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Organizing against Globalization: the Case of ATTAC in France

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This article argues that the current opposition to globalization is not a structural side effect of economic integration. Instead of assuming that globalization generates resistance, it stresses the political and interpretive processes that shape collective action. It substantiates this claim by studying the rise of an antiglobalization social movement organization called ATTAC in France. It holds that ATTAC's emergence is the product of political entrepreneurs whose actions were constrained by the ideational and organizational legacies of previous contentious episodes, particularly the December 1995 strikes. Finally, it contends that ATTAC's success stems in part from its ability to produce a hybrid discourse that marries state interventionism with participatory politics.
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POLITICS & SOCIETYMARCOS ANCELOVICI
Organizing against Globalization:
The Case of ATTAC in France
MARCOS ANCELOVICI
This article argues that the current opposition to globalization is not a structural
side effect of economic integration. Instead of assuming that globalization gener-
ates resistance, it stresses the political and interpretive processes that shape collec-
tive action. It substantiates this claim by studying the rise of an antiglobalization
social movement organization called ATTAC in France. It holds that ATTAC’s emer-
gence is the product of political entrepreneurs whose actions were constrained by
the ideational and organizational legacies of previous contentious episodes, partic-
ularly the December 1995 strikes. Finally, it contends that ATTAC’s success stems in
part from its ability to produce a hybrid discourse that marries state interventionism
with participatory politics.
An increasing number of people around the world are organizing against glob
-
alization, that is, “a set of changes in the international economy that tend to pro
-
duce a single market for goods, services, capital, and labor.
1
Some commentators
even claim that the issue of globalization threatens “to divide world opinion as
nothing has since the collapse of Communism.
2
However, we still know very lit
-
tle about this new wave of mass mobilization.
There are different ways of addressing this issue. One can claim, for example,
that the protests against globalization are a backlash against the increasing influ
-
ence of foreign cultures, particularly American culture, and the values they con
-
vey.
3
However, most social scientists and activists writing on globalization
An earlier version of this article was presented to a seminar on civil society taught by Grzegorz
Ekiert and Susan Pharr at Harvard University in fall 2000. It greatly benefited from numerous conver
-
sations withSuzanneBerger. I also wish to thank Julie-Anne Boudreau, Joshua Cohen, Donatella della
Porta, Francis Dupuis-Déri, Jonah Levy, Frederic Schaffer, and the editorial board of Politics & Soci
-
ety for their comments and suggestions.
POLITICS & SOCIETY, Vol. 30 No. 3, September 2002 427-463
© 2002 Sage Publications
427
assume that this opposition is basically the product of economic and structural
change. Thus, authors drawing on neoclassical trade models—such as the
Hecksher-Ohlin or the Ricardo-Viner models—or Marxist theory contend that
this opposition is driven by a defense of economic interests, whether defined in
sector or class terms, while others, drawing on Karl Polanyi’s countermovement
theory, contend that the protests against globalization embody the self-protection
of society against its dislocation as market forces expand.
4
According to these
economic and structural arguments, it is globalization itself that produces or gen
-
erates protests and resistance.
For example, in their study of the Seattle anti–World Trade Organization
(WTO) protests of December 1999, Mark Lichbach and Paul Almeida claim that
the deepening of economic integration and interdependence creates new cleav
-
ages and leads to redistributive conflicts, zero-sum struggles, polarization, and
eventually to “local resistance to the global order. Furthermore, “the new institu
-
tions of global governance that are being created to manage the global economy
are altering local-national-regional-international linkages and thereby generating
new conflicts over the new rules.
5
This type of argument can shed some light on the politics of globalization,
above all if it integrates intervening institutional variables, and some of its predic-
tions may be accurate. However, even in countries where discontent is wide-
spread, economic and structural explanations cannot account for the magnitude,
form, constituency, and ideology of the opposition to globalization. First, any
causal relationship between globalization and collective action is difficult to spec-
ify in analytical terms because the concept of globalization is generally vague and
ambiguous.
6
Second, even when defined in strict economic terms, the impact of
globalization is far from self-evident. We need thus to distinguish the sources of
collective action from its form, discourse, and goal. It is not because some actors
frame their claims in terms of globalization that the latter is the actual cause of col
-
lective action. As Sidney Tarrow points out, “Concrete actors with domestic polit
-
ical agendas drawon the symbols of globalization but are not determined by it.
7
Therefore, to account for the growing opposition to globalization, I propose to
stress the role of politics and adopt a dynamic perspective focusing on strategic
interactions and processes. A rapidly developing literature on transnational poli
-
tics adopts such a dynamic perspective and provides some insights on emerging
forms of collective action that parallel globalization.
8
Nonetheless, rather than
trying to explain collective action across borders (i.e., the globalization of conten
-
tion) as the transnational politics literature does, I want to account for political
responses to globalization. As I will explain, these responses remain primarily
embedded in national politics. Furthermore, the transnational politics literature
has so far focused on the international political opportunity structure and transna
-
tional networks but has paid little attention to framing activities and, more gener
-
ally, interpretive processes. These collective interpretive processes play an impor
-
428 POLITICS & SOCIETY
tant role in explaining the dynamics of contemporary contentious politics because
it is through them that actors make sense of long-term structural changes such as
globalization.
9
Put in general terms, I will argue that the opposition to globalization cannot be
reduced to a structural side effect or a spontaneous countermovement. It is the
result of a political and cultural process conditioned by previous contentious epi
-
sodes and struggles. I will substantiate my claim by looking at antiglobalization
politics in France, a country perhaps more divided by globalization than any other
advanced industrialized country.
10
Specifically, I will analyze a new organization
whose sole purpose is to oppose globalization: the Association for the Taxation of
Financial Transaction for the Aid of Citizens (ATTAC). Founded in 1998, this
organizationhas become one of the leaders of the struggle against globalization in
France. It already counts almost thirty thousand members and forty sister organi
-
zations throughout the world, it is courted by mainstream political parties in antic
-
ipation of local and national elections, and it has managed to turn the Tobin Tax
from an esoteric economic proposition into a widely discussed issue enjoying
strong public support: in September 2001, 71 percent of the French were in favor
of the implementation of such a tax.
11
In this article, I will analyze the emergence, discourse, and strategy of ATTAC
at the crossroads of dense organizational networks and its roots in the wake of sev-
eral social conflicts, particularly the December 1995 strikes. I will contend that
during the 1990s, the political process brought about the development of a new
interpretive frame that I call the “Politics against Global Markets” frame. I will
argue that this frame became a sort of discursive paradigm that shaped the emer-
gence and content of subsequent claims and demands of social and political
actors. It is in this context that ATTAC formulated a discourse that I call “associa
-
tional statism. This discourse lies at the crossroads of several political traditions,
acting as a bridge between the Old Left and the New Left and trying to develop a
post-Marxist alternative to liberalism. Instead of blaming excessive statism for
socioeconomic problems, like the New Left and neoliberals, it blames globaliza
-
tion. It denounces the inequality brought about by the market, like the Old Left,
but eschews any class analysis. It demands state intervention, like the Old Left,
but insists on civic participation at the local level, like the New Left. In this sense,
ATTAC may be the harbinger of a renewal of the Left and of a reconfiguration of
the French political landscape.
