Meeting of Enlarged Council of World Forum for Alternatives
SAMIR AMIN FRANCOIS HOUTART
Director, TWF Exec Sec, WFA
Chair, WFA Chair, Fondation Tricontinentale
Created in 1997, the World Forum for Alternatives (WFA) is an active partner of the movement known as “alterglobalist” movement and; as such, an active partner of the World, Regional and National Social Forums. In that framework, the WFA has organised during all the sessions of the WSF, from its very first edition (Porto Alegre 2001) up to its eighth sessions (Nairobi, January 2007) an important number of seminars, workshops and conferences.
During the Bamako session of the WSF (January 2006) the WFA took the initiative to organise a day and a half work session to which participated about 200 delegates, representing a great number of popular movements committed in the fight against neo liberalism and imperialism, and coming from a great number of countries from the Planet. The Bamako Appeal has since been heading its way and was adopted by the Assembly of the Movements during the Meeting of Caracas in February 2006.
Political significance and impact of the actions of the WFA
It seems useful to us, for the formulation of the request which will follow, to briefly remind here of the importance of the political impact of the WFA actions. To do so, we are going to propose in what will come next a brief account of the debates the WFA held in Durban (July 2006) then in Nairobi (January 2007). Those debates took place in the framework of twenty one conferences, seminars and workshops organised by the WFA at the occasion of those two recent major events.
The activities organised by the WFA always have as their priority associating theory and practice, critical analyses of situations and proposal of actions.
The WFA is not a « network of researchers », (be they motivated by political objectives we have in common), and even less “an academic network”. The research centres that constitute our network bring together people whom, though being perfectly competent in their respective areas of knowledge (and in that respect capable of being “researchers” who occupy high “academic” positions of responsibilities), are primarily active militants in movements and organisation (including sometimes in political parties), dedicated to fight against the system of oppression and exploitation of neo liberalism and imperialism. Our network’s research centres are always centred on those movements and organisations, sometimes through formal relationships (trade union research centres, farmer organisations or even political parties), or informal ones, but all the same, recognised relations.
Each of the major contributors to the activities mentioned in this report holds that characteristic. In that respect, we may hope the debates they are leading have a truly effective political impact.
The issues on which the debates held in Durban and Nairobi were based testify to the concern of associating research and actions. Those issues relating to major aspects of the challenges confronting people in their struggles can be grouped into the following important rubrics:
1. Issues related to the reconstruction of the unity of working classes. The segmentarisation produced by the policies of the dominant current neo liberalism (generating different situations for the different segments of the working classes, relatively “mainstreamed and stabilised”, thus, often unionised and; the growing masses of vulnerable people, people working in informal sectors and unemployed people) and the dispersion of the struggles which stems from it undermine the efficacy of the forms of organisation and struggle which had been a reality in the past. The challenge is known: the intervention, through well thought of practices, of newer forms of struggle adapted to present challenges has been the topics under debate in five seminars and conferences planned and carried out in close cooperation with trade union leaders, among others.
The discussions have enabled to refine the analyses related to very diverse and concrete situations depending on the specific countries and regions under consideration. The responses given to those challenges by the organisations of the working classes represented by the trade unionists of the working group have laid the emphasis on the reasons of the failures and successes in the struggles led by those organisations, both at national level and within the regions under consideration (namely, the European Union). The exercise encouraged the participants to express their views on the various alternative projects in the formulation of medium term objectives and on the necessary revisions of the forms of organisations and the conduct of the struggles to face new situations, both at national and regional levels. In that line of ideas, the issue of delocalisation was a specific topic area of discussions. The ultimate objective of the construction of a people’s internationalism to interact with the one established was a subject of reflection in the programmes of “trade union Internationals” in reconstruction at European and global scales.
The outcomes of those debates will make the subject of a publication which is under way.
2. Issues related to the struggle of farmers across the world to access land and the conditions of its use for the benefit of the concerned agricultural populations constituted the topic area of four seminars, workshops and conferences. The speeding up of the destruction of agricultural populations through the on going neo liberal expansion and exploitation is the root of mass impoverishment phenomena and social disasters of all kinds. The strategies of the farmers’ movements to fight back and the proposed alternatives, the necessary links to be establish between those struggles (which interest half the populations of the world) and the ones of the working and urban popular classes were the subjects of debates led in close cooperation with farmer leaders.
