WORLD DEVELOPMENTS AND "ALTER-GLOBALISM"
There are currently three big issues that shape the world developments and impact upon the different levels of social transformation (i.e. global, regional, and national or local). I will start by assuming that we are facing a triple crisis: the crisis of the
The environmental crisis is on. There is an increased awareness of the limits of the planet’s ecosystem and the negative impacts our actions can have on future generations’ rights. This more acute awareness goes hand in hand with the emergence of the so-called “alterglobalist” movement, started at the Rio Conference in 1992. However, despite strong voices and many activities doted around the world, the movement is still to jeopardise the capitalist mode of production in its productivist form. The consequences of productivism on the link between the environmental dimension and the social and democratic dimensions, and the inequality between the countries, form a recurring debate within the environmental movements and the alliances between citizens and social movements. This is one of the most crucial issues for the future of the “alterglobalist” movement.
Let us discuss the assumption of the crisis of neoliberalism. The neoliberal phase of globalisation is in crisis: a new phase may start; however the shape of this new phase has not yet been determined. Neoliberalism is a phase of capitalist globalisation, it is not its objective and there is no stable neoliberal scenario in the long run. The neoliberal phase might thus be a transition that started at the end of the 1970’s. It represents a close link between a socio-economic option, the regulation of capital by the world market, and a politically conservative option. Mrs Thatcher was pushing neoliberal policies in order to destroy the British unions, but also wanted to destroy the unions in order to impose the neoliberal model. As of 1980, a reinforcement of the neo-conservative model sways through the world. From 1980 to 1989, it is a period of experimentation and power build-up, and from 1989, a return of “the social”. In 1995, an anti-systemic movement starts to organise and consolidate itself. It is the “alterglobalist” movement. In 2001, the 9-11 bombings accelerate the neo-con direction.
From an ideological point of view, the crisis of neoliberalism is closely interrelated to the growing importance taken by alterglobalism, which has reinforced the system’s internal contradictions. This refusal to accept things as they are, expressed by the slogan “Another world is possible”, also goes against the ideological offensives that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989: “the End of History” and the “War of Civilisations”. Nevertheless, the crisis of neoliberalism does not mean it will inevitably disappear. There are several middle-run possible scenarios: a) neoliberalism is strengthened, b) the neo-con ideology dominates, c) a neo-keynesian option. In the middle run, it is very unlikely that an “alterglobalist” option sees the day: the political conditions are far from being fulfilled. Nevertheless, a reinforcement of the alterglobalist movement will weigh on the possible developments.
There are uncertainties due to the economic situation of the next three years. The world economy is pulled by the Asian economies – mainly Chinese –, and remains dependent upon the Chinese economy’s instabilities and its imbalance with the
The crisis of
hegemony is quickly developing. Three years ago, Immanuel Wallerstein wrote in a ground-breaking article that the US had lost their ideological, economical and political hegemony, whilst remaining dominant. He went on to say that the USA were left with the military hegemony and that they were definitely going to use it. If the evolution of the war in USA has destabilised the military hegemony, it has also served to reinforce it. The more the USA are getting stuck in Iraq, the more they are tempted to overdo it and go on a never-ending headlong rush to a general destabilisation through an endless war. Wallerstein also wrote that the Iraq ’s strength was its capacity to build on their own weaknesses; they remain the only functioning superpower; and the others (UE, USA , Russia , etc.) cannot ignore them because the consequences for them would be much more serious. The difference between hegemony and domination and the success of certain offensives must be underlined: for instance the power to impose the idea of the so-called war of civilisations as an ideological basis to military domination and reinforced security policies that feed racism in all its forms. Fighting this idea of a so-called war of civilisations and the very real endless war is one of the priorities for the alterglobalist movement. China
Despite facing growing discontent, the
The big global companies remain main players in the world economy, although they still aren’t able to directly run the world and need to go through governments and international institutions. The crisis of neoliberalism is made obvious through the hesitations and a certain confusion on the part of the economic players. Although they state, again and again, their agreement with the