CONTENTIOUS POLITICS AND GLOBALIZATION IN FRANCE
The extent of the suspicion toward globalization in France is somewhat puz
-
zling considering that this country has enjoyed a trade surplus since 1993 and is
today the fourth largestexporting country in the world. Similarly, until the 11 Sep
-
tember 2001 terrorist attacks that shook the world, the growth rate was increasing
while the unemployment rate, after a decade in the double digits, had recently
MARCOS ANCELOVICI 429
gone down to 9 percent. One might have thus expected a decrease in opposition to
globalization. The discrepancy between, on one hand, France’s economic perfor
-
mance and, on the other hand, its position in international trade negotiations like
the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) even led Nobel laureate
economist Robert Solow to declare that France was a “psychiatric case.
12
Fur
-
thermore, the Socialist Party’s acceptance of market mechanisms and the gradual
reform of the dirigiste state that followed the U-turn of President Mitterrand in
1983 had led several commentators to announce the triumph of liberalism and the
end of French exceptionalism.
13
Recent polls on globalization and state intervention show the divisions and
contradictions of French public opinion. In 1999, 60 percent of the French thought
that globalization deepened social inequalities while 57 percent considered that it
fostered economic growth.
14
In 2000, 74 percent believed that free trade was a
positive thing while 53 percent had a negative opinion of capitalism and 40 per
-
cent thought that globalization was a negative phenomenon. Similarly, 60 percent
had a positiveopinion of economic flexibility whereas at the same time 49 percent
declared that planning was a good thing.
15
Moreover, 62 percent of those who
defined themselves as being on the Right and 63 percent of those who defined
themselves as being on the Left believed that the economy was not regulated
enough. Regulation was said to be needed in respect to the environment (79 per-
cent), food safety (71 percent), workers’rights (61 percent), financial markets (55
percent), and international trade (51 percent).
16
The contrast with American polls
is revealing. According to Eddy Fougier, while in the United States globalization
is primarily perceivedas a phenomenon involving trade issues, most of the French
relate it to financial (capital mobility and corporate governance) and cultural
issues. Not surprisingly, most Americans take the marketfor granted and are often
suspicious of government interventionism, while most French people expect and
rely on state interventionism.
17
These particularities entail not only different
understandings of globalization but also different solutions to its alleged
consequences.
A wide range of French organizations are hostile to globalization. It is even
possible to talk of an incipient antiglobalization social movementencompassing a
great variety of issues—from the crisis of the welfare state and labor conditions to
the environment and genetically modified organisms—and capable of sustained
interactions with the state and occasionally supranational institutions like the
European Union, the WTO, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the
World Bank.
18
This movement also includes some political parties at its margins,
such as the Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist League (LCR), the Greens, the
Communist Party (PC), the neo-Republican Citizens’ Movement, and sectors of
the Socialist Party (PS).
19
Some parties on the Right, such as the National Front
and the Rally for France, also criticize globalization. Thus, ATTAC is not a
430 POLITICS & SOCIETY
self-contained phenomenon. Debates and protests started before its creation and
go well beyond it.
Beyond the obvious diversity of demands and perspectives, opponents of glob
-
alization converge in their reassertion of the role of the state and of individuals as
citizens rather than simply consumers. As Suzanne Berger points out, “Because
the problems appear to have political origins, they appear reversible by govern
-
ment action. Thus, one paradoxical outcome of globalization may be to refocus
political attention on the role of the state and on the boundaries of national terri
-
tory.
20
Moreover, in contrast to traditional protectionism that demands higher
barriers to protect the economic interests of domestic producers against foreign
imports, most opponents of globalization do not so much invoke specific societal
and sectoral interests as they claim to be defending the nation as a whole, even
humankind.
21
This shift is not proper to France. It is partly related to the inclusion
of an increasing number of sectors and human activities in international trade
negotiations and to the growing importance of national regulations in determining
international competitiveness. What is at stake for most opponents of globaliza-
tion, including ATTAC, is not simply jobs and north-south relations but also labor
conditions, social and environmental norms, food quality, and so forth, that is,
national regulatory standards. They stress that the citizens’ability to influence the
definition of these standards is one of the attributes of democracy and that the
state’s capability to determine and enforce them is one of the attributes of sover-
eignty. Thus, they see and frame their struggle as a defense of democracy, govern-
ment accountability, and popular sovereignty.
This recasting of protectionism—a term that opponents of globalization gener-
ally do not use—makes, in turn, new coalitions possible between actors that did
not work together in the past, such as, for example, unions and environmentalists,
and between countries. Such a recasting is a gradual process that does not simply
stem from the evolution of trade and long-term structural changes. As Doug
McAdam and William Sewell underscore, “Strategic framing implies adherence
to a nonroutine and conflictual definition of the situation. But this definition is
itself a product of earlier processes of collective interpretation and social con
-
struction.
22
Therefore, to understand an organization such as ATTAC, one needs to exam
-
ine first the emergence of globalization as a contentious issue in French politics
during the 1990s. The 1992 referendum on the Maastricht Treaty brought about
the first major public debate on globalization in France. As Sophie Meunier
remarks, “Even if the culprit blamed then was not called globalization but
Europeanization, the reasons for discontent were the same.
23
Only a 51 percent
majority approved the treaty. Both the country and mainstream political parties,
particularly the conservative Gaullist party Rally for the Republic (RPR), were
deeply divided. The Maastricht Treaty also put the idea of pensée unique (sin
-
gle/uniform thought)—referring to the hegemony of neoliberalism—at the center
MARCOS ANCELOVICI 431
of public debates over public policy. The fight against la pensée unique was thus
one of the main themes of the 1995 presidential election. The winning RPR candi
-
date Jacques Chirac called for renewed state intervention in the name of the
Republican pact and to heal the fracture sociale (social divide).
Later that year, France experienced the biggest mass mobilization since the
events of May 1968. Indeed, the strikes of December 1995 against RPR prime
minister Alain Juppé’s plan to reform social security and in defense of public ser
-
vices, social protection, and the welfare state paralyzed the country for three
weeks.
24
Led primarily by public employees (particularly from the rail public
company, SNCF, but also from telecommunications, postal service, and educa
-
tion) and students, the strikes enjoyed the support of wide sectors of French soci
-
ety, including workers in the private sector.
25
In addition to unions and students,
women’s groups and civic associations for the unemployed and the homeless also
joined in. However, unions were greatly divided, as the Confédération générale du
travail (CGT, close to the PC) launched the movement with the support of civic
associations while the Confédération française démocratique du travail (CFDT,
close to the PS) refused to reject Juppé’s plan. These strikes reproduced a cleavage
similar in many respects to the one in 1992 with the Maastricht Treaty. After sev-
eral weeks of conflict, Juppé withdrew his reform. These strikes appeared for
many people as evidence that globalization was not inevitable and that politics
was still relevant. They fed the belief that ordinary people can havean effect on the
course of things and in doing so, fostered participation in future mobilizations and
campaigns. Moreover, the strikes brought closer together a wide range of organi-
zations critical of the liberal turn of the PS. This informal coalition came to be
called “the” social movement and the “Left of the Left” or the “Leftist Left”
(“Gauche de la gauche”or“Gauche de gauche”) by the media and activists. Sev
-
eral of these organizations later participated in the creation of ATTAC. Interest
-
ingly enough, the inclusive and vague label “the” social movement suggests that
there is a single social movement. “The” social movement seems thus to have
replaced the labor movement (le mouvement ouvrier) as the vanguardin the politi
-
cal imaginary of some sectors of the Left.
