Facing accelerated climate change and the crisis of global capitalism, social movements and the WSF are confronted with huge challenges. Susan George (Transnational Institute/Attac France), Immanuel Wallerstein (world system theorist at Yale University), Samir Amin (Third World Forum, Dakar), Pat Mooney (ETC group Canada) and Jai Sen (CACIM, India) speak about future perspectives for movements and the Forum.
David Goeßmann: The Forum in Dakar had to struggle with enormous logistic probema. One reason was, that the President of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, had cut the budget for the Forum some weeks before its start; also, the director of the university was dismissed and a new director appointed who did not provide the rooms any more that had been agreed upon before.
Antonio Martins: There was not enough space for everything.
Fabian Scheidler: Apart from the logistic problems, there were also intense discussions in workshops and in the International Council about the challenges for the forum and social movements in the present and future.
Jai Sen: It's a fact the the Forum in Brazil which is a multi racial society was overwhelmingly white for the first five years. Why? The mixed ethnies and the indigineous people, the blacks were kept away. It was not their Forum. And the Brasilian Forum had to fight to make it a multi racial Forum. They got a shock like hell when they came to India and saw the Dalits taking part. India in 2004 transformed the Forum. They suddenly saw that in their face and they realized the racism of the Forum. And they went back and in the next few years had rebuild the Forum. They brought in people of color, people around the world who have been subjugated historically. This is the big change that has taken place in the last ten years. Since 94 in Chiapas there went a message across to many indigineous peoples in Latin America that another world is possible. A wold in which many worlds fit. The rise of working class people, of indigineous people these classes and sections are rising today across the world. That is the biggest challenge for the Forum. It's not their Forum today. The leaders of the existing Forum like to believe it is and they make every effort. But we are realizing that the codes by which the indigineous peoples and other peoples operate are very different. Not radically different. There may be room for ground but there is the need for change in the charta of principles.
Samir Amin: The movements who meet in those Forums are not necessarily and are unfortunately not the major movements in struggle. Because they are occupied. It's not the World Social Forum which changes the World. It's the struggles of the people. And to the extend that it has some echo in the World Social Forum the best. But nothing more. Let us be very modest. The major movements including after all what changed some governments to the better in Latin America were gigantic struggles which were not major present among the World Social Forum. Such as for instance from Bolivia the indigineous movements, the worker's trade unions, the miners, etc. They were not. You can see that the Egytian people are not here. Of course you can say that they today are occupied elsewhere. But that hasn't started from yesterday. It has been prepared for years. They were never here. When I spoke with new independent trade unions which came out of the strikes three years ago in Egypt none of them has ever heard of the name of the World Social Forum. So we ought to be very modest. That doesn't exclude considering this place of meeting. Because there are no others now being useful and important.
Winni Overbeck: I think you cannot overestimate the forum. I have contacted several African organisations and they didn't even know about the forum. But when they heard about the forum they were interested to participate. What we have here is only a fraction of local communities, the NGOs that are working against these corporations. But still very little people from the local communites. Somehow the big issues like climate crisis, land grabbing in Africa we have to come down to the bigger part of the population to make them concious about what's going on to make a movement really. Because we are few people sometimes too occupied with the big international processes where we really come to a conclusion we have very little impact. So our organisation is trying to be close to the basis and to report about what's going on. Like with the climate crisis you have these false solutions. Many agrofuel plantations, biomass plantations. So we try to go there and talk with the people and write about it and led people know what's going on and what are the impacts of these false solutions. And also try to stop them. But I think we still depend on a bigger change which means that everybody of us need to go inside their comunities in the schools, try to work with the media. But it's a hard struggle. It's not ... struggle. But it's an important event.
