ATTAC’S FIRST TEN YEARS – 1998-2008
As we celebrate our tenth birthday and look forward to the future, we in Attac cannot know how future generations will judge our enthusiasms and hopes, our commitments and struggles. But for all of us who have joined the international Attac movement, it is hard to escape a sense of history, of belonging to a wholly original undertaking with goals, disappointments and victories unimaginable to past eras.
Our accomplishments in the past 10 years
Perhaps the greatest lesson of Attac’s first decade is that we have been right to mistrust neoliberal globalisation. Deregulated financial markets have clearly led to social and environmental disaster and a loss of democracy. Our adversaries have on the whole spent their decade in denial, refusing to see, much less avert the obvious crises and even profiting from them whenever possible. We saw the crises coming and proposed ways to avoid them.
When Attac was set up, few organisations were working on globalisation issues and people were not widely aware of the neoliberal project. We began immediately working for social and economic justice, and although it may seem our proposals take forever to be acted upon in meaningful ways, we have experienced important accomplishments. We have managed to throw sand in the wheels of the neoliberal offensive in several areas. Neoliberalism is discredited in large sections of the population and has no answer to the multiplication of crises. The key international institutions of neoliberalism are in disarray (the International Monetary Fund – IMF, the World Trade Organisation – WTO, the World Bank). Together with many other groups working against the expansion of trade and investment liberalisation, we contributed to a deadlock in the WTO Doha negotiations. In Europe, we helped block the neoliberal EU constitution and its sibling follower the “Lisbon treaty” in France, the Netherlands and Ireland. National and local Attac groups managed to link their international campaigns to local and national struggles which broadened our alliances. Local Attac groups saved numerous public services from privatisation.
Next to these successes, we have proposed economic alternatives and have achieved, in this first decade, some initial steps towards our three founding demands. International taxation is now on the agenda of the UN and the first measures enacted, although sadly powerful interests continue to block the taxation of financial transactions. Some debt cancellation has happened, but remains totally insufficient considering the illegitimacy of the public debt. Tax havens, formerly nearly unknown, have been exposed, embarrassing the authorities and revolting ordinary citizens.
The alterglobalist movement has contributed to fundamental changes in national politics. In countries such as Bolivia, Norway, Venezuela, Ecuador and Brazil, governments were elected on programmes to break with neoliberalism and privatisation. Attac has managed to defend the rights of people under difficult conditions in countries where civil liberties are not guaranteed. At the same time, much of our work is aimed at rich countries, whose aggressive neoliberal policies compromise future generations locally and violate the human rights of poor people globally.
We stand for peace and against all new wars; we act in international solidarity; we reach out across the North-South gap and towards the beleaguered planet itself - these are our resources and our wealth. Attac worldwide has contributed significantly to the World Social Forums and to the innumerable social forums that have inspired millions in every geographical context. Dozens of active thematic networks have grown out of the social forums and mobilised civil society and social movements across borders. We have experimented with new ways of organising or, some would say, dis-organising, but creatively so. We have remained non-violent, whatever the provocations to lash out against our adversaries.
Wherever human beings gather, mistakes are made and we have made our share. Attac everywhere has been tempted to take on too much. Because “everything is connected to everything”, we have too often succumbed to the attraction of trying to be “all things to all people”. Coordinating our many international campaigns has demanded great effort for our grassroots movement.
Our challenges in the years to come
Today we are faced with an unprecedented multiplication of global crises. Financial crises propagate. Speculation attacks new vital sectors such as land, raw materials and food. The explosion of unregulated financial power, and the other neoliberal policies of most countries and international institutions (such as the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank), contribute to a worsening of the already terrible situation of hunger in the world as food prices inflate.
Moreover, humanity is now threatened by deep ecological crises: climate change, an unprecedented loss of biodiversity and the degradation of natural resources. These are narrowly linked to neoliberal globalisation, which does not protect our global public goods but instead subjects them to the hegemonic profit logic of finance.
The same logic of capitalist globalisation has greatly deepened inequalities, internationally and in individual countries. The financial and food crises have dramatically enhanced existing disparities. The new gaps correspond to the increase of profits for a small group of owners of capital, to the detriment of billions of people and the planet. No doubt the ecological crisis will reinforce inequality between those who can protect themselves against its consequences and those who cannot. The solutions to these crises need to be systemic and at a global level. They can only be solved by a radical break with neoliberal policies and by establishing truly democratic institutions that guide the global economy.
Given the deep crisis of neoliberal globalisation, Attac must enter the next phase in organising and promoting alternatives. We have always responded to the crises of neoliberal globalisation through “popular education turned towards action”. Producing knowledge for social change and engaging in concerted action with as many allies as we can convince will continue to be key elements of our work and strategies. Deeper international coordination will become increasingly important for winning our campaigns for democratic control and the disarmament of financial markets and trade. A key challenge for the next ten years will be to globalise the alterglobalist movement that draws its strength from each and every group on the local and national level.
The consequences of globalisation have proven to be far beyond finance and trade. The well-being of people on a limited planet obliges us to change radically the ways we consume and produce: the economy must be organised and regulated to respond to the real needs of people. We will work towards and stand up for economic alternatives and an economy based on social and environmental rights for all. Another economy is necessary! Another world is possible!