I am an Anarchist. Don’t Tread on Me. (An Anarchist Manifesto)

I am an Anarchist. Don't Tread on Me. (An Anarchist Manifesto)


  • “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them. I am convinced that those societies (as the Indians) which live without government enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those who live under European governments. Among the former, public opinion is in the place of law, and restrains morals as powerfully as laws ever did any where. Among the latter, under pretence of governing they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves and sheep. I do not exaggerate. This is a true picture of Europe. Cherish therefore the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, judges and governors shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions; and experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor.”Thomas Jefferson
  • “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”Johann Wolfgang von Goethe




(The Reluctant Anarchist)

My arrival (very recently) at philosophical anarchism has disturbed some of my conservative and Christian friends. In fact, it surprises me, going as it does against my own inclinations.

As a child I acquired a deep respect for authority and a horror of chaos. In my case the two things were blended by the uncertainty of my existence after my parents divorced and I bounced from one home to another for several years, often living with strangers. A stable authority was something I yearned for.

Meanwhile, my public-school education imbued me with the sort of patriotism encouraged in all children in those days. I grew up feeling that if there was one thing I could trust and rely on, it was my government. I knew it was strong and benign, even if I didn’t know much else about it. The idea that some people — Communists, for example — might want to overthrow the government filled me with horror.

G.K. Chesterton, with his usual gentle audacity, once criticized Rudyard Kipling for his “lack of patriotism.” Since Kipling was renowned for glorifying the British Empire, this might have seemed one of Chesterton’s “paradoxes”; but it was no such thing, except in the sense that it denied what most readers thought was obvious and incontrovertible.

Chesterton, himself a “Little Englander” and opponent of empire, explained what was wrong with Kipling’s view: “He admires England, but he does not love her; for we admire things with reasons, but love them without reason. He admires England because she is strong, not because she is English.” Which implies there would be nothing to love her for if she were weak.

Of course Chesterton was right. You love your country as you love your mother — simply because it is yours, not because of its superiority to others, particularly superiority of power.

This seems axiomatic to me now, but it startled me when I first read it. After all, I was an American, and American patriotism typically expresses itself in superlatives. America is the freest, the mightiest, the richest, in short the greatest country in the world, with the greatest form of government — the most democratic. Maybe the poor Finns or Peruvians love their countries too, but heaven knows why — they have so little to be proud of, so few “reasons.” America is also the most envied country in the world. Don’t all people secretly wish they were Americans?

That was the kind of patriotism instilled in me as a boy, and I was quite typical in this respect. It was the patriotism of supremacy. For one thing, America had never lost a war — I was even proud that America had created the atomic bomb (providentially, it seemed, just in time to crush the Japs) — and this is why the Vietnam war was so bitterly frustrating. Not the dead, but the defeat! The end of history’s great winning streak!

As I grew up, my patriotism began to take another form, which it took me a long time to realize was in tension with the patriotism of power. I became a philosophical conservative, with a strong libertarian streak. I believed in government, but it had to be “limited” government — confined to a few legitimate purposes, such as defense abroad and policing at home. These functions, and hardly any others, I accepted, under the influence of writers like Ayn Rand and Henry Hazlitt, whose books I read in my college years.

Though I disliked Rand’s atheism (at the time, I was irreligious, but not anti-religious), she had an odd appeal to my residual Catholicism. I had read enough Aquinas to respond to her Aristotelian mantras. Everything had to have its own nature and limitations, including the state; the idea of a state continually growing, knowing no boundaries, forever increasing its claims on the citizen, offended and frightened me. It could only end in tyranny.

I was also powerfully drawn to Bill Buckley, an explicit Catholic, who struck the same Aristotelian note. During his 1965 race for mayor of New York, he made a sublime promise to the voter: he offered “the internal composure that comes of knowing there are rational limits to politics.” This may have been the most futile campaign promise of all time, but it would have won my vote!

It was really this Aristotelian sense of “rational limits,” rather than any particular doctrine, that made me a conservative. I rejoiced to find it in certain English writers who were remote from American conservatism — Chesterton, of course, Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, George Orwell, C.S. Lewis, Michael Oakeshott.

In fact I much preferred a literary, contemplative conservatism to the activist sort that was preoccupied with immediate political issues. During the Reagan years, which I expected to find exciting, I found myself bored to death by supply-side economics, enterprise zones, “privatizing” welfare programs, and similar principle-dodging gimmickry. I failed to see that “movement” conservatives were less interested in principles than in Republican victories. To the extent that I did see it, I failed to grasp what it meant.

Still, the last thing I expected to become was an anarchist. For many years I didn’t even know that serious philosophical anarchists existed. I’d never heard of Lysander Spooner or Murray Rothbard. How could society survive at all without a state?

Now I began to be critical of the U.S. Government, though not very. I saw that the welfare state, chiefly the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, violated the principles of limited government and would eventually have to go. But I agreed with other conservatives that in the meantime the urgent global threat of Communism had to be stopped. Since I viewed “defense” as one of the proper tasks of government, I thought of the Cold War as a necessity, the overhead, so to speak, of freedom. If the Soviet threat ever ceased (the prospect seemed remote), we could afford to slash the military budget and get back to the job of dismantling the welfare state.

Somewhere, at the rainbow’s end, America would return to her founding principles. The Federal Government would be shrunk, laws would be few, taxes minimal. That was what I thought. Hoped, anyway.

I avidly read conservative and free-market literature during those years with the sense that I was, as a sort of late convert, catching up with the conservative movement. I took it for granted that other conservatives had already read the same books and had taken them to heart. Surely we all wanted the same things! At bottom, the knowledge that there were rational limits to politics. Good old Aristotle. At the time, it seemed a short hop from Aristotle to Barry Goldwater.

