Notes and Reflections on the symposium ‘Acts of Resistance against Globalisation from the South’ Turkish Social Science Association, Ankara, 5-7 September, 2005.

The Turkish Social Science Association held an international symposium on “Acts of Resistance against Globalisation from the South” in Ankara between the fifth and the seventh of September 2005. The organisers set the objective of the symposium as an attempt to discuss and exchange experiences on “intellectual, academic, political and social acts of resistance to the domination of capital taking place at the periphery of the imperialist system”. It was the understanding of the organisers that the process of so-called globalisation or changes taking place under the rubric of “neo-liberal policies or transformations” would be better defined as the attempt to implement the full, limitless domination of capital on our societies.

At the opening session it was emphasised that a discussion on “acts of resistance against globalisation” would have been impossible a decade ago when so-called globalisation seemed to be the only destiny for human beings in the near and far future and any act of resistance to the inevitable process was ridiculed, considered totally irrelevant and futile. Since then times have changed. At the intellectual and, partly, academic levels, resistance to “established wisdom” resulted in neo-liberal recipes losing their respectability and it is now the “TINA” slogan which sounds ridiculous. Bourgeois academics have been re-discovering Marx and even the World Bank experts are borrowing (without reference) Marxian theories of the state (e.g. “crony capitalism” or “capture of the state by oligarchic groups”) But, more importantly, a younger generation of left intellectuals from the South are analysing their societies and the world in a critical and creative manner. The ugly face of American imperialism has facilitated their task.

Social resistance is taking place in an effective manner through internationalisation of the anti-globalisation movements and, more importantly, at the domestic-national levels. Limits of resistance to imperialism and international capital by domestic ruling groups are becoming more and more clear. Popular classes have shown that their struggle against the limitless domination of capital can topple governments or hinder the implementation of neo-liberal programs. However, the capacity of working people to carry their aspirations to the political arena and to induce societal change is confronting serious barriers.

The foregoing observations, more or less, defined the framework of the symposium discussions which followed. There was one consistent theme running across all the lectures and debates: globalisation is the intensified practice of imperialism and, because it is a universal phenomenon, there has to be international cooperation, coordination and exchange of experience in resistance. As the new international accumulation dynamic shifts from a policy of ‘beggar thy neighbour’ to ‘beggar your own working class,’ the contradictions inherent in the hierarchical international division of labour have to be challenged by a collective platform of working people everywhere in the world. While growing economic disparities tend to create divisions among the victims of international capital, the exigencies of social and political struggle demands ever greater unity among them.

From the worker-operated factories in Argentina and the anti-privatisation movement in Turkey to the new phenomenon of housing cooperatives in China and Indian women’s resistance to commodification of marital relations, the momentum against the rule of capital is building. Whereas for most of the twentieth century the industrial working class was concentrated in the developed world, between 1980 and 2000, the industrial working class in the third world grew by about two-fold. Sweatshop labour market conditions in the developing world have contributed to raising corporate profits to their highest levels during the last decade of the last century. Capital’s ability to relocate production around the world expands the private appropriation of the gains from the development of productive forces, and from the exploitation of labour in the underdeveloped countries.

Global capital does not hesitate to aggressively encroach on and even re-colonise societies. To rephrase Marx, there is more ‘blood and fire’ in shifting primitive capitalist accumulation to the underdeveloped world. Globally as well, the absolute general law of capitalist development is in evidence: as technological progress creates the potential for universal emancipation from want, it also creates unemployment and misery by displacing workers, evicting peasants and forcing all toilers to accept worsening living and working conditions.

Globalization is not the simple extension of capitalism to the Third World, because capitalist social relations have existed in the Third World for more than a century. The current process of globalization gears up less productive capital in the ‘developing’ world to the requirements of its accumulation by extra-economic and, at times, violent means –thus, in certain respects, reproducing the pattern of the nineteenth century. The pace of uneven development and disparities in incomes and living conditions increases accumulation in both the core and in the periphery, and the violence that underlies it. The principal contradiction of capitalism, which appears now as the contradiction between globally socialised production and its private appropriation, is intensifying. A systematic onslaught of capital is taking place against the social and economic acquisitions of working people, both in the North and in the South, realised through class struggles and national liberation movements since the nineteenth century. The more aggressive this onslaught, the more subservient the states become to the rule of capital.

The so-called ‘war on terror’, a close kin of the war on Iraq, amounts to an assault on civil liberties and a display of brutal force to psychologically subjugate the working peoples around the world. For the US empire propped by the trinity of guns, oil and the dollar, dollarizing and controlling oil provides it with a stranglehold on imperial rivals in the core and rising powers in the ‘developing’ world. Global financial integration and dollarization allow the US to continue to enjoy budget and external balance deficits, borrow in its own currency and engage in imperialist aggression. The US has become a liability to the global financial system and global capital is, once more, looking for a soft landing.

The unthinkable withdrawal from Gaza of the Israeli army, the triumphs of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela, Iran’s insistence on its sovereign right to pursue peaceful nuclear research, the resilience of the Cuban people under the US trade embargo are vital signs to note in the struggle against the imperialist intervention and aggression. The disappointing experience in some countries demonstrates that the widespread grassroots organization and mobilization of the masses is essential to any substantial change in state policies. The ballot-box is no subsitute for mass political mobilization.

Supporting the struggle of the Iraqi people for national liberation should be one of the foremost current concerns of the international working class. It is impossible for the US to achieve its political ends in Iraq. The Iraqi people have experienced and are still undergoing untold suffering from the first Gulf War, the UN-imposed embargo, and the invasion and current occupation. But they are seasoned from their anti-British colonial struggle and sustained by various forms of social bonds. The crimes of the US army mount and now, similar to the Vietnam War, the US is threatening to extend the war to neighbouring states, Syria and Iran, and enlisting its local ally Israel in its aggression.

As the contrast between the potential for universal human prosperity and the demeaning social existence of toilers under the dictate of capital grows ever sharper, working people and progressives around the world face the options of surrendering to the present social order based on competition, greed and exploitation, or of demolishing it to build a new world based on the universal human values of egalitarianism, solidarity, cooperation and freedom.