Peoples' movements and protests




There is a need for "developmentalist" movements





by Jan Wiklund



In the early 20th century we for too long tolerated top-down movements organizations where nothing could be done that hadn’t come from the General Secretary, or at least the Board. Examples can be found in the labour movements or in the national liberaltion movements. This way of organizing made the Board into a bottleneck. What they didn’t have time to do wasn’t done. And since they usually were employed to make decisions they guarded their positions viciously and finally chased most members out of the movement.

This way of leading movements fed a reaction in the 60s. The intention was to make decision-making flat – everybody should have her or his space – but the result was rather neo-liberal. Movements turned into buffets or market places for ideas anyone could use as he or she pleases, individually. The result was that initiatives were stuck for lack of infrastructure to promote them. Very little was done – unless the ideas, were promoted by commercial media. And in that case the result often was the opposite of what the initiators had intended.

We actually have the same phenomenon on the state level. On the one side we have (or had) the Stalinist system where the state is assumed to do everything, and for that reason turns/turned into a bottleneck. On the other side we have the neo-liberal order where nothing can be decided in a political way because everything should be left to the market. Which is to leave the decisions to the billionaires.

But there have always been states in between, states that took initiatives, also in economy and production, but left much of the execution to others; perhaps they have been more common than the extremes above. But they have not had any name for themselves. The Brazilian poltician-turned-researcher Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira proposes the word developmental.

And perhaps this is a reasonable attitude also for movements. People must be able to take their own initiatives, or they will be bored to (political) death.

On the other hand, there must be initiatives, or the movement will die.

It has for long seemed impossible to de so. There should be organizational focuses that are expected to take initiatives. Low-level, ordinary activists take amazing initiatives now and then, but these initiatives are costly, and for that reason it is not common that they spread. They have immense difficulties to get through. In the best of worlds there are infrastructures that give vent to initiatives, methods of choosing among initiatives, and amplifiers that are expected to be amplifiers.

At the local level, this is achieved through meetings where members are turned into collectives with collective agendas and decisions. At least if the participants are not stuck in the social media trap where no collectivization can arise.

But at the national or global levels it is even more forbidden. The World Social Forum, for one, has since its instigation been a neo-liberal market place of ideas and initiatives where nothing could be decided, despite it posing itself as the opposite to the neo-liberal market place.

But recently it seems that the WSF has taken Bresser-Pereira’s idea into their minds. It is now permitted to organize caucuses within WSF which are binding for those who take part. It is called World Assembly of Struggles and Resistance of the WSF. It took years for them to agree on it. But now it’s there, and it is possible to organize globally.

It remains to organize that way at national levels, though!



Published by Folkrörelsestudiegruppen: