ATTAC as an example of an anti-globalization NGO

Pre-University Paper, 2006

21 Pages, Grade: 1

Free online reading


1. Introduction

2. General concerns about ATTAC
2.1 Disambiguation
2.2 Core purposes of the organization

3. History of ATTAC
3.1 The founding period
3.2 ATTAC since the year

4. Organizational structure of ATTAC
4.1 International organization
4.2 National organization (considering Germany as example)

5. Examples of certain campaigns and events
5.1 The Tobin Tax campaign (since 1999)
5.1.1 Facts about James Tobin
5.2.2 The original meaning of the Tobin Tax
5.2 Demonstration at the G8 meeting in Genoa

6. Criticism of ATTAC
6.1 Criticism of the Tobin Tax Campaign
6.1.1 James Tobin’s criticism “They are misusing my name"
6.2 Criticism of ATTAC by miscellaneous groups and persons

7. Conclusion

8. Appendix:
8.1 Enclosure: Images and delineations
8.2 Bibliography / Commented sources
8.3 Assertion

1. Introduction

I decided to write my term paper about the globalization critics of ATTAC, because in my opinion the general process of globalization is something really important to everybody’s life nowadays. And because globalization is rather inexorable today, people have to think about its process of accomplishment and about ways to improve this process, to sustain a more social procedure. ATTAC is an organization which is not strictly against globalization, but it propagandizes another, more equitable execution of it. This organization wants to stop the continuous enrichment of the wealth of some big international corporations and the predominant rule of money in the world. I think these goals are very commendable and it would be interesting to examine how ATTAC wants to achieve its goals and if these goals are realizable at all. Also, I want to determine if the methods of ATTAC are appropriate or need modification and what critics have to say about them and about the organization itself. In my term paper I provide a general analysis of ATTAC and its structure and certain examples of events arranged by them. Also it will be analyzed if the goals of ATTAC are, as commendable they are, also attainable in our contemporary world.

2. General concerns about ATTAC

2.1 Disambiguation

ATTAC is an acronym for the French term "A ssociation pour une T axation des T ransactions financières pour l' A ide aux C itoyens". Translated into English, that means “A ssociation for the T axation of Financial T ransactions for the A id of C itizens”. The word ATTAC is also very similar to the word “attack” which means “strong criticism of somebody/something in speech or in writing” 1. This shows the diligence with which ATTAC is trying to alter globalization.

2.2 Core purposes of the organization

ATTAC’s core purpose is to change the process of globalization in a way that makes it much more social, so that every nation, not only the highly developed ones could take benefit from it. This aim should be reached by raising funds by means of taxing the speculations with foreign currencies on an international level. This goal is also part of the name of the organization itself. “Taxation of financial transactions” describes exactly this method. Originally, ATTAC was only an organization that represented this single issue, but then, time after time it developed into an organization whose field of action is considerably larger. Today ATTAC cares about many different issues comprised in the process of globalization which need strong improvement in order to them. Main issues covered by ATTAC today are the control of the financial markets and the fair allocation of funds and goods for the entire world. The privatization of certain state-run services such as healthcare or pensions is also a focus of interest for ATTAC, because this process often leads to injustices in the population. This quote from the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu depicts it clearly:

“You can fight the international technocracy in an efficient way only by challenging it on its very own field of activity, the economic science, and by opposing a kind of knowledge that respects human beings and realities towards that mutilated kind of knowledge used by the technocrats themselves.”2 Nevertheless this sentence was expressed in 1995, three years before ATTAC was founded, it represents the core position of ATTAC very well.

