Folkrörelser och Protester
World Social Forum and Popular Movements Confronting Globalisation
Popular movements challenging systems of power
Specialist NGOs and generalist political party
Dual global world development model
From colonial to economic world dominance
Hopeful world-wide simultaneous popular protests in the 1960s
Reestablishing economic globalisation through food and energy crisis
Reemergence of a global class struggle
Middle class movements 1983 ‚ 1998
Working class movements 1983 ‚ 1998
Peasants building alliances 1983 - 1998
Summit protests having domestic impact
Yes to NGOs and party leaders, no to the Zapatistas?
Lula or Bolivian popular movements?
Bringing farmers, environment and anti-globalisation back in.
Trade unions zig zagging into the future
Building alternatives and a global class struggle
The victory of third world countries backed by mass participation of peasants, many environmentalists, trade unions and others at the WTO meeting in Cancun 2003 opens up for a new era. A world order based upon something called economic globalisation has been challenged by an alliance of popular movements and states. The governments of rich countries cannot any longer take for granted that the rest of the world is splittered and unable to jointly oppose their neoliberal politics. What might follow are similar opposition to IMF and World Bank neoliberal policies.
But at the same time as the rich countries are challenged at the global economic institutional level there are other problems. Some rich countries with the US as their leader have become more aggressive than ever starting war and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq. On the domestic level neoliberal politics is carried out as intensive as ever in both rich and third world countries. Basic services like health, pensions, education, energy and food are under attack and are under risk of becoming privatised. And the same new left leaders in the South hailed for their opposition against WTO, IMF and World Bank carries out neoliberal austerity programs ever as hard as their earlier right wing predecessors. The business press finds it useful that it is done by politicians that can carry out the neoliberal agenda with left wing ideology to help it being accepted.
In this situation it is of interest to analyse what people can do collectively to build alternatives to the present neoliberal world order both at the domestic and global level.
One aspect of the present situation is a growing knowledge interest in how popular movements, also called social movements, can contribute to make a better world order. Such a knowledge interest can easily fall into different kind of traps. One is the tendency in times of growing participation in a popular movement to believe in that the crucial factor is more will among the activists. By becoming more and more active the movement will one day reach its goals. This trap has been called voluntarism. It is common both among expert NGOs believing in changing the world through restlessly advocating international negotiations as well as radical activists seeing the need for direct confrontations with power regardless of the effect on people in common. This kind of belief often helps movements to gain strength and have tactical power to win battles. But it is at the same time an escape from the need of focusing on changes in strategies building not only on the belief in ever-growing strength of the movement but also on material factors and adjusting to other actors. Another trap is a knowledge interest claiming to be realistic that do not see movements as anything else ten a function of society for helping the market and government to become more effective and get more democratic legitimacy.
The most common description of the movement opposing the present economic globalisation is that it started during the WTO-meeting in Seattle 1999. It reached further strength through continued massive summit protests at Prague, Nice, Gothenburg and Genua, World Social Forum in Porto Alegre and mass demonstrations against the war on Iraq all over the world claimed to be the biggest international protest ever. It is somewhat confusingly both called anti-globalisation movement, mainly in the South, and globalisation movement, mainly in the North. At the G8 meeting in Evian Brazilian president Lula had a discussion with the globalisation movement on strategies and South African president Mbeki later announced that he regretted that he not took part in these discussions as well as saying that his country needed the alliance with the globalisation movement. The alliance between the globalisation movement and leading third world stated becomes more and more official. This at the same time as third world states formed a stronger alliance than ever during the last 30 years and were able to stop the rich countries attempt to impose the interest of corporations at the WTO-meeting in Cancun. Thus it seems to some that the global justice movement is progressively expanding forward and what is needed is more willingness to be active.
The realist view on this history is state or market centred. The successful civil disobedience in Seattle that disrupted the WTO-meeting is seen as having no real political impact. The rich countries defeat was the result of lack of common strategy shared by the US and EU. Third world countries were claimed to have a different agenda from the movement critical against economic globalisation, what they wanted was free trade for their own goods, not less economic globalisation. The big participation in the antiwar demonstrations globally was primarily a result of the political situation with an open confrontation between France, Germany and Russia against USA and UK, a situation that developed into an open crisis for the UN. The Cancun meeting the realists combine sometimes the state centred view by a focus on long term economic changes. The decisive factor behind politician, changes becomes within the world system expansion and contraction in different periods of historical capitalism.
The voluntaristic view puts the emphasis on the social side of the movement. Globalisation from below is presented as an alternative to economic globalisation. A social vision is put forward as an alternative to a materialistic point of view. Ever expanding Social Forum processes at regional, national and local level are seen as a strategy.
Here an attempt will be made to combine and go beyond the two points of views. The material situation will be dealt with very briefly, the main tool for combining the material world with popular movements will be an analysis from a global and a class perspective. By having a global perspective, local actions in rich countries that often is presented as developments of universalistic importance can be put into perspective. By a class perspective both local, national and transnational developments be accounted for without levelling the processes to relations between homogenic groupings on different geographical levels in the world. The separation of a specific field of political issues or technology cannot as easy be presented as a true description of a pluralistic society with a fascinating diversity. Now there are of course problems with both a global and class perspective. Analysing at the global level becomes by its nature extremely generalising. Class perspectives have tendencies to diminish other aspects of the ruling order like patriarchy oppressing women, a technological order depriving the eco-systems or the kind of ideological power structure that is working both within working class organisations, business foundations, in the media, religious world and in the state oppressing those that do not fit to the norm.
Yet both global and class are here used as a way to see if such an analysis can bring us forward to find better possibilities to confront globalisation and strengthen cooperation among popular movements from different parts of the world. The global analysis will focus upon the main categories third world and industrial countries. The latter being divided into two different kinds during at least 70 years, one capitalistic and the other centrally planned economy. To some extend it can be argued that the third world today is less a question of geography. The original idea of the concept looked upon nations as estates in France during the revolution labelling the un-privileged third world similar to the concept third estate for those who lacked the privileges in the hands of nobles and priests. Today the gaps have grown and many people from the South have moved to the North where they still many times maintain an un-privileged position in the world order. Here both the gaps among nation-states and social gaps within countries are seen as important but not possible to conflate without loosing ways to understand important differences in the oppressive systems and ways to change the world. Popular movements that are based in the concerns of the majority of the world and are in some way an expression of self-liberation by oppressed groups are seen as especially important from a normative and global perspective. One way to realistically judge such criteria is to see if the politics and leadership of a global popular movement is based in the third world.
The class perspective is here also dealt with on a basic level and not a more precise analytical theory. Working class or proletariat is seen as all those producing wealth by being employed for manual work. Whether you do heavy lifting in the factory, at the super market or at the hospital is here seen as all part of the working class. Middle class have an ambiguous position working with tasks were they mainly provide services with intellectual content rather than working with their hands, as employed or self-employed. This class or strata is strongly divided with an upper middle class having similar interests as those in power of the world system and others that have an interest in making alliances with the majority, sometimes themselves threatened by proletarisation. Peasants and farmers is another class of global importance also divided. Which term to use is contested, here no difference between farmers and peasants are made, the main focus being on argiculturalists with smaller holdings and often similar interests as rural poor people. In the South there are billions of members in small farmer families with similar conditions as many rural workers while big farmers sometimes have more in common with the agricultural corporations. In the North small farmers have influence in some countries like Poland, France and Norway and in others were they once were many they have almost vanished like Denmark. Even family farmers with large holdings can come in conflict with the interest of agricultural corporations placing them in the same political position as small farmers in the South.
Sometimes in history one of these classes or an alliance of peasants, workers and some part of the middle class interested in belonging to the majority of the people makes revolutions or reforms against the interest of the ruling class of capitalists or privileged in other kinds of institutionalised systems of power, revolutions and reforms creating new systems of power that sometimes benefit the majority but also creates new systems of power and privileges. There are examples of privileged individuals trying to change a privileged system but no example to my knowledge of changing a whole system without unprivileged people confronting those in power. Thus revolutions or reforms are necessary in spite of their uncertain outcome when a system of privileges creates growing social and ecological gaps and crisis.
Popular movements challenging systems of power
One of the more lasting ways of changing society is through popular movements. Monks in China created the first known peace movement by helping the weaker part with their self-defence technique in the heavy war turmoil 2.500 years ago, religious movements like Jainists, Christians or Bishnoi strives for equality or ecological awareness since a thousand year, artisans, peasants and slaves started the democratic revolution by building communes in towns, peasant rebellions on the countryside and national liberation on Haiti 1791 and the anti-slavery movement starting in the 18th century won their first victories in other countries some decades later.
