Every once in awhile, involvement in the struggle becomes overwhelming, and an activist needs to recharge, and to remember what drew them into the movement at the start. One way to do this is to read a book that combines cutting analysis with alternatives and hope. There is an Alternative: Subsistence and Worldwide Resistance to Corporate Globalization is such a book
There is an Alternative is an anthology of essays by academics and activists paying tribute to the important work of German scholar and activist, Maria Mies. Mies is widely respected for her work, including Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labour (1986) and Eco-Feminism (1993), which was co-authored with Vandana Shiva. Her theories centre around alternatives to global capitalism, based in the lived experience and expertise of women around the world and efforts by indigenous cultures to resist colonialisation. She argues for a subsistence economy, rather than an economic model based on unlimited “growth”, and shows how most economic models, including Marxism, fail to account for the unpaid work of women, the productivity of the earth, and the knowledge of indigenous cultures.
The beauty of a well written essay is that it is based in strong analysis and therefore remains relevant over time. The reader who begins this volume with the opening interview by Ariel Salleh with Maria Mies might be shocked to learn, as I was, that it was originally published in 1988. The ideas seem fresh and important as if they were written last week. The interview also provides a base understanding of Mies’ theories; theories’ whose influence can be felt in the essays throughout this volume.
Silvia Federici’s article, “War, Globalization, and Reproduction” is another example of an article whose relevance stands the test of time. Giving several examples of colonization and war in Africa, she argues, “In many cases, what arms could not accomplish was achieved through ‘food aid’ provided by the USA, the UN and various NGOs â€¦”(137). She uses Mozambique as a model to demonstrate a paradigm where structural adjustment leads to economic unrest and finally to justification for foreign military invasion. As I read her description of the relationship between food aid, structural adjustment and war, unnerving visions of cluster bombs and food ‘aid’ dropping on Afghanistan create a chillingly current echo to her theories.
A powerful aspect of the anthology is its diversity of subjects. Readers are taken to the streets of the Battle of Seattle in “Seattle: A Convergence of Globalization and Militarization” by Theresa J. Wolfwood, and then to Melanesia where indigenous people are fighting western-style land ownership in “Melanesia, the Banks, and the BINGOs: Real Alternatives are Everywhere (Except in the Consultants’ Briefcases)” by Nicholas G. Faraclas. Further reading finds us in Kenya learning about the “fight for fertility” in which women struggle for control over their own reproduction, but also for control of fertility in farming, and access to land in “Women Never Surrendered” by Terisa E. Turner and Leigh S. Brownhill, or following Vandana Shiva to the Punjab in “Globalization and Poverty”. Wherever the authors take us the message is the same: corporate globalization is a form of colonization that is devastating the earth, the lives of indigenous people, and the bodies of women.