3. History of ATTAC

3.1 The founding period

The first ideas to found an organization such as ATTAC were thought over in December 1997 when chief editor Ignacio Ramonet of the French monthly “Le Monde Diplomatique” wrote an editorial with the headline “Disarm the markets”.3 This led to the idea to establish an international pressure group of citizens to bring in the “international solidarity tax”. After a few months, in March 1998, the first ATTAC national group, ATTAC France was founded. After time passing by, there were other national groups in other European countries placed in office. Nowadays, the ten strongest national groups of ATTAC are taking place in Europe. In some European countries, for example Italy, the ATTAC groups are very small because nations like Italy had already strong non-governmental movements back in 1998 when the ATTAC idea started to spread over Europe. In some other countries, such as France and Germany, the ATTAC groups received on the one hand more support, especially from social democratic media, but on the other hand they got more nationalistic undertones in their programs. The NGO had its first international meeting on the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean in the year 1998. This meeting was the beginning of ATTAC to be a worldwide acting non-governmental organization. In 1999 there was the so called Tobin-Tax meeting. The idea of a tax to tame global markets by taxing device speculations was discussed. (Q.v. Point 5.1 of this term paper). In the forthcoming years ATTAC gained more public attention throughout the world with several big events. The biggest events took place at locations where big councils like the WEF, the IMF or the WTO meet.

3.2 ATTAC since the year 2000

The development of ATTAC since the year 2000 could be described as an exponential increase, because after certain big events ATTAC gained attention not only in its standard milieu, but also in groups that never heard about criticizing globalization before. The first big occurrence of ATTAC since the year 2000 was the European Union Summit. At this time, the Treaty of Nice was signed. ATTAC members participated in the demonstration together with other anti-globalization- and anarchistic groups what led to a total sum of 60000 demonstrators.4 Before Nice, the campaigns against international financial institutions got recognition in Europe especially after the summit of the IWF / World Bank in Praha5 in September 2000.

In 2001 there was the World Economic Summit in Genoa, which was an event that led to an extreme increase of public attention on ATTAC and likewise to an increase of new formations of ATTAC national groups. That redounded to the result that there are 50 national groups since 2001 worldwide with altogether over 90000 members. The demonstration at the World Economic Summit in Genoa will be described in detail in Point 5.2 of this term paper. Since the year 2001, ATTAC participated in every big demonstration all over the world against the unfairness of globalization. These demonstrations always take place when big organizations like the WEF, WTO or the G8 meet.

4. Organizational structure of ATTAC

4.1 International organization

ATTAC’s whole international structure is decentralized. Today, there are about 50 national subgroups which each control themselves and are not ruled by a higher council. The topics which have international importance are coordinated internationally between the groups. For example when there is a meeting of the WEF, the ATTAC national groups decide together what to do. But generally, most of the decisions rely on the national groups. This decentralized structuring was first discussed on the ATTAC congress in Berlin 19th – 21st October 2001. At this time, important founding members of the organization like Bernard Cassen (picture: Appendix, figure 8.1.1), Joao Batista de Oliveira, Jean Ziegler and Susan George pointed out that, "[…] because of ATTAC’s huge diversity, the organization could only function in a decentralized, basically democratic and plural way." 6

4.2 National organization (considering Germany as example)

(Delineation: Appendix, figure 8.1.3 p. 16),

The ATTAC group in Germany includes nearly 16000 members.7 These members form the basement of all the different ATTAC committees. The whole membership is organized in so called "Basisgruppen" or "Ortsgruppen"8 which means "basic groups" or "location groups". These groups can take place in every town or city and even at universities. The members can also form consortia which take place on a federal level. These consortia then are specialized in a certain topic like WTO, war or globalization. The main committee that has also the highest decisive power is the "Ratschlag"9. This council meets twice a year, one time discussing the preparation as regards content, the other time to pass the financing plan or to discuss organizational questions. Another important committee is the "Koordinierungskreis" or "Ko- Kreis".10 At a monthly meeting, the short-term decisions are discussed there, and there are also consortia inside the "Koordinierungskreis" which work on public relations or the ATTAC Deutschland homepage. The third decisive committee is the "ATTAC - Rat".11 With women as half of the whole membership, it is the council where the "Ortsgruppen" have their representation on a national level. Another important role of the "ATTAC – Rat" is the coordination between ATTAC and other NGOs. If there are meetings of ATTAC with other organizations, they often take place at the "ATTAC – Rat". The finances of the whole organization in Germany and managing the payment of the increasing number of full time employees is function the "Bundesbüro" 12 (federal bureau). To gain a scientific background for the whole organization, ATTAC Deutschland has its "Wissenschaftlicher Beirat"13 which means an academic advisory board. This advisory board provides expert opinions of political scientists, economists, psychologists and other academics. The advisory board is also important to justify ATTAC's existence as a political movement and it emphasizes the importance of ATTAC as a center of political discussion. (See appendix figure 8.1.3 for a visualization of the complete structure.)

