De Fabel van de illegaal quits Dutch anti-MAI campaign

De Fabel van de illegaal has played a very active role in the campaigns against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and the World Trade Organisation in the Netherlands since the end of 1997. The sympathy of the extreme-right for the campaigns has been bothering De Fabel for a long time. Intensive discussions have led us to the conclusion that this interest is not a coincidence, but is caused by structural flaws in the campaigns. In June 1999 De Fabel therefore decided to quit the campaigns against the MAI and the WTO. In the following articles we explain why. We invite all those who are interested to co-operate in the research and discussions to develop explicitly left-wing analyses and campaigns connected to international solidarity.

MAI niet gezien!

At the end of 1997 De Fabel van de illegaal together with several other organisations initiated the grassroots activist network "MAI niet gezien!" (MAI, didn't see it / MAI, don't want it) in the Netherlands. De Fabel van de illegaal ran the secretariat of the network. "MAI niet gezien!" has produced and spread tens of thousands of leaflets and posters and organised dozens of public meetings, street actions, occupations, etc. Since the beginning of 1999, we have started to transform our campaign against the MAI into one targeting the Millennium Round in the WTO. We have spread the "declaration of members of the international civil society against the Millennium Round" to hundreds of NGOs and grassroots organisations in the Netherlands. We were co-ordinating the sign-ons for organisations in the Netherlands and were planning further actions.

Undocumented people

De Fabel van de illegaal is a radical left grassroots organisation that strives for a socialist, feminist, and anti-racist society. The main activities of De Fabel consist of anti-fascist work and involvement in the struggle of undocumented people against the racist government policies of selection, exclusion, detention and deportation. We saw our involvement in the anti-MAI campaign as a way of putting international solidarity into practice and of making a connection with the struggle for open borders and the support for both political and economical refugees. On top of that we thought that the anti-MAI campaign could enable us to connect the radical left-wing struggle in the imperialist countries in the North with the struggle of left-wing movements in the countries in the South. De Fabel therefore also sought contact with Peoples' Global Action against "Free" Trade and the World Trade Organisation (PGA), an alliance of various radical movements mainly in the South.

Secondary problems

As time went on we became aware that the political character of the campaigns against the MAI and the WTO is not really left wing. The campaigns can easily fit into a conservative and nationalist agenda. Through our antifascist activities we came across an article by the right extremist Rüther in the summer 1998 issue of the Dutch new-right magazine Studie Opbouw en Strijd (S.O.S.). Rüther opposes "mondialisation" and sympathises with the struggle against the MAI. He even recommended the anti-MAI campaign by "MAI niet gezien!" to his readers and explained to them how to subscribe to the electronic mailing list. His comrades from the new-right Dutch student organisation were so enthusiastic about our campaign that they linked their web site to that of "MAI niet gezien!". See also our article "Together with the New Right against globalisation?" The problem with the international anti-MAI campaign is that clear anti-patriarchal and anti-racist positions are absent. Racism and sexism are considered to be secondary issues. De Fabel van de illegaal cannot accept this. In September 1998 "MAI niet gezien!" organised the seminar "Globalisation of poverty". In the workshops and in the reader much attention was paid to international population policies, forced sterilisation programs, illegalising of migrants and refugees and the situation of women in the free export processing zones (FPZ). In an extensive response containing a critique in solidarity of the founding manifesto of the Peoples' Global Action, De Fabel made a plea for integrating anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal and anti-racist analyses in the campaign against free trade. See also our article "Peoples' Global Action, an inspiring network of resistance".

Natural order

In the reader we made for the seminar, we published the article "Development as colonialism", written by Edward Goldsmith, the editor-in-chief and owner of The Ecologist. A few months later we discovered that Edward Goldsmith is a regular guest at international meetings of the New Right, the intellectual elite of the neo-Nazi movement. In 1997 the complete editorial team of The Ecologist left the magazine because of a political conflict with Edward Goldsmith over ethnicity and gender issues, and because Goldsmith was unwilling to end his collaboration with the New Right. Goldsmith makes a plea for a green policy that will re-establish a "natural social order" and "the traditional relations between people". "The real problems are caused by the disruption of natural systems as family, society and the ecological system", he wrote recently in The Ecologist. Only when the human relations are again organised by "the laws of Gaia" is a stable society possible according to him. Goldsmith describes some political conflicts as "natural" or "ethnic" problems. He believes "different ethnic groups" cannot live together in one country, and is a supporter of Apartheid and ethnic cleansing. For example in Ruanda or in Northern Ireland. Goldsmith sees the Northern Irish Catholics and Protestants "as two different ethnic groups", which should be set apart. He also is a fan of Ataturk's who, according to Goldsmith, "separated Greeks and Turks very successfully, although there was a terrible outcry at the time and it undoubtedly caused considerable inconvenience to the people who were forced to migrate. But should we not be willing to accept measures of inconvenience in order to establish a stable society?"

