Beating Back the Corporate Attack: Socialism and the Struggle for Global Justice
by Chris Clement, Dan LaBotz, Stephanie Luce, and Charlie Post
A new movement has emerged in the United States over the last few years: the move-ment against corporate domination of the international economy. In place of decision-making by an international economic and political elite dominated by the multinational banks and corporations, the new movement demands democratic decision-making in re-gard to issues affecting the environment and workers' rights; it implicitly calls for a new set of cultural and social values. We want to put people before profits and human rights be-fore corporate power.
While many activists had been working on trade issues for years, the movement first burst onto the U.S. public scene with the Seattle demonstrations that shut down the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in November 1999. Almost 50,000 people, about 40,000 labor union members and 10,000 environmentalists and other young activists, en-gaged in nonviolent direct action that halted one of the world's most important economic meetings. The demonstrators were protesting corporate control of the economy through undemocratic institutions like the WTO, leading to the violation of workers' rights and the destruction of the environment.
The unity at those demonstrations of Teamsters and turtles (some of the environmental-ists had dressed as turtles) and of Steelworkers and students represented a powerful new alliance. The protests showed that when young environmental activists joined with the la-bor movement, especially those elements willing to defy their leaders and join civil disobe-dience, the alliance challenged the status quo and its mantra that "there is no alternative" to corporate domination. The movement continued when 10,000 protestors disrupted the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meeting in Washington, D.C. in April 2000.
Other protests at the meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Windsor, Canada, in the spring, and at the Republican and Democratic conventions in Philadelphia and Los Angeles in the summer of 2000, organized around the new movement's demands for democracy, protection of the environment, and workers' rights. The demonstrations at the two conventions also took up a broad array of social issues including the growth of poverty, police brutality, prisons and racism here at home.
On September 11 the Asia Pacific Summit of the World Economic Forum meeting in Mel-bourne, Australia was blockaded by 15,000 including members of two militant trade un-ions. As in the Seattle, the trade unions confined their protest to a march and rally. Sharan Burrow, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions circumvented the blockade in order to attend the summit. Mostly recently, the movement took to the streets of Prague on September 26, again disrupting the meetings of the IMF and forcing them to end the meeting early.
Many organizations have joined together to build the new movement from the United Stu-dents Against Sweatshops (USAS) to those working for freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal. We have seen the AFL-CIO, the federation of most of the labor unions of the United States, join with groups such as the Rainforest Action Network (RAN). The Citizens Trade Campaign based in Washington, D.C. has provided ideas, and Global Exchange in San Francisco has helped to provide organization. Recently, young advocates of civil disobe-dience against the meetings of the corporate rulers and their political spokespersons have formed the Direct Action Network (DAN). The movement has grown broader and more ethnically diverse, largely through the efforts of youth of color organized in groups such as the Third Eye Movement among many others. Organizations like Art and Revolution have brought song, dance and their giant puppets to the protests. Seldom has there been a movement uniting so many diverse organizations into a common force to change the eco-nomic and political direction not only of the country, but also of the planet.
What is this new movement fighting against? First our movement has opposed the political and corporate elites' domination of the world's economy. The world's most powerful corpo-rations and a handful of government officials from the wealthiest nations tend to dominate WTO, the IMF, and the World Bank. Those organizations have overseen the establish-ment of a "free trade" economy that has brought wealth to a small percentage of the world's population while millions of children starve. It has robbed millions of land and jobs, condemning them to poverty while destroying social support systems and threatening bio-diversity. It has created enclaves of greenery while the world's rainforests have been de-stroyed, threatening the future of the planet.
Second, we oppose the tendency in almost every country in the world toward corporate control of governments, as well as controlling advertising and bankrolling elections. These organizations make their decisions in fundamentally undemocratic ways, selecting elite representatives to participate in the WTO, IMF and World Bank meetings. A small corpo-rate elite thus controls the world's economic development--and controls the future of all of us.
Our movement is calling for a new direction. We call for democratic control of our political life, and we call for democratic control over the most important aspects of the economy. Why should a handful of the super-rich run the planet, and, moreover, run it into the ground? At the same time, we have to ask ourselves some questions. What is it we want from this new movement? Where is it heading? What sort of goals do we have? What sort of society do we want to live in? How can we get there?
QUESTIONS RAISED BY THE NEW MOVEMENT
This pamphlet attempts to answer some of the questions raised by this new movement. Specifically, we will explore the important issues listed below:
- What does it mean to be anti-corporate? Most of the people involved in the new movement share the feeling that corporations have too much power. But does that mean legally regulating corporations will solve the problems we are fighting against or must we abolish the system that gave birth to the corporation?
- What is democracy? What exactly does it mean to call for more democracy in the way the global economy is run? Being a so-called democratic society hasn't helped us in the United States, so what kinds of specific changes do we have in mind?
- Can we really win real social change? How do we go about building this movement so that it grows and has more power to enact the types of changes we want? What kinds of organizations should we build, and what types of tactics are useful?
- What types of groups are building this movement? Are the coalitions staying together between the protests? How can we encourage more alliances to form?
- Building a multiracial coalition is difficult, and the early protests in Seattle and Wash-ington D.C. did not do a good job of incorporating people of color into the protests. How do we build a movement that includes people of color as both leaders and active participants?
These are the kinds of questions on the minds of everyone involved in this new move-ment, and many have developed good answers to some of them. We hope that this pam-phlet can raise some ideas and generate further discussion. We believe our socialist per-spective can help move this discussion forward.
CORPORATIONS AND CAPITALISM
Most of us involved in the movement against corporate globalization understand the role of large, transnational corporations in shaping today's world politics and economics. These corporations, in their search for the greatest profits, have despoiled the environment, trampled on the rights of workers and poor people here at home and abroad, and channel government policies to their own interests. Quite reasonably, most of us see these huge, private enterprises as our main enemies.
Some folks in the anti-corporate globalization movement believe that corporations, not the capitalist system that created them, are the problem. They argue that corporations need to be regulated with limits placed on their ability to pollute the environment, produce unsafe products, move abroad in search of low-wage labor and bust unions. We agree that the government should regulate capitalism to stop some of its abuses. But we don't think regulation can end our problems because corporations will still seek to maximize profits at our expense. We have to get at the root of things, which is capitalism itself. The corpora-tions are merely the most recent forms of capitalist enterprise, not some radical departure from an early era of "noncorporate" capitalism.
To understand capitalism, you have to start with the conflict between workers and em-ployers. Workers create the vast majority of accumulated wealth. In the words of the old labor song, "Solidarity Forever": "It is we who plowed the prairies, built the cities where they trade, dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid." Yet the capitalists control this productive wealth (land, machinery, offices, transportation). Capital-ism sets up work in a way that ensures workers will create goods and services far beyond the value of what we take home in wages and benefits. It is this "unpaid labor" that is the source of all profit in capitalist society.