5. Examples of certain campaigns and events

5.1 The Tobin Tax campaign (since 1999)

The Tobin Tax campaign is an issue that has received topicality in ATTAC's programme since its very first days. Even Ignacio Ramonet, the first who ever thought of an organization such as ATTAC talked about the introduction of a Tobin Tax. "His ATTAC" was the acronym for "A ssociation pour une T axe T obin d' A ide aux C itoyens" 14, later ATTAC changed that into the "A ssociation pour une T axation des T ransactions inanciers pour l' A ide aux C itoyens" we know today. The Tobin Tax was invented by James Tobin, and is used to tax the device speculations at the world markets. (Q.v. 5.1.1 and 5.1.2 of this term paper). While Tobin proposed a percentage rate of one percent15, ATTAC's first suggestions amounted to 0,1 – 0,5 percent.16 The revenues of this tax should be transferred to international aid organizations or certain developing countries which need the money very exigently. And because many industrial countries claim for them to have suffering households, they spent lesser money on foreign aid. According to ATTAC, this gap should be filled with the revenues of the Tobin Tax. ATTAC does not want to slow down the global capital markets with this tax, it rather wants to limit the uncontrolled growth of some short-term speculations.17 Criticism of this campaign can be found in the point 6.1 and 6.1.1 of this term paper.

5.1.1 Facts about James Tobin

James Tobin (* March 5, 1918; † March 11, 2002) was an American economist who adduced several articles to economy theory, theory of business cycles and monetary theory. In 1981 he received the Nobel Prize in economic science. He got acquainted in public when he proposed his worldwide standardized tax on device speculations, the so-called Tobin Tax in 1972.18

5.1.2 The original meaning of the Tobin Tax

The Tobin Tax is a tax that taxes device speculations internationally. That means it refers to just one aspect of the many different aspects of the whole capitalistic system. Also, device speculations are just an auxiliary component of the main workflows in economics. Nevertheless, the Tobin Tax could help to raise huge amounts of funds out of this part of the international cash flow, and it regulates and restricts device speculations. But it cannot prevent big international crises, such as the Asia-crisis in the late nineties from happen. In addition to that, it would not make the global markets a bit more social. Quite on the contrary, it would lead to a higher dependence of the third world countries on the investments of rich countries.19 (See Point 6.1 for more criticism on the Tobin Tax campaign.)

5.2 Demonstration at the G8 meeting in Genoa 2001

(Pictures: Appendix, Figures 8.1.2 p. 15 & 8.1.4 p. 17),

From the 20th – 22nd of July 2001, there was the world economic summit of the G7/G8-Nations in Genoa/Italy. These days mark a date from which on ATTAC's publicity has increased very fast. This was a result of one the biggest and heaviest demonstrations in the history of ATTAC, About 100000 members of several anti-globalization, leftwing and anarchistic groups demonstrated in the city against globalization. The Italian government gathered about 20000 "carabinieri" (military police) in the city to control the situation. The situation escalated and there were riots in many districts of the city. The results were disastrous: 219 arrests, 561 wounded on both sides, one person deadly injured, 41 shops and 83 cars set on fire.20 Even though ATTAC did not achieve its goal, to realize other points of discussion apart from "improving the conditions for large-scale international enterprises",21 their public recognition increased since then. The aftermath of the summit was also an important factor for ATTAC's public recognition since then. Because of the Italian police which took drastic measures against the demonstrators, which lead to scandals like the "Bolzaneto torture scandal", where arrested demonstrators were beaten and tormented with asphyxiating gas in an Italian prison,22 or the death of Carlo Giuliani who was shot by the police when he tried to throw a fire extinguisher on a "carabinieri" car.23 These topics were omnipresent in the media these days, and the anti-globalization movement got advertence like never before.

