[AFIB] The IFG’s Village Politics

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_______________________________ ANTIFA INFO-BULLETIN News * Analysis * Research * Action _______________________________ SPECIAL EDITION – April 6, 2000 – * * * DE FABEL VAN DE ILLEGAAL [The Myth of Illegality] Koppenhinksteeg 2 2312 HX Leiden, Netherlands Tel: +31-71-5127619 or 5144217 Fax: +31-71-5134907 E-mail: lokabaal@dsl.nl Web: http://www.dsl.nl/lokabaal/english.htm http://www.savanne.ch/right-left.en – Friday, 31 March 2000 – —– ____________________________________________________________________ THE VILLAGE POLITICS OF THE INTERNATIONAL FORUM ON GLOBALIZATION ____________________________________________________________________ By Harry Westerink In 1999 the Dutch anti-racist organisation “De Fabel van de illegaal” (“the myth of illegality”) quit the international campaign against the MAI and the WTO. Within the struggle against “globalization” and “free trade” coalitions were being formed with organisations working from a nationalist or even New Right ideology. The IFG plays a central role in building these coalitions. It is widely known that their founder Goldsmith is a New Right ideologist, but what political positions are taken by other IFG-members? The IFG network consists of some 60 activists, researchers and opinion-leaders, representing 40 non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) from 20 countries. Their first meeting was back in 1994, during the struggle against the North American “free trade” treaty NAFTA. “A complete reorganization of the world’s economic and political activity was underway, and with it the effective takeover of global governance by transnational corporations and the international trade bureaucracies that they established”, the IFG wrote. The IFG network quickly became an influencial elite think tank for developing strategies against “the uncontrolled global capital”. Reactionary worldview The radical Left wants to end capaitalism on a world scale and replace it by a system which satifies needs. State and capital are seen as two sides of the same coin; it is nonsense to take sides with any of the two. And, liberation is not something to be delivered by some elite, but will have to come from below. The IFG, on the other hand, wants to reinforce states to be able to harness the “international” capital. “Local” or “national” capital in their eyes does not seem to be a problem. Therefore, “from global to local”, became the IFG battle slogan. The IFG’s reactionary view of humanity and the world furthermore characterizes itself by its desire for the good old times, by a desire for a back-to-nature politics like the sociobiologists, by an incredible lack of anti-patriarchal criticism and by a reluctance to any form of technology. The IFG loves its image of “not Right, not Left”, because in that way they can mobilize as many people as possible for their campaigns. They build up contacts with conservatives and even the far Right. Every opponent of “free trade” and “globalization” is, in principle, a political friend. Neo-Malthusian money The radical Left wants to build a just and equal society. That’s a political choice. The Left cannot call on “nature” or “natural laws” to prove that its choices are right. By itself, there are no norms or values in nature. Within IFG circles sociobiological ideas are common. That includes their main sponsor, the Foundation for Deep Ecology (FDE). The FDE is a project of Doug Tompkins, former owner of the clothing company Esprit. Tompkins always was a ruthless fighter against trade unions in his companies. At the end of the eighties he sold Esprit and together with Jerry Mander he founded FDE. Since 1990 FDE gave at least 25 million dollar to NGO’s active on issues like biodiversity, organic farming, technology criticism and population politics. Ironically, the FDE holds shares in companies that promote the “economic globalization” that Tompkins argues against. The FDE has financial interests in foreign banks and insurance, telephone and television companies. Deep ecology and its “biocentric ethics” are central to the FDE. But biocentrism sometimes directly leeds to misanthropy, hating humanity. Dave Forman for instance, one of the founders of the deep ecology organisation Earth First, welcomed the Ethiopian famine as a natural method to reduce the growth of the human population. Forman is Tompkins favorite ideologist. Tompkins sponsored Forman’s Wildlands Project designed to give more space to the grizzly bear, and to reduce the North American human population by one third. FDE also sponsors other neo-Malthusian projects. Multhus used to say that the growth of the human population would increase hunger. He proposed to stop hunger by destroying the poor. Cancer cells Also leading IFG-member David Korten endorses sociobiological ideas. This influencial anti-globalization ideologist once was a student at Harvard Business School and worked at the World Bank. Nowadays he is president of the Positive Futures Network and the People-Centered Development