Muscle and bone

15 muscle and bone

Photo: OpenContentLicense,

Ten years ago, we were still in the shadow of the fallen Wall, the ‘end of history’. The most radical network to appear at the time called itself ‘Peoples’ Global Action against “free” trade and WTO’. It was the de facto space of coordination for Northern and Southern groups with anti-capitalist instincts, but ‘anti-capitalism’ only became a hallmark in 1999. Even the Zapatistas only called for a revolt against ‘neoliberalism’, not capitalism itself – although their intentions were clear enough to launch a new cycle of struggle worldwide. This timidity wasn’t necessarily ‘wrong’ in context, but shows how ‘wrong’ the political context was at the time.

Today in France the ‘New Anticapitalist Party’ runs successfully in mainstream politics. But how much flesh (not to speak of muscle!) does ‘anti-capitalism’ have on the slogan’s bones? Isn’t it generally still a preamble for social-democratic demands?

Ten years ago, criticisms of neoliberalism were correct, but no one predicted this major crisis. We severely overestimated capitalism. It had put the crisis off so long that even we were doubting our Marx. And now, faced with literally ‘a chance in a lifetime’, we are amazingly unprepared.

And if we’re talking of ‘muscle’, ten years ago most of us thought that our real ideological victories could produce concrete gains and change – radicalise unions, parties, etc. The system revealed itself immensely more rigid, desperate and terrorist than that. Meanwhile, the (Northern) masses remain passive. Perhaps they, or we, are awaiting credible visions and forms of organisation…?

Olivier De Marcellus is a Geneva-based activist and a founder of Peoples’ Global Action

This article is part of the t-10 series from Issue 5 of Turbulence asking, ‘What were you wrong about 10 years ago?‘.

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