Without the workers, there are no profits, no huge salaries for managers and executives, and no new investment. To increase profits, capitalists must get workers to work as long and as hard as possible--for as little as possible. Any improvement for workers, in pay or working conditions, must come out of profits--and vice versa. Because the bosses' gains are the workers' losses, the interests of capitalists and workers are fundamentally op-posed. Try as they might--and many have--no one can wish away this basic conflict of in-terests.
Capitalists invest with only one goal in mind--to make the greatest possible profits. To maximize profits, they must minimize costs. The basic way capitalists try to lower costs is by lowering the cost of human labor. They do this in various ways: reorganizing work into simple repetitive tasks, replacing relatively well paid with relatively inexpensive workers, and the introduction of labor-saving machinery. While capitalists have always lowered costs on the backs of workers, they have been particularly aggressive about reorganizing work in the last two decades. What many of us call "lean production" has taken the logic of deskilling work, lowering wages and technical innovation to a new level. Much of what we call corporate globalization today is the internationalization of lean production's drive to lower labor costs and raise capitalist profits. Work previously done by unionized workers in the industrialized countries has been "outsourced" and is now done by non-union workers at home and abroad. International outsourcing has created corporate organized cross-border "production chains" that utilize cheap labor in the developing world to produce parts and do assembly labor.
Capitalists also want to end costly taxes and regulation. Where government regulations limit environmental pollution, require the payment of minimum wages or require ending racial and gender discrimination in employment, they raise capitalist costs and lower prof-its. Not surprisingly, capitalists in the United States have been dismantling government regulations since the late 1970s. In the 1990s, the so-called "free trade" agreements and the creation or strengthening of international organizations dedicated to removing all bar-riers to transnational corporations' search for the lowest cost production sites globalizes the capitalists' drive to free themselves from costly government regulation. "Neo-liberalism"-the dismantling of all political regulation of transnational corporations-is simply the state policy side of "lean production." Together, they represent the latest form of the capitalists' age-old struggle to increase profits at the expense of the working people and the environment.
It's not greed that drives capitalists to get the biggest bang for their buck (although greed there is aplenty). Competition is the disciplining force that requires each and every capital-ist to minimize costs and maximize returns. Lowering prices is the main way companies compete with one another. The company that can offer the same quality product for a lower price (or a higher quality product for the same price) wins; that company increases its share of the market and makes more profits. If management decides to raise its work-ers' wages or improve their conditions, the company's costs go up. The company will not be able to offer its product for a competitive price; it will lose market share and make less profit than its competitors. No one will invest in a business that is not making a good profit, so the company's source of money for new investments, needed to buy more efficient ma-chines and computers, dries up. Any capitalist who loses money--or even one who makes a lower profit rate than others-faces the possibility of going bankrupt.
Competition and the drive to maximize profits necessarily lead to twenty-five to thirty year periods of capitalist growth (like the one that began in the late 1930s and ended in the late 1960s), and to equally long periods of capitalist crisis and stagnation. Beginning in the late 1960s, profits on new investments began to fall and domestic and global competition be-tween capitalists intensified. Capitalists in the United States and the rest of the world launched an offensive against labor in both the workplace and politically, in the hopes of restoring profitability. After twenty years of union busting, deregulation, and cuts in social services, capitalists in the United States were able to impose lean production and restore profitability. The ability of U.S. capitalists to maintain and generalize this recovery to the other advanced capitalist countries requires the globalization of lean production and neo-liberalism--continued and intensified attacks on working people internationally. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the recovery of the 1990s has led to increased inequality, poverty, and environmental destruction around the world.
The fundamental dynamics of capitalism impel corporations to act as they do--maximizing profits at the expense of workers, communities and the environment. While reforms and government regulations have placed some limits on capitalists, mass struggles of working and oppressed people were required to impose these restrictions on profitability and ac-cumulation. Capitalism's unavoidable crises make these reforms and regulations unstable. Ultimately, only the destruction of capitalism through a revolutionary mass movement of workers and other oppressed people will free humanity from corporate capitalist plunder of the world.
DEMOCRACY: WHAT DO WE WANT?Democracy comes from the Greek words "demos" or people and "cracy" or power, so de-mocracy is "people power" or the "power of the people." Yet in what the politicians and the media refer to as "western-style democracies," most people have little power, while a small corporate elite has most of the power. How did this sort of elite political power de-velop?
Throughout most of recorded human history, economic elites have dominated political power. But it wasn't always that way. Anthropologists and historians tell us that very early societies often had democratic institutions such as tribal councils and shared what little wealth there was.
But since the development of agriculture about 10,000 years ago, the group that controlled the wealth has dominated most societies. In ancient times kings and noblemen used their military and political power--their control of arms and governments--to control land and la-bor. The Greeks and the Romans sometimes talked about "democracy," but their elite democracy rested upon a vast system of slavery. Even before the European conquests beginning in the fifteenth century, class-divided societies developed in many other parts of the world. For example, warrior and noble landowning classes ruled over peasant farmers and artisan laborers in Imperial China and India, in the West African empire of the Ashan-tis, and in the Mayan and Incan kingdoms in what is today Central America and Peru. In the European Middle Ages too, the landlord was also the ruler. Early democracy and communism gave way to the rise of landlord ruling classes that held all power, while the slaves, serfs, and bondsmen had none.
In the aftermath of the peasant revolts of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and the rise of world trade in the sixteenth century, a new kind of economic power appeared in first in northwestern Europe: capital. Rather than relying on political or military office to main-tain control of land, tools and labor, capitalists competed on the market, introducing new technology and accumulating vast wealth. These capitalists who owned the land and fac-tories gradually became the most powerful, more powerful than the nobility. New conflicts developed between those who held the economic power--the capitalist farmers, manufac-turers and merchants--and those who held the political power-the monarchs.
The capitalist class began to press for political power. Around the capitalists had grown up another group with less money but often with great talent and who depended upon or worked for the wealthy--preachers, lawyers, and journalists, sometimes called the petty bourgeoisie. That group began to demand that the old nobles give up their power to the people: they began to demand democracy. The lawyers and journalists found an audience for their ideas among the artisans, workers, and the poor who also wanted a voice in society.
The demand for democracy eventually led to a series of revolutions in which the capitalist class and its entourage of lawyers and journalists inspired artisans, workers, the urban poor and farmers to overthrow the "ancien regime," the old government, and create a de-mocracy. In England the revolution took place between 1640 and 1688, in France in 1789 to 1796, in the United States from 1776 to 1791. In each country a new political system was established, and at its heart was a legislature, congress or parliament where elected representatives made the laws of the land.