The Politics against Global Markets Frame
The 1995 strikes were both a protest against globalization and against Juppé’s
political style—he did not consult unions and tried to impose his reform from
above, in the dirigiste tradition. Regardless of the actual causes of this event, what
matters for the purpose of this article is that a new interpretive frame arose out of
this contentious episode. Collective action frames do not entail a consensus or
support for specific policies, and they are not as elaborated, encompassing, and
coherent as ideologies. They are an interpretive schemata that simplifies events
and experiences, redefines situations as unjust, and connects several distinct
grievances.
26
To be effective and turn passivity into action, they must be different
432 POLITICS & SOCIETY
from the dominant, conventional discourse that fosters compliance. They must be
adversarial and action oriented. They must transform a given phenomenon into a
social problem, attributethe responsibility for it to someone, and possibly propose
general solutions and strategies.
I call the new collective action frame that arose out the 1995 strikes the Politics
against Global Markets frame (see Table 1). This frame opposes virtuous and
democratic civic politics to corrupt antidemocratic market forces. It puts forward
a Manichean vision of social reality, with civic politics being defined as
quintessentially good while markets are a realm governed by the law of the jungle,
where individualistic and immoral aspirations prevail at the expense of the com
-
mon good. It follows that, for ordinary individuals,politics is the realm of empow
-
erment while markets are realms of powerlessness. The state appears then as the
privileged resort of civilization against anarchy, that is, the war of all against all.
27
It stands as the guarantor of rights and equality against the inequality inevitably
stemming from the logic of the market and as the rampart of national cultures
against homogenization. It is important to bear in mind that the divide underlying
this frame is “politics against markets, not one nation against another, as nation
-
alists and Gaullists would put it, or workers against capitalists, as Marxists would
put it. Furthermore, the markets that are blamed are no longer simply national.
They are global and, therefore, even meaner than national ones because they are
beyond the reach of the nation-state and thereby more difficult to tame. These
shifts from nation or class to politics and markets, and from the national to the
global, also entail that the actors concerned are no longer the same ones.
Although international issues were already part of domestic politics before
globalization became a buzzword, they were couched in different terms. The rela
-
tive originality of the Politics against Global Markets frame is easier to grasp
MARCOS ANCELOVICI 433
Table 1
The Politics against Global Markets Frame
Sphere Politics Global Markets
Normative ideals Common good, equality, solidarity Individualism, profit, performance,
efficiency
Organizing principles Citizenship, rights, participation,
representation, accountability,
sovereignty
Competition, flexibility,
disembeddedness, anarchy
Implications Empowerment, social redistribu
-
tion, cultural diversity,
democracy
Powerlessness, inequality (between
and within countries), atomism,
rootlessness, commodification,
cultural homogenization,
tyranny
Agents States, political parties, civic asso
-
ciations, social movements,
international nongovernmental
organizations, citizenry
Transnational corporations, inter
-
national financial institutions,
governments and elites who
have surrendered to globaliza
-
tion, shareholders, consumers
when one compares it to the frame of the anti-IMF/World Bank campaign of the
1980s. As Jürgen Gerhards and Dieter Rucht show in their study of the protests
that took place in West Berlin in September 1988, this campaign addressed
north-south relations, the Third World debt, the destruction of cultural identities,
unemployment, and reductions in social welfare in developed countries; blamed
the capitalist character of the world economic order and the role of the IMF and
the World Bank; and called for a reformation of that order.
28
Today’s
antiglobalization protests are driven by similar issues and normative ideals. How
-
ever, this frame differs from the Politics against Global Markets frame in the way
it ties the problems together; in its lack of attention to the democratic deficit, the
role of the state, and the national/global articulation; and in its omission of the
identity of citizen as a symbol antonymous to the world of global finance.
This evolution may be related to major international changes, such as the col
-
lapse of the USSR and the end of the cold war, that gave a new dimension to
democracy and citizenship. Nonetheless, the Politics against Global Markets
frame is neither the mechanical product of structural conditions nor the expres-
sion of a spontaneous countermovement or a simple derivative of the French stat-
ist, antiliberal political culture, although the latter is certainly a constraining fac-
tor that shapes the production and reception of new symbols.
29
Workers and
students did not begin to mobilize and protest with a clear, shared frame in mind.
As Sidney Tarrow puts it, “It is in struggle that people discover which values they
share, as well as what divides them, and learn to frame their appeals around the
former and paper over the latter.
30
Collective action frames are strategically con-
structed and articulated, under certain material, institutional, and cultural con-
straints, by political agents. The Politics against Global Markets frame did not
clearly emerge until the second or even third week of the strike, when several
renowned intellectuals and activists signed a well-publicized petition in support
of the strikes. This petition was itself a reaction to a previous petition published in
defense of Juppé’s reform.
31
The government itself and its supporters also fuelled
the subsequent emphasis on globalization by justifying Juppé’s reform in the
name of pragmatism in the face of inevitable external constraints imposed by
globalization. The media picked up this simple picture, and on 7 December 1995,
Le Monde called the strikes “the first upheaval against globalization.
It is therefore crucial to place strategic interactions at the center of the framing
process. The Politics against Global Markets frame is the outcome rather than the
cause of the 1995 strikes. Its configuration came into being during this conten
-
tious episode and only later became institutionalized in everydaypublic discourse
and picked up by other groups for different purposes. Having said that, new
frames are not invented out of whole cloth. They draw on familiar values, catego
-
ries, and symbols, and this familiarity allows them to resonate among the targeted
public. In this sense, “what gives a collective action frame its novelty is not so
much its innovative ideational elements as the manner in which activists articulate
434 POLITICS & SOCIETY
or tie them together.
32
In France, the Politics against Global Markets frame
invokes widely shared norms such as social equality, solidarity, and the common
good, familiar categories such as market and citizen, and mobilizes strong sym
-
bols such as the public service, the social entitlements of the republic, and the
threat of tyranny.
33
It avoids old themes of the Left, such as the class struggle, and
stresses the inclusive identity of citizen, thereby widening its appeal. Moreover,
its insistence on the interventionist role of the state is congruent with the republi
-
can statist political culture and thus does not require any justification.
34
In coun
-
tries where the critique of the market was not shaped as much by statism and
Marxism and where the reform of the public sector did not crystallize fears about
globalization as in France in 1995, this frame will probably not resonate so
strongly, and one can expect opponents of globalization to rely on a slightly differ
-
ent collective action frame.
The Politics against Global Markets frame derives its popularity not only from
its cultural resonance but also from its frame-bridging capacity and its location at
the intersection of many concerns, particularly those of nationalists who fear for
national identity and sovereignty, those of opponents of neoliberalism who worry
about inequality and the erosion of the welfare state, and those of environmental-
ists.
35
Sometimes, these concerns converge, for example, when the role of the state
in the economy is presented as a distinctive feature of French national identity.
The defense of the welfare state becomes then a defense of French national iden-
tity and vice versa. The possibility of extending the Politics against Global Mar-
kets frame to a multitude of problems and connecting them to each other widens
its potential audience and fosters its mobilization capacity. Moreover, this frame
provides a convenient way to criticize free markets and capitalism without having
to rely on a Marxist vocabulary and framework. It also allows unions to defend
their interests without necessarily being accused of undermining the general
interest dear to the republican political culture. Thus, the Politics against Global
Markets frame allows actors to avoid two stigmatizing charges in contemporary
France: that of being archaic (Marxism) and corporatist.
