The new global solidarity is already not what it used to be

vieuxcmaq, Mercredi, Octobre 11, 2000 - 11:00

Peter Waterman (

Draft preface to the paperback edition of Globalisation, Social Movements and the New Internationalisms. London and Washington: Continuum. 2001. 302 pp. GBP 16.99.

The world into which the paperback edition of Globalisation, Social Movements and the New Internationalisms (Waterman Forthcoming) is being launched is dramatically different to that which saw the hardback published in (Waterman 1998). I take as indicators of this:

• The Battle of Seattle, November 1999;
• That labour is again becoming a subject of internationalism;
• The increasing de-iconisation of internationalists and isms;
• The boom in communication on internationalism…
• …including the reviews of this book?
• The new international dialogue on internationalism;
• The birth of an international of radical-democratic communicators.

‘The 21st century began at Seattle’. This was the headline over a French newspaper report, late-1999. The Battle of Seattle (BoS) demonstrated to the world what is argued in this book. If I were to rewrite the book now, it would have to begin with Seattle. The BoS not only contributed to the collapse of the World Trade Organisation conference. It was also projected Worldwide, by the dominant international (i.e. US) news magazines! The United Nation’s Millennial Summit, and its ‘civil society’ State of the World Forum, September, 2000, were held under the shadow of the BoS. Seattle, the city, is or was a utopia of globalised, informatised American capitalism. Seattle, the event, revealed the contradictions of such a city and demonstrated its dystopian aspect. Life imitated art: the cybercops presented to the world in a dozen futuristic movies of urban decay and alienation, here demonstrated on the streets their ‘state-of-the-art’ methods and equipment. This was to brutalise not the handful who destroyed multinational retail outlets, but the hundreds inspired by the Gandhian ethic of non-violent resistance. Major damage was done to both the WTO in particular and neo-liberal pensamiento único (single thought) in general. What we witnessed in Seattle was not only a ‘cross-movement, cross-border’ alliance (the international background and presence were under-reported), but one that was also cross-ideological, cross-strategy, networked, informatised - and cultural in form and content (Danaher and Burbach 2000, Gunnell and Timms 2000, Klein 2000, O’Kane 2000).

Cross-movement: The national US and international trade unions were neither initiators or leaders here, even if around half the participants were brought by the unions. That the unions did participate and follow demonstrates a new union mood in the US, a new realism and a new modesty. The BoS is going to be a constant reference in the struggle to further transform the US unions – and their internationalism. It is likely to play a similar role in moving international unionism in the direction of some kind of ‘global social unionism’. (Monthly Review 2000, Waterman 2000a).

Cross-ideological: Having ‘fix-it’ reformists and ‘nix-it’ radicals together in one place and time, and pointed at the same general target (neo-liberalism, globalism, corporate capitalism), is quite a breakthrough. Having the demonstration and demonstrators named in the dominant press as ‘anti-capitalist, re-introduces into international politics a term that many international social movements and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) - and specialists on such - have long avoided or even forgotten. If this sentence seems to contradict the ‘cross-ideological’ subtitle, then I would argue: 1) this is not your father’s anti-capitalist internationalism, because 2) there now many meanings to ‘anti-capitalism’: it is inflected in ecological, anarchist, socialist, humanist, pacifist, feminist and even liberal ways. Many of these found expression there (Danaher and Burbach 2000).

Cross-strategy: Despite differences, and even mutual recriminations, between the fixers and nixers over appropriate methods of struggle at Seattle, the BoS did seem to reveal the possibility for a combination of what would previously have been thought of as incompatible or even opposed strategies. The leadership of the American Federation of Labour-Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO) both marshalled their massed ranks away from where the non-violent resisters had chained themselves together to block the roads. They limited themselves to going down – in embarrassingly prayerful attitude – on their knees! It is quite difficult to imagine to whom or what they were praying. But there was both worker and union dissidence. The International Longshore Workers Union closed down the US West Coast ports for a day. And many workers and unions praised the Direct Action Network that was largely responsible for the sophisticated guerrilla action that literally ran circles around the authorities. (Klein 2000).

