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Gedanken zur weltweiten Situation im Hinblick auf eine Erneuerung der sozialen Bewegungen für eine alternative Globalisierung

Beitrag von Gustave Massiah in englischer Sprache für die Beratungen des Internationalen Rates des Weltsozialforum in Tunis im Juli 2012 im Hinblick auf die Vorbereitung des Weltsozialforum 2013

(Für eine automatische Roh-Übersetzung seitens Google bitte hier klicken)

For its Monastir meeting, the International Council of the World Social Forum has planned to hold an open debate concerning the global situation. A debate which has several goals. Fundamentally, it aims to evaluate the development of social forums and reflect upon the International Council's situation in order to assess its internal contradictions, as well as to highlight the role of the process' involvement in mass mobilizations and struggles.  Furthermore, it aims to contribute to the preparation of the WSF in 2013, which is taking place in Tunis. The debate must not be limited to merely analyzing the situation; it must also focus on strengthening the process itself in order to serve social and grassroots movements. This introductory text aims to examine the different subjects that make up this debate: the crisis and its evolution, the new cycle of struggles and revolutions, the fight for ideas, political mobilizations and transformations, the Maghreb-Machrek region, and the current situation of the social forum process.

The crisis and its evolution

That which was originally called a crisis has evolved. The WSF analyzed the nature of this crisis several times, as did the thematic regional social forums, as well as the forums held by the International Council. It has already been determined that the financial dimension – the most visible one – is the result of the deepening crisis. This goes beyond other types of crisis: open, food, energy, climate and monetary crises, … furthermore, this crisis is composed by four distinct dimensions: the socio-economic dimension, which is that of social inequality and corruption; the geopolitical dimension, which deals with the end of  the United State's hegemony in the world stage, the crisis in Japan and in Europe as well as the rise of new world powers; the ideological dimension with the questioning of democracy as well as of racist and xenophobic movements; and the ecological dimension, which addresses the ongoing dangers posed to the planet's ecosystem.

In truth, it deals with a triple crisis, three crises, one within the other if you will: a neoliberalist crisis concerning capitalist globalization; a capitalist system crisis that combined the specific contradiction of production modes with the contradiction between capital and employment and that which is proposed in the productivist model and the problems affecting the planet's ecosystem; and a civilization crisis, the crisis of Western civilization, which requires the re-evaluation of the interactions between the human species and nature which have defined Western modernity and even provided the basis for contemporary science.

The people's resistance has exacerbated the neoliberalist crisis; confirming the role of social contradictions in the final phase of the capitalist globalization process. Social inequality, unemployment and instability have decreased mass consumption and given way to a “superproduction” crisis. The process of getting rid of debt met its limitations with the expansion of the financial derivatives market, contaminating all stock markets. The explosion of the “subprime” crisis represents the transfer of debts, from families on to financial institutions. The public debt crisis got started thanks to the bank bail-outs carried out by the State. The reduction of deficit by instituting adjustment plans should supposedly be a solution for this crisis, which wouldn't affect earnings and maintain the control of the global capital market as well as  shareholders' privileges. This confrontation has taken a very unfavorable turn in Europe, where the economic crisis as well as the geopolitical crisis have combined in a very particular way and the future of the supremacy of the global capital market is at stake.

Nevertheless, the depletion of neoliberalism does not mean capitalism has been overcome. It gives way to a period characterized by a structural crisis, which shall be the stage for the confrontation of three possible exits: the strengthening of the financial dictatorship under new forms and the inclusion of nature within the financial circuits; the realignment of capitalism towards public regulation and social modernization; or a rupture that leads to overcoming capitalism. These new situations are characterized by specifically addressing these three potential exit tactics.

The new cycle of struggles and revolutions

The hypothesis that the people's answer to the worsening of the crisis during 2008 and the repressive austerity measures that followed, opened a new cycle of struggles and revolutions. The new winds of revolution originating in Tunisia have spread, first to Egypt. Inspiring the people to rebel against dictatorships, they extended throughout the whole region of Maghreb-Machrek. They crossed the Mediterranean and made their way through southern Europe, raising the issue of real democracy in Spain, Portugal and Greece. They regained strength crossing the Atlantic to join Occupy Wall Street and the people of London and Montreal, who identified the oligarchies with an accusative slogan “You are the 1%, we are the 99%”. Today, it has adopted broader forms in several countries – Chile, Canada, Senegal, Croatia – which clamor against the worsening educational systems and the spread of debt. People in squares all over the world shout “Enough is enough!”, “Ya basta!”, “Ca suffit!” in Plaza del Sol in Madrid and in Plaza de Catalunya in Barcelona, as  well as in many other cities, following the examples from the Casbah square in Tunis and Tahir square in Cairo. Economic and political power have been pointed out as the culprits  of this crisis. The masks of of the financial powers' dictatorship have fallen off, clearing the way for “low intensity democracy”.