Forum, that also has branches in Europe. Within the IFG Korten’s books are compulsory reading. “When corporations rule the world” was partly financed by Tompkins. Just like him, Korten also wants to reduce the world population. From 6 to 2 billion, without clearly stating how. According to Korten there are two realities. “One reality, the world of money, is governed by the rules set by governments and central banks and by the dynamics of financial markets. The other, the world of life, is governed by the laws of nature.” Just like Goldsmith Korten thinks in totalitarian ecological terms. “The problem is not the market as such but more specifically global capitalism, which is to a healthy market economy what cancer is to a healthy body. Cancer occurs when genetic damage causes a cell to forget that it is part of a larger body, the healthy function of which is essential to its own survival. The cell begins to seek its own growth without regard to the consequences for the whole, and ultimately destroys the body that feeds it. As I learned more about the course of cancer’s development within the body, I came to realise that the reference to global capitalism as a cancer is less a metaphor than a clinical diagnosis of a pathology to which market economies are prone in the absence of adequate citizen and governmental oversight.” Korten’s imagery comes close to that of fascism. Small scale capitalism Some Left wing activists only struggle against capitalism. When that system is gone, the patriarchal power relations will disappear automatically, they think. History shows that’s a fairy-tale. Korten believes in a similar fairy-tale. Get rid of the global economy, he thinks, and all injustice will vanish. According to him, a balanced, democratic and ecologically sustainable society can only be based on a local economy. His ideal economy is “composed primarily, though not exclusively, of family enterprises, small-scale co-ops, worker-owned firms, and neighborhood and municipal corporations”. Just like the good old days, when everything was better. “Rich and poor alike shared a sense of national and community interest”, Korten dreams together with other IFG-members. Nostalgically, they look back to a fictitious golden age of local economies that never was. Such an economy never existed. Capitalism has been international from the start. Ford Foundation The struggle against nationalism should be an important aspect of radical Left resistance. By only serving the needs of fellow countrymen, political organisations will drift to the Right. That is exactly what happened to consumer and environmental organisation Public Citizen (PC), which is represented in the IFG by Lori Wallach. PC struggles for the “average American”, who is being threatened by the “global economy”. PC was founded in 1971 by Ralph Nader and by now has 150.000 members. The organisations is sponsored by the Ford Foundation. PC has a leading role in the campaigns against the MAI and the WTO. In 1997 PC started the campaign against the MAI by publishing the first draft of the treaty on their internet website. Very chauvinistic, PC emphasizes the dangers that are threatening the US from abroad. It was stressed that NAFTA would make the import grow of unclean Mexican products, and also of Canadian meat that is not carefully examined. Nader often criticizes the power of big companies and the way that money corrupts the American democracy. He remains completely silent, however, on issues like abortion, homosexuality and migration. “Ralph Nader may look like a democrat, smell like a populist, and sound like a socialist – but deep down he’s a frightened, petit bourgeois moralizer without a political compass”, says Tim Shorrock, who for a long time worked with Nader. ‘Our asshole’ Last autumn PC arranged an office in Seattle to coordinate the campaign against the WTO summit. One of the organizers found out about “the back door dealings that PC has with Pat Buchanan and Jesse Helms”, two far Right politicians. The PC-leadership told the astonished co-operator: “Buchanan may be an asshole, but he’s our asshole.” Buchanan also admires Nader. According to him, a couple of years ago Nader asked the managers of 100 big American companies to show their loyalty to “the country that bred them, built them, subsidized them and defended them”. Nader asked them to bring a tribute to the American flag at shareholder meetings. PC is probably financed by billionaire and textile-tycoon Roger Milliken, who also sponsores Buchanan, and earlier sponsored the far Right Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich. Milliken has got the money and the experience to easily build a complete infrastucture for political movements. PC and Milliken both deny nor acknowledge their financial ties. Already in 1993 Millikin’s lobbyist Jock Nash brought the followers of Buchanan and Nader together on some anti-NAFTA strategy meetings. Nash became well acquainted with the prominent PC-lobbyist Wallach. They became political allies. The followers of Nader are calling their relationship with