But a conflict then developed within each of these societies over who should have the right to serve in the legislature and who had the right to vote. The capitalists, the bour-geoisie, expected that they alone should choose and be the representatives, while arti-sans, workers, small farmers and the urban poor all thought that they too should have a voice in government. As one Frenchman said at the time, "We didn't overthrow the king to put capital in power." Because in fact the capitalists came to control the government, we sometimes call these the "bourgeois democratic revolutions."
But people chafed against the capitalists' rule. The result was more than a century of struggles over the question of who should vote. In the United States for example, after the American Revolution of 1776 and the final adoption of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in 1791, most states (which set the rules) established that only white men who owned property could vote. Most of those who could vote were rich merchants and farm-ers. Women, African American slaves and free people, and white workers were all denied the right to vote in the American "democracy." The situation was worse in England, and almost as bad in France.
Winning democracy for the majority required a series of tremendous social struggles. White male workers in the North won the right to vote well before their European counter-parts through mass movements like Dorr's Rebellion--a near insurrection in Rhode Island in 1842. The Abolitionist movement, slave rebellions and resistance, and the mass flight of slaves during the Civil War finally destroyed southern slavery. Radical southern state gov-ernment, representing an alliance of freed blacks and poor whites, established universal male suffrage regardless of race. The Women's Suffrage Movement from the 1840s to 1917 won the vote for women. Finally, the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s restored the right to vote for African Americans in the South, who had been disenfran-chised in the 1890s.
In the meantime, however, capital was also consolidating its power. The second Industrial Revolution between 1870 and 1920 led to the creation of a powerful new economic or-ganization: the corporation. Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and J.P. Morgan es-tablished powerful corporations and banks that came to dominate American economic life. And almost immediately the corporations moved to take control of government as well. The corporations dominated the political parties, choosing the candidates that would rep-resent their interests and carry out their policies.
The Great Depression of 1929 represented a crisis for corporate capitalism, but Franklin D. Roosevelt saved the day. Roosevelt realigned the Democratic Party, making it possible for the corporate elite to garner support from the labor unions, from immigrant workers, and from African American voters in the northern cities. Roosevelt used Keynesian deficit spending to create public works programs, created the modern American welfare state with the Social Security system, and then led the nation into a second World War to de-termine who would control the world economy: Germany and Japan or England and the United States. Roosevelt not only saved the U.S. capitalism from radical challenges, but also secured U.S. corporations' dominant position in the world economy.
How do corporations control the American government today? The banks and corpora-tions fund the political parties, and therefore sit on their national committees where they set policy. The corporations also pay for the candidates' political campaigns, especially for their expensive radio and television advertising. The media themselves are corporations too, so of course they generally support corporate interests. Corporate lawyers run for Congress where they make up the vast majority of Senators and Representatives. Al-though they usually leave politics to their lawyers, capitalists and corporate executives sometimes run for public office themselves. Corporate legislators have also passed laws that make it difficult for parties independent of the corporations to run candidates for office.
So then is our democracy meaningless? No, but to really change society, we need to build social movements that increase people's political power. We've already mentioned the Abolitionists and the Civil War, Women's Suffrage, and the Civil Rights movement. In addi-tion, the organization of labor unions and the creation of labor political organizations have also increased the political power of the majority. The problem has been that all of these movements have been contained within the existing governmental and political structures, so when we press for political change, we seldom get results. Most people become cyni-cal and stop struggling. Laws making it difficult for third parties to gain ballot access, the absence of proportional representation for political minorities and public funding for politi-cal campaigns restricts "democracy" in the United States to voting every two to four years, when we choose between two corporate-funded candidates. All of these laws must be challenged.
However, changing society will require more than getting rid of these unfair and unjust laws. We have to understand that democracy is not limited to voting every year, two years or four years. Democracy finds expression as well and often more fully through move-ments for social justice. Participating in the movement to free Mumia, working to protect the rainforest, or demonstrating against sweatshop labor all represent a democratic power working to change society. Social movements can have political impact by challenging the powers that be, by moving the political spectrum in a more radical direction, and by creat-ing a vision of a political alternative.
But to really change society, social movements must find political expression, they must change policies, parties, and the government itself. Social movements of working people in the United States today--the labor unions, the environmental movement, the student anti-sweat movement, and the movement to free Mumia--have no established political party to represent them. The Democratic Party remains dominated by the corporations, and the labor unions in that party merely serve to give corporate power a worker's human face. We need an alternative party that can give political expression to our movement and carry its demands for social change into the national arena and into congress. The Green Party and the Labor Party both represent such a political alternative. At the moment we are writing this pamphlet, Ralph Nader's candidacy for president, despite its weakness on issues of racism, sexism and sexual preference, gives expression to the many of the con-cerns of the new social movement.
We are still operating within the system created by the capitalist revolutions of the 1700s. That system was originally created to allow merchants and rich farmers, and later corpora-tions to control government. We need to create a new kind of government that would be more accountable to the needs of the majority--working and poor people-because the ma-jority would control it.
We have some historical examples of attempts by working people to create workers' gov-ernment. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1871, the people of Paris created a "com-mune," the old name for a city council, in which working-class neighborhoods elected council representatives to run the city. During the Russian Revolution of 1905 and again in 1917, Russian workers created workplace councils (the Russian word for council is "so-viet") to organize their strikes and then to create a new kind of democratic government. Such councils spread across Europe during the period from 1917-1919. The community or workplace council appeared again during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, and during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
At every critical point in modern history ordinary working people have attempted to create democratic forms of political organization that offered an alternative way forward. Today, as the corporations increase their stranglehold over our society, we need to attempt once again to build democratic alternatives. As we build social movements, we will also work to create alternative political parties, and eventually we will have to create a new kind of de-mocratic government, a government of working people, a government of all.
HOW DO WE BUILD A MOVEMENT TO WIN DEMOCRACY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE?
We know that we want a more democratic society and one with social justice, but how do we get there? How do we win a majority of people, especially working people with the so-cial power to change society, to our movement?
Many factors motivate people to take action against the powers that be. Ideas, moral out-rage against injustice and the belief in the possibility of a better world often act to spur "militant minorities" to political action. Those students, intellectuals, workers, people of color, women and other oppressed people who take the lead in social movements are of-ten first moved to struggle against exploitation and oppression by analyses, political pro-grams and strategic visions. Without the "big picture" and experience these organizers bring to the struggle, most social movements would fail. However, activist minorities can-not substitute for the actions of the masses of people. No social movement can succeed without the support, if not participation, of the majority of people-especially working peo-ple.
Most working and oppressed people find the daily demands of survival in capitalist soci-ety-getting and keeping a job, finding and keeping housing, providing education and physical safety for children, etc.-overwhelming. Most of us are willing to put up with many of the indignities and injustices of life under capitalism as long as we can survive individu-ally and we see no alternative. The vast majority of working and oppressed people move to organized struggle only when they can no longer tolerate their daily situation, and they believe they can collectively change their situation.