Beyond these specifications, this new cycle of struggles calling for social justice, and the overturn of poverty, inequality and corruption; the demand for democratic systems that guarantee inherent freedoms – be them individual or collective – and a life of dignity for each individual; the associated geopolitical contradictions associated to Western hegemony; the environmental contradictions that are increasingly surrounding us. They highlight the social contradictions found between the working class and the oligarchies. These are all grievances are shared by movements in all countries of the world, and at a global level. They are updated and shared in public spaces, presented as evidence. They give way to questioning the necessary cultural hegemony that enables the ongoing control of values, which is exerted by the bourgeoisie and the ruling elites.

What emanates from the squares is a new generation that imposes itself in a public space. It's not the typical youth as defined by an age group, but a cultural generation that inserts itself into a situation and transforms it. It presents evidence of the existence of strong social transformations associated with the education of society given the high incidence of brain-drain and unemployed professionals. Migration has linked this generation with the world and the opened their eyes to the existing contradictions concerning  consumption, culture and values. The results are obviously contradictory, but they reduce isolation. Unemployed professionals build a new class alliance among working and middle class children. New student movements have alerted people about the failure of educational systems worldwide. Neoliberalism has not fulfilled its promise of providing employment in exchange for education, nor good quality of life in exchange for consumption. Furthermore, the phenomenon of student indebtedness has steadily worsened the situation for the new generations. 

This new generation is the one building – with its demands and some creativity – a new political culture. It has changed the way that social structure determinants are linked: classes and social strata, religions, national or cultural references, gender and age, migration and diaspora, territories. It experiments with new types of organization, from managing digital and social networks, from self-organization to horizontality. It tries to define, when going through different situations, autonomic forms between the movements and political events. It looks for a way to link what is individual with what is collective. Perhaps this is the level in which diverse social networks give way to new cultures, such as is the case for open software collectives that can fight for their goals in a collective manner yet carefully guarding  the independence found in individuality. Squares are no longer the only meeting point. There is occupation and exchange present, but not by voting, which is always necessary but never enough. It's not a change concerning politics, but a process that is redefining politics.

The main issue today is that of the relationship between the new movements and the alterglobalization movement. The new movements have not been organized alongside the alterglobalization one, although the relationship between both sides has existed since the very beginning. The hypothesis is that the current  cycle of struggles corresponds to a new phase in the alterglobalization movement.  And this requires that alterglobalization, as a historical and anti-systemic movement, be considered as having started at the very beginning of the neoliberalist movement, undergoing many phases since: in 1980, in the southern countries fighting against growing debt, the structural adjustment, the IMF and the World Bank; in 1995, with the fights against poverty, unemployment and the destruction of social protections; in 2000 with the world social forum process. Nowadays, the new movements give way to a brand new phase. And a new phase does not cancel out the previous ones. Each new phase extends, adds on and renovates the aspects that characterized the previous phase. It forces them to transform. The new movements mark the transition between the last phase that was opened by neoliberalism, and the anti-systemic movements in the upcoming phase.

Ideological confrontation

The confrontation was most clearly seen in the battle for ideas. The world social forums have given this battle two fronts: one characterized by an alternative orientation and the other characterized by immediate measures that are imposed and which concern the consequences of the crisis on the living conditions for working class people.

An alternative orientation came forward from the world social forums. Different societies and even the whole world can organize themselves following a different logic from the dominant logic of subordination to the global capitals market.  Different societies, as well as the world, can organize themselves based on equal access to rights and equality of rights for all, in the local and global spheres.

During the last ten years, the Forums have made several proposals to be applied immediately: the abolishment of tax and legal heavens, the tax on financial transactions, the differentiation between deposit banks and commercial banks, the socialization of the financial sector, the abolishment of the derivatives market, the redistribution of income, universal social protection... These are all proposals that are not by any means revolutionary, but that yet nowadays they have been taken over by establishment economists and even some governments. Although their declarations are useless given that they don't have any effect because their actual implementation would require to break away from the neoliberal dogma and the financial markets' dictatorship. These are the dominating forces, and they will not renounce to their enormous privileges without a fight.

During the debates for the preparation movements leading up to the Rio+20 conference, there was a clash among the three possible exits to the structural crisis. The working document prepared by the United Nations and the member Countries has focused on a vision of “green economy”, which the movements themselves question in its entirety. Within this vision, the way out of this crisis is through the expansion of the world market, by way of an “unlimited market” requiring growth. For the expansion of the world market, that they call green market, they proposed to finance Nature, marketizing everything that is alive and privatize as much as possible. Which is a premise opposite to the premises of public and grassroots regulation. Merely an extension of neoliberal logic, the logic of uncontrolled capitalism which led to this catastrophe in the first place. 