Milliken “a tactical alliance”. But according to others they also share an ideology. “What is Lori Wallach’s or Ralph Nader’s positive agenda for the global economy?”, a trade union leader asked. “At times it seems to me to be not that different from Buchanan’s view.” Political illiterates Whilst some of the American lobby-organisations display an almost paranoid suspicion of foreign capital, the Canadian anti-globalization activists are, on their turn, afraid of the import of American products and investments in Canada. “Canadians began to see an increasingly large proportion of the nation’s wealth leaving the country to line the pockets of foreign investors”, says Canadian IFG-member Barlow. She continually fosters Canadian nationalist feelings and apparently wants the Canadian investors to get rich instead of their American colleagues. Barlow is president of the 100.000 member Council of Canadians (COC) and together with Tony Clarke wrote the book “MAI, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and the threat to Canadian sovereignty”. The COC says it resists “with a critical and progressive voice” the wholesale of Canada to the American companies. “We are sleepwalking into a system of politics foreign to our culture and our history”, says Barlow. As if capitalism is not an integral part of modern Canadian society. “Big business’ interest in our schools is symbolic of the Americanization of Canadian education”, Barlow writes. According to her Canada is adopting “American-style individualism”, “unabashed entrepreneurialism” and “a culture of competitiveness”. “Governments and peoples around the world are increasingly concerned about global cultural homogenization in which the world is dominated by American values and lifestyles, carried through the massive U.S. entertainment-industrial complex.” It is dubious to speak of “the” national American character or a “typical” American economic system. Many countries view culture as their richest heritage, according to Barlow. Without this heritage “they have no roots, history or soul”. Barlow speaks of “the Canadian culture” which should be protected from “the American culture”. It is very unclear what, according to her, the contents of these cultures are, what the differences between them are and why “the Canadian culture” is supposed to be better than “the American culture”. “The very people who believe most in weak government and have the greatest to gain from the destruction of federal power are promoting an agenda that will be our undoing as a nation”, says Barlow. By diminishing state power, these Right wing politicians are supposedly putting the well-being of the Canadian citizens at risk. Barlow thinks that is un-Canadian, because Canadians supposedly like to see their country as “strong, caring and united”. Fighting proponents of “free trade” with an inflated Canadian nationalism, that’s what COC calls “progressive politics”. Buddhist paradise The separation between state and church is one of the civil liberties that has been gained in Europe, but only with blood, sweat and tears. It was an important progression, when the power of the mighty church was broken and people were allowed to think more freely. A great numer of IFG-members, however, believe that religion can solve many of the current problems. Take, for instance, prominent Buddhist IFG-member Helena Norberg-Hodge. She puts a lot of energy into saving disappearing “traditional societies” and “local cultures”. In Norway she campaigned in a coalition of Left and Right wing forces against becoming a member of the European Union. She also founded the elite International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC), that campaigns against “globalization”. Norberg-Hodge has been living in Ladakh in Northern India for years. That region has a Buddhist culture, comparable to that of the Dalai Lama’s Tibet. In her book “Ancient futures” Norberg-Hodge writes about the enormous changes in the lives of the Ladakhi, after they came into contact with the west. “The story of Ladakh serves as a source of inspiration for our own future. It shows us that another way is possible, and points to some of the first steps towards kinder, gentler patterns of living”, according to the bookcover. Despite the rigorous climate and the harsh environment, the Ladakhis were happy and contented for centuries, the Dalai Lama writes in his foreword to “Ancient futures”. According to Norberg-Hodge everyone had enough food, and families and communities were strong. But the Ladakhi society is characterized by outspoken feudal-patriarchal and religious-fundamental power relations. Norberg-Hodge acknowledges that “traditional culture” is far from ideal.”There was a lack of what we would consider basic comforts, like heating in the freezing winter temperatures. Communication with the outside world was limited. Illiteracy rates were high; infant mortality was higher and life expectancy lower than in the West.” But, if you look at this society from the inside out, you start looking at it differently, says Norberg-Hodge. Patriarchal