Anarchism And The Anti-Globalisation Movement
ANARCHISM AND THE ANTI-GLOBALISATION MOVEMENT \ GLOBAL CAPITALISM, GLOBAL RESISTANCE
Mayday 2001 is a global day of protest against capitalism. Here in the Wellington Carnival Against Capitalism we are taking part in a large international movement, a movement which has mushroomed in recent years. In Seattle in 1999 50,000 people protesting against capitalism were met with tear gas, rubber bullets and grenades. Since then there have been similar large protests in London, Washington, Philadelphia, Melbourne, Prague and Nice, and very recently in Québec.
Anarchists have been very prominent in these demonstrations. The main reason why these demonstrations have been so large and successful is because they are organised along non-hierarchical decentralised lines. Let’s take a look at the role of anarchists and anarchism in these demonstrations.
ANARCHISTS AND VIOLENCE
The media has portrayed anarchists in the demonstrations as an unruly violent group who only want to throw bricks through windows. This image is false. It is true that some anarchists have participated in violence against capitalist property, particularly in Seattle, London, and Prague. This violence was not some teenage temper tantrum, as the media assumes, but was a systematic and planned act.
"We contend that property destruction is not a violent activity unless it destroys lives or causes pain in the process. By this definition, private property — especially corporate private property — is itself infinitely more violent than any action taken against it." Because the ownership of private property by a select few is the violent basis of capitalism, forcing us to work for the profit of capitalists, then “when we smash a window, we aim to destroy the veneer of legitimacy that surrounds private property rights. At the same time, we exorcise that set of violent and destructive social relationships which has been imbued in almost everything around us” — ACME (anarchist) collective, Seattle 1999. This collective targeted particularly exploitative corporations such as GAP, Nike, Levis, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Warner Bros, and Planet Hollywood, as well as banks.
IS ANARCHISM VIOLENT?
The media like to portray anarchists as violent bomb-throwers who only want disorder and chaos. This is completely false. Anarchists do not want a society based on violence, like today’s capitalist one. We want a non-violent and non-coercive society organised without authority. Anarchism is all about getting rid of all power relationships and hierarchies, enabling everyone to be free. The word ‘anarchy’ actually means being ‘without rulers’ and not being without rules. When you think about it, it is governments and capitalism that are founded upon violence. How can anarchists be dangerous when governments have enough bombs to blow the planet up? Capitalists exploit both workers and nature by force for the sake of their own profits rather than for the benefit of all.
The organisation of the anti-capitalist protests has been very anarchist. Contrary to what some may think, they were not organised in a very centralised way. The traditional authoritarian form of organisation is where a few leaders decide what is best for everyone else. They then enforce their decisions upon us from above. By contrast, anti-capitalist protests have been organised by decentralised networks of groups. Groups large and small are formed for a whole variety of purposes, from carnival like drum brigades to providing free food and medical care. These groups network together, inform each other of their plans, create their own actions or join in on someone else’s. A whole host of organisational forms are used, from websites listing actions to small affinity groups travelling to Seattle (or London etc.) for the day and sticking together, uniting with other rallies once they get there. It is this flexible and diverse decentralised co-ordination that made the demonstrations in Seattle 1999 and Melbourne
ANARCHISM IS FOR DEMOCRATIC ORGANISATION
The success of the decentralised anti-capitalist protests proves that anarchist organisation is possible and successful. Imagine if a whole society, and not just a protest, was organised along such lines! People would come together and voluntarily form groups for whatever need, whether artistic or social or whatever, and would co-ordinate their activities with other like minded groups.
Anarchists are not against organisation, but authoritarian organisation where a few leaders control the rest. Anarchists want non-bureaucratic organisation where agreements are made democratically and not imposed from above. An anarchist society with a minimum of authority would require a lot of organisation to meet everyone’s needs.
ANARCHISM CAN WORK
Some people claim that the anarchist ideal of a society where no-one exploits others is admirable, it is just not possible. So some people think that an anarchist society itself is good, but not possible. But it is a mistake to assume the current authoritarian system is the only one possible. Far from being dreamers anarchists have had practical achievements. In 1936 three million people lived successfully in anarchist collectives in Spain, and this was achieved without dictatorship. Even today in Aotearoa there are non-authoritarian tendencies where people are organising without leaders to provide peoples needs, rather than profits, such as women’s refuge and food co-operatives. An anarchist society of sorts is already in existence beneath the dominant authoritarian one. This is a basis for creating and realising our dreams of self-governance, freedom, peace, equality, dignity and diversity.
The CEC also runs the Freedom Shop (local anarchist bookstore), 272 Cuba St, Wellington.