"Anti-Globalists": New Allies for the Russian Opposition?
During the Moscow session of the Davos-based World Economic Forum (Oct.
29-30), the invitees - bosses of major trans-national corporations and
chief bureaucrats of international financial institutions - were predictably
spared of political headaches and disturbances. Contrary to the official
version (that Davos came to Moscow because Russian economy was one of the
hot topics on the agenda), the actual reason for this move was no secret:
here world financial elites can safely escape from the "anti-globalists".
Characteristically, the next event from the same series - the WTO meeting
- was held in a similarly
unpertubed environment: in the capital of Qatar, an oil monarchy, where
"political stability" is not bound to any constitutional constraints whatsoever.
Such a mass migration of global corporate chieftains eastward is quite
telling - as regards both the state of their morale and the state of affairs
in our own country. The total control of Russia's re-established police
state over a de-moralized society and the lack of stable connections between
Russia's disjointed opposition and their would-be co-thinkers in the West
guaranteed the "success" of WEF's session "in exile" from Davos. It is
not surprising either that the less scrupulous dealmakers of the international
finance have thrown away their anxieties (that characterized their attitudes
to Yeltsin's "unpredictable" Russia) and
are now exulting about the long-awaited "stability" and successful
"reforms" under Vladimir Putin. Who cares that these "reforms" are accompanied
with a further population decline unprecedented in peacetime and continuing
capital flight at $ 20-25 bln. per year? Let us note, however, that, apart
from smiles and lavish "PR" for the Kremlin, the "refugees" from Davos
are not in a rush for any sizeable direct investment into Russia's real
Well, what is then about these "anti-globalists" that makes them look
so scary for the international nomenklatura, and what do they want, after
all? Are these the voices of previously unseen social forces challenging
injustice worldwide - or, perhaps, we are talking about well-off kids of
the Western middle class that have nowhere else to expend their energy
(a version propounded by Russian media "mainstream", experienced in sowing
mistrust and divisions among anti-oligarchical forces in Russia itself)?
Does this movement have any future? And how does it connect to the problems
of today's Russia, with its robbed, deceived and thoroughly confused population
- 90 percent of which are seemingly beyond the reach of any globalization
to speak of?
Answering these questions is complicated by a confusion about terms.
The word "anti-globalization" is by itself misleading: participants of
this movement are not against globalization as such, if it means the rapprochement
of different peoples and economies, development of communications, and
the interaction of cultures. To the contrary: the "anti-globalization"
movement itself is both a product and an active participant of all these.
Its purpose is to overcome the inequities of globalization and the inequalities
among its participants. It resists the domination of the tiny layer of
a financial-cum-bureaucratic nomenklatura trying to impose on the world
majority economic and social policies that are advantageous to the minority
and to force nations to adapt to alien stereotypes of behavior and culture.
In other words, what is at stake is the radical democratization of the
international order, to ensure the socio-economic and cultural rights of
those people whose interests are affected by transnational corporations
The "anti-globalization" events are attended by dozens of national
and trans-national organizations. But - again, contrary to the assertions
of our media - communist and anarchist groups account for a small fraction
of their participants. (Not to speak of nationalists of different brands;
though some of the protectionist economic demands of some conservatives
in the West occasionally dovetail with the objectives of the "anti-globalization"
movement - an issue that is worth a separate analysis - most
"anti-globalists" reject cooperation with the rightists.) The movement's
core consists of its own organizational networks that have few if any connections
with established political parties or ideological currents of the bygone
Here we shall highlight three of the many "anti-globalization" groupings
which we believe stand out of the crowd:
* 50 Years Is Enough (U.S.-based). Founded in 1994, on the occasion
of the 50th anniversary of the Bretton Woods agreements that created the
IMF and the World Bank. With affiliated groups in many countries of the
Third World, it is ensconced in Washington and involved in congressional
lobbying as well as in public dialogue, primarily with the IMF and the
World Bank. In this dialogue, it urges them to renounce "secret diplomacy",
open their decision-making to the public, drop the conditionalities that
are appended to the loans issued to developing countries, and write off
the debts of the poorest nations. The organization is run by U.S. journalist
Soren Ambrose and his companion from Kenya Njoke Njoroge Njehu.
* In France, the largest grouping is called ATTAC. This abbreviation
stands for "Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for
the Aid of Citizens". ATTAC unites two dozens of labor unions, environmental
groups and research centers. As follows from its name, the cornerstone
of its program is the "Tobin tax" (proposed by U.S Nobel-Prize winning
economist James Tobin). The gist is to direct 0.1% of every financial transactions
to the needs of development and the elimination of poverty. ATTAC also
supports debt cancellations and the elimination of tax havens. This organization
is the most goal-oriented of all, geographically closest to Russia and
most influential politically, being represented both in the French and
the European parliaments. At the same time, it also seems to be the most
narrowly focused and committed to work from "within the system". It is
led by the editor of Le Monde Diplomatique Bernard Cassen and former US
social science professor Susan
* Yet another influential group, Focus on Global South, is based in
countries of the Asian-Pacific (the Philippines, Thailand, South
Korea, Australia, and American West Coast). It works on mobilizing democratic
forces and progressive reformers inside Third World countries themselves.