As is fairly well known by now, I went to work as a young man for Buckley at National Review and later became a syndicated columnist. I found my niche in conservative journalism as a critic of liberal distortions of the U.S. Constitution, particularly in the Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion, pornography, and “freedom of expression.”

Gradually I came to see that the conservative challenge to liberalism’s jurisprudence of “loose construction” was far too narrow. Nearly everything liberals wanted the Federal Government to do was unconstitutional. The key to it all, I thought, was the Tenth Amendment, which forbids the Federal Government to exercise any powers not specifically assigned to it in the Constitution. But the Tenth Amendment had been comatose since the New Deal, when Roosevelt’s Court virtually excised it.

This meant that nearly all Federal legislation from the New Deal to the Great Society and beyond had been unconstitutional. Instead of fighting liberal programs piecemeal, conservatives could undermine the whole lot of them by reviving the true (and, really, obvious) meaning of the Constitution. Liberalism depended on a long series of usurpations of power.

Around the time of Judge Robert Bork’s bitterly contested (and defeated) nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, conservatives spent a lot of energy arguing that the “original intent” of the Constitution must be conclusive. But they applied this principle only to a few ambiguous phrases and passages that bore on specific hot issues of the day — the death penalty, for instance. About the general meaning of the Constitution there could, I thought, be no doubt at all. The ruling principle is that whatever the Federal Government isn’t authorized to do, it’s forbidden to do.

That alone would invalidate the Federal welfare state and, in fact, nearly all liberal legislation. But I found it hard to persuade most conservatives of this. Bork himself took the view that the Tenth Amendment was unenforceable. If he was right, then the whole Constitution was in vain from the start.

I never thought a constitutional renaissance would be easy, but I did think it could play an indispensable role in subverting the legitimacy of liberalism. Movement conservatives listened politely to my arguments, but without much enthusiasm. They regarded appeals to the Constitution as rather pedantic and, as a practical matter, futile — not much help in the political struggle. Most Americans no longer even remembered what usurpation meant. Conservatives themselves hardly knew.

Of course they were right, in an obvious sense. Even conservative courts (if they could be captured) wouldn’t be bold enough to throw out the entire liberal legacy at once. But I remained convinced that the conservative movement had to attack liberalism at its constitutional root.

In a way I had transferred my patriotism from America as it then was to America as it had been when it still honored the Constitution. And when had it crossed the line? At first I thought the great corruption had occurred when Franklin Roosevelt subverted the Federal judiciary; later I came to see that the decisive event had been the Civil War, which had effectively destroyed the right of the states to secede from the Union. But this was very much a minority view among conservatives, particularly at National Review, where I was the only one who held it.

I’ve written more than enough about my career at the magazine, so I’ll confine myself to saying that it was only toward the end of more than two happy decades there that I began to realize that we didn’t all want the same things after all. When it happened, it was like learning, after a long and placid marriage, that your spouse is in love with someone else, and has been all along.

Not that I was betrayed. I was merely blind. I have no one to blame but myself. The Buckley crowd, and the conservative movement in general, no more tried to deceive me than I tried to deceive them. We all assumed we were on the same side, when we weren’t. If there is any fault for this misunderstanding, it is my own.

In the late 1980s I began mixing with Rothbardian libertarians — they called themselves by the unprepossessing label “anarcho-capitalists” — and even met Rothbard himself. They were a brilliant, combative lot, full of challenging ideas and surprising arguments. Rothbard himself combined a profound theoretical intelligence with a deep knowledge of history. His magnum opus, Man, Economy, and State, had received the most unqualified praise of the usually reserved Henry Hazlitt — in National Review!

I can only say of Murray what so many others have said: never in my life have I encountered such an original and vigorous mind. A short, stocky New York Jew with an explosive cackling laugh, he was always exciting and cheerful company. Pouring out dozens of big books and hundreds of articles, he also found time, heaven knows how, to write (on the old electric typewriter he used to the end) countless long, single-spaced, closely reasoned letters to all sorts of people.

Murray’s view of politics was shockingly blunt: the state was nothing but a criminal gang writ large. Much as I agreed with him in general, and fascinating though I found his arguments, I resisted this conclusion. I still wanted to believe in constitutional government.

Murray would have none of this. He insisted that the Philadelphia convention at which the Constitution had been drafted was nothing but a “coup d’etat,” centralizing power and destroying the far more tolerable arrangements of the Articles of Confederation. This was a direct denial of everything I’d been taught. I’d never heard anyone suggest that the Articles had been preferable to the Constitution! But Murray didn’t care what anyone thought — or what everyone thought. (He’d been too radical for Ayn Rand.)

Murray and I shared a love of gangster films, and he once argued to me that the Mafia was preferable to the state, because it survived by providing services people actually wanted. I countered that the Mafia behaved like the state, extorting its own “taxes” in protection rackets directed at shopkeepers; its market was far from “free.” He admitted I had a point. I was proud to have won a concession from him.

Murray died a few years ago without quite having made an anarchist of me. It was left to his brilliant disciple, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, to finish my conversion. Hans argued that no constitution could restrain the state. Once its monopoly of force was granted legitimacy, constitutional limits became mere fictions it could disregard; nobody could have the legal standing to enforce those limits. The state itself would decide, by force, what the constitution “meant,” steadily ruling in its own favor and increasing its own power. This was true a priori, and American history bore it out.

What if the Federal Government grossly violated the Constitution? Could states withdraw from the Union? Lincoln said no. The Union was “indissoluble” unless all the states agreed to dissolve it. As a practical matter, the Civil War settled that. The United States, plural, were really a single enormous state, as witness the new habit of speaking of “it” rather than “them.”