Communicational/cultural: Time ran a front-paged special feature on Seattle, and Newsweek did the same in both its English and Spanish editions. Although, typically, they concentrated on the violence, neither magazine did neo-liberalism any particular favours. Follow-up analyses in the mainstream US/international corporate media reflected, rather, the crisis of the neoliberal and globalisation project, and the concern of hegemonic forces (state and capitalist) in the face of the anti-globalist alliance which their dogmatic arrogance had called into being (for which see also Arquilla and Ronfeldt 1993, CSIS 2000). That the workers who formed half of the participants only receive six percent of Time/Newsweek illustrated coverage, reflects less on ‘corporate media bias’ than on the failure of the unions to recognise the increasing centrality to social movements of communication and culture. The slogan, ‘Teamsters and Turtles Together at Last’, may have arisen from the streets of Seattle, but it was the turtles that got the media coverage. The BoS suggests as many problems for the future of internationalism as it does solutions. But these are at least 21st century ones. And they are global ones.

Labour as a subject (in both senses) of internationalism. It is capitalists rather than socialists who have put labour and union questions back on the international political agenda. Under the previous stage of national/industrial/colonial capitalism, workers and unions were successfully confined to their nation states and statist nationalisms (of business, liberal, social-christian, communist or radical-nationalist varieties). Deprived of such protection as these might have once provided, the labour movement has begun to confront the globalised, networked capitalism of today (Munck and Waterman 1999, Moody 1997). The turn of the century and millennium, 1999-2000 (plus the immediately surrounding years) has seen an unprecedented wave of political, or political-cum-academic conferences on labour and globalisation. This is one significant meaning of labour as both a subject of and a subject for internationalism. Being a subject for internationalism means that other internationalists (ecological, feminist, students, academics, etc) are realising that wage labour and capital – too little, too much, the wrong kind, in the wrong place – is central both to globalist planning and to post-globalist alternatives. But, as we will see, this may mean more a recognition of profound crisis than even the beginnings of a solution to such. (Gills 2000, Cohen and Rai 2000, Wichterich 2000).

The International Conference of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) held its Millennial Congress in Durban, South Africa, early 2000. Whilst making gestures in the direction of a general movement against neo-liberalism, and the necessity of restructuring the international union movement, it reproduced much of the pomp, circumstance, hierarchical ritual, and ideological dependency of the previous half-century of its existence. Bill Jordan, a personification, willy-nilly, of the White, Northern, Male Industrial Worker that has long symbolised and dominated unionism internationally, was unanimously re-elected as ICFTU General Secretary. And this was with the participation of the major new radical unions of the South (Brazil, South Africa, South Korea). The ICFTU is still profoundly fixated on a set of institutions, procedures and principles – the national/ist industrial union, tripartism, collective bargaining, social partnership – from a capitalist era now passing. (South African Labour Bulletin 2000, Waterman 1999a).

The ICFTU is also, along with the allied international trade secretariats (ITSs), locked into a symbiotic relationship with the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Often represented as a possible and desirable model for a future United Nations (UN) system more generally, the ‘tripartite’ ILO is actually an interstate organisation, in which state-approved organisations of employers and unions share 50 percent of the votes. However one considers the matter, the subaltern status of labour is here glaring. In political-economic terms, we have 75 percent of power for the inter/national alliance of capital and state. In representative-democratic terms, we are presented with one percent (the world’s capitalists/managers) having here as many votes as the other 90 percent (its dependent working people). The ILO is dependent on nation-state acceptance and enforcement of its painfully-agreed norms - which the US loudly urges on others but quietly itself ignores. Moreover, the ILO is being either subordinated or marginalised by the international financial institutions that are no part of the UN system, but that have both money and teeth. The innovatory, bi-lingual, international electronic Conference on Organised Labour in the 21st Century, co-sponsored by the ILO and the ICFTU, and which began in 1999 with something of a bang, faded in 2000 with something of a whimper. It failed, precisely, to deal with the big questions confronting either of these bodies in the century to come. (Waterman 1999a).