Susan George: What could the forum do better? I think it is not visible enough. We are very glad that some televisions want to know what were up to and some reporters. A lady, who is the director of the library, which is behind us, has just told me that she was overwhelmed with requests from journalists because nothing has been provided for of them. She made a space of two hundred places available but this is a library which serves 60.000 students and she only have 17.000 places, and they have at least 10.000 students a day trying to come to get their work done here because they don’t have internet at home. This is not her job. The Forum really ought to have to have a professional core of organizers who know that you’re going to need photocopies, that you’re going to need food, water… All this things, I think it’s high time that that’s getting done because often there are serious problems of organization. On the political level, what we could do better is to be much more visible. I have been pleading for years but I’m not an official or anything, I don’t have any power at all. I have been asking for years that we have a day when we decide that everyone will come out on some big major subject. I don’t care whit this. It could be climate, it could be violence to women, it could be debt, it could be whatever you like but we all come out and it doesn’t mean that anyone give up their daily work or leave behind the subject they are more interested in because most of the people here have a center or two centers of interests. But it would simply mean that one day a year we are together and the rest of the year we are building alliances with each other both nationally, regionally and trans-border. And I hope that maybe this is going to happen. So we will see, but the Forum at the beginning it was a novelty and the press was very interested and it was in Porto Alegre and a lot of French people were involved so that the French press came on mass but this isn't the case anymore. Now it is a kind of routine. They rather go to Davos because it’s closer and you meet rich people instead of poor people, middling class people, at least people who are interested in what is happening to poor people.
Pat Mooney: We need to strengthen the capacity ot the Forum. to work at the national level and at the regional level. My bias would be that we have this sort of event every three years and put more resources in the national and regional activities working toward the global discussion. We need to keep them strong. We need to keep them as divers as they are. We need to keep the debate as wide as we can. We need to keep them alive and vital.
Azril Bacal: The fact that we met is a process that still inspires hope. And hope is a very critical political valuable for mobilization. People that have lost hope from our own ranks easily become complicist of the hegemonic project which is unsustainable, destructive, greedy, short-sided and suicidal.
Immanuel Wallerstein: Well, look. Social movements have an enormous role to play. First of all the bifurcation which I'm talking about will be decided by the collective activity of everybody. So it seems to me that social movements have to first worry about apropriately analysing what's really going on. Understanding what's happening in the world. That's not easy. It's very difficult in fact. Then they have to decide. They have to throw their weight on one side or the other of this bifurcation. And then they have to think about what political strategies will push in one direction. None of these are easy things. And that's what we are restling with in the World Social Forum. Individual social movements restling with this all over the place. And there is a secong problem. And the second problem is one of timing. In the short run, by short run I mean maximum three years, people live in the short run, they eat in the short run, they die in the short run, they are worried about their security in the short run. In the short run the most we can do in this situation is to minimize the pain. You support this rather than that because this minimizes the pain and if you took the alternative it would maximize the pain. Okay. Isn't a transformative thing. Minimizing the pain is a defensive action. Doesn't transform the world. But it's important. People need that. Nobody wants to die tomorrow because there is insecurity in the streets or because they are cut off from food or housing or whatever. So movements have to worry about this kind of short time need. But then there is the middle run. Middle run is in terms of this larger transformation. So movements have to learn how to combine a short run minimizing the pain tactic with a middle run strategy transforming the world.
Jai Sen: The second change that has taken place is that capitalism is in crisis. It has clearly been coming across in the 2007 crisis, but it’s an internal crisis and it’s reaching the limits of what it can do. And they have not been able to contain this – (a crisis) of overproduction and overselling and overconsumption. And the thrid crisis is the climate crisis which is threatening and will almost certainly set all of us back enourmously. The world 50 years from now, I argue, will be one of devastation. Where – because we were unable to stop the non-linear changes that are coming – all existing social institutions will collapse. And you will have a world where corporations are running free, with their own militias, warlords will be running free, nation states will have retreated to very narrow, ethnic-fundamentalist-nationalist ways, and movements will have to reconstitute themselves. I think, we need to look ahead, not just ten years, but today, because of the climate crisis, for the next 50 years. There’s a need to understand that unless we stop – and it’s only movements that can give this new knowledge. It is not the governments that will give the new knowledge, it is not the corporations. The corporations are planning. They have their think tanks planning how to keep raping the planet til it’s dead. And even then to rape it, after it’s dead. The militaries are planning. What are movements doing? But it’s only the knowledge that comes out of movements, out of concerned social actors that will change this world and that can stop this pillage that is taking place.
David Goeßmann: And that does it for our show. This was Kontext TV from the World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal. Another broadcast from the Forum focussing on Africa is coming soon. We will report more extrensively on land grabbing, the impacts of climate change, free trade politcs of the EU and the People’s Parliament in Nairobi.
Fabian Scheidler: Additionally, we will present exclusive interviews withPat Mooney, the renowned world system theorist Immanuel Wallerstein and Nnimmo Bassey. The broadcasts and interviews can be found on our website www.kontext-tv.de.
David Goeßmann: Thanks for staying with us, we hope you join us for the next show,
Fabian Scheidler: ... and Fabian Scheidler.