36
The diffusion of this frame after the 1995 strikes is apparent in the commercial
success of a number of essays denouncing the alleged evils of globalization. The
most noticeable case is undoubtedly Viviane Forrester’s The Economic Horror.
Published in 1996, it sold 300,000 copies and was translated in eighteen lan
-
guages.
37
The Politics against Global Markets frame also structured the discourse
of opponents of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) in 1997 and
1998. Negotiated within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Devel
-
opment (OECD), the MAI aimed at providing a comprehensive framework for
international investment. Several provisions of the MAI challenged social and
cultural national regulations and, according to MAI opponents, would have given
corporations the sovereign power to govern countries.
38
A coalition made of
unions from the entertainment sector, the civic associations and unions of “the”
MARCOS ANCELOVICI 435
social movement, the Greens, the peasant union Confédération paysanne, and
think-tanks like the Observatory of Globalization, managed to bring the French
government to withdraw from the negotiations, thereby provoking the collapse of
the agreement.
39
Their reliance on the Politics against Global Markets frame is
obvious, for example, in the “Call of 10 February 1998, made by unions of the
movie industry: “[The MAI] is leading us to a real change of civilization. We are
going from the right of peoples to self-determination to the right of investors to
dispose of peoples.
40
Similarly, the “Manifesto of 28 April 1998” of the Coordi
-
nation against the MAI invoked the French and the universal human rights decla
-
rations to denounce the antidemocratic character of neoliberal globalization.
41
In the same vein, in late 1999, the Call for the Citizen Control of the WTO,
signed by the majority of antiglobalization leaders of the Left and many celebri
-
ties, stated,
More and more every day, the market takes control of life. It organizes work, sets salaries,
moves factories, decides what we drink, breathe, or eat. It cuts down on social progress,
eliminates differences, destroys public services, annihilates democracy and peoples’ right
to self-determination. More and more every day, globalization accelerates without any
democratic institution ever deciding it. . . . More and more every day, freedom is annihi-
lated in the name of free trade.
42
On 27 November of that same year, around ten thousand people marched in Paris
from the Stock Exchange to Bastille, a symbol of the French Revolution and pop-
ular sovereignty, to denounce the meeting of the WTO in Seattle.
THE CREATION OF ATTAC
It is in this context of mobilization, ideational innovation, and coalition build
-
ing that ATTAC emerged. Its creation in June 1998, in the midst of the mobiliza
-
tion against the MAI, took place in a very crowded terrain. There were already
many organizations denouncing the evils of globalization. Competition between
these organizations could have left little room for new actors. ATTAC, however,
managed to rally most of them, at first, behind a specific demand (the Tobin Tax)
and then to institutionalize the informal ties and networks relating them to one
another. The presence of “initiator” movements and the role of political entrepre
-
neurs were key factors.
Initiator movements set in motion or signal cycles of protest and have a cultur
-
ally catalytic effect on later struggles.
43
The December 1995 strikes that brought
about the crystallization of the Politics against Global Markets frame could qual
-
ify as such an initiator movement. Although it was not as influential, the move
-
ment against social exclusion also played the role of initiator. For example, sev
-
eral associations defending housing rights and the unemployed emerged in the
late 1980s and early 1990s and later supported the 1995 strikes and the mobiliza
-
436 POLITICS & SOCIETY
tion against the MAI in 1998.
44
They also progressively framed their grievances in
terms consistent with the Politics against Global Markets frame.
45
In doing so,
they paralleled a move by the antiracist movement, the Third World solidarity
movement, and AIDS advocacy groups such as Act-up to redefine citizenship in
participatory terms.
46
This emphasis on participatory politics also materialized in
new forms of organization such as the “coordinations”—that is, spontaneous gen
-
eral assemblies rejecting political and union delegative practices and privileging
direct democracy—that emerged out of the student movement and several strikes
in the public sector in 1986 to 1988.
47
Similarly, the organizations fighting against
social exclusion were structured around horizontal, decentralized networks.
Together with the new, more radical unions (the Solidaires, unitaires,
démocratiques [SUD], and the Fédération syndicale unitaire) that broke away
from traditional labor federations (the CFDT and the Fédération de l’éducation
nationale) in the late 1980s, the movement against social exclusion constituted
dense networks and connective structures that fostered the diffusion of ideational,
organizational, and tactical tools. Although distinct from one another, they were
fighting on related issues and they all subsequently participated in the creation of
ATTAC.
These developments contributed to the repertoire of collective action available
to actors. Repertoires are familiar modes of organizingand acting to which people
turn, even though “in principle some unfamiliar form of action would serve their
interests much better.
48
As Christophe Aguiton—a member of the LCR who par-
ticipated in the foundation of the union SUD, the organization for the unemployed
Agir ensemble contre le chômage! (AC!) and ATTAC—explains,
The emergence of all these new movements during the 1990s allowed us to accumulate a
great deal of experience and capital....When new issues like the Asian financial crisis
appeared, we relied on what we knew. These movements of the 1990s are our toolkit.
49
Thus, the emergence of ATTAC depended on the development of other organiza
-
tions. In this sense, ATTAC qualifies as a spin-off social movement organization
that derives its impetus and inspiration from initiator movements and was shaped
by the multiorganizational field in which it is embedded.
50
The triggering event of ATTAC’s creation was a December 1997 editorial writ
-
ten by Ignacio Ramonet, the chief editor of Le Monde diplomatique, in the wake of
the Asian financial crisis and at the beginning of the mobilization against the
MAI. Many opponents of globalization were then convinced that the Asian finan
-
cial crisis was the proof that financial markets were deeply harmful and played a
hegemonic role in the globalization process. Taming these markets was therefore
seen as the cornerstone of any realistic plan to counter neoliberal globalization. In
his editorial, after denouncing the generalized economic insecurity and the demo
-
cratic deficit fostered by globalization, Ramonet suggested the creation of an
organizationcalled Action for a Tobin Tax for the Aid of Citizens. Such an organi
-
MARCOS ANCELOVICI 437
zation, Ramonet argued, could collaborate with unions and associations and act as
a civic pressure group demanding the implementation of the Tobin Tax.
51
Ramonet apparently touched a chord, for in the following weeks, Le Monde
diplomatique received thousands of letters from organizations and individuals
willing to support such an initiative. In March 1998, several unions, civic organi
-
zations, and newspapers met and agreed on three general points: (1) a challenge to
the hegemony of “ultraliberalism” requires the construction of credible alterna
-
tives; (2) the taxation of financial transactions, particularly the Tobin Tax, could
contain economic insecurity and inequality; and (3) the urgency of checking the
damage of financial globalization requires a civic burst transcending traditional
cleavages in France and the world.
52
On 3 June, a constitutive general assembly
officially created the association, adopted a platform, and elected the first board of
directors, which in turn elected Bernard Cassen, director of Le Monde
diplomatique, as president.
A priori, the collective goods to which ATTAC aspires are remote and condu
-
cive to free riding and thus cannot by themselves constitute strong incentives to
mobilize. In fact, an important part of ATTAC’s discourse is framed in terms of
“collective evils, such as massive inequalities, tyranny, society’s disintegration,
and so forth, rather than collective goods.
