, in its 1996 Human Development Report, pointed out, some 385 individuals could receive (or appropriate) as much of the worldís wealth and income as 1.4 billion of the worldís poorest, and the top 10 percent of income ëearnersí receives over 40 percent of world income.  Most critics within the Anti-Globalization Movement see this maldistribution of wealth and income not as Kapstein sees it, that is, as a political problem; nor as more radical critics on the Left see it ñ also as a political problem but one of ëthe North robbing the Southí or exploitation (and oppression, to boot) -- but as a moral issue, that is, as inequitable or unfair, a matter of social justice. In fact, this was by far the dominant theme of the vast majority of 28 conferences, 200 or so seminars and close to 800 workshops that made up the second World Social Forum in 2002. According to Martin Khor, director of the Malaysia-based Third World Network and a keynote speaker at the WSF, among the diverse ways in which countries in the south are ëcheatedí are through the predatory operations of speculative capital, the siphoning off of profits by transnational corporations and the protectionist trading measures adopted by the industrialized countries. On these issues also see, among many others, Falk (2000) and the Canadian columnist Naomi Klein (2000), who not only provide a moral critique of the corporate agenda but address directly or indirectly the question of ëdemocracyí or ëgood governanceí ñ holding the corporations accountable, if not to some electorate then at least to a more representative ëglobal civil societyí (Corpwatch, 2001). The securing of good governance is, in fact, the remedy proposed by both the advocates and opponents of ëglobalization.í

Despite their concerns about ëglobalizationí the guardians of the New World Economic Order, who meet annually at the World Economic Forum, count on the anti-globalization movement to provide the broad contours and critical elements, if not the actual design, of a solution to the ëproblemí that has beset the ësystemí ñ a problem (ungovernability, lack of good governance) that in some contexts has reached critical proportions. This is one reason why the World Bank and other sponsors of multilateral ëaidí and global development finance, as well as the governments in the G-7 and, more broadly, the OECD, are prepared to finance the activities of its critics in the anti-globalization movement ñ up to 80 percent, it has been estimated (Okonski, 2001).

Another reason for this funding is that it provides a mechanism of what could be termed ëcontrolled opposition and dissentí ñ to contain the forces of opposition and resistance, and to direct them towards a system-bound solution, respecting its fundamental institutionality and seeking alternatives ëwithin,í on the basis of acceptable (because necessary) reforms achieved through dialogue. A case in point is the World Bankís sponsorship, funding and use of many albeit selected nongovernmental organizations as a ësounding boardí of possible opposition to, and changes in, its policies ñ as a forum for dialogue and critical engagement with dissenting opinion and alternative ideas. Another example of such a mechanism of controlled opposition and informed dissent can be found in the World Social Forum (WSF).  Held for the first time in January 2001, and again in 2002, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, it represents a major advance in the Anti-Globalization Movement ñ in the tracking, from Seattle and Quebec to Genoa and Qatar, of policies set and decisions made by the economic and political elite of what Leslie Sklair (1997) among others, define as the ëinternational capitalist class.í

The WSF provides an organizational context for the opponents of ëglobalizationí not as such but in its manifest neoliberal form (the world ëas it isí) ñ to discuss, and debate, the alternative (ëanother world is possibleí). These opponents and critics represent a broad array of nongovernmental organizations and a spectrum of ideas that is at once broad and narrow ñ broad in its agreed-upon principles (social justice and equity, popular participation and democracy, etc.) and diverse proffered solutions (ideas for a new more humane and socially just world) yet narrow in its political scope ñ liberal, state-led reforms to the existing system impelled by an emerging (and growing) ëglobal civil society.í In this connection, ëradicalí solutions predicated on systemic transformation, viz. its basic institutionality (private property, wage labour, markets, state, etc.), and ëconfrontationalist politicsí (as opposed to humanizing social reforms and a pacifist politics of nonviolence and dialogue) are explicitly ruled out. This is one reason why with few exceptions (the MST, for one) organizations of the ëRevolutionary Leftí (for example, FARC-EP) that call for and espouse such a path towards change were expressly excluded from the World Social Forum II. In practice, as well as theory, the ëother worldí sought by the directorate of the Anti-globalization Movement (ëAnother World is Possibleí) is predicated on the principles of a renovated social democracy ñ on what after Anthony Giddens (1995) has been termed ëthe third way.í

In the 1980s, in the context of a widespread restructuring of the state -- and its ostensible retreat from the conduct (planning, regulation, etc.) of economic affairs -- there was a veritable explosion of NGOs, formed in the concern with not only the provision of basic human needs (shelter, food, health, security, etc.), the major concern of the grassroots organizations of civil society, but with diverse issues ranging from human rights, the environment, the exclusion of women, widespread urban poverty and the lack of economic development or ëdemocracy.í The nongovernmental (social or civic) organisations that were formed in this process, and that generally cast themselves into the role of ëcritical oppositioní -- to globalization in its neoliberal form as well as associated government policies -- were (and are) widely (and alternatively) perceived to represent either a new social movement,í ëgrassroots postmodernism,í ëdemocracy without social movements,í or, more recently, an emerging ëglobal civil society,í and, as such, the latest expression of a popular or grassroots movement against the structures of economic and political power. 

In practice, however, many of these NGOs have been pushed into an effective, if (often) undeclared, partnership with the operating institutions and agents of the system, particularly the World Bank and other agents of ëoverseas development assistanceí or international finance. In this partnership, the keystone of a strategy designed by the World Bank but soon adopted by virtually all of the multilateral and bilateral institutions as well as the other operating agencies of the undoubtedly unjust global economic system, the NGOs cast themselves (and were cast) into the role of intermediary between the donor agencies and the target of the international development or donor organizations, the poor and their communities. In effect, these NGOs were converted into the executing agencies of government policy or the donorsí agenda. Although widely (and erroneously) identified with, and seen as part of ëthe grassroots organizationsí of civil society, many of these NGOs could be viewed as ëagents of imperialism,í unconsciously (for the most part) serving the ëinterests of capitalí just as surely -- albeit more obliquely -- as the international financial institutions and restructured reformist states in Latin America and elsewhere (cf. La Jornada editorial). In any case, the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) within ëcivil societyí are positioned somewhere in between those agencies seeking to promote development or initiate projects ëfrom above and the outsideí and those who do so ëfrom below and within.í In this somewhat ambiguous position they are also part of two seemingly contradictory ëprojects.í On the one hand, they are conscious participants in the broad search for an alternative form of ëdevelopmentí (to neoliberal capitalism) and ëglobalizationí ñ to ëimprove [the lives] in the worldís poorest countriesí (Gerry Barr, president of CCIC, Reality of Aid, a semi annual Review of ODA, 2002). 