shamans Norberg-Hodge strongly identifies herself with “local culture” and considers it normal that shamans and astrologers take a central position in everydag life. They decide for instance when to sow or harvest, when to marry, and with whom. She adheres to a sort of blood-and-soil theory. “The Ladakhis belong to their place on earth. They are bonded to that place through intimate daily contact, through a knowledge about their immediate environment with its changing seasons, needs, and limitations. They are aware of the living context in which they find themselves. The movement of the stars, the sun, and moon are familiar rhythms that influence their daily activities.” Norberg-Hodge also doesn’t mind that women are being excluded from the more important religious functions and rituals. Only a man can become Dalai Lama, the highest religious leader. The ultimate goal of all rituals is to make the male religious leaders spiritually able to take in the female principle. In that way they will supposedly be able to become ruler of the universe. “The role of the monasteries in Tibetan culture has often led people to describe the society as feudal. Initially, I too assumed that the relationship between the monasteries and the rest of the population was an exploitative one. Some monasteries own a lot of land, which is worked by the village as a whole. There are also farmers who, in addition to their own land, cultivate monastery fields in return for some of the yield”, says Norberg-Hodge. But according to her, the monasteries also offer “real economic benefit” in the form of “social security”. Norberg-Hodge speaks adoringly on “the process of give and take between the monastery and village”. In fact, however, the Buddhist monasteries have an enormous worldly wealth and spiritual power, which they can use to keep the villagers obedient. Technophobia In a capitalist and hierarchical society technology is developed to support profit making and social control. But, technology can also serve resistance and liberation and can be applied striving for justice and equality. In IFG circles criticism of technology often ends up as technophobia, as is the case with Jerry Mander. According to him, technology has the most powerful influence on our society. Technology is intruding on our consciousness and is taking every next generation further away from nature by locking us in a purely techological environment. According to Mander modern technology leads us to “the greatest setback” of democracy in history. He speaks of a “conspiracy of technical structures”, and believes that “the megatechnology” is causing the problems of the world. But he puts the situation on its head. The capitalist and patriarchal power relations are at the roots of the type of technology that is now destroying humanity and nature. First those power relations should disappear. Only then, in a liberated society, technological advance can really be in the service of humanity. Just like Korten, Mander looks back with melancholy to the life of former generations that was supposedly not diluted by consumerism and technology. His technophobia is even enhanced by his middleclass position. He obviously does not need to make dirty hands and so he thinks he doesn’t need any technological appliances. But in the course of history technology has in fact helped humanity a lot to make our existence more bearable. Contradiction All around the world, at congress after congress, meeting after meeting, on paper and digital, IFG-members preach their message: we should go back to the village, back to nature, back to life as it used to be. The IFG village politics are simple: keep it small, withdraw yourself, revive the days when everyone was happy and knew his place, when the community still offered certainty and safety. However, there’s one problem: those days and that life never existed and so they will never come back. A struggle for a society without exploitation and oppression cannot go together with a reactionary nostalgia for some good old times. Because back then, just like today, society was defined by patriarchal, and feudal or capitalist power relations. Harry Westerink is a member of the dutch anti-racist organisation “De Fabel van de illegaal” * * * ANTIFA INFO-BULLETIN (AFIB) 750 La Playa # 730 San Francisco, California 94121 To subscribe: afib-subscribe@igc.topica.com To unsubscribe: afib-unsubscribe@igc.topica.com Inquiries: tburghardt@igc.org On PeaceNet visit AFIB on pol.right.antifa Via the Web –> http://burn.ucsd.edu/~aff/afib.html Archive –> http://burn.ucsd.edu/~aff/afib-bulletins.html ANTI-FASCIST FORUM (AFF) Antifa Info-Bulletin is a member of the Anti-Fascist Forum network. AFF is an info-group which collects and disseminates information, research and analysis on fascist activity and anti-fascist resistance. More info: E-mail: aff@burn.ucsd.edu; Web: http://burn.ucsd.edu/~aff Order our journal, ANTIFA FORUM, cutting-edge anti-fascist research and analysis! 4 issues, $20. Write AFF, P.O. 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