It is possible (just possible; I don’t mean to slip into the prophetic mode) that we are at the beginning of a new period of political activism. Globalization seems to be producing not only rapid-fire growth, erratic movements of capital, booms and busts, wealth and destitution, but also a politics of resistance and reform. Seattle ’99 was a first sign—modest indeed relative to the mass demonstrations of the sixties, but impressive thirty years later. We devote a significant part of this issue to what happened there and what it might mean.
At this point, the meaning isn’t clear. Capitalism today has effects similar to those that Marx described 150 years ago: “All that is solid melts into air.” And so there isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a “correct” left line on globalization, but rather a wide range of views on the three critical issues: the politics of global governance, the economics of free trade, and the strategy and tactics of opposition to the current economic regime (or non-regime). The first of these we haven’t yet addressed; we hope to begin a discussion in the near future. It is an old left question, never well answered: what does internationalism mean politically? There isn’t a lot of agreement on what it means economically either, but on that question the lines are pretty well drawn. We will continue to print opinions from the different sides.
In any political movement, even in emerging movements that may never actually emerge, a lot of energy is devoted to the classic question: What ought to be done?—which has a corollary less often mentioned: What ought not to be done? The Arguments section in this issue is devoted to what diplomats call a “frank” discussion of these questions—specifically of the relation of “tactics and ethics.” The phrase is from Lukács, writing in 1919 and expressing a set of theoretical certainties that seem wholly implausible today. If resistance to capitalist globalization grows, we will return to these questions, always questioningly; they are best answered (as the arguments here begin to answer them) in a practical way, with real illustrations and circumstantial detail.
However the discussion turns over the next years, we must end up with a politics very different from that of today’s third way. The third wayers have surrendered without a fight to the earliest conventional understanding of global economics, which rejects the very possibility of a political response–or, more accurately, which requires a sharp curtailment of social democratic politics for the sake of “competitive standing” in the global economy. We reprint here the Blair-Schroeder third way manifesto, which doesn’t quite admit the extent of the curtailment—with critical annotations by Joanne Barkan, who points to all the evasions, the vague references to leftist values, the efforts to back away from concrete commitments. We already need, and will need, politicians ready to defe...
For just $19.95 a year, get access to new issues and decades' worth of archives on our site.
Print + Online
For $35 a year, get new issues delivered to your door and access to our full online archives.