Historically, Americans have felt the need to act because of a variety of issues and under a variety of conditions:
- Workers during the Great Depression of the 1930s could no longer tolerate the em-ployers' greed and the supervisors' despotism on the shop floor. Emboldened by the political and economic weakness of the corporations and inspired by radical activists, industrial workers took action, seizing and occupying factories in order to win recogni-tion for their new unions. The workers succeeded in a few years in organizing millions into the new unions, raising wages, improving conditions; they became a political force in society.
- African Americans in the South in the 1950s could no longer tolerate Jim Crow laws, white racism, and violence. The declining importance of the southern landowning class, the victories of the anti-colonial movements in Africa and the development of a layer of black activists schooled in the small southern labor movement of the 1930s and 1940s created a political environment where African Americans could begin to take collective action. The Civil Rights movement overturned the Jim Crow laws, in-cluding those that denied African Americans the vote.
- Young people in the 1960s both feared being drafted and sent to die in Vietnam and hated the idea of having to kill people from some other nation and race for reasons they did not agree with. Inspired by the success of the Civil Rights movements, they organized a massive antiwar movement that helped to end the Vietnam War.
- Women in the 1970s could no longer tolerate institutional barriers to their advance-ment, society's view of women's inferiority and men's sexism so they organized the modern women's liberation movement to fight for full equality. The growing number of women, particularly married women with children, working outside the home brought society's expectations of what "women were supposed to be" (housewives and moth-ers) into stark contrast with their lived reality. The new wave of feminist activism won the legal right to abortion and legal equality for women, highlighted and fought sexual harassment at work, and publicly raised issues about the family-like spousal abuse-that were previously considered "personal" problems.
- By the late 1990s, groups of workers and environmentalists felt that the U.S. govern-ment's trade policy threatened both their jobs and their communities, and they began to organize against the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank. This new movement has forged alliances with anti-corporate activists internationally, especially with people of color-led movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We may be at the beginning of a new mass movement that will turn our country in a more democratic, pro-labor and pro-environmental direction.
To organize a mass movement for social change, one must have an overview of the coun-try and its economic, social and political issues. At the same time, one must work with in-dividual leaders and activists who are rooted in working-class communities. Finally, the organizer of a mass movement has to be able to connect local activism with a vision of broader social change, even with global change. The sense of making history provides an important ingredient in making a mass movement.
Clearly, no individual can have the overview, be in touch with local leaders and activists, and provide the local groups with a vision. That's why small organizations--the British used to call them "ginger groups," the Bible calls them the leaven in the loaf--often serve to set broader forces in motion. Historically, socialist organizations have often been at the center of the organization of broader forces.
Good organizers find ways to bring people into the movement at a level of activity at which they can feel comfortable. For example, many people entered the abolitionist movement of the 1840s and '50s by signing petitions. That movement led to the Civil War--a violent revolution-and the emancipation of the slaves. But it began with the safe and simple act of signing one's name to a declaration.
Many union movements begin with the simple act of accepting a leaflet, attending a meet-ing, and wearing a button, but those movements may grow into militant strikes that defy employers and the police.
In the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, many began by attending a rally or picket, and later participated in acts of civil disobedience like sitting in at segregated lunch counters, which had the support of the vast majority of the African American community and its allies.
Most anti-Vietnam War activists of the 1960s and '70s began by attending a meeting and listening to a speaker, then marched in a demonstration, and only later attempted to dis-rupt politics as usual through mass civil disobedience in Washington, D.C. or other major cities.
Give everyone a way to begin at an appropriate level of activity and commitment, show them a successful strategy that can produce a growing movement, and many will be pre-pared to step up to a higher level of activity and commitment.
Much will depend on the movement's ability to win victories. Once a movement demon-strates that the powers that be can be forced to make concessions to working and op-pressed people it usually grows. If a movement meets with early defeat, it may die be-cause defeats reinforce people's sense of powerlessness. If a struggle wins an early vic-tory, it may not only grow, but even snowball into a mass movement.
Winning a victory may depend upon a creative new tactic or the advantage of surprise. In the 1930s the rubber workers in Akron, Ohio, tried a new tactic: the sit-down strike, that is, simply sitting down at their machines in the factory but refusing to work. The new tactic caught management and the government by surprise. Employers feared evicting the workers because their machines might be damaged in the process. Replacement workers, scabs, couldn't be introduced, because large number of workers remained inside the plant.
The dedication of the African American participants in the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott of 1956 surprised local white businessmen as boycotters carpooled or walked to work. It took more than a year but they won a victory that overturned racial segregation of the local bus system and launched the broader Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.
The most important ingredient is that masses of people struggle against the powers-that-be, namely, against the corporations and against the capitalist system. At the same time, there is no guarantee that once engaged in a struggle, working people will automatically see the need to overturn the system. So radical activists have a responsibility to work within the movement to explain the need not only to win victories around the immediate problem but also to eliminate the cause itself.
How do we build a mass movement and help to educate the mass movement about the need to struggle to change the system, to end the power of the corporations and create a broader democracy with real social justice? While there is no simple answer to that ques-tion, we can suggest a few ideas.
First, activists can talk to other activists about political ideas--that's the most basic issue. Second, radical activists within a movement need newspapers, pamphlets, e-mail, web pages, and other vehicles to spread their ideas. Third, many people learn best through discussions, workshops and other educationals, and we have to organize those in order to explain our ideas. Again, this points out the need for radical organizations.
What About Anarchism?
During the last year anarchism has reemerged as a political current on the left. Groups such as the Direct Action Network (DAN) have debated anarchism, and the Black Bloc appeared as an anarchist direct action contingent within the broader movement. In some areas there is a renewed interest in anarchist publications and political theory.
What does anarchism mean in this new movement? For some people, anarchism means a rejection of government bureaucracy, corporate power, and of anti-environmental poli-cies, the classism, racism and sexism that have been part of our social system. For oth-ers, anarchism means a democratic process without hierarchy and without control by some distant central power. For still others, anarchism means direct action, including the destruction of government or corporate property.
Socialists share many of the attitudes of those who call themselves anarchists. We too re-ject state power and capitalist exploitation, just as we reject racism, sexism, class oppres-sion and environmental degradation. Many of those who sympathize with anarchism be-lieve society should be more democratic and more egalitarian, just as we do.
The Big Questions
Historically, the biggest differences between anarchism and socialism arose over the question of political parties and state power. Anarchism arose in the nineteenth century among artisans and found expression in the writing of the French radical J-P Proudhon who in the 1840s argued that the artisanal workshop and community formed the basis for a society of the producers. On the other hand, Karl Marx, the German philosopher and founder of modern socialism, saw the rise of an industrial working class struggling for power through strikes, boycotts, and political organizations as the basis for a new society. While Proudhon hoped for the salvation of the artisans through their cooperative work-place organizations, Marx opted to support the rising working class organized in labor un-ions and labor or socialist parties. Marx, and socialists who look to his ideas for inspira-tion, looked to the forms of political organization that workers themselves developed as the key to social transformation--whether they be unions, labor parties, mass strikes and sit-ins or revolutions like those in Paris in 1871 and Russia in 1905 and 1917.