53
Hence, the importance of political
entrepreneurs, whose motives and attitudes are likely to be different from those of
the rank and file (more principled beliefs, longer time horizon, or personal ambi-
tions) and whose organizational skills, social capital, and symbolic resources
allow them to take advantage of opportunities. In this respect, the role of Le
Monde diplomatique, one of the leading newspapers of the French Left, cannot be
overstated: it implied immediate access to intellectual resources, legitimacy, and
organizational networks cutting across newspapers, parties, unions, associations,
and countries, as well as the possibility of reaching an audience representing a
“conscience constituency” or “sentiment pool.
54
The experienced activists and
unionists that participated in the foundation of ATTAC were aware of this advan
-
tage and seized the opportunity.
On the other hand, these activists and unionists brought with them a substantial
know-how that the intellectuals gathered around Le Monde diplomatique did not
have. What they did share, however, was a general understanding of globalization
consistent with the Politics against Global Markets frame, a suspicion toward
mainstream parties, a refusal of the liberal turn of the PS, and a strong attachment
to what Lichbach and Almeida call “global ideals” (global justice, peace, human
rights, sustainable development, etc.).
55
Political and moral incentives seem to
have been crucial. Furthermore, their identification with the so-called “Left of the
Left” and “the” social movement that emerged out of the 1995 strikes constituted
a common ground that not only shaped their definition of the situation but also
guided their tactical and organizational choices by privileging certain natural
allies and modes of representation. These political entrepreneurs’ actions were
438 POLITICS & SOCIETY
thus constrained by the ideational and organizational legacies of previous conten
-
tious episodes.
The result of this encounter between a coherent group of intellectuals and
experienced organizers representing different sectors of French civil society pro
-
vides selective incentives to different constituencies. These incentives are both
strategic/instrumental and moral/purposive. For unions, it is a chance to reach
associations and social movements and thereby widen their support network and
legitimacy. For example, for Pierre Tartakowsky, ATTAC’s secretary general and
a member of the union CGT, the idea of creating an organization like ATTAC was
appealing because the CGT had been thinking about its articulation to “the” social
movement for a while:
The idea of an alliance, even in a very vague form, that would take place in the realm of the
City and not necessarily in that of labor so as to question the deep trends of the liberal econ
-
omy, was very interesting.
56
For civic associations, ATTAC may mean access to tangible (facilities, means of
communication, etc.) and, above all, intangible (organizing and legal skills,
expertise, social and symbolic capital, etc.) resources. Finally, for the rank and
file, incentives seem to be primarily moral and symbolic, insofar as ATTAC repre-
sents an opportunity to express a disenchantment with institutional politics while
rebuilding a sense of belonging and collective identity. This expressive dimension
translated into an emphasis on grassroots politics and direct, local democracy and
shaped the development of ATTAC into a decentralized mobilizing structure that
its founders had not foreseen.
ATTAC’S MEMBERSHIP AND STRUCTURE
To understand the emergence and development of an organization as heteroge
-
neous as ATTAC, it is necessary to look at its membership and organizational
structure. The latter stem in part from the social and organizational networks
underlying ATTAC and at the same time reinforce and expand these networks.
The membership and organizational structure also shape the way ATTAC relates
to other organizations.
Membership
The growth rate of ATTAC’s membership is impressive, all the more consider
-
ing the abstract nature and complexity of the processes it denounces. It reached
almost thirty thousand members in a little more than two years. In late 2001,
teachers, intellectuals, and students represented about a third of its membership,
and there were 556 organizations—mostly unions and associations—that were
members as legal entities (personnes morales).
57
In contrast to organizations with
MARCOS ANCELOVICI 439
a large but inactive base financing a few active leaders, ATTAC prides itself of a
strong social base and mobilizing capacity. In the words of Christophe Ventura,
international office secretary of ATTAC:
ATTAC is really not [a nongovernmental organization, or NGO]. The big difference
between an NGO and us is that we are an organization with a real base. We are not a club of
researchers or activists. We are a civic movement.
58
The membership of ATTAC is made of both individuals and legal entities such
as unions, newspapers, and municipalities. Founder members are very diverse.
They include the following:
1. trade unions, representing peasants, teachers, postal workers, lawyers, and
branches of major confederations like the CGT and the CFDT;
2. civic associations, focusing on unemployment such as AC!, Association pour
l’emploi, l’information et la solidarité (APEIS), and Mouvement national des
chômeurs et précaires (MNCP), others defending reproductive rights, others
demanding rights for marginalized populations such as the homeless and
undocumented immigrants, and some defending the separation of church and
state (the laïcité);
3. newspapers and magazines, such as Le Monde diplomatique, Alternatives
économiques, Charlie Hebdo, and Témoignage chrétien; and
4. public intellectuals, such as the late René Dumont, Viviane Forrester, Susan
George,Gisèle Halimi, René Passet, Ignacio Ramonet, and singer Manu Chao.
59
Several distinctive features characterize the membership of ATTAC. First,
intellectuals play a central role as active rather than just symbolic members. This
is reflected in the willingness to popularize abstract and complex economic issues
(that is, the purpose of ATTAC’s Scientific Council) and in the degree of formal
-
ism of the organizational structure from the very beginning. Second, there is a
strong predominance of trade unions of the public sector, in particular teachers
unions. This is surprising considering that teachers are not directly affected by the
consequences of globalization, except in a very general way as any other citizen.
The same could be said about lawyers. In contrast, workers in sectors directly
challenged by globalization, such as the textile industry, are completely absent. In
this sense, there does not seem to be a relationship between joining ATTAC and
defending specific economic interests. This lack of relation to material incentives
is also apparent in the membership of civic associations defending reproductive
rights and the separation of church and state, or demanding an increased availabil
-
ity of affordable housing.
Third, the three labor confederations—CGT, CFDT, Force ouvrière
(FO)—have a very low profile. This reflects ATTAC’s declared willingness to
construct an autonomous organization that will not be used instrumentally by big
-
440 POLITICS & SOCIETY
ger players. Not a single political party was involved in the creation of ATTAC,
although some founder members were also members of political parties.
Among other significant absentees are representatives of the entertainment
sector, environmentalist organizations (the only environmentalist association
among founder members is Friends of the Earth), and immigrants associations.
The absence of immigrants associations is surprising considering that they were
very active during the 1980s and 1990s.
60
This absence is perhaps related to the
immigrants’ambivalent situation with respect to globalization: on one hand, they
embody the mobility of labor across borders and are, in this sense, a concrete man
-
ifestation of globalization; on the other hand, insofar as they are generally a poor
and low-skilled population, they are directly affected by economic insecurity,
unemployment, and cuts in social spending.
61
The absence of environmentalist organizations clearly distinguishes the
French antiglobalization movement from, say, its American equivalent. Several
authors have noted the continued salience and conflicting character of the class
cleavage in French politics and, as a result, the relatively low mobilizing capacity
of so-called new social movements such as the environmentalist movement.
62
The
absence of representatives of the entertainment sector is a lot more puzzling
because they regularly denounce the Americanization of French culture and were
very critical of the Uruguay Round of the GATT negotiations. Moreover, they
already had ties with antiglobalization organizations insofar as they were at the
center of the mobilization against the MAI in 1997 and 1998. This should have
made them natural founder members of ATTAC.