Here again the discussions examined in the first place the various concrete conditions of the challenges facing agricultural populations, owing to history (management patterns of access to privatised or community land, land reforms, etc.), the specific forms of their integration to local or global system, the various degrees of social differentiation within the rural world etc. the critical examination of the responses (or lack of responses) – submitted by the representatives of the farmers’ movements, whether structured or not – formulated by those movements has equally enables to sketch out the broad lines of possible alternatives and their requirements expressed in terms of national, regional and global macro policies. The joint meeting of the major contributors from the two groups – workers and farmers – has enabled to focus on those requirements of coherent national policies with the objectives of constructing popular “worker and farmer” alliances operating under specific concrete conditions depending on the countries under consideration.
A special focus was put on the collective actions required at global level to response to the globalised neo liberal’s projects formulated in the « agricultural » sections of the policy imposed by the WTO, in particular on issues related to subsidies and the conditions of the management of the “international competition” in that area.
Publications are planned which should contribute to facilitating future debates on common struggle programmes bringing together urban and rural workers.
3. The problems relating to the fight for the democratisation of societies were the subject area of discussions conducted in three seminars and conferences.
Those discussions focused primarily on issues relating to the concepts of democratisation, viewed as a global processing including all aspects of social life – which extend beyond the specific field of the public management of powers – to workplaces, within households and the relationships existing between the citizens and social services (education, health, housing, transportation, access to water and electricity). The concept of democratisation seen as “without barriers”, contrasting with the formulas of “ready made straight jacket of representative procedural democracy” (defined by the dominant ideology in the restricted terms of multiparty systems and the organisation of election) which enable to associate – rather than dissociate – democracy and social progress.
In that respect, particular interest was given to the issues known as “gender” issues, laying the emphasis on the central dimension of women’s rights with the association for democratisation and social progress.
The discussions questioned in particular civil society organisations in the fight for citizens’ political, economic and social right; women’s, children’s and marginalised and vulnerable groups etc.; rights. They equally questioned the programmes and practices of democratic political parties.
In that line of ideas, the already adopted Charters on general and specific rights and the draft Charters proposed as completing or alternatives have been the subject of particular reviews. A report including the proposed rights and Charters in the course of the discussions and relating to the fight of the workers and farmers mentioned earlier was established. Workgroup may be set up to propose the establishment (or the correction) of the rights and Charters appropriate to the objective of democratisation and social progress associations.
In conclusion to those discussions, we will say that democracy is not a formula that can be readily exported and/or imported, but it is always the product of the people’s struggles, associating in that respect the conquest of democratic rights to social progress. Through those struggles, the people invent institutional patterns which are their own, not for the purpose of « cultural specificity » (which would enable the intellectual « elites » in power to propose models a priori) but for the fact of the particular articulation to each historic situation of the different concrete aspects of the challenges to which the people are confronted. The discussions have enabled a better grasp of the advances made in that perspective by the victorious struggles in Latin America .
4. Discussions relating to the mode of functioning of the globalised neo liberal economic system, and in particular the criticisms addressed to the leading institutions in charge of the management of those issues (WTO, IMF and the World Bank) have always had an important place in the World Social Forums.
The seminar organised in that respect by the WFA wished to avoid repetitions and rather propose a synthesis of the scattered thinking on those topics. The option for a synthesis was based on a dual concern. First, integrating our alternative proposals within the perspective of the construction of a multi polar world, and from thence, better define the contours of short and medium term objectives, calling for convergences of policy strategies from the relevant actors.
In that spirit, the emphasis was laid on two sets of questionings and proposals.
The first relates to the global environmental challenge (possible warming up of the of the Planet, drying out of renewable resources) which is too often “over added” to the other dimensions of the economic management of the globalised system, ignoring to sufficiently spell out the necessary articulations questioning the blatant and growing inequalities among the peoples of the world (in the access to resources and their individual global environmental responsibilities). Because, indeed, this challenge questions the ways of life, consumption (and wastage of resources) imposed by really existing capitalist expansion (as opposed to the imaginery so called market economy of the mainstream economists). Known and recognised, that aspect of the challenge is all too often dissociated from the claims for reforms made as regards international economic relations.
