Global Social Rights

by attac berlin Saturday, Oct. 07, 2006 at 6:50 AM

Globalized capitalism means precarity and exclusion in the North and increasing exploitation and impoverishment in the South. Global social rights could be a counter-power.


From Defensive to Offensive

By attac Berlin

[This 2006 discussion paper by Alexis Passadakis, Martin Schmalzbauer and Tobias Haas is translated from the German on the World Wide Web. More papers are available at]

A cycle of protests began with the demonstrations and blockades against the 1999 WTO ministerial conference. Global justice movements formed and culminated in the worldwide process of the world social forums. Neoliberal globalization and its disastrous effects were analyzed and questioned. These first years of criticism seem overtaken by a second phase. A largely defensive perspective is now abandoned to design concepts for an alternative globalization. One of these concepts is the idea of global social rights.

The welfare state is undermined into a ”national competition state” by the internationalization of the division of labor and the deregulation of the finance markets. In Germany, for example, the Hartz laws lower the income of whole population sectors to stay on top in the global competition over locations. Globalized capitalism means precarity and exclusion in the North and increasing exploitation and impoverishment in the South. Global social rights could be a counter-power.


What are global social rights? They include the right to securing material needs, i.e. access to and co-determination of food, clothing, housing and so forth. They also go beyond this. The rights to an intact environment, education, global freedom of movement, independence from coercion to paid labor, equal participation in social wealth and life including the right to define one’s own sexuality are also elementary components of global social rights. They make possible a self-determined life in dignity and are in force for all people everywhere, irrespective of residency, gender, caste or good behavior. An adequate unconditional basic income is a central instrument for honoring global social rights because it is a seed for a different, free society aiming at the self-realization of all people.


Bypassing official laws is often necessary in the difficult enforcement of global social rights when these laws stand in the way of their conversion. Land occupations as in Brazil may be illegal in many cases. But they are legitimate since they help realize the right to food sovereignty.

Global social rights are central in attac actions. The right to organize women and the right to food sovereignty were crucial in the Lidi campaign. Those who produce food have the right to live from that work. The different actions against privatization of public services on the local plane thematicize rights to basic services like water, education and health care. “Right to” always means “democratic co-determination.” Therefore global social rights on all planes go along with the goal of global democracy.


The protests against the G* summit in Heiligendamm bring together different themes within the complex “Global Social Rights” because the policy of the G8 basically opposes them.

The G8 lacks any democratic legitimation. The G8 pursues imperial world policy in the interest of the elites of right states and their corporations. Nevertheless we do not release them from their responsibility as long as they influence the living conditions of millions of people. Still social rights are not gained by begging from states because everyone simply has them by existing. As a result, the perspective global social rights enables us to write our history ourselves. “You make plans, we make history” was inscribed on a wall during the protests against the G8 summit in Genoa.