Activists beyond borders
Shelley Walia

We are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of Global Anti-capitalism
edited by Notes From Nowhere.
Verso, London. Pages 527. £10.99.

by David Held and Anthony McGrew.
Polity, Oxford. Pages 158. £12.99.

WE are Everywhere is not a red book. It has no doctrine and no single narrative. It is a polyphony of subjectivities that are at once at play with the everyday experience of tragi-comedy, an interplay of fear and humour that goes a long way in cynically shattering received "truths". As Luther Blissett, a thinker and a freelance writer, says, "this isnít a book, itís a brick with which to shatter cynicism." It is an anthology both agitational and inspirational in nature, a collection of voices of some 50 activists ranging from "Brazilian land squatters to GM-crop-burning Indian peasants, from black anarchist to South African guerrilla fighters.

As John Berger writes, "Never again will a single story be told as if it was the only one." The direct action advocacy of the book is amply illustrated by innovative graphic designs and eye-opening as well as provocative pictures that together build this fascinating collage of the new era of the dissidence movement traced through the global use of rebellion against capitalism from 1994 to the presentó"a rebellion which is a constant flux, which swaps ideas across oceans, shares strategies between cultures and continents, gathers in swarms and dissolves, only to swarm again elsewhere."

Notes From Nowhere, an Editorial Collective has been behind the creation of this "manual" of global resistance movements, of insurrection and counteraction intended largely for social transformation: "For struggling for a better world all of us are fenced in, threatened with death. The fence is reproduced globally." These fences have to be brought down.

The Collective is, however, aware that this is only a book and "words and writing are nothing and must die, for action is the life of all, and if thou dost not act, thou dost nothing." This activism manifested in separate movements around the world "converses, recognises each other as allies and struggles together," always aware that the unsung efforts of people everywhere working for no reward except the sweet knowledge that they are in the right place, at the right time in history, doing the right thing."

The point of departure for the book is January 1,1994, a landmark in the history of resistance. It was the day when Zapatista rebels, a handful of women and men, launched a unique resistance movement that would finally reach Seattle, Prague, Geneva, Washington, Buenos Aires, Bangalore, Manila and Durban. It sounded the end of single ideologies and grand narratives. Stories poured in from everywhere and the protestors, the deprived, the revolutionaries raised their voice the world over.

These efforts and those voices from below are now slowly reaching the powerful in their corporate offices where their "smiles are often thin and hands that hold champagne glasses sometimes twitch involuntarily" because it has become difficult to ignore the rising tide of public resistance.

As Emiliano Zapata, a Mexican revolutionary, said in a speech in 1914: "It is not only by shooting bullets in the battlefield that tyranny is overthrown, but also by hurling ideas of redemption, words of freedom and terrible anathema against the hangmen that people bring down dictators and empires`85." This is one way of breeching fences, of making sure that the hungry children who peer through "barbed wire" at the fortified G-8 meetings so grossly satiated by excessive food and wealth can live to see better days.

The fences at Genoa or Chiapas have to be penetrated so that the imbalance and disorder created in the name of globalisation is checked. The fences are so visible when the poor are kept out of the shopping malls or millions in Brazil not allowed to grow food while the rich celebrate their opulence on land once owned by their forefathers who sang and danced where now their grand children are kept out.

They have slowly begun to remember "their history, their poets" songs, dreamerís dreams, their rebelsí calls. They may not write history because they are from below, but they are everywhere "snatching their past, their present and their future from the stranglehold of the powerful and the rich" and returning it "to the street, fields and neighbourhoods where it was made." For them the personal has become the political.

In this great globalisation debate we have to ask the pertinent question "who rules and in whose interests and to what ends?" Maybe a global covenant of "cosmopolitan social democracy" as suggested by David Held and Anthony McGrew in Globalization/Anti-Globalization could be the answer to unfair excesses and intrigue of the "globalisers," a kind of taming of the disorderedly forces unleashed by capitalism.

At the present historical juncture, we see global changes "transforming the very foundations of world order by reconstructing traditional forms of sovereign statehood, political community and international governance." We gradually move from a state-centric emphasis towards a new politics of "multilayered global politics." Contestation is basic in this highly complex world of interstate systems and the ongoing tussle between localism and the "governance agenda generated by the forces of globalisation."

In all this free market dramatics, global transformist thought in areas of social justice, universal human rights, rule of law and transnational camaraderie remains singularly an aspiration of survival and a motivating force behind all libratory movements. Globalization/Anti-Globalization, indeed, a lucid and balanced account of some of the most important intellectual and political debates of our times.