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Social movements have an enormous role to play, says Wallerstein. They would decide whether more exploitation or democracy will shape the future. Therefore the World Social Forum is a very important forum. Strategies and tactics should be developed to minimize the pain in the short run and transform the world in the middle run. Both strategies must be put together.


Immanuel Wallerstein, Senior Research Scholar at Yale University, USA. Co-Founder of the World-Systems Theory, President of the International Sociological Association from 1994-1998 and Author of numerous books


David Goessmann: In the perspective of a declining capitalism which role can social movements play with regard to overcome multiple crises?

Immanuel Wallerstein: Well, look, social movements have an enormous role to play. First of all, the bifurcation about which I am talking will be decided by the collective activities of everybody. So it seems to me, social movements have to first worry about appropriately analyzing 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. Then 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 or another.  None of these are easy things and that’s what we are wrestling with in the World Social Forum and individual social movements are wrestling with this all over the place. As a second problem and the second problem is one of timing, in the short run - and 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 kind of situation is to minimize the pain. You support this rather than that, because that minimizes the pain and if you took the alternative it maximizes the pain, ok? That isn’t a transformative thing. Minimizing the pain is a defensive action. It 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’re cut off from all food, or housing, or whatever, ok? So, social movements have to worry about this kind of short run need. But then, there is the middle run and the middle run is in terms of this larger transformations. So, social movements have to learn how to combine a short run, minimizing the pains tactic with a middle run strategy of transforming the world.