A world-wide growth of popular movements came into being during the economic globalisation period in the end of the 19th century. Abolitionists, pacifists and antimilitarists, socially concerned religious people, suffragets, socialist workers and anti-colonial nationalists established both new political facts and mass organisations. The ruling system of priviosges was under attack.
Specialist NGOs and generalist political party
The answer on this democratic upsurge was dividing the popular movements both within and from the outside. The strong lay person peasant populist movement opposing finance capital and corporations in the US was at the turn of the century replaced by a system of professional representatives in Non-governmental organisations, NGOs, and in established organisations outside of the democratic control of the popular movement like the Democrats. Instead of a popular movement carried by lay persons having a generalist vision of the society a system of professional specialist NGOs was established working through courts and the media on a market for political representation sometimes helped by short outbreaks of lay person mass civil disobedience. In Russia the hard conditions under state repression and poverty created the opposite solution by dividing the popular movement through establishment of an organisation for professional generalists, the party of professional revolutionaries. Two nations on their way towards greater global influence used two opposing strategies. In Europe a mixture of the two solutions was established, professional generalists became parliamentarians while lay popular movements still maintained a role but within specialist sectors.
None of these solutions for popular movements within nations of Europeans could challenge the growing tensions caused by the economic globalisation. Instead the decisive challenge came with the Japanese attack on Russia 1905. For the first time in 100 years this showed that it was possible for non-Europeans to militarily defeat Europeans. This opened up for democratisation in Russia and anti-colonial movements in the third world. But the growing tensions among industrialist nations continued ending with World War I. This divided the strongest popular movement, the working class organisations and culture in two opposing fractions, the reformist social democrats supporting their own government in their war against other countries working class and state and the revolutionary socialists and communists opposing both the imperialist war and the capitalist system. The communist party was able to come to power in the turmoil of the Russia revolution establishing the Soviet union with centrally planned economy but in other countries the revolutionaries were crushed or survived as smaller organisations.
Dual global world development model
On the level of world order the challenge from the many popular movements were met through two different ways. In the core country of the world economy the working class was offered better conditions by steps towards social welfare which improved further after the creation of the Soviet Union. For the rest of the world the promise of welfare was given to nations as a whole that were supposed to be rich by establishing national development as independent states, both solutions promoted by the US in a milder form and by the Soviet Union in a more radical form. Economic globalisation in the hands of finance capital and corporations were met by some measures of nation-state control. Tensions still grow though especially in Europe and the third world. In some European countries the dual system of generalist professional parliamentarism and specialist lay popular movement was replaced by one generalist organisation in a corporativistic capitalist state headed by one professional dictator. This resulted in an alliance of both capitalistic and centrally planned economy states against the European dictatorship countries and their military victory in World War II.
In the third world a generalist lay mass popular movement emerged that received global importance. First in South Africa and then in India Gandhi inspired a struggle at the same time focusing on opposing privileges, supporting cultural and economic self-reliance and national liberation. In China Mao built the popular movement on liberating peasant communities rather than working class industrial cities like in Russia but with a similar democratically centralised party as professional generalist guiding the struggle. This resulted in national liberation in India 1947 and revolution in China 1949 and afterwards national liberation in almost all countries in the third world. A period of growing welfare and sometimes more equal distribution of wealth in both industrial and third world countries followed.
From colonial to economic world dominance
At the beginning this resulted in great popular trust in the nation-state were both workers and peasants often were given better conditions by defending their interest against an uncontrolled world market and thus against unfettered economic globalisation. The strategy of capitalist corporations and industrial states had some problems. This was a dual solution. On the one hand give promises to improve the conditions for the majority of individuals in the rich world. On the other hand on the global level give the majority of the people no promises of individual improvements but hopes for national state development in the future. This had two hidden self-destructive mechanism.
One was that the dual solution did not challenge the existing world order and model of development and thus the corporations in the North could plan for exploitation of the working class and natural resources in the South in the name of promoting development. The European colonial system of constant territorial control was on its way of being replaced by a US dominated imperialistic system of constant global economic domination and selective military interventions. To fully succeed this new model needed to replace the class alliance model of industrial countries with a middle class hegemony destroying the capacity of challenging the global economic domination at the national level. Especially if they were headed by bureaucrats of centrally planned economies but also if they were built on a social contract between bureaucrats of partly independent class organisations of workers and peasant accepting the capitalistic world order.
Hopeful world-wide simultaneous popular protests in the 1960s
Another factor opposing the dual model was people in common all over the world. In the third world workers did not accept the low wages that the transnational corporations had planned that they should get to become part of the capitalistic economy. Peasants and national bureaucrats did not accept third world states to be producers of cheap natural products and agricultural goods. Struggle for land reforms and nationalisation of foreign corporate concessions of natural resources took place. In the industrial countries both workers and middle class rebelled against the growing control and rationalisation of both factories and universities necessary to promote the dual world development model. Local protests built on different mixtures of classes against environmental damage spread along with wide-spread protests against repression of ethnic, gender or regional character. During the 1960s there was hope in the air. For the first time in centuries the growing differences between the rich and poor in the world both within countries and between them stopped to accelerate, systems of privileges was under attack and environmental concerns grew.
On the military field the US was first defeated when after stopping a North Korean invasion into the South they invaded North Korea and approached the Chinese border 1953. This provoced a Chinese counter-attack forcing them back to South Korea. Trying the same strategy again in Vietnam failed completely and the US was defeated. They lost the war against the liberation front in the South and the North Vietnamese regime leaving 3 million Vietnamese killed behind and 50.000 US soldiers. A peasant culture had defeated the strongest industrial country in the world in a war which peaked in 1969 when the US participation was the strongest with 500 000 soldiers and constant bombings yet failing to turn the the tide at the battlefields. Also the Soviet Union posed no more an alternative stopping reforms from within against the dual development model when tanks crushed down the Prague spring in 1968 and instrumentalising its support for popular movements in other countries to its foreign policy needs.
For the majority of the people in the world both the capitalist and the Soviet Union models of development had lost their appeal as hopes for the future. Workers striking, students demonstrating, peasant guerillas fighting, pacifists and anti-imperialists, burning their conscription orders and doing sit-ins and teach-ins, blacks and women struggling for emancipation and many protesting against commersialisation and authoritarian control developed among simultaneous emerging popular movements all over the world. Protests that were directed against both carriers of the dual development model, the capitalistic core states and the Soviet Union. The global development model was in crisis.
Reestablishing economic globalisation through food and energy crisis
The solution to this crisis became the destruction of the power of emerging new post-colonial nation-states through a politically and economically produced global food and energy crisis in the beginning of the 1970s. The US decided to drastically change their subventions to farmers which created a weapon to destroy classes in the South opposing US world dominance. Giant food export subsidise was established in 1970 confronting the third world markets from outside. The Green revolution in the hands of transnational corporations built on fertilisers and crops adapted to pesticides patented in the North changed the agriculture from within. Small farmers in the third world could be marginalised or extinguished and the third world states becoming dependent on food supply controlled by technology in the hands of imperialistic countries. The European Community followed a similar line with aggressive export subsidies for food. When oil producing countries in the third world 1973 tried to establish better prices for their product transnational corporations and banks in the North could win the biggest profit. Adding a bigger share of the hike in oil prices a devastating energy crisis was produced for the majority of the countries in the third world and at the same time the banks in rich countries could develop an uncontrolled huge amount of finance capital. much in the hands of rich owners in oil producing countries. Money that aggressively were offered as loans from Western banks to countries in need due to the food and energy crisis or lack of investments for development projects. An offer promoted by experts and politicians proclaiming continuous growth and development possibilities for countries in the South if they borrowed money. Nation state class alliances supporting a social contract was abandoned in favour of a neoliberal stronger state re-regulating the economy in favour of capital. Capitalist military dictatorships was supported or actively put into power by imperialist rich countries to eliminate popular movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America murdering and torturing hundreds of thousands or millions of activists in Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Congo, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and other countries in a time when oppression in centrally planned economies became less brutal.