Later in the 1860s the Russian Mikhail Bakunin argued that anarchist activists should form small, secret dedicated groups who would through their determined actions set the masses of artisans, workers, and peasants into motion against the exploiting landowners, industrialists and the state. Some of his followers such as Nechayev interpreted Bakunin's theory as a call to assassinate kings, ministers, and other government officials, as por-trayed in Dostoyevsky's novel The Possessed.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, some anarchists turned toward the organization of industrial workers, producing the theory called anarchosyndicalism (after the French word for union, syndicat). The anarchosyndicalists argued that using the general strike workers could bring down capitalism and the state and create a new society democrati-cally controlled by the working class through its industrial unions. In the United States, some members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) considered themselves to be anarchosyndicalists. While also advocating mass strikes, socialists saw worker organiza-tion as crucial to preparing the ground for such struggles as well as to their success.
There is considerable diversity among those activists who consider themselves "anarchists," just as there is among those calling themselves "socialists" or Marxists. There is a common denominator that we think most anarchists and socialists (Marxists, at least) would recognize as a difference between them. Anarchists view the existence of hierarchy or "authoritarianism," particularly the state, as the fundamental obstacle to human free-dom. Abolishing the state and political authority, then, becomes the first task for the revo-lution. Marxists view the evils of the state and of hierarchy as the result, not the cause, of the exploitation of the labor of the many for the profit of the few. Only the abolition of these exploitative class relationships will make it possible for hierarchy and state power to begin to disappear.
Marxist socialists share with the anarchists several key ideas. We all believe in the neces-sity of a social revolution to overthrow capitalism and the capitalist state. That is, we all believe in the need to destroy the capitalist state. Most importantly, we all believe that workers and other oppressed groups must both exercise power and benefit from a new more democratic social arrangement. But Marxists believe that it will take an organized political party to lead the working class to power, and that once workers achieve power they will have to create, for some period of time, a workers' state in order to carry out a socialist transformation. The ability of capitalists to directly or indirectly control all major political and cultural institutions of our society-from the police and army to the mass me-dia-make both a workers' political party and workers' state necessary to social revolution.
For Marxists then, there are two key questions. First, how do we create a party that is both itself democratic and has a democratic relationship to the workers' movement of labor un-ions, cooperatives and other organizations? Second, how do we help create a democratic workers' state that will gradually wither away? As these two questions demonstrate, Marx-ists and anarchists share the same two preoccupations: how to avoid authoritarianism and how to bring about genuine democracy.
We believe that we in the socialist movement and those in the anarchist movement have much in common, and that we could all profit from an open discussion of our differences, while working together to build the movement.
BUILDING ALLIANCES AND COALITIONS
Most of us fighting corporate globalization realize that our enemies are very powerful. The huge transnational corporations possess assets greater than many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Their investment decisions shape the conditions of work, income and job security of the vast majority of the world's population. Their political power matches their economic power. These corporations have the capacity to buy and sell poli-ticians through campaign contributions and hold governments hostage. It is no exaggera-tion to say that the transnational corporations are the core of the global capitalist ruling class today.
Most of us also realize that no group alone can successfully fight the transnationals. Alone, environmentalists, indigenous peoples, racially oppressed communities, students and consumers, do not have the social power to force the corporations to retreat. As a re-sult, we have sought to build a broad coalition of anti-corporate forces.
Alliances against the ravishes of corporate globalization have already been forged in many areas. In Tuscon, Arizona, the AFL-CIO Central Labor Council has worked with the Interfaith Council, USAS, Earth First and others, first in support of municipal legislation to mandate a living wage for all workers on city projects, and more recently against toxic waste disposal in working class and people of color communities. In Boston, the Global Action Networks, made up of Jobs with Justice, various unions, environmental organiza-tions and other social justice groups have been organizing in defense of the rainforests, against biotechnology corporations, for more resources to be devoted to fighting AIDS in Africa and in support of strikes and other workers' struggles in the city.
Most anti-corporate organizers understand that workers can potentially play a crucial role in our struggle. As socialists, we completely agree with this perspective. Workers make up the vast majority of people in the United States and other industrialized countries today. If we are to build a successful movement of the majority against corporate globalization, this movement must be based among working people.
Working people are already playing an important role in the coalitions for global justice. They are already organizing around issues of toxic waste, public transportation, the clos-ing down of hospitals and other needed services--particularly as they impact the over-whelmingly working-class communities of color. They are fighting for quality public educa-tion. They are active in opposing the criminalization of undocumented workers and in op-posing police brutality. In several of these campaigns they have demanded that their un-ions take a stand on these issues as well-even forcing the AFL-CIO to change its histori-cally reactionary position on undocumented workers.
Socialists believe that workers' struggles at the workplace play a particularly important role in the development of mass social movements and political radicalism. The structure of capitalism compels workers to battle their employers in the workplace every single day. Whether in informal groups resisting speed-up and work reorganization, or through strikes against concessions and outsourcing that target a single employer, or the occasional strike against privatization, social service cuts and anti-labor legislation that target gov-ernments, workers are constantly fighting against the effects of capitalism. When workers act collectively at the workplace they not only wield social power well beyond their num-bers, but they come to understand their common interests against those of their employ-ers and become open to arguments for more radical social change.
Workers, when they act collectively at the workplace, have social power to match that of the corporations. We got a glimpse of that power when longshore workers, teamsters, and steelworkers joined students, environmentalists, and community activists in direct action on the streets of Seattle. Even more striking demonstrations of working-class power were the wave of mass strikes against neoliberal policies that began in France in December 1995, which forced governments, if temporarily, to retreat from their pro-corporate plans. In today's world of lean production, relatively small groups of workers can wield tremen-dous power against global corporations. The strikes by workers at two GM brake assem-bly plants in 1996 effectively shut down GM's operations across North America. More re-cently, truck drivers' strikes against high fuel prices that began in France threatened to paralyze production across Western Europe.
Socialists understand that the history of the working-class movement under capitalism is the history of both solidarity and common struggle; and the history of racism, sexism, and anti-immigrant nativism. We believe that the structure of capitalism simultaneously "pushes together" and "pulls apart" the working class. Under capitalism, workers are brought together in cooperative work relations at the workplace. As "collective producers," workers experience their common interests, struggle with their employers, and have the potential for developing a radical, anti-capitalist consciousness and politics. But workers are also pitted against one another on the labor-market, competing for jobs. Competition among workers is the breeding ground for racism, sexism and nativism, as one group of workers attempts to defend its position in the labor market against other groups of work-ers.