In so far as the ILO represents a 20th century solution to the 19th century ‘social question’, it clearly needs radical reinvention for a 21st century in which new forms of labour go way beyond the unionised and unionisable (U-labour?), and in which labour questions are literally ‘out of control’ of nation states. One radically-democratic notion, that space be made in the ILO for a fourth party – for those international social movement and civil society organisations that attempt to also serve the growing ranks of Non-U labour, has, however, been dismissed out of hand. Not by the ILO but by the ICFTU’s Millennial Congress. In so far as this organisation wishes to be recognised as even one legitimate body for unionised labour globally, it will clearly need to break out of its ghetto. This, evidently, does not so much defend it from rapacious capital and complicit/complacent states, as isolate it from 1) the new dynamic international/ist social movements, and 2) from the flesh and blood workers – of all kinds – who have little demonstrable influence upon it, and often do not even know of its existence. (Gallin 1999a, v.d. Linden 2000:516-7).

If the most we can expect from these two 20th century institutions is that they will move as far as they are pushed (from below, from their margins, from the outside), what about the non-institutionalised international labour networks and conferences that sprang up around the millennium to discuss labour and globalisation. It is clear that the networking principle is the one both compatible with the increasingly real virtuality of a computerised capitalism, and with the flexible, creative, informative, egalitarian, mobilising, consciousness-raising role of a radical-democratic challenge to such. That these labour networks of dialogue and action have sprung up and taken independent and innovative form reveals the growth of grassroots, shopfloor and community discontent with the new world disorder, and an implicit learning from the non-labour movements. But participation in or observation of a half-dozen such events only reinforces my perception that the labour left worldwide still largely inhabits the old world order – with the reality or myth of the national, industrial, welfare state promising protection from the world market and redistribution from national growth. The increasingly common reference point of these events and networks may be ‘a new international social movement unionism’. But they still seem to be directed to the revival of an institutional form criticised by a Social-Democratic academic, almost 100 years ago, as exemplifying the ‘iron law of oligarchy’! (Michels 1915, Moody 1997, Meiksins Wood, Meiksins and Yates 1998, Gallin 1999b,c).

My strong present inclination is to see the crisis of international labour, labour internationalism or international labourism as structural in the most literal sense. We cannot – yet – do without representative-democratic organisations, any more than we can parties and parliaments (which should not prevent discussion of more popular and radically-democratic alternatives to these either). But we cannot expect leadership, inspiration, mobility and creativity from them. They are there – all of them, national and international – to negotiate, codify, institutionalise, monitor and enforce. But if, as and when we need the capacities mentioned in the second sentence of the previous paragraph, we need to recognise, facilitate and empower international labour networks and networking: within, between and beyond labour.

Beyond the noble savages and promised lands of North_South internationalism. Kofi Annan of the UN, Juan Somavia of the ILO and Bill Jordan of the ICFTU may be possible figureheads of a Global Neo-Keynesian Civil Society, but seem unlikely ones for the new global solidarity movements. What, however, of the Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Rigoberta Menchú? And, if the traditional international labour organisations and institutions provide unlikely models for the new internationalisms, what of Mexico’s Zapatistas and the international solidarity movement connected with them?

The small, round, multi-coloured figure of indigenous woman human-rights champion, and her wide-selling, much-translated testimony (Menchú 1987), turned Rigoberta Menchú into an icon of the Northern peace and rights movements. Here was a female, indigenous, non-militaristic Che Guevara! Her second book (Menchú 1998) reveals her development from a local heroine into a personification of the new radical-democratic and internationalist movements of the 1980s. But when, late-1998, a North American social-democratic academic produced a work revealing much of her testimony to differ from her biography (Stoll 1998), the left and democratic solidarity movement, in the Americas and Western Europe was either confused or divided. There were those who simply defended the iconic figure, denied the exposé (customarily as a service to US imperialism). And there were those who took a more nuanced view of Rigoberta, whilst still recognising her iconic role. David Stoll held his ground against those who denounced him and produced a thought-provoking argument concerned with the relationship between international solidarity, human rights and historical analysis (Stoll 2000:11-13). He assumes, however, that ‘solidarity’ means unconditional-identification-with, and that it is ‘not a very good basis for scholarship’ (12). He also seems to thinks that ‘scholarship’ is the court of last appeal. I beg to differ. But, then, that is because I employ a more complex understanding of solidarity (23-8), because I see tensions where he poses oppositions, and because I think that from such an understanding of solidarity one can return to critique ‘scholarship’. Nonetheless, one has to recognise his as one of the rare challenges to traditional Northern assumptions about solidarity with the South, and its icons. Interestingly enough, there is another, also about solidarity with Guatemala, and Rigoberta. This is even more exceptional because it is by a Marxist and Feminist, and because it is self-questioning (Nelson 1999: Ch. 2)

