Anti-neoliberalism and British Anti-capitalism

The protesters are winning. They are winning on the streets. Before too long they will be winning the argument. Globalisation is fast becoming a cause without credible champions. (Financial Times, 17 August 2001)

We are the 99% (Occupy Wall Street, 2011)

After the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas and the subsequent encuentros, the 'battle in Seattle', and countless demonstrations all over the globe against neoliberal institutions and multinational corporations, the Financial Times in 2001 reported that 'the protesters were winning on the streets and would soon be winning the arguments' (Stephens, 2001). Over ten years later a new wave of resistance emerged again in the form of the Occupy movement. The protesters have not yet won, but the rise of the Occupy movement in 2011, in 950 cities and in 82 countries (Castells, 2012) signifies that anti-neoliberalism has spread to a wider populace, including the next generation of activists, who feel their futures have been foreclosed by the financial system in western democracies.

Although the Occupy movement has all but disappeared, in the UK at least, it seems that citizens rather than just activists have awoken from a slumber. That said, the movement was replete with tensions, divisions and conflict of an ideological nature. It is all too easy to reify a movement and present it as a unified entity. To rectify this, there are three main aims of this chapter. First, to explore the notion of anti-neoliberalism as a master frame, by which I mean the way the literature has reified resistance and makes a general argument that the social and political forces that oppose neoliberalism are unified in their opposition to multinational corporations and supranational structures. This is exemplified by the claim that the forces opposing neoliberalism are a movement, or a 'movement of movements' (Mertes, 2004), sometimes referred to as the alternative globalization movement (AGM). These terms are not really appropriate since the forces opposing neoliberalism, while all anti-neoliberal, are diverse and do not always move in the same ideological direction or share the same political objectives. As such they cannot be considered to constitute a movement per se. This is why I have added the concept of field, in the Bourdieusain sense of the term, to explain how social movements are embedded in spaces which are interactive and politically competitive and conflictual.

The second aim of the chapter is to provide an overview of the main ideological currents that have informed the political practices of sections of the British anti-capitalist movement field (a sub-field within the larger AGM field). These include Zapatismo, autonomism and anarchism, and Marxist socialism. These ideological overviews are necessarily at a certain level of generality. British anarchist groups have been influenced by a number of anarchist, autonomist and postmodern theorists, thinkers and practices. Ideas and action repertoires have diffused down through generations of activists. Moreover, anarchism is a broad church ideology, housing many competing ideas. However, I provide a general treatment of the main ideas which have influenced British anarchism today. Similarly, Marxist socialism is a very broad ideology influenced by particular variants, including Leninist, Trotskyist and Maoist ideas, among others. Here I outline the key ideas which have shaped the main socialist British anticapitalist groups. The third aim of the chapter is to provide a potted history of turn-of-the-century British anti-capitalism (1991-2011), including the participation of anti-capitalist groups in the Occupy movement.

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