with Michael Hardt
Conducted By Benjamin
Upside Down World news
Michael Hardt is a professor
at Duke University and is the co-author, along with Antonio Negri, of the
book Empire, which Harvard University Press described as “Looking beyond
the regimes of exploitation and control that characterize today’s world
order, Empire seeks an alternative paradigm – the basis for a truly
democratic global society.”
This interview took place
during a forum on the global peace movements against the war in Iraq, held
at Columbia University from March 27-28, 2004. In the interview Hardt talks
about the possible implications of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the
roles of presidents Chavez, Lula and Kirchner in Latin America, the recent
US intervention in Haiti and the coordination of activist movements in Latin
America and the US.
BD: The Free Trade Area
of the Americas (FTAA) is a huge issue in Latin America. As it looks now,
the FTAA might be transformed into smaller trade agreements, such as an “FTAA-Lite”
in Bolivia, Ecuador and so on, adjusted somewhat to the particular economic
situation in each country. Do you think that these smaller, “individualized”
trade agreements pose more of a threat than a larger, over arching one?
MH: It would depend completely
on how they are done. I am always still interested in the way that these kinds
of developments, and I don’t mean that something like this FTAA shouldn’t
be opposed, but the way that the push towards them can also create a kind
of a generalized resistance, the way that a FTAA can create a globalization
movement of the Americas. By a larger scheme, the framework of domination
creates a larger framework for the possibilities of resistance. I don’t
mean that therefore I want them to have larger powers, but once we find ourselves
in that situation there is a kind of framework we can work in...
BD: Similar to the way
the antiwar movement was generated by the move to go to war in Iraq…
MH: Exactly, you know
there is less than there should be of interaction among the movements in North
America and the southern cone, in Venezuela, Bolivia…it would be I think
an enormous enrichment to have a much greater circulation of resistance, if
you could call it that.
BD: Do you think that
Lula (President of Brazil), Kirchner (Argentina), Chavez (Venezuela) would
have been elected if there hadn’t been an economic crisis taking place
in their countries prior to the elections?
MH: You might say that
with Kirchner, but with Lula and Chavez it is somewhat different. The possibilities
presented by a Lula government and a Kirchner government - a kind of southern
cone as a progressive block - is I think an enormous possibility and one that
could be also useful for activists in changing politics in North America.
What I mean is that there is a way in which regional configurations can at
least influence the progress of many of the decisions about these global levels
of either economic agreements or properly political questions. The same way
that in the group of 22 in the Cancun talks we saw what was already an effect
of the Lula government having an international effect.
BD: Do Lula, Kirchner
and Chavez pose a real threat to the US economic plan in Latin America? It
seems to me that Lula is kind of going back and forth, trying not to anger
the leftists in Brazil who supported him in the first place and also trying
not to create too much economic instability in Brazil.
MH: I am no super expert
on it or anything, but it seems quite clear that Lula is constrained by being
a head of state. It seems to me it would make no sense to go to war with the
IMF essentially. It seems to me that in the present global configuration that
a head of state has no choice but to find a way to accommodate the demands
of the IMF…and what Lula can do and what Kirchner can do too is try
to do that in a way that also forwards the kinds of politics that they have
been involved with previously. I think it is unrealistic or even detrimental
somehow to be disappointed in Lula’s acting like a head of state. It
seems to me that a head of state today has certain restrictions and that’s
what Lula seems to me to be acting as. I know that the left wing in the PT
(Workers Party of Brazil) has been very critical of Lula and upset with him.
At least from my external perspective I don’t understand the rationality
BD: As far as what happened
in Haiti and in Iraq, the US seems to pick on the smaller countries that don’t
pose the biggest threat to the US; Iraq didn’t have any WMDs, meanwhile
Iran, North Korea and Pakistan were possibly producing them or selling them.
And then the US goes after Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere,
instead of going after bigger heavy hitting countries and administrations
like those of Lula and Chavez. Why does the US go after the smaller, less
threatening countries in these situations? Could Venezuela, Cuba be next?
And do you think the recent events in Haiti, along with the FTAA, are part
of a larger plan to re-colonize Latin America?
MH: I think maybe the
first thing is to start by distinguishing the military operations from the
entire political ambitions. It is true, as you say, that these recent wars
have been against, not exactly defenseless countries, but Iraq had been under
sanctions for years, it wasn’t any great military power. I think though
that the restrictions the US government lives under, under its present conditions,
are such that it can’t engage in a military operation against a powerful
military presence. That’s said though; they don’t only conduct
their work by military means, so one might assume that it is unlikely that
the US military would roll into Venezuela. That doesn’t mean that the
US wouldn’t quite strongly encourage a coup d' etat in Venezuela, or
find other means to do it, other not properly military means to do it. This
is probably not very new, these…strategies…I wouldn’t even
call them strategies. It is like they live under certain restrictions. They
can’t just go and do this.
So I wanted to separate
those two things, one should account for the logic of the military actions,
but separate them somewhat from the global political strategies. The other
distinction that makes sense for me to make is what the core team of Bush
policy people view, and they do quite explicitly want to remake the global
environment. And that brings with it a lot of things so that now, part of
the project with Iraq is remaking the Middle East... It seems important to
distinguish their dreams, even what seem to be delusions from what in fact
they are capable of doing and can happen. One doesn’t always have to
take at their word what these people think they are going to be able to do.
I in fact think that they are not able to do what they would like. Iraq looks
more like a failure than a success, as far as their plans go.
BD: You talked about
creating more solidarity between activist movements in South America and in
North America, what do you recommend to help facilitate that?
MH: It seems to me that
since Seattle, in the US, there have been two mandates that have been living
within the movements. One is to “globalize the movements”, that
we are dealing with issues that don’t just relate to North America,
and in fact in many ways relate in other places more. Yet, the movements have
largely formed between North America and Europe, and so the efforts to globalize
them is an ongoing one, and there are certain ways in which it has been done.
And the other one is to transform the movements from protest movements, from
“summit hopping” or occasion hopping, as far as the war goes,
to properly propositional movements, ones that create an alternative rather
than simply are dictated by the president’s decision to go to war or
the meeting of the G8, or something like that. I pose these not as like “I’m
suggesting what the agenda should be”, I think this has been what the
agenda has been.
The World Social Forum
and the various social forums have done a lot to facilitate both aspects of
these items on the agenda. To give you an example, I was at two of the World
Social Forums in Porto Alegre, Brazil. At one of them, there was this sort
of counter forum going on at the youth camp where there were groups from various
places. I was at one meeting where we had Italians, piqueteros from Argentina
and a group from a movement in South Africa that is against these electricity
and water cut offs in Durban and Johannesburg. It was great having three of
them talk to each other, because even in a straight forward, tactical way
they are experiencing the same thing, the same kinds of police repression
and the same kinds of struggles. And it was not really learning from each
other, but recognizing a kind of commonality that then creates new relationships.
We had something like thirty people right then, but it’s none the less
significant and effective in its small way. It is that kind of thing that
has to happen on a much larger scale. I think it was great that the World
Social Forum was in South Asia this year, and probably should move other places,
even though next year it’s going back to Brazil. In any case though,
the social forum process can only be one component of addressing these issues.
It’s not even about
solidarity, because, we all feel solidarity. Yes, the cocaleros in Bolivia
are great, but we don’t learn from them and know them. Rather than solidarity,
it is kind of a process of education that has to go on. In the North American
movements there is a lot of sympathy and recognition of injustices in the
world, but relatively little, understandably, real understanding of what life
is like for different people, what it is like to do politics there. And that’s,
I think, the kind of experience that is really transformative.
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