June 2007

It has been eight lean years for the movement of movement since its Seattle high point of 1999. Since September 11th 2001 many activists’ energies have been directed to opposing the invasion and occupation of Iraq, other conflicts in Afghanistan and Lebanon, and abuses of civil liberties and media truth. But the war on terror has also had a deadening effect on oppositional hopes and imagination. Or so it seems to me, an academic in Canada whose political energies have recently been absorbed opposing his university’s making tanks for the US Army. Comrades are engaged in labour organising, post-carbon planning, the self-organisation of the homeless, municipal elections and other projects. But the optimistic sense of another world as not only possible but probable, imminent, has given way to something more sombre. Even in this no-longer-frozen North, the upsurge of popular movements and governments in Latin America is an inspiration. Otherwise, however, horizons have contracted.

Global capitalism appears – by profit levels – robust. Cascading ecological calamities, suddenly peaking oil, another 9/11, or an uncontrolled unwinding of US-China relations could all destabilise the world system. But not only are such scenarios contingent; it is uncertain they would be to the advantage of progressive movements. Neo-fascists, fundamentalists and martial law capitalists could be the beneficiaries, unless intellectual and organisational preparation lays the ground for a better alternative.

It therefore seems important to renew the discussion of what we want: to think through not just what we are against, but what we are fighting for (and hence who ‘we’ are), and to consider what might be plausibly achieved in present circumstances. Many movement activists and intellectuals are currently addressing this task, here and in other forums. My contribution will be to propose and discuss ‘commonism’.

read rest of article at Turbulence