Globalization Transformed

From High Ground, a Hard Fall

A lone protester faces a police cordon during the G8 summit in Genoa in July, 2001 (Photo: AFP).

The demonstrators in Genoa do not have much to do with terrorism—and certainly nothing at all with Islamic fundamentalists. Nevertheless, the most important social movement of the last several decades has fallen, since Sept. 11, into a strategic trap. Their basic critique of the injustices of the international economic system fell on fertile ground. But the image of the enemy that they conjured up was all too similar to the enemies of the Muslim terrorists: America in general, Western financial institutions, the military-industrial complex, and NATO in particular.

Hans-Peter Martin, author of the best-selling book The Global Trap, sees his ideas confirmed by the apocalypse in New York City. “American policy can declare bankruptcy after the attacks,” he says. “Neoliberalism collapsed with the World Trade Center.” But in saying that, Martin expressed a point that scarcely any Arab government would dare to raise: that the hatred directed at America was its own fault. “During the first decade of globalization, which was carried out under U.S. hegemony, we witnessed the greatest redistribution of assets in the peacetime history of mankind,” Martin said. “This must have consequences. Only hungry people train to become suicide pilots.”

But to maintain such a position after Sept. 11 obviously puts one in a fix. This must have been a rude awakening. Not long ago, the meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund were still on the agenda, scheduled for the end of September, and anti-globalists had their demonstrations planned. Sympathies had shifted toward the demonstrators; world leaders had come to realize that they would have to sit down and talk to remain credible.

But with the attacks on the heart of American power, the roles of good and evil have shifted 180 degrees. It is true that Hans-Peter Martin, employing bellicose language, sought to undermine compassion for the American people. “If the United States now undertakes a campaign of revenge, the punishment will only create new martyrs,” he warned. “And if the Europeans appear to be nothing more than useful auxiliaries to U.S. strategies, then Airbuses will soon come crashing into the pompous new chancellery in Berlin.”

But the devilishly unscrupulous villains have become, overnight, the victims, who will get away, for a long time to come, with anything. There will be no anti-capitalist demonstration in Washington. The terrorists have taken anti-Americanism from the anti-globalization movement’s vocabulary—and brought it into ill repute.