|1. Introduction: the phoenix should not forget the fire
The `banner' of socialist internationalism has become tattered
indeed in the last decades, and on every side. It has not been one to carry
proudly aloft. At the most one has carried a few sheets of paper, and often
one has been reduced to muttering to oneself. The commitment has been to
an `international' of the imagination, which has had only fleeting embodiment
in real movements, detached unequivocally from both Stalinism and from
complicity with the reasons of capitalist power. To maintain that commitment
has been to be an `alien' not only within this country but within great
sections of the purported socialist and Marxist movement itself. (Thompson
Articles and even books on the new wave of internationalism - what I call
the new global solidarity - are beginning to catch up with the phenomenon
itself. These writings do not, however, see the matter in such terms. They
seem to prefer the term `transnational’. And even when they talk of `social
movements’ they seem to me to dramatically restrict the past history, present
scope and future potential of the phenomenon. Characteristic of these works
is a blind or blinkered eye to capitalism, globalisation, culture, emancipation,
transformation, any notion of the popular, any utopian vision (past or
present), and, finally, to labour and socialism, past, present or future.
They see the world politically, but in the hegemonic, liberal-democratic,
commonsense of politics: of parties, governments, laws, lobbies, nation-states,
inter-state organisations. They are empirical in methodology and pragmatic
in purpose. They apply or demonstrate an existing theoretical orientation
but do not use their findings to reflect back critically upon it. They
see, finally, their subject of study as qualifying, reforming and improving
an existing order, national and international. As such they are certainly
useful (to researchers, activists) and progressive (in relation to a neo-liberal
globalised order). But necessary progress is clearly not the same as desirable
I propose a different reading of these new forces, in terms of the history
and theory of universalisitic movements. I use this term to cover
trans-societal social movements with universalising ideologies and ambitions.
I would include under it at least religious universalism, bourgeois liberal
cosmopolitanism, labour and socialist internationalism and the radical-democratic
global solidarity movements of the present day. I do this because I see
these as successive waves, arising from, but both surpassing and including
previous ones. So religious universalisms still exist today, on a range
from the totalitarian and fundamentalist to the radical-democratic and
pluralist tendencies. I here concentrate, however, on the last of the two
universalist movements listed above, the mass labour and socialist internationalisms
of the 19th-20th centuries, and the not-yet-mass radical-democratic global
solidarity ones of the 20th-21st.
Socialist and labour internationalism did not die out like the dodo:
they were consumed by the fires of nation-statism, imperialism and consumer
capitalism. They have contributed little to the new internationalisms,
consigning themselves to sectarian sidestreams, or being dismissed and
ignored by the proud and the new - and the chroniclers of such. Yet, according
to my reading, the new movements, active on the global terrain, proposing
global alternatives, represent a phoenix rising from the ashes of earlier
capitalist conflagrations (with these extending from, shall we say, 1914
to 1968? 1989?). This phoenix needs to remember the fire, if it is not,
in its turn, to be consumed by the fire of a globalised and informatised
capitalism. The latter offers its own opportunities, dangers and - above
all - seductions. I would argue that the new global social movements will
not be able to carry out the modest but necessary tasks assigned them in
the new literature if they do not have a broader sense of where they come
from, and a utopian vision of an alternative to capitalism.
In explaining such matters this paper will be largely theoretical or
conceptual. I first set out my general argument (Part 2). I consider classical
Marxist theory of the international and internationalism (Part 3). I propose
my own understanding of internationalism in the era of globalisation (Part
4). I conclude with consideration of some implications - including those
for labour and socialist internationalism (Part 5).
2. General argument: from national places to global spaces; from
organisations to networks
Communications are the nervous system of...internationalism and
human solidarity. (Jose Carlos Mariategui 1973:164)
In the 19th century, Marxists presented labour and socialist internationalism
as internationalism, or at least as the primary internationalism,
with all others subordinate to it. Anti-capitalist internationalism was
understood as the negation of nationalism (a concept, structure and practice
on which it therefore was, and remains, dependent). The aim of such an
internationalism was the creation of a `socialist world republic’ (in the
words of a German Communist song), understood as the desirable and necessary
future society, one which would replace hostile relations between nation-states
with peaceful cooperation between peoples. It was understood that there
was one bearer of such internationalism, the industrial proletariat. This
privileged internationalist and revolutionary subject would, however, first
of all have to take power nationally. Labour and socialist internationalism
- complex and contradictory as they might have been in practice - provided
a new sense of community for workers without such and an inspiring utopia
for marginalised and persecuted socialist activists and intellectuals.
In the 20th century, strategies based on this understanding led to the
creation of societies marked by an extreme statism in both national and
international policy. This process occurred not only after both world wars,
but also - in analogous manner - following the collapse of colonialism.
The states coming out of these transformations, which were always supported
by internationalist movements, in no way surpassed capitalism, nationally
or internationally, but merely remained on its periphery, to eventually
achieve full or partial reinstatement, or to have this thrust upon them.
For the 21st century, it seems to me, it is both possible and necessary
to have an alternative concept, drawing on the 19th and 20th century values
of liberty, equality and solidarity, but 1) recognising the increasing
limits on the autonomy, authority and legitimacy of the state in the contemporary
world, 2) related to the transformation of global space rather than - or
as well as - the national place, 3) allowing for a multiplicity of global
contradictions, subjects and movements, 4) adding to the lay trinity the
values of diversity, peace and ecological care, and 5) insisting on the
interrelation of a) global utopias, in the sense of imaginable humane global
communities, and b) the immediate necessity of civilising a capitalist
world order that threatens not so much that order itself as the existence
of the human species. Let us expand this argument a little.
The 19th and 20th century values: Liberty, equality and - as
it was then called - fraternity, were the lay trinity of the French Revolution.
That they were or became figleaves for capitalist, industrialist, nationalist,
imperial, eurocentric, racist, patriarchal, militarist and even consumerist
projects and ideologies, does not mean that they should be identified with
or abandoned to such. Liberty, Equality and Solidarity had and have a popular
and democratic resonance, and an emancipatory potential. They also have
a contemporary worldwide appeal that socialism, for example, has largely
lost. The trinity can and needs to be re-articulated for the conditions
of an increasingly globalised and informatised/service capitalism.
Recognising the increasing limits on the state: For one hundred
years or more the state has been understood as almost synonymous with both
`society' and `politics', in both academic and popular discourse. Today
the nation-state, or state-nation, is being increasingly challenged not
only from above and outside, by a dynamic, capital-driven, globalisation,
but also from `below' from sub- or cross-national places (sub-national
regions, cross-frontier ethnicities), and from or by spaces that are super-territorial
(the newly-proposed international court) or non-territorial (in the sense,
for example, of a growing community of environmentalists, or women).
The transformation of global space: Space has been previously
understood largely in terms of territorial place, particularly in the development
of the state-nation, of imperialism or `spheres of influence', and for
the operation of nationally-based and nationally-dependent capitalists.
Place matters. But capitalism, in its electronic and computerised forms,
increasingly operates in a cyberspace that crosses, surrounds and
penetrates territorial places that are increasingly unable to defend themselves
by Chinese or Berlin Walls, by bans and censorship, or by appeals to `national
sovereignty' (the last refuge of authoritarians?). Progressive and humanistic
forces and voices are increasingly recognising that defence of national
or ethnic variety, or of threatened places, requires activity in global
spaces, including cyberspace. There may still be a `national question’
but the answer, if it is to be both radical and democratic, must be a global
Allowing for a multiplicity of contradictions, subjects, movements:
In the 19th and 20th centuries both liberalism and socialism have been
simplifying, serialising and reductive, whether in terms of a standardised
voting citizen or a class-conscious proletarian. Contemporary globalised
capitalism is capable of simultaneous standardisation (the `world car')
and of at least consumptive variation (`niche products', `glocalisation',
local or ethnic advertising). Progressive forces are learning that it is
variety and variation that provides for survival-capacity in times of rapid
and continuing global change, and that this kind of variety relates not
to `consumer choice' but to human and ecological creativity and adaptability.
Freedom is decreasingly understood as `the recognition of necessity', but
of the possibility of questioning, challenging and even changing `necessity'.
The values of diversity and care: These follow from the above,
with care suggesting responsibilities not only in the present but respect
for the past and responsibility for the future.
The inter-relation of immediate survival and eventual utopia:
Strategies for immediate survival can no longer be successful if they ignore
or threaten social or geographical Others (increasingly informed of such
threats or dangers by mainstream television or alternative email). Utopias
can no longer represent `the world turned upside down', since too many
people have paid the price of such apocalyptical experiments, whether in
Russia, Cambodia or the squatter settlements of Lima. Increasingly needed
are local/global survival strategies informed by utopian thinking, and
utopian alternatives based on or informed by survival struggles.
