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<nettime> Antisystemic Movements and the Future of Capitalism", by Imman
Orsan on Sat, 28 Mar 2015 10:58:12 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> Antisystemic Movements and the Future of Capitalism", by Immanuel Wallerstein


*Unrevised version of talk at 39^th Annual Meeting of the Political 
Economy of the World-System Conference, Berlin, Mar. 2015.*

*NOT TO BE CITED*

**

*"Antisystemic Movements and the Future of Capitalism"*

*by Immanuel Wallerstein*

**

*The antisystemic movements now find themselves in the midst of a fierce 
struggle about the future. Let me start by reviewing very briefly my 
premises, about which I have written much. I do this in order to analyze 
the role and dilemmas of the antisystemic movements in this struggle, 
what I now call the Global Left. The modern world-system is a capitalist 
world-economy functioning within the framework of an interstate system. 
This system has been in existence for some 500 years. It has been a 
remarkably successful system in terms of its objective which is the 
endless accumulation of capital.*

*However, like all systems from the very largest (the universe) to the 
smallest nano-systems, this system is a historical system, and as such 
has three phases - its initial coming into being, its long period of 
what I call ifs "normal" functioning according to the rules that govern 
the system, and its inevitable structural crisis. I contend that the 
world-system is now in this third phase, that of structural crisis.*

*
*

*There are several things to note about how the system operated in its 
previous â??normalâ?? period. It had discernible cyclical rhythms, of which 
the two most important were the so-called Kondratieff long waves and the 
hegemonic cycles. Each of these rhythms was imperfectly cyclical in the 
sense that they followed a consistent pattern of two steps forward 
followed by one step back. That is, after its upturn phase of the cycle, 
none of the cyclical rhythms returned all the way to where they had been 
at the beginning of the upturn, but only to a point somewhat higher. The 
downturn took the form more of a stagnation than of a true downturn.*

*To achieve its objectives, each of the two principal rhythms depended 
on constructing a quasi-monopoly, which brought great benefits to 
certain groups. However, the quasi-monopolies were necessarily limited 
in time because they were always self-liquidating.*

*The modern world-system came into its structural crisis for two 
reasons. The first is that the three basic costs of capitalist 
production - personnel, inputs, and infrastructure - rose slowly but 
steadily over time because of the ways in which producers sought to 
minimize each of these costs. Their efforts were therefore only 
partially realizable. Similarly, the mode of enforcing hegemonic 
supremacies also reached structural limits given the absences of new 
zones to incorporate into the now global world-system. *

*The costs of capitalist production had been rising steadily as a 
percentage of the possible price that could be obtained (effective 
demand). The consequence of the mode of operations of these two 
imperfect cyclical rhythms was an upward secular trend over 500 years, 
moving towards an asymptote. They eventually reached a point where the 
costs were so high and effective demand so constrained that it was no 
longer possible to accumulate capital, creating a problem for 
capitalists themselves. The system had moved so far from a possible 
equilibrium that they brought about, in conjunction with the limits of 
hegemonic power, the structural crisis of the system. *

*
*

*A structural crisis is not a cyclical downturn, with which it is 
regularly confused because of our looseness in using the word "crisis." 
It is far more than that. It is the point at which the system can no 
longer be brought back to equilibrium and begins to fluctuate wildly. 
This can only occur once in the life of a historical system. At the 
point when the structural crisis begins, the system bifurcates. For 
natural scientists, a bifurcation means that there are two different 
solutions to the same equation, something supposedly not normally 
possible. In ordinary language, we can say that there has come into 
being two possible and quite different outcomes, two paths along which 
the system can evolve.*

*In a bifurcation, one is absolutely certain that the system cannot 
survive. However, one is equally certain that it is intrinsically 
impossible to know which fork of the bifurcation will ultimately prevail 
and thereby result in the creation of a new historical system (or 
systems). *

*The origins and evolution of the Global Left can best be appreciated if 
one understands some major turning-points of the modern world-system. I 
start with the French Revolution. Most historians consider that the 
French Revolution brought about a fundamental transformation of France 
in either its political or economic structures, or both.*

