Multinational Monitor

JUL/AUG 2005
VOL 26 No. 7


Merger Mania and Its Disontents: The Price of Corporate Consolidation
by James Brock

Indigenous People's Power: Global Mobilization Scores Dramatic Gains - With Many Challenges Ahead
by Marcus Colchester

Crisis of Credibility: the Declining Power of the International Monetary Fund
by Walden Bello and Shalmali Guttal

Programmed to Fail: The World Bank Clings to a Bankrupt Development Model
by Walden Bello and Shalmali Guttal

Heartache and Hope in Africa: The Failures of Market
Fundamentalism and Hope for an Alternative
by Soren Ambrose and Njoki Njoroge Njehu

Victories! Justice! The People's Triumphs Over Corporate Power
by Robert Weissman


Offshore: Tax Havens, Secrecy, Financial Manipulation, and the Offshore Economy
An Interview with William Brittain-Catlin


Letter to the Editor

Behind the Lines

The Global Justice Movement

The Front
Bolivia Insurrection -
ICSID Bleeds Argentina

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Names In the News



The Global Justice Movement

Multinational Monitor was founded in 1980, at the dawn of the emerging era of corporate globalization.

Over Multinational Monitor's lifetime, the corporation has undergone significant evolution (globalized production and subcontracting have soared, for example), and gained important new powers and protections (think of the power to sue governments under international trade treaties, or the growing list of corporate immunities from civil suit). Nonetheless, the outlines of the multinational corporation were already quite apparent at the time of the magazine's founding.

Not so the global justice movement. While there were some cross-border solidarity campaigns underway and a handful of global coordinated campaigns on issues related to corporate abuses, there was really no way to anticipate the rise of the present-day global justice movement.

The movement has chalked up countless victories, many of them detailed in this special twenty-fifth anniversary issue.

In addition to successful community- and national-level campaigns, the movement has waged winning global campaigns against particular companies, exacting corporate commitments with global implications.

It has campaigned for and won global rules governing entire industries and industry practices - with treaties or agreements to ban the use of certain pesticides, end the waste trade, govern the sale of tobacco products, phase out use of CFCs and ozone-depleting substances, and end deceptive baby food marketing practices, among others.

And, in what in many ways has been the movement's most dramatic achievements, it defeated adoption of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment in 1998, and thwarted an initiative to expand the powers of the World Trade Organization (WTO) at the Seattle WTO Ministerial Meeting in 1999.

The global justice movement is a movement with many strands (or, as some would have it, a movement of movements). Although there may be agreement on matters such as the centrality of democratic government maintaining authority over private corporate actors and on principles such as ecological sustainability and human rights, there is little collaboration or even communication between, say, sweatshop campaigners and those working on global warming. There are practical reasons for this division of labor, but some obvious downsides as well.

So too does the networked structure of the global justice movement offer tremendous advantages but also impose some major limitations.

Facilitated especially by electronic communications, much of the movement's work is generally carried out by networks rather than unified organizations. The networking model is flexible, decentralized, and proven very effective for international campaigns. At the international level, networks typically consist of organizations collaborating on specific projects, such as the treaty to ban persistent organic pollutants.

Within countries, especially the rich countries, the networking model often works somewhat differently. There are, to be sure, countless networks of organizations. But so too are there networks made up largely of individuals - and it is these networks that have been chiefly or largely responsible for the major demonstrations against corporate globalization that have dogged the meetings of the WTO, and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. These networks have the capacity to mobilize large numbers of people on very short time frames and at very little cost. But their intense mobilization capacity is accompanied by an impermanence that makes it difficult for them to work on sustained, coordinated activity.

The global justice movement is young and evolving, with a long list of accomplishments that would have been very hard to imagine not too many years ago.

However, there's no call for being pollyannaish, either. Multinational corporations continue to accrue more and more power, and to push more of their problems on to society. A movement that hopes to reverse this course of affairs will itself have to gather more power and innovate new strategies.

A common complaint about the global justice movement is that it is better at saying what it opposes than what it is for. But this complaint is in many ways misplaced. While there are conflicting views within the movement, there is no shortage of elaborated progressive proposals. These range from how communities can exert control over corporations operating in their locales to detailed plans for global trade and investment treaties. More and better ideas are surely needed, but coming up with new proposals is by no means the movement's greatest challenge.

That challenge will be to develop tighter and more lasting forms of organization that have the ability not just to mobilize around specific efforts, but to mount sustained campaigns to build and capture political and economic power.


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