The corporate globalization of the past two decades has intensified the contradictory exis-tence of workers under capitalism. On the one hand, the development of transnational production chains brings workers in different countries together as employees of the same corporation. Autoworkers in Mexico, Canada, and the United States all work for one of the major auto corporations--they face they same enemy. Small groups of workers in different industries have begun to create coalitions to coordinate their struggle against their com-mon employers. On the other hand, the development of these global production chains gives corporations greater ability to shift work from one country to another. The auto com-panies have become quite expert at pitting one group of auto workers against another, getting them to accept lower wages and deteriorating working conditions with the threat of "giving their work" to workers in other plants, often in Mexico. Given how capitalism both "pushes together" and "pulls apart" workers, it is not surprising that some auto workers are open to the protectionist and nativist appeals of Pat Buchanan while others are drawn to the radical anti-corporate politics of Ralph Nader.
Whether workers act as collective producers or as competitors for jobs depends, to a large degree, on worker organization--especially union organization. Historically, the main pur-pose of unions is to suppress the competition among workers in order to improve wages, hours, and working conditions. The more workers are organized in unions and struggle collectively against capitalists, the more likely they are to develop a radical, anti-corporate consciousness and politics. The fewer workers in unions, or the weaker those unions are in suppressing competition among workers, the more likely workers are to see other work-ers as their enemies and be open to racism, sexism, and nativism.
Most of us in the anti-corporate globalization movement realize that the official labor movement in the United States has been, at best, an inconsistent ally. At times it seems that the AFL-CIO has been more interested in bashing Chinese workers and electing Al Gore and other Democratic Party flunkies for the corporations than in fighting the transna-tionals. The record of the official leadership of the unions in the anti-corporate movement mirrors that in the struggle against the employers in the workplace. Since the UAW made concessions to Chrysler in 1979-80, the AFL-CIO brass has allowed corporations to cut wages, gut work rules, and create distinct tiers of workers with different wages and job rights, with practically no resistance. Instead of organizing workers to fight their employ-ers, the AFL-CIO officialdom has preached "jointness"--cooperation between labor and management.
As socialists, we are not surprised by the behavior of the leadership of the U.S. labor movement. For the most part, these leaders are a bureaucracy-a layer of full-time offi-cials whose conditions of life have a very different social foundation than that of their members. While rank-and-file workers' conditions of life depend upon their ability to strug-gle collectively against the employer, the union official's life-style depends upon the pres-ervation of the union as an institution-especially its ability to collect dues. For the union bureaucrat, anything that threatens the continued existence of the union as an institution--especially workplace militancy or political radicalism--is rejected. In the place of militancy, the union official relies on "safe" methods of advancing their members' interests: routine collective bargaining (hopefully avoiding strikes and law breaking), the grievance proce-dure, and electing "labor's friends" in the Democratic Party to office. Yet the labor bu-reaucracy's methods have proven increasingly ineffective over the past thirty years. Faced with a capitalist class compelled to lower costs to restore profitability and competitiveness, the bureaucracy has had few choices but to make concessions to employers and retreat from opposition to the corporation's political agenda.
We in Solidarity look to the organization of rank-and-file workers for the revitalization of the labor movement. Only an active and organized rank and file can hold leaders ac-countable and act independently of the leaders when necessary. Members and supporters of Solidarity have helped build rank-and-file organizations fighting for militancy, democ-racy, and solidarity in the labor movement. Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), is the largest and most successful union reform movement, with thousands of members try-ing to turn the Teamsters into an organization that can successfully fight the employers. TDU's campaign to win direct election of international officers, the election of reformers to the top jobs, and years of organizing at UPS against team concept, part-time work and speed-up all prepared the grounds for the victory at UPS in 1997. Other reform groups ex-ist in the United Auto Workers, Transport Workers, Letter Carriers, United Food and Commercial Workers, Machinists, AFSCME, and Service Employees. All are struggling to democratize their unions so that they can effectively fight their bosses. The newsletter La-bor Notes, with its large biennial conferences and smaller schools, brings activists from these reform movements together. The Association for Union Democracy and Jobs with Justice play a similar role in bringing together workers from different unions.
We believe that through successful organizing on the job and in their union, rank-and-file union reform groups can build a labor movement capable of taking on the corporations po-litically. One small example of this is Teamster Local 174 in Seattle. TDU organized for many years in this local of mostly UPS workers, fighting for union democracy and greater militancy over wages, hours and working conditions. The success of TDU's workplace or-ganizing in Local 174 led to the election of TDU members to the leadership of the local. Leading an active membership in the workplace, the Local 174 leadership was able to mobilize their members for the Seattle anti-WTO demonstrations and stay in the streets with the student and community activists despite the AFL-CIO leadership's renunciation of direct action. Local 174 is also one of a handful of unions that has endorsed Nader for President in 2000.
BUILDING A MULTIRACIAL MOVEMENT
Many factors have limited the participation of people of color in the movement against corporate globalization. Fortunately, most of these limitations can be changed if we are willing to confront them.
First, there has been a rich history of resistance and fight back by people of color in this country and worldwide. The Civil Rights movements, the struggles against imperialism and the fight against apartheid are all examples. But that history has been largely lost. Many of today's youth of color do not know that history nor have they actually experienced mass struggles. The work of expanding this movement to include more people of color re-quires education about the need for mass action and how people of color have always been an essential part of mass movements for social justice. Furthermore, what needs to be emphasized is that past gains in the numerous movements is a product of mass strug-gle. Movements organized in the workplace, the communities, and on campuses is how changes were won.
The question, of course, is who are the educators and who is to be educated? During the organizing for the protests against the IMF and the World Bank in Washington, D.C., on April 16, 2000 (A16), it was not just people of color who were unfamiliar with the history of struggle. In general, all activists need to learn this history because the more they learn the better they can involve people of color in the movement, and the more all activists will be able to confront the issues of race and racism.
It is also important to realize that there is an important resource the movement against corporate globalization has not tapped: important intellectuals and activists of color. Most of the speakers at both the teach-ins and rally during the IMF/World Bank protests were white. There were no prominent speakers of color. Those of us who understand the ne-cessity of diversity in building our movement need to be more assertive about the need to include such leading intellectuals and activists of color.
Second, the movement has largely embraced a tokenistic approach to mobilizing people of color. As the magazine Color Lines, published by a group of young activists of color, noted of the protests in Washington, D.C., people of color were asked to volunteer rather than to organize, were spoken to rather than spoken with, and were expected to defer de-cision-making to others who were presumably more integral and experienced rather than to take on leadership positions. It appears to many activists of color that many anti-globalization activists believe that people of color should be in this movement simply to add some color. As a result, racial diversity in the movement is seen as just one of many tasks which need to be accomplished, rather than as something critical to its survival and success.