New Right ideologist

The love between Edward Goldsmith and the New Right is closely connected to his plea for re-establishing "the natural social order" and the separation of "different ethnic groups". Goldsmith makes a connection between ecological thinking and the conservation of traditional cultures and identities. Comparing human societies with biological organisms, Edward Goldsmith even argued: "What is today regarded as prejudice against people of different ethnic groups is a normal and necessary feature of human cultural behaviour, and is absent only among members of a cultural system already far along the road to disintegration." Many people in the New Right see Edward Goldsmith as one of their most important ideologists. A few years ago, Goldsmith was a speaker at the conference for the 25th anniversary of GRECE, the think tank connected to the extreme-right Front National in France. At the end of 1997, Goldsmith was the main attraction at a meeting of TeKos, the think tank of the extreme-right Vlaams Blok in Belgium. The Belgian ex-anarchist Guy De Martelaere wrote about this in his occult new-right magazine Gwenved: "The conservative-ecological thesis of Edward Goldsmith received enormous interest and approval from the new-right public, who is yet to discover the green thinking. Alain de Benoist, one of the foremen of the 'Nouvelle Droite' (New Right) and GRECE, and Luc Pauwels, editor-in-chief of TeKos, are heading more and more in the ecologist direction, inspired by contacts with and ideas of Edward Goldsmith. The European new-right alliance Synergies Européennes has even adopted Goldsmith's theories into their ideology with regard to ecology and globalisation. Recently the millionaire also wanted to join the French right-extremist party Mouvement Écologiste Indépendant for the 1999 European parliamentary elections.

Defending national culture

The new-right ideologist Edward Goldsmith is also an influential person in the international NGO and activist circuit. Goldsmith is the manager of the James Goldsmith Memorial Foundation and subsidises international campaigns against the European Union, the MAI, the WTO and genetic engineering. Additionally, Goldsmith is the president of Ecoropa and a member of the board of directors of the International Forum on Globalisation (IFG). The IFG is a mixture of left- and right-wing opinion leaders and unites foremen and -women of Ecoropa, the International Society for Ecology and Culture, the Council of Canadians, the Third World Network and Public Citizen. The IFG describes itself as "an alliance of sixty leading activists, scholars, economists, researchers, and writers formed to stimulate new thinking, joint activity, and public education in response to the rapidly emerging economic and political arrangement called the global economy." The IFG was set up in 1994 to develop strategies to "reverse the globalisation trend and redirect actions toward revitalising local economies." Half way 1997 the IFG initiated the international anti-MAI campaign. During the next Ministerial conference of the WTO in November 1999 in Seattle (USA) the IFG will organise a counter conference at which among others the new-right ideologist Edward Goldsmith is invited to give a speech. In a recent IFG briefing the Council of Canadians advises NGOs and activists to give the issue of defending national culture a more prominent place in their campaigns against the MAI and the WTO.

Legitimising authoritarian interests

The blurred organisational and ideological boundaries between the New Right and the campaigns against the MAI and the WTO shows the vulnerability of the leftist movement and ideology in its ongoing crisis. According to the New Right the major political conflict in society is not any more between the left and the right. One of the strategies of the New Right is to look for conservative and nationalist tendencies in supposedly left-wing ideologies and to adopt these ideas for their own growth. Nicholas Hildyard, one of the former editors of the Ecologist, warns about this in the article "Blood and Culture: Ethnic Conflict and the Authoritarian Right", which was published by The Cornerhouse in January 1999. "A platform shared with authoritarian interests inevitably legitimises those interests, giving them a credibility that they might otherwise not enjoy." He argues: "Anti-racism should be placed at the centre of movement building, not tacked on as an optional extra." Hildyard ends by stating: "The alliances that progressives enter into will inevitably influence the outcome of their opposition, (...) for whom we chose to walk with ultimately plays a large part in determining where we end up walking." We think this description characterises very well what has happened since the start of the international campaigns against the MAI and the WTO. The motives of the former editors of the Ecologist to leave the magazine have been known for a long time by organisations co-operating with Edward Goldsmith, but so far very few groups have followed their example. Instead, many groups are still defending Goldsmith by relativising his collaboration with the New Right. This is unacceptable for us. We don't see any common ground with organisations that refuse to clearly distance themselves from the political ideas and praxis of Edward Goldsmith and the New Right in general.

Lack of left wing positions

During last year De Fabel van de illegaal has tried to integrate anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal and anti-racist analyses in the campaigns against free trade. Now we have to conclude that it has not worked and will not work. The problem lies in the focus of the campaigns: free trade. Ideologically separating and criticising international or foreign capital simply does not fit into left-wing politics. Our criticism of the focus of the campaigns that we have tried to formulate is described in more detail in the article "The campaign against the MAI is potentially anti-Semitic". We are still expanding on this. De Fabel will not continue a campaign which, because of a lack of left-wing positions and analyses, contributes to preparing the ground for a further growth of the New Right. We have therefore decided to discontinue our involvement in it. In the coming months we will do further research on how big the organisational and ideological influences of the New Right is in the international campaigns against free trade. We will publish a number of articles and hope to contribute to an international discussion about these issues. Hopefully such a discussion will contribute to the development of clearer left-wing analyses and campaigns in the field of international solidarity. We think it will be crucial for the survival of the radical left to make a serious effort to integrate anti-patriarchal, anti-racist and anti-capitalist analyses and make them together the core our politics.

Eric Krebbers
Merijn Schoenmaker
De Fabel van de illegaal
July 1999

Koppenhinksteeg 2, 2312 HX Leiden, Netherlands
tel: +31-71-5127619, or 5144217, fax: +31-71-5134907

Some editing of the English translation by Alain Kessi

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Last updated 2000-04-13