Finally, ATTAC is characterized by a high level of multiple affiliations among
its leaders. Many of them are also members of other organizations, generally
unions. Overlapping memberships are also fostered by the participation of many
organizations as legal entities within ATTAC. These multiple affiliations and
overlapping memberships increase ATTAC’s mobilizing capacity. They consti
-
tute bridging networks that facilitate the circulation of information and other
resources and contribute to the development of mutual trust among organizations.
In doing so, they consolidate alliances and foster cooperation between organiza
-
tions.
63
The denser the networks, the higher the likelihood of cooperation. There is
therefore a circular dynamic at work: at first, political entrepreneurs took advan
-
tage of these networks to create ATTAC, and, subsequently, ATTAC institutional
-
ized them—for example, by allowing organizations to become members as legal
entities—and expanded them. Thus, ATTAC played in some way the role of bro
-
ker, bringing together in a stable site previously unconnected or poorly connected
actors that participated in different networks. In doing so, it laid the foundations of
a new political identity and changed the relational dynamics of the French Left.
64
In 2001, 125 deputies at the National Assembly were members of ATTAC and
there was also an ATTACcoordination at the European parliament.
65
On one hand,
these deputies have been an important external resource of ATTAC, as they regu
-
MARCOS ANCELOVICI 441
larly relay its analysis and demand that the Tobin Tax be taken seriously. In this
respect, the victory of the PS-led coalition in the June 1997 legislative elections
affected the political opportunities available to social movement organizations
opposed to globalization and increased their chances of shaping public delibera
-
tions.
66
On the other hand, ATTAC is haunted by the prospect of electoral manipu
-
lation and instrumentalization. This prospect is accentuated by the fact that local
branches of political parties were, until recently, allowed to become members of
ATTAC as legal entities. Multiple affiliations are a double-edged sword that can
also jeopardize the autonomy of an organization.
Structure
ATTAC’s structure is relatively formal (see Figure 1). There are written rules,
fixed procedures, a division of labor, territorial units, a limited professionali
-
zation, and formal membership criteria. Such a degree of formalism helps to
mobilize resources (money, information, members, etc.) and thereby challenge
authorities for a more extended period of time. It is in this sense an important fac
-
tor in the duration of a movement. Membership dues are the primary source of
442 POLITICS & SOCIETY
Figure 1. Organization chart.
Note: B of D = board of directors; GA = general assembly.
ATTAC’s funding. They are collected at the national level, and 25 percent of the
total is redistributed to local committees depending on their membership level. In
1998, they represented 71.5 percent of the funding; in 1999, 50.9 percent; and in
2000, 55 percent. Most of the rest of the funding comes from donations and public
subsidies.
67
In spite of its formalism, ATTAC has a decentralized and participatory struc
-
ture. Local committees enjoy a relative autonomy to decide what strategies and
events they want to pursue—some prefer to organize conferences and public
debates, while others emphasize street demonstrations—within the bounds of the
organization’s general orientations. The number of local committees has
increased dramatically. By early 2002, there were already 230 local committees
throughout France. Such a local presence and decentralized structure favor
face-to-face interactions; facilitate the building of local coalitions around spe
-
cific, concrete issues; and foster an active membership. This allows ATTAC to
mobilize at several levels. To some extent, this incredible development could not
have been possible without the Internet. Although only about a third of ATTAC’s
members are connected to the Web, the Internet immediately became the “virtual”
spinal cord of the organization as mailing lists were created and documents posted
on a Web site before ATTAC had printed its first document on paper. Members of
future local committees could have instant access to information and organize
their own group. The prominent role of the Internet also shaped the future devel-
opment of ATTAC by fostering the horizontal and transverse circulation of infor-
mation and the building of networks.
68
Such a dynamic would have been impossi-
ble—because of obvious financial and time constraints—if the founders of
ATTAC had had to rely on printed documents and traditional means of communi-
cation. In turning the Internet into a defining feature of its organizational struc
-
ture, ATTAC innovated within the existing repertoire of collective action.
However, these local committees were not part of the original plan, as ATTAC
was more conceived as a lobby group producing a counterexpertise. Thus, local
committees are not part of ATTAC’s statutes. The creation of a horizontal network
of local committees was completely a bottom-up process that took the national
direction by surprise and is still at the source of many internal conflicts. The rank
and file care deeply about the decentralized structure and participatory politics of
the organization and stress that local committees play a crucial role in providing a
space for innovative ideas and practices.
69
Theyoften emphasize these particulari
-
ties to distinguish themselves from political parties and even unions. ATTAC
seems indeed to benefit from the disaffection from which traditional organiza
-
tions suffer. In 2000, only 20 percent of the French felt that they were well repre
-
sented by a political leader, and only 16 percent felt that they were well repre
-
sented by unions.
70
Insofar as an antiliberal critique of the market is not proper to
ATTAC, organizational and tactical elements seem to be the cornerstone of the
rank and file’s political identity. As Elisabeth Clemens explains, “Organizational
MARCOS ANCELOVICI 443
forms may be a source of shared identity....Theanswer to ‘who are we?’ need
not be a quality or noun; ‘we are people who do these sorts of things in this par
-
ticular way’ can be equally compelling.
71
Having said that, a “top-down” pat
-
tern still appears to predominate inside the organization. In spite of efforts to
build “bottom-up” channels, such as the National Conference of Local Commit
-
tees, that would make a substantial contribution to the orientation of the organiza
-
tion, the main decisions and the funding remain centralized in the hands of the
Parisian national direction.
Finally, ATTAC also has many sister organizations abroad.
72
By January 2002,
there were forty ATTAC organizations in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and
Japan. This international presence is not the result of a planned strategy. Accord
-
ing to Christophe Ventura, international office secretary of ATTAC,
The creation of ATTAC associations outside of France is a spontaneous phenomenon. Our
Web site played an important role in that respect. But we did not try to develop them. They
do not have any official status in our regulations and our relations with them are informal
and not structured. Furthermore, they have different structures and are faced with different
realities. The French model is not exportable. Each association tries to find a model
adapted to its reality.
73
Therefore, ATTAC is not a multinational civic organization whose world head-
quarters would be in Paris. It suggests, however, that ideas and practices can
spread quickly and lead to the emergence of relatively similar (in terms of goals
and discourse) organizations in other countries.
ASSOCIATIONAL STATISM
Although widespread, the Politics against Global Markets frame does not con
-
tain a substantial analysis of globalization nor a clear set of demands. It only con
-
nects severaldistinct grievances, definesthe situation as unjust, and blames global
markets and its allies. One of ATTAC’s self-proclaimed main tasks and raison
d’être is thus to develop a more specific discourse, an alternative and yet serious
vision of the economy that will redefine the public debate while mobilizing the
citizenry. As the environmentalist movement did in the 1980s, the idea is to offer a
counterexpertise that will challenge neoliberalism and denaturalize its vision of
the economy. The formulation of such an alternative program is conditioned by
the Politics against Global Markets frame. The latter underlies the general under
-
standing of socioeconomic issues held by French opponents of globalization and
constitutes a paradigm, logically excluding or downplaying other understandings
of reality but on the basis of which different issues can be emphasized and several
distinct solutions and programs can be developed.