*
*

*I think it did neither of these things. Politically, France had long 
been following an uneven trajectory of strengthening the central state. 
As Tocqueville showed a long time ago, the result of the French 
Revolution was to put this trajectory back on track. Economically, it 
did not transform France into a capitalist state, since France had been 
part of the capitalist world-economy for two to three centuries already. 
As for its supposed abolition of the remnants of feudal law, Marc Bloch 
showed that the presumed feudal remnants were still there as late as the 
early twentieth century.*

*Rather, in my view the significance of the French Revolution lay in the 
cultural transformation of the modern world-system as a whole. The 
French Revolution bequeathed to the world-system the tacit worldwide 
acceptance of two cultural concepts: the normality of change and the 
sovereignty of the people. The combination of the two had very radical 
implications. The sovereign people could change the system more or less 
as they wished. For the dominant classes, this belief severely 
threatened their interests. The immediate problem was how to handle this 
new reality. There were three different ways, resulting in the three 
fundamental ideologies of the post-1789 world - rightwing conservatism, 
centrist liberalism, and leftwing radicalism. Each of these ideologies 
was a different way of responding politically to these new beliefs. I 
call this array of responses the newly-constructed geoculture of the 
modern world-system.*

*
*

*I interpret the world-revolution of 1848 as a critical confrontation of 
the three post-1789 ideologies, in which both rightwing Conservatism and 
leftist Radicalism were outmaneuvered by centrist Liberalism, which was 
able to assert supremacy over the two rival ideologies. *

*The Global Left took a crucial turn in the wake of the severe 
repressions it suffered following the world-revolution of 1848. The key 
political shift was from relying either on spontaneous rebellions or on 
utopian withdrawal (the two principal tactics prior to 1848) to the 
creation of organizational and therefore bureaucratic structures to 
prepare the base for the long struggle. Such structures began to take 
shape only in the 1870s.*

*This dominance of centrist liberalism essentially lasted until the 
world-revolution of 1968, whose major consequence was precisely to 
liberate both the conservatives and the radicals from their subordinate 
status to centrist liberalism. After 1968, they were able to become once 
again autonomous ideologies, recreating the original triad. Centrist 
liberalism did not disappear but was reduced to being once again simply 
one of three competing ideologies.*

*Organizationally what I call the original version of the antisystemic 
movements, sometimes called the Old Left, began to be constructed in the 
last third of the nineteenth century. These movements took two main 
forms: that of social movements, which considered that the basic 
struggle was a capitalist struggle between the bourgeoisie and the 
proletariat; and that of the national movements, which considered that 
the basic struggle was between oppressed peoples and their oppressors. *

*There were parallel debates about strategy that occurred both in the 
social and in the nationalist movements. One was whether the movements 
should seek state power. There were those who said that the state was 
their principal enemy and that therefore they should combat it 
permanently and unremittingly. The state could not be reformed. And 
there were others who insisted that precisely because the state was 
their enemy, they needed to disarm it by taking it over. In social 
movements, this was the difference between the Anarchists and the 
Marxists. In national movements this was the difference between the 
cultural and political nationalists.*

*
*

*The second great debate was over the relation between what each 
considered to be the primary historical actor (the proletariat for the 
social movements, the oppressed people for the national movements) and 
all other movements. There were those who insisted that the victory of 
the primary actor had to take precedence over the realization of any 
other demand. Feminist movements, movements of social minorities, peace 
movements, environmentalist movements all were told to subordinate their 
actions and demands to those of the primary actor. Otherwise, it was 
argued they were acting objectively counter-revolutionary. We call this 
view verticalism. And there were those who insisted that the demands of 
other groups for their rights could not wait on the victorious 
"revolution" of the self-styled primary movements. We call this 
horizontalism.*