It mostly consists of dissident campus intellectuals inspired by the '60s
and by the antiwar movement, plus a number of legislators and government
officials from the countries of the region. Its leading figure is Walden
Bello, U.S.-Philippino academic, an authoritative student and builder of
the global civil society.
These and other organizations were being built up during a number of
years. However, the "antiglobalists"' first showing as a mass-based grassroots
movement took place in 1999, when they contributed to the collapse of the
WTO summit in Seattle, Wa. Their success on this front was not unrelated
to the stand of some government officials from WTO members, who were unhappy
about the dictatorial style of the US Treasury. Given that "anti-globalization"
activities were actively supported by the leadership of AFL-CIO, US largest
and well-funded labor organization with direct connections to the liberal
wing of the
Democratic party, the events in Seattle were indicative of profound
divisions within the US establishment itself with regard to the course
of globalization and its impact on the socially vulnerable groups of US
It seemed that amplifying this success might lead to "progressive"
shifts of sorts within the US elite and in its socio-economic policies,
as compared to the Clinton period. And yet, as we know, things turned out
quite differently: candidates that were allowed to compete in the 2000
campaign were far from "liberal" or "progressive". And the victory was
finally assigned to an open representative of the "big oil" and military-industrial
corporations. Anti-globalists and their allies in the US elite were
powerless even to prevent a rollback from those few socio-economic
advances that were achieved under Clinton presidency. And after the tragic
events of 9-11, the movement found itself in a corner: the unfolding offensive
against civil rights of American citizens and the transfer of authority
to police and intelligence services that is unprecedented in US history
has forced all the radicals and "anti-system" activists - not just in the
US but also in other countries of the anti-terrorist coalition - to slow
Thus, mass street demonstrations in Washington on the occasion of the
IMF/WB session planned for the end of September was replaced with public
lectures and seminars.
And yet, the session itself was in fact cancelled. It must be understood
that a significant part of the international establishment is increasingly
aware of the connection between terrorism and the injustices of the world
order. On top of that, the course of globalization produces tensions not
only within the US elite, but also among officials and economists of the
IMF and the World Bank, as well as between the US-led group of Western
countries and such independent European powers as France.
It is not by chance, therefore, that in October, in the heat of the
anti-terrorist campaign, French Socialists, the largest party of the ruling
coalition, and the Paris session of Socialist International included some
of the major "anti-globalization" demands in their documents. It was also
probably not by pure coincidence that one of leading philosophical allies
of anti-globalism within Western liberal elite, Joseph Stiglitz (formerly
a dissident chief economist of the World Bank that was pushed out for his
"politically uncorrect" statements) was awarded about the same time his
Nobel Prize in economics. It is also likely that, as the war psychosis
will subside, the advocates of a just reform of the global order will resume
their direct street actions.
Not that Russia were completely cut off from all these developments.
But so far Russian involvement has been limited to personal contacts between
a group of leftwing-opposition journalists and union activists with their
Western partners. Such contacts are surely necessary - at least because
historically in our country relationship with influential and active foreigners
has served as a protection for some of those Russian oppositionists, whose
public activities could otherwise be terminated quickly and brutally. Besides,
trips to Genoa and other centers of the "enlightened humanity" where various
anti-globalization actions are being held are, no doubt, useful, as they
help to reduce the parochial narrowmindedness among our own political underground.
Even though the composition of these delegations is often totally arbitrary
and includes people with purely touristic interest to antiglobalism. Once
in a while, Russia's representatives in these trips are even pre-approved
by semi-official institutions, where somebody occasionally decides that
Russia, as a fully privileged member of the G-8, should not neglect the
"anti-globalization" business and must build up its own squads of "protesters"
out of well-tested and reliable cadres. On a more serious note, "real"
anti-globalists in Russia have been trying to put their activities on a
more systematic basis. Thus, a group of progressives and union activists
(Mssrs. Shein, Budraitskis and others) have recently proclaimed the establishment
of a Russian anti-globalization organizations.
All this is either a laudable, or at least a natural course of events.
The bad news is that a genuine political partnership between our oppositionists
and the anti-globalization movement does not work. Indeed, what is it that
Western progressives and Russian opponents of the triumphant criminal-oligarchical-police
order in Russia give to each other? Our authentic leftists(not those domesticated
by the authorities) have been driven underground and played off against
each other throughout the decade of the "reforms". Except for a few individuals,
they have neither access to the media, nor an intellectual base, not to
speak of influence in the government or on the outcome of the Duma votings.
Unlike in the West, their potential ideological
leaders have no organizational support to speak of. No wonder that
so far they have been of little use to Western progressives, except for
small and expensive additions to the crowds in the streets of Western cities,
mostly to count Russia as "covered" by the movement. Given the current
decline in street activities and transition to other forms of struggle,
the value of even this assistance has decreased.
