From Top Cat in the g8southeast list. Top Cat has sent a text that looks it was written in 2003, together with his additions; this is a compendium of both together with my comment.

Over the last few years – essentially since the Birmingham G8 summit in 1998 – a movement has grown up that has been called – and has called itself – anti-capitalist. The only time I remember this movement being called anticapitalist was when referring to the demo, also coinciding with a G8 summit, in the City of London. I would say it has been and is being called anti globalisation despite persistent corrections. But the movement doesn’t quite care how it is called, I don’t think it will spend energy on this. It also depends when we consider that the beginning of this movement happened, or even what the ‘movement’ consists of.

Coming 10 years after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the capitalist triumphalism that came with it, the self-description of this new movement as anti-capitalist seemed like a big advance and proof that capitalist society was not now unchallengeable and unquestionable: suddenly there were millions of people saying that capitalist society was a disaster and should be dismantled.

This inspired and excited people all over the world. Hope and [sense of] possibility are always infectious. And winning especially is infectious – after the perceived victory of Seattle in 1999 the movement really took off.

But with this exciting new movement also came confusion.

The inspiring nature of these new mobilisations has attracted and involved all sorts of different people with many different ideas – and different ideas of what ‘anti-capitalism’ is. What we think capitalism is shapes what we think being anti-capitalist means and what alternatives to capitalist society we try and create.

The summit demonstrations have been the most visible public face of anti-capitalism. One key issue we need to think about is the tendency to identify these large transnational institutions like the World Bank, IMF and G8, and, by extension, transnational corporations and other institutions as constituting ‘capitalism’. Capitalism is not just about George Bush and McDonalds.

Capitalism is a form of society. And therefore it is not embodied only in a few particularly big corporations or transnational institutions, but in the whole of society.

Capitalism is a social relation between people – it’s about how people interact with each other and how we live our lives. So it’s not the case that society is basically OK but the wrong people are in charge, or that if we just get rid of the WTO then everything will be alright.

The basic thing about capitalism is that it’s about exchange. Capitalism is about everything in the world becoming a commodity – something that is bought and sold.

So – animals, land, ideas – everything becomes a commodity.

Most importantly, people become commodities, the same as everything else. In a capitalist society, everyone has to work to generate profits for those who own and control the capital. You have to sell your ability to work as a commodity to get the money to buy the commodities you need that you can’t get any other way – like food and clothing, or a roof over your head. These things, which you buy, have of course all been produced by other people selling themselves, doing exactly the same thing in order to get the commodities they need to live.

And so this empire expands across the world, destroying all other forms of society, turning everyone and everything into commodities and sources of profit. We see this quite clearly every day as new things are commodified – water is privatised in the Third World, and what was part of the common good suddenly costs money; or new patents on life make genetic material and seeds into someone’s property. And we can see the process of expansion and setting new people to work as the poor are driven off the land and herded into the cities to work in industry.

Capitalism as a system of dominance is not just about physical dominance of our bodies, energy, time, land, resources etc, but it is also a psychologically dominating and indoctrinating system that teaches us to look after number one, to be ruthless with every one, even our families too.

Capitalism is what we are socialised in from the day we are born, determines what our gender is and how we should behave, what our place is in society, what we are entitled to or not, what the rules are and that to survive means playing the game of work, sleep,work, sleep, work sleep, maybe earn enough to eat etc. We are taught in school that the only way to ‘make it’ (i.e. have lots of money therefore enjoy life) we must outdo the competition. So capitalism sets us on a path to a war of every person against every person.

This is why being anti-capitalist is about not accepting this game, and exercising co-operation and compassion. If we can’t look after each other and work together for our collective selves and our collective others then we are no better than Mr I’m Alright Capitalist. Being non-hierarchical and existing in a way that no one person creates rules for another, means taking the time to consider each other’s reasoning, feelings, interpretations, actions, etc. It means being able to compromise oneself and our personal desires and it means forgiving people their mistakes, giving people a chance to learn about themselves and others and a chance to change/grow/develop or whatever you want to call it, as a person. Everybody makes mistakes, gets caught up in their own personal and emotional shit and we all need to be supported by each other.

Therefore we can see that capitalism is not just about the WTO, the IMF or the World Bank – it existed for hundreds of years before they came along. Neither is capitalism just about Nike, Starbucks, Exxon, Gap and Microsoft.

Every big corporation started off as a small one and every small company wants to be a big one. Whether it’s ‘fair’ trade or unfair trade, big companies or small ones, the weird ‘casino’ world of international finance or the regular everyday world of firms making physical products, we can see all these things are part of the same system – they all obey the same rules and have the same essential structure.

Including ‘fair’ trade in the system seems to me a bit too much. I would venture to interpret the fact that this author has put it between inverted commas and rejected it as a change agent as a symptom of ignorance of the reality of the communities that benefit from this fair trade, and of fair trade itself. Or maybe the fair trade that I know is different from the fair trade that this gentleman knows. The fair trade I know does not obey the same rules and does not have the same structure.

It should also be clear from this that we cannot follow the path of the old Left – the Socialists, Communists and Marxists who proposed various modified and altered forms of capitalism and spent the entire Twentieth Century in a blind alley pursuing them.

The state is no alternative to capitalism as those who still stick to the ideas of the Left would have us believe. As is obvious from the key role that nation states like the G8 play in pushing the expansion of capitalism, the state is part of capitalism and cannot be part of an alternative to it.

So any real alternative to capitalism has to be about building non-hierarchical networks of those across the globe who are oppressed and used, who want something better than a world where the monetary value of the land, animals and people is all that matters and their actual value matters not at all.

And the aim has to be a form of society beyond capitalism, beyond the state, beyond a world of commodities and exchange.

That means being against the big transnational institutions, but also against nation states too. Against big corporations, for sure, but also the little ones. Not just for fair trade, but against all trade.

The new anti-capitalist movement and the summit demonstrations that have been its main obvious form have had a massive effect. The public face of globalisation – these gatherings of the powerful – no longer go uncontested, where they once did. They have been defeated. In Seattle, the WTO summit was abandoned and subsequent summits have been forced into being held in remote locations on islands and up mountains. The movement has inspired people all over the world and has shown people they have unknown allies in other countries – other people who feel like they do. This is another reason to take action against the G8 – it’s a way to build inspiration and to help build the networks and the links that may help us move beyond summit demonstrations. Taking action against the G8 is the first step to not only get rid of the G8, but ultimately to totally change society. Because we must remember that ultimately it is the form of society that has to change. That it is capitalist society that created the G8 and not the other way round.