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Re: Comments on a Michael Hardt NLR article
by nd
27 April 2002 07:54 UTC
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On Porto Alegre skin colors: I think the problem is that many activists
especially African, Asian, etc. have stricter budget limitations, and that
is why they were underrepresented (you know the resource based approach to
social movements).
Maybe WSF was irrelevant for Palestinians, but the issues discussed and the
demands expressed were not "a pie in the sky"; on the contrary, the new
movement is quite pragmatic and oriented to middle-range solutions; more
"antiliberist" than anticapitalist. That is why it has not answers for all
the problems of humanity. (BTW here in Italy the "noglob" movement is very
active organizing mobilizations for Palestinians and making alternative
information on it).
    Even if many "leaders" try to exploit the movement to further their
moderate agenda, that does not mean that the movement will be corrupt or
become moderate, because there is not any party discipline, and most of the
base has not many reasons to be moderate.
    Maybe Argentina is large enough to say good bye to "international
investors", renationalize its facilities, forget its debt and live happy and
socialist, but it is also necessary to envisage solutions on a wider scale,
given that most of the world is trapped in debt and ruined by US foreign
policy presented as hortodox economics (and imposed by force or blackmail).

Luca Rondini
Roma, Italy

----- Original Message -----
From: "Louis Proyect" <lnp3@panix.com>
To: <marxism@lists.panix.com>; <psn@csf.colorado.edu>;
<pen-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu>; <wsn@csf.colorado.edu>
Cc: <hardt@acpub.duke.edu>; <jon.beasley-murray@man.ac.uk>
Sent: Friday, April 26, 2002 4:58 PM
Subject: Comments on a Michael Hardt NLR article