In this search they are part of an emerging global network of individuals and organizations that make up ëcivil societyí -- a complex configuration that like all structures has an influence vastly greater than the sum of its parts and tends to take on a life of its own. On the other hand, this ëglobal civil societyí is also part of something quite different, a more nefarious network of which many of the participant individuals and organizations are perhaps not even aware. To understand how this can be consider, by way of an analogy, the parasitic wasp, of the genus Hymenoepimecis, which, unknown to the spider that it targets and penetrates, lays its eggs in the spiderís abdomen. The spider goes to work oblivious of the growing larvae in its abdomen, which, nourished on the spiderís fluids, chemically induces the spider to modify or change its behaviour. In fact, the spider is induced to spin a cocoon web that is useless to the spider but necessary to the larvae. As soon as the spider has finished its work, the larvae consume the spider and hang the pupal cocoon in the special web constructed unwittingly by the spider for the wasp. Nourished on the fluids of the unknowing host organism whose behaviour it has manipulated, the larvae are transformed into wasps capable of stinging their prey in its global reach for sustenance and ñ to extend our analogy ñ profits on their invested capital. To complete this analogy, in the process of ëdevelopmentí or ëglobalizationí the parasite might not consume its host as long as it does not need to do so; that is, as long as the host organization, a global network of anti-globalization forces, continues to serve as means of manipulating the broader apparatus of civic governance into building the web that serves their purpose Ö and as a means of derailing the forces of opposition to its globalization project ñ to channel these forces into acceptable forms or, even better, to demobilise them.

Globalization or Imperialism?

Few words have gained as much currency in such a short period of time (since around 1986) as ëGlobalization.í Although used in different ways it generally denotes a multifaceted process characterized by increased international flows of capital, goods and services, information and cultural values, and ways of doing things ñ and an associated ëinterconnectedness of social phenomenaí (Therborn, 2000) and, at a different level, ëeconomic  integration.í However, in these terms, the term ëglobalizationí explains little of what is actually going on across the world and, as noted by most contributors to a special theme issue of the Cambridge Review of International Affairs (Desai, et. al., 2000), serves better as an ideology, a means of masking what is going on or to promote a certain desired form of action or thought, than as theory, an explanatory device -- or even as a means of describing well the dynamics of a supposed paradigmatic (and historical) shift. For one thing, the term entirely eludes reference to the structures of political and economic power or the practice (foreign policy) in which these structures are imposed by some states, or peoples, on others. The reality of this institutionalized practice is better described, and explained, by use of a term given to Marxist discourse but abandoned by many: ëimperialism.í Oddly enough, this point has been grasped well by some supporters and advocates of neoliberal capitalism than by the many critics of ëcorporate capitalí or ëneoliberal globalizationí in the AGM. In this connection, Martin Wolf (Financial Times, February 5, 2002) writes of the ëritualistic concern with unbridled corporate powerí expressed by the critics and protesters at this yearís meeting in New York of the World Economic Forum as ëparanoid delusion.í However, in defense of the many critics and opponents of corporate global power it could be said that if it can be demonstrated that these corporations do indeed have command of a large measure of economic, if not political, power, which is used in the (their own) interest (profits), then the concern with corporate global power of critics such as Anderson and Cavanagh, Susan George, Martin Khor, David Korten, and closer to home (Canada, that is), Maud Barlow and Tony Charles, among many others, denotes neither paranoia nor delusion. However, Wolf is also correct in pointing out that ëcorporations are not unchallenged masters of the universe;í nor are they ëautonomousí agents of the system or ëasÖas powerful as critics claim.í  Indeed, ë[t]he changeÖseen over the past twenty yearsÖis market-driven globalization unleashed, consciously and voluntarily by governments.í Wolf makes an important point here. But where the defenders of ëmarket-driven globalizationí such as Wolf are remiss (and knowingly so) is in failing to point out that some ëgovernmentsí indeed do have the will and capacity to unleash such power, and that they do so on the basis of an imperialist agenda. On this point see the discussion in the following two sections.

The Myth of the Powerless State

One of the biggest myths propagated in the double ideological turn towards a discourse on globalization and civil society is that of a powerless state, hollowed out and stripped off its functions vis-‡-vis the economic development process, prostrate before unbridled global corporate power (Weiss, 1998). But in actual fact, the welfare states in the North and the developmentalist states in the South while partially ëdismantledí have been neither weakened nor reduced in terms of its various ëpowers;í rather, they have been restructured in various ways to better serve the interests of the transnational capitalist class.

            In the post second world war period, the nation-state was widely regarded, and generally used, as an instrument for advancing the interests of diverse economic groups and incorporating, by degrees, both the middle and working classes into the development process as well as the political system. In the North (the OECD) this resulted in the evolution of what was dubbed the ëKeysenianí and ëwelfare state,í characterized by the growth of the public sector both in the economy and the provision of social services (welfare, education and health); in the South (developing countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa), under different conditions (inter alia, nationalization -- of industrial enterprises in strategic sectors) it entailed both this ëdevelopmentí and the consolidation of the state as an agency of economic development ñ at the level of ownership, planning and the regulation of private capitalist enterprise. Nowhere in Latin America was this process as advanced as in Chile, where, under Salvador Allende, the working class managed to reach into the state apparatus, compelling the propertied classes to at least acknowledge and respond to some of its claims and concerns, if not share actually state power. However, with the intrusion of Agosto Pinochet into Chilean politics (ëWe will teach the world a lesson in democracyí) and the institution of a military dictatorship, one of a number fomented by the US in its battle against ëinternational communism,í Chile also represents a critical turning point in this non-revolutionary (in the case of Chile) development: a counter-revolution in development thought and practice ñ and (a U-turn) in the relation of capital to labour (Crouch and Pizzorno, 1978; Davis, 1984; Toye, 1987).

In the North, this counter-revolution was part of a series of structural and strategic responses of the capitalist class and the state to a systemic crisis; in the South it involved the arrest, and reversal, of the process of incorporating the working class into the development and political process -- and the recapture of the state apparatus by the propertied and capitalist classes. This process would take close to two decades to unfold but by the end of the millennium the state, with diverse permutations North and South, had been duly restructured to serve the imperial agenda and interests of capital.

Not only was the state been restructured to advance the agenda and more clearly reflect the interests of transnational capital but also in the case of the United States, it has been reshaped so as to advance the imperialist design, and foreign policy agenda (to reassert its declining hegemony over the whole system), of the new regime. The formation of what could well be termed the ëimperial stateí has been years in the making but it took a giant step forward in 2001 after the events of September 11. As it turns out, these events created conditions not only for the concentration of presidential power over the state apparatus but in the projection of imperial power in various areas of strategic geopolitical interest to the US.