*In the case of both the social and the national movements, the statist, 
verticalist strategy won out in a formula we came to call the two-step 
strategy - first obtain state power, then transform the world. This 
strategy failed in 1968 precisely because it had succeeded in the 
preceding twenty-five years. The revolutionaries of 1968 (what the 
French called the /soixante-huitards/) were responding to what they saw 
as several realities. The first was the pervasive imperialist role of 
the hegemonic power, and what the revolutionaries defined as the 
collusion thereto of the Soviet Union (the Yalta tacit deal). The second 
was the failure of the movements, having realized step one of the 
two-step strategy, to implement the second step and change the world in 
any significant way. The third was the limitations and misdeeds of a 
verticalist strategy from the perspective of other movements.*

*
*

*The world-revolution of 1968 came within a particular historical 
context, that of the acme of the operation of the modern world-system. 
This was the period running more or less from 1945 to 1970. This period 
saw the highest historical level of accumulation as well as the most 
extensive and powerful degree of hegemonic control of the system that 
had ever been known. It was precisely the fact that the modern 
world-system worked so well in this period in terms of its objectives 
that pushed the system too close to the asymptotes and brought on the 
structural crisis of the world-system. *

*Initially after 1968, it was the Global Right that was able to take 
most advantage of the post-1968 situation. These took the form of the 
so-called Washington Consensus that imposed on virtually all governments 
a series of measures that undid the so-called developmentalist thrusts 
of an earlier period. It would not be until 1994 that the Global Left 
could resume its initiatives. There three successive moments of this 
reawakening of the Global Left: the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas in 
1994; the ability of the demonstrators at the meeting of the World Trade 
Organization (WTO) in Seattle in 1999 to scuttle the proposed new world 
treaty guaranteeing so-called intellectual property rights; and the 
founding of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in 2001.*

*What then are the useful and possible strategies of the Global Left 
during the remaining 20-40 years of the structural crisis of our present 
system? To do that, I need to remind you of the reasons why the classic 
two-step strategy failed.*

*The very belief in the in­evitability of progress was substantively 
depoliticizing, and particularly depoliticizing once an antisystemic 
movement came to state power. After 1968, the Global Left espoused a 
sort of anti-statism. This popular shift to anti-statism, hailed though 
it was by the celebrants of the cap­italist system, did not really serve 
the inte­rests of the latter. For in actuality anti-statism served to 
delegitimize all state structures, even if it was thought to apply 
merely to certain particular regimes. It thus under­mined (rather than 
reinforced) the po­lit­ical sta­bility of the world-system, and there­by 
has been making more acute its systemic crisis.*

*
*

*The politics of the transition are different from the politics of the 
period of normal operation of the world-system. It is the pol­i­tics of 
grabbing advantage and position at a moment in time when politically 
anything is possible and when most actors find it extremely difficult to 
formulate middle-range strategies. Ideological and analytic confusion 
becomes a structural reality rather than an accidental variable. The 
economics of everyday life is subject to wilder swings than those to 
which the world had been accustomed and for which there had been easy 
explanations. Above all, the social fabric seems less reliable and the 
institutions on which we rely to guar­antee our immediate security seem 
to be faltering seriously. Thus, antisocial crime as well as so-called 
terrorism seems to be widespread and this perception creates high level 
of fear. One widespread re­flex to increased fear is the expansion of 
privatized security measures staffed by non-state hired forces.*

*The Global Right are a complex mix and do not constitute a single 
organized caucus. The majority of those who identify with them will 
share in the general confusion and will resort to their traditional 
short-run politics, perhaps with a higher dose of repres­siveness 
insofar as the politics of concessions will not be seen as achieving the 
short-run calm it is supposed to produce.*

*
*

*But there is also the small minority among the upper strata who are 
sufficiently insightful and intelligent to perceive the fact that the 
present system is collapsing and who wish to ensure that any new system 
be one that preserves their privileged position. They probably can be 
divided into two main groups advocating two possible alternative 
strategies. One is fierce repression and one is the de Lampedusa 
strategy - to change everything in order that nothing change. Both 
sub-groups have firm resolve and a great deal of resources at their 
com­mand. They can hire intelligence and skill, more or less as they 
wish. They have in fact already been doing so.*