According to this logic, one must oppose to the idea that free access to rights is inherently free. Nature produces services (filters carbon, purifies water,...). And it was even stated that their free nature is contributing to the degradation of these services. To improve them, a price must be fixed for them, a price defined by the market. They must be marketized and adhere a sense of property to them. The objective is to replace the right to human property over Nature by the concept of private property which may allow a good management of Nature. This management of Nature would have to be left in the hands of large international corporations, focused on finance, which would know how to administer it and make up for any insufficiency. A new offensive is in place, aiming to eliminate all reference to fundamental rights, and with the possibility of weakening the markets. Said offensive reveals the United Nation's submission to the pressure exerted by international corporations, and the subordination of  international law to business law. The alliance between the member Countries and the great financial companies will marginalize multilateralism and put international law at risk.

The second conception if that of the Green New Deal, which is defended by Joseph Stieglitz and Paul Krugman. They propose a radical restructuring of capitalism, which includes public regulation and redistribution of income. It seems a bit preposterous given that it implies a confrontation against mainstream logic, the logic of the global capital market which rejects Keynesian references and is not willing to accept that any inflationary process decreases the revaluation of earnings. This situation reminds one of the New Deal, which was adopted in 1933 and could only be applied in 1945, after the second world war.  

The third conception is that proposed by social and grassroots movements; it was developed throughout the process of world social forums. Social movements are not indifferent at the possibility of improvements in employment and purchasing power, which is proposed under the Green New Deal. But they consider that currently it is not possible to materialize these goals, and that the productivist growth associated to any type of capitalism, even regulated capitalism, cannot escape from the limits set by the global ecosystem and it is therefore not viable.

Social movements entail a rupture from social, environmental and democratic transition. They put forward new concepts, new ways or producing and consuming. Some of these include: common goods and new types of property, control of finances, well-being and prosperity without growth, the reinvention of democracy, common and differentiated responsibilities, public services based on rights, etc. The goal is that the organization of societies as well as of the world, be based on every individual's access to their rights. Nowadays, this rupture is in process, powered by the different fights that have been led against oppressing factors, since creativity is born from the resistance that is found along the way as well as from concrete emancipation practices that, at a local and global level, have paved the way for new alternatives.

Mobilizations and political transformations

Ideological confrontation is not necessary. Particularly if one doesn't forget the necessary battle for cultural hegemony. But this is not enough. And the social forum process as well as the alterglobalization movement are confronted with two problems: mobilizations and political transformations.

How to ensure that mobilizations are up to par with the challenges that lie ahead? To do so, the WSF process must answer two questions: Does the WSF process ensure that the mobilization of movements is strengthened within the different national panoramas and within the panorama of the greatest struggles that are faced (salaries, farmers, woman’s rights, human rights, native people, environment...)? Does the WSF process allow for the mobilization to advance at a global scale, confronting the financial powers and the global capital market, and international corporations, politicians and international institutions? It's obvious that progress within these fields is unavoidable and that in order to do so, new proposals are required.

How to build political outlets? Within this point, the question is asked based on two scales: one the one hand, that of long-term perspectives and on the other, that of immediate opportunities. The movements that make up the alterglobalization movement emphasize the deep transformation, under the necessary transition, which entails a social, environmental and democratic rupture. It advocates the necessary confrontation against financial markets, as a determinant of this transition.

On the long term, it's necessary to go over the issue of power once more. If one continues to state that the political issue is linked to a State seizing power, preferably by means of elections, this will only pave the way towards the creation of state-parties, risking being separated from the fraction of the population that does not believe in politics. One must also question the contradictory nature of the State, a domination instrument used by the bourgeoisie and its reproduction, but at the same time an instrument of general interest for public and civil regulation. The challenges of the new revolution must be defined: the definition of new social relationships, the reinvention of democracy and a new phase of decolonization.

Currently, political power is defined on a case by case basis. Movements must define, in each country and at a national level, based on the relationship with States and in function of their case, the relationship established with political parties and political instances. From that point of view, without forgoing criticism, they will have the possibility to evaluate the interest of certain regimes and influence their evolution. At a global level, the alterglobalization movement defines its actions in the ideological battle, in the battle for ideas, for international law. The movements have before them a varied range of action, particularly at a local and regional level. It's essential that they conserve their autonomy, an autonomy that does not exclude direct commitments whichever their situation may be. The movements participate in the necessary separation of powers, which is the condition for the respect of individual and collective liberties, which is what in turn defines a democracy. The challenge is a reinvention of the relationship between power and politics.

Among these three subjects, urgency, the dictatorship of realism and structural transformation, movements are confronted with the need to define a new strategical thought. Above all because they also confront the very serious subject of military strategies, never-ending war and systematic destabilization.