When the Zapatista guerrillas amongst the indigenous peoples of Mexico Profundo (literally: Deep Mexico) not only appealed to civil society within Mexico but both broadcast and narrowcast (video and internet) their internationalist anti-globalisation message, a broad swathe of the Northern left (from social-democratic politicians to libertarian anarchists) identified with them as embodying a new kind of social movement and creating a new kind of internationalism. Here, it seemed, was the first revolutionary movement of our globalised, networked capitalist society, employing the latest communication technologies to not only seek defence for itself but propose an international solidarity movement against neo-liberalism in general. Western left hyperbole, myth and metaphor were piled on top of that of Marcos himself. Quite absent here was anything other than identification with an ideal projected by the Zapatistas or created by the partisans. Critical voices – liberal, socialist, radical-democratic – began to be heard, in Latin America as well as elsewhere. Some claimed to be liberal-democratic and rational de-mystifiers – providing the name and history of Sub-Commandante Marcos (in which the Zapatista partisans were either uninterested or which they proudly avoided). Others questioned the tendency of some partisans to conflate Marcos, the Zapatistas, the rural poor and indigenous peoples, and even radical Catholicism and the local NGOs. Some young radicals who attended one or other of the Intergalactic Encounters found themselves confronted by behaviour - of Marcos himself, of the Zapatistas, of the encounter-organisers - that seemed to them at serious odds with notions of civil society construction. One Canadian videomaker even enabled us to see the contradictions within Chiapas, and the problematic response to her of Marcos. (Hellman 1999, Cleaver 1998, de la Grange and Rico 1998, Wild 1999).

So problems remain, particularly for solidarity on the North-South axis and direction. The Western left, which would be cautious, sceptical or downright suspicious of any would-be icon in the North, still seems to need its iconic figures, transformatory (and transformed) movements, its promised (is)lands and highlands (see Billington 1980 on the 19th century). And then to find them in faraway places with strange-sounding names. And to endow them with the purity, simplicity, unity, purpose and capacity that the metropolitan left feels itself to lack. I believe the new global solidarity movements still need their exemplary personalities, exceptional movements, and poetic inspiration. But idolatry is clearly an invitation to iconoclasm (see Hitchens 1995 on Mother Teresa). And gods to be worshipped inevitably turn into Gods that Failed (or, in the slightly more secular chant of the romantic left, ‘betrayed’, ‘sold out’, ‘became reformist’, ‘got incorporated’). So we still need ways of projecting and celebrating such internationalist figures and movements whilst preserving our critical faculties. We have to relate to the exemplary figures, particularly if in far away places with strange-sounding names, as neither saints nor sinners but as compañer@s (an attractively ambiguous contemporary Latin American form, meaning colleague, friend, comrade and even sexual partner, of either gender). This is, evidently, today not only necessary but becoming possible. (Waterman 1999b).

Re-articulating the old internationalism. What I call the ‘new global solidarity’ is evidently becoming a many-splendoured thing. When writing my book in the late 1990s I had a restricted literature to draw on and therefore had to invent my own names for new (and even old) things. Today I find myself overwhelmed by writings on or related to ‘internationalism’, most of which conceptualise or articulate this quite differently. To ‘articulate’, it should be remembered means both to express and to join. Some connect the new phenomenon with the cautious, bland and untheoretical concept ‘transnational’ (which does not even have an ism to its name). Then there is the burgeoning literature on ‘global civil society’, which frequently foregrounds NGOs rather than social movements. And another on ‘cosmopolitan democracy’, which does not necessarily refer to either. Finally, there is a literature on international ‘resistance to’ globalisation, on ‘anti-globalisation’ movements, which does not necessarily see beyond this negative. Accompanying the printed literary form is the growing wave of videos, electronic lists and websites, which go far beyond Seattle. Whether or not I happen to agree with what is in them, I find these overlapping waves both gratifying and challenging. It is likely to lead to an overdue dialogue. For a sample of what is becoming available, see the Resource List below.

