Instead of NATO: what can we hope to achieve?

Elsewhere on this site some of our members have explained what Stop NATO Cymru is trying to “stop”.  Another reasonable question is what we propose instead, and what positive aims we have.  Being anti-something cannot be the whole story, after all.  More broadly, what do we hope to achieve by all this struggling?  Below, a possible answer to these questions is explained.

Views on what we can aim for are, in part, based on views about the current situation.  It is argued elsewhere that the foreign policy of the NATO powers is not aimed at furthering humanitarian causes or even the benefit of people back at home.  Whatever public statements say, when we take a hard look at what planners say to each other in internal documents, and at their actions, the truth is impossible to miss.  The real aims, briefly, are to secure the interests of Western business and other elites.  This means opening foreign economies to the maximum possible exploitation of resources and labour, to exports of goods manufactured in the core countries, and also to investment of excess capital.  It also means taking measures to keep the whole edifice afloat, for example by crushing alternative examples of independent development, even in the smallest cases (much like the Mafia would go to the trouble of making an example of the smallest offender against a protection racket).  With these aims, Western state-corporate capitalism has marched over millions of corpses to maintain supremacy.

It’s also been argued elsewhere that taking action in the streets, not just to protest injustice but also to directly disrupt this bloody “business as usual,” is an essential part of any effective movement for change.  As American historian and activist Howard Zinn said, “What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but ‘who is sitting in’,” referring to peaceful direct action against segregation taken during the civil rights struggle.

Finally, we understand that the present movement for social justice, while it does great work and represents a hard-working and energetic community of activists and supporters, is not nearly as developed or as powerful as other movements have been at various points in history.

On the basis of this understanding, radical activists are taking action in Newport.  We hope to achieve many things on the short, medium and long term.  Of course, reasons for participation vary. Most immediately, we hope to make it as difficult as possible to carry on “business as usual” for NATO in Newport, by a wide range of means of resistance, as well as spreading our message in discussion and information swapping events.  Many will help in this simply because they cannot stomach the thought of going along with these horrifically immoral policies without putting up some resistance. Furthermore, these actions are in themselves a small part of generating pressure on elites.  But because the movement against militarism is not yet as large or powerful as it needs to be to win major changes in NATO in the short term, these actions must also serve to raise awareness, providing examples and learning experiences to build up the movement.

However things go in the week of action, real success will mean building the movement for social change.  We hope that our actions will help to move some from unconcerned to curious; others from curious to involved; still others from involved to experienced and confident as activists.  We seek to improve the organisational wherewithal of the various groups involved in terms of people’s own knowledge and skills, and links between people. Also, we aim to generate support and solidarity between groups.

A revitalised movement for peace and justice (as part of a broader movement for social change) could affect society in all kinds of positive ways, bringing us back to the question of what alternatives we offer. As we have seen in the past, such movements can restrain the worst excesses of horrific foreign policies.  For example, internal documents show that the anti-Vietnam war movement was one factor behind decision to limit troop deployments and other decisions, and its aftermath also restrained American deployments elsewhere (the so-called “Vietnam syndrome”).  This would definitely be one of our first aims.

A yet more powerful movement could lead to greater changes in policy.  Seeing that the problem, in our view, lies with the NATO powers’ hypocritical interference and bullying of less powerful nations, the answer is fairly simple:  remove the boot from the neck.  Allow less powerful nations the self-determination of their economic and social policies that all the presently industrialised nations took advantage of to get where they are today.  Stop using the IMF and World Bank to drill neo-liberal policies, with the threat of coups and military intervention lurking behind them.  Turn the hoards of public money being spent on this new form of empire to domestic needs, rather than to policies that only enrich a powerful elite.  Stop over-hyping threats from other imperial countries (for example, abandon well-worn practices such as the CIA planting false evidence of foreign aggression), and favour negotiation over aggression and war, either directly or by proxy.  Disband NATO.  Allow genuine grassroots democratic organisations in other nations to play a similar role in curbing imperialism there, instead of stamping on them to prevent them from foiling plans for Western economic exploitation.

The reason this is not done is not an inevitable result of global realpolitik, or some unalterable law of economics.  It depends on the balance of power between elites and the rest.

The problem with these kinds of reforms is that the massive pressures of capitalism usually find a way to roll them back, as we have seen in many cases.  Furthermore even a reformed capitalism can never truly solve the problems of climate change, inequality and lack of meaningful democracy.  Capitalism leads to vast concentrations of wealth relentlessly pushing for more opportunities for profit, including bloody exploitation overseas.  Stop NATO Cymru organises around the PGA hallmarks, which commits the group to “a very clear rejection of capitalism, imperialism and feudalism”.  We hope to see the day when the networks of ordinary people struggling for justice in all nations become so powerful that they can fundamentally transform the economic and political system, putting a stop to capitalism for good.  We look forward to a world in which working people control their own lives and workplaces directly, instead of having to sell themselves to a corporation for eight or ten hours a day for the privilege of avoiding greater poverty, degradation and isolation.

The only non-capitalist systems most people know about are the ones that existed places like the USSR and China in the 20th century, based on central control and often very harsh authoritarianism.  This is behind Thatcher’s famous statement that “there is no alternative” to capitalism. It’s not surprising that the people whose opinions travel furthest are saying that the present system is the only way, and that the only alternative is tyranny and chaos; that’s been true of pretty much every social system.  Once we see through the litany of lies and hypocrisy on other topics, and understand that “can’t be done” or “politically impossible” has often really meant “bad for those currently in power,” this refrain starts to look a little thin.

It is absurd to say that the existence of one bad path away from capitalism implies that all paths away from capitalism are bad.  The best sociologists and political scientists barely really understand society’s potentials at all outside of concrete historical examples (and sometimes barely even then).  But those in power are claiming sure knowledge that the infinity of possibilities boils down to these two options and nothing else.  A lot of this is based on the faulty logic that, because something has not been done, it can never be done – a logic that would have ruled out pretty much every change for the better in society up until now.  It’s interesting to remember that, at some point in history, it was difficult for anyone to imagine these changes.

The example of the anarchist economy set up in Barcelona and other parts of Spain in 1936, during the civil war, provides, at least, a proof of principle that part of a complex industrial economy can function very well without capitalist bosses or Soviet-style control.  Tragically this experiment did not last long; it was drowned in blood under the combined might of fascism, Stalinism and state-corporate capitalism.

We cannot know for sure how the future of our own movement will plan out.  It’s impossible for anyone to control or even predict all the social forces that will come into play in the coming years.  All we know is that “you miss 100% of the shots you never take”.  We believe that building this movement, including the actions we are taking in Newport, offers the best hope of one day achieving the dream of a world without bombs or bosses.