Regional developments vary, because each region reacts to the crisis of the
The crisis of the
The national political developments linked to neoliberalism are varied. In many regions of the global South, in
In Northern countries, the convergence of extreme right-wing and mainstream right-wing movements has led to a reinforcement of an extreme right. This alliance is a reaction to the 1990s movements (1994 in
Not to forget the same right-wing populist moves in
The success of the extreme right was built in two phases: 1) construction of an extreme right, 2) forcing the right to make an alliance with that extreme right. The extreme right has managed to displace the political scene towards the extreme right by placing the debate on insecurity, immigration and xenophobia. These are the grounds it has been preparing for the past 25 years. In the past 25 years, a battle of wits has allowed the construction of a fascistic alternative built on a call for order. The clubs that prepared the arrival of Tatcher then Reagan, such as the Club de l’Horloge in France, the evangelist right-wing ideas and the various strict religious movements launched a first offensive against equality through a genetic justification of differences, races and inequality. The second wave of the ideological offensive rejects upon the poor and the marginal the responsibility for their own situation and suggests a fight against insecurity and incivility through repression and a generalised genetic filing of the population. The main ideological struggle against this neo-con ideology is one that must be led on a philosophical, scientific, political and cultural level; this is one of the main tasks for the alterglobalist movement.
The traditional left has strengthened its position as government parties but not been able to impose itself. It has always preferred alternating to the construction of an alternative. Social democracy has lost its capacity to represent a real social transformation project. It remains in a stable position, however it is a “blairite” position, without caricaturing it and accepting that there can be a less atlantist option, or less “bushite” position, trying to combine a neoliberal acceptation with a reboosting of the public services. It is faced with an internal reconstruction that combines three movements walking alongside, with different ways of saying things, in all parties and left-wing movements. Let us make the difference between: a “blairite” trend, tempted by world neoliberalism, a regulatory and Keynesian trend, more attached to the welfare state, and an alterglobalist trend that is looking for a new alternative.
The alterglobalist trend
The alterglobalist movement has not stalled. It is fashionable to announce that the movement is losing ground, however it is constantly getting bigger and deeper. First, it is widening geographically, as is obvious through the world social forums in Porto Alegre, Mumbai or Nairobi, the polycentric forum in Bamako, Caracas or Karachi, the continental forums and the national forums of which that in the USA in June 2006 in Atlanta; plus the never-ending list of local forums. It is also widening socially, as is obvious through the openings to farmers’ movements (for instance the landless movements), the trade unions, the “voiceless” movements (for instance the Dalits), the groups representing rough areas and slums, the migrants’ forums, the women’s global march, and the youth camps. Lastly, it is widening thematically, as shown by the organisation of thematic forums like those on education or water, and the forums where local authorities, members of parliament, judges, etc., meet.
The alterglobalist movement has been getting progressively more powerful over a very short period of time, in less than 10 years. However, it hasn’t won. Winning in so little time would have been surprising; and in any case, what does “winning” mean? The alterglobalist movement is a long term movement. Moreover, the forms of political expression within the alterglobalist movement are very varied. It is a movement of movements. This diversity – that is cacophony for some – has advantages and limitations. In many countries, the forums haven’t helped to make changes because the movements were weak. The movement evolves according to the various situations; let us make a few assumptions that may shed light on the debate about our strategy.
First assumption: The alterglobalist movement is a historical long term movement. The movement follows three previous historical movements and is acting as their renewal: the historical decolonisation movement – alterglobalism has deeply modified the North-South representations and instead voiced a common project. The workers’ struggle historical movement – a shift has been operated towards a social and citizens’ world movement. The pro-democracy struggle movement of the 1960-1970s — the need for democracy is being renewed, after the implosion of the Soviets in 1989 and the regression brought by security-obsessed ideologies. Decolonisation, social struggle and pro-democracy and freedom campaigns are the historical cultural reference for the alterglobalist movement.