The surpassing, finally, of the old internationalism, is different from
either ignoring or dismissing it. The old internationalism was not evil,
nor are the new ones virtuous. The reproduction by the new internationalism
of many of the shortcomings of the old is certainly due to either ignorance,
amnesia, or feelings of moral superiority - for all of which a price is
3. The social theory and utopian ideology of classical socialist
As a means to check the existing
abuse of power, we echo your call for a fraternity of peoples. let there
be a gathering together of representatives from...all countries, where
there exists a will, to cooperate for the good of mankind. Let us...discuss
the great questions, on which the peace of nations depends...This would
clear the way for honourable men with comprehensive minds to come forth
and legislate for the rights of the many, and not the privileges of the
A fraternity of peoples is
highly necessary for the cause of labour, for we find that when ever we
attempt to better our social conditions by reducing the hours of toil,
or by raising the price of labour, our employers threaten us with bringing
over Frenchmen, Germans, Belgians and other [sic] to do our work at a reduced
rate of wages; and we are sorry to say that this has been done not from
any desire of our continental brethren to injure us, but through a want
of regular and systematic communication between the industrious classes
of all countries, which we hope to see speedily effected, as our principle
is to bring up the wages of the ill-paid to as near a level as possible
with that of those who are better remunerated, and not allow our employers
to play us off one against the other, and so drag us down to the lowest
possible condition, suitable to their avaricious bargaining.
To do these things is the work
of the peoples. The few liberties held by the masses were won by themselves,
and recent experience has shown that, the more we trust to princes and
potentates, the surer we are of being betrayed and sneered at. (Letter
of British to French unionists, Beehive, 5 December 1863. Cited
By the time Marx’s proletarians finally appear, the world stage on
which they were supposed to play their part has disintegrated and metamorphosed
into something unrecognisable, surreal, a mobile construction that shifts
and changes under the players’ feet. It is as if the innate dynamism of
the melting vision has run away with Marx and carried him - and the workers,
and us - far beyond the range of his intended plot, to a point where his
revolutionary script will have to be radically reworked. (Marshal Berman
1989 : 91-2)
Here I will deal with two documents of Marx and Engels, a virtually-unknown
passage from the German Ideology and the famous Communist Manifesto.
This is, in the first place, because of their richness in content. It is,
in the second place, because - unlike the case of nationalism - there was
little if any major development in either the Marxist theory or strategy
of internationalism after these early statements. What we seem to rather
get is either rhetorical reproduction, pragmatic adjustment or successive
The two documents are complementary in a number of ways. The first one
is philosophical, the second political. The first deals with the global
level, the second with that of the nation-state. The first deals with communism
primarily as historical transformation and social movement, the latter
with it as programme and organisation. The first document could be seen
as reflective and theoretical, the latter as persuasive and utopian. Although
I am here comparing and contrasting, this is not with the intention of
praising the `theoretical' over the `utopian' one. Both combine rational-analytical
and utopian-prophetic elements - a combination surely essential to any
emancipatory social theory. Whilst Marx and Marxism have an ambiguous attitude
towards utopianism, contemporary libertarian socialism, feminism and ecological
movements have refamiliarised socialists with the necessity of an appeal
to emotion, desire, and imagination in challenging the myriad inhumanities,
indignities and banalities to which we are accustomed. I find these documents
amazing and moving, dated in significant ways, yet nonetheless capable
of throwing light 150 years forward and therefore worthy of the critical
attention not simply of contemporary socialists but all democratically-minded
people. I will interrogate the texts both for their main themes and their
contemporary resonances and lacunae.
Communism as international social movement
Let us examine first the passage from the German Ideology of
This `alienation' (to use a term which will be comprehensible to the
philosophers) can, of course, only be abolished given two practical
premises. For it to become an "intolerable" power, i.e. a power against
which men make a revolution, it must necessarily have rendered the great
mass of humanity `propertyless', and produced, at the same time, the contradiction
of an existing world of wealth and culture, both of which conditions presuppose
a great increase in productive power, a high degree of its development.
And, on the other hand, this development of productive forces (which itself
implies the actual empirical existence of men in their world-historical,
instead of local, being) is an absolutely necessary practical premise because
without it want is merely made general, and with destitution
the struggle for necessities and all the old filthy business would necessarily
be reproduced; and furthermore, because with this universal development
of productive forces is a universal intercourse between men established,
which produces in all nations simultaneously the phenomenon of the `propertyless'
mass (universal competition), makes each nation dependent on the revolutions
of the others, and finally has put world-historical, empirically
universal individuals in place of local ones. Without this, 1) communism
could only exist as a local event: 2) the forces of intercourse
themselves could not have developed as universal, hence intolerable
powers: they would have remained home-bred conditions surrounded by superstition;
and 3) each extension of intercourse would abolish local communism. Empirically,
communism is only possible as the act of the dominant peoples `all at once'
and simultaneously, which presupposes the universal development of productive
forces and the world intercourse bound up with communism. Moreover, the
mass of propertyless workers - the utterly precarious position of
labour-power on a mass scale cut off from capital or from even a limited
satisfaction and, therefore, no longer merely temporarily deprived of work
itself as a secure source of life - presupposes the world market
through competition. The proletariat can thus only exist world-historically,
just as communism, its activity, can only have a `world-historical' existence.
World-historical existence of individuals means, existence of individuals
which is directly linked up with world history.
Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established,
an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call
communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of
things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in
existence. (Arthur 1970:56-7. Original stress)
I identify six main elements within this passage. I intend to rearrange
them for purposes of analysis. I think this can be done without violence
to the argument.
The international nature of the conditions for overcoming alienation.
The contradiction between the propertylessness of the `great mass of humanity'
and an `existing world of wealth and culture' has been increasing since
Marx' time. This has, however, been not only, and certainly not simply,
in the form of a contradiction between capital and proletariat. We are
witness to processes of mass proletarianisation (deprival of means of production)
without creation of a majority proletariat, of situations in which it is
a privileged minority of the proletarianised that becomes - or remains
- a permanent proletariat. We are witness to deepening contradictions between
worlds of wealth and culture and those denied this, today both between
and within `creditor' and `debtor' states. We are cognisant of a continuing
or even increasing coincidence of propertylessness with female or minority
(ethnic, religious) status. So this truly international contradiction has
been accompanied not with a growing homogenisation of the propertyless
but a continuing heterogenisation and one that is repeatedly restructured.
For Marx, the development of these international contradictions required
such an increase in productive power and wealth that their resolution would
permit a surpassing of want, destitution and a struggle for necessities.
The computer-based technical revolution now advancing in the industrialised
capitalist world is capable of ensuring rising productivity and full employment
with a decrease in labour time. Although this development opens up the
potentiality for overcoming the `old filthy business' we know, of course,
that it is currently being used to further fragment (industrially/occupationally),
segment (by nationality, gender, ethnicity, religion) and stratify the
For Marx, it was the above process that would ensure two crucial conditions,
the `empirical existence of men in their world-historical, instead
of local being' and the making of `each nation dependent upon the revolutions
of the others'. On the one hand, the absence of the earlier-mentioned requirements
explains why the latter conditions have not yet come about. On the other
hand, we can empirically identify the growth of these two processes. Increasing
numbers of movements demonstrate mass awareness of global community. And
we cannot but note the increasing demonstration effect of national revolutions
or uprisings, student protest movements, or even social reform waves.
The proletariat and communism as only existing internationally.
That what we have so far witnessed are increasingly national proletariats
and increasingly national communisms is accepted by more and more Marxists.
There is, however, the temptation to escape from this leaden empirical
contingency to the nebulous freedom of theory: the proletariat and communism
do not yet fully exist because they have forgotten or never
learned what Marx pronounced: but one day they will. Since neither historical
nor contemporary social analysis reveals much evidence for such an assertion,
we are left dependent on faith in an existing doctrine and ultimate authority
- something orthodox Marxists reject in all other cases. I propose a radical
solution: that we take Marx' position here as figurative rather than literal.
It is clear why he attached his aspiration for the end of human alienation
to the proletariat - the new, modern, mass, international class of the
exploited and oppressed. I propose we should here take `proletariat'
as a metaphor for all the alienated, all those denied their past rights,
their present capacities, their future potential (this does not, of course,
mean we should or could do this wherever Marx refers to the proletariat).