The hiring of one woman of color to carry out the work of diversifying the movement in the D.C. Metro area by the Mobilization for Global Justice-the main organizing collective for the IMF/World Bank in Washington--illustrates this problem. Few of us believe that if ani-mal rights activists or environmentalists had been under-represented in the organizing for A16, the Mobilization would have simply hired someone to seek out their participation. In-stead, we would probably have witnessed an intense political discussion producing a well-thought-out strategy for reaching out to them and making them indispensable organizers--as they should be. Yet the matter of reaching out to people of color was not treated as a central priority. No plan was developed to insure that people of color helped build rather than simply attend A16. Rather than motivate activists to take on the work, the task was passed on to one person, who was not a major leader of people of color, to bring in as many black and brown faces as could be found quickly.
As socialists, we have a different understanding of diversity, one that focuses on creating leaders. We believe that the creation of leadership rests on an understanding that the par-ticipation of people of color-who make up a large and growing portion of the working class in the United States-is crucial to any movement's success. Tokenism rests on the moralis-tic belief that diversity is a "good thing." People of color are not simply accessories there to make things look nice or to present an image to the media that we can all get along. For socialists, the inclusion of people of color means that they represent distinct groups who must contribute to the shaping and direction of the movement.
Third, the links between activism of people of color and that of the predominantly white anti-corporate globalization movement in the United States need to be established. In the past year in particular, we've seen a growth of activism among people of color, especially on the issues of police brutality, the growth of prisons, and lack of affordable housing. With a few important exceptions like the Direct Action Network (DAN) in New York which organ-izes against both the IMF/WTO and police brutality, the anti-corporate globalization movement has not made the political links between corporate globalization and racism here in the United States. As a result, the issues that have enraged and prompted people of color to take action are not seen as linked to the fight against corporate globalization.
Simply put, many people of color do not see what the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO have to do with them. People of color turned out for the marches and protests against the murder of Patrick Dourismond in New York, but some may not have felt the need to take the trip to Washington, D.C., soon after for A16. At Howard University, the same student government that had supported students who committed civil disobedience to defend the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal turned a cold shoulder to anti-IMF/World Bank organizing, de-spite the fact that many students were involved in both activities.
In order to make these linkages, anti-corporate activists need to start discussing what cor-porate globalization means for racial justice here and abroad. Among the ways these links can be made are by analyzing:
- How global capitalist competition creates both sweatshops overseas and the prison industrial complex in this country, driving down living conditions everywhere.
- The connection between the massive debts that is paid off by the poor in the so-called Third World and the staggering amount of public financing of big business in this coun-try that is likewise paid off by the poor here.
- The link between IMF/World bank policies that make people--mostly those of color--poor and powerless in the so-called Third World and the practice of similar policies that target people of color in this country
- The connection between the struggle against the environmental devastation wrought on communities of color at home--the struggle for environmental justice--and the global struggle to protect the environment against the ravishes of corporate globalization.
Developing good analysis and slogans that link the struggle against globalization to the struggle against racism at home will not be enough. We also need to confront the issue of space in the movement. Again, people of color--whether or not they are already activists--cannot be simply incorporated into the movement as it exists. Many of the customs and norms of organizing and protests are alien to them. For example, the consensus model, which may be well suited to small and relatively homogeneous groups, presents problems when applied to larger and more heterogeneous groups. Consensus often leads to situa-tions where any person has the power to block motions so that there is endless debate and discussion. This can be intimidating to those unfamiliar with the process. Even worse, there is sometimes no structure for decision-making and participants are simply expected to follow the presumed consensus. Frequently the result is not lively debate and discus-sion, but rather a less than genuine consensus because those who disagree with the mo-tion are afraid of being the lone dissenter. This fear of isolation is even more acute for people of color who presently compose a small minority of the movement.
Despite these problems, it is important to acknowledge the presence and ongoing work of people of color who are, in fact, in this movement. It is their contributions to debate and organizing that have brought the movement to a point where we realize tokenism will not do. Their work is what brought people of color all the way from California to participate in the IMF/World Bank protests in Washington. They were the ones who realized that a uni-fied front was needed, and therefore encouraged an impromptu march consisting of peo-ple of color and other allied activists down Pennsylvania Avenue. A line from a popular hip-hop song became this contingent's chant: "We fired up, can't take no more!" This is what the real face of a multiracial, radical movement against corporate globalization looks like.
An even more important step toward building a truly multiracial movement took place in the organizing of the D2K demonstrations at the Los Angeles Democratic National Con-vention. Activists of color, especially from the Chicano and Latino communities, played a leading role in organizing these demonstrations which involved a much larger proportion of people of color than any of the preceding anti-corporate globalization struggles.
Without the active participation and leadership of large numbers of people of color, the anti-corporate globalization movement will not be able to go forward. Abandoning token-ism, engaging in education about the links between globalization and racism at home and changing the internal culture of the movement are important first steps toward a real racial and ethnic diversification of the movement.
WHAT IS OUR ALTERNATIVE TO CORPORATE RULE?
Many folks in the movement for global social justice believe that we can tame the corpora-tions through laws curbing their activities and protecting the environment, labor and hu-man rights. Socialists join in these struggles, whether they take the form of strikes for im-proved wages and working conditions, mass demonstrations against the IMF or WTO, or election campaigns independent of the capitalist Democratic and Republican parties, like the Nader campaign in 2000. Socialists understand that it is through successful struggles in the workplace and in the streets, working and oppressed people can experience their power and discover that the corporations are not all-powerful.
Even good laws will not permanently stop capitalist corporations from cutting wages, speeding up work, moving to other countries and raping the global environment. In capital-ist democracies like the United States, Western Europe and Japan, democracy for most working people is limited to electing politicians once every two or four years. In the mean-time, even the best pro-worker, pro-environment politicians are under tremendous pres-sure from capitalists. Of course, anyone can lobby politicians to pass and enforce laws. However, capitalists--especially multinational corporations--have resources unlike any other group in society.
During the first Clinton administration, powerful businesses, such as General Motors, IBM, and AT&T, formed a lobbying group to influence that president's decision to promote NAFTA. Throughout Mexico, the United States, and Canada, NAFTA has put thousands out of work, lowered wages, and undermined efforts to unionize. The only ones who have benefited from NAFTA are the large businesses that wanted it; production and profit have dramatically increased as a result. These businesses continue to influence the govern-ment to make sure that the legislation remains in place, despite all the protests by workers in all three countries.