Amongst the major written works, I have to foreground the monumental trilogy on the new networked capitalist society - or on global society as network - by Manuel Castells (1996-8). Whilst in no sense an activist work, it describes, analyses and theorises the new global capitalism and its counterpoints in a manner that cannot but provoke activist thinking. There is the perceptive and theoretically-sophisticated work on ‘transnational advocacy networks’ by Keck and Sikkink (1998). Even more perceptive and theoretical, perhaps, is the work of Brysk (2000) on indigenous movements in Latin America and on the global stage. This addresses the literature on indigenous identity, social movements and international relations, if not internationalism. Politically important is the theoretically-informed and movement-oriented book on ‘globalisation from below’ (Brecher, Costello and Smith Forthcoming). This spells out - as does no previous one I am aware of - an alternative agenda, in terms of means, relations and ends. Amory Starr (Forthcoming) addresses itself to ‘anti-corporate social movements’: those addressing state institutions to constrain corporations; those proposing a new international democratic framework; those seeking to de-link communities from globalisation. Dale Hathaway (Forthcoming) has produced a rare case study of a national labour/popular organisation, of internationalist inclination, related to a burgeoning hemispheric internationalism. With the exception (qualified) of Castells, all of these originate in the USA. From the UK we have two collections that possibly suggest the movement of the literature from a focus on resistance to counter-assertion. Both are movement-oriented, both aware of the (labour and socialist) origins of modern internationalism. Both give considerable importance to contemporary labour. But whilst the first (Gills 2000) actually surpasses the ‘resistance’ perspective its title suggests, the second (Cohen and Rai 2000) explicitly addresses ‘global social movements’ and their connection with a ‘cosmopolitan politics’ of a democratic kind. Major works from outside the North - indeed from outside the Anglo-Saxon world – are (again with the partial exception of Castells) still to be awaited.

What these varied but often overlapping and complementary texts reveal is that – however the rose is named – this is becoming a recognisable political and academic area. What the literature does not yet really reveal is a dialogue (for which see below). Perhaps I should qualify this: the dialogue so far tends to be with, or about, a range of literatures related to internationalism, rather than internationalism as history, as theory or as political project (Brysk 2000, Olesen 2000).

Let’s not get carried away. Much of the critical literature on globalisation still manages to exclude from the process more than a passing reference to corporations, people, classes, social movements. Thus even a fat reader on ‘global transformations’, and from an important source of innovatory and radical thinking on globalisation, devotes to ‘social movements’ but six references, to ‘labour movements’ one footnote, to solidarity’ three references, to ‘trade unions’ five references (several invisible to the naked eye). ‘Workers’ and ‘women’ are marginally better served, but not as agents of global transformation (Held and McGrew 2000). Seattle may save us from another such gutting of the most socially-contested global process since the World Wars and the defeat of colonialism.

A response to some critics. Let me try to convince you, the by-now hopefully sceptical reader, that criticism of my hardback itself suggests a changing environment. The initial response to the book was overwhelmingly positive. It would be churlish to complain. But I could not help thinking that this had more to do with the exotic nature of the work than with its quality. Fortunately, three critics have given me pause for reflection. And I am confident that response to the paperback will be more critical (providing me with something else to be non-churlish about).