74
Therefore, it is above all the
solutions put forward and their justification that distinguish from one another the
444 POLITICS & SOCIETY
discourses deriving from the Politics against Global Markets frame. At the risk of
using an oxymoron, I call ATTAC’s programmatic effort“associational statism.
Diagnosis
The initial problems identified by ATTAC are not new: deepening of inequali
-
ties both between and within countries, economic insecurity, unemployment, low
wages, democratic deficit, and ultimately the disintegration of societies. These
problems are part of everyday politics. What is new, however, is that they are no
longer presented as inherent features of capitalism, as the result of bad public pol
-
icy, as temporary characteristics of an economic cycle, or as the product of a rigid
and archaic interventionist state. They are now related to a new phenomenon,
globalization, that ATTAC defines as the convergence of two trends: first, the
restructuring of the mode of state intervention in the economy, the liberalization
and opening of national markets, and the emergence of global—primarily finan
-
cial—markets; second, the incorporation of an increasing share of human activi
-
ties in the market.
How does globalization produce the tragic effects of which it is accused? How
is the fate of, say, French postal workers related to changes in the international
economy? How are the living and working conditions of a youth in Malaysia
linked to capital mobility? These are key questions, for to build a case against
globalization it is necessary to show that there is a causal relation between, as Luc
Boltanski would say, the happiness of a malicious person and the misfortune of an
innocent.
75
Indeed, a discourse of denounciation
needs to have a theory of power. It needs to be able to explain the way in which the action of
the persecutor has affected the fate of the unfortunate, that is, to unveil causal chains. It is
preferable, moreover, that this discourse establishes that this causal action is not circum
-
stantial and that the happiness of the persecutor is the result of the suffering of the unfortu
-
nate. This theory of power needs thus to be, more precisely, a theory of domination.
76
ATTAC tries to lay the foundations of a macro theory of domination by insist
-
ing on the role of financial markets and multinational corporations. In a manner
consistent with the Politics against Global Markets frame, the opening sentence of
its platform states,
Financial globalization increases economic insecurity and social inequalities. It bypasses
and belittles the choices of peoples, democratic institutions, and the sovereign states in
charge of the general interest. It replaces them with strictly speculative logics expressing
the sole interests of transnational corporations and financial markets. In the name of a
transformation of the world presented as a fatality, citizens and their representatives see
their power to decide of their destiny contested.
77
MARCOS ANCELOVICI 445
According to ATTAC, the causal chains linking the persecutor and the unfortu
-
nate are made of three processes. First, a “race to the bottom. Because capital can
now freely scour the world for the highest return, nation-states and local authori
-
ties will be forced into a frantic race to please big investors.
78
Labor standards,
professional training, cultural production, public health, housing, public services,
and the environment will be deeply affected and become stakes of civilization
(enjeux de civilisation).
79
Second, a decline of sovereignty and democracy. This
decline stems in part from the race to the bottom, as global markets decide which
national economic policies are good and thereby violate the principle of sover
-
eignty. Sovereignty is also threatened by the construction of a supranational state
led by, as ATTAC’s president Bernard Cassen puts it, the “politburo of the Liberal
International”: the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, the OECD, and the European
Commission.
80
The erosion of sovereignty partakes in the democratic deficit inso
-
far as it questions the authority of representatives of the citizenry. According to
Cassen, there is a fundamental contradiction between the current globalization
and democracy:
In the final analysis, it is democracy itself that is the prime victim of free trade and global-
ization. The way in which they operate actually widens the physical gap separating the cen-
ters of decision-making and those affected by those same decisions. . . . Alienation in the
extreme. Taking responsibility and being obliged to be accountable are the touchstones of
democracy. On the assumption that it is their intention to work for the good of all their fel-
low citizens, what happens when elected representatives and governments are less and less
in control of the real decision-makers, who have no real link with their territory, that is to
say the financial markets and the vast conglomerates? There is no need to seek further the
main factor in the disintegration of societies.
81
Finally, the third process is the commodification of living organisms. For ATTAC,
the privatization of agronomic and biotechnological research and the concentra
-
tion of firms in the seed industry constitute a real “hold-up of the living” (hold-up
sur le vivant) in the name of progress and competitiveness.
82
It substitutes a logic
of profit and efficiency for the common good and in doing so threatens the ecolog
-
ical milieu and deprives people of something to which they are entitled. Life, the
respect of biodiversity, jobs in agriculture, and freedom are presented as the main
victims of the “death-driven political economy” (économie politique mortifère)
and “biototalitarianism” of multinational corporations and their allies.
83
These three processes show that ATTAC draws a clear causal link between
local and national problems, on one hand, and changes in the international econ
-
omy, on the other. Globalization is depicted as being essentially an exogenous
shock: democracy, sovereignty, the welfare state model, and social and environ
-
mental norms are under assault from something that is foreign to them. In line
with the Politics against Global Markets frame, the culprits are financial markets,
rootless multinational corporations, and their allies, that is, international financial
institutions (WTO, IMF, World Bank, etc.) and governments that have surren
-
446 POLITICS & SOCIETY
dered to the logic of globalization. Globalization is thus denaturalized and under
-
stood as a threatening contingent political project rather than an inevitable and
irreversible process. This emphasis on contingency suggests that international
institutions are not inherently bad—or at least, not all of them—and can in princi
-
ple be reformed. It is also worth pointing out that, although Cassen has written
several articles criticizing Americanization and the hegemony of the English lan
-
guage, ATTAC pays little attention to cultural issues. Its 2002 Manifesto barely
mentions—although in a positive light—the protectionist policy of “cultural
exception.
Furthermore, in contrast to traditional Leftist arguments, social classes are sur
-
prisingly absent from ATTAC’s discourse (this is all the more surprising consider
-
ing that several of its leaders come from the far Left and the PC). There is no refer
-
ence to the labor or working-class movement (mouvement ouvrier), and even
old-fashioned “capitalism” is barely mentioned. The new privileged actors are
“the” social movement and an active citizenry. Instead of presenting globalization
as the result of a macro-structural process bringing about the hegemony of a trans-
national bourgeoisie or of insisting on the class background of the alleged victims
of globalization, issues are framed in terms of citizenship, democracy, solidarity,
global markets, financial institutions, and corporations. This shift reflects the Pol-
itics against Global Markets frame. ATTAC praises civic engagement and claims
to be defending not sector or class interests but the common good and society as a
whole against marketcolonization understood as a process of commodification.
In this sense, ATTAC’s analysis—stressing the dissolution of social bonds and
solidarities and the risk of a disintegrationof society and reactionary backlash—is
reminiscent of that of Karl Polanyi, and several leaders of ATTAC regularly
invoke his work. For example, Susan George, vice president of ATTAC, writes,
A phenomenon that was born in the 18th century has just reached a point that is totally
unbearable for most societies, namely that it is the economy that dictates its rules to society
rather than the other way around. We are in the situation described by Karl Polanyi in his
remarkable essay The Great Transformation.
84
Furthermore, in contrast to liberals, Bernard Cassen and other leaders of ATTAC
categorically reject the doux-commerce thesis according to which trade is a pow
-
erful moralizing and civilizing agent.
85
Many of their arguments come close to
what Albert Hirschman has called the self-destruction thesis, according to which
“capitalist society ...exhibits a pronounced proclivity to undermining the moral
foundation on which any society, including its own, must rest.