Second assumption: the alterglobalist movement must oppose neoliberalism, neoconservatism and their consequences. The dominant conception of growth, based on an adjustment to the world market and the regulation of capital by the world market, has led to a strengthening of inequalities and poverty, in each country and between countries. The social structure that follows infers discrimination and racism: the new mode of development must start with a fight against discrimination. The limits of the planet’s ecosystem and the respect for future generations’ rights negate the idea of productivism. Refusing neo-con ideas also means refusing the supremacy of the military and of permanent and preventive war. The democratic dimension and the defence of freedom mean refusing a security-obsessed ideology, identities closed up upon themselves to the exclusion of others, fundamentalism, zero tolerance and the criminalisation of movements. Our vision of social transformation presents five dimensions that we need to voice: economic, social, environmental, democratic and anti-war dimensions.
Third assumption: the alterglobalist movement has helped to make an alternative concrete. Starting with a protest against neoliberalism, the movement has expressed its refusal to accept things as there are and moved on from resistance to counter-offensive, putting forward alternatives. The strategic vision that imposed itself through the forums is the following: instead of an organisation of societies and the world through an adjustment to the world market and the authority of a world market of capital, we present an organisation of societies and the world around the principle of access to rights for all. This principle has already changed the nature of the movements which convergence is the main characteristic of alterglobalism; each movement has evolved interiorising the priority given to access to rights for all. We must insist on the fact that the alterglobalist movement still hasn’t recovered from the historical defeat that was socialism. It still hasn’t suggested the idea of building a world alternative in the same way as historical socialism was one.
Fourth assumption: the alterglobalist movement has enlarged. It remains based upon the convergence of social and citizens’ movements, which combine struggles and resistances, campaigns and mobilisations, innovating social practices, elaboration, alternatives, proposals for negotiation. The movements promote the construction of a new political culture that goes hand in hand with the forums. The citizens’ expertise negates the monopoly of dominant expertise and of a unique way of thinking: it makes concrete a move away from « TINA » (There Is No Alternative), that Mrs Tatcher loved, towards the possibility of thinking another world is possible.
Fifth assumption: the alterglobalist movement is entering a new period. We are at the end of a cycle of world social forums, started after
A new cycle of world social forums
The alterglobalist movement is not only the social forums. It is the process of the forums that is particularly important. Even more so for Alter-inter that built itself within this process. We have responsibilities that are particular, and this is why we need to pay a lot of attention on the contradictions of the forums’ process.
The Nairobi WSF was one of the most interesting because it gave rise to many contradictions. The world dimension of the WSF was good. There were strong contingents from several continents (
The African dimension of the WSF was excellent. First regarding participation, but also because several big African contingents were composed of many ordinary people; they had mobilised popular movements and were prepared by national social forums.
The Kenyan dimension of the WSF was much less convincing. Let alone organisational problems, there were many fights within the Kenyan social movement. In terms of affluence, estimation went from 30,000 to 60,000 people. In a country like
There are many issues relating to the social forum process. Criticisms against the organisation of the WSF and some of the choices made are legitimate. However, they should not occult the issues raised by the process and that were somehow already there in the previous forums.
Geographically, the forum has enlarged. We knew it wouldn’t be easy to have a forum in
It is difficult to measure the impact of a WSF, because there is a difference between the impact of a forum event and the impact of the forums’ process. The issue relating to the number of participants mustn’t be played up. However, the media focus is on, and pushes to gigantism. The presence of the media itself is relative; but are we expecting a striking visibility or “sympathy” from the media? The impact we are looking for first relates to quality: it is more about diversity and convergence than about standardisation. Evolution is obvious in that matter: for instance, the topics are discussed in a much deeper way than at the start of the WSF.
The widening of the social bases certainly isn’t enough, but it is real. Trade unions, farmers’ organisations and residents’ associations have always been here; thus in
Participation of the poor and excluded means a special prolonged and difficult effort; in particular in order to make sure the representatives associations of these popular strata are present at the forum. For the NoVox, the Dalits in Mumbai and the fishermen in