*I do not know what the de Lampedusa faction will come up with, or by 
what means they will seek to implement the form of transition they will 
favor. I do know that, whatever it is, it will seem attractive and be 
deceptive and is far more dangerous to the Global Left that the 
advocates of repression. The most deceptive aspect is that such 
proposals will be clothed as radical, progressive change. It will 
require con­stant­ly applied analytic criticism to bring to the surface 
what the real consequences would be, and to distinguish and weigh the 
posi­tive and nega­tive elements of the measures they propose.*

*The Global Left who wish to move in the direction of a rel­a­tively 
demo­cratic, relatively egalitarian system necessarily act within the 
framework of an uncer­tain outcome. This is not easy. There is no 
bandwagon to climb aboard. There is only a harsh struggle. *

*
*

*Pre-1968 left analysis involved multiple biases that had pushed it the 
Global Left towards a state-orientation. The first bias was that 
homogeneity was somehow better than heterogeneity, and that therefore 
centralization was somehow better than decentralization. This bias 
derived from the false assumption that equal­ity means identity. To be 
sure, many thinkers had pointed out the fallacy of this equation, 
including Marx, who distinguished equity from equality. But for 
revolutionaries in a hurry, even those who claimed to be Marxist, the 
cen­tralizing, homogenizing path seemed easiest and fastest. It 
re­quired no difficult calculation of how to balance complex sets of 
choices. They were arguing in effect that one cannot add ap­ples and 
oranges. The only problem is that the real world is precisely made up of 
ap­ples and oranges. If you can't do such fuzzy arithmetic, you can't 
make real political choices.*

*The second bias was virtually the opposite. Whereas the preference for 
unification of effort and result should have pushed logi­cally towards 
the cre­ation of a single world movement and the ­advo­cacy of a world 
state, the de facto reality of a multi-state sys­tem, in which some 
states were visibly more powerful and privileged than other states, 
pushed the movements towards seeing the state in which they lived as a 
mechanism of defense of collective interests within the world-system, an 
instru­ment more relevant for the large ma­jority within each state than 
for the priv­i­leged few. Once again, many thinkers had pointed to the 
fallacy of be­lieving that any state within the modern world-system 
would or could serve col­lective interests rather than those of the 
privileged few, but weak majorities in weak states could see no oth­­er 
weapon at hand in their struggles against margi­nalization and 
oppression than a state structure they thought (or rather they hoped) 
they might be able to control themselves.*

*
*

*The third bias was the most curious of all. The French Revo­lu­tion had 
proclaimed as its slogan the trinity: "Liberty, Equali­ty, Fraternity." 
What has in practice happened ever since is that most people have 
tacitly dropped the "fraternity" part of the slogan on the grounds that 
it was mere sentimentality. And the liberal center has insisted that 
"liberty" had to take priority over "equality." In fact, what the 
liberals really meant is that "liberty" (defined in pure­ly political 
terms as a multi-party parliamentary system) was the only thing that 
mattered and that "equality" represented a danger for "liberty" and had 
to be down­played or dropped altogether. *

*There was flimflam in this analysis, and the Global Left fell for it, 
in particular its Leninist variant, which re­sponded to this centrist 
liberal discourse by inverting it, and in­sisting that (economic) 
equality had to take precedence over (po­litical) liberty. This was 
entirely the wrong answer. The correct answer is that there is no way 
whatsoever to separate liberty from equality. No one can be "free" to 
choose politically, if one's choices are constrained by an unequal 
position. And no one can be "equal" economically if one does not have 
the degree of political freedom that others have, that is, does not 
enjoy the same political rights and the same degree of participation in 
real decisions.*

*Still this is all water under the bridge. The er­rors of the left, the 
failed strategy, were an almost inevitable outcome of the operations of 
the capitalist system against which the Global Left was struggling. And 
the widespread recognition of this historic failure of the Global Left 
is part and parcel of the disarray caused by the general crisis of the 
capitalist world-system. *

*
*

*What is it however that the Global Left should push? I think there are 
three major lines of theory and praxis to emphasize. The first is what I 
call "forcing liberals to be liberals." The Achil­les heel of centrist 
liberals is that they don't want to implement their own rhetoric. One 
centerpiece of their rhetoric is individual choice. Yet at many 
elementary levels, liberals oppose individual choice. One of the most 
obvious and the most important is the right to choose where to live. 
Immigration controls are anti-liberal. Ma­k­ing choices - say choice of 
doctor or school - dependent on wealth is anti-liberal. Patents are 
anti-liberal. One could go on. The fact is that the capitalist 
world-economy has survived on the basis of the non-fulfillment of 
liberal rhetoric. The Global Left should be systematically, regularly, 
and continuously calling the bluff of centrist liberals.*

*
*

*But of course, calling the rhetorical bluff is only the beginning of 
reconstruction. We need to have a positive program of our own. There has 
been a veritable sea-change in the programs of left parties and 
movements around the world between as late as the 1960s and today. In 
the 1960s, the programs of Old Left movements emphasized economic 
structures. They advocated one form or another, one degree or another, 
of the socialization, usually the nationalization, of the means of 
production. They said little, if anything, about inequalities that were 
not defined as class-based. Today, almost all of these same parties and 
movements, or their successors, put forward proposals to deal with 
inequalities of gender, race, and ethnicity. Many of these programs are 
ter­ribly inadequate, but at least the movements feel it necessary to 
say some­thing. On the other hand, there is virtually no party or 
movement today that considers itself on the left that advocates further 
so­cialization or nationalization of the means of production, and a 
goodly number that are actually proposing mov­ing in the other 
direction. It is a breathtaking turnabout. Some hail it, some denounce 
it. Most just accept it.*

*In the period since 1968, there has been an enormous amount of testing 
of alternative strategies by different movements, old and new, and there 
has been in addition a rather healthy shift in the relations of 
antisystemic movements to each other in the sense that the murderous 
mutual denunciations and vicious struggles of yester­year have 
con­siderably abated, a positive development we have been 
underestimating. I would like to suggest some lines along which we could 
devel­op further the idea of an alternative strategy.*

**

*(1) /Expand the spirit of Porto Alegre/. What is this spirit? I would 
define it as follows. It is the coming together in a non-hie­rarchical 
fashion of the world family of antisystemic movements to push for (a) 
intellectual clarity, (b) militant actions based on popular mobilization 
that can be seen as immediately useful in peo­ple's lives, (c) 
simultaneously argue for longer-run, more funda­mental changes.*

*
*

*There are three crucial elements to the spirit of Porto Alegre. It is a 
loose structure that has brought together on a world scale movements 
from the South and the North, and on more than a merely token basis. It 
is militant, both intellectually and politically. Intellectually, it is 
not in search of a global con­sensus with the spirit of Davos. And 
politically, it is militant in the sense that the movements of 1968 were 
militant. Of course, we shall have to see whether a loosely-structured 
world movement can hold toge­ther in any meaningful sense, and by what 
means it can develop the tac­tics of the struggle. But its very 
looseness makes it a force difficult to suppress, while encouraging 
centrist for­ces to be neutral, if hesitantly.*

**

*(2) /Use defensive electoral tactics/. If the Global Left commits 
itself to loosely-structured, extra-parliamentary militant tactics, this 
immediately raises the ques­tion of our attitude towards electoral 
processes. Scylla and Cha­rybdis are thinking that they're crucial and 
thinking that they're irrele­vant. Electoral victories will not 
transform the world; but they cannot be neglected. They are an essential 
mech­­anism of protecting the immediate needs of the world's 
popula­tions against losses of achieved benefits. The electoral battles 
must be fought in order to minimize the damage that can be inflicted by 
the Global Right via control of the world's governments.*

*
*

*We cannot neglect such battles because all of us live and survive in 
the present and no movement can tell people that short-term survival is 
unimportant. This makes, however, electoral tactics a purely pragmatic 
mat­ter. Once we don't think of obtaining state power as a mode of 
transforming the world, they are always a matter of opting for the 
lesser evil, and the decision of what is the lesser evil has to be made 
case by case and moment by moment.*

*The choice depends in part on what is the electoral sys­tem. A system 
with winner-takes-all must be manipulated differently than a system with 
two rounds or a system with proportional repre­sentation. In addition, 
there are many different party and sub-party traditions amongst the 
Global Left. Most of these tradi­tions are relics of another era, but 
many people still vote accor­ding to them.*