The first of the three is Immanuel Wallerstein (2000), whose journal published some of my earlier work on internationalism, and with whom I have occasionally sparred at conferences over the years. After fulsome, if somewhat avuncular, praise he comments,

I get the feeling that Waterman is a bit depressed about the prospects of his new and far better brand of internationalism […] Waterman is hurt. But we all need to draw lessons from it…[W]e need to reflect on the structural conditions that might allow the message to be received well. (516)

Manny might find confirmation of my pessimism in what I am saying here also. But I thought, and think, that on this subject, more than others, we need to match maximum pessimism of the intellect with maximum optimism of the will. It is possible that Manny feels armoured against both by his World System Theory, a school of Marxist political economy I have always felt to be deterministic and, therefore, somewhat hors de combat. Be this as it may. Having been politically engaged with/in internationalism most of my life, and been occasionally mauled – also by comrades-in-combat – for either invading or defiling their territory, I may be over-cautious about the future of internationalism. I know feminist and environmental internationalists who have been similarly disappointed, or mauled, for Speaking Truth to Counter-Power. I think that by combining critical reflection on existing internationalisms with clear address to those engaged in such we can create new understandings of ‘structural conditions’ that permit us to release agency capable of civilising such. It will require decades of intensive and sensitive work, in unglamorous places, before we can transform rhetorical declarations and occasional gestures into a new commonsense amongst people at the likewise unglamorous shopfloor, community and grassroots level. (On such a new commonsense, see Sousa Santos 1995).

If Wallerstein represents one extreme of the critical reaction, Kim Scipes (1999) represents the other. Kim, a compañero from the shopfloor labour internationalism of the 1980s, and a perennial sparring partner, stands at the activist and voluntaristic end of the spectrum. Whilst giving my book a warm welcome, Kim felt I had gravely misrepresented the nature, including the internationalism, of the Kilusang May Uno (May First Movement, KMU) union centre in the Philippines. I will not repeat the evaluation of the KMU (and its links with insurrectionary Maoism) which is in the book (125-7). But I feel that, in his almost unqualified identification with the KMU, Kim was reproducing the traditional North-to-South internationalism I have criticised above. In responding to Kim in these terms, however (Waterman 1999c), I was reminded of my failure to write up my own 1989 research on the international communication practices of the KMU. This was because I had come to the conclusion that there was no other way I could understand it except under the rubric of ‘propaganda’ (a one-way, top-down, centre-margin broadcasting of a unquestioned and unquestionable faith). I shelved this project because it would 1) bring me into direct conflict with the European and North American friends of the KMU, with whom I had worked or been linked in the 1980s, and 2) I had already had one bruising conflict with similar comrades (248), 3) I knew of no significant left or internationalist readership, at that time, that would have been open to such a critical stance. Looking back I have to recognise that I was, therefore, myself still somewhere between the old internationalisms of loyalty and the new ones of openness, trust and respect.

I am flattered that my third critic is young, feminist, has read the book with care, and has reviewed it in the company of two other (sic) feminist works on globalisation, solidarity and democracy. Catherine Eschle (1999) has picked up on gaps, ambiguities and even contradictions in my argument, particularly, of course, in its treatment of global feminist theory and practice. She sees a contradiction between 1) my argument that feminism points towards the new global solidarities and 2) the problematic Latin American case I analyse. Perhaps, as with my Spanish dockworker case, I was here drawing optimism out of the jaws of pessimism. But analysis of internationalism in the Latin American women’s movement continues to point out its serious ambiguities and contradictions (Alvarez Forthcoming, Vargas 1999). I think that even now - in my New World Solidarity Order - I would continue to argue that other internationalisms have much to learn from those of women and feminists. But, perhaps even more strongly than I in the book, would I today argue for the necessity of placing this particular contemporary internationalism within its full historical and contemporary context. This means within the framework of the history, theory, analysis and strategy of the new global solidarity movements in general. This would require us to ask, for example, why there was no significant feminist or women’s movement presence in Seattle. Energetic, competent, courageous and outrageous women (old and young) were there in large numbers. But, whilst such questions have been posed about the similar absence of Black American movements (Martinez 2000), I have seen only a passing mention of the paradox in a feminist newsletter. I leave further research on such matters in the hands of Catherine Eschle and her generation.

