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Comments on a Leo Panitch article in the latest MR
by Louis Proyect
04 June 2002 15:56 UTC
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full: http://www.monthlyreview.org/0602panitch.htm

The effectiveness of the mass antiglobalization demonstrations today is
patently clear from the way meetings of the global elites have been put on
the defensive, and now proclaim their abiding concern with addressing world
poverty every time they get together. But there can be no effective change
unless and until well-organized new political forces emerge in each country
that have the capacity, not just to protest vociferously, but to effect
(although the anarchists may not like this way of putting it) a democratic
reconstitution of state power, turn it against today’s state-constituted
global American empire, and initiate cooperative international strategies
among states that will allow for inward-oriented development. 

A "democratic reconstitution of state power"? What in the world is this
supposed to mean? Marx and Engels, who supposedly Leo writes in the name
of, would never use such an amorphous formulation.

One of the promising aspects of the antiglobalization movement, compared
with the antiwar movement of the 1960s, has been that this movement has
increasingly designated itself as anticapitalist. This is an important
advance over its self-designation as an “anti-free trade” or
“anticorporate” movement through much of the 1990s. But, despite its
decentralized and participatory visions of another order, the primary
objective of that movement has still all too often been to protest the
international economic and financial institutions of globalization—behind
which stands the imperial state itself and the multitude of large and
small, rich and poor states through which and with which it rules, or seeks
to, the globe. 

Unfortunately, designating oneself as "anticapitalist" lacks the precision
of something like "immediate withdrawal from Vietnam" (or "legalize
abortion now" for that matter.) The "anticapitalism" of this new movement
is not only unfocused, it is open to criticisms that the slogan means
different things to different participants. For many of the NGO's, it is a
term that suggests displeasure with the way capitalism is being operated,
not to capitalism itself. Keep in mind, for example, that the guy who runs
Jubilee 2000 out of Great Britain is a member of the WEF. Of course, he is
"anticapitalist" in the sense that many people are "anti-corruption"--but
so what? Unless a movement can develop SHARPLY FOCUSED DEMANDS, it will
fall apart. This was the lesson of the New Left of the 1960s and early
1970s which sneered at the antiwar movement for not building an
"anti-imperialist" movement that would end all war. In the final analysis,
imperialism went its merry way while the New Left imploded trying to build
a movement that it lacked the objective capability to bring to a culmination.

There is considerable suspicion among antiglobalization direct-action
militants of those who would seek a seat at the table. But there is also a
growing sense that protest is not enough either. If the Internet has been
an asset in unleashing the capacity to organize dissent and resistance on
the global stage, it has proved no substitute for the hard work of class
formation and political organization that the Landless Movement in Brazil
and the Zapatistas in Chiapas had to engage in on their own ground. The
Internet may also be indispensable as a way of bringing together 50,000
activists and researchers in Porto Alegre to attend hundreds of panels that
discuss the various meanings of “another world is possible,” but it is no
substitute for building in each country new parties like the Brazilian
Workers Party, post-Communist and post-social democratic, capable of
developing new structures of popular democracy as a prelude to and an
effect of competing for state power.

Financial Times (London), May 24, 2002

Lula learns to love a free market: Brazil's workers' champion and veteran
presidential contender has softened his rhetoric, writes Raymond Colitt 

In his navy-blue designer suit, sky-blue shirt and bright red tie, the
presidential candidate for Brazil's Workers' party is meticulously groomed.
Hardly a hair out of place and Luis Inacio Lula da Silva's broad smile
reveals immaculate cosmetic dental surgery. 

It is all in sharp contrast to the rough and ready appearance of the past.
When the former metalworker first hit the campaign trail more than a decade
ago he was wearing jeans and T-shirt, the uniform of a union activist.
Investment bankers and business leaders now compete for time with landless
peasants and unions for a slot on the busy agenda of the Workers party
champion. Lula, as he is widely known, has not only moderated his
appearance but also many of his economic proposals, toning down much of his
fiery anti-capitalist rhetoric of yesteryear. 


Lula has stepped back from the radical proposals of his early days such as
a moratorium on foreign debt or the nationalisation of parts of Brazilian
industry. He has embraced some of the basic policies that have ensured
economic stability in Brazil, including fiscal discipline, inflation
targets, and a floating exchange rate. 

Roughly a quarter of Brazilians already live in cities and states run by PT
governments. Many have proven competent administrators and some have
introduced innovative social programmes. 

"They won't commit any stupidities - a debt moratorium or a sudden, drastic
interest rate cut," says Walter Appel, director at Banco Fator, an
investment bank in Sao Paulo. He says a PT government, with the support of
labour unions and the necessary alliance it would have to form in congress,
could even undertake long-stalled reforms such as that of the social
security system. 

Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org

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