*Since state elections are a pragmatic mat­ter, it is crucial to create 
alliances that respect these tradi­tions, aiming for the 51% that counts 
pragmatically. But no dancing in the streets, when we win! Electoral 
victory is merely a defensive tactic.*

**

*(3) /Push democratization unceasingly/. For at least two centuries, 
what left movements and ordinary people have most loudly demanded of the 
states can be resumed in one word â??moreâ?? - more education, more health, 
more gua­ranteed lifetime income. This is not only popular; it is 
immediate­ly useful in people's lives. And it tightens the squeeze on 
the possibilities of the endless accumulation of capital. These demands 
should be pushed continuously, and everywhere. There cannot be too much.*

*To be sure, expanding all these "welfare state" functions al­ways 
raises questions of efficiency of expenditures, of corruption, of 
creating over-powerful and unresponsive bureaucracies. These are all 
questions we should be ready to address, but they should never lessen 
the basic demand of more, much more.*

*It is crucial that popular movements not spare the center or 
left-of-center govern­ments they have elected from the pursuit of these 
demands. Just because it is a friend­lier government than an outright 
right government does not mean that we should pull our punches. Pressing 
friendly governments push­es rightwing opposition forces towards the 
center-left. Not pushing them pushes center-left governments towards the 
center-right.While there may be occasional special circumstances to 
obviate these tru­isms, the general rule on democratization is more, 
much more.*

**

*
*

*4) /Make the liberal center fulfil its theoretical preferences/. This 
is otherwise known as forcing the pace of liberalism. The lib­eral 
center notably seldom means what it says, or practices what it preaches. 
Take some obvious themes, say, liberty. The liberal cen­ter used to 
denounce the Soviet Union. regularly because it didn't per­mit free 
emigration. But of course the other side of free emigra­tion is free 
immigration. There's no value in being allowed to leave a country unless 
you can get in somewhere else. We should push for open frontiers.*

*The liberal center regularly calls for freer trade, freer en­terprise, 
keeping the government out of the market decisions that entre­preneurs 
are making. The other side of that is that entrepreneurs who fail in the 
market should not be salvaged. They take the profits when they succeed; 
they should take the losses when they fail. It is often argued that 
saving the companies is saving jobs. But there are far cheaper ways of 
saving jobs - pay for unemployment insurance, re­training, and even 
starting job opportunities. But none of this needs involve assuming the 
debts of the failing entrepreneurs.*

*The liberal center regularly insists that monopoly is a bad thing. But 
the other side of that is abolishing or grossly limiting patents. The 
other side of that is not involving the government in protecting 
industries against foreign competition. Will this hurt the working 
classes in the core zones? Well, not if money and ener­gy is spent on 
trying to achieve greater convergence of world wage rates.*

*
*

*The details of the proposition are complex and need to be dis­cussed. 
The point however is not to let the liberal center get away with its 
rhetoric and reaping the rewards of that, while not paying the costs of 
its proposals. Furthermore, the most effective political mode of 
neutralizing centrist opinion is to appeal to its ideals, not its 
interests. Calling the claims on the rhetoric is a way of ap­pealing to 
the ideals rather than the interests of the centrist ele­ments.*

*Finally, we should always bear in mind that a good deal of the benefits 
of democratization are not easily available to the poorest stra­ta, or 
not available to the same degree, because of the difficul­ties they have 
in navigating the bureaucratic hurdles. Some thirty years ago, Cloward 
and Piven proposed a mode of aiding the poorest strata. They said we 
should "explode the rolls," that is, mobilize in the poorest 
commu­nities so that they take full advantage of their legal 
rights.^*^[1] * <#_ftn1> *

**

*
*

*5) /Make anti-racism the defining measure of democracy/. Democracy is 
about treating all people equally - in terms of power, in terms of 
distribution, in terms of opportunity for personal ful­fillment. Racism 
is the primary mode of distinguishing between those who have rights (or 
more rights) and the others who have no rights or fewer rights. Racism 
both defines the groups and simultan­e­ously of­fers a specious 
justification for the practice. Racism is not a secondary issue, either 
on a national or a world scale. It is the mode by which the liberal 
center's promise of universalistic cri­teria is systematically, 
deliberately, and constantly under­mined.*