The Maghreb and Machrek regions

The WSF will convene in Tunis, the source of a new cycle of struggles and revolutions. The Mediterranean insurrections are the bearers of revolutionary hope. It must be recognized that we are undergoing a revolutionary situation, a situation that takes place “when the ones in the bottom don't want to be governed anymore and when those on top are not able to govern anymore”. And in this cycle of revolutions, new ideas and methods are in development, nothing is predetermined. We are going through a period that incites public discussion concerning revolutions and ruptures. Some clues are being gathered.

The length of time required for revolutions is long and by no means lineal. Ruptures are not definitive. Some situations are avoided so that the people's insurrections lead to civil war. Popular revolts against dictatorial regimes must confront bloody repressions that also open up the doors to neighboring dominant powers. And they make it hard to accurately perceive long-term challenges when faced with complex dramatic situations.

Beyond this much needed democratization, an alternative solution to capitalist globalization is being developed. This solution must address current social, environmental, geopolitical and democratic contradictions. Another main challenge is the new decolonization phase, which would correspond to the step of States' independence, which characterized the first phase of decolonization, leading to the achievement of self-determination. This new decolonization phase is not reduced to the rise of the so-called   emerging countries, rather is builds upon the convergence of movements that progressed within the space of the world social forums. This new decolonization phase will address subjects such as the drainage of natural resources, particularly water, climate, biodiversity, the control of raw materials and land-grabbing practices.

The process is still searching for its path at a regional scale and is only foreseeable one generation down the road. In southern Europe, about thirty years ago, regimes allied to neoliberalism took advantage of the abolishment of dictatorships, clearly showing the limits of democratization. This situation has but Europe on a dead-end road, and it requires it to reinvent its nature. Latin America has been emerging from its harsh dictatorships throughout the last thirty years and democratization merely gave way a period of bourgeois democracies. These regimes implemented neoliberalist growth systems, that answer to the dominant logic, while establishing more or less limited democratization. The United States went from controlling dictatorships to using new control methods on the bourgeois democracies. But throughout this process new social and civil movements have developed, which have modified the situation in many countries and in the Region, opening it up to new possibilities.

There are even more examples that allow for reflection upon the long and chaotic period of revolutionary changes. A brief glance upon these periods allows one to remember that after all revolutionary events, a backtracking process takes place, or directly one of restoration. In the case of the mobilizations for the 1965 to 1973 period, which took place across the world, led to a return to individualism concerning libertarianism, the recycling of elitism concerning egalitarianism, and a false adoration of the universal which got confused with occidentalization and imagination hiding behind marketization. All these revolutions haven't truly finished yet, but their original momentum is still the force behind new emancipation movements. 

In the Maghreb-Machrek region, contradictions will expand together with the attempts of conservative regimes and new social as well as civil movements that will rise during the new period. Within this perspective is where we find a reflection concerning the evolution of political Islam. And also, in this situation and in all the regions, can the reality of migration, the importance of which is exacerbated by the crisis, racism, and xenophobia in all the diverse societies that compose it. The rejection of foreigners endangers the cohesion of each of these societies.

The situation of processes concerning the world social forums

Alterglobalization is a historical movements that prolongs and renews all previous ones: the movement for civil and political rights, workers' movements, decolonization, the movement for the renovation of democracy. Also must this main movement must renovate, reinvent itself. The burnout of neoliberalism, together with the will to improve, will finish with a new phase of capitalism globalization accompanied by a new logic, contradictions and new anti-systemic strength.

The social forum process is spreading. New political culture is influencing initiatives and mobilizations beyond the process itself. Self-organized activities, the search for forms of authority that are not based on hierarchy, the diversity in the convergence of movements, are just some examples.

The thematic forums deepen the strategic orientation, which is that of equal rights and mobilizations against capitalist logic. They are bearers of a new generation of rights (Nature's rights, freedom of movement, food sovereignty …). They propose public politics. They allow for the exchange of concrete emancipation practices. The objective is to start building a different world, from now on, based on the necessary alternatives and ruptures required. The list of thematic forums, both regional and global, gets longer each time; around fifty are already calculated just for the 2012-2013 period.

The national and regional forums are exploring new ways of political transformation and opening up the subject on the evolution of regimes and relationships between movements and States. New post-neoliberal policies are being developed. They are not anti-capitalist but they look for alternative autonomic roads when confronted with the global capital market (export taxes, nationalizations …) and the possibilities of partial redistribution. They result in the fragmentation of the social movement. The autonomy of social movements is still a priority, even during negotiations and when providing support to certain regimes.

One more subject is left to discuss: the evolution of the International Council and its role.

The alterglobalization movement cannot be reduced to just the social forums. There are new movements on the rise that are becoming very relevant. As well as new initiatives underway, such as we saw with the mobilizations against G20 and the People's Summit at Rio+20. From the process of world social forums, the objective is to think about giving a step towards a new phase and undergoing a deep renovation of the alterglobalization movement.


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