Peoples' movements and protests




States, capital and popular movement – what is what?



Any suggestion for improvals can be mailed to the author


By Jan Wiklund



A propos IS a question has been forwarded: Are popular movements and mafia incompatible? Can you be both?

Of course you can. Different actors can change faces and motivations in the course of the game.

I have previously argued that there are three different types of actors that differ in that they have different power bases, goals, social carriers and forms of action:

Actor: State Capital Movement
Power base: Redistribution Market Mutuality
Objectives: Stable hierarchies Power Protection
Social carrier: Functionaries Capitalists Direct producers
Form of action: Routine Routine Chaos


But of course there are intermediate forms. States slipping into capital (national for profit enterprises, New Public Management) Capital slipping into state (company towns), popular movements slipping into capital (Many cooperatives). Popular movements slipping into the state (social democracy). This tends to create problems – urban movement activist Jane Jacobs has spoken of hybrid monsters. Jacobs refers to the Soviet Communist Party and the American Mafia as examples of organisations that cannot be properly described as state or capital because they cheat in many ways in both sectors. To the detriment of their surroundings.

Perhaps not surprisingly, both are also good examples of popular movements that have gone out of control. Both began as mutuality-based protection mechanisms for direct producers that eventually built up hierarchies with both capital and state ambitions.

Something they have not been alone in history.

It is not only ISIS that has quickly left the popular movement stage behind for something else. A few decades ago, Peru was ravaged by a peripheral movement called Sendero Luminoso. It began as an alliance between students and farmers in mountainous and rural communities against Lima's capital and bureaucracies, but quickly degenerated into a mafia of middle-class students seeking to dominate rural society to gain the status they were denied in Lima. It went so far as to murder trade unionists and use armed gangs to force villages to grow drugs, which the SL made a living selling to the North American market. Probably this would never have happened if the hierarchy building had not forced a need to live without working.

So I would answer the question by saying that yes, popular movements can give rise to both state-building mafias and capitalist corporations. But once they have done this, they are no longer popular movements, because then it is no longer about the reciprocity-based protection mechanisms of direct producers.

It's about hierarchies, power and profit.

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