The US soon followed by the UK and others were attacking the democratic rights for the working class repressing strikers and union organisers. Trade unions were abandoned both by industry and neoliberal states as recognised actors in building national social contracts. The US also in 1971 abandoned the common interstate control of the global finance and market system which was based on the US dollar. The interstate regulated Bretton Woods system with a role for UN from 1940s was replaced by a new re-regulated international finance institutional and trade system giving new roles to IMF, World Bank and GATT finally with the Uruguay round starting in the 1980s becoming WTO. Instead of fixed rates of exchange the financial market was to control the value by letting the currency to float. UN economic and social work based on democratic equal representation from all countries who promoted the idea of a new economic world order through UN Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD was finally turned down by US president Reagan in Cancun 1980. Instead a Washington consensus was established by the US and the rich industrial countries ruling IMF and the World Bank promoting market access for transnational corporations based in the North in Southern economies and dismantling of public responsibility for welfare. International institutions to promote a neoliberal economic globalisation were in place.
In the 1980s their power would expand drastically after the second oil crisis in 1979 putting renewed pressure on third world countries and sharpening of conflicts between the US and Soviet Union. The economic recession starting in the end of the 1960s but avoided by building up loans could not be counterbalanced any more. A new economic world order in the interest of developing countries was challenged by a militaristic US investing in armament combined with neoliberal re-regulation from social contracts among classes to regulations in the interest of corporations through markets. The militaristic armaments could be paid by interest rates set higher and higher which caused a collapse for many third world economies. Foreign aid was replaced by the ideology of direct investments that through structural adjustments were supposed to be given the right to do whatever they could tpo gain profits and bring it home to the North. In the beginning of the 1980s the capital flow from poor countries to rich countries started to become higher than the flow in the other direction through foreign aid and today the capital given to rich countries is four times more than the capital given to poor countries. By unilaterally decide the level of interest poor countries have to pay for their loans the rich world could constantly put developing countries under economic blackmail with the result that after paying back more than what once borrowed the debt is still continuously growing. The biggest debtor is the US but they can contrary to others escape from the consequences by being the main currency other countries use for financial transactions and thus be regarded for the time being as trustworthy borrowers. Thus the US can at the same time lower the taxes for the rich with a loyal upper middle and capitalist class and spend far more money on armaments having more military resources than the rest of the world together for doing military interventions whenever the neoliberal world order needs to be expanded or defended. A strategy supported by the Washington consensus of Bretton Woods institutions and other rich countries and the upper class in poor countries that received an efficient tool to control the masses by foreign imposed structural adjustments. The power of class alliances building national states was broken. The Soviet block, technologically dependent on the world market, could not compete with the armaments of the US and the emerging consumerist culture gradually lost influence. Global class struggle directly confronting global institutions, transnational corporations and technological, cultural, economical and political dominance grew in importance.
Reemergence of a global class struggle
This global class struggle has developed in different steps towards the present situation of an emerging global alternative movement, a global justice movement claiming ìAnother world is possible.î The working class by many considered as having the strongest position in opposing world capitalism has mainly been on the defensive. At national level it has still been the decisive factor in many conflicts in all parts of the world. At the global level the leadership has been in the firm hands of the Northern trade unions only on occasion challenged by more radical unions in the South and outburst of workersí unrest in the North. The main strategy has still been to long for a reestablishment of the social contract with the employers supported by governments at nation-state level or a new version at regional or global negotiations level. The middle class dominated popular movements sometimes expressing wider class alliance concerns have developed strategies sometimes full of contradictions but still helping to challenge economic globalisation. The peasants are the most decisive factor. Here a global majority of small farmers including groups in the North with the same interest as billions in the South have been able to establish the most coherent program of all popular movements and creating the widest and most radical class alliances against economic globalisation. Geographically it has been the popular movements in the third world that have unified class alliances and opposing the fragmentation and deradicalisation that many popular movements in the North has been advocating.
The step by step development of the global class struggle started with the simultaneous broad reformistic class alliances and sometimes revolutionary movements in the 1960s got challenged by the food and energy crisis and military dictatorship repression. This put a damper on and sometimes paralysed the popular movements in the South in the beginning of the 1970s. The movements in the North fragmented. The middle class established a sectorisation of politics into separate specialist popular movements in the fields of environment, feminism, third world solidarity and other issues. Some attempted at creating generalist socialist and marxist-leninist political parties that through coherent ideological leadership wished to be able to integrate the struggle of different movements. The working class organised many wild cat strikes against the worsening conditions during the onset of the economic recession in the dual global development model in many parts of the world in countries like Ghana, Tanzania, Nigeria, Namibia, South Africa, Chile, France as well as normally peaceful countries like Sweden and Norway. But they were met by repression or new promises of legal rights of co-determination in companies and similar measures. The big farmers gained on the food export policy and peasants were only in some few countries in the North able to confront the beginning of a new wave of economic globalisation. In Norway both small farmers and the organisation of more privileged peasants made the decisive contribution to the struggle against membership in the European Community during the referendum 1972. Through direct action refusing to pay taxes or occupying together with environmentalists sites for planned nuclear power stations and the building of dams small farmers gained a strong influence in a few industrialised countries like Iceland, Norway and Western Germany in popular movements opposing the global development model. In the mountaneous region Larzac in the middle of France farmers occupied again and again military areas that were supposed to be used as training grounds, a struggle that came to a victory after nine years and inspired direct action internationally.
On the global level the beginning of the 1970s saw the explosion of protests at summits that soon developed into a model for globalisation of politics. In Copenhagen 1970 ten thousand or more demonstrators took to the streets and riots started growing day by day opposing the World Bank meeting. Police motor cycles were burned down by molotov cocktails and police brutally hunted demonstrators and run them down with the help of the same machines. It was mere good luck that nobody got killed on either side. This polarisation was handled at later UN summits in Stockholm 1972 and Mexico City in 1975. Here the environmental and womenís movement was able to establish a new model for popular participation in world politics by organising independent demonstrations and meetings together with a selective interchange in both directions with the intergovernmental negotiations. This was used for attacking US Agent Orange bombings creating ecocide in Vietnam and promoting better working conditions and other environmental protection all over the world as well as the right to abortion and other womenís rights. The anglo-american environmentalist ideology to promote forced streilization in the third world against the ìpopulation bombî was ideologically defeated. But a coherent broad criticism of economic globalisation did not occur.
In 1977 a new era in the global class struggle against the dual global development model started. In the South trade unions, peasants and others started to directly confront economic globalisation through strikes and political mobilisation opposing the conditions set by IMF and the World Bank. A new wave of protests In Egypt an IMF proposed programme of cuts in state subsidies for basic goods resulted in a popular uprising were tens of thousands in cities all over the country attacked symbols of wealth and power. In India the Indira Gandhi government had declared a state of emergency in a time of economic crisis and mass protests against forced sterilisations. When Mrs Gandhi followed World Bank economic guidelines the government lost mass support and a massive democratic movement led to new elections and the defeat of the government. Uprisings took place in Mecca and Iraq, large strikes in Argentina 1976, Peru 1976-77, Colombia 1977 and Brazil 1979. In Africa and Asia uprisings started in Soweto in South Africa 1976 and Thailand the same year, in Pakistan 1977 and in countries like Ethiopia, Benin, Mali, Nigeria, Zaire, Marroco and Madagascar in the late 1970s. The Chipko movement in the Himalayas got radicalised and started to confront the felling of trees becoming a model for environmental and development project protests in India and the rest of the world. In the Soviet bloc workers striking as well as youth protest cultures got support from intellectuals setting up solidarity committees in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Soon a strong independent trade union emerged in Poland that could not even be oppressed by military rule. A revolution organised at kitchen tables started in Eastern Europe giving new interest for dissident civil society and alternatives to the dual global development model. In the West the anti nuclear power movement reached its peek stalling the expansion of the nuclear power program through direct action and mass campaigning. The movement started to also oppose the military side of nuclear technology. The peace movement reemerged and confronted the new US neutron bomb and later cruise missiles armament and deployment strategies while at the same time organising disarmament tours in both Western and Eastern Europe.
Two kinds of attempts were established in this period to create a global class alliance struggle. One was the successful creation of lay person activist networks on narrow issues confronting the same enemy both in the South and the North. This was first done in the late 1978 by establishing International Baby Food Action Network, IBFAN. On a low budget activists travelled to meet each other internationally sleeping on floors and agitating on the streets defeating NestlÈ by faster global contacts by fax and committed partners all over the world. This movement simultaneously attacked the corporations profit interest in selling breast milk powder by corrupt and manipulative means and promoted breast feeding both in the South and the North. IBFAN soon was followed by Pesticide Action Network, PAN, World Rain Forest Movement, WRM, Health Action International, HAI and others often with their headquarters in the third world.