For the increasing internationalism of those alienated in many different
ways there is increasing evidence and argumentation. That the overcoming
of alienation (`communism' in Marx' language) is inconceivable nationally,
is surely demonstrated by the collapse of `socialism' not only in one country
but also in one bloc. Increasing `interdependence', moreover, seems to
imply that you cannot today build, or preserve, even a capitalist welfare
state in just one country. My interpretation, further, implies neither
writing off the proletariat as an autonomous contributor to internationalism,
nor abandoning appeals from outside or above (or below) that it consider
the advantages and even the necessities of a global identity. It means
only abandonment of any assumption that its internationalism is structurally
determined and/or exemplary. On this understanding, the proletariat would
also have to go to school, and not so much with Marx (or me) as with the
other alienated categories. It would also have to opt for the untrodden
but exhilarating world of internationalism rather than the familiar, well-trodden
but imprisoning parish of nation-statism. The proletariat may still have
a world to win, but it also has more than its chains to lose.
Communism as the real social movement. Here I feel we have a
thought-provoking theoretical formulation since it invites us to question
its own formulator and its social forms. Communism has long been
for the world primarily a `state of affairs' - an affair of Communist states.
It has also always been largely an `ideal to which reality [will]
have to adjust itself', increasingly an ideal in the heads only of socialist
intellectuals, (who could thus be fairly named `idealist socialist intellectuals').
If communism is meant in the first instance to be `the real movement which
abolishes the present state of things', then this requires us to address
ourselves to such real movements (movements in the sense both of societal
transformation and mass feelings, ideas, organisation and action). The
real movements that are presently transforming the international
order are the new alternative social movements. These do not have to be
understood as replacing or in opposition to the labour movement. Amongst
the real movements could also be counted the `social movement unions' or
`new social unionism' that explicitly or implicitly, to a greater or lesser
extent, for a longer or shorter period, surpass the economism and politicism,
the reformist or insurrectionary workerism, of their predecessors.
The necessity for simultaneous revolution by the dominant nations.
The importance of this assertion is what it reveals to us of Marx' apocalypticism
and eurocentrism. The latter was not so much surpassed as by-passed
by Lenin's notion of the weak link, and by Trotsky's of uneven and combined
development. What they understood, because Russia experienced it, is that
the international spread of capitalist social relations is multi-faceted
and uneven in essence. But this does not imply, as it did in part for Lenin
and increasingly for some of his followers, that we can shift revolutionary
primacy from `advanced' to `backward' nations, or revolutionary
agency from the anti-capitalist proletariat of the industrialised
centre to the anti-imperialist masses of the agricultural periphery. It
rather requires us to abandon any idea of countries or blocs or parties
that are either industrial/cultural models or revolutionary vanguards.
Recognising the differential implications and experience of capitalist
internationalisation requires us to: 1) identify the similar structures,
processes and experiences in different countries that lend themselves to
common internationalist action: 2) recognise that differential position
and experience within an increasingly capitalist world order implies different
movement priorities, discoveries, inventions and achievements; and 3) work
out principles and forms of solidarity amongst and between the different
significant movements of particular countries or blocs (e.g. both peace
movement with peace movement and labour movement with women's movement).
Finally, we need to ask ourselves why Marx had an apocalyptical vision
of emancipation. I here suggest that apocalypticism is a requirement of
a mass emancipatory ideology or movement in a situation in which masses
of people are capable of rebelling against existing conditions but not
of fully conceiving or controlling a desired alternative. I will further
suggest that the masses today are potentially capable of doing the latter,
which is why apocalyptical visions and strategies are associated with early,
undeveloped or (self-)isolated socialist movements (Sendero Luminoso in
Peru, the Communist Party of the Philippines, both inspired by Maoism).
Visions of sudden and complete transformation to a land of milk and honey,
where `the people will rule' (as in the original African National Congress
Charter), are declining in the more sophisticated socialist movements of
the Third World, such as those of South Korea, South Africa and Brazil.
This does not, of course, mean that apocalyptical visions are absent amongst
large parts of the masses locally. Contemporary political apocalypticism,
for the rest, appears increasingly a characteristic of reactionary, militaristic
and obscurantist forces (religious fundamentalists, chauvinist nationalists,
racists, global militarists).
The existence of the premises for communism. The reason why,
almost 150 years later, these premises have not yet translated themselves
into either empirical international reality, or even mass internationalist
aspiration, has been sufficiently argued above.
What will happen in the absence of the necessary conditions.
The value of this passage lies not only in its quite remarkable prescience
but also in reminding us that such prescience is the outcome of a new theoretical
approach linked with new emancipatory struggles (compare contemporary feminist
or ecological theory). Marx says that if the conditions are not ripe, capitalism
and the market will continue to appear `home-bred conditions surrounded
by superstition'. He also says that the further extension of the world
market will `abolish local communism'. What we have, of course, witnessed
over the last century and a half is working-class advances within capitalist
states (by nationally self-defined workers, without or against others),
and of anti-capitalist revolutions being repeatedly penetrated, de-radicalised
and restricted by the dynamic growth of international capital. What we
have so far witnessed internationally have, in other words, been working-class
movements within, or national revolutions against, capitalism.
Surpassing capitalism is another matter entirely.
Communism as international political movement
We turn now to the Communist Manifesto of 1848. Certainly the
best-remembered part of this are the closing words, `Workers of all countries,
unite!'. But the Manifesto does not give so much place to internationalisation
and internationalism as memory might suggest. What it does have to say
is, of course, determinant for the Manifesto as a whole. Within it I identify
three main elements, once again re-arranged for purposes of analysis and
1. Bourgeois internationalisation as progressive. Whilst it is
evident that Marx and Engels by no means identify themselves with the bourgeoisie,
they clearly consider its international role as progressive, as modernising,
developing, homogenising and unifying the world. The violent `pain of extinction'
with which the bourgeoisie threatens `barbarian and semi-barbarian' nations
is presented as civilising. The bourgeoisie is even credited with undermining
`national one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness' and of creating a `world
literature'. It is hardly necessary, in the face of the last century and
a half, to criticise this picture. Nor is it necessary to argue the linkage
between the attitudes here expressed and those of European bourgeois racism,
evolutionism, modernism and cosmopolitanism. This has been done extensively
and convincingly elsewhere. What is necessary is to stress what is missing,
since this helps us to understand why internationalisation has not led
to internationalism: why industrialism is not merely disruptive but destructive,
why the bourgeoisie is chauvinist and imperialist, why capitalist statism
is essentially militaristic, why world capitalist civilisation is essentially
individualising and divisive. Far from creating its own international and
internationalist gravedigger in the industrial proletariat, for example,
capitalism has divided the labour process of gravedigging technically,
socially and geographically, assigning different parts of the task to the
differentially proletarianised, of various gender, ethnic or religious
categories, under diverse political and labour regimes. In addition to
a world literature, it has created a commercialised transnational culture
which simultaneously provides immense profits, homogenises audiences as
consumers, spreads dehumanised bourgeois values, erodes local popular cultures
containing elements of resistance or opposition and finally obstructs any
such communication between these as would be necessary for the creation
of an internationalist culture.
To add all the above is to qualify, not reverse, the evaluation. For
it is, for example, equally evident that the development of railways and
other technical channels of communication were determinant in the
rapid organisation of labour nationally and internationally. An interesting
and important question follows. If the railways thus allowed labour
organisation, did they not, perhaps, also restrict its shape? Railways
are physically-fixed, monopolistically or state-owned, hierarchically managed,
centripetal channels. Their international connections mechanically connect
the separate nationally-owned and controlled systems. Did not national
and international labour organisations unconsciously reproduce the pattern,
structure and management of such industries? Capitalist industrialisation
and internationalisation is, in any case, a highly contradictory phenomenon,
simultaneously denying, provoking and even stimulating possibilities for
self-organisation and liberation. The effective use of computers in both
individualistic sabotage of the computer society, or in collective struggle
against it, would be one example. Another would be the radical recycling
of the white, North American individualist Superman myth by the apparition
in Mexico of Superbarrio, the protector of urban squatters, who
- tongue firmly in cheek (he is a cheeky fellow) - states that he draws
his power only from the collective. Superbarrio operates amongst
Latinos/as in both Mexico and the US, declaring `We didn't make the border,
we don't want the border' .
2. The proletariat as a liberated, liberating and internationalist
subject. The proletariat is endowed with positive and universalistic
qualities. It is free of `every trace of national character' and `bourgeois
prejudices'. The workers `have no country', they `have nothing to lose
but their chains'. They have to complete the task begun by the bourgeoisie.
By ending class antagonisms within countries they will end them between
countries. And they must end them first within nations, become the leading
class within the nation, become the nation. Although these phrases come
from different parts of the Manifesto, they nonetheless amount to a clear
argument: since the proletariat is free of bourgeois and nationalist prejudices,
since it is free of any stake in existing society, it can therefore put
an end to conflicts between nations, this requiring that it first take
over the nation-state from the old ruling classes that are responsible
for international conflicts.
In considering this view, it is necessary to make a number of points.