So the people are bound to obey the government even when the rulers betray their oath to uphold the Constitution. The door to escape is barred. Lincoln in effect claimed that it is not our rights but the state that is “unalienable.” And he made it stick by force of arms. No transgression of the Constitution can impair the Union’s inherited legitimacy. Once established on specific and limited terms, the U.S. Government is forever, even if it refuses to abide by those terms.

As Hoppe argues, this is the flaw in thinking the state can be controlled by a constitution. Once granted, state power naturally becomes absolute. Obedience is a one-way street. Notionally, “We the People” create a government and specify the powers it is allowed to exercise over us; our rulers swear before God that they will respect the limits we impose on them; but when they trample down those limits, our duty to obey them remains.

Yet even after the Civil War, certain scruples survived for a while. Americans still agreed in principle that the Federal Government could acquire new powers only by constitutional amendment. Hence the postwar amendments included the words “Congress shall have power to” enact such and such legislation.

But by the time of the New Deal, such scruples were all but defunct. Franklin Roosevelt and his Supreme Court interpreted the Commerce Clause so broadly as to authorize virtually any Federal claim, and the Tenth Amendment so narrowly as to deprive it of any inhibiting force. Today these heresies are so firmly entrenched that Congress rarely even asks itself whether a proposed law is authorized or forbidden by the Constitution.

In short, the U.S. Constitution is a dead letter. It was mortally wounded in 1865. The corpse can’t be revived. This remained hard for me to admit, and even now it pains me to say it.

Other things have helped change my mind. R.J. Rummel of the University of Hawaii calculates that in the twentieth century alone, states murdered about 162,000,000 million of their own subjects. This figure doesn’t include the tens of millions of foreigners they killed in war. How, then, can we speak of states “protecting” their people? No amount of private crime could have claimed such a toll. As for warfare, Paul Fussell’s book Wartime portrays battle with such horrifying vividness that, although this wasn’t its intention, I came to doubt whether any war could be justified.

My fellow Christians have argued that the state’s authority is divinely given. They cite Christ’s injunction “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and St. Paul’s words “The powers that be are ordained of God.” But Christ didn’t say which things — if any — belong to Caesar; his ambiguous words are far from a command to give Caesar whatever he claims. And it’s notable that Christ never told his disciples either to establish a state or to engage in politics. They were to preach the Gospel and, if rejected, to move on. He seems never to have imagined the state as something they could or should enlist on their side.

At first sight, St. Paul seems to be more positive in affirming the authority of the state. But he himself, like the other martyrs, died for defying the state, and we honor him for it; to which we may add that he was on one occasion a jailbreaker as well. Evidently the passage in Romans has been misread. It was probably written during the reign of Nero, not the most edifying of rulers; but then Paul also counseled slaves to obey their masters, and nobody construes this as an endorsement of slavery. He may have meant that the state and slavery were here for the foreseeable future, and that Christians must abide them for the sake of peace. Never does he say that either is here forever.

St. Augustine took a dim view of the state, as a punishment for sin. He said that a state without justice is nothing but a gang of robbers writ large, while leaving doubt that any state could ever be otherwise. St. Thomas Aquinas took a more benign view, arguing that the state would be necessary even if man had never fallen from grace; but he agreed with Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all, a doctrine that would severely diminish any known state.

The essence of the state is its legal monopoly of force. But force is subhuman; in words I quote incessantly, Simone Weil defined it as “that which turns a person into a thing — either corpse or slave.” It may sometimes be a necessary evil, in self-defense or defense of the innocent, but nobody can have by right what the state claims: an exclusive privilege of using it.

It’s entirely possible that states — organized force — will always rule this world, and that we will have at best a choice among evils. And some states are worse than others in important ways: anyone in his right mind would prefer living in the United States to life under a Stalin. But to say a thing is inevitable, or less onerous than something else, is not to say it is good.

For most people, anarchy is a disturbing word, suggesting chaos, violence, antinomianism — things they hope the state can control or prevent. The term state, despite its bloody history, doesn’t disturb them. Yet it’s the state that is truly chaotic, because it means the rule of the strong and cunning. They imagine that anarchy would naturally terminate in the rule of thugs. But mere thugs can’t assert a plausible right to rule. Only the state, with its propaganda apparatus, can do that. This is what legitimacy means. Anarchists obviously need a more seductive label.

“But what would you replace the state with?” The question reveals an inability to imagine human society without the state. Yet it would seem that an institution that can take 200,000,000 lives within a century hardly needs to be “replaced.”

Christians, and especially Americans, have long been misled about all this by their good fortune. Since the conversion of Rome, most Western rulers have been more or less inhibited by Christian morality (though, often enough, not so’s you’d notice), and even warfare became somewhat civilized for centuries; and this has bred the assumption that the state isn’t necessarily an evil at all. But as that morality loses its cultural grip, as it is rapidly doing, this confusion will dissipate. More and more we can expect the state to show its nature nakedly.

For me this is anything but a happy conclusion. I miss the serenity of believing I lived under a good government, wisely designed and benevolent in its operation. But, as St. Paul says, there comes a time to put away childish things.

Joseph Sobran, December 2002


(Peoples’ Global Action Manifesto & Hallmarks)

We cannot take communion from the altars of a dominant culture which confuses price with value and converts people and countries into merchandise. – Eduardo Galeano

If you come only to help me, you can go back home. But if you consider my struggle as part of your struggle for survival, then maybe we can work together. – Aboriginal woman



We live in a time in which capital, with the help of international agencies like the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB) and other institutions is shaping national policies in order to strengthen its global control over political, economic and cultural life.

Capital has always been global. Its boundless drive for expansion and profit recognizes no limits. From the slave trade of earlier centuries to the imperial colonization of peoples, lands and cultures across the globe, capitalist accumulation [ half of the world’s wealth is owned by 1% of the population ] has always fed on the blood and tears of the peoples of the world. This destruction and misery has been restrained only by grassroots resistance.