The other was the attempt by the womenís peace movement and an emerging alternative movement in Western Europe to confront the global development model. Through mass petitions, long marches with thousands of participants from Scandinavia to Paris, Moscow and Washington and 30 000 taking part in the direct action camp at Greenham Common military base in the UK the womenís peace movement both confronted the nuclear armament and promoted the need to convert military resources to solve global problems ending hunger in the third world. In the Nordic countries environmental, solidarity, peace and womenís organisations jointly started to campaign against the dual global development model and economic globalisation promoting alternatives. No to free trade in the interest of transnational corporations and yes to regulation of financial transactions was combined with support of struggle against imperialism whether it was consumer organisations in the South fighting multinationals, aid to the struggle against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan or against Nordic companies exploitation of the environment in other countries.
The attempt by womenís peace movement and the Nordic alternative movement to build a global justice movement in the beginning of the 1980s was destroyed by the left together with the Green party. The new mass peace movement was intrumentalised in the internal struggles on the left between social democracy and communists joined by an opportunistic Green party dividing the movement according to its need of establishing itself as an ideological factor different from other political parties. The new peace movement looked as if it was strong. Like no other it could mobilise mass manifestations with hundreds of thousands walking through the capitals of Europe and 1 million demonstrating their Summit protest at the UN Special Session on Disarmament in New York 1983. But the struggle was deliberately delinked from global and economic concerns. Such more generalist issues was seen as the task for political parties, not popular movements.
For a long period communist parties had a strong influence in the peace movement and nuclear weapon protests. To social democrats and the Green parties this was perceived as a threat against their own role in mobilising mass support by equally opposing armament in the West and the East. The instrument to marginalise the communist became the creation of utopian strategy for freedom in Europe and big convents each year for European Nuclear Disarmament, END with up to 3 000 people attending. END was organised by both the peace organisations, trade unions and political parties. Political parties with their huge economic resources and paid staff soon came to dominate the organising committee. With building of cooperation with dissidents in the Soviet bloc the END process made itself independent of Soviet foreign policy and communist parties. At the same time END effectively marginalised an emerging generalist global alternative peace movement by creating a dual model for knowledge interest at the convents and describing narrow special roles to each participant, theoretical knowledge was allocated to professional, experts, practical action knowledge to activist specialists and generalist issues of professional political party representatives.
At its peek in Berlin 1983 experts were given half the time to elaborate upon armaments in Europe and disarmament negotiations but not the roots of the problem and certainly not issues concerning the global situation and its relation to what happened in Eastern and Western Europe. Almost all experts were male. Activists, also quite few female, were given another space for practical campaigning discussions and in the middle a common generalist debate was organised were the Green Party and Social democrats discussed the role of the peace movement. The Greens presented a wish list of opportunistic demands hard to see as an alternative to Social Democratic ideas of promoting trade with the Soviet bloc to foster peace. The END delinking of the material relations between Europe and the third world created a double issue movement opposing both nuclear weapons and oppression of freedom within Europe. Western capitalist Europe was somehow seen as having more freedom than the planned economies in the East. The fact that Western Europe built their material wealth and thus had better possibilities to solve social conflicts by less oppression on exploitation of the South while the Soviet bloc to a very much less degree built on unequal economic relations with the third world was taken out of the understanding of building just societies and peace. The womenís peace movement and alternative movement that jointly addressed both global justice issues, democratic organising of the movement and the need to change the technology towards more sustainable solutions was set aside. In the Nordic countries the left and Green party member jointly attacked the Nordic alternative campaign. Greens stated that it was wrong when environmental, animal rights and peace organisations confronted imperialism as all people wanting to protect the forest and animals did not agree on such a perspective, it was better to focus upon the Green party ideology of small scale solutions instead of confronting global systems of power. Some leftist representatives attacked the alternative movement as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was criticised as imperialism and others stated that the environmental movement was uninteresting as it was a single-issue movement. The left and the Greens effectively blocked the establishment of a global justice movement to promote their own competing ideological projects.
The working class was attacked by economic neoliberal politics backed by militarised police repression put in prison for striking and picketing in the US and UK. In the third world popular movements worked against growing demands on structural adjustments and debt burden. In ten years half of the public health care in Africa was dismantled to be able to pay to the rich countries their interests.
The mass peace movement in the West was defeated. The Pershing II NATO missiles which it had opposed were deployed in 1983 and the mass participation in manifestations decreased rapidly. Although its double-issue goals later were reached this was presented as the result of Reaganís militaristic armament pressuring the Soviet Union to not oppose social change in Eastern Europe that together with Gorbatchovís perestrojka gave way to both the falling of the Berlin wall and a nuclear missiles agreement.
On the global level it was instead in the South that different popular movements were brought together and organised efforts were made to build a joint strategy. 1984 Third World Network (TWN) was set up at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia with participants from the other Southern continents. TWN soon became one of the main factors in integrating global struggles combining economical, social and ecological issues in a joint work for alternatives to economic globalisation. In the third world mass movements demanded democratic reforms, no to neoliberal structural adjustment and environmentally and socially damaging development projects. IMF riots became a concept for outbursts of protests often with the result of people being killed when Washington consensus dictated higher prices on basic goods or cuts in already small salaries or welfare programs. Popular movements against the debt burden developed in the third world in the 1980s formed the bases of todayís global justice movement. Against their own governments and often also against the popular movements and NGOs in the North they established a more radical agenda for global change confronting and not cooperating with corporations and governments opposing economic globalisation.
The working, peasant and middle class movements developed separate strategies especially in the North. The main focus here will be on peasant movements as they are the least known of the three classes in question.
Middle class movements 1983 ‚ 1998
During the 1980s the sectorisation of middle class dominated movements on peace, environmental, women, third world solidarity and other issues resulted in a professionalisation and fragmentation of the popular movements. Middle class movements were to a large extent coopted at the global level. They became privileged pressure groups or administrators of development projects within sectorising of issues according to criteria set by international institutions with a clear separation of North and South. The social and ecological crisis was seen as having to separate causes in industrialised countries and the third world. In the North it was lack of individual moral among the public, in the South poverty. There were no common cause, no enemy had wanted the problems that existed and thus were everybody equally responsible for now in cooperation and preferably consensus contribute to a common future. The solution was labelled sustainable development. It was launched by the Brundtland Commission in 1987 as a programme to solve the environmental problems. The same year a UN conference was held where a popular movement on a specific issue were integrated with the idea of development when a meeting was held on disarmament and development. Soon other and much bigger UN conferences was held on sustainable development 1992, Human rights and development 1993, Population and development 1994, Social development 1995 and Women and development 1995. A global NGO system supposed to represent a so called civil society and the people was in place.
The US model of a market of professionalised specialist NGOs from the early 20th century could in some few years after the change to capitalism in Eastern Europe become a dominant political culture in many countries of the world and especially at the global level. Willingly or sometimes reluctantly but still at the table NGOs were legitimising the neoliberal world order with a human face taking part in the conferences that stated that free trade was necessary to bring sustainable development forward. So called multistakeholder dialogues between industry, NGOs and government became a popular method for finding strategies for the future. At the Rio conference 1992 the promises were made to double foreign aid and in five years the aid diminished instead drastically from 0.33 % to 0.22% of GNP. At the Social Summit in Copenhagen 1995 the NGO demands was lowered to the idea that at least 20% of the aid should be given to social costs. Step by step the NGOs lowered their ambitions while forgetting rapidly the promises given at the last global conference and instead stating the need to be positive by looking at new possibilities for reform. To confront the system was not in question.