The second relates to the possibilities and the requirements of the reconstruction of alliances bringing together the countries of the South to confront the challenge of the economic imperialism of the transnationals of the “Triad” (USA, Europe, and Japan). The discussions sought to give serious consideration to the starting embryos of alliances among groups of countries of the South, notably within the WTO. Without either subscribing to illusions or underestimating the limits inherent to the governments which represent the countries involved in those alliances, we wanted to examine from a closer range the eventual impact of that major South/North contradiction. We then laid our focus on the articulation of that contradiction with the conflicts of social interests which is proper to the societies in the South and on the perspectives the radicalisation of popular struggles would then bring to the fight against imperialism and hegemony.
5. Issues relating to the reconstruction of a global multi polar political system were discussed in four of the WFA activities.
The denunciation of the violation of the international law by imperialist powers, and singularly the USA, of « preventive wars » that Washington unilaterally grants itself the « right » to wage, under the manipulated pretext of the « war against terror », especially the condemnation of the occupation of Iraq, of the practices of colonisation by the Israeli occupant over Palestine constitute important dimensions of the protest expressed by a great number of organisations and movements which meet in the World Social Forums.
Beyond those denunciations, the discussions organised by the WFA primarily wished to precise the possible and necessary converges on the basis of the principle of the respect of sovereignty, without which it would be vain to think possible any global multi polar system as an alternative to the « global scale apartheid » (the programme of the Triad’s imperialism). The affirmation of that fundamental principle necessitates nevertheless a convergence on the contents to be given to the sovereignties in question (State, Nations and People’s Sovereignty?) and their articulation to issues related to the democratisation of societies and their access to social progress.
Those discussions find in Europe very specific expressions owing to the diversity of view points among « alterglobalists » of that continent relating to the relations among the nations which constitute the European Union and the superstructure that the Union itself represents. This debate which is proper to Europeans should not veil the one relating to the requirement of the construction of a multi-polar global system, in the conditions that it is understood that multi-polarity cannot be reduced to a new bi-polarity (USA/Europe) or to a new multi-polarity formula (restricted to the two “super powers” plus Japan, Russia, China and may be some other nations), but must give their place to all the nations of the world; emerging nations and others, important and smaller states, “rich” or “poor” economies.
The discussions laid the emphasis on certain important aspects of that challenge:
(i) The necessary fight against NATO (a specific responsibility for the Europeans) and for the dismantling of all military bases of the USA outside their territory.
(ii) The necessary fight against the pretension of the G7/G8 to substitute themselves to the UN to speak in the name of the “international community”
(iii) For the advancement in the construction of regional blocks (in particular, in Latin America and Africa) defined not only by common economic objectives (known as « development objectives » in the best case, doomed to be mere « common market » zone in the facts when the fundamentals of the neo liberal globalisation are interiorised by the groups in question) but equally by common political objectives regarding defence (against the aggressors practising “preventive wars”), and the construction of new collective political superstructures (similar to the one proposed by the ALBA project in Latin America).
(iv) The fight for the reconstruction of a front of the « Peoples of the South » to face the challenge inherent to the imperialist dimension of the globalised system. A revisit of what “Bandung” and the Tricontinental were and the requirements from that point of view of a new and different global situation had been at the centre of important debates.
(v) the « nuclear proliferation » deserved itself to be better defined, in order to lift the ambiguities related to that phrase which facilitates manipulation and veils the ambition of the USA to keep the monopoly of the production (and the eventual use) of mass destruction weapons.
(vi) the examination of the various alternative proposals for reorganising the global political system – in particular, through reforming the UN – , even if that reform concerns more the longer term than the short term, it was judged all the more a priority, in the perspective of the consolidation of the institutions necessary for the functioning of a global multi-polar system.
All in all the issues discussed within the activities of this section give all their importance to the geo political dimension of the global challenge. The internal political and social struggles proper to the concerned people can in no way ignore that dimension. The threat constituted by the permanent project of Washington to have a military control over the planet (whether or not disguised under a new branding by the potential future democrats’ administration of Washington), which undermines to the extreme all the democratic and social advances which could be made here or there by the popular struggles, could never be underestimated.
6. Some thoughts were devoted to the discussion related to the future of the World Social Forums: a conference organised by the WFA and a seminar under the initiative of a workgroup created following the Bamako session of the WSF (January 2006) and conducting discussions on the Bamako Appeal. That group of militants of movements committed in the social struggles has published a book describing the situation of the Appeal under consideration, just before the Nairobi session. The publication bears the title « A political Programme for the WSF? Debate in the Bamako Appeal », and was edited by Jai Sen and Patrick Bond, and had been the subject of a presentation in Nairobi, inviting to the continuation of those debates, in the perspective of advancing proposals of common strategies of struggle.
