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DEBATE IN DAKAR FEBRUARY 2011 WITH MEENA MENON AND OTHERS

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SAMIR AMIN

ON WORLD SOCIAL FORUM

 

Prabir- I will start with some of the issues we had thought of, when we started this whole process of holding this round table, as it transpires now, which is that we have a global crisis that has been there for last two, two and a half, three years; deep financial crisis in large parts of the world; more or less people on to the streets in various cases. The question is, what way has the forum responded or helped this crisis or the response to the crisis? Has it brought new ideas through the forum to contest what is happening? Has it produced new actors who have been able to play their role against the kind of attacks on the working class that we are seeing? How do you really evaluate the role of the forum in the crisis that is taking place? This is in some sense the driver of this workshop to evaluate what it is that forum has done or could do. If it has really no role in the crisis then what is it that we are here in the forum for? So obviously, we feel that we should be players or actors in some sense, or the forum should be, in some sense, a player or an actor in response to the crisis and that is the basic issue that I think we need to reflect upon. How has it played a role? What role has it played? And what role can it play? With this, I will start the discussion with Samir, who has been talking about it for a long time. He has been writing about it. We would like to hear his views on it and then we will follow it up with the other speakers. Samir.

Samir Amin: Thank you. I shall start by saying the following. First, the crisis did not start in 2008. Immanuel can testify that we wrote the book together with some others on the crisis in the middle of the seventies, when it started. But it moved, it is moving into a deeper stage with enormous chaotic political consequences. That is what is new and it will continue to develop. What is important in my view, is that the system, I.e. capitalism, neo liberal capitalism, capitalism which cannot be dissociated from its imperialist dimension, is really losing legitimacy at a very fast rate. It started in Latin America a few years ago. It is moving elsewhere, strongly and quickly, and most probably it will continue to develop in that way.

What does it mean? This system has never been very strongly popular in any place in the south. But it was accepted, as if there was no hope of having better. That doesn't mean there were no struggles, but these were limited here and there. What has changed?  The major change is that we can see now how this system may be completely dismantled through the ongoing struggles. That does not mean, unfortunately, that what the alternative to it is appears clearly. Yet we should not be afraid from going on and develop the struggles with a view to dismantling the system. And in my opinion, this will develop fast, in the coming months and years in many places  in the south. That is what is new.

Second, even in the North, the system is losing legitimacy, less brutally, because the consensus on the electoral democracy is still accepted by everybody. Capitalism is, more or less, accepted by everybody and its imperialist dimensions are, more or less, accepted by everybody.  Yet, as a result of the enormous social devastation, the system is no more in the position that it was a few years ago. It feels a little menaced.

Now, vis a vis that situation, the major struggles have not been organised by the Social Forum. No. The major struggles have come out of conflicts developing at the national level. This is the real framework for political organisation and struggle. Those struggles have indeed achieved some progress, whenever there were a combination of class organised struggles ( I would not say social movement, because it means everything and nothing) , i.e. political organised struggles, for democracy, for concrete rights supported by strong actions from movements having popular roots; and depending on the cases, with connections with radical left parties, which are very different from one country to another. Now, the world social forum was, I think, a product of the beginning of that progress and therefore, in my opinion, it has been a very positive initiative.

I do not necessarily personally agree with the charter, but that was what people agreed upon. It's not important, it's not decisive. The Forum has been a place of meeting of many movements but for sure, almost never those movements which, here and there, appear as being the most effective in struggles. That is in some way normal because a world forum is not something very easy to attend by most people in struggle. In addition due to the opening of the forum to everybody, which means that a large number of organisations which do not represent much in terms of the struggles get a place in the Forums , those who are more involved in real struggles do not appear as they should. I could give many examples. A few years ago, there were in Egypt the strongest strikes since fifty years for the whole continent of Africa.  I met many of the young people who organised those strikes, none of them had ever heard of the names of the Social Forum- including the Egyptian Social Forum, not only the World Social Forum. It is interesting to note that the organisations of the youth in Egypt, which are quite close to the radical left and had played a major role starting the movement, simply ignore the Forum. If you read what they have written during years and years of preparations there is no reference to any social forum and even the language of social movements is missing.

Still, the World Social Forum has continued and I think that it is still positive. Yet the Forum must go beyond what it has been until now. It is not enough for it to “ echo” the major struggles, draft letters of support and circulate petitions such as, today, the letters of solidarity with the Egyptian people. The Forum must radicalize. I mean it has to find ways and means of having radical movements more interested in it. Lack of such an evolution the Forum will gradually lose its relative importance. This is my fear. I don't know if this fear is shared by the majority. But that is my summary view. Thank you.

Samir: I think in order to move ahead in answering the questions- in which direction and how the world social forum and social forums in general should develop in order to adjust to the rising demand, we ought to deepen the debate and the proposals of analysis of what is the strategy of the enemy. That is what the strategy of global monopoly capital is. What is the political strategy of the imperialist states which are their tools? We ought to do that because there are different strategies possible of the enemy. My feeling is that, of course, there are lot of writings on that subject, but there is no place, or little place, where these analysis of global counter strategy of global capitalism are discussed and analysed. We need to develop those debates in order to identify the forces, whether social, segments of classes and so on, political forces, ideological forces, which can be co-opted by the enemy, with a view to weakening them.

The example was given of green capitalism, but there are other examples, such as a “neo-communism”, “neo new social democracy” which have to be discussed. I don't want to reject or accept assessments in these areas immediately, in five minutes. I have a tendency to reject the proposals of such “neos”, but this is not the point. The matter has to be discussed because serious forces on the left have their own opinion about that which are different. We should have a place to discuss that. I don't think that the world social forum is the place to discuss that. I think we should create other fora which will not be enemies, but that would help the world social forum to move ahead. Otherwise, if you leave it to the spontaneous result of interaction in the world social forums, as they are, I am afraid that nothing will happen or nothing at the level of challenge.