There were exceptions. In the 1980s confrontative summit protests started to emerge again after 15 years since the World Bank riots in Copenhagen. At the World Bank meeting in West Berlin 1988 there was counter conferences and a demonstration with 80 000 participants including clashes with the police. A new wave of global solidarity interest seemed on its way. But soon also in Germany the new internationalist movement turned into establishing NGOs according to the American model. The youth environmental movement of the 1980s in Western and Eastern Europe confronted both planned economy and capitalist development. Direct action against the development plans of the European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT) took place against their motorway projects. At the same time attempts were made to build alliances with workers and other popular movements against ERT plans for dismantling social welfare and other neoliberal market solutions making EU into a a tool for corporations. But other movements were occupied by defending themselves and broader alliances were met by disinterest also by the left. For some years the radical environmental movement became crucial in confronting both corporations and the Western development model. In Eastern Europe environmental movements were the first to confront the new capitalist regimes when they promoted industrial plans for nuclear power. They protested against the role of international financial institutions and closing of public railways. The development critique in third world countries questioning not only neoliberal world order but development as a Western and not universalistic concept reached Europe. In Finland this development critique resulted in that the Brundtland ideology of sustainable development did not gain hegemony among popular movements, one of the only Western countries were the environmental movement did not give in to the new ideology compatible with neoliberalism combined with a human NGO face. In Southern Europe confrontations with globalisation emerged. Middle class movements in Spain and France connected environmental issues and global solidarity with the interest of farmers and others. Ecoropa in France and Aedenat, today Accion Ecologica, in Spain promoted in the beginning of 1990s alliances against economic globalisation. The World Energy conference in Madrid 1992, 50 year anniversary of Bretton Woods institutions in Madrid 1994 and the EU-summit in Madrid 1995 was confronted by actions and demonstrations and by a broader and finally continuous campaign against economic globalisation and the Europe of capital. Popular movement campaigns all over Europe and all of Americas confronted the celebration of 500 year of Columbus discovery of America by protesting against half a millenium of oppression. 500 years is enough! Instead of reforms and striving for consensus with industry on plans for a sustainable development or reforming IMF and the World Bank the demands were to cancel the debt. While the reformistic NGO strategy compatible with a neoliberal world order gradually lost its appeal as less and less result was coming out of it other strategies started to take form. Opposition against NAFTA and the EU created links among movements and a broader understanding of the need to confront corporate rule in free trade regimes and regional institutions. Organisations like Corporate Europe Observatory was established by people from the environmental movement and anti racism, against wars, feminism, anti-commercialism and demands for economic justice took to the streets. Seldom united and still not in great numbers but anyway confronting the ruling order.
Working class movements 1983 ‚ 1998
During the 1980s the neoliberal politics resulted in heavy repression against workers and trade unions and workers parties being on the defensive. With the fall of Soviet Union neoliberalism was ideologically and in practice further strengthened. In spite of that the total number of industrial workers rather became more than less in the world their role diminished in society as a shift of power from politics to market took place. In the third world strong new workers movements emerged like the trade unions CUT in Brazil, Cosatu in South Africa and mm in South Korea together with the movement for landless rural workers and the Workers Party in Brazil. The trade unions in the South tried often to build alliances with other popular movements while the unions in the North maintained the old strategy of relying on negotiations with its counterpart and hope for support from the government. Not even when workers begun a strike against the privatisation of one of the last public owned ports in Great Britain in Liverpool 1995 did other trade unions start solidarity actions apart for some few docker unions in other countries. One of the strongest supporters in UK instead came from Reclaim the Streets that made direct actions against the private company that wanted to sack the dockers and organised joint big demonstrations in London in support of the dockers. A change took place when unemployed workers mobilised long marches in France 1994 and workers started strikes against neoliberal reforms in France and Belgium 1995. A new wave of workers protest started. Demonstrations with international participation was organised in solidarity with Renault workers on strike protesting against the closure of factories. In 1997 a two month European March against Unemployment and Social Exclusion was organised in 14 routes ending all at the EU Summit in Amsterdam with a demonstration with 50 000 participants. After years of being passive due to the problems facing governments supported by the workers that decided to leave classical Keynesian welfare politics in favour of neoliberal austerity programs similar to the structural adjustment programs in the South the trade unions started to protest also in the North.
Peasants building alliances 1983 - 1998
A crucial factor in the building of todayís global alternative movement is the role of peasants and farmers. In spite of their diminishing role in numbers and importance in the formal economy they have constituted the most important class factor in the building of movements opposing todayís economic globalisation.
This has taken place at the same time as the other main class movements, workerís and middle class concerned with public needs, has been less and less able to confront their enemies and the present world order. The middle class movements of peace, environment, feminism and solidarity has specialised themselves and to a large degree as so called non-governmental organisations legitimised the present model of world politics. The trade unions has become more and more defensive trying to again and again reestablish a state-oriented social contract between labour, industry and government with the help of social democratic politics that worked for rich countries in the past. In the process they have lost more and more of their political impact in spite of many new industrial workers in the South. The result has been that social democratic parties now carry out the neoliberal and sometimes also xenofobian right wing politics and it is hard to see an end to it. In spite of social democrats being in the government of most EU countries in the end of the 1990s no bigger change in privatisation of public goods and dismantling of social security took place.
Many peasant movements have chosen another strategy. Actually every step in the struggle against institutions of economic globalisation and especially the most powerful trade negotiations has been strengthened by both long term commitment and mass mobilisation by peasant and rural people. In 1983 family farmers in th US recognised that they never were going to be able to gain influence on the US agricultural policies by pressuring their own government. Agricultural industry was to strong. They instead saw the need of international solidarity to jointly oppose the agenda of both their own government and others that was a threat to a majority of peasants all over the world. Thus they called for an international meeting to find common strategies. At a meeting in Iowa the North American Farm Allaince formed. Later the same year the allaince hosted the First International Farm Crisis Summit in Ottaa in Canada bringing peasants, farm workers and family farm leaders from nearly 50 countries together. They soon found common ground in the area of trade both among peasant in the North and the South. Negotiations were taking place in the Uruguay round in the GATT negotiations with the risk of including not only industrial products as before but also agriculture.
Simultaneously rural workers and people in the South started to oppose the institutions of economic globalisation with the help of coordinated efforts in the third world and the environmental movement. Soon the powerful institutions of Western world dominance became defeated by rural people in so called periferical areas but central to global popular movement politics. In the eyes of Westerners the most far corner of the world, in the innermost of the Amazonian jungle, did rubber tappers confront land owners that wanted to cut down trees. They encircled the threatened trees in actions called empates and started stopping the felling of the forest. Against the World Bank that financed the building of roads through the forest these actions did not help. Directly after a road had been built forest companies exploited the most valuable hard wood and were followed by burning of trees to give room for state subsidized ranching of cattle and peasants without land coming from other parts of Brazil having no alternatives but to take part in destroying the rain forest. Against this development the rubber tappers started to organise. First they formed their own organisation, Consejo Nacional de Seringerous, CNS in 1985. Than they formed an alliance with Indians in Amazonas. For centuries there had been a wide gap between any people of European blood whether mixed or not and indigenous people. Now together with the organisation of Indian people an alliance of forest peoples were created. There were interests in common to protect. A chain of popular movements links where established from the state of Acre at the border of Bolivia and close to Peru and Ecuador. Organisation also started between lowland Indians and high plateau Indians in spite of cultural differences greater than probably that between high land Indians and people in Europe. Through rural workers trade union links were created to the emerging CUT trade union in all of Brazil and to the Workers Party. Simultaneously contacts were established with the environmental movement in the industrial countries, especially in the US. A global opinion emerged and the World Bank loan to further road building in the innermost of Amazonas was stopped. For the first time in history an institution central to economic globalisation was stopped by popular protest. One thousand leaders and activists were killed by their land owner enemies but the movement was successful. Extractive reserves for forest people were established for sustainable uses of the rain forest. The state of Acre also became central to the political development of the whole country. In the elections 1989 the workers party PT won in this state, the only state that they gained in all of Brazil.
The rubber tappers were soon followed by other rural people in India. In 1988 the movement against building of dams changed strategy. World Bank financing had so far caused the forced eviction or transfer of more than 10 million people around the world. Now people in the Narmada valley said No! They would not leave their homes even if the were flooded when the dam was ready and begun to be filled. More than a million people were threatened by the plan of building 300 dams along the river. The mass movement gained momentum and once again the World Bank withdraw their finacial support of a project. Once again rural people had defeated the giant economic globalisation institution.
By 1990 peasant movements had gained momentum strong enough to carry out the first mass action against an international trade meeting. 30 000 peasants opposing free trade in agricultural products gathered and demonstrated jointly in Brussels at a GATT meeting.
