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Talkin' bout a revolution

Is globalisation from below possible?

Sticking with the song quotes, the times really seem to be a-changin'. It's not easy to see where they're going or what's happening. When I did the first version of this page two years back, I quoted a comrade saying that the current moment might be "1965" in relation to a future "1968", and added "Of course, some of us would say that kind of thing all the time, so it needs to be taken with a pinch or two of salt. But what if it was true?" Now, it feels as though that particular clock could be advanced to "1967". After the protests of February 15th, 2003 in particular, a new level has been reached in popular protest: not perhaps the most revolutionary in feeling, but in terms of connected worldwide opposition to the would-be hegemonic power's declared strategy of "infinite war" as (very aptly) "the last refuge of the scoundrel", I think it is safe to say nothing quite like this has ever been seen before.

This page has three main sections:

Other material related to this subject can be found on the "understanding social movements", "better activism", "call for peace" and "counter culture" sections of the Tools for Change site. Inevitably there is some overlap between all of these, and within the different sections of this particular page. I've tried to organise the page as helpfully as possible, but forewarned is forearmed!

I: talkin' bout a revolution

This section is a kind of personal travelogue through the movement, with a series of talks, workshops, emails and educational material generated within and in response to the movement as it happened. (If you enjoy this sort of way into the movement, two authors in particular have recently produced excellent books on this model: activist Starhawk's Webs of power: notes from the global uprising (Gabriola Island, Canada: New Society, 2002) and radical journalist Naomi Klein's Fences and windows: dispatches from the frontlines of the globalization debate (London: Flamingo, 2002).)

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II: the webs we weave

This section is a history of the networking processes which have come together to make up the current movement: a handful of analyses, an outline of the global history of networking which led to Feb. 15th and an overview of the history of networking in Ireland to date. Author John Goodwillie generously gave me permission to reprint his 1988 pamphlet Colours in the rainbow: ecology, socialism and Ireland (Dublin: self-published), which is a very accessible overview and development of some of the 1980s thinking which has found unexpected realisation in the current movement.

Overviews of the networking behind the "movement of movements"

These texts, in their different ways, explore the interrelationships between movements and issues which underlie the development of the new movement against neo-liberal globalisation and the movement against permanent war.

Three classic texts

Unfortunately I can't offer these online, but they're well worth chasing up in libraries or movement collections if you have the chance! I think these writers are worth reading for two reasons: they were thinking about these issues in hard times, when things were not going well for social movements; and they were thinking about them as activists, not simply generating theoretical syntheses for the classroom. Our ability to make links with one another now owes a lot to people who worked to convince other activists that those links could and should be made.

Global networking processes and organisations

Some of the global history of co-operation and communication which led to the birth of the "movement of movements" is sketched in the overviews above. Here are some key points in that networking process:

A history of networking in Ireland

After a long period of watching events abroad and struggling to find a hearing at home, the Irish wing of the movement burst into blossom on February 15th, 2003. Perhaps 100,000 people protested against George Bush's war on the streets of Dublin in the biggest protest since the 1980s. But behind this very visible mobilisation lies a long history of much less dramatic attempts at networking and building the "movement of movements" on the ground, some of which is documented, much of which isn't. Here's one particular strand I can document: no doubt many others exist!

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III: mapping the movement

This third section is a sketch of the movement to date: a very skimpy timeline, an overview of some key organisations, resources related to movement issues and other resources related to the development of the movement. This is very basic stuff, and a whole range of books are becoming available with much more detailed and informative versions of this kind of approach: for example, Kolya Abramsky, Restructuring and resistance: diverse voices of struggle in western Europe (self-published, 2001; accessible via AK Press); Emma Bircham and John Charlton, Anti-capitalism: a guide to the movement (London: Bookmarks, 2001); various authors, We are everywhere: the irresistible rise of global anti-capitalism (London: Verso, 2003 - see the project's webpage, particularly the 100-page downloadable taster under "stories"), etc.

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A brief timeline of the international movement to date

A brief timeline of the Irish movement to date

An overview of key organisations

For global organisations, see the networking history above.

For Irish organisations, there are two important threads. One is the authoritarian left, dominated by the neo-Trotskyist Socialist Workers' Party, which gave birth to Globalise Resistance as a "front" within the anti-globalisation movement and involving a range of non-SWP members (for a critique, see the Schnews pamphlet "Monopolise Resistance") and subsequently to the Irish Anti-War Movement and Another Europe is Possible, organised along similar lines (and in practice alternating in activity. The Irish Anti-War Movement did very useful work, particularly in organising the 100,000 person demonstration in Dublin on February 15th, and achieved a lot in the way of awareness-raising. It also however managed to alienate virtually all non-SWP members, resulting in the formation of Anti-War Ireland on a broader basis.

The smaller one is the libertarian left thread, which grows out of cooperation between radical ecology groups such as Gluaiseacht and anarchist groups such as the Workers Solidarity Movement. This cooperation gave rise to the Grassroots Gatherings, intended as the non-hierarchical wing of the anti-globalisation movement in Ireland. These in turn gave rise to the Grassroots Network Against War (GNAW), which has been active in non-violent direct action against the US-led war on Iraq, and to the Dublin Grassroots Network (DGN), which organised the May Day 2004 protests in Dublin.

Activists from both of these strands were involved in the Irish Social Forum (ISF), which was originally set up to organise opposition to the World Economic Forum summit in Dublin on October 20th and 21st, 2003. The ISF aims to go beyond existing activist circles and be a voice for all areas of Irish civil society which are in opposition to neo-liberalism. The Deireadh Fomhair pages are a clearing-house for material related to the WEF summit.

Resources related to the issues the movement is organising around:

Other resources related to movement development

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