Today, capital is deploying a new strategy to assert its power and neutralize peoples’ resistance. Its name is economic globalization, and it consists in the dismantling of national limitations to trade and to the free movement of capital.

The effects of economic globalization spread through the fabric of societies and communities of the world, integrating their peoples into a single gigantic system aimed at the extraction profit and the control of peoples and nature. Words like “globalization”, “liberalization” and “deregulation” just disguise the growing disparities in living conditions between elites and masses in both privileged and “peripheral” countries.

The newest and perhaps the most important phenomenon in the globalization process is the emergence of trade agreements as key instruments of accumulation and control. The WTO is by far the most important institution for evolving and implementing these trade agreements. It has become the vehicle of choice for transnational capital to enforce global economic governance. The Uruguay Round vastly expanded the scope of the multilateral trading system (i.e.the agreements under the aegis of the WTO) so that it no longer constitutes only trade in manufactured goods. The WTO agreements now also cover trade in agriculture, trade in services, intellectual property rights, and investment measures. This expansion has very significant implications for economic and non-economic matters. For example, the General Agreement on Trade in Services will have far-reaching effects on cultures around the world. Similarly,the TRIPs (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) agreement and unilateral pressures, especially on biodiversity-rich countries, are forcing these countries to adopt new legislation establishing property rights over forms of life, with disastrous consequences for biodiversity and food security.The multilateral trading system, embodied in the WTO, has a tremendous impact on the shaping of national economic and social policies, and hence on the scope and nature of development options.

Trade agreements are also proliferating at the regional level. NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) is the prototype of a regional legally-binding agreement involving privileged and underprivileged countries, and its model is sought to be extended to South America. APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) is another model with both kinds of countries involved, and it is being increasingly used to force new agreements into the framework of the WTO. The Maastricht Treaty is of course the main example of a legally-binding agreement among privileged countries. Regional trade agreements among underprivileged countries, such as ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), SADC (Southern African Development Cooperation), SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Agreement) and MERCOSUR (Southern Common Market), have also emerged. All these regional agreements consist of the transfer of decision-making power from the national level to regional institutions which are even more distant from people and less democratic than the nation-state.

As though this was not enough, a new treaty is being promoted by the privileged countries, the Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI) to widen the rights of foreign investors far beyond their current positions in most countries and to severely curtail the rights and powers of governments to regulate the entry, establishment and operations of foreign companies and investors. This is currently also the most important attempt to extend globalization and “economic liberalization”. MAI would abolish the power and the legitimate sovereign right of peoples to determine their own economic,social, and cultural policies [MAI failed October 1998 (note by the editor)].

All these institutions and agreements share the same goals: providing mobility for goods, services and capital, increasing transnational capital’s control over peoples and nature, transferring power to distant and undemocratic institutions, foreclosing the possibility to develop community-based and self-reliant economies, and restricting peoples’ freedom to construct societies based on human values.

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Economic globalization, power and the “race to the bottom”

Economic globalization has given birth to new forms of accumulation of riches and power which violate the human and work rights of women and men. The accumulation takes place on a global scale, at increasing speed, controlled by transnational corporations and investors. While capital has gone global, redistribution policies remain the responsibility of national governments, which are unable, and most of the times unwilling, to act against the interests of transnational capital.

This asymmetry is provoking an accelerating redistribution of power at global level, strengthening what is usually referred to as “corporate power”. In this peculiar political system, global capital determines (with the help of “informal” and extremely influential lobby groups, such as the World Economic Forum) the economic and social agenda on a world-wide scale. These corporate lobby groups give their instructions to governments in the form of recommendations, and governments follow them, since the few that refuse to obey the “advice” of corporate lobby groups find their currencies under attack by speculators and see the investors pulling out.The influence of corporate lobby groups has been strengthened by regional and multilateral agreements. With their help, neoliberal policies are being imposed all over the world.

These neoliberal policies are creating social tensions at global level similar to the ones witnessed at national level during the first stages of industrialization: while the number of billionaires grows, more and more people around the world find themselves in a system that offers them no place in production and no access to consumption. This desperation, combined with the free mobility of capital, provides transnational investors the best possible environment to pit workers and governments against each other. The result is a “race to the bottom” in social and environmental conditions and the dismantling of redistribution policies (progressive taxation, social security systems, reduction of working time, etc). A vicious circle is created, wherein “effective demand” concentrates increasingly in the hands of a transnational elite, while more and more people cannot meet their basic needs.

This process of world-wide accumulation and exclusion amounts to a global attack on elementary human rights, with very visible consequences: misery, hunger, homelessness, unemployment, deteriorating health conditions, landlessness, illiteracy, sharpened gender inequalities, explosive growth of the “informal”sector and the underground economy (particularly production and trade of drugs), the destruction of community life, cuts in social services and labor rights, increasing violence at all levels of society (particularly against women), accelerating environmental destruction, growing racial, ethnic and religious intolerance, massive migration (for economic, political and environmental reasons), strengthened military control and repression, etc.

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Exploitation, labor and livelihoods

The globalization of capital has to a very significant extent dispossessed working women and men of their ability to confront or bargain with capital in a national context. Most of the conventional trade unions (particularly in the privileged countries) have accepted their defeat by the global economy and are voluntarily giving up the conquests won by the blood and tears of generations of workers. In compliance with the requirements of capital, they have traded solidarity for “international competitiveness” and labor rights for “flexibility of the labor market”. Now they are actively advocating the introduction of a “social” clause in the multilateral trading system, which would give privileged countries a tool for selective, one-sided and neocolonial protectionism, with the effect of increasing poverty instead of attacking it at its root.

