World History of Modern Era Leftist Movements

Liam MacLean's picture

Hey All,

I'm hoping to research the (possible) rise of a new style of leftist movement following the fall of the Berlin Wall. My first thoughts would be to link Zapatismo, Occupy, and Rojava (among others). Naturally, a big part of each of these movements is their glocal orientation so I've long thought that world history was an important angle to approach them from. If anybody has any suggestions of works that have looked at this, I would love to hear about them.

Hi Liam,
You could also look at the late 1990s - early 2000s "antiglobalization movement", in addition to the ones you mentioned. A suggestion off the top of my head is Graeber's Direct Action:

Dr. James WJ Robinson,
PhD in World History (America in the World)
twitter: @jgeneric

I think that (for interesting political reasons) some of the more recent movements that I would identify as leftist sometimes don't use that term (left) as a primary identity. So my thoughts run along similar ones to James' to thinking that a decent number of recent participatory and anarchist-tending movements would fit your bill and often be international in vision or even action, but might not spring to mind as "leftist". They might use the term "anti-capitalist", at best. So you might cast your net a little wider by looking at movements' actual positions and not what the movements call themselves? I think horizontalism is one international possibility. Also many of the green/climate movements have strong, explicit anti-capitalist components, democratic internal dynamics, and a very global focus but are not necessarily delineated as part of the left: the Greens, Rising Tide, even Extinction Rebellion. Often these groups also focus on indigenous rights, which gives them a somewhat distinctive positioning vis-a-vis world history and international policy.

If you go the direction James and Eva-Maria suggest, then my first reaction is that Neozapatismo and Occupy seems rather obviously connected, and Rojava seems like something different. Although, that could simply be a reflection of my lack of knowledge of the later. But it could also indicate that there are a few different entities that fall under the categorization of "new style of leftist movement following the fall of the Berlin Wall" and they might be worth distinguishing so you can clearly keep track of what you are documenting the "rise" of.

More current events are always trickier to find literature that provides some kind of historical perspective on. For this reason, I might be tempted to focus on the 1990's. Additionally, at least in the U.S., a lot changed with the anti-systemic movements of the 1990s after Sept. 11. In my mind, 1989-2001 seems like a good time period to restrict yourself to. But of course, you may have other ideas.

I do not know what has been written up by historians, but you should look at the Socialist Register and Monthly Review. Both of these would have been writing about (and publishing authors from) the movements you are interested in. In fact, these are going to be good resources for the post 2001 period as well. They will be activist oriented, as opposed to historical, but I suspect they can help you establish links between the various movements.

You might get some milage out of "Movement of Movements: Is Another World Really Possible" edited by Tome Mertes. It is older by now, 2004, but is an anthology with pieces written by participants in movements I suspect you are interested in, with the explicit purpose of establishing links. Namoi Klein's "No Logo" first published in 1999 might also be useful in terms of getting a sense of the spirit of some of the interlocking social movements of the 1990's. Again, these were written by and for activists, but you might be able to get a quick sense of how they understood the global links between movements. Your topic also seems like the kind of thing the that World Systems folks would have been interested in. You might take a look through the archives of "Review."

Finally, back in the late 1990's Patrick Manning let me read the following in draft form. It deserves a bit of explanation and I will simply paste what Dr. Manning has to say about his own document below. I took this from his website.

"The second document, "Songs of Democracy," is a narrative and interpretation of the global social interactions of the years from 1989 through 1992. I first drafted it in late 1992 and revised it progressively until 1997, alternating in preparing longer and shorter versions. In it I attempt to alternate among narrative, metaphoric discussion, and analysis to convey an impression of global interaction and change. I showed it to editor after editor, all of whom concluded that there would not be interest in it. After a time I wondered if it was thought that historians should not comment on events so close to the present. I tried twice again after 2007, but each time ran into readers who concluded that it was not appropriate. The version here, while touched up in 2007, is roughly as the manuscript was at the end of 1997."

The piece begins when you need it to and makes an effort to provide a global framework for the early stages of what I believe you are trying to look at.

take care,