6. Criticism of ATTAC

6.1 Criticism of the Tobin Tax Campaign

The Tobin Tax campaign is, as mentioned in Point 5.1 of this term paper, a campaign to raise funds by taxing the device speculations internationally. In terms of this campaign ATTAC likes to name itself as "sand in the transmission of the global financial markets" but critics accuse it to be rather "lubricating oil in the transmission of the global financial markets".24 The Tobin Tax cannot be held as a brake of the global financial markets, such as ATTAC proposes it. It is rather subsidiary for the markets, because it generates more economical stability.25 This stability is a result of an increasing number of capital investments, because then those investments will get more important than speculative funds.26 But uncontrolled investments also bear dangers, and in addition to that, the dependence of certain developing countries on the disposal of the developed nations. Some extreme critics propose the Tobin Tax even as the "creation of an Orwell-like police state"27. Of course criticism like that is exorbitant, but the process of managing such a world wide fund with billions of dollars flowing in it every month will not be easy.

6.1.1 James Tobin’s criticism “They are misusing my name"

James Tobin invented the tax to save the ever stronger capitalism from itself.28 Thus he wanted to get more continuousness and stability in the international economy.29 In the German weekly paper "Der Spiegel" was an interview with James Tobin on September 2, 2001. He himself has slightly another idea of a Tobin Tax. He claims for himself that he invented the tax for slowing down currency transactions. "[…] raising money is not my major objective. I wanted to slow down currency transactions. Revenues would only be a by-product. […]"30 He declares to be an economist and to support the important economy organizations. "[…] I appreciate attention to my proposal, but many of the praise comes from the wrong side. Look, I'm an economist and, like most economists, an advocate of free trade. Moreover, I support the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization — everything that these movements are attacking. They're misusing my name.[…]"31 In the Spiegel interview one can clearly point out that Tobin does not want to be associated to ATTAC. He states that ATTAC's objectives may be right in some aspects, but badly thought over. But in general, his approaches to a solution for a fairer globalization are quite different from those of ATTAC.32

6.2 Criticism of ATTAC by miscellaneous groups and persons

ATTAC receives criticism not only from economists like James Tobin, who accuse ATTAC of lacking knowledge in modern economy, but also from many different other political groups. For example, the comments of certain ATTAC members who compared Hebrew politicians with Nazis and the Israeli occupation policy with the countermeasures the Nazis take in the Warsaw ghetto riots in 1943, were a big point of criticism.33

This example is does not stand for ATTAC in generally, but the dualisms between right and wrong, good and bad, etc. represented by ATTAC are a breeding ground for many right wing activists.34 ATTAC is even criticized by other NGOs. For example, anti-capitalistic or more left-wing groups accuse ATTAC to be too adaptive in terms of global markets. "[…] they [ATTAC] wonder if it could be possible to design their fabulous purchase tax in a way that it does not cause any disorder in the global financial system. […]"35 This quote from "GegenStandpunkt" a left-wing magazine from Munich/Germany is quite representative for the criticism earned by ATTAC from many left-wing groups. GegenStandpunkt even accuses ATTAC to be a tool for governments, because when there is a government conference with ATTAC protesters against it, the protesters can get the role of informal advisors. Thus, the governments show the people that they are really caring about their responsibility for the earth (which in fact they do not). According to GegenStandpunkt, this process is not tragic, because ATTAC is begging for acquiescence. Thus ATTAC gets this acquiescence and governments see that there is no real rejection against there plans.36

7. Conclusion

While examining the structure and history and all those critical points of ATTAC, my point of view on this NGO got really more differentiated, because ATTAC is more than a simple anti-globalization movement. ATTAC is an organization like no other, on the one hand because it is what critics call a "reservoir for all kinds of disappointed ones" but on the other hand it is an organization with a goal that is not comparable to the objectives of any other anti-globalization organization: Altering globalization by using the global financial system, not by abolishing it. Whether ATTAC's destination will be ever reached remains to be seen, but the chances are not too bad because the member count is still increasing ATTAC gets more public reputation than ever before. But exactly because of this increasing importance, it is significant to have also a critical point of view on ATTAC. This term paper is of course no in depth-analysis of the NGO, but it provides a general view on the different aspects of it and it contributes also to approaches for a critical evaluation of ATTAC.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