Right-wing groups [brainwashed by corporate media, as are left-wing groups] in privileged countries often blame “social dumping” from underprivileged countries for the rising unemployment and the worsening labor conditions. They say that southern peoples are hijacking northern capital with the help of cheap labor, weak or non-existent labor and environmental regulations and low taxes, and that southern exports are forcing northern producers out of the market. While there is a certain degree of relocation to underprivileged countries (concentrated in specific sectors like textiles and microelectronics), the teenage girls who sacrifice their health doing unpaid overtime in transnational sweatshops for miserable salaries can hardly be blamed for the social havoc created by the free mobility of goods and capital. Moreover, most relocation happens between rich countries, with only a fraction of foreign investment going to underprivileged countries (and even some investment flowing to the north from countries traditionally considered as “underdeveloped”). And the threat of relocation to another rich country (by far the most usual kind of relocation) is as effective in blackmailing working women and men in the North as the threat to relocate to an underprivileged country. Finally, the main cause of unemployment in privileged countries is the introduction of “rationalization” technologies, over which underprivileged peoples certainly have no influence at all. In short, increasing exploitation is solely the responsibility of capitalists, not of peoples.

Many advocates of “development” welcome the free movement capital from privileged to underprivileged countries as a positive contribution to the improvement of the living conditions of the poor men and women of the South, since foreign investment produces jobs and livelihoods. They forget that the positive social impact of foreign investment is limited by its very nature, since transnational corporations will only keep their money in underprivileged countries as long as the policies of these countries enable them to continue exploiting the misery and desperation of the population. The financial markets impose extreme punishments to the countries that dare to adopt any kind of policy that could eventually result in improved living standards, as exemplified by the abrupt end to the shy redistribution policies adopted in 1981 by Mitterand in France. Also, the Mexican crisis of 1994 and the recent crises in East Asia, although presented by the media as the result of technical mismanagement, are good examples of the impact of a corporate economic rule which gains strength every day both in underprivileged and privileged countries, conditioning each and every aspect of their social and economic policies.

Those who believe in the beneficial social effects of “free” market also forget that the impact of transnational capital is not limited to the creation of exploitative jobs. Most of the foreign direct investment (two thirds according to the United Nations) in both privileged and underprivileged countries consists of transnational corporations (TNCs) taking over national enterprises, which most typically results in the destruction of jobs. And TNCs never come alone with their money: they also bring foreign products into the country, sweeping great numbers of local firms and farms out of the market, or forcing them to produce under even more inhuman conditions. Finally, most of the foreign investment provokes the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, which results in the irretrievable dispossession of the livelihoods of diverse communities of indigenous peoples, farmers, ethnic groups etc.

We reject the idea that “free” trade creates employment and increases welfare, and the assumption that it can contribute to the alleviation of poverty. But we also very clearly reject the right-wing alternative of a stronger national capitalism, as well as the fascist alternative of an authoritarian state to take over central control from corporations. Our struggles aim at taking back control of the means of production from the hands of both transnational and national capital, in order to create free, sustainable and community-controlled livelihoods, with equal rights and opportunities for women and men, based on solidarity and peoples’ needs and not on exploitation and greed.

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Gender oppression

Globalization and neoliberal policies build on and increase existing inequalities, including gender inequality. The gendered system of power in the globalized economy, like most traditional systems, encourages the exploitation of women as workers, as maintainers of the family and as sexual objects.

Women are responsible for creating, educating, feeding, clothing and disciplining their sons and daughters to prepare them to become part of the global labor force. They are used as cheap and docile labor for the most exploitative forms of employment, as exemplified in the maquilas of the textile and microelectronics industry. Forced out of their homelands by the poverty caused by globalization, many women seek employment in foreign countries, often as illegal immigrants, subjected to terrifying working conditions and insecurity. The world-wide trade in women’s bodies has become a major element of world commerce and includes children as young as 10. They are used by the global economy through diverse forms of exploitation and commodification.

Women are expected to be actors only in their households. Although this has never been the case, this expectation has been used to deny women a role in public affairs. The economic system also makes use of these gender roles to identify women as the cause of many social and environmental problems. Hence, women having too many babies (rather than the rich consuming too many resources) is seen as the cause of the global environmental crisis. Similarly, the fact that women get low wages, since their remuneration is supposed to be only supplementary income for the household, is used to blame them for the unemployment of men and the reduction in their wage levels. As a result, women are used as scapegoats, declared guilty of creating the very misery that is oppressing them, instead of unmasking global capital as responsible for social and environmental havoc. This ideological stigmatization adds to the physical violence suffered on a daily basis by women all over the planet.

Patriarchy and the gender system rest firmly on the idea of the naturalness and exclusivity of heterosexuality. Most of the social systems and structures violently reject any other form of sexual expression or activity, and this limitation of freedom is used in order to perpetuate patriarchal gender roles. Globalization, although indirectly contributing to the struggles for women’s and sexual liberation by introducing them in very oppressive societies, also strengthens the patriarchy at the root of violence against women and against gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

The elimination of patriarchy and the end of all forms of gender discrimination requires an open commitment against the global market. Similarly, it is vital that all those struggling against global capital understand and confront the exploitation and marginalization of women. We must struggle actively, with a personal and public commitment – in both word and deed – against the exploitation, discrimination and oppression of women, including their most subtle forms, including the important struggle against homophobia. We need to develop new cultures that represent real alternatives to these old and new forms of oppression.

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The indigenous peoples’ fight for survival

Indigenous peoples and nationalities have a long history of resistance against the destruction provoked by capitalism. Today, they are confronted with the neoliberal globalization project as an instrument of transnational and financial capital for neocolonization and extermination. These new actors of the globalization process are violently invading the last refuges of indigenous peoples, violating their territories, habitats and resources, destroying their ways of life, and often perpetrating their genocide. The nation states are permitting and actively encouraging these violations in spite of their commitment to respect indigenous peoples ‘rights, reflected in diverse declarations, agreements and conventions.