Firstly, the positive, progressive and Promethean characteristics the
working class is here accorded have little or no correspondence with the
early-19th century British proletariat as described by Engels four years
earlier. In later political dealings with, and writings on, the British
working class, its leaders and organisations, Marx and Engels identified
national and stratum privilege, narrow self-interest, subordination to
bourgeois ideas and institutions, and chauvinism.
Secondly, the argument is class-reductionist in assuming that state
and nation are forms of existence, or expressions, of classes, or of secondary
import to classes in determining social liberation. It would seem superfluous
today to have to argue for the continuing, indeed growing, weight
of state and nationality/ethnicity in determining relations between people
and peoples. The commonly tense and sometimes violent relations between
and within even culturally close Communist states - and the longstanding
state discrimination against ethnic or religious minorities within them
- was evidently due to these forces. In the late-l970s, the Polish regime
was characterised by one prescient critic as `Ethno-Communist'. As the
Communism has disappeared, it is often only ethnicity that seems to remain.
Thirdly, the argument is evolutionist in suggesting that the proletariat
has to complete a task begun by the bourgeoisie rather than to criticise
and transform all bourgeois relations and processes.
Fourthly, the argument is `stageist' in so far as it suggests that national
struggle somehow proceeds the international one, or that international
conflicts cannot be ended without proletarian rule nationally. This implies
a priority of struggles, or an order of separate levels, at odds with the
1847 document and with a dialectical understanding of inter-penetrating
and mutually-determining national and international spheres.
Fifthly, the argument is, of course, patriarchal. At a time when a large
part of factory labour was carried out by women and children, the proletariat
is assumed to consist of adult males - who presumably neither beat, rape,
nor more-subtly oppress, their family members.
Given, in sum, the complex nature of both the 19th and 20th-century
proletariat, given the complexity of social structures within which it
existed and exists, the portrayal of the proletariat as a liberated, liberating
and vanguard internationalist subject is precisely an `ideal to which reality
[will] have to adjust itself'.
3. The communist role: The only thing that distinguishes communists
from other working-class parties is that within national struggles they
press the common interests of the proletariat internationally, and that
at any stage they press the interests of the movement generally. The conclusion
to the last section applies here with equal force. The aspiration represented
by the Marx-Engels assertion has evidently been disappointed by the nationalisation
and statification of socialists and socialism. Once again, however, we
have to abandon dependence on a Second Coming, a Last Really International.
We cannot today see, even in such internationalist traditions as those
of the Trotskyists or Anarcho-Syndicalists, the embryo of a body which
is not only internationalist but also possessed of the other characteristics
required by the Manifesto - that it be not opposed to other working-class
parties, that it be not separate from the proletariat, that it have no
In their concept of the role of communists, Marx and Engels combined
traditional religious notions of salvation (an Elect, possessing the Word,
leading the Chosen People, via an Apocalypse, to a Promised Land with the
party - that was to become the quintessentially bourgeois form of political
organisation! The power - or limitations - of this highly specific combination
of forms (in relation to their ideal of a global movement to end human
alienation) is witnessed by the way socialist parties have not so much
failed to embody or further the project but have actually negated it. The
two utopias socialist parties can offer us today are represented, I suppose,
on the one hand by the West European `social market' society and, on the
other, the `society of great harmony' which the terroristic Sendero
Luminoso (Shining Path) was trying to `drive home' into the minds of
Peru's miserable but resilient masses. But these were or are either national
or bloc projects. The Sendero type is one that is so inhuman, and implies
such isolation from the world, that it has been abandoned by rulers or
rejected by their subjects almost everywhere. And the social-market society,
whilst still exercising attraction for some people in the East and the
South, is one that cannot be reproduced internationally without despoiling
the planet itself.
It is curious, finally, that the Manifesto, the more concrete and political
of the two documents, should seem more dated or less relevant than the
earlier, more abstract and philosophical one. This once again suggests
that we have to liberate the project of internationalism from the politics
of a 19th-century world dominated by the market, industrialisation, worker-capitalist
conflict, nation- and empire-building, deification of the masculine and
struggle for the control of the machinery of the state.
A parenthesis: the rise and fall of an old `new internationalism’
The Thirdworld(ist) internationalisms of the 1960s-70s deserve more
than a footnote to the analysis of historical internationalism. We can
certainly trace back their origins to the anti-imperialist, Pan-American
(Bolivarista), Pan-African and other such internationalisms of earlier
decades or centuries. Their post-WW2 revival in the 1950s-60s was due to
the initiative of `non-aligned’ states (India, Indonesia, Ghana, Egypt),
and then of state-oriented or state-initiated `peoples’ movements’, such
as the Cuban-based Tricontinental, launched 1966. Such `regional’ or `particular’
internationalisms certainly had their popular appeal and may even have
left a democratic political or ethical legacy (here we require research).
But this cannot disguise their ideological/theoretical shortcomings.
On the more ideological side we can consider the massive collection
inspired by the Tricontinental, and entitled The Coming of the New International
(Gerassi 1971). Not one of the 50 or so documents and declarations included
actually addresses internationalism (as distinguished from anti-imperialism,
national and social revolution). The word internationalism does
not even have an index entry! The slippage from a socialist universalism
to a radical-nationalist statism is here complete. Even when and where
a thirdworldist internationalism did in fact take shape, as in the adventures
of Che Guevara in the Congo and Bolivia, it was often limited to a relationship
of revolutionary elites, and/or subject to the vagaries of Cuban foreign
policy. Later Cuban, North Korean and Libyan `international solidarity’
projects took the form of military aid to authoritarian regimes, sabotage,
espionage or terrorism. Even if inspired by the historical pan-continentalisms
of Africa and Latin America, these projects had passed, before finding
expression, through the prison schools of socialist and communist-state
The shortcomings of this new internationalism are identified more theoretically
by Fernando Mires (1989). Mires sees it as reproducing, rather than surpassing,
the logic of states and the `bloc internationalism' of the Soviet Union.
He also sees it as reproducing the reductionism of the old internationalism,
the practice of either ignoring all international contradictions but one,
or of subordinating them to one `totalising antagonism' (proletarians/capitalists,
Third World/First World). Mires nonetheless expresses the hope 1) that
the crisis of thirdworldism will create the possibility for raising anti-imperialist
positions on the basis of real and concrete antagonisms, and 2) that the
crisis of internationalism might open up possibilities for the rise of
forms of international cooperation free of determinism, and based not only
on respect for similarities but also on that for differences.
So much for the inter-nationalism of the industrial, national and imperial
period of capitalism. Whether, or to what extent, they created a legacy
in the minds and actions of leftist intellectuals, activists and movement
followers, in particular parts of the world, and were present at the birth
of the new internationalisms, are matters - as I have suggested - requiring
historical research. What remains clear, however, is that the new internationalisation,
the new internationalism, requires new theory and new strategy. Let’s see
if we can at least begin to imagine these.
4. Theorising internationalism in the era of globalisation
With the exception of a small elite of globalpolitans (half
beings, half flows), people all over the world resent loss of control over
their lives, over their environment, over their jobs, over their economies,
over their governments, over their countries, and, ultimately, over the
fate of the Earth. Thus, following an old law of social evolution, resistance
confronts domination, empowerment reacts against powerlessness, and alternative
projects challenge the logic embedded in the new global order, increasingly
sensed as disorder by people around the planet. (Castells 1997:69. Original
The ecological approach...emphasises the holistic character of all
forms of matter and all information processing. Thus, the more we know,
the more we sense the possibilities of our technology, and the more we
realise the gigantic, dangerous gap between our enhanced productive capacities,
and our primitive, unconscious and ultimately destructive social organisation.
This is the objective threat that weaves the growing connectedness of social
revolts, local and global, defensive and offensive, issue-oriented and
value-oriented...This is not to say that a new international of good-willing,
generous citizens has emerged. Yet...this is to say that embryonic connections
between grassroots movements and symbol-oriented mobilisations on behalf
of environmental justice bear the mark of alternative projects. These projects
hint at superseding the exhausted social movements of industrial society,
to resume, under historically appropriate forms, the old dialectics between
domination and resistance, between realpolitik and utopia, between
cynicism and hope. (Castells 1997:133. Original stress)
`Globalisation’, for the contemporary left, has a much more pejorative
sense than did `capitalism’, or `the internationalisation of capital’,
for Marx and Engels. In what follows, I will try to present globalisation
historically and dialectically (as Marx and Engels did capitalism!). This
means seeing globalisation as neither essentially bad or good. It is rather
the name of the drama within which we as potential or actually-existing
actors are placed - but with a Pirandello-like potential to be authors
and rewrite the script.