Even more importantly, as long as capitalists control investment-the decisions about who will work, how, where and when--they will be able to sabotage even the strongest pro-worker legislation. A good example is what happened in the early 1980s in France. A So-cialist Party government was elected with overwhelming popular support for its program of pro-worker legislation. French capitalists responded by going on an investment strike; they shut down offices, factories, and stores in France and moved their capital out of the coun-try. The government was faced with the option of either encouraging workers to take over the offices, factories, and stores and running them as public enterprises, or capitulating to the owners' demands. Without either a commitment or strategy to go beyond capitalism, the party capitulated to big business, abandoned all the pro-worker reforms they had been elected to carry out, and began to pass laws that promoted French capitalists' reorganiza-tion of work at home and investments abroad.
Although workers in various workplaces and various countries can win victories against aspects of global corporate tyranny, the only way to stop the corporations permanently and everywhere is to abolish the system that makes profit the ruling motive. That is, to re-place capitalism with a society run by and for working people-socialism.
Only when workers own and control the productive wealth of society-the land, factories, telecommunications, offices, stores, machinery, computers--can we begin to provide all people stable and fulfilling work that allows them to meet their needs. Only when workers plan economic life--making the decisions about what, how and where goods and services are produced--will dog-eat-dog competition no longer rule.
In a worker-run economy, the introduction of new technology could bring more free time, more jobs, more interesting work and less stress, rather than unemployment, deskilling and speed-up. In a worker-run society, the surplus created by working people could be used for schools, hospitals, museums, parks and a rich social and cultural life, rather than to build factories that pollute the environment and profit only their owners. In a worker-run society, young people would receive a good public education they could use in secure, challenging and socially useful work, rather than face a world where public schools are the choice of last resort and the future promises only temporary and deadly dull jobs. In a worker-run society, all members of society could know they would have security in their old age, rather than face a world in which every individual has to climb over others to make their way. There's plenty of money there to afford a decent life for everyone; it's just in the wrong hands.
"Socialism" is the age-old name for this envisioned society where the majority rules, but socialism is not the name for the bureaucratic dictatorships that existed in the former So-viet Union, Eastern Europe and China. Socialism requires democracy. Without democratic freedoms (freedom of speech, assembly, press, and formation of different political par-ties), how could we make intelligent and informed decisions about how to run economic life? The experience of the regimes in the East has demonstrated that no small group of state bureaucrats can make such decisions. Only the vast majority of the people, free to discuss, debate and decide how resources are used, can build an alternative to capitalism that works and is worth fighting for.
Many anti-corporate activists believe that any attempt to establish social ownership and planning over economic life must inevitably lead to a huge government bureaucracy that concentrates all power in its hands. We believe that democratic planning is both neces-sary and possible. In a democratic socialist society, some decisions need to be made at a national or global level, while other decisions can be made at a regional or local level. At a national or international level, different publicly funded political parties and organizations will campaign for different priorities: for example, whether to increase consumption of cer-tain goods or reduce the workweek. Once the basic priorities are debated in publicly owned media that allows real interaction and includes an election, the specific elements of the plan will be implemented by different industries and regions, all of whom will discuss and debate how best to implement the vote. Specific decisions--how many shoes of which types to produce, how many hours to reduce the work-week of various groups--can be made through the constant back-and-forth flow of information made possible by the growth of the internet. Put simply, we have the telecommunications and computer tech-nology to make possible democratic ownership and control of economic life. The obstacle is the continued rule of capital.
WHY WE NEED A SOCIALIST ORGANIZATION
We believe that the logical outcome of today's movement against corporate domination of our lives is socialism, democratic control by the majority of the world's people over the global economy. Only the reorganization of the world's economy will save our environ-ment, make possible the satisfaction of human needs, and create a society in which the development of individual and collective potential can be fulfilled. However we don't be-lieve that such an outcome is automatic.
In fact, we face tremendous odds in fighting for such an ideal. The corporations will jeal-ously protect their power, the political parties and the government will act in their defense, and the media will promote their interests. In order to challenge such concentrations of wealth and power, we need to create our own social and political movement.
Most of us are already active in one or another of the existing organizations. You may be active in Earth First, in the United Students Against Sweatshops or in the campaign for Mumia Abu-Jamal. Perhaps you already support the Labor Party or the Green Party, or both, because you understand that our movement also needs a political expression. While all of those are important, we believe that it is equally important to build a socialist organi-zation, and, if you agree with our principles, essential that you become a part of it.
A socialist organization brings together people from a variety of movement backgrounds and helps them keep their "eyes on the prize" of socialism while struggling for immediate reforms. A socialist organization that is serious about changing the world must be involved in struggling for reforms. We fight for these reforms both because they improve the lives of working people and because these mass struggles develop the social power and radical-ism of ordinary people. However, we understand that any reform won from capitalists can be undermined or taken back unless we abolish capitalism. A socialist organization that builds mass movements for reform while promoting its understanding of capitalism is es-sential if struggles for reforms are ever to grow over into a struggle for revolution.
We want to better understand the world we live in so that we can change it--and a socialist organization acts in part as a clearinghouse for information. A socialist organization allows us to generalize from our experiences. It enables us to turn such generalizations into a deeper understanding of our society and how to change it, that is, to develop a socialist theory of contemporary capitalism.
At the same time, such an organization allows us to organize more effectively in our work. We can discuss the issues we face with other like-minded individuals, with other socialists, so that we can come up with ideas and plans to advance the movements we believe in and work in.
What is the relationship between a socialist organization and the social movements, whether a labor union, environmental movement, or a student group? Ideally, perhaps all of the most experienced, dedicated and knowledgeable movement leaders would join one socialist organization, and we would soon have a small but significant socialist party in this country. But at least at present, most movement leaders don't join socialist groups, and those that do don't join the same group.
So we have to recognize that at present, we all make our contributions through the groups we belong to, developing our ideas with our movement and socialist co-thinkers. We think the job of socialists is to contribute to the leadership of the movements, not merely to criti-cize them, not to attempt to control them, and not simply to recruit out of them. Real so-cialists don't build their organization at the expense of the movement; they build their or-ganization because they are effective leaders of the movements. Effective leaders not only bring lessons from past struggles to new movements, but learn from these move-ments as well. We in Solidarity are committed to building democratic and militant worker and social justice organizations because we understand that only through the experience of mass struggle do working and oppressed people develop their power and social radicalism.
Members of Solidarity are active in building such organizations because we believe that the experiences people have--coming together, planning strategy, confronting capitalist values--can lay the groundwork for stronger organizations in the future. But, if socialism is ever to happen in this country, there'll have to be a very large organization consciously committed to that goal. For now, a socialist organization provides a place where activists can share experiences, develop a clearer understanding of capitalist society, and work on strategies for immediate and long-term victories. A socialist organization helps its mem-bers develop a long view of history, and that, in turn, helps them deal with the setbacks and disappointments that come when capital seems all-powerful and workers' movements weak.
If you have been convinced of the arguments in this pamphlet, then join us in building a socialist current in the anti-corporate globalization movement--JOIN SOLIDARITY!