From international diatribe and debate to global solidarity discussion and dialogue. I have argued above that the problem of labour and its internationalism was structural. I should have made explicit that it is, by this token, also procedural. I have also suggested that the ICFTU best (i.e. most seriously) reveals this problem. Yet I have been trying – actually for two or three decades! – to simultaneously de-mystify and de-demonise this organisation. This has been something of a task, given the blindness to its very existence by many of the new internationalists/isms, and the anathema heaped on it by those left labour internationalists who do know of it. Most, if not all, past exchanges concerning labour, left and socialist internationalism, have been polemical: this means aimed at the destruction of (at least the argument) of the other. Or they have been ideological: this means closed to any other discourse, impervious to subversive evidence or counter argument. The major institutions, moreover, have traditionally used their positions of power, relative to members internally and critics externally, to either ignore, denigrate or incorporate the latter. ‘Incorporation’ here means to include - selectively, in a subordinate position, and without recognition – previously autonomous organisations, individuals, ideas.

In considering this problem, under conditions of a globalised, networked capitalism, it may be useful to make a simple distinction between debate, discussion and dialogue. Debate implies victory and defeat (appropriate to the simplified Class War, the simplifying Cold War). Discussion implies listening to the other. Dialogue implies learning from the other. In so far as we recognise, as I argue in the book, that 1) there is no guardian or vanguard of internationalist verity, 2) that there is no pre-ordained or political-economically determined mass subject of such, 3) that we live under an increasingly complex and multi-determined capitalism, and 4) that reform and transformation are mutually dependent, it follows that the construction of a new kind of internationalism requires dialogue. That means we need a listening/learning process within, between and without (outside of) internationalist movements; and that this dialogue must occur horizontally and vertically; locally, globally, and – particularly, of course - cyberspatially. Given the inequalities of power, wealth and prestige that mark the world of internationalism (not to mention the world), a precondition of dialogue must be for those with power to provide space and allow voice to those on the margins of such.

I made similar points in an Open Letter to Bill Jordan of the ICFTU (Waterman 2000d). This was with no particular expectation of a response, since I have been trying to elicit such from international trade union organisations since around 1975 (see the Postscript to the book)! Bill Jordan is, after all, a busy man, leader of an international organisation claiming some 123 million members, and hoping to sooner or later include the gargantuan, if dubiously democratic, Chinese and Russian unions. And I am, after all, a retired academic, possessing no more than the arguments sketched in the book, a commitment, web access and a web site. I have to therefore admit to some kind of culture shock when, not too long after writing my letter, I received an extensive reply (Jordan 2000). So accustomed was I to the Ordeal by Disregard that I did not (would not? could not?) read the message until three days after downloading it. Further months later, whilst writing this item, I still have not replied to a letter that is serious in content and courteous in tone. This is for the following reasons: 1) I wanted to give other people the opportunity for joining in the exchange (they have not); 2) I was more interested in and impressed by the fact of the exchange than the content of the response (so was a retired international union officer of my acquaintance!); 3) I would prefer to try to advance from a one-off exchange to the establishment of procedures and spaces for dialogue (by campaigning for such on international labour websites, or by advancing such myself).

I have no definite idea of why Bill Jordan bothered to reply. I can only assume that it comes out of one or both of two growing realisations on the part of international union officers/organisations. Firstly, that these are in profound crisis and in need of new ideas, or at least new stimuli to such. Secondly, that it is good for such organisations if they enter into public dialogue even with those who are profoundly critical, and even if the latter have no power and little influence. I do not wish to exaggerate the significance of this one event. I note, however, that – with the predictable polemical exceptions – what is coming out of responses to and analyses of Seattle is more in the nature of a dialogue than of a debate (Benjamin 2000, O’Kane 2000). I also noted a related movement in the course of an exchange on the Canada-based Labor-L List (see Resources). This began with a traditional leftist polemic against a particular individual and book (Lee 2000). But it was concerned with a very contemporary political/technical issue – the role of unions, the labour movement and civil society in the governance of the internet. Beginning in national/industrial marxist mode, it gradually moved toward a new civil civil-society one.