1992 the peasants were radicalised. After many years of being instrumentalised by big capitalistic landowners or left wing parties, both with industrialisation according to Western models as strategy, the peasants rebelled and started to organise as Indians in Latin America. During the 500 year is enough campaign against the official celebration of Columbus ìencounterî with America this year Indians organised both in the South, Central and North America long marches and campaigns against the many years and still continuing oppression. Preparations already had taken place in Guatemala 1991 at a meeting of the Continetal Campaign for 500 years of Indigenoeus, Black and Popular Resistence with representatives from 24 countries. At a new meeting of the continental campaign in Nicaragua 1992 it was agreed to found the rural network Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Organizaciones del Campo, CLOC. At the same time in Nicaragua two hundred women delegates formed a Continetal Womenís Commission to promtoe womenís partcipation ast all levels of the partcipating mvoments. Peasants became more and more an independent actor in politics and culutural life when demanding to be recognised as Indians. When left wing organisations mainly worried about further access to markets and building of infrastructure Indian organisations also pointed at the need of establishing an Indian university and building their own knowledge.
1992 also became the year of deciding the Managua decalaration at a meeting of farmers congress in Nicaragua with international guests. This declaration becomes the founding document a new international organisation for small farmers, Via Campesina started formally at a meeting in Belgium 1993. It emerges from a strong tradition of growing cooperation among farmer movments in Latin America which had been especially strong in Central America. With the head quarter in the South, in Honduras, this organisation soon became a leader in forming political global alliances around the world in opposition to genetic food, patent¥s of life or WTO promoting the support of a more sustainable agriculture. The organisation strongly supported equality among women and men and created a rotating scheme for their international representatives in each country were tow persons of each gender maintained these positions. Via Campesina saw themselves not only as a pressure group for the interest of small farmers but as builders of alternatives and struggling for the interest of rural people and the poor in general. In a time of growing threat against rural areas and agriculture due to free trade agreements farmer and rural workerís movements became crucial in challenging the backwardness of the more urban so called new social movements dominated by the middle class. The campaigns against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) involved strongly farmers movements and rural organisations and in Europe the small farmers spearheaded the movement against WTO. Both in content and form farmers were able to link issues to each other and establish alliances. Opposition to international free trade agreements changed olf tradtional allainces and opened up for new non-national cooperations strengthening ties between agricultaristis and environemtnalists and democratically oriented popular movment alliances against organisations more close to the elite. For North America Marc Edelman concludes in his study on transnational peasant and farmers movements that the free trade opposition ìcontributed to transcending the parochial, identity-based politics charactersistic of the ënew social movementsí of the previous two decades.î
In a book ìR–relsernas tidî on popular movements engaged in World Social Forum Jens Ergon critisizes the attitude of experts against peasants. At the same time as small farmers initiated a global class alliance against neoliberalism all over the world the experts claimed that they could not do so. In the book Globalization of Food and Agriculture published 1994 the researchers looked upon rural people as doomed to having no voice. ìWho can imagine a coalition of small farmers from Holland, Belgium, France, Italy, USA, Uruguay, Brazil and New Zeeland marching to the Summits of WTO? And what would they demand that would benefit them ‚ they are all competitors to each others.î And yet this is precisely what they did says Ergon.
During the final negotiations 1993 in Geneva during the preparations of WTO 5 000 farmers gathered outside the office building. In some few years 100 farmers organisations joined Via Campesina who became an important coalition partner and sometimes the leading movement at Summit protests. A long tradition from Marx and onwards to proclaim rural people as dull and the countryside as of no interest for changing society has its many spokespersons also today both among neoliberals as well as left intellectuals. The sociologist Manuel Castells sees upon the marginal rural districts as a black hole in the world which only might be of interest if they like the Zapatistas use internet. Rural people strike back.
Small farmers also took a leading role in national and local protests against economic globalisation. 1993 the biggest ever protest against economic globalisation during the 1990s was organised by the Karnataka farmers in Bangalore in the South of India. 500 000 people came to demonstrate against WTO and transnational corporations claim to take patent on life at the same time as an international meeting of peasant took place. The peasants and other rural people of India also took direct action against the transnational corporations which they saw as a threat to their lives. The food corporate giant Cargill had is offices in Bangalore smashed in rpotest against intellectual property rights which brought the proposed WTO agreement issue on patents to world attention. Industrial fishing vessels were attacked by local fishermen.
On new years day 1994 the peasants and other rural people in Chiapas in the South of Mexico rebelled against the North America Free Trade Agreement which started to be put in use this day. NAFTA did represent a great threat to both small farmers and poor people in Mexico. In short time the country went from self sufficiency in the staple diet corn to a 40 % import which resulted in elimination of small farmers and worsening food conditions for the poor. With the Mexican peasant revolution leader Zapata as their recognised predecessor in 1910 the Zapatistas showed their new kind of strength. This armed rebellion did not use the same strategy as many peasant guerillas had taken before tem. Instead of attempting to gain control of liberating the national state they tried to avoid armed confrontation and instead building up contacts and alliances with popular movements all over Mexico and the whole world. At the same time they were able to build an autonomous zone in the Laconda jungle in Chiapas while at the same time through internet had fast interactive contact with the rest of the world. Their message was different though from earlier guerillas. They did not promote the setting up of solidarity groups for the liberation struggle of Mexico. On the contrary they claimed that the best solidarity was that people all over the world started to fight neoliberalism in their own society. The seeds of a global alternative movement had been sown. 4.000 people met in the Laconda jungle 1996 at the first international meeting against neoliberalism. Many participants would never forget the hospitality they were shown in this remote location with so little resources of the kind Western people are used to. Next year another Encuentro against neoliberalism with 2 000 participants was held in Spain.
The way Via Campesina and rural people build their political alliances is to challenge middle and working class movements both on specific issues and the general coordination of international popular movement on broader issues and social change both in the South, the North and at the global level. Through the concept of food sovereignity instead of food security the demands for making agriculture part of neoliberal regulated free trade is confronted in a way that enables broader alliances with the environmental and solidarity movements. Food is not only a commodity as in the concept of food security but rather a collectivivly organised human right as in theconcept food sovereignity. The issue of agrarian reform that at the beginning of the 1960s was an almost forgotten political question was soon on the top of the agenda again both in some countries and at international meetings thanks to movements like MST in Brasil and Via Campesina.. Steadily throughout of the 1990s more narrow goals demanding no to patents of life together with churches or agriculture out of the WTO together wioth environmentalists were combined with small farmers together with other radical movments demanding no to WTO, NAFTA and the EU.
Twenty years of neoliberal offensive built on a split and rule tactics begun to come to and end. The time had come for some decisive united popular movement resistance.
At the encuentros against neoliberalism some mass movements from the third world came to the conclusion that it was necessary with a more goal-oriented forum that could decide to do common actions. In February 1998 300 delegates met in Geneva to start Peoples¥ Global Action against ìFreeî Trade and WTO (PGA). The funding of the event had been critical. But members of trade unions and other local organisations in Geneva that had been met with such hospitality in the Laconda jungle at the first encuentro organised by the Zapatistas were strongly motivated to make it happen. At first the leadership of these local organisations opposed giving resources but were soon convinced by the committed members. Sufficient low-budget funding could be mobilised, participants stay at private homes and some travel costs covered by higher participations fees for industrial country delegates and PGA could hold its conference in old impressive trade unions halls and squatted houses.
Here popular movement leaders from the Karnataka farmers KRRS, the Indians in Ecuador CONAIE, Landless from Brasil MST, the Zapatistas from Chiapas, textile unions from Bangla Desh, teachers union from Argentina, trade unions from Nicaragua and maquiladora organisers from Mexico, postmen from Canada, blacks from Columbia, fishermen from India, Via Campesina and other farmers from countries like Philippines, Brazil, Estonia, Norway, Honduras, France, Spain, Switzerland, Bangladesh, Senegal, Mozambique, Togo, Peru, Bolivia, and Columbia, indigenous peoples like Ogoni, Maori, Maya, Aymara, U'wa and others, students from Ukraine, Spain and Germany, Reclaim the streets from London and Friends of the Earth from Finland, Sweden and Uruguay came together at a meeting dominated by the mass movements from the South. The platform was discussed and decided through a consensus process ending with a document taking a clear stand against economic globalisation and its institutions including WTO, NAFTA and EU promoting free trade agreements and free transaction of capital across borders. Militarisation and growing repression stated as a result of globalisation and necessary to confront. Patriarchy was strongly criticised pushed by female Ecuadorian Indians in the discussion. NGOs were seen as a threat to popular movements legitimising neoliberal institutions by avoiding action and radical criticism and creating illusions regarding possibilities for substantial reforms. Instead another strategy was proclaimed to be the most important, constructive direct action and non-violent civil disobedience.