The 1980s and 1990s saw an erosion of US economic and political power both in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia and, despite gains in Central America, in Latin America. In the Middle East, in a major area of strategic interest viz. the supply of petroleum, both Iran and Iraq have been able to escape efforts of the US to assert its power and trade directly with the European Community. In Europe itself, a series of unilateral actions by the US state had not been able to circumvent the relative ascendancy of the Europeans in the region. Only in the Balkans did US foreign policy and the projection of [naked or well clothed] political and military power bear fruit. In Latin America most governments had been reduced into submissive client states on the basis, and through the actions, of the functionaries of the World Bank, the IMF and other international organisations dominated by the US. However, the policies foisted on Latin American states by these institutions, or adopted by servile client regimes, have not only undermined these regimes but have generated formidable forces of opposition and resistance in the most important countries, particularly as relates to the ëstrategic triangleí of Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador that control the access of US transnationals to strategic resources (petroleum and energy, etc.). And the same applies to Argentina and Brazil, and Bolivia, and, in the immediate backyard of the US, Mexico and Central America.

September 11 was by no means responsible for the form that US imperialism has taken in this historic conjuncture. However, it did allow President George W. Bush to launch a brutal offensive against Afghanistan and to extend it into a global war without specific location or end in sight -- against ëinternational terrorism;í and it also provided his regime a considerable supply of political capital for dealing with possible dissent and advancing an imperialist agenda without the encumbrance of democracy. But two of the characteristic features of US imperialism in this conjuncture -- unilateralism in decision-making and increased reliance on, and use of, the repressive apparatus -- were in response to a general erosion of US economic and political power, especially vis-‡-vis the EC, which had been making considerable gains vis-‡-vis the US in regards to Latin America (for example, in the takeover of lucrative state enterprises). This turn towards unilateralism and militarism ñ and towards what could be termed ëneomercantilismí (the projection of imperial state power in lieu of reliance on the functionaries of the World Bank, the IMF and other IFIs) ñ is also (in part) a response to the onset and conditions of an economic crisis ëat homeí (in the US), the conditions of which for some time (1995-2000) had been masked by a speculative boomlet. By September 11, however ñ certainly by October 7 ñ it was evident that the US economy was in crisis. The signs were serious enough and increasingly evident, exposing cracks that went to the very foundations of the system. In the manufacturing sector, for example, a ërecessioní (declines in output) had been officially registered for fifteen consecutive months and continued for another six, up to a New York meeting of the WEF to seek ways of activating the economy by raising the confidence of investors and consumers. At the level of the national accounts, a trade deficit of US$ 430 (representing four percent of GNP in 2000) reflected a growing weakness in the export sector of industrial production while a huge mass of functioning capital (hundreds of billions of dollars) invested in the high-tech industries of fibreoptics, informatics and biotechnology had evaporated. By 2001, only four out of twenty leading informatics firms in the US had achieved profitability, recovering returns on huge investments. Under such conditions, the US imperial state could hardly afford to provide what was demanded (or rather, timorously requested) of it by its client states and regimes such as Argentina or Colombia ñ a new Marshall Plan (or, at least, an IMF bailout) that would provide an economic development fund of a sufficient size to activate economies that are everywhere in decline or crisis. But the US state, under pressure and with the imperative need to activate its own economy, responded instead with a plan to convert the entire region into one free market (LAFTA) and, at a different level, to extend ëPlan Colombiaí (to the Andean countries of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia; Venezuela and the Brazilian Amazon). Deploying some US$40 billion of largely military ëaidí ñ constituting, after Israel, the largest program of US ëoverseas development assistanceí -- this imperialist counter-offensive is aimed squarely at the most powerful force of opposition and resistance to US power in the region: the FARC-EP. Officials of the US state, in this geopolitical and strategic context, view the FARC-EP as the largest (and most effective) insurgent force in the region (with an armed force of 20,000 with a projected power in at least 40 percent of the national territory, including in the oil-rich strategic region), to be the major threat to its interests in the region. Not only does it threaten the stability, even the survival, of the regime in Colombia, an important client state, but, it is calculated, as FARC goes so does the Left (other forces of opposition and resistance in the region, mostly social movements based in the peasantry or indigenous communities). The forces of Leftist opposition to US imperialism in the region would be seriously undermined and demoralized by a victory of the US and the Colombian state over FARC-EP.

Empire and the State

In the debate as to the impact of globalization on the nation-state, a number of theorists such as Antonio Negri (Hardt and Negri, 2000) have argued that the state is becoming, or has become, increasingly a less important factor in both the regulation and management of the global economy and in mobilizing the forces of resistance into (in Gramscian terms) a ëcounter-hegemonic forceí or (in Negriís own terms) a ëcounter-powerí based on ëthe multitudeí within ëcivil society.í The state, in this analysis, is no longer a significant actor on the world scene. To take the case of Argentina: once upon a time the state was a powerful instrument for advancing the ënational interest; but today state officials, from the president down, are unable to exercise any crucial state powers with regard to the economy ñ they can execute strategic decisions but do not make them. These are largely made, as it happens, in Washington ñ by members of the Trilateral Commission or the Council of Foreign Relations, Wall Street, the White House or the Secretary of State, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, etc. This might be somewhat of an exaggeration, but recent (as yet on-going) events in Argentina related to pressures exerted by the IMF on the government ñ to have it ëface realityí as relates to the requirements of the ëinternational financial communityí (financiers, investors, etc.) ñ suggest that governments such as Dualdeís Argentina in the current context have no room to manoeuvre, or to make any independent decisions, in the setting of macroeconomic policy.

            Notwithstanding the erosion of certain powers experienced by many governments and states, the problem in this analysis, and with the conclusions drawn by Negri and others, is at once both a lack of specificity and over-generalization. The fact is while the power of some states might be reduced or circumscribed that of others, in what could be viewed as the centre of the system, has been reinforced.  Nothing could be further from the truth than Hardt and Negriís notion of an ëempire without imperialism.í  The US State, in particular, is a powerful instrument for the projection of both economic and political -- not to speak of military ñ power.  The facts here are too numerous and obvious to warrant discussion (see our discussion above). However, in this connection we can ñ and do ñ note that the state is but one of a complex of institutions that serve the interests of, and are controlled by, the ëtransnational capitalist classí ñ the economic, political and other members of the elite that represent the interests of this class. As to who this elite might be, or the class that it is a part of, the facts are not hard to discern. The US Council on Foreign relations, for example, like the World Trade Organization, the latest addition to the global power structure of this elite, might make decisions behind closed doors but they do not operate in secret. Nor are the major nodal points of the complicated and broad network of institutions set up and controlled by this class difficult to identify, notwithstanding the fact that many are hidden (and like all structures visible only in their effects). They include various institutional networks and forums that bring together representatives and members of this class that run the transnational corporations and financial institutions that dominate the world economy. On this point we need but look at and examine the membership of the CFR (Salbuchi, 2000) and regular participants in the Economic Forum.