Corporations are stealing ancient knowledge and patenting it for their own gain and profit. This means that indigenous peoples and the rest of humanity will have to pay for access to the knowledge that will have thus been commodified. Furthermore, the indigenous peoples themselves are being patented by pharmaceutical corporations and the US administration, under the auspices of the Human Genome Diversity Program. We oppose the patenting of all life forms and the corporate monopolistic control of seed, medicines and traditional knowledge systems and human genomes.

The fights of indigenous peoples to defend their lands (including the subsoil) and their forms of living, are leading to a growing repression against them and to the militarization of their territories, forcing them to sacrifice their lives or their liberty. This struggle will continue until the right of indigenous peoples to territorial autonomy is fully respected throughout the world.

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Oppressed ethnic groups

The black communities of African origin in the Americas suffered for centuries a violent and inhuman exploitation, as well as physical annihilation. Their labor force was used as a fundamental tool for accumulation of capital, both in America and Europe. Faced with this oppression, the Afro-American men and women have created community-based processes of organization and cultural resistance. Currently the black communities are suffering the effects of “development” mega projects in their territories and the invasion of their lands by big landowners, which lead to massive displacement, misery and cultural alienation, and often to repression and death.

A similar situation is being suffered by other peoples, like Gypsies, Kurds, Saharouis, etc. All these peoples are forced to struggle for their right to live in dignity by nation-states that repress their identity and autonomy, and impose on them a forced incorporation into a homogeneous society. Many of these groups are viewed as a threat by the dominant powers, since they are reclaiming and practicing their right to cultural diversity and autonomy.

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Onslaught on nature and agriculture

Land, water, forest, wildlife, aquatic life and mineral resources are not commodities, but our life support. For decades the powers that have emerged from money and market have swelled their profits and tightened their control of politics and economics by usurping these resources, at the cost of the lives and livelihoods of vast majorities around the world. For decades the World Bank and the IMF, and now the WTO, in alliance with national governments and corporate powers, have facilitated maneuverings to appropriate the global commons. This now includes the atmosphere.

Climate change is a result of capitalist resource exploitation. It reinforces existing global inequalities initiated by colonialism. As the climate warms, essential resources will further become the privilege of the elite, who will use increasingly military force to acquire them.

Also, the very problem of climate change is being seen as a profit-making opportunity. Market-based “solutions” include carbon trading (in which governments and transnationals buy and sell their “rights” to pollute) and carbon sinks (e.g. appropriated forest areas or genetically modified plantations which will theoretically absorb the carbon pollution) to avoid reducing their own emissions.

The result is environmental devastation, tragic and unmanageable social displacement, and the wiping out of cultural and biological diversity, much of it irretrievably lost without compensation to those reliant on it.

The disparities provoked within and between countries by national and global capital have widened and deepened as the rich spirit away the natural resources from communities and farmers, farm laborers, fish workers, tribal and indigenous populations, the socially disadvantaged – beating down into the earth the already downtrodden. Women, as members of all these sectors, suffer doubly this oppression.The centralized management of natural resources imposed by trade and investment agreements does not leave space for intergenerational and intragenerational sustainability. It only serves the agenda of the powers that have designed and ratified those agreements: to accumulate wealth and power.

Unsustainable and capital-intensive technologies have played a major role in corporations’ onslaught on nature and agriculture. Green revolution technologies have caused social and environmental havoc wherever they have been applied, creating destitution and hunger instead of eliminating them. Today, modern biotechnology is emerging, together with patents on life, as one of the most powerful and dangerous weapons of corporations to takeover the control of the food systems all over the world. Genetic engineering and patents on life must be resisted, since their potential social and environmental impact is the greatest in the history of humanity.

Waging struggles against the global capitalist paradigm, underprivileged women and men work towards the regeneration of their natural heritage and the reconstruction of integrated, egalitarian communities. Our vision is of a decentralized economy and polity based on communities’ rights to natural resources and to plan their own development, with equality and self-reliance as the basic values. In place of the distorted priorities imposed through global designs in sectors such as transport, infrastructure and energy, and energy-intensive technology, they assert their right to life and the fulfillment of the basic needs of all men and women, excluding the greed of the consumerist minority. Respecting traditional knowledge and cultures consonant with the values of equality, justice, and sustainability, we are committed to evolving creative ways to use and fairly distribute our natural resources.

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Another important aspect of globalization, as orchestrated by WTO and other international agencies, is the commercialization and commodification of culture, the appropriation of diversity in order to co-opt it and integrate it into the process of capitalist accumulation. This process of homogenization by the media not only contributes to the breakdown of the cultural and social networks in local communities, but also destroys the essence and meaning of culture.

Cultural diversity not only has an immeasurable value of its own, as reflections of human creativity and potential; it also constitutes a fundamental tool for resistance and self-reliance. Hence, cultural homogenization has been one of the most important tools for central control since colonialism.In the past the elimination of cultural diversity was mainly accomplished by the Church and by the imposition of colonial languages. Today mass media and corporate consumerist culture are the main agents of commodification and homogenization of cultural diversity. The result of this process is not only a major loss of humanity’s heritage: it also creates an alarming dependence on the capitalist culture of mass consumption, a dependence that is much deeper in nature and much harder to eliminate than economic or political dependence.

Control over culture must be taken out of corporate hands and reclaimed by communities. Self-reliance and freedom are only possible on the basis of a lively cultural diversity that enables peoples to independently determine each and every aspect of their lives. We are deeply committed to cultural liberation in all areas of life, from food to films, from music to media. We will contribute with our direct action to the dismantlement of corporate culture and the creation of spaces for genuine creativity, and to the active and productive participation of women in cultural activities as bearers of cultural identity.