My convinction is that globalisation makes it possible, for the first
time in human history, for emancipatory forces to at least begin to see
the world both whole and holistically, to understand the interlocking of
civilisation/barbarism and to propose understandings and strategies aimed
directly at the civilising of global society. The `worldview’ offered below
is just one of a number of attempts to do this.
Firstly, then, our present period is one of a complex, globalised,
high-risk, information and service capitalism - a condition or moment not
of post-modernity but of a high or radicalised modernity. Old social,
economic, political, military, cultural and other conflicts are raised
to higher levels (in terms of both intensity and sites), these being supplemented
by new and truly global ones. The decentering of capitalist and statist
power implies a dramatic increase in the number, type, complexity, sites
and levels of social tension, conflict and negotiation. This is represented
in Figure 1. An informatised capitalism is one in which society
- or societies - are subjected simultaneously to increased scope or stretch
and to increased intensity or deepening. This in turn implies increased
interdependency, globalised localities and localised globalities, subjected
to the simultaneous, complex and uneven effects of homogenisation and heterogenisation.
This is, consequently, a world in which we are increasingly condemned to
think both dialectically and ethically: dialectically because of the complexity
and contradictions; ethically because our choices have sharply increasing
socio-geographic and historical stretch and effect.
Secondly, globalisation and globalism, particularly in their neo-liberal
form, provoke new political, social and cultural responses that are increasingly
globalised. We can here identify three ideal-type responses: that of
celebration (accepting the role of serialised global consumer, individualised
voter), that of rejection (on particularistic, essentialist or fundamentalist
grounds, whether religious, national, socialist or cultural) and that of
critique/surpassal (coming primarily from the new alternative, or radical-democratic,
social movements). This is represented in Figure 2. Figure 2a
also suggests how the `alternative', local-to-global, response overlaps
with/is penetrated by celebratory or rejectionist elements. Figure 2b
reveals the tension between engagement and autonomy in alternative social
movements/spaces, suggesting the necessity to move or balance between an
excess of engagement with capital/state (incorporation) or of autonomy
in civil society (self-isolation). Any `alternative' social movement, or
related non-governmental organisation (NGO), can thus find itself in multiple
positions, in local-to-global space, or at particular times. It is, for
example, possible for a feminist movement, organisation or tendency (local-to-global)
to be simultaneously self-isolated (within civil society, from other feminists
or women, from men) and incorporated (into reform strategies or intermediating
roles promoted by capital or state). A complex, interdependent, yet uneven
and unbalanced global order, requires complex, interdependent global alternatives,
which the alternative movements are beginning to offer. In so far as it
is globalised, moreover, contemporary capitalism promotes communication
and culture to increasing pre-eminence, this providing an eminently disputable
terrain for such new emancipatory movements. Cultural globalisation makes
an alternative global solidarity culture both necessary and possible. The
form of the new global solidarity movements is, thus, increasingly that
of `information internationalisms'.
Thirdly, globalisation implies the increasing centrality of the trans-,
supra- or non-territorial terrain, as well as of global institutions, processes
and instances, and therefore the possibility and necessity for the civilising
of global society. Global civil society, understood as one created
out of conflict with the capitalist and (inter-)state spheres, is a privileged
terrain (not the sole one) for the construction of liberty, equality, solidarity,
ecological care and cultural tolerance/creation. This is, however, not
a paradise to be announced, discovered or inhabited, it is a habitat to
be jointly constructed by autonomous, democratic and pluralist forces.
This requires engagement with/in existing inter-state and transnational
capitalist instances and processes. It also requires engagement with/in
churches, religions, and within and between NGOs/social movements that
often reproduce the structures and behaviours they claim to surpass. NGOs,
as earlier suggested, can be found in any autonomous or ambiguous position
within the `alternative' circle of Figure 2a and the `civil society'
one Figure 2b. The development of a global civil society both depends
on and stimulates the democratisation, deconcentration and decentralisation
of inter-state organisations, transnational capitalist companies and religious
institutions. A new concept of world citizenship is required to simultaneously
synthesise and surpass those of the past. This would have as its utopian
imaginary a citizenship without borders, classes or genders.
Fourthly, globalisation raises the question of transforming inter-nationalism
(etymologically and historically a relation between nations, nationals
and nationalities) into global solidarity. The latter is a movement
and ethic identifying and addressing global social issues, identities and
movements - including the national and ethnic. This means replacing the
rhetorical internationalism of the nation-state period (when mass real-life
experience was not universal and the universal was therefore unreal to
masses) by one addressable and addressed to a world increasingly experienced
by such masses of people - though differentially and unevenly - as both
real and universal. A new universalism, both recognising and promoting
plurality, must be based on a relational ontology, in which relating to
others is not so much what we do as who we are. A monological ethic - in
which universalistic principles dominate procedures - requires surpassing
with a dialogical ethic, in which procedures allow for the possibility
of developing a common discourse between different and unequal partners.
Fifthly, globalisation, and the related collapse of both Communist
and Radical-Nationalist alternatives to capitalism, helps us to understand
that history does not consist of evolutionary stages (the higher, or later,
the better), even less of binarily-opposed phases (civilised v. barbaric,
modern v. traditional, post-modern v. modern). It is becoming increasingly
possible to recognise that we are `living mixed times’ (Calderon 1994).
It is this that allows the `primitive', `traditional', `barbarian', `pre-modern'
Huarani indigenes of Amazonian Ecuador to pass messages to `modern' Netherlanders
about a `post-modern' future.
The rest of this section considers the implications of such an understanding
for global solidarity, communications/culture, citizenship, and the inter-relationship
of the local and global, the middle class and popular classes, in the era
A complex solidarity for a complex globality
Globalisation creates a world that can increasingly be experienced as
both real and universal, thus allowing for a universalism that is more
than faith or obligation, a global solidarity that is more than a merely
imagined community. The new global solidarity projects descend from, selectively
re-articulate, allow for, but surpass, religious, liberal and socialist
universalisms; proposing neither a return to an unchanging golden past
nor a leap into a perfect future - here or hereafter - they allow for and
require a dialogue of civilisations and ages, a solidarity with both past
Here I will suggest an understanding of international solidarity that
goes beyond both poetic and philosophical discourses, and any attempt at
a one-word qualifier (`reciprocal', `reflexive'), but by building on rather
than dismissing such. The understanding offered is a more political and
a more complex one. It is also, I think, one that could aid research. Solidarity
is here assumed to be: 1) informed by and positively articulated with equality,
liberty, peace, tolerance, and more-recent emancipatory/life-protective
ideals; 2) primarily a relationship between people and peoples, even where
mediated by state, market and bureaucratic/hierarchical organisations;
3) an active process of negotiating differences, or creating identity (as
distinguished from traditional notions of `solidarity as community' which
may assume identity).
International solidarity - old or new, local or global, is here understood
in terms of the acronym ISCRAR (an ironic mnemonic: Iskra was Lenin's
newspaper). This spells out as Identity, Substitution, Complementarity,
Reciprocity, Affinity and Restitution (see Figure 3):
Identity or identity creation is what commonly underlies socialist
calls for international solidarity, usually in reference to oppressed and
divided classes or categories in opposition to powerful and united oppressors
(capitalists, imperialists). By itself, however, an Identity Solidarity
can be reductionist and self-isolating, excluding unalikes. In so far as
the identity is oppositional, it is a negative quality, often determined
by the nature and project of the enemy or opponent (as with much traditional
Substitution implies standing up, or in, for a weaker or poorer
other. This is how international solidarity has been usually understood
amongst Development Cooperators and `First-World Third-Worldists'. By itself,
however, a Substitution Solidarity can lead to substitutionism (acting
and speaking for the other), and it can permit the reproduction of existing
inequalities. This is a criticism of Development Cooperation, which may
function to create a single community of guilt and moral superiority within
`donor countries', whilst creating or reproducing further feelings of dependency
and/or resentment in countries where social crises have evidently been
Complementarity suggests the provision of that which is missing,
and therefore an exchange of different desired qualities. A Complementary
Solidarity would mean that what was moving in each direction could differ
but be equally valued by participants in the transaction. In so far as
it meant that some kind of physical goods (cash, equipment, political support)
were mostly moving in one direction and that some kind of moral or emotional
goods (expressions of appreciation and gratitude) were mostly being received,
we could be involved in an `unequal exchange' of a problematic character.
Reciprocity suggests mutual interchange, care, protection and
support. It could be taken as the definition of the new global solidarity.