> These are comments on selected passages from Michael Hardt's article on
> "Porto Alegre: Today's Bandung" that appears in the online edition of the
> New Left Review 14, March-April 2002.
> (http://www.newleftreview.net/NLR24806.shtml)
> HARDT: Rather than opposing the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre to the
> World Economic Forum in New York, it is more revealing to imagine it as
> distant offspring of the historic Bandung Conference that took place in
> Indonesia in 1955. Both were conceived as attempts to counter the dominant
> world order: colonialism and the oppressive Cold War binary in the case of
> Bandung, and the rule of capitalist globalization in that of Porto Alegre.
> The differences, however, are immediately apparent. On one hand the
> Conference, which brought together leaders primarily from Asia and Africa,
> revealed in a dramatic way the racial dimension of the colonial and Cold
> War world order, which Richard Wright famously described as being divided
> by the 'colour curtain'. Porto Alegre, in contrast, was a predominantly
> white event.
> REPLY: I suspect that the event was predominantly white because most third
> world activists of color are preoccupied with the problem of state power.
> As long as one's country is ruled by a coalition of the military, local
> compradors and the US Embassy, vaporous discussions of "global democracy"
> seem practically beside the point. One can only imagine what a delegation
> of Palestinians would make of this NGO carnival. While pie in the sky is
> being promoted from the podium, their homes are literally being bulldozed
> from beneath them.
> HARDT: The Porto Alegre Forum was in this sense perhaps too happy, too
> celebratory and not conflictual enough. The most important political
> difference cutting across the entire Forum concerned the role of national
> sovereignty. There are indeed two primary positions in the response to
> today's dominant forces of globalization: either one can work to reinforce
> the sovereignty of nation-states as a defensive barrier against the
> of foreign and global capital, or one can strive towards a non-national
> alternative to the present form of globalization that is equally global.
> The first poses neoliberalism as the primary analytical category, viewing
> the enemy as unrestricted global capitalist activity with weak state
> controls; the second is more clearly posed against capital itself, whether
> state-regulated or not. The first might rightly be called an
> anti-globalization position, in so far as national sovereignties, even if
> linked by international solidarity, serve to limit and regulate the forces
> of capitalist globalization. National liberation thus remains for this
> position the ultimate goal, as it was for the old anticolonial and
> anti-imperialist struggles. The second, in contrast, opposes any national
> solutions and seeks instead a democratic globalization.
> REPLY: Why does Michael Hardt so stubbornly ignore the question of CLASS
> when discussing "National liberation"? The "sovereignty of nation-states"
> is a category so wide that one could easily navigate an aircraft carrier
> through it while blindfolded. For example, Cuba is one expression of the
> need to achieve the "sovereignty of nation-states," while Malathir's
> Malaysia is another. If so-called communists cannot distinguish between
> such radically different models, then they need to stop abusing the word
> communist.
> HARDT: The first position occupied the most visible and dominant spaces of
> the Porto Alegre Forum; it was represented in the large plenary sessions,
> repeated by the official spokespeople, and reported in the press. A key
> proponent of this position was the leadership of the Brazilian PT
> Party)-in effect the host of the Forum, since it runs the city and
> government. It was obvious and inevitable that the PT would occupy a
> central space in the Forum and use the international prestige of the event
> as part of its campaign strategy for the upcoming elections. The second
> dominant voice of national sovereignty was the French leadership of ATTAC,
> which laid the groundwork for the Forum in the pages of Le Monde
> Diplomatique. The leadership of ATTAC is, in this regard, very close to
> many of the French politicians-most notably Jean-Pierre Chevènement-who
> advocate strengthening national sovereignty as a solution to the ills of
> contemporary globalization. These, in any case, are the figures who
> dominated the representation of the Forum both internally and in the
> REPLY: Between the Brazilian PT and ATTAC, there's not a lot to choose
> if you are a Marxist. In an exchange with Patrick Bond on the Marxism
> Brazilian sociology professor and revolutionary Carlos Rebello described
> Porto Alegre as "an event that has been now thoroughly instrumentalized by
> French Social-Democracy, the moderates of the PT, and others which
> represent the most hollow and noxious kind of 'Left' possible."
> HARDT: The non-sovereign, alternative globalization position, in contrast,
> was minoritarian at the Forum-not in quantitative terms but in terms of
> representation; in fact, the majority of the participants in the Forum may
> well have occupied this minoritarian position. First, the various
> that have conducted the protests from Seattle to Genoa are generally
> oriented towards non-national solutions.
> REPLY: It appears to me that not only do they orient to non-national
> solutions, they orient as well to non-planetary solutions. Generally
> speaking they are not happy with the world we live in. Unless they learn
> how to think strategically, their unhappiness will remain disappointingly
> unproductive.
> HARDT: Indeed, the centralized structure of state sovereignty itself runs
> counter to the horizontal network-form that the movements have developed.
> Second, the Argentinian movements that have sprung up in response to the
> present financial crisis, organized in neighbourhood and city-wide
> assemblies, are similarly antagonistic to proposals of national
> sovereignty. Their slogans call for getting rid, not just of one
> politician, but all of them- que se vayan todos: the entire political
> REPLY: This is truly laughable. A crisis of confidence in the existing
> parties does not mean that people are looking for global solutions to
> COMMON GOOD. The traditional parties have no program that can address this
> desire, but the Argentine people will eventually be forced to create one
> else continue to live in misery. This is called POLITICS. To assume that
> they must wait until communism is instituted on a world scale is
> REACTIONARY. There is HUNGER in Argentina today. It can be overcome TODAY.
> One must not postpone such solutions because they fall short of a Duke
> professor's IDEAL WORLD.
> HARDT: The division between the sovereignty, anti-globalization position
> and the non-sovereign, alternative globalization position is therefore not
> best understood in geographical terms. It does not map the divisions
> between North and South or First World and Third. The conflict corresponds
> rather to two different forms of political organization. The traditional
> parties and centralized campaigns generally occupy the national
> pole, whereas the new movements organized in horizontal networks tend to
> cluster at the non-sovereign pole.
> REPLY: In reality, the two poles you are considering have something in
> common. They both reject socialist revolution.
> HARDT: In a previous period we could have staged an old-style ideological
> confrontation between the two positions. The first could accuse the second
> of playing into the hands of neoliberalism, undermining state sovereignty
> and paving the way for further globalization.
> REPLY: Sounds to me like you're reacting to the criticisms that "Empire"
> a leftwing version of Thomas Friedman's "Lexus and the Olive Tree".
> HARDT: One of the basic characteristics of the network form is that no two
> nodes face each other in contradiction; rather, they are always
> triangulated by a third, and then a fourth, and then by an indefinite
> number of others in the web. This is one of the characteristics of the
> Seattle events that we have had the most trouble understanding: groups
> which we thought in objective contradiction to one
> another-environmentalists and trade unions, church groups and
> anarchists-were suddenly able to work together, in the context of the
> network of the multitude. The movements, to take a slightly different
> perspective, function something like a public sphere, in the sense that
> they can allow full expression of differences within the common context of
> open exchange. But that does not mean that networks are passive. They
> displace contradictions and operate instead a kind of alchemy, or rather a
> sea change, the flow of the movements transforming the traditional fixed
> positions; networks imposing their force through a kind of irresistible
> undertow.
> REPLY: The only thing a network cannot do is seize power. It can protest
> injustice until the cows come home, but in order to put food on peoples'
> table, to house them, to provide jobs, to keep them healthy, to educate
> them, you need a STATE. Furthermore, you need working class power in order
> to defend clinics and schools from counter-revolutionary attacks. Of
> course, some people are happier thinking about the ideal world of the
> future when there will be so much food that hoarders would be treated for
> psychiatric disorders rather than jailed. Burl Ives sang a song about
> It is called "Big Rock Candy Mountain".
> Louis Proyect
> Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org

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