From a communications internationalism to an internationalism of communicators. Whilst, in the book, I make a point about the new internationalisms being communications internationalisms (215), I could at that time only point to signs of an internationalism of communicators (217-8). This has since shaped up as a ‘Global Movement for People’s Voices in Media and Communication in the 21st Century’ (Voices 21 1999). I give this declaration considerable importance. It is worthwhile noting that those behind this initiative are those who 15-20 years ago were involved in a state-oriented project inspired by Neo-Marxist Dependency or Leninist Imperialism theory. Many of them were individually active, as lobbyists, consultants or researchers in the failed UNESCO project (backed by the Third World and Soviet Bloc) to create a New World Information and Communication Order. If certain states or blocs at that time recognised the importance of communication for power, this was not the general case for even international social movements. In the mid-1990s, a friend prominent in alternative communication complained to me that ‘social movements look through the media: they do not see the media’. The continuing invisibility or at least marginality of this increasingly central public arena is revealed by Cohen and Rai (2000), where ‘communication’ appears within many chapters (and has 28 index references) but has no chapter devoted to it. The Voices 21 document was agreed by the now-customary coalition of international networks, organisations and campaigns. Although the majority of the individuals and parties signing are from, or based in, the industrialised capitalist North, the declaration was preceded by five or more years of international conferences, sometimes taking place in the South, or being organised by and for women. And although, again, Voices 21 does not speak specifically of internationalism or solidarity, it exudes the spirit of both throughout:

This proposal calls for civil society and NGOs to form an international alliance to address concerns and to work jointly on matters around media and communication. We believe a new social movement in this field is need, and is ready to act internationally.

The need for such a movement is based on 1) awareness of the growing importance of mass media and communications for ‘civil society organisations’, 2) concern with media concentration and control in ever fewer hands, 3) the fact that state censorship is only giving way to a commercial one, and 4) an awareness that public influence is lacking here, not only in the South and under dictatorships but in the North and in democracies.

I have high expectations of this movement. Or perhaps I should say – remembering the necessary scepticism of the intellect – high demands on it. Voices 21 addresses itself to matters which are, or should be, or could be, of major significance to all radically-democratic movements. And, for that matter, to all citizens resistant to being reconstructed as consumers. The movement proposes to act at two levels, or in two areas, one having to do with co-operation between the relevant NGOS, the other with demands and activities in the following areas: 1) access and accessibility, 2) the right to communicate, 3) diversity of expression, 4) security and privacy, 5) the ‘cultural environment’. Within each of these areas there are activities related to the lobbying on (inter)state organisations and funders, as well as to the creative work of the alternative media, in the areas of radio, TV and video, the internet. With respect to the cultural environment, for example, the object is to develop ‘a culture of peace, solidarity and environmental awareness’.

In/conclusion. In view of my earlier scepticism concerning Zapatista internationalism, let me end with a quote from the first ‘intergalactic encounter’, held in Chiapas, 1996. We surely need such declarations (made, it should be noted, three years before Seattle) if our optimism is to be armed:

[I]t is of great importance to learn from previous international experiences. After the fall of the wall of Berlin, we do not need to fall into the temptation of importing revolutionary models. We do not have to fall into the error of creating new internationals like those of the past, with centralised and institutionalised commands. The international of hope can call for the co-ordination of mobilisations and the deepening of debates that develop in other parts of the world. This international has to be open to all, majorities and minorities, whether political, ideological, cultural, ethnic or sexual, that struggle for the transformation of the world. This international could equally be called a network of international solidarity; less important than the name, or a rigid organisation, is an internationalisation of hope in the exchange of concrete projects with immediate effect and support for other struggles in the world. These networks will have to communicate autonomously and horizontally. We propose an International of Hope, Struggle, Solidarity and Co-operation. Never has it been as difficult for a people to liberate itself, and that is why the international struggle is so important. Nonetheless, the base of the change has to be the struggle of each country, within its own experience and its own culture. (EZLN 1996:54-5. My translation - PW).

I like this appeal for its foresight and also because of its references to - not simply dismissals of - the past of internationalism. Despite the forward-looking nature of most of the paragraph, it ends with an echo of the Communist Manifesto and the national internationalism that followed. Within optimism of the will lies the seed of pessimism; within pessimism of the intellect lies that of optimism. The paragraph is an invitation - or at least a provocation - to a dialogue on the future of internationalism, on the internationalisms of the future. It is also a provocation to research. Who actually drafted, discussed and approved it: some Chiapacena smallholders? Armed Zapatistas? Subcomandante Marcos? Northern solidarity activists…?

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