The entire debate as to whether the these TNCs, as argued by Korten and so many others in the AGM, are free to operate globally over and above the nation-state, whose powers they supposedly exceed, is misplaced. The fact is that these TNCs do not roam the world at will, free from state control and regulation; they generally have their home-base and decision-making centres in the industrially advanced or ëdevelopedí societies at the centre of the system ñ the G-7 ñ and, to a considerable extent, are still subject to government control and regulation. The vast majority of the top TNCs (Financial Timesí or Forbesí Top 100 / 500) are located in the US (49%), the European Community (37%) or to a lesser degree, Japan (9%). The leading directors and CEOs of these TNCs are integrated into a network of institutions, including the US imperial state, controlled by the transnational capitalist class, whose members are also largely located in these societies.

In this context, the US State still serves as the major source of imperial power, particularly in its political and military dimensions but also economic. It is the US State that backstops the institutions of economic power, paving the way for the operation of these institutions and creating the facilitating conditions. For example, the IMF might well be the force behind the policies adopted by virtually every government in Latin America but behind the IMF and other such international organisations can be found the power of the imperial state system, particularly the US. It is also this power that lies behind the imposition of tariffs and other free trade barriers that protect US capital in its home market operations from foreign competition. It is the US State that has levied a 27 percent import duty on Canadian lumber. It is the US State that levies prohibitive duties on the import of steel and other goods and services from Europe, Asia and Latin America whenever producers in these countries ëthreatení the interests of the US ñ- that is, out-perform uncompetitive US producers on the domestic market. In short, there is no question of an ëempire without imperialism.í Any such intellectual construction is both misleading and politically dangerous, leading minimally to a failure to understand the forces at play in the so-called globalization process.

The Contradictions of Imperialism: From Neoliberalism to Neomercantilism

In the turn towards what has been termed the ëshort twentieth centuryí (1917-1989) Lenin identified five structural features of imperialism, regarded not as an adjunct to but as the most advanced phase of capitalist development at the time. One of these features was the exchange of raw materials produced in the non-capitalist world in exchange for goods manufactured in a process of capitalist development ñ what would become known as ëthe old imperialism.í  In the 1970s, however, history took a new turn in the context of, and response to, a deep systemic crisis.

As in Leninís time, at a critical conjuncture of modernization, we can at this point identify five major structural features of capitalist development arising out of diverse strategic responses made to this crisis. The first is what has been described alternatively as a New International Division of labour (Frˆebel, et. al., 1980) and a ëSecond Industrial Divideí (Pior and Sabel, 1984), a structure arising out of strategic decisions of the TNCs to relocate their labour intensive operations closer towards sources of cheaper labour.  A second feature of the ënew imperialismí is a shift in, or transformation of, the dominant mode of regulating labour at the point of production ñ from Fordism to Postfordism (Boyer, 1989; Lipietz, 1982, 1987). A third feature is based on a process of productive transformation and technological conversion, characterised by the evolution of new production technologies as well as the shedding of vast numbers of workers, replenishing thereby what Marx had termed the ëindustrial reserve armyí ñ a huge and growing reserve of surplus labour. A fourth feature is a major change in the structure formed by the relation of capital to labour. The defining characteristic feature of this new structure is a qualitative shift in labourís participation in the process of economic production ñ in its share of income and value added to production. The effects of this shift ñ the compression and dispersal of wages, a fall in their real value and a decline in the purchasing power and consumption capacity of workers ñ have been well documented and analysed, particularly in regards to Latin America (see, for example, Veltmeyer, 1999). As with the associated restructuring of the labour market they generally relate to conditions of ësocial exclusioní that can be directly traced back to a process of class struggle ñ the assault of the capitalist class on labour (Gazier, 1996; Paugam, 1996). The fifth characteristic feature of the new imperialism, defined as Lenin did, that is, not in strategic or political but in structural terms, is precisely a tendency towards globalization and the integration of country after country into an extended capitalist economy,

Although often defined in ëstructuralí terms imperialism in any form entails a relation of domination between states at the ëcentreí of the system and those on its ëperiphery.í And the structure of this relation is maintained by a projection of political ñ and military ñ power, concentrated in the imperial state system, which, in the current context, is made up of the state apparatus of the United States and the major ëpowersí in the European Community.

Notwithstanding the theorizing of Hardt and Negri about the end of imperialism, on the one hand, and, on the other, the ideology of globalization, the reality of this power structure is evident and not just in its effects. However, just as evident is the fact that the system as a whole is in trouble, rift by internal contradictions. First, in the global workings of this system, more and more direct producers are being separated from their means of social production. At the same time, large numbers of workers are subjected to diverse conditions of ëexploitationí or ësocial exclusioní ñ un- and under-employment, precarious forms of labour and employment, and low income. Under these and other such conditions the process of capital accumulation, although extended on a global scale, is reaching its structural ñ and political ñ limits. Although it is sustained by the productive capacity of the leading capitalist enterprises and established markets at the centre of the system as well as a number of ëemerging markets,í the capital accumulation process is, at the same time, undermined by the growth of large sectors of the world population without any productive capacity or insufficient purchasing power. As we have noted, there are signs that this problem is generating cracks in the very foundation of the system. And, at the political level, it is giving rise to forces of opposition and resistance that are being mobilized against the system and its supports. In all of the leading countries on the Latin American periphery of the US Empire both the status quo and the system itself are under attack.

The current US imperial worldwide offensive, launched in the wake of September 11, faces two types of contradictions with both conjunctural and structural features. First, in regard to the ëwar against international terrorismí the military build-up and campaign against Afghanistan, the Alqeada network, Irak (and possibly Iran, the other threat to US interests in the Gulf region); and, in Latin America, against the FARC-EP and other forces of subversion (ënarco-trafficking,í ëterrorism,í etc.) and opposition to US interests, each projection of military power has resulted in a ëblowbackí (Chalmers, 2000) and over the medium and long-term is very costly; and these costs of necessity will escalate. In this regard, the officials of the US imperial state have not learnt an elemental historical lesson ñ that the military costs of defending the empire sooner or later will undermine, and irrevocably damage, the imperial economy that it is designed to protect. In this connection, it might be expected that an expansion of the military apparatus would dynamise an important sector of the economy ñ the industrial enterprises that service this apparatus. However, this idea is misplaced. The costs of ëdefending the empireí ñ that is, in projecting worldwide the military power of the imperial state ñ will exceed any short-term gains made by any of the enterprises that make up the military-industrial complex.