In their turn, Westerners have so far been of little help to our authentic
progressives, except for the above-mentioned trips and a sort of international
cover against crackdown. The reason is that most Western leftists have
a poor understanding of Russia and are not interested in its problems.
And some are openly despising it, primarily as a country that they see
as having consciously and egoistically accepted the uni-polar and oligarchical
world order. And this attitude is not unfounded, given Western psychology.
The Westerners' rationalistic mind is simply unable to grasp the extent
of societal destruction, economic violence, psychological castration and
bestialization undergone by Russia over the past decade, which has indeed
fundamentally reshaped it, leaving it with an illusory, mythical identity.
This introductory article does not aim at offering a roadmap of building
relations with the anti-globalization movement. Let us limit ourselves
to just a few points, based on the author's personal observations and contacts
with some of the above-mentioned individuals:
* The Russian resistance should not remain just a source of rank and
file recruitment by Westerners for street actions. Its participants should
start mastering the language of communication among Western progressives.
Yet this is not about tailoring our political underground to fit into the
already existing Western organizations. Russia has its own array of problems
and antagonistic conflicts, which occasionally overlap with the problems
of Western countries, but also with those of the Third World nations.
* Russia is a profoundly split country. Its masters are largely responsible
for the present unipolar deformity and global rollback to the era of wild
capitalism. They may be spending as much time as they want at the G-8 sessions
or pushing for NATO membership, but they do not represent their nation
in any of these. The post-reform Russia, with the exception of its "elite",
is by all means a Third World country - judging by basic demographic, social
and cultural indicators. Moreover, by some of them it slid behind such
leaders of the Third World as India, China, and Mexico. This truly civilizational
gap between the oligarchy
and the people defies comparison: this is where Russia may indeed qualify
these days as a "unique" country. 90 percent of its population is able
neither to think nor to act as expected by rebellious middle-class Westerners.
* In Russia, which has lost much of its sovereignty and national self-respect,
the struggle for social and political rights, unlike in the West, is hard
to disentangle from a "national liberation" movement. The barbarization
of society, especially of parts of the ex-intelligentsia, often produces
fairly repulsive variations of this movement. While we must condemn anti-Semitism,
Islamophobia, racism and the rest of ugly deformities, we also better understand
their nature. Humiliated national consciousness is channeled against those
weaker groups, because people are either afraid or unaware of their actual
adversary - the ruling oligarchy that is devoid of national identity and
despises its subjects. Those Western progressives who accept the burden
of working with our "human material" would be well advised to help the
"national liberation" movement adopt more civilized forms, rather than
turning their backs in disgust.
* The unlimited rule of the Yeltsin political dynasty, based on the
1993 constitution, is the principal obstacle to Russia's development and
revival. As shown by the course of international events, including the
Kremlin's stand in the Afghan conflict as a leading and most stubborn ally
of the Washington War Party, the Yeltsin dynasty also becomes a threat
to international peace and democracy. In this connection, it is worth remembering
that this dynasty was taking power and suppressing its rivals using the
IMF funds. And it was precisely in the backyard of the Davos forum in January
1996 that the "Seven Bankers" and Anatoly Chubais, invited and heartily
greeted there, struck the deal of the century that ensured Yeltsin's reelection
with the help of new IMF funds, violating every law and moral standard.
Thus, the above-mentioned institutions share the moral responsibility before
Russians and the world for the results of this dynasty rule: the shelling
of the parliament, two military campaigns in the Caucausus, one debt default,
two apparently falsified presidential campaigns, and Russia's population
decrease by 7 million
Meanwhile, speaking from within Russia, the struggle for a just reform
of the world order and for limiting the power of globalist institutions
has to be tied to Russia's liberation from the presidential monarchy, to
a far-reaching constitutional reform, leading to the Executive' formation
by the parliamentary majority (at the federal level) and locally by elected
self-government bodies. Russia needs the restoration of oversight over
executive authority, as much it may also need a partial de-privatization
of property, by legislative and judiciary decisions at the federal and
local levels. Without these fundamental solutions, all other
quasi-parliamentary activity - including the struggle around the draft
labor code, around the accession to NATO and WTO, over the re-distribution
of budgetary revenues, in other words, everything that constitutes "normal
politics" in a "normal country" - in Russia is but a bottomless barrel.
This is where the innumerable amount of social energy has gone without
return over these years. This is why a comprehensive democratization first
and foremost inside Russia - in politics, economy, and society - in
alliance with its friends in the world public opinion, ought to be
the cornerstone of "anti-globalization" activities, as far as Russia is
Dmitri Glinski, Senior Associate at the Institute of World Economy
& International Relations (IMEMO) of the Russian Academy of Sciences,
and co-author, "Tragedy of Russia's Reforms: Market Bolshevism Against
Democracy", is member of Oppozitsiya's Editorial Board.
Originally published in OPPOZITSIYA, N34, 2001
Translation from Russian