Forgot your login information? In: Encyclopedia of Geography. Edited by: Barney Warf. Bailey, M. Antisystemic movements.
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Social movements were conceived primarily as socialist parties and trade unions; they sought to further the class struggle within each state against the bourgeoisie or the employers. National movements were those which fought for the creation of a national state, either by combining separate political units that were considered to be part of one nation—as, for example, in Italy—or by seceding from states considered imperial and oppressive by the nationality in question—colonies in Asia or Africa, for instance.
Both types of movement emerged as significant, bureaucratic structures in the second half of the nineteenth century and grew stronger over time. Both tended to accord their objectives priority over any other kind of political goal—and, specifically, over the goals of their national or social rival. This frequently resulted in severe mutual denunciations. The two types seldom cooperated politically and, if they did so, tended to see such cooperation as a temporary tactic, not a basic alliance.
Nonetheless, the history of these movements between and reveals a series of shared features. It is true that both types usually had a wing, sometimes located in a separate organization, that argued for a more gradualist approach and therefore eschewed revolutionary rhetoric. But generally speaking, initially—and often for many decades—those in power regarded all these movements, even the milder versions, as threats to their stability, or even to the very survival of their political structures.
Secondly, at the outset, both variants were politically quite weak and had to fight an uphill battle merely to exist. They were repressed or outlawed by their governments, their leaders were arrested and their members often subjected to systematic violence by the state or by private forces. Many early versions of these movements were totally destroyed.
For the social movement, this was the debate between the Marxists and the anarchists; for the national movement, that between political and cultural nationalists. The decisive argument in each case was that the immediate source of real power was located in the state apparatus and that any attempt to ignore its political centrality was doomed to failure, since the state would successfully suppress any thrust towards anarchism or cultural nationalism.
In the late nineteenth century, these groups enunciated a so-called two-step strategy: first gain power within the state structure; then transform the world. This was as true for the social as for the national movements.
The fifth common feature is less obvious, but no less real. Socialist movements often included nationalist rhetoric in their arguments, while nationalist discourse often had a social component. The result was a greater blurring of the two positions than their proponents ever acknowledged. It has frequently been remarked that socialist movements in Europe often functioned more effectively as a force for national integration than either conservatives or the state itself; while the Communist parties that came to power in China, Vietnam and Cuba were clearly serving as movements of national liberation.
There were two reasons for this. Firstly, the process of mobilization forced both groups to try to draw increasingly broad sectors of the population into their camps, and widening the scope of their rhetoric was helpful in this regard. But secondly, the leaders of both movements often recognized subconsciously that they had a shared enemy in the existing system—and that they therefore had more in common with each other than their public pronouncements allowed.
The processes of popular mobilization deployed by the two kinds of movement were basically quite similar. Both types started out, in most countries, as small groups, often composed of a handful of intellectuals plus a few militants drawn from other strata.
Those that succeeded did so because they were able, by dint of long campaigns of education and organization, to secure popular bases in concentric circles of militants, sympathizers and passive supporters. The latter was largely true of Communist parties as well. The reason seems obvious. Those in weaker zones saw that the struggle for equality hinged on their ability to wrest control of the state structures from imperial powers, whether these exercised direct or indirect rule. Those in the core zones were already in strong states.
To make progress in their struggle for equality, they needed to wrest power from their own dominant strata. But precisely because these states were strong and wealthy, insurrection was an implausible tactic, and these parties used the electoral route. Endless discourse has revolved around this debate in both movements—but for both, in the end, it turned out to be based on a misreading of reality. Revolutionaries were not in practice very revolutionary, and reformists not always reformist.
Certainly, the difference between the two approaches became more and more unclear as the movements pursued their political trajectories. Revolutionaries had to make many concessions in order to survive. Reformists learned that hypothetical legal paths to change were often firmly blocked in practice and that it required force, or at least the threat of force, to break through the barriers.