Global Reciprocity Solidarity, however, could be understood as a principle
of equal exchange, in which (as with states) one is exchanging political
equivalents, or (as with capitalists) on the basis of calculated economic
advantage. And it could therefore imply that one would defend the rights
of others only if, or in expectation of, reciprocation by the other;
Affinity suggests mutual appreciation or attraction, and therefore
a relationship of mutual respect and support, in which what is sought,
appreciated or valued by each party is shared. Affinity would seem to have
more to do with values, feelings and friendship. An Affinity Solidarity
would seem to allow for global linkages within or between ideologies or
movements, including between people without contact but acting in the same
spirit. In so far as it approximates friendship, it would seem to be inevitably
particular, if not particularistic;
Restitution suggests the putting right of a past wrong, the recognition
of historical responsibility, a `solidarity with the past', a solidarity
across time rather than space. This comes close to inter-governmental war
reparations, with the consequent danger of buying off guilt.
The value of such an understanding would seem to be the following: 1)
that it is multi-faceted and complex; 2) that each type holds part of the
meaning and that each is only part of the meaning; 3) that it is subversive
of simple binary or (r)evolutionary oppositions between bad and good, old
and new, material and moral solidarity; 4) that it enables critique of
partial or one-sided solidarities; 5) that it could be developed into a
research instrument, permitting, for example, surveys of the meaning(s)
of solidarity for those involved.
From aspect to essence: global solidarity as communication
An exemplar - or at least an example - of alternative social movements
operating under the conditions of an informatised and globalised capitalism,
that of women is, at least implicitly, a communications internationalism.
This has several different but interconnected meanings. The first is that
it operates in the sphere of ideas, information and images, revealing that
which is globally concealed, suggesting new meanings for that which is
revealed. The second and consequent one is that, like other such, it is
particularly active and effective on the terrain of communication, media,
culture. The third is that, again like other such, its basic relational
principle is that of the network rather than the organisation. The fourth,
and consequent, one is that the movement needs to be primarily understood
in communicational/cultural rather than in the traditional political/organisational
The global sphere of ideas, information and images. There is
nothing immaterial, superstructural or derivative about this sphere, although
in the industrial phase of capitalism it may have appeared as all three.
We do not, at the other extreme, need to become discourse-determinists
to recognise both the increasing centrality of this sphere and the potential
for emancipatory movement and radical democracy it contains. That this
sphere is created and dominated by the logic of capital cannot conceal
its contradictory nature: capital, capitalists, capitalisms, cannot simply
control this sphere in the way they did the factory, the family, the state,
the school and the gun. This is also a non-territorial sphere, meaning
one increasingly capable of that expanding growth, flexibility and democratisation
that the capitalism of industry and the state-nation has promised/denied.
It is growth here that will make an ecological steady-state possible globally,
without such `conservatism' implying stagnation or reaction. The problem
to be overcome is that of the invisibility of this sphere: that it is either
transparent to emancipatory movements, or else handled with concepts and
understandings borrowed from, for example, politics.
The global terrain of communication, media, culture. At national
level, or within a nation-state-dominated discourse, we can recognise as
distinct, overlapping and mutually-informing cultural spheres, the Dominant,
the Popular and the Alternative. But, the Popular (in so far as this implies
places actively and intensively lived in and culturally shaped by poorer
population sectors) can hardly be said to have a place or space at global
level. The Popular is here carried, shaped and articulated by either the
immensely powerful Dominant global means or the still tiny and marginal
Alternative ones - which are in mutual dispute for hegemony over the Popular.
The marginality of the Alternative is less important for social movements
than recognition of: 1) the creative freedom permitted by such marginality;
2) the name and increasing centrality of this terrain; 3) the necessity
and possibility of disputing it. It has been argued, in relation to its
democratic potential, that cyberspace is less like a hammer (a means, a
tool, for doing something to something) than Germany (a place, space, culture).
It is, actually, a hammer and Germany and Utopia (`nowhere',
`a good place', a community yet to be imagined and created). Globally it
is a space of increasingly public dispute, as radical-democratic social
movements mobilise for `A People's Communication Charter' and related political
transformations. These, and other such projects, both require and are creating
democratic and pluralist global communication networks that are increasingly
specialised and professional.
Networking as a principle of global inter-relationship. Networking
is both the oldest and the most common form of human social relationship.
It was only with the development of industrial and state-national capitalism
that the formal, hierarchical organisation (authoritarian, representative-democratic,
participatory-democratic) came to impose itself, to suck power and meaning
out of such networks, to concentrate all decision-making power within itself,
to project itself as both the real and ideal relational form. The transformation
to a globalised and informatised capitalism brings back the networking
principle with a vengeance - primarily vengeance against those subaltern
strata now locked into and dependent on the traditional hierarchical organisation!
There is, thus, nothing essentially virtuous about networking either now
or in the recent (or, for that matter, pre-capitalist) past.
In talking of networking however, we are considering human inter-relationships,
including those within and between organisations, in communication
terms. In so far as networks are conceived of as horizontal, flexible,
incorporating participation and feedback, we can also value these over
the rigid hierarchical organisation, and attempt to thus distinguish `our'
networks from `their' networks. We have, however, also to recognise that
within any particular political domain - geographical, social, professional
- networking does not only mean an informal and flexible horizontal relationship
between equals and alikes, but also informal vertical relationships between
such, and informal horizontal relations between unequals and unalikes.
Networks also have different architectures, such as the star, the wheel
and the web (including a World Wide Web increasingly used by social movements
and activist academics) implying differential influence and control. Network-babble
therefore needs, today, to be replaced by network analysis, including consideration
of roles within, or in relation to, them, of the cost of individual/group
involvement, of the extent of their connectivity, of their density, and
of the role of opinion leaders (who can evidently convert a network into
All these complexities and qualifications notwithstanding, the idea,
value and practice of networking opens wide perspectives to emancipatory
global movements, previously (self-) condemned to reproduce the pyramidical
and hierarchical structure of the corporation, factory, state, army, prison,
church or (Godess forbid!) university. Indeed, the archetypical political
party of liberal democracy was invented by the German labour and socialist
movement, in its early, emancipatory moment: it was criticised almost one
century ago for its creation and reproduction of oligarchy. If the extreme
form of emancipatory internationalism was at one time represented by the
Comintern (combining characteristics of an early Christian sect, the Jesuit
order, the Islamic jihad, and the state foreign intelligence or spy ring),
the new ideal must be the Italian one of the `biodegradable organisation'
(an ideal activists are more likely to welcome in general theory than in
particular effect or as promoted practice).
From national subjects to global citizens: insiders without outsiders
The notion of global citizenship has at least two inter-related problems
attached to it. The first is that of the social, territorial inclusion/exclusion
anchored historically in the concept of rights/responsibilities within
a city (later state-nation). The second is its relationship to a sovereign
power, whether aristocratic, monarchical or republican). A global citizenship
would be one without outsiders, unless we are thinking of extra-terrestrial
territories or beings. It would also be one recognising that, today more
than ever, `sovereign power' at global level is complex and dispersed.
Yet, given globalisation, some such notion seems not only inescapable but
The idea of global citizenship is a logical implication of theoretical
and political discussion of multi-tiered citizenship, itself a result of
the creation of such regional polities as the European Union, and of a
relativisation of state-nation centrality. It is attractive for numerous
reasons. One is shown by the way in which women have been able to successfully
appeal to the European Court of Justice against the state-nation. Another
attraction is that of embodying universal rights and responsibilities in
people and peoples rather than the state-nation.
The non-existence of a recognisable global sovereign is less an obstacle
than a challenge to emancipatory global movements. That there is no single
address for the People's Communication Charter or the Cultural Environment
Movement, does not prevent them from seeking for and identifying the places
where power is concentrated, nor from pressing for citizen-like rights
- and responsibilities - in this sphere. In this case, perhaps, global-citizens-in-the-making
might be also creating a global sovereignty (subject to both perestroika
and glasnost) over an increasingly privatised sphere that is monopolistic
in tendency, individualising, intrusive and destructive of human sociality
The concept of the world citizen appropriate to the era of globalisation
can no longer be that of the religious universalist, the liberal cosmopolitan
or the socialist internationalist. Ecological theory has already begun
to conceptualise the matter, identifying as hypothetical global citizens
1) the global capitalist, 2) the global reformer, 3) the environmental
manager and 4) the earth citizen. The earth citizen is one with an attitude
of care for and cooperation with her/his environment.
Notions of `cosmopolitan democracy', and extensive related discussion,
sensitise us to the growing importance of international institutions -
and the impact that these have on notions of democracy that assume the
sovereign nation-state. They may, however, be based on an over-optimistic
projection forward from the 1990s wave of UN activity, and of the NGO/civil
society role in global conferences. We do not know, at this uncertain moment,
what US or other major state/bloc interest there is in anything more than
a slimmed-down set of such institutions, with serious global decision-making
confined to smaller and more-secretive clubs - with carefully-selected,
purely-decorative, NGO `consultative committees' as a cheap but decorative
Discussion around global institutions in terms of democracy has nonetheless
extended the notion of `double democratisation' - of both state and civil
society - to the global level. If this kind of discussion often makes a
simple identification of the latter with the new alternative social movements
or NGOs, critical reflection on the latter suggests the necessity for a
third democratisation - of full citizenship within a sphere that often
reproduces the hierarchy, secrecy and competitivity of capital, state,
and of those old bureaucratised labour or socialist movements over which
superiority is claimed.