All the activities directed by the WFA are, by the very definition of the role the WFA sets itself, in the perspective to make the action more far reaching. The objective being: the speeding up of struggles from their defensive phase of “resistance” against the aggressions of the project of the globalisation of capital and imperialism to the one of offensive actions capable of opening a way to the positive crystallisation of alternatives.
Participants to both debates mentioned here were then invited to submit their proposal on the basis of the criteria invoked in the preceding paragraph, in order to enhance the effective construction of “convergence within diversity”.
World Social Forums should remain what they are: necessary and useful meeting events. But the very format of their organisation, their being open to all – a sound and necessary principle for the perpetuation of those forums, even if that openness infers a representation disequilibrium to the benefit of rich NGO’s to the detriment of poor popular movements – limits the possibilities of having in depth discussions for taking action. The presence of the WFA at those forums is certainly visible and its impact is real. It is because that impact is far from being negligible that it seemed necessary and feasible to us to continue our intervention within the WSF through actions – not in contradictions to, but complementary – within more motivated and better organised events and venues with a view of enhancing proposals of strategies of action for common struggles.
Our debates have in fact their echoes in those of the Movements Assembly which represents the “marching” wing of the World Social Forums.
The will strongly expressed by the guest participants of the WFA to push forward the struggles up to the point of enabling them to reverse the balance of power to the benefit of popular classes (drawing from the positive lessons drawn in that respect from Latin America) constitute the main direction of the programme proposals of the WFA for the second half of the year 2007 and the year 2008.
The programme framework of our request
In parallel to the possible extension of Social Forums, the WFA intends to continue the organisation of systematic debates intended to contribute to the emergence of social actors capable through their action to modify the balances of powers in favour of the popular classes in relation to the capital and in favour of the nations of the South, in relation to imperialism.
In that line of idea, the WFA imagined that it should organise in 2008 an enlarged session of its Council enabling to have a straight forward debate, with all the necessary sense of responsibility, on the handicaps that make « the movement stagnate » at the stage of resistance to the offensive of the dominant capital and imperialism, as this was acknowledged by the Nairobi session of the WSF among others. We know that the WSF next meeting will only be held in 2009 for its eighth session. The planned session of the enlarged Council of the WFA does not constitute a substitute to the WSF but it can be hoped that it will fulfil useful functions in the progression of the movement known as « alterglobalist » and « altersocial », envisaged in a post neo liberal evolution, and laying some of the foundations for the progression of the XXIst century socialism.
The project of the session under consideration does not have the pretension of claiming the “exclusivity” of the action in that direction. All the contrary so, we are pleased to see that the idea is heading its way and that other initiatives going the same direction are planned.
The project of programme of the WFA for the year July 2007-July 2008 is in line with that logic of the collective effort aiming at building converges in the interventions of the movements, capable of making the peoples of the world move from the defensive stage in their struggles towards the phase of construction of positive alternatives
The meeting of the WFA enlarged Council will bring together 200 people.
• Those people will strictly be divided into four groups of fifty persons each, for each of the four following regions of the world: (i) Europe, the USA and Canada, Japan, Australia ; (ii) Latin America and the Caribbean; (iii) Asia; (iv) Africa and the Arab World.
• Selected people must be “key opinion leaders” associating a capacity of analysis of the challenges and an active militant commitment to the on-going and future struggles. Beyond the divergence of point of views, which it would be useful to hear expressed with of the necessary clarity, those people are all driven by a common perspective; the one of building a positive alternative to the so-called liberal market economy and to imperialism..
• The session is not meant to be a “big conference” (even less so than a “conference of prestige” type), but a week of in-depth work and debates concluding with proposals for action.
In that line of idea, we imagine that plenary sessions will be reduced to three half day work (at the opening, halfway and at closing), separated by seven half day work in commissions. The commissions could be 12 or 15 in number, each counting 12 to 20 participants; the maximum number for a collective work seeking to go beyond the exchange of point of views.
• The objective of the “Conference of the 200” does certainly not limit itself to either refining the analyses relating to the issues raised in this document, or to identifying the points of convergence and the areas of divergence (which is nevertheless necessary), but invites to do so in the perspective of explicitly making proposals of common strategies of actions enabling the movements to move on the offensive; it has to be emphasised in that respect: (i) possible and necessary short and medium term objectives at national, regional and global levels; (ii) the general outlines of an alternative for a better "other world".