So-called revolutionary movements usually came to power as a consequence of the wartime destruction of the existing authorities rather than through their own insurrectionary capacities.
Once installed, the movements sought to stay in power, regardless of how they had got there; this often required sacrificing militancy, as well as solidarity with their counterparts in other countries. The popular support for these movements was initially just as great whether they won by the bullet or by the ballot—the same dancing in the streets greeted their accession to power after a long period of struggle.
Finally, both movements had the problem of implementing the two-step strategy. What they discovered, if they did not know it before, was that state power was more limited than they had thought. The longer they stayed in office, the more they seemed to postpone the realization of their promises; the cadres of a militant mobilizing movement became the functionaries of a party in power.
Their social positions were transformed and so, inevitably, were their individual psychologies. What was known in the Soviet Union as the Nomenklatura seemed to emerge, in some form, in every state in which a movement took control—that is, a privileged caste of higher officials, with more power and more real wealth than the rest of the population. At the same time, the ordinary workers were enjoined to toil even harder and sacrifice ever more in the name of national development.
Analysis of the world situation in the s reveals these two kinds of movements looking more alike than ever. Communist parties ruled over a third of the world, from the Elbe to the Yalu; national liberation movements were in office in Asia and Africa, populist movements in Latin America and social-democratic movements, or their cousins, in most of the pan-European world, at least on an alternating basis.
They had not, however, transformed the world. It was the combination of these factors that underlay a principal feature of the world revolution of The revolutionaries had different local demands but shared two fundamental arguments almost everywhere. First of all, they opposed both the hegemony of the United States and the collusion in this hegemony by the Soviet Union. This second common feature arose out of the massive disillusionment of the popular supporters of the traditional antisystemic movements over their actual performance in power.
The countries in which they operated did see a certain number of reforms—usually there was an increase in educational and health facilities and guarantees of employment. But considerable inequalities remained. Alienating wage labour had not disappeared; on the contrary, it had increased as a percentage of work activity. There was little or no expansion of real democratic participation, either at the governmental level or in the work place; often it was the reverse. On the international scale, these countries tended to play a very similar role in the world-system to that which they had played before.
Thus, Cuba had been a sugar-exporting economy before the revolution and remained one after it, at least until the demise of the Soviet Union.
In short, not enough had changed. The grievances might have altered slightly but they were as real and, generally, as extensive. The populations of these countries were adjured by the movements in power to be patient, for history was on their side. But their patience had worn thin. They ceased to believe that these parties would bring about a glorious future or a more egalitarian world and no longer gave them their legitimation; and having lost confidence in the movements, they also withdrew their faith in the state as a mechanism of transformation.
This did not mean that large sections of the population would no longer vote for such parties in elections; but it had become a defensive vote, for lesser evils, not an affirmation of ideology or expectations. Since , there has been a lingering search, nonetheless, for a better kind of antisystemic movement—one that would actually lead to a more democratic, egalitarian world. There have been four different sorts of attempt at this, some of which still continue. The first was the efflorescence of the multiple Maoisms.
From the s until around the mids, there emerged a large number of different, competing movements, usually small but sometimes impressively large, claiming to be Maoist; by which they meant that they were somehow inspired by the example of the Cultural Revolution in China. Essentially, they argued that the Old Left had failed because it was not preaching the pure doctrine of revolution, which they now proposed.
But these movements all fizzled out, for two reasons. Firstly, they quarrelled bitterly among themselves as to what the pure doctrine was, and therefore rapidly became tiny, insulated sectarian groups; or if they were very large, as in India, they evolved into newer versions of the Old Left movements.
Secondly, and more fundamentally, with the death of Mao Zedong Maoism disintegrated in China, and the fount of their inspiration disappeared. Today, no such movements of any significance exist. These movements claimed a long history but, in fact, they either became prominent for the first time in the s or else re-emerged then, in renewed and more militant form.