5. Conclusion: some implications for (would-be) internationalists
[T]he capacity of most social movements to command place better
than space puts a strong emphasis upon the potential connection between
place and social identity. This is manifest in political action...The consequent
dilemmas of social or working-class movements in the face of a universalising
capitalism are shared by other oppositional groups - racial minorities,
colonised peoples, women, etc. - who are relatively empowered to organise
in place but disempowered when it comes to organising over space. In clinging,
often of necessity, to a place-bound identity, however, such oppositional
movements become a part of the very fragmentation which a mobile capitalism
and flexible accumulation can feed upon. `Think globally and act locally'
was the revolutionary slogan of the 1960s. It bears repeating. (Harvey
This paper is about the increasing possibility of, and necessity for, virtuous
spirals in a globalising world. I have, I hope, also suggested that these
can become vicious circles or even downward spirals. So this is a plea
for working on virtuous spirals between the global and local - however
these are conceived - and for virtuous circles within globalised space.
If, at the beginning of the century, it was more or less clear which
space was national and which international, which local and which global,
at the end this is no longer so. If I reflect on International Women's
Day 1997 at my own institute, it is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish
the global and the local. Women students, from the Women and Development
Programme, brought this into the institute with the local version of a
global campaign against sexual harassment. A public meeting made apparent
that the institute was, in its procedures, failing to recognise the structured
inequality between harassers (male) and harassed (female). Further revealed
was a locally-, nationally- or regionally-specific combination of liberal-patriarchal
assumption and liberal-democratic intention. This institute is a Dutch,
state-dependent, internationally-staffed and Third-World-oriented institute
of Westernised development studies. The students are primarily from the
Third World (i.e. two-thirds of our globalised whole). A number of them
are feminists, formed not only by local struggles and feminists but also
by First-World and even First-Worldist feminisms - as well
as by such global feminism as was articulated at the 4th World Conference
on Women in Beijing (where 30-40 past institute graduates met each other
and present staff). Where, in this case, is the global and where the local?
Which is influencing which? And, in this struggle for a citizenship recognising
and allowing for difference, where does feminist power and initiative originate,
lie or accumulate? The institute is not, of course, local in the way of...where?
Chiapas in the Deep South of Mexico? Its inhabitants are not localised
like...who? The white male dockers of Liverpool in the North-West of England?
Both communities are involved in conflicts caused by neo-liberal globalisation,
and one can learn about and support the struggles of their men and women
through internationally accessible alternative media and the Internet.
Through the World Wide Web they are not only part of but contributing to
a worldwide web of solidarity. It therefore occurs to me that, as global
and local movements increasingly interpentrate and inform each other, we
possibly need to concentrate less on places or levels than processes and
Another thought. What we have been talking about here is `globalisation
from below' only in a rhetorical sense (although one could ask, rhetorically,
do we not need a new radical-democratic global rhetoric?). The active agents
of the new global solidarity are mostly - like those actually accessing,
entering and downloading from the Internet - tertiary-educated middle-class
professionals, academics and technicians. This is not a matter for concealment
or even embarassment. Most 19th and early-20th century bearers of labour
and socialist internationalism were either middle class or - through their
activity as (semi-)professional internationalists - became so. It is worth
remembering that in 1914 it was not so much the `labour bureaucracy' or
`labour aristocracy' that betrayed the working class but the national and
nationalist working classes that `betrayed' their commonly internationalist
leaders! This was a traumatic and formative experience in international
social movement history that does not bear repetition. The new internationalists
need to unite not only with each other but with their respective publics,
Yet another thought. There is a belief, or at least a wish, in the international
labour and socialist movement, as well as amongst some left social theorists,
that it might be possible to return to, or revive, the liberal-democratic
national welfare state of the post 1945 era, or its socialist-nationalist
opposite number, or their international projection in the UN institutions.
This is to ignore the historical evidence: anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist
revolutions can be reversed, or at least vitiated; the revolutions of or
inside capitalism - industrial, informational - can not, or have not. It
is also to fail to consider how the Keynesian national(ist) welfare model,
in curious duplication of its national-communist competitor, disarmed social
movements and civil society, thus permitting, if not preparing the way,
for national and global neo-liberalism.
The fate of the reports of successive international commissions of the
great and the good, Brandt, Brundtland and Our Global Neighbourhood (I
may have missed one or two) do not augur well for such attempts to regain
the Paradigm Lost. They have been joined, in the dustbin of global reformist
utopianism, by the 1970s-80s projects (promoted by leftist politicians
and academics, and endorsed by authoritarian Thirdworld and Communist states)
for the New World This That and The Other Order. Yet it seems impossible
that some convincing statist and reformist project for taming or civilising
global casino capitalism will not develop over the next decade!
The books mentioned in my introduction above either prefer this or stimulate
such. The new alternative global social movements should certainly support
such, but they should neither identify themselves with nor subordinate
themselves to them. What, it seems to me, they should be doing is thinking
about the kind of world, the kind of state, the kind of nation, the kind
of welfare desirable, necessary and possible under conditions of globalisation.
This kind of thinking, strategising and even acting is, finally, beginning
to take shape within the labour movement internationally, or at least on
the advanced fringes of the international labour organisations. These first
green shoots of an alternative global labour solidarity movement challenge
the assumptions of people like Castells and Harvey that the labour movement
has no reach beyond the (inter)national, no message for the future. In
their own efforts to produce a historical and dialectical account of social
protest and transformation, they have forgotten to allow that labour could
be re-educated, or re-educate itself, as a result of its experience of
globalisation and of other movements against such! Certain national and
international trade union organisations, certain international trade union
officers, are beginning to rise from a formerly suppine position, robustly
attacking neo-liberal globalisation, addressing themselves also to the
new global issues (gender, human rights, environment, peace), and even
learning from the networking principles and communication/cultural strategies
of the new global social movements. Whilst it is true that they tend to
refer to these movements institutionally (as NGOs), narrowly (as single-issue
movements) and in liberal-democratic terms (as non-representative), they
are beginning to dialogue with such and even to share platforms with them.
Even more significant is the new way they are beginning to understand labour,
now expanded beyond the mythical male bread-winner to include the lot of
women, children, the sub-contracted, the self-employed, the temporary and
part-time. These international labour organisations and initiatives are
attempts to re-invent an international and internationalist labour movement
fit for a globalised, informatised and networked capitalism. Emblematic
here is the Summit of the Peoples of the Americas, held alongside the Second
Summit of the Americas, Santiago, Chile, April 15-19, 1998. This was apparently
an initiative of the Regional Organisation of the International Confederation
of Free Trade Unions, the Organizacion Regional Interamericana de Trabajadores.
Whether or not this was the case, it was certainly both supported and attended
by the `unusual suspects’ of today rather than the usual ones of yesterday
- by women’s and feminist organisations, by human rights and anti-NAFTA
(North American Free Trade Agreement) and anti-FTAA (Free Trade Area of
the Americas) campaigners. The major general and union documents coming
out of this conference may tend to remain within the limits - or on the
front edge - of a global neo-keynesianism. But the more radical of the
two documents coming out of the women’s panel made a much more critical
analysis and took a forcefully anti-patriarchal/capitalist stand. The eventual
integration of a radical internationalist feminism with a revived international
unionism could make a powerfully subversive mixture. The very presence
of such a radical view at a union-sponsored international event augurs
well for the future.
David Harvey was right about modern social movements having their strength
in local places rather than globalised spaces, at least up till - say -
the 1970s. But his conclusion would be a disastrous guide to the present
or future. `Think globally and act locally'? How the world, and perceptions
of it, have changed! We cannot today repeat the slogans of the 1960s, when
globalisation was a problem without a name and global solidarity was still
called internationalism. The revolutionary slogan for the next century
has already been invented: `Think globally, act locally; think locally,
act globally'. This slogan, however, still suggests these are two distinct
and opposed spheres. I have rather suggested that they are interpenetrating
and mutually influential. To this slogan I would therefore like to add:
`Think dialectically: act self-reflexively'. This is, after all, also an
epoch in which survival demands 1) the replacement of binary by dialectical
thinking, 2) a recognition that relating to (distant) others is not what
we do but who we are, 3) that, particularly when we are attempting to universalise,
we make ourselves and our `subject position' visible and ourselves available
to the reader, inviting and encouraging her/him to see us as part of an
inevitably partial and particular contribution to a new kind of internationalism.