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Knowledge and technology

Knowledge and technology are not neutral or value-free. The domination of capital is partly based on its control over both. Western science and technology have made very important contributions to humankind, but their domination has swept away very diverse and valuable knowledge systems and technologies based on centuries-long experience.

Western science is characterized by the production of simplified models of reality for experimental purposes; hence, the reductionist scientific method has an extremely limited capacity to produce useful knowledge about complex and chaotic systems like agriculture. Traditional knowledge systems and knowledge-production methods are far more effective, since they are based on generations of direct observation of and interaction with unsimplified, complex systems. Therefore, capital-intensive, science-based technologies invariably fail to achieve their goals in complex systems, and many times provoke the disarray of these systems, as green revolution technologies, modern dam technology and many other examples demonstrate.

Despite their many failures, capital-intensive technologies are systematically treated as superior to traditional, labor-intensive technologies. This ideological discrimination results in unemployment, indebtedness and, most important, in the loss of an invaluable body of knowledge and technologies accumulated during centuries. Traditional knowledge, often controlled by women, has until recently been rejected as “superstition” and “witchcraft”by western, mostly male, scientists and academics. Despite this, women have maintained, as much by necessity as resistance, traditions and cultures as empirical doctors, agronomists, administrators and historians. Masculine “rationalism”and “modernization” has for centuries aimed at destroying it irretrievably. However, pharmaceutical corporations and agribusiness have recently discovered the value and potential of traditional knowledge, and are stealing, patenting and commodifying it for their own gain and profit.

Capital-intensive technology is designed, promoted, commercialized and imposed to serve the process of capitalist globalization. Since the use of technologies has a very important influence on social and individual life, peoples should have a free choice of, access to and control over technologies. Only those technologies which can be managed, operated and controlled by local peoples should be considered valid. Also, control of the way technology is designed and produced, its scopes and finalities, should be inspired by human principles of solidarity, mutual cooperation and common sense. Today, the principles underlying production of technology are exactly the opposite: profit, competition, and the deliberate production of obsolescence. Empowerment passes through people’s control over the use and production of technology.

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Education and youth

The content of the present education system is more and more conditioned by the demands of production as dictated by corporations. The interests and requirements of economic globalization are leading to a growing commodification of education. Women are educated for sexually defined roles, having less opportunities since their education is considered less important. If they are educated, it is in order to serve as school teachers, nurses, social workers, secretaries, etc. The diminishing public budgets in education are encouraging the development of private schools and universities, while the work conditions of people in the public education sector are being eroded by austerity and Structural Adjustment Programs.

Increasingly, learning is becoming a process that intensifies inequalities in societies. Even the public education system, and most of all the university, is becoming inaccessible for wide sectors of societies. The learning of humanities (history, philosophy, etc.) and the development of critical thinking is being discouraged in favor of an education subservient to the interests of the globalization process, where competitive values are predominant. Students increasingly spend more time in learning how to compete with each other, rather than enhancing personal growth and building critical skills and the potential to transform society.

Education as a tool for social change requires confrontational academics and critical educators for all educational systems. Community-based education can foster learning processes within social movements. The right to information is essential for the work of social movements. Limited and unequal access to language skills, especially for women, hinders participation in political activity with other peoples. Building these tools is a way to reinforce and rebuild human values. Yet formal education is increasingly being commercialized as a vehicle for the market place. This is done by corporate investment in research and by the promotion of knowledge geared toward skills needed for the market. The domination of mass media should be dismantled and the right to reproduce our own knowledge and cultures – without sexism – must be supported.

However, for many girls and boys throughout the world, the commodification of education is not an issue, since they are themselves being commodified as sexual objects and exploited labor, and suffering inhuman levels of violence. Economic globalization is at the root of the daily nightmare of increasing numbers of exploited children. Their fate is the most horrible consequence of the misery generated by the global market.

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Globalization is aggravating complex and growing crises that give rise to widespread tensions and conflicts. The need to deal with this increasing disorder is intensifying militarization and repression (more police, arrests, jails, prisoners) in our societies. Military institutions, such as U.S.-dominated NATO, organizing the other powers of the North, are among the main instruments upholding this unequal world order. Mandatory conscription in many countries indoctrinates young people in order to legitimate militarism and patriarchy which excludes women, domination and militarism having always been justified with images of a white, masculine, patriotic and military god. Similarly, the mass media and corporate culture glorify the military and exalt the use of violence. There is also, behind facades of democratic structures, an increasing militarization of the nation-state, which in many countries makes use of faceless paramilitary groups to enforce the interests of capital.

At the same time, the military-industrial complex, one of the main pillars of the global economic system, is controlled by huge private [i.e. not government] corporations. The WTO formally leaves defense matters to states, but the military sector is a fundamental part of the hunt for private profit.

Military hierarchies, practicing forced recruitment, reproduce the ethnic and sexual discrimination which already exist in all states. For this reason, women who enter armed forces never reach higher ranks, thus reproducing precisely and obediently the model of domination and forsaking the aim of popular autodetermination.

We call for the dismantling of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction. The World Court of The Hague has recently declared that nuclear weapons violate international law and has called all the nuclear-weapons countries to agree to dismantle them. This means that the strategy of NATO, based on the possible use of nuclear weapons, amounts to a crime against humanity, as is the use of the bodies of women, girls and boys as weapons or objects of war.

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Migration and discrimination

The neoliberal regime provides freedom for the movement of capital, while denying freedom of movement to human beings. Legal barriers to migration are being constantly reinforced at the same time that massive destruction of livelihoods and concentration of wealth in privileged countries uproot millions of people, forcing them to seek work far from their homes.