They were also stronger in the pan-European world than in other parts of the world-system. And secondly, they were deeply suspicious of the state and of state-oriented action. By the s, all these new movements had become divided internally between what the German Greens called the fundis and the realos.
The outcome was that the fundis lost out in every case, and more or less disappeared. The victorious realos increasingly took on the appearance of a species of social-democratic party, not too different from the classic variety, although with more rhetoric about ecology, sexism, racism, or all three. Today, these movements continue to be significant in certain countries, but they seem little more antisystemic than those of the Old Left—especially since the one lesson the Old Left drew from was that they, too, needed to incorporate concerns about ecology, gender, sexual choice and racism into their programmatic statements.
The third type of claimant to antisystemic status has been the human-rights organizations. Both gave Establishment legitimacy to the numerous organizations that were now addressing civil rights.
In the s, the media focus on ethnic cleansing, notably in Rwanda and the Balkans, led to considerable public discussion of these issues. The term itself indicates the strategy: civil society is by definition not the state.
How can it come to control the state, or make the state reflect its values? These organizations have had an impact in getting some states—perhaps all—to inflect their policies in the direction of human-rights concerns; but, in the process, they have come to be more like the adjuncts of states than their opponents and, on the whole, scarcely seem very antisystemic.
They have become NGOs, located largely in core zones yet seeking to implement their policies in the periphery, where they have often been regarded as the agents of their home state rather than its critics. In any case, these organizations have seldom mobilized mass support, counting rather on their ability to utilize the power and position of their elite militants in the core. The fourth and most recent variant has been the so-called anti-globalization movements—a designation applied not so much by these movements themselves as by their opponents.
The use of the term by the media scarcely predates its reporting of the protests at the Seattle WTO meetings in Seattle was intended as a key moment in expanding the role of the WTO and the significant protests, which actually disrupted its proceedings, took many by surprise.
The demonstrators included a large North American contingent, drawn from the Old Left, trade unions, new movements and anarchist groups. Indeed, the very fact that the AFL—CIO was ready to be on the same side as environmentalist groups in so militant an action was something new, especially for the US.
Following Seattle, the continuing series of demonstrations around the world against intergovernmental meetings inspired by the neoliberal agenda led, in turn, to the construction of the World Social Forum, whose initial meetings have been held in Porto Alegre; the second, in , drew over 50, delegates from over a thousand organizations.
Since then, there have been a number of regional meetings, preparing for the WSF. The characteristics of this new claimant for the role of antisystemic movement are rather different from those of earlier attempts.
First of all, the WSF seeks to bring together all the previous types—Old Left, new movements, human-rights bodies, and others not easily falling into these categories—and includes groups organized in a strictly local, regional, national and transnational fashion.
Importantly, the WSF seeks to bring together movements from the North and the South within a single framework.
Saturday 4 April , 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.
Antisystemic Movements and the Future of Capitalism
Basing itself on an analysis of resistance movements since the emergence of capitalism, it shows that while some early forms were successful in their own terms, ultimately they did not impede the consolidation of the modern capitalist world-system. The authors argue that although capitalism generated resistance right from the beginning as it displaced populations, despoiled resources and established global exploitation, until about the capitalist world-system could crush or outflank an opposition which was dispersed, localized and lacking in organization and continuity. From the mid-nineteenth century down to recent times, more adequately organized social and national movements set some limits on capital accumulation, but generally remained confined in their effectiveness to the terrain of the nation-state. These new movements have a different ethnic and gender composition and different ways of organizing, while their key inspirations show an increasing ability to cross national boundaries. The authors suggest that the new assertiveness of the south, the development of class struggle in the east and the emergence of rainbow coalitions in different world zones might hold out the promise of a future socialist world-system. In doing so, he raises fundamental questions about the left's relationship with internationalism, and asks how the left can chart a new way forward in the twenty-first century.
New Revolts Against the System