The ambition of this paper, certainly, reaches no further.
References and additional bibliography in English and Spanish
(Recommended Texts in Spanish marked thus: *)
Arriola, Joaquin y Peter Waterman. 1992. Internacionalismo y movimiento
obrero: El eje norte-sur. Madrid: Ediciones Hoac. 320 pp.
*Alvarez, Sonia. 1997. `Los feminismos latinoamericanos se globalizan
en los noventa: Retos para un nuevo milenio’. University of California,
Santa Cruz. 29pp. (Mimeo).
Alvarez, Sonia. 1997. `Latin American Feminisms "Go Global": Trends
of the 1990s and Challenges for the New Millenium’, in Sonia Alvarez, Evelina
Dagnino and Arturo Escobar (eds), Cultures of Politics/Politics of Cultures:
Re-visioning Latin American Social Movements. Pp.293-320.
Arthur, C.H. (ed). 1970. Karl
Marx and Frederick Engels: The German Ideology. London: Lawrence and
Berman, Marshall. 1983. All That is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience
of Modernity. London: Verso.
Billington, James. 1980. Fire
in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith. New York:
Basic Books. 677 pp.
Calderon, Fernando. 1994.
`America Latina: Identidad y tiempos mixtos - O como tratar de pensar la
modernidad sin dejar de ser indios' [Latin America: Identity and Mixed
Times - Or How to Think about Modernity without Ceasing to be Indians].
in Calderon, Fernando (ed), Cultura, estetica y politica en America
Latina. Caracas: CENDES. p.89-98.
Cardoso, Fernando Henrique. 1996. `La globalización y el nuevo
orden mundial', Boletín Editorial de el Colegio de Mexico,
No. 68, July-August , pp. 3-12.
Castells, Manuel. 1996, 1997, 1998. The Information Age: Economy,
Society and Culture. Vols. 1-3. Oxford: Blackwells.
Commission on Global Governance. 1995. Our Global Neighbourhood:
The Report of the Commission on Global Governance. Oxford: Oxford University
Gerassi, John. 1971. The Coming of the New International: A Revolutionary
Anthology. New York: The World Publishing Co. 610 pp.
Giddens, Anthony. 1990. The Consequences of Modernity. Cambridge:
Polity. 178 pp.
Harvey, David. 1989. The Condition of Postmodernity. Oxford:
Basil Blackwell. 378 pp.
Harvey, David. 1996. Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference.
Oxford: Blackwell. 468pp.
Held, David. 1995. Democracy and the Global Order: From the Modern
State to Cosmopolitan Governance. Cambridge: Polity. 324pp.
Holthoon, Frits v. (ed) and Linden,
Marcel v.d. (ed). 1988. Internationalism in the Labour Movement 1830-1940
Leiden: Brill. 675 pp.
Keck, Margaret and Kathryn Sikkink, Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy
Networks in International Politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Lins Ribeiro, Gustavo. 1997. `Cybercultural Politics: Political Activism
at a Distance in a Transnational World’, in Sonia Alvarez, Evelina Dagnino
and Arturo Escobar (eds), Cultures of Politics/Politics of Cultures:
Re-visioning Latin American Social Movements. Pp.325-353.
Lee, Eric. 1996. Labour and the Internet: The New Internationalism
London: Pluto. 212 pp.
*Mariátegui, Jose Carlos. 1973. `Internacionalismo y Nacionalismo',
in Jose Carlos Mariátegui, Historia de la crisis mundial: Conferencias
años 1923 y 1924. Lima: Amauta. Pp. 156-165.
Marx, Karl and Engels, Frederick.
1935b. `The Manifesto of the Communist Party', in Karl Marx, Selected
Works. Moscow: Cooperative Publishing House of Foreign Workers in the
*Mires, Fernando. 1989. `La Crisis del Internacionalismo'. Servicio
Mensual de Información y Documentación ALAI, Quito, No.
113, pp. 17-20.
Poster, Mark. 1995. `Cyberdemocracy: Internet and the Public Sphere'.
Unpublished (Email received August 27, 1996).
Smith, Jackie, Charles Chatfield and Ron Pagnucco (eds). Transnational
Social Movements and Global Politics: Solidarity Beyond the State.
Syracuse: Syracuse University Press. 311 pp.
Steenbergen, Bart van. 1993. `Towards a Global Ecological Citizen',
in Steenbergen, Bart van (ed), The Condition of Citizenship. London:
Thompson, Edward. 1978. The Poverty of Theory and Other Essays
London: Merlin. 406 pp.
Vargas, Gina. 1996. `1996: Odisea Feminista'. Cotidiano Mujer
(Special Issue: 7th Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Encounter), No.
23, November 96-March 97, pp. 2-6,8.
*Vargas, Virginia. 1998. `Los feminismos Latinoamericanos construyendo
los espacios transnacionales: la experiencia de Beijing'. Paper to Conference
on Transnational Organising in the Americas, Hemispheric Dialogue Programme,
University of California Santa Cruz, December 4-5.
Vos, Henk. 1976. Solidariteit: Elementen, Complicaties, Perspectieven
(Solidarity: Elements, Complications, Perspectives). Baarn: Amboboeken.
Waterman, Peter. 1992. El sueño olvidado de Rosa Luxemburgo.
Lima: Entre Mujeres, 45pp.
Waterman, Peter. 1994. `Global, civil, solidario', Nueva Solidaridad
(Caracas), No. 132, pp.129-145.
Waterman, Peter. 1994. `Movimientos sociales del sindicalismo: hacia
una estrategia siempre renovable'. Horizonte Sindical. (Mexico DF),
No. 2, pp. 43-65.
*Waterman, Peter. 1995. `El movimiento obrero internacional y
la comunicación por computador’, Nueva Sociedad, No.
140, pp. 122-137.
Waterman, Peter. 1996. `Review Article: A New Global Solidarity Praxis
for a World in Which "The Future is Not What it Used to Be"', Transnational
Associations, No.3, pp. 163-180.
Waterman, Peter. 1997. `Una nueva visión del mundo para los movimientos
sociales globales', Servicio Informativo ALAI (Quito), No. 250,
April, pp. 12-15.
Waterman, Peter. 1998a. Globalisation, Social Movements and the New
Internationalisms. London: Cassell. 320 pp.
*Waterman, Peter. 1998b. `El mundo feliz de Manuel Castells’, Nueva
Sociedad (Caracas), No. 157, pp. 166-79.
Waterman, Peter. Forthcoming A. `The Brave New World of Manuel Castells:
What on Earth (or in the Ether) is Going On?’, Development and Change.
Vol. 30, No.2.
Waterman, Peter. Forthcoming B. `Of Saints, Sinners and Compañeras:
Internationalist Lives in the Americas Today. Working Paper Series,
Institute of Social Studies, The Hague. 32 pp.
Electronic resources: documents and sites
`Foro de la mujer: La pesadilla global (Ponencia de Mujeres Frente
a la Globalización)’, Cumbre de los Pueblos de America <http://members.tripod.com/~redchile/p-muj.htm>.
Global Solidarity/Solidaridad Global. <http://www.antenna.nl/~waterman/>
Red Obrera. <http://www.labournet.org.uk/spanish/
Figure 1: Globalisation, its discontents, movements and alternatives
|Increasingly rapid movement,
of war via
|Commoditisation & manipulation
of gender, sexuality
commoditisation & programming
Figure 3: The meanings of international solidarity
||Solidarity of common interest
of the world unite!
You have nothing
to lose but your
chains. You have a world to win'
|`Sisterhood is Global'
exclusion of the non-identical; limitation to the
||Standing in for those incapable
of standing up for
|Gender and Development programmes
||Exchange of different needed/desired
||Exchange of different emancipatory
experiences, ideas, cultural products
||To-and-fro exchanges between movements,
feminists on any axis
||Decision on needs, desires; value
of qualities, goods exchanged
||Exchange over time of identical
|Mutual support between London
and Australian dockers, late-C19
||Mutual support between differently
confronted women's rights activists
||Allows for instrumental rationality,
empty of emotion/ethics
||Shared cross border values, feelings,
||Solidarity of pacifists, socialists,
||Lesbian, socialist, ecofeminist
||Inevitably particular/istic: friendship?
||Acceptance of responsibility for
||Swiss compensation for victims
of complicity with Nazis
WW2 victims of Japanese
|Buying-off guilt? Reproduction
Waterman, who retired from the Institute of Social Studies, The Hague,
in 1998, is author of Globalization, Social Movements and the New Internationalisms
(Mansell, London and New York, 1998) and co-editor of Labor Worldwide
in the Era of Globalization: Alternatives for Unions in the New World Order
(Macmillan, London and St Martin's New York, 1999).