Panel 7: Anti-Capitalist Movements in the Global South

Panel Time: 
Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 14:30 to 17:00


Sabine Damir-Geilsdorf, GSSC
Albert Manke, Center for InterAmerican Studies, Bielefeld University
Felix Wemheuer, GSSC


This panel explores how different kinds of movements contested or reinterpreted capitalist models of nation state economies during the first decades of the Cold War in what we consider today the Global South. While the United States and the Soviet Union were competing for the implementation of their respective economic and ideological system, other important actors around the globe proposed alternatives that had a significant impact, particularly on political and social stakeholders in nonaligned nations. As Sinologist Felix Wemheuer argues, Maoist China, for instance, can serve as a model for non-capitalist development not only in Asia, but also in other regions of the Global South, especially in the 1960s and 1970s. It did not only present itself as an alternative to Western liberal capitalism, but also as an alternative to Soviet style socialism. In several countries, China was seen as a force of the “Third World” that had an appealing vision to overcome the bipolar split in two camps. In Latin America, among labor union movements, different kinds of alternative models to capitalism coexisted and often competed with each other, until the Cuban revolution demonstrated how an armed insurrection can create the conditions for a social revolution. Albert Manke, a specialist on Cuban history, points out that through the transition from capitalism to socialism this small and relatively resource-scarce country was able to develop yet another alternative model to capitalism that also proved attractive to other countries in the Global South. Especially in Latin America this had a tremendous impact on other liberation movements that (mostly unsuccessfully) tried to counter U.S. social, political, and economic hegemony. Sabine Damir-Geilsdorf, expert on Islamic Studies, explains that in the Middle East, during the 1940s and 1950s, Islamist thinkers such as the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), the Syrian Mustafa al-Siba’i (1915-1964), the Iranian Ali Shariati (1933-1977) or the British Indian (later Pakistani) Abu Ala al-Mawdudi (1903-1979) shared notions of anti-capitalist critique that contributed to the development of their idea of Islam as a “way of life” and an autochthonous “third way” between Western capitalism and Soviet communism, independent from the great powers and superior to them. They promoted different models of development on a fundamentalist religious basis which served as alternatives to what they perceived to be dominant “foreign” paradigms. Their writings on revolutionary Islamic vanguard movements for liberating the Muslim ummah from the so perceived Western global capitalist economy and imperialism have a strong impact on various transnational jihadist movements in the 21st century which refer to them frequently.

Through these three examples we want to show the variety of anti-capitalist conceptualizations and agency in selected regions that had a decisive impact on other regions of the Global South and on the development of South-South relations. Through the contributions of our invited partners, we would like to enhance this discussion by conceptualizing the theoretical and historical background and by including the perspective of (other) anti-colonial movements. Political economist Hartmut Elsenhans will contextualize our approach by adding a conceptual view on state classes in bureaucratic development societies that goes beyond bi-polar Cold War approaches and focuses more on structural conditions for (non-) capitalist development. Labor historian Luciana Anapios will provide an overview of the conflicts between anarchists and unionist labor groups in Perón’s Argentina that had different views of alternatives to, or the control of, capitalism.