86
It follows that,
and this is consistent with Polanyi, social and state regulation is necessary not
only to defend society but also to protect capitalism from itself.
However, the fact that ATTAC’s analysis of globalization resembles Polanyi’s
analysis of nineteenth-century capitalism does not entail that Polanyi’s
countermovement theory is appropriate to explain the emergence of ATTAC and
MARCOS ANCELOVICI 447
the opposition to globalization. Put differently, it is not because some opponents
of globalization claim that their actions embody the self-protection of society
against the expansion of market forces that their actions are explainable in these
terms. For opponents of globalization, Polanyi’s work is appealing partly because
it provides an anthropological, non-Marxist critique of the market economy that
legitimates crosscutting alliances and state interventionism.
Prognosis
Globalization is essentially a political product, so the solution also lies in
politics:
To challenge the domination of finance in a world where everything progressively
becomes a commodity, where everything is sold and bought, is to challenge the organiza
-
tion of economic, human, social, and political relations; it is finally to place oneself in an
eminently political field with the will to transform the world by means of democratic and
civic mobilizations.
87
Thus, ATTAC may be critical of political parties but does not reject politics as
such:
At a time when politics and parties suffer from a deep discredit, nourished by renounce-
ments and fed by certain shameful behaviors, it is advisable not to confuse the object
itself with the crisis affecting it, and to know how to oppose civic engagement to politick-
ing practices.
88
ATTAC intends to participate in the public debate by calling out to citizens and
playing a role as a “democratic stimulus. It officially defines its political identity
as a movement of popular education based on four principles: Laïcité, independ
-
ence vis-à-vis any form of instrumentalization, plurality as a guarantee against
manipulation, and action.
89
Considering the diversity of organizations and politi
-
cal currents represented within ATTAC, trying to lay out more specific principles
would probably bring about major tensions.
ATTAC’s celebration of grassroots, civic politics comes hand in hand with
macro demands. Its propositions to tame the forces of globalization and solve
some of the problems associated with it refer primarily to the creation and
enforcement of regulations through state intervention and supranational coordi
-
nation. Although some of its demands are defensive—for instance, a moratorium
on privatizations and genetically modified organisms and a mythification of pub
-
lic services—others are more innovative and transcend the nation-state. This is
the case of the regulation of tax havens and capital mobility.
According to ATTAC, by providing fiscal advantages and insuring banking
secrets and legalimmunity, tax havens play a key role in the globalization of finan
-
cial criminal activities. To check this criminality, ATTAC invokes the necessity of
448 POLITICS & SOCIETY
an international penal court of humanity, such as the Hague international tribunal,
that would be endowed with a supranational jurisdiction addressing economic
criminality. In addition and for the time being, ATTAC demands the following: the
gathering and diffusion of information on financial crimes; the publication of data
on tax havens; that tax havens cooperate with the rest of the international commu
-
nity at the judiciary, administrative, and police levels; sanctions against financial
establishments that refuse to cooperate; and the enforcement of existing laws
against money laundering regardless of territoriality.
90
Similarly, ATTAC demands the creation of a tax, the Tobin Tax, on capital
mobility so as to reduce speculation in the foreign exchange market and promote a
total revision of the international financial system. ATTAC sees this tax as the first
step toward a transformation of the world economy:
Even fixed at the particularly low rate of 0.05%, the Tobin Tax would yield nearly US$100
billions per year. Collected essentially by industrialized countries, where the leading finan
-
cial markets are located, this sum could then be given to international organizations to fight
against inequality, promote education and public health in poor countries, and foster food
safety and sustainable development.
91
Although such a tax would have to be implemented by all G8 countries to be effi-
cient, ATTAC claims that the main obstacle is political rather than technical:
“What is actually missing [in the French government], is the will to defend a prop-
osition that could hamper certain states and financial interests.
92
However,
ATTAC does not have a specific plan to implement the tax. Its main goal is to trig-
ger an international debate around five questions: What transactions should be
taxed and what should be the level of the tax? How should the tax be collected?
How should the tax be implemented? Who should manage the tax and how? How
should the product of the tax be used?
93
Finally, ATTAC’s prognosis also aims at a comprehensive reform of interna
-
tional institutions such as the WTO. For example, ATTAC demands, among other
things, a moratorium on all negotiations taking place at the WTO, the suppression
of articles threatening national public services and social, environmental, and
public health norms, the subordination of the decisions of the WTO’s Dispute Set
-
tlement Body to international law in terms of human rights, labor conventions,
and environmental agreements, the participation of civil society in the elaboration
trade policies, the promotion of fair trade, and the interdiction of licensing living
organism.
94
Characterizing Associational Statism
I call ATTAC’s programmatic discourse “associational statism” because it
combines an antiliberal aversion to the market with a countervailing faith in grass
-
roots democracy and state interventionism.
95
Although grassroots democracy and
MARCOS ANCELOVICI 449
state interventionism may seem contradictory, from ATTAC’s perspective they
fulfill complementary functions, as the former addresses the democratic deficit
while the latter tames global markets. State interventionism is actually seen as the
precondition for grassroots democracy, for according to ATTAC’s president Ber
-
nard Cassen, only the state can ensure the embeddedness of financial actors and
conglomerates and thereby guarantee the two touchstones of democracy: respon
-
sibility and accountability.
96
Without state interventionism, participatory democ
-
racy would be an illusion.
Associational statism is difficult to classify. The best way to grasp its peculiari
-
ties is to contrast it to three other competing—but closely intertwined—
discourses in the French political field: statism (in its Gaullist and Jacobin ver
-
sions), associational socialism (first New Left, 1960s and 1970s), and associa
-
tional liberalism (second New Left, 1980s and 1990s).
97
These discourses put for
-
ward differentdiagnoses and prognoses and identify distinct keyagents (see Table
2). Statism cuts across the political spectrum and, although it took a more specific
form after World War II, its roots go far back in French history, to Jean-Baptiste
Colbert in the seventeenth century and the Jacobinism of the French Revolution.
98
It implies a strong belief in the state’s capacity to supervise and shape the socio-
economic and industrial development of the country. This belief was deeply chal-
lenged in 1982 and 1983, when Mitterrand’s “experiment” collapsed, and has lost
even more of its supporters since the idea that globalization undermines the
authority and power of the state became widespread. Although statism remains an
important feature of the French political culture, it is today primarily defended by
neorepublicans such as former socialist and minister of interior Jean-Pierre
Chevènement.
Associational socialism, as Jonah Levy calls it,
99
emerged in the wake of the
events of May 1968 and aspired to a break with capitalism. The idea of economic
democracy in the form of workers’ self-management (autogestion) and a confi
-
dence in the capacities of civil society rather than the state were at the core of this
desired rupture. The union CFDT and sectors of the PS gathered around Michel
Rocard were until the late 1970s the main champions of this current. As the possi
-
bility of a break with capitalism vanished, associational socialism mutated into
associational liberalism, which celebrated the “German model” and found its
clearest expression in Michel Rocard’s government (1988-91). Associational lib
-
eralism aimed at a withdrawal of the state that would be compensated by an
increased participation of local and societal actors (small and medium enterprises,
local government) in the management of their economic affairs. Such a program
implied a higher flexibility of the labor market. According to Chris Howell, the
ease with which the PS shifted from socialism to liberalism and adopted flexibil
-
ity can be partly explained by
450 POLITICS & SOCIETY
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