A belief in the possibility of popular cooperation stated hopefully: ìOnly a global alliance of peoples' movements, respecting autonomy and facilitating action-oriented resistance, can defeat this emerging globalised monster. If impoverishment of populations is the agenda of neo-liberalism, direct empowerment of the peoples though constructive direct action and civil disobedience will be the programme of the Peoples' Global Action against "Free" Trade and the WTO.î
At the 50 year anniversary of the start of free trade negotiations decentralised action called by PGA were carried out against WTO in hundreds of places with almost 1 million participants. Farmers and landless protested in India and Brazil and 35 street parties were organised in cities from Birmingham to Prague, Sydney and Toronto.
Simultaneously popular movements and NGOs critical towards a new proposed multilateral investment agreement (MAI) met in Geneva. Here popular movements and the influential radical NGO Third World Network could convince all that instead of demanding changes in the MAI proposal ti was necessary to say no. In a combined effort with people on the street taking action and organisations taking a firm stand saying no it was possible to change the situation. By the end of the year France said no to MAI. It was necessary to try to get this plan for giving rights to transnational corporations into other institutions like WTO.
Protests continued on the local, national and global level against economic globalisation. Next year a PGA caravan was organised with more than 500 farmers mainly from India to come to protest at the WTO headquarters in Geneva and taking part in protests all over Europe at the EU Summit and G8 Summit in Cologne. When the visiting farmers from India came to a greenhouse in Montpellier in France they jointly with small farm activists in ConfÈdÈration Paysanne uprooted genetically modified rice plants. Shortly afterwards JosÈ BovÈ and Confederation Paysann supporters dismantle a half-built McDonalds restaurant in Millau in the Larzac region as a protest against US tariffs imposed on Roquefort cheese in retailiation for the EU ban on hormone-treated beef, a reprise of the attack on Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet in Bangalore 1996 by Karnataka farmers. New street parties were organised globally on J 18, international action day against finance capital and corporate rule. Protests against the debt, privatisation and the effects of WTO free trade regime continued. 1 500 popular movements and NGOs signed a statement against bringing in new issues to the WTO which the US and EU strived for. Such a demand could unite both those groups totally opposing WTO and those only criticising certain issues. NGOs mainly wanting to get everybody to agree upon a representation of NGOs in WTO and some reforms were marginalised. In Houston environmentalists and United Steel workers joined forces to confront Maxxam Corporation. They demanded that the company was held responsible for its impact on working people, local communities and the environment. They continued their initiative by forming Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment calling for cooperation world-wide against corporations. Via Campesina and Friends of the Earth International united their efforts to demand agriculture out of WTO.
When protesters arrived at Seattle late November 1999 to the WTO the situation was prepared. They could read a full-page ad in the newspaper stating that the regional parliament of Geneva were the headquarters of WTO is placed supported the demands made against WTO from popular movements and NGOs. All over the world N 30 protests took place called by PGA. 5 000 farmers from both the small farmers and the main stream farmers unions demonstrated in Geneva against WTO. In Seattle 50 000 trade unionists, environmentalists and other demonstrated and organised sit-ins on the streets blocking the WTO conference building and hindering the inauguration ceremony from taking place. The third world countries refused to give in to the pressure from the rich counties and the meeting earlier than planned. What begun in mass scale in the streets of Bangalore 1993 and the jungle in Chiapas 1994 had finally reached the the cities in the North. Seattle soon became a symbol of a new emerging movement against ecopnomic globalisation and capitalism.
US president Clinton tried in Seattle to claim he had the same position as many protesters by demanding social clauses in the WTO. Trade unions sometimes in rich countries see this as a solution to what they percieve as unjust competition from countries with low standards on workers¥ rights. Popular movements in the third world, also many trade unions see this as a way to get rid of competition from developing countries. At Seattle this tactics failed. Official spokespersons for big trade unions could state that they had similar concerns as the president. But trade union activists joined environmentalist and other protesters on the street. The slogan ìTeamsters and Turtles uniteî became popular as lorry-drivers marched with environmentalists dressed as turtles demanding the continued protection of turtles saying no to WTO demands of free trade without considerations of effects on the environment.
The failed political divide and conquer strategy against the economic globalisation protesters ìunified in diversityî caused a shift in tactics. At next summit when IMF and the World Bank held their meeting in Washington the police had more free hands. In the media rumours of coming violence were spread and in advance a smaller convergence center was stormed by the police on false charges of having harmful material and some people got arrested. This caused police provoced riots. The movement against economic globalisation was met with more open repression. The new tactic seemed to have some results. Less trade unionoists partcipated. But as many as 30 000 participated in the protests, ten times more than at the IMF/World Bank summit in the same city the year before.
Meanwhile the mass protests against economic globalisation continued in the third world. IMF programs caused demonstrations and strikes in Ecuador, Bolivia, Canada, Argentina and Malawi only during the first half of 2000, structural adjustment programs were met by demonstrations and strikes in Argentina, Costa Rica, Zambia, Kenya, Ecuador, Honduras, Nigeria and Columbia throughout the year. In Cochabamba in Bolivia local farmers organised mass militant successful protests against privatisation of water. Such anti economical globalisation protests has continued all over the third world. In Millau in the Larzac region of Massif Central in France 60 000 people gathered from France and more far away to protest the trial of local farmers for dismantling the townís McDonaldís. Two days of discussions on globalisation occurred in this mountainous Larzac region at the biggest meeting protesting against the power of corporations taking place in Europe up to this time.
Also summit protests continued in Windsor at a meeting of the organization of American States were 5 000 demonstrated and on the Okinawa island at the G8 meeting were 5 000 also protested. In Melbourne at the World Economic Forumís Asia-Pacific Summit were to the surprise of the organisers 20 000 people overwhelmingly young between 14-24 turned up and blocked the streets for the participants and 12 000 demonstrated and blocked the streets at the IMF/World Bank meeting in Prague both in September. In Prague 850 persons got arrested after clashed with the police including throwing molotov cocktails. At the Asia-Europe summit in Seoul in South Korea 10 000 militant workers called by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions violently clashed with 30 000 policemen. The year ended with 70 000 persons participating in demonstrations called by main stream trade unions calling for a social Europe at the EU Summit in Nice and the morning after some 10 000 more radical protesters tried to block the conference center, again police violently attacked demonstrators and at one place molotov cocktails were thrown and the interior of one bank was burned.
Summit protests having domestic impact
A movement mainly started by farmers all over the world and radical youth had at the beginning of 2001 developed into a wider protest built on diverging alliances. This year three summit protests showed the way forward. At the World Economic Forum in Davos in Switzerland 300 protesters were met by water cannon in the frosty alps, most protesters were stopped long before they could come close to the mountain resort. But in Porto Alegre a counter summit, World Social Forum gathered 15 000 participants, a lot more than expected. A toy company industrialist had come up with the idea convincing a church representative and later Attac France and a broad range of NGOs and popular movements in Brasil of the idea. World Social Forum was against neoliberalism but should not take decision on behalf of the whole forum. In such a way diversity was supposed to be maintained guaranteeing an open forum.
At the protests against Free Trade Area of the Americas, a plan of expanding NAFTA to all of the Western hemisphere, in Quebec, in Canada in April 50 000 demonstrated and more than ten thousand joined the militant attacks on the 4 kilometre fence barricading the talks. The tactics of divide and conquer had not succeeded. Trade unionists mixed with young anticapitalist radicals both in the demonstrations and in the attempts to tear the security fence down. The director of the international department for the Canadian Autoworkers Union stated that many of the trade unionistís that missed the fight should not miss their next opportunity. A young activist used a catapult penetrating the official security zone with pink teddy-bears. It was possible to promote better understanding and cooperation between established trade unions and young anticapitalist activists.
At the EU Summit in Gothenburg the divide and conquer tactics developed in the US succeeded more fully. Here for the first time an EU summit would take place in the country with the most EU sceptical population among all member states at the same time as for the first time a US president visited the summit. It was also the last chance to confront the EU and US WTO politics on the streets before the coming meeting in Doha in Qatar. Here the meeting following the WTO meeting in Seattle was going to take place in the desert far away from possibilities for mass mobilisation were EU and the US hoped to get the third world countries accept what they did not accept at Seattle. Three networks were established, one stating Bush not welcome, one network demanding not to membership in the EU and EMU and one opposing the neoliberal WTO and EMU politics, Schengen and the militarisation of EU. Not only economic globalisation was under attack but also militarisation, repression and refugee politics. The main stream trade union which is the best organised in the whole world in terms of percentage of worker being members almost enlisting 90 % of the employed in their ranks claimed that it was not in their tradition to demonstrate and did not want take part in any protests on the street. Only a small national radical Syndicalist organisation and workers from other countries joined the networks planning demonstrations.