More profound long-term structural contradictions of the ënew imperialismí are found in the military expansion in a time of deepening economic recession, both locally and worldwide. Military Keynianism ñ increased war spending -- has not and will not reverse the current recession, as few sectors of the economy are affected and the industries such as aerospace that could receive some economic stimulus are hard hit by the recession in the civilian airline market. In addition, the military apparatus of the imperial state is not a cost-efficient service provider, far from it. Expenditures on this apparatus far exceed the immediate benefits to the US-based corporations and has not reversed the tendency towards declining rate of profits or opened up new markets, particularly in the regions of maximum military engagement. Military intervention tens to expand the scale and scope of colonization without increasing returns to capital. Imperial wars tend to undermine non-speculative capitalist investment, even as it symbolically assures overseas investors.

As in Central America, the Balkans and now in Afghanistan and Colombia, the US is more interested in destroying adversaries and establishing client regimes than in large-scale, long-term investments in ëeconomic reconstruction.í After high military spending for conquest, budget priorities have shifted to subsidizing US-based corporations, and lowering taxes for the wealthy: there can be no more ëMarshall Plans.í The US State can no longer afford this possibly successful resolution of economic problems generated by imperial policies in the subjugated areas of ëpre-modern states.í Instead, Washington leaves it to its allies in Europe and Japan to ëclean up the human wreckageí left in the wake of US military actions. Post-war reconstruction does not intimidate possible adversaries; B-52 carpet bombing does.

Any military victory in the present conjuncture leaves unsettled the consolidation of a pro-imperial client regime. Just as the US financed and armed the Islamic fundamentalists in their war against the secular nationalist Afghan regime in 1990 and then withdrew, leading to the ascendancy of the anti-western Taliban regime, last yearís ëvictoryí and subsequent withdrawal is likely to have similar results within the next decade. The gap between the high war-making capacity of the imperial state and its incapacity to revitalize the economies of the conquered nations is a major contradiction.

Another even more serious contradiction is found in the aggressive effort to impose neoliberal regimes and policies when the export markets that they were designed to service are collapsing and external flows of capital are drying up. In this connection, the recession in the US, Japan and the EU has severely damaged the most loyal and subservient neoliberal client-states, particularly in Latin America. The prices of the exports that drive the neoliberal regimes in the region have fallen and in some cases collapsed: exports of coffee, petrol, metals, sugar, as well as textiles, clothes and other goods manufactured in the ëfree trade zonesí have suffered from sharp drops in prices and glutted markets. The US as an imperial power has responded to this by pressing for greater ëliberalismí (free markets) in the South while raising protective tariffs at home and increasing subsidies for exports.  In this connection, tariffs in the Northern imperial countries on imports from the South are four times higher than those on imports from other imperial countries (World Bank, 2002). At the same time (2000, that is) support for agricultural TNCs in the imperial countries was $245 billion in 2000 (Financial Times, Nov. 21, 2001:13). As the World Bank (2002) points out, ëthe share of subsidized exports has even increased [over the past decade] for many products of export interest to developing countries.í

In effect, the neoliberal doctrine of the ëold imperialismí is giving way to the neomercantilist practice of the ënew imperialism.í State policies dictate the structure of economic exchanges and delimit the role of the market -- all to the benefit of the imperial economy. However, the highly restrictive nature of neomercantilist policies tends to polarise the economy between local producers and the imperial state-backed monopolies. While the erosion and destruction of domestic markets under neoliberal policies marginalize large sectors of the economically active population, the collapse of overseas markets negatively affects ëneoliberalí export sectors and weakens the position of the bourgeoisie in the client states of the empire. In this situation, imperial free market policies have threatened to ëkill the goose that lays the golden eggsí ñ creating conditions that make it difficult, if not impossible, for the imperial economy to generate needed ëresource flowsí ñ in the form of interest payments on loans, profit remittances on direct investments, royalty and license fee payments, dividends on portfolio investments, and ëunequal exchangeí as well as trade imbalances (Petras and Veltmeyer, 2001).

In addition to undermining the economies of its client states, the highly visible role of the imperial state in imposing what amounts to a neomercantilist system is politicizing the growing army of unemployed and poorly paid workers, peasants and public employees. Take, for example, the case of Argentina, one of the USí most compliant clients throughout the 1990s. The collapse of both overseas and domestic markets over the past four years has meant less foreign exchange to service foreign debts. In December of 2001, in the throes of the worst economic and political crisis in its history and days after a massive social ëupheavalí of the working and middle classes, the newly formed government announced that it could not and would not service its foreign debt obligations. Fewer exports have also meant a lower capacity to import essential foodstuffs and capital goods to sustain production.  Thus the entire export and free market strategy upon which the whole imperial edifice in Latin America is built has been undermined. Unable to import, countries like Argentina will be forced to produce locally or do without ñ and revert to a domestic market that has been opened up to the forces of ëglobalization.í

However, the definitive rupture with the export-oriented strategy of neoliberal capitalist development and subordination to empire will not come about because of internal contradictions: it requires political intervention. What form shall this intervention take? How has the ësystemí responded to these (structural) contradictions and (political) challenges?  Indications are that rather than, as Hardt and Negri would have it -- the disappearance of imperialism -- it is leading to what some have termed its ërenaissance,í a new form, described by some (Robert Cooper, for example) as ëpost-modern,í and by others (the authors, as it happens) as ëneomercantilism.í

On the New Imperialism in the Post-modern Era ñ Empire Without Imperialism?

Öin dealing with more old-fashioned kinds of states outside the postmodern continent of Europe [and North America] we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era ñ force, preemptive attack, deception, whatever is necessary to deal with those who still live in the nineteenth century world of every state for itself [in the pre-modern world of developing countries]. Among ourselves [post-modern states] we keep the law butÖ in the jungle we must also use the laws of the jungle ñ Robert Cooper, Foreign Policy Advisor of Tony Blair (2000b: 7)

The need for a new form of ëliberalí imperialism has been placed on the agenda on both sides of the Atlantic that separates the post-modern states of Europe and North America. While the Left is caught up and lost in the struggle for and against globalization, the Right is advancing its project to redesign and restore imperialism. Very few have stated the problem as forthrightly and clearly as Robert Cooper and, on the other side of the Atlantic, the journalist Martin Wolf (Financial Times, Oct. 10, 2001: 13) who also sees the need for a ënewí more direct form of ëimperialismí that does not hesitate to use force when and where necessary. In Wolfís words, ëTo tackle the challenge of the failed state [in an impoverished ëthird Worldí] what is needed is not pious aspirations but an honest and organized coercive force.í

For the trilateralists in the foreign Council of Foreign Relations and elsewhere (World Bank, other IFIs and Washington-based Foundations such as the Heritage Foundation) that constituted the Washington Consensus the issue is not imperialism but a better management of the forces of globalization, even if it means a new form of regulating global movements of capital or capital controls (Rodrik, 1997; Soros, 2001; Stiglietz, 1998; Wade and Veneroso, 1998). This is, in fact, the essence of the globalization project, both in its neoliberal and alternative forms. However, for Cooper and others searching for a new post-Washington Consensus what is required is a new form of imperialism that is not circumscribed by ëhumanitarian interventionismí -- the ëtheology of aid for countries seeking to insert themselves into the global economyí (Cooper, 2002). 