Migrant women and men are thus in more and more precarious and often illegal situations, and even easier targets for their exploiters. They are then made scapegoats, against whom right wing politicians encourage the local population to vent their frustrations. Solidarity with migrants is more important than ever. There are no illegal humans, only inhuman laws.

Racism, xenophobia, sexism, the caste system and religious bigotry are used to divide us and must be resisted on all fronts. We celebrate our diversity of cultures and communities, and place none above the other.

* * *

The WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, and other institutions that promote globalization and liberalization want us to believe in the beneficial effects of global competition. Their agreements and policies constitute direct violations of basic human rights (including civil, political, economic, social, labor and cultural rights) which are codified in international law and many national constitutions, and ingrained in people’s understandings of human dignity. We have had enough of their inhuman policies. We reject the principle of competitiveness as solution for peoples’ problems. It only leads to the destruction of small producers and local economies. Neoliberalism is the real enemy of economic freedom.

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Capitalism has slipped the fragile leash won through centuries of struggles in national contexts. It is keeping alive the nation-state only for the purposes of peoples’ control and repression, while creating a new transnational regulatory system to facilitate its global operation. We cannot confront transnational capitalism with the traditional tools used in the national context. In this new, globalized world we need to invent new forms of struggle and solidarity, new objectives and strategies in our political work. We have to join forces to create diverse spaces of co-operation, equality, dignity, justice and freedom at a human scale, while attacking national and transnational capital, and the agreements and institutions that it creates to assert its power.

There are many diverse ways of resistance against capitalist globalization and its consequences. At an individual level, we need to transform our daily lives, freeing ourselves from market laws and the pursuit of private profit. At the collective level, we need to develop a diversity of forms of organization at different levels, acknowledging that there is no single way of solving the problems we are facing. Such organizations have to be independent of governmental structures and economic powers, and based on direct democracy. These new forms of autonomous organization should emerge from and be rooted in local communities, while at the same time practicing international solidarity, building bridges to connect different social sectors, peoples and organizations that are already fighting globalization around the world.

These tools for co-ordination and empowerment provide spaces for putting into practice a diversity of local, small-scale strategies developed by peoples all over the world in the last decades, with the aim of delinking their communities, neighborhoods or small collectives from the global market. Direct links between producers and consumers in both rural and urban areas, local currencies, interest-free credit schemes and similar instruments are the building blocks for the creation of local, sustainable,and self-reliant economies based on cooperation and solidarity rather than competition and profit. While the global financial casino heads at increasing speed towards social and environmental disintegration and economic breakdown, we the peoples will reconstruct sustainable livelihoods. Our means and inspiration will emanate from peoples’ knowledge and technology, squatted houses and fields, a strong and lively cultural diversity and a very clear determination to actively disobey and disrespect all the treaties and institutions at the root of misery.

In a context in which governments all over the world act as the creatures and tools of capitalist powers and implement neoliberal policies without debate among their own peoples or their elected representatives, the only alternative left for the people is to destroy these trade agreements and restore for themselves a life with direct democracy, free from coercion, domination and exploitation. Direct democratic action, which carries with it the essence of non-violent civil disobedience to the unjust system, is hence the only possible way to stop the mischief of corporate state power. It also has the essential element of immediacy. However we do not pass judgement on the use of other forms of action under certain circumstances.

The need has become urgent for concerted action to dismantle the illegitimate world governing system which combines transnational capital, nation-states, international financial institutions and trade agreements. Only a global alliance of peoples’ movements, respecting autonomy and facilitating action-oriented resistance, can defeat this emerging globalized monster. If impoverishment of populations is the agenda of neoliberalism, direct empowerment of the peoples though constructive direct action and civil disobedience will be the program of the Peoples’ Global Action against “Free” Trade and the WTO.

We assert our will to struggle as peoples against all forms of oppression. But we do not only fight the wrongs imposed on us. We are also committed to building a new world. We are together as human beings and communities, our unity deeply rooted in diversity. Together we shape a vision of a just world and begin to build that true prosperity which comes from human empowerment, natural bounty, diversity, dignity and freedom.


Geneva, February-March 1998 | Modified in September 2002, at the Third PGA Conference in Cochabamba, Bolivia | Republished April 2014 with links and syntax modifications from:



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PGA Hallmarks

  1. A very clear rejection of capitalism, imperialism and feudalism; all trade agreements, institutions and governments that promote destructive globalization.
  2. We reject all forms and systems of domination and discrimination including, but not limited to, patriarchy, racism and religious fundamentalism of all creeds. We embrace the full dignity of all human beings.
  3. A confrontational attitude, since we do not think that lobbying can have a major impact in such biased and undemocratic organizations, in which transnational capital is the only real policy-maker.
  4. A call to direct action and civil disobedience, support for social movements’ struggles, advocating forms of resistance which maximize respect for life and oppressed peoples’ rights, as well as the construction of local alternatives to global capitalism.
  5. An organizational philosophy based on decentralization and autonomy.


Republished June 2015 with links and syntax modifications from:



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aumf 2001
big oil
bundy ranch
civil disobedience
climate change
direct action
end of empire
false flag psyops
fossil fuels
global warming
government surveillance
hydraulic fracturing
indefinite detention
keystone kxl pipeline
left-right convergence
military industrial complex
ndaa 2012
political corruption
shale natural gas
state-sponsored terrorism
tar sands
usa patriot act
war profiteering
war profiteers





Anarchy | Anarchism | Anarchist | Anarchists

I will not be intimidated or oppressed by the state or any hierarchy.

I will not vote for puppets of the same masters in staged elections.

I will not be brainwashed or exploited by corporations or capitalists.

I will not accept the false utopias of Marxism or anarcho-capitalism.


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