He may be a respectable academic at York University, but what impressed me most was that this book was born in fumes of tear gas at the FTAA meeting in Quebec in April, 2002. It was there that the author, with his partner and children, in the heat of resistance, saw a beginning of a new left that would build a new global movement. McNally says, “It is written in the conviction that another world of freedom, justice and human cooperation is possible.”
It is also good to read what some may consider yet another book on this subject by a Canadian with a Canadian perspective. Much that he wrote 5 years ago is still valid; worth knowing and reflecting on. He has a real ability to make connections, some of which may be uncomfortable to Canadians with a lily white attitude.
In the beginning of the book he shows that globalization is far more than trade agreements; it is a construct of power and domination. In Chapter 4 on The Colours of Money: Race, Gender and the Many Oppressions of Global Capital, he quotes Malcolm X: “You can‘t have capitalism without racism. And in today‘s global capitalism you can‘t have it without oppressed women either.”
This is a valuable survey of the 500 years of capitalism in Canada and the USA since the European invasion and occupation of this hemisphere. As I write there is an action in Ontario where 1st nations are trying to stop a development on their stolen land. Little has changed and judging by the non-native citizens quoted on the CBC we still have a long way to go to eradicate racism in Canada. McNally says: “What is unique to the world of modern capitalism is the idea that there are physically distinct races of humans with radically different characteristics and attributes.”
Because of this capitalism uses the rhetoric of freedom and equality to mask “extra-economic bases of social domination.” White workers are compensated for their lowly status by their whiteness – divide and conquer nearly always succeeds. I found that McNally can present and connect complex ideas in a simple and straightforward way – there is no way to miss the significance of his ideas.
When he writes about the global dispossession of people from their land, making them dependent on external economic power, women suffer more than men. Although they retain their lower status, they become wage earners in sweatshops, migrant domestic and sex trade workers and are exposed to more dangers and health hazards than if they stayed on the land – all the while supporting families with no other earning power. Related to this are the inhumane and restrictive immigration and refugee laws that Canada and other countries enact to control the economically and militarily dispossessed while all the while making sure that enough people are available to do our grubby work and jobs that nobody else wants – knowing that many migrants without documentation will be exploited and abused.
After his thorough, honest and clear review and analysis of our dirty history, McNally examines and illustrates the many changes in contemporary society that make him hopeful that another world is possible – indeed it is being created now. From the continuing endurance of the Zapatistas to new fair trade developments to the power of citizen groups in regularly blockading trade agreements and, most recently, to the related rise of new governments in Latin America. (Remember the FTAA? It was supposed to be signed, sealed and delivered last year; instead it ended up in dead letter department.)
Chapter 7: Freedom Song goes from these and many examples of the search for alternatives based on the necessity to de-commodify human life. This commodification of people is the linking common factor in social justice struggles around the globe. For that McNally gives 10 guiding principles for anti-Capitalist Politics – self-determination for oppressed peoples (return Diego Garcia to the Chagossian people, for starters) to social ecology to the building of democratic mass movements. We must guard against elitism in our movements, recognize the need to change ourselves as we change the world and create a politics of self-activity. This last chapter is too full and varied to summarize – but it is here that McNally surpasses many other books on globalization and social change. He takes social activism seriously, covers many aspects of needed work and encourages us to participate in the struggle wherever we are so that we create while we realize: Another World is Possible.