8. Appendix:

8.1 Enclosure: Images etc.


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Bernard Cassen, former chairman of ATTAC (1998-2002)

(Origin of the image: )

(Direct link: )


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

A burnt down carabinieri truck after the Genoa riots 2001

(Origin of the image:

(Direct link:


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Street riots in Genoa, summer 2001

(Origin of the image: / The original site which hosted the picture was offline, picture found by )

8.2 Bibliography / Commented sources

These sources are those which I mentioned already in the footnotes, and additional ones which provide supplementary information about ATTAC, critical viewpoints on ATTAC, and the anti-globalization movement itself.


Grefe C., Greffrath M. & Schumann H. attac – Was wollen die Globalisierungskritiker? Berlin: Rowohlt

ISBN: 3-87134-451-6

This book provides detailed, but often very idealistic information about ATTAC, ist members and ist goals.

Bergstedt, J . Mythos attac. Berlin: Brandes & Apsel

ISBN: 3-86099-796-3

A very critical book about ATTAC which gives background information and also possibilities for existing ATTAC groups to improve their methods.

Dr. Weiß, J. (2005) Der Brockhaus in zehn Bänden Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus GmbH ISBN: 3-76532-450-7

A useful encyclopedia to get information about certain persons or organizations in a very compact depiction.

Books that helped to improve my language:

Hornby, A S (2000). Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English.

Oxford : Oxford University Press ISBN: 3-464-11541-0

The standard dictionary which includes nearly every word of the English vocabulary

Kipfer, B. (2001)Roget's International Thesaurus, Sixth Edition. New York: Harper & Collins ISBN: 0-06-018575-9

A very useful thesaurus which improved my English vocabulary and which helped me to avoid repetitions of certain words.

Prof. Dr. Weis, E. (1991) PONS Kompaktwörterbuch Englisch - Deutsch ISBN: 3-12-517101-6

A standard German-English / English-German dictionary with about 100000 words in it.


ATTAC's international homepage, which was offline during my work on this term paper. It provides general information about the NGO in several languages and an overview of events that took place in the past, and events that are planned to be arranged in the future.

The homepage of ATTAC Deutschland

Website of ATTAC-Deutschland's core group, the site had not been updated since April 4, 2004.

Critical texts about ATTAC by the German anarchistic / anti-globalization grouping "Schwarze Katze"

The full Spiegel-interview with James Tobin, where he distances himself clearly from ATTAC in this interview.

Homepage of the Munich-based leftwing newspaper "GegenStandpunkt" which also offers texts criticizing ATTAC. (See footnote 35 ("Der Aldi unter den Weltverbesserern") p. 13)

Anarchistic / leftwing online newspaper which also releases texts criticizing ATTAC. (See footnote 17 ("Wie ATTAC endlich Unterstützung bekommt") p. 9)

8.3 Assertion:

"I hereby declare, that I made this term paper without the help of others, and that I only used the sources I mentioned in the footnotes and the appendix"

Deutsch: "Ich erkläre, dass ich die Facharbeit ohne fremde Hilfe angefertigt und nur die im Literatur- und Quellenverzeichnis und die in den Fußnoten angeführten Quellen benutzt habe."


1 Hornby, A S (2000). “to attack” In Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English ( p. 65). Oxford: Oxford University Press

2 Pierre Bourdieu on a strike meeting of governmental employees in Lyon/France. 1995 Quote from: Grefe C., Greffrath M. & Schumann H. attac – Was wollen die Globalisierungskritiker? Berlin: Rowohlt p. 15

3 Bergstedt, J. Mythos attac. Berlin: Brandes & Apsel p. 13

4 E-Zine: Traits noirs [Internet]. Avignon: Traits noirs c/o [added in January of 2000; cited 2006 Feb 26] Available from:

5 Bergstedt, J. Mythos attac. Berlin: Brandes & Apsel p. 17

6 ATTAC NACH DEM KONGRESS VOM 19.- 21. OKTOBER 2001; Maria Mies [Internet]. Cologne: "Netzwerk gegen Konzernherrschaft und neoliberale Politik" [updated 2006 Oct.25] . Available from:

7 "Attac von Innen"; Sven Opitz [Internet] Berlin: "ATTAC Deutschland" [updated 2006 Jan 30; cited 2006 Feb 26]. Available from:

8 Bergstedt, J. Mythos attac. Berlin: Brandes & Apsel p. 22

9 ibid. p. 23

10 Bergstedt, J . Mythos attac. Berlin: Brandes & Apsel p. 24

11 ibid. p23

12 ibid. p25

13 ibid. p25

14 [Internet] [updated 2006 Feb. 27; cited 2006 Feb. 27 ] Available from:

15 Grefe C., Greffrath M. & Schumann H. attac – Was wollen die Globalisierungskritiker? Berlin: Rowohlt p. 73. Original: James Tobin, A proposal for international monetary reform, in: The Eastern Economic Journal 3-4, July / October 1978

16 Bergstedt, J . Mythos attac. Berlin: Brandes & Apsel p. 120

17 Wie ATTAC endlich Unterstützung bekommt: Schröder und Chirac wollen mit der Tobin-Steuer eine andere Welt möglich machen [electronic mail on the Internet] . Message to: . 2005 Feb. 20 [cited 2006 Feb 27] Available from:

18 Dr. Weiß, J. (2005) Tobin, James. In: Der Brockhaus in zehn Bänden (Vol. 9 p. 6394).Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus GmbH


20 SPIEGEL ONLINE - 23. Juli 2001, 16:50 Gewalt in Genua - Racheakt der Polizei? [Internet] Hamburg: Spiegel Online [updated 2001 July 23; cited 2006 Feb 27]. Available from:

21 "Weltwirtschaftsgipfel" in Genua" [Internet] Berlin: ATTAC Deutschland [updated 2002 Feb 03; cited 2006 Feb 27]. Available from:

22 Italy G8 'brutality' trial opens [Internet] London: BBC News Online [updated 2005 Oct 12; cited 2006 Feb 27]. Available from:

23 The wild boy who became a martyr [Internet] London: The Observer Online [updated 2001 July 22; cited 2006 Feb 27]. Available from:,10786,525672,00.html

24 Bergstedt, J . Mythos attac. Berlin: Brandes & Apsel p. 121

25 Wie ATTAC endlich Unterstützung bekommt: Schröder und Chirac wollen mit der Tobin-Steuer eine andere Welt möglich machen [electronic mail on the Internet] . Message to: . 2005 Feb. 20 [cited 2006 Feb 27] Available from:

26 ibid.

27 Grefe C., Greffrath M. & Schumann H. attac – Was wollen die Globalisierungskritiker? Berlin: Rowohlt p.75. Original: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 1995 March 17

28 Bergstedt, J . Mythos attac. Berlin: Brandes & Apsel p. 120

29 Wie ATTAC endlich Unterstützung bekommt: Schröder und Chirac wollen mit der Tobin-Steuer eine andere Welt möglich machen [electronic mail on the Internet] . Message to: . 2005 Feb. 20 [cited 2006 Feb 27] Available from:

30 "They Are Misusing My Name" [Internet]. Hamburg: Der Spiegel [updated 2001 Sep. 2; cited 2006 Feb. 28] Available from:

31 ibid.

32 Paraphrased from the Spiegel interview

33 Attac bietet Antisemiten ein Forum [Internet] Hamburg: [updatet 2003 Jan 27; cited 2006 Feb 28] Author: Jan Jikeli. Abailable from:

34 Bergstedt, J . Mythos attac. Berlin: Brandes & Apsel p. 124

35 ATTAC - Der Aldi unter den Weltverbesserern [Internet] Munich: GegenStandpunkt Online [updated 2nd quarter of 2003; cited 2006 Feb 28] Available from:

36 ibid.

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