This form of ëmultilateral imperialism,í to date led and protagonised by the World Bank and the other members of the ëinternational financial community,í according to Cooper (2002), is predicated on the enlightened (ëhumanitarianí) ëinterferenceí of the international organizations and states that make up the  world of ëpost-modern statesí (the OECD). Such interference has been standard procedure as of the mid 1980s under the globalization project but the rationale for it has been restated in the clearest possible terms by MIT economists Rudiger Dornbusch and Ricardo Caballero in the context of recent developments in Argentina. However, Cooper argues, it is clear enough that the multi- or tri-lateral institutions have been unable to manage the forces of ëglobalizationí ñ to establish the conditions of ëgood governanceí (governability) and thereby prevent the outbreak or to control the forces of resistance and opposition generated by the ëcycle of poverty, instability and violenceí that characterize the ëpre-modern statesí (in the developing world of failed and weak states). ëIf there were other ways of resolving the problem,í (the threat presented by these conditions to the citizens and states [members] of the post-modern and modern world, Cooper notes, the ërenaissance of imperialismí would not have been necessary.

This is clear enough. But it is also clear that ëoverseas development assistanceí has not ëborn fruití and all other efforts to improve conditions for the countries in the pre-modern world of backward states have failed. As a result, Cooper adds, what is needed is a new form of ëcolonialismí and an imperialism that does not hesitate to use force ñ to project power in political and economic forms and military if and where needed ñ but a force that is ëacceptable to all, both weak and strongí (ëthe weak need the strong and the strong need orderí); that rests, in other words, on ëvoluntary acceptanceí or a new consensus (the consent of the governed) ñ or, in Hardt and Negriís (2000) abstracted conception of the search for hegemony, an ëempire without imperialism.í Cooper, in this context, notes that order or stability generally depends on a balance of power ñ a balance in the ëpower of aggressioní -- but that this balance is rare; states in the pre-modern world are generally weak, having lost legitimacy and/or their ëmonopoly in the legitimate use of force.í  In this situation, the state is unable to contain the forces of opposition among ënon-state actorsí which threaten not only stability in these countries but in ëthe post-modern world,í which, in this circumstance,í have the right, and the need, to react ñ to ëdefendí themselves. Thus, the US invasion of Afghanistan, for example. And, for another, the war against ësubversioní in Colombia and elsewhere.

Development and Democracy Within the Empire

In the 1980s, the idea of democracy was advanced in the form of (i) the return to power of civilian elected and constitutional regimes, and the restoration of the electoral mechanism in the transition from one regime to another; (ii) the decentralization of government of services and some powers; and (iii) the strengthening of civil society within the framework of government initiated political and social reforms (Reilley, 1995). In the 1990s, however, in Latin America, the idea of democracy was assumed by the popular movement, initiating ëfrom belowí or within ëcivil society,í on the basis and in the form of social movements and popular or direct (as opposed to liberal and representative) democracy. At the base of these grassroots social movements are urban communities, citizens groups or neighbourhood associations, or, in the rural sector, indigenous communities of peasant farmers. In general these organisations tend to be profoundly detached from what is perceived to be the ëold politicsí ñ a phenomenon mistakenly theorized in diverse contexts as an abandonment of the search for political power and the struggle against the holders of political power (see, for example, Benasayag and Sztulwark, 2000; Holloway, 2001; Negri, 2001). Thus, the EZLN has been conceptualised as ëthe first post-modern movement in historyí (Burbach, 1994). And in similar terms Esteva and Prakash (1998), among others (Escobar and Alvarez, 1992) write of Latin American ënewí social movements in terms of ëgrassroots postmodernism.í There is an element of truth that is misconstrued in these conceptions: the movements that they seek to describe are characterized by an almost fatal distrust of [the old] ëpolitics,í politiciansí and their ëparties.í

Democracy versus Authoritarianism -- Hegemony, Terror and Intimidation

What defines the new imperialism in its most recent offensives is not only unilateralism in the projection of state power but an increased use of its repressive apparatus with an aggressive reliance on military force in ëdefenseí of the empire. However, naked power is always destabilizing. To secure the conditions of order, which, Cooper pointed out, are needed by the powerful, a degree of consensus or hegemony is also needed, and -- in terms analysed by Noam Chomsky -- duly manufactured. Until recently (viz. The War against International Terrorism), such a consensus was generally sought on the basis, and in terms of, a battle of ëdemocracyí against ëinternational communism.í At issue in this ideological struggle was the idea of ëdemocracyí ñ that decision-making power is exercised, directly or indirectly, by ëthe people;í that the holders of power represent the people and are held accountable to them; and that politics take the form of dialogue and negotiation of conflicting interests rather than violent confrontation -- channelling of grievances and demands through forms of ëpeaceful and civil struggleí (UNRISD, 2001).  Alternatively, Bultman and colleagues (1995) write of the emergence in Latin America of ëdemocracy without a social movement.í

In this context, it was even asserted and argued (by ideologues and scholars alike), despite historical evidence to the contrary, that democracy and capitalism in the (neoliberal) form of private enterprise and the free market were intrinsically connected; that the marriage between free markets (capitalism, economic liberalism) and free elections (democracy, political liberalism) was not one of convenience or historic accident but organic (Dominguez and Lowenthal, 1996). Thus, liberal scholars, both political scientists and economists, have theorized that the institutionalization of democracy (political liberalization) would create the necessary or facilitating conditions of capitalist development (political liberalization) or vice versa. Thus, at the level of practice, within the context of euroamerican imperialism in the post second world war, the iron fist of armed force and political repression has often been cloaked with the idea of democracy and a concern for associated ëhuman rights.í However, democracy in this (liberal) form has proven to be a two-edged sword. As Samuel Huntington, a well-known but best forgotten conservative but trilateralist political scientist and author of The Clash of Civilizations, recognized as early as 1974, the year to which the capitalist counter-offensive (and the conservative counterrevolution in development theory and practice) can be traced, that democracy provides conditions under which forces of opposition and resistance can expand and prosper ñ and be mobilized against the system (Huntington, et. al. 1975). The issue, from Huntingtonís view, was the generation of pressures and demands for inclusion that exceeded the institutional capacity of the system and that cannot be accommodated or contained. Thus, in the shared context of conditions under which the globalization project was launched and policies of structural adjustment were implemented, a re-democratisation process in Latin America and elsewhere in the ëthird worldí generated widespread forces of opposition to, and resistance against, the projects of globalization and imperialism.