The police put a wall of 150 containers around three schools were lodging for 700 people, a counter summit and medical and convergence center for the popular movements were situated. 500 people were trapped inside accused of planning illegal actions and having harmful material. Mounted police finally, without any violent attacks had been made against the police by those inside, made a violent charge causing panic. The attack against the convergence center became the starting point for riots which escalated the next day when shopping windows were smashed and police later started to shoot with live ammunition against protesters almost killing one person and wounded others. It was the first time since 1931 demonstrators were shot in Sweden and also the first time at summit protests anywhere. According to the police in total 50 000 demonstrated in the three different demonstrations against Bush and the EU. 1.115 arrests were made. Mass media presented the events in the opposite order of how they happened claiming that first did demonstrators attack and then did the police react. All parliamentarian party leaders including the left made false accusations blaiming the demonstrators as assailants inherently violent. The courts followed suite and some 40 people were sent in total 45 years in prison while all policemen were relieved from all charges. Earlier at similar clashes in Seattle, Prague and Nice the total sentences for all convicted had been two months in prison. Only a few hundred participated in protest against the repression. The movement critical towards economic globalisation in Sweden was paralysed by a backlash that it still has not recovered from.
At the G8 summit in Genua a month later protests and police repression became much more violent. One demonstrator got killed shot by the police and a school was invaded by the police following a new pattern from Sweden but more brutal. Many hundreds were injured in the streets and at police stations in custody and much more damaged to cars and shops were made. But the reaction on the violent clashes was the contrary to that in Sweden. Some 200 000 demonstrated in Genua. A week afterward 300 000 demonstrated all over Italy in protest against the police repression. For the first time summit protests also got fully integrated in domestic politics and became a starting point for a mutual support between the global justice movement and the trade unions which reached one of its peaks when two to three million people demonstrated in Rome against neoliberal reductions of workerís rights and the right wing Berlusconi government.
The terror attac on World trade center and Pentagon in September 2001 started a war on terrorism that seemed to give less room for the global justice movement. Summit protests at the IMF/World Bank meeting in Washington were cancelled. At the WTO meeting in Doha EU and the US were able to make the third world countries sign an agreement to start preparations for enlarging the agenda of WTO after hard pressure and the argument that the war on terrorism needed an agreement.
But the year 2002 saw a renewal of actions and issues. In Porto Alegre 60 000 gathered at the second World Social Forum to discuss alternatives to neo liberalism as well as how to confront wars and the growing repression in the name of terrorist protection. In Barcelona the global justice movements once more succeeded in strongly linking to domestic politics. In total some 1 000 000 took part in different demonstrations at the EU Summit, many protesting against the privatisation of water in the region. A decentralisation of the Porto Alegre initiative started when social forums started to be organised locally, nationally and regionally all over the world in Africa, Amazonas, Palestine, Norway, Finland and many other places. In November the first European Social Forum took place in Florence in Italy. 60 000 participated and 1 00 000 demonstrated against the plans for war against Iraq. A working group of twelve people at the forum decided to propose an international action day against the war on 15 February 2003. When 100 000 gathered at World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in January the next year many more followed up on the idea. On February the 15th some 20 million people on at least 800 places on every continent including two on Antarctic took part in the manifestations against the war. The global justice movement had proved to be capable also in addressing other than economic issues.
Yes to NGOs and party leaders, no to the Zapatistas?
The year 2003 showed some decisive differences in the strategies of the movement. When Asia Social Forum was held in Hyderabad with 20 000 participants there were strong demonstrations against the forum a strong as those emanating from the forum. The protests were organised by radical popular movements and revolutionary left groups claiming that World Social Forum was an attempt by NGOs and imperialism to outmanoeuvre revolutionary movements and firm struggle against imperialism. Also more Gandhian inspired non-violent action-oriented movements like the Karnataka farmers organising the first manifestation against economic globalisation with hundreds of thousands of participants and one of the main initiators of Peoples Global Action opposed the forum. On the global level the WSF process marginalised farmers and more radical groups and instead put more traditional trade unions, left and green parties and NGOs in the core of the influence of the global justice movement. This was done by excluding the Zapatistas from being among the organisers of the event. The Zapatistas that through their struggle against NAFTA and invitation to the first international meeting against neoliberalism with thousand of participants were in many eyes the founders of the efforts to unite movements all over the world against economic globalisation were pushed aside. Armed groups were excluded from being organisers. That the Zapatistas took part in initiating PGA which stated non-violent disobedience as the main method for opposing neoliberalism was not acceptable as reason for them to also be able to be part of organising the WSF process. With the Zapatistas outside many other also were sceptical and refused to participate or did it reluctantly or as the landless movement MST fully as main organisers.
Also the influence of NGOs in the WSF process was a shift in the way the global justice movement meeting places was organised since the start of PGA and radical summit protests. This is a problematic relationship many times concealed by overemphasising the role of the mass movements MST and the trade union CUT in the initiating WSF and in the international committee. The fact is that Brazilian NGOs have a strong position when it comes to coordinate big events and a history of doing so in an undemocratic manner marginalised grassroots movements. This they did at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro 1992 when 20 000 environmentalists and other activists from all over the world met trying to formulate strategies for a just and sustainable future.
A common criticism against WSF from radical groups is that much of the funding comes from private foundations and governments in the North that have no interest in opposition against imperialism and corporate rule. That so is the case when it comes to the overall strategy of such institutions is of course true in most cases. But it is also true that many times in history it has been necessary to organise international work were there has been no other possibility than to get resources from institutions that are perceived as enemies or ambiguous allies. Ford foundation in the US and Heinrich B–ll foundation in Germany have been some of the funders of WSF among many other similar institutions. To organise huge events as well as the information exchange before and after making them relevant to many others than the participants is such an immense task that it sometimes necessary to use such funding that is available. This has of course to be done in a selective way but cannot easily be condemned by only looking at who is given the funding.
Actually many of the radical and by many all over the world seen as good examples of initiatives opposing corporate rule an imperialism have been funded by Northern foundations. IBFAN, the first global network opposing corporate rule with its breast feeding and anti NestlÈ campaign was strongly supported by the Swedish International Development Agency and Third World Network have had important projects funded by the Dutch development foundation Novib. In fact in the decades earlier the only way many times to fund international travelling and meetings among radical groups was either through Soviet or CIA funds, resources that certainly although seldom sometimes went to processes that strongly helped opposition against the states that gave the support. A fund used by CIA gave resources to the most radical critics of US Agent Orange warfare in Vietnam which enabled them to successfully address the issue at protests during the UN Conference on the Human Environment in 1972 which resulted in heavy criticism also at the official conference and a scandal for US foreign policy. Sometimes international popular movements are so strong that foundations have to give resources to their international cooperation even if it is against the general interest of these institutions. Otherwise the foundations would loose their possibilities to maintain some kind of autonomous role living up to goals that are set due to earlier popular progressive pressure on states or the need to not give to much influence to an opposing regime. Likewise popular movements sometimes have to accept such funding to be able to maintain qualified international contacts. But it is necessary that such funding and the conditions are fully revealed and the problems that might follow critically are discussed. The way the Indian host committee for the WSF meeting in Mumbai 2004 has done this in the case of excluding Ford foundation funding is a good example on how the problem can be addressed. The general problem with funding from foundations whether private or governmental is still an important question to be dealt with which has been done well by e.g. popular movements in India. The tendency of braking up mass solidarity and commitment to the cause of changing the conditions for everybody belonging to an oppressed group to promote instead a project mentality and professionalisation of popular movements creating middle class dominated institutions avoiding mass mobilisations against neoliberalism or imperialism is a threat to the possibilities for social change. Still we live in a world of practical realities and qualified international contacts are necessary. Without the funding from NGOs willing to criticise neoliberalism and not excluding anticapitalism and antiimperialism from the discussions it is hard to see how that kind of mass scale meeting and information exchange that include broad sectors among religious groups, trade unions, etc can take place. Other more radical initiatives are also necessary but there is also a need for such initiatives that are open to broader alliances. With other words, criticism against the funding sources of such an event as WSF is not enough to make claims about the basic character of such an initiative, other political factors are more important.
There are some similarities between the way social democrats and the Greens used the European Nuclear Disarmament, END convents in the 1980s and the way WSF has been used by more established organisations. In the 1