*Racism is pervasive throughout the existing world-system. No corner of 
the globe is without it, and without it as a central fea­ture of local, 
national, and world politics. In her speech to the Mexican National 
Assembly on Mar. 29, Comman­dant Esther of the EZLN said:*

*The Whites (/ladinos/) and the rich people make fun of us indigenous 
women for our clothing, for our speech, for our language, for our way of 
praying and healing, and for our color. which is the color of the earth 
that we work.^*^[2] * <#_ftn2>__*

*__*

*She went on to plead in favor of the law that would guarantee *

*au­tonomy to the indigenous peoples, saying:*

*When the rights and the culture of the indigenous peoples are 
recognized,...the law will begin to bring together its hour and the hour 
of the indigenous peoples.... And if today we are indigenous women, 
tomorrow we will the others, men and women, who are dead, persecuted, or 
im­prisoned because of their difference.*

**

**

*
*

*6) /Move towards decommodification/. The crucial thing wrong with the 
capitalist system is not private ownership, which is simply a means, but 
commodification which is the essential element in the accumulation of 
capital. Even today, the capitalist world-system is not entirely 
commodified, although there are efforts to make it so. But we could in 
fact move in the other direction. Instead of transforming universities 
and hospitals (whether state-owned or private) into profit-making 
institutions, we should be thinking of how we can transform steel 
factories into non-profit institutions, that is, self-sustaining 
structures that pay dividends to no one. This is the face of a more 
hopeful future, and in fact could start now.*

**

*7) /Remember always that we are living in the era of transition from 
our existing world-system to something different/. This means several 
things. We should not be taken in by the rhetoric of glo­bal­ization or 
the inferences about TINA. Not only do alternatives exist, but the only 
alternative that doesn't exist is continuing with our present structures. *

*There will be an immense struggle over the successor system, which 
shall continue for 20-40 years, and whose outcome is intrinsically 
uncertain. History is on no one's side. It depends on what we do. On the 
other hand, this offers a great opportunity for creative action. During 
the normal life of an historical system, even great efforts at 
transformation (so-called "revolutions") have limited consequences since 
the system creates great pressures to return to its equilibrium. But in 
the chaotic ambiance of a structu­ral transition, fluctuations become 
wild, and even small pushes can have great consequences in favoring one 
branch or the other of the bifurcation. If ever agency operates, this is 
the moment.*

*
*

*The key problem is not organization, however important that be. The key 
problem is lucidity. The forces who wish to change the system so that 
nothing changes, so that we have a different system that is equally or 
even more hierarchical and polarizing, have money, energy, and 
intelligence at their disposal. They will dress up the fake changes in 
attractive clothing. And only careful analysis will keep us from falling 
into their many traps.*

*They will use slogans we cannot disagree with - say, human rights. But 
they will give it content which includes a few elements that are highly 
desirable with many others that perpetuate the â??civilizing missionâ?? of 
the powerful and privileged over the non-civilized others. If an 
international judicial procedure against genocide is desirable, then it 
desirable only if it is applicable to everyone, not merely the weak. If 
nuclear weapons, or biological warfare, are dangerous, even barbaric, 
then there are no safe possessors of such weapons.*

*
*

*In the inherent uncertainty of the world, at its moments of historic 
transformation, the only plausible strategy for the Global Left is one 
of intelligent, militant pursuit of its basic objective - the 
achievement of a relatively democratic, relatively egalitarian world. 
Such a world is possible. It is by no means certain that it will come 
into being. But then it is by no means impossible.*


------------------------------------------------------------------------

<#_ftnref1>Richard Cloward & Frances Fox Piven,/Regulating the Poor: The 
Functions of Public Welfare/, New York, Pantheon, 1971, p. 348.

^^[2] <#_ftnref2><http://www.ezln.org/marcha/20010320.htm>




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