How have the guardians of economic and political order responded to the threat of organized and mobilized forces of resistance and opposition? The record here is clear, particularly as relates to the current regime headed by George W. Bush. Whenever and wherever the institution of democracy has proven to be dysfunctional for the system -- in securing hegemony -- it is jettisoned. Thus, in the 1960s and 1970s the US State either invaded, otherwise intervened or sponsored military coups against one democratically elected constitutional regime in Latin America after another. In this projection of political power a democratic faÁade was nevertheless maintained (for example, President Johnsonís congratulation of the Brazilian military in 1964, hours after their coup against the democratically elected nationalist Goulart regime, for ërestoring democracyí). However, where and when necessary this faÁade is dropped, as, for example, it was in recent efforts of the US State to orchestrate a civilian-military coup against the democratically elected Chavez regime in Venezuela. The coup failed largely as a result of a mass popular uprising in support of Chavez who had been removed from power and held in detention, prior to being forced to leave the country. But a significant feature of the dynamics preceding and surrounding the coup was the behaviour and position of the US administration. The coup was without doubt a rupture of the democratic institutionality to which the US State pays rhetorical homage and which the OAS is committed to protect. But it is just as clear that the US itself engineered the coup attempt through the agency of a right-wing coalition of groups and organizations, the machinations of its ambassador and other US officials, and a part of Venezuelaís Armed Forces. However, the US was totally isolated within the OAS in refusing to see the attempted coup as a rupture with democracy, and in viewing Chavez as the author of his own misfortune.

Despite the lies and counter images projected by both the mass media inside Venezuela, a major source of anti-government agitation, and the US media, generally an instrument of imperial doublespeak, it was transparently clear that the US State sponsored this as so many other antidemocratic actions in the region and was its architect. No one outside the White House, and likely no one inside, believed for a moment in the weak and failed efforts of the US State to put a democratic gloss on the attempted military coup in Venezuela. As with the lukewarm and failed efforts of George W. Bush to manufacture popular or political consent for its imperialist project, viz. the projection of military power in the form of a fight against the ëaxis of evil,í this particular effort to hide the relations of power and to obfuscate the issues involved did not work. No one believes in it.

Atilio BorÛn, a well-known Argentine political sociologist, among other analysts, has drawn the not surprising but important conclusion from this and other such failures that ëUS imperialism might be powerful but not omnipotent.í  The matter is not only of the limits of political and military power but of the capacity of the US imperial state to secure ëhegemonyí over the system. In this regard, it is clear enough that despite support from the mass media for the its anti-terrorist campaign the US imperial state is moving towards a serious legitimation crisis, which perhaps helps explain the lack of apparent concern, in Bushí administration of the empire, to maintain a democratic faÁade for his policies. An appeal to respect for human rights and democracy is simply no longer functional or necessary in the new world order called for by Bush the elder and being brought about by Bush junior.

Anti-globalization or Anti-Imperialism?

Despite its global extension and its ability to mobilize forces of resistance against, and opposition to, the agenda (and neoliberal program) of global corporate capital the AGM is very limited in its capacity to derail the system ñ or to induce the radical reforms that would be needed to implement its agenda of ëcreating another (that is, better) world ñ of social justice, greater equity and more democracy.í Adam Morton (2001), a political scientist from Wales, interprets this situation metaphorically by questioning whether the AGM can best be viewed as a ëjuggernautí (ëa vehicle on an inexorable path toward consolidating particular social, political and economic prioritiesí) or as a ëjalopyí (ëwhose direction is openly contested and that may even be subject to breakdowní) and, as such, a ëpresumptious pebbleí (Singer, 1999). However, in realistic rather than metaphorical terms, the AGM can better be viewed as a vehicle that is not going anywhere fast and will likely stall or be derailed rather than overpower the globalization project. The major reasons for this include the fact that the theorists and activists of the AGM misconstrue the nature or scope of the problem (fail to see it as systemic) and are unwilling to directly confront the formidable forces mobilized in support of the globalization project with the equally (if potential) formidable forces of opposition and resistance at the disposal of this project. It is not recognized that at issue is a class war waged on a global scale in diverse theatres and with a growing concentration of armed force -- and all of the instrumentalities of an imperial state in control of the enemy. The fact is, the globalization project is part of an ideological counter-offensive in a class war that has been waged by capital against labour at different levels and in different forms since the early 1970s (Pizarro and Crouch, 1978; Davis, 1984). A politics of peaceful resistance, dialogue and partnerships, and other forms of ëcivilí responses will not change the structure of the system or emancipate working people.

The only way to bring about the end and transformation of the capitalist system is to directly confront the structure of political, economic and military power and to mobilize the forces of resistance and opposition against this structure ñ and the imperialist project. What is needed is not an anti-globalization but an anti-imperialist movement ñ the mobilization of forces of opposition and resistance against capitalism in its current form; to exploit the opportunities made available by the contradictions of this system. The point is that any given structure -- and the structure of the new imperialism no less -- provides not only challenges and ëconstraintsí but both opportunities and resources for effective action. This is perhaps the one useful insight achieved by Anthony Giddens, architect of the ëthird wayí towards political change, in his various theoretical constructions ñ his ërestructurationí theory and that of the consequences of ëmodernityí (Giddens, 1990).

Organising for Change: Opportunities for the Left within the Empire

US imperialism in its recent and current offensive and counter-offensives is far from omnipotent and, as we have noted, is fraught with contradictions that are generating forces of opposition and resistance.

In terms of these ëcontradictions,í what then are the organizational forms of possible or effective opposition and resistance against the US counter-offensive in the current context of neoliberal capitalist development and neoimperialism ñ in the conjuncture of the general and specific conditions of the situation in which people in Latin America find themselves today?  Unfortunately, several decades of sociological and political studies into the dynamics of these social movements have yielded little information and fewer ideas. Nevertheless, a review of these movements suggests that they have been formed in three distinct but overlapping ëwavesí of organized resistance.

The first wave hit Latin America in the late 1970 and the early to mid 1980s in the context of a region-wide debt crisis, a re-democratisation process and the implementation of the ënew economic modelí of macroeconomic stabilisation and structural adjustment measures.  It took the form of what appeared to some as a ënew social movementí that brought onto the centre stage of resistance and opposition new ësocial actorsí in the urban areas (Assies, 1990; CalderÛn, 1985; CalderÛn and JelÌn, 1987; Castells, 1983; Slater, 1985). The social or civic organizations at the base of these movements were formed around concern over a wide range of specific issues that ranged from day to day survival and the predations of military dictatorship to respect for human rights, the environment and the situation of women, as well as the search for human dignity and social or cultural ëidentityí (CalderÛn, 1995; Escobar and Alvardez, 1992; Esteva and Prakash, 1998; Scott, 1990). It involved both grassroots, community-based and civic organizations that sought not social transformation but redress of a wide range of specific concerns and the expansion of local spaces within the existing structure ñ a direct rather than liberal form of democracy. These so-called ënew social movementsí dominated the urban landscape in the late 1980s but the social forces which they had mobilised by and large had dissipated at the turn of the next decade. Only recently, have some analysts detected their reappearance in the popular assemblies and social movements formed by diverse neighbourhood associations and groups of unemployed workers in the poor barrios of Buenos Aires and other urban centres in Argentina. According to the theorists of this socio-political ëdevelopmentí ñ a group of sociologists, political scientists and philosophers with a ëpost-modernist, non-or post-structuralist optic -- these movements are ënewí in that are totally disenchanted with ëpolitics as practiced to date (°Que se Vayan Todos!) and that in their practice they seek a new way of ëdoing politics,í not in the pursuit of power but, on the contrary, a ëcounter-powerí (Benasayag and Sztulwark, 2000; Colectivo de Situaciones, 2000; Holloway, 2000; Negri, 2000).

