[10 July 2001]

Form and Content

By Robin Goodfellow.


'The strength of the anti-globalisation movement so far has been its diversity and complementarity,' says El Viejo. This is very true. Of course, this inevitably implies a wide diversity of views and conceptions of what the movement is for and how its aims should be achieved. But El Viejo's discussion of the problem of violence and non-violence, which contains much tactical wisdom, completely separates the question of the 'form of struggle' from the aims of struggle. El Viejo underlines the problem when he identifies those who advocate violent confrontation as 'the revolutionaries', while labelling the peaceful protestors as 'the reformists'. It makes me wonder just what he thinks a revolution is.

Yes, the days of Leninist monolithism are long gone. We don't want the imposition of a 'line'. But the whole point of the many sides of the movement coming together in action is lost if nobody dares to talk about his or her views, in case someone else is offended. I know there are people calling themselves 'anarchists' who protest at any discussion of aims. In another part of the forest, the Monbiots and Kleins present themselves as the thinkers of the movement, while making clear that their aim is not to get rid of the transnationals, but to embarrass them into behaving nicely and allowing themselves to be 'regulated'.

Maybe El Viejo will protest that he wasn't concerned with such general matters, but just with the question of violence, ahead of the Genoa demonstrations. But look at the ecstatic welcome given to his letter by Goblin. He sees the question of means and the coordination of people with different ends in mind as the central problem of the project for a new world'. 'How do we solve this problem of coordination of individual freedoms? How do we approach the problem of unity within difference? Posing THIS question is to make a gigantic leap,' he enthuses, 'because it means talking and practising the future in the present, a talk and practice of new social relations now.' He even manages to show that El Viejo's contribution is equivalent to a quote from Marx's 1844 Manuscripts.

Yes, the refusal of the movement to separate the form of a future society from the form of struggle today is indeed a major advance over previous struggles. But is this sufficient to clarify our aims? I don't believe it. The exploitation and oppression against which people are demonstrating with anger and sometimes with violence are not to be explained by the personal greed of a few tycoons, or the psychological make-up of their military servants. They are the expression of the institution of private property in its most modern form. And to avoid saying so, with a few phrases about 'neo-liberalism' threatens to destroy the wonderful achievements of the movement.

Yes, we must continue to respect each other's views, but we must at the same time open up the discussion of all the socio-economic diseases which underlie the immediate symptoms in which they show themselves. The way El Viejo and Goblin present their contributions tends to hold back this discussion.