A second wave of more anti-systemic movements was formed by associations of peasant producers and indigenous communities in the late 1980s. In the 1990s, however, these peasant-based ñ and led -- sociopolitical movements took their struggle to the cities and urban centres, mobilizing, in the process, other forces of opposition and resistance to both government policy and the broader system behind it. One of the earliest movements established in this process is the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil. Although currently facing a serious counter-offensive by the government, the MST has managed to maintain one of the most dynamic social movements in Latin America, occupying and settling on the land in the process of fifteen years of struggle and direct action, upwards of 400,000 families since 1995; and organising agricultural production on this land ëexpropriatedí from its owners in the landed oligarchy. Other such sociopolitical organizations with both its social based and leadership in the peasantry or indigenous communities in the rural society include: the ConfederaciÛn Nacional IndÌgena de Ecuador (CONAIE); the EjÈrcito Zapatista de LiberaciÛn Nacional (EZLN); the ConfederaciÛn Nacional Campesino de Paraguay (CNC); the Cocaleros of Bolivia; and, to some extent, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionario de Colombia-EjÈrcito de Pueblo (FARC-EP), which, as noted above, unlike the other ënew peasant sociopolitical movementsí formed in this second wave, was formed much earlier ñ in the 1960s.

As of the mid 1990s it has been possible to identify the emergence of a third wave of sociopolitical movements formed in opposition to both government policies and against the ësystem.í  In this case, the social base of the movement is found in the urban working class, restructured under conditions of ëproductive transformationí (technological conversion) and structural adjustments in government policy under the ënew economic model.í The working class, formed in this process by and large, and increasingly, is located not in factories and plants in diverse centres of industrial production; nor in government offices, but in the streets under conditions of marginality (precarious forms of employment), social exclusion, unemployment, low income and poverty. Nowhere has this process advanced to the point that it has in Argentina, with an uninterrupted and deepening crisis in production that has already lasted four years, rates of unemployment that exceed 20 percent in official statistics ñ in many areas from 30 to 60 percent -- and over half of the population subsisting on incomes below conservatively defined poverty lines.

In response to the objectively defined and experienced conditions of the failed attempts by the government to insert the national economy into the process of ëglobalization,í to position itself advantageously in the New World Order, a broad array of workers, both unemployed and unemployed, have taken their antigovernment/anti-systemic struggle into the streets, with a combination of strikes, plant takeovers, demonstrations and marches on government buildings, and, most importantly, the tactic of ëcortas de rutaí ñ cutting off, with barricades and pickets (piquetes), road and highway access. In 1997, under conditions of an impending production crisis there were on average eleven ëcortas de rutaí or ëpiquetesí a month; by 1999 this number had doubled while in 2002 it climbed to an estimated 70 or so a month. The piqueteros have clearly established themselves as a beachhead at the crest of a new wave of Leftist opposition and sociopolitical movements directed against government policies and against the system (US imperialism), which they see to be behind it. Whether this movement can advance on the rising tide of this wave, or whether the social forces of opposition that it has mobilised will once more be dissipated in the ebb and flow of struggle remains to be seen.  The organizational and political challenges involved are considerable, perhaps unsurmountable. But they certainly will not be surmounted in the new politics of anti-power, dissolving as it does in thought the political dynamics of the existing power structure. At the same time, there is little to no doubt that the new social movements formed in the second and third ëwaveí of Leftist or anti-systemic opposition have greater mobilising capacity and political potential than the ëjuggernautí (or ëjalopyí) of the Anti-Globalization Movement.  The struggle against imperialism needs of necessity take an anti-imperialist form.


Globalization, often presented as an irresistible force, is a scam. For one thing, it is designed as an ideology and as such, does not explain ëwhat is going on;í rather, it serves to direct action towards an end desired by the apologists, and supporters, of the existing system. In this connection, the Anti-Globalization Movement, notwithstanding its considerable capacity to mobilize intellectual and political forces of opposition and resistance, in political terms is very limited. Much more significant in these terms are the sociopolitical movements being formed in the countryside and urban centres of Latin America and elsewhere on the ëperipheryí of the world capitalist system. Imperial policies, in fact, are undermining and weaken ing the middle classes in these societies and polarizing them between the propertied and the working classes ñ what Hardt and Negri choose to term ëthe multitudeí ñ and between the forces of reaction and sociopolitical movements for revolutionary change. Some of these movements are community-based or formed by grassroots forms of organization. However, the most significant of these movements have to be understood in class terms: as involved in a class war, a struggle that is waged worldwide, in diverse contexts, between capital and labour ñ between member organizations and individuals of the capitalist class and the mass of direct producers and workers that make up the bulk of the worldís economically active population.

To gauge the weight and dynamism of the forces for evolutionary or revolutionary change, that is, for social or systemic transformation, and to appreciate what these forces are up against, the notion of ëglobalizationí should be abandoned. More useful in this connection is to conceive of world developments in terms of ëneoimperialism,í a project designed and put into effect by agents of the system. In the projection of imperial power the international capitalist class has at its disposal diverse instruments and institutions, most notably the state apparatus in the US and the EC, and to some extent, Japan. The US state is the major power within this system, both in economic and political, as well as military, terms. Notwithstanding evidence of a continuing inter-imperialist rivalry, and of the manifest difficulties experienced by the US in the search for ëgood governanceí and hegemony, US imperialism remains a powerful force.

But US imperialism is by no means omnipotent. Indeed, the entire system is rift by a series of contradictory developments that provide the Left both space and ëopportunitiesí for successful political intervention. The question is whether the Left is positioned to take advantage of these opportunities or what form political organization and action should take? The answer to this question is not clear but this is a major challenge for the Left ñ to assess, and help mobilize, the available forces for change. To this end, the Left needs to escape ëthe old politicsí of sectarian partisanship in the struggle for political power without, at the same time, succumbing to the virus of postmodernism or otherwise falling in the trap of the ënew politicsí ñ the struggle for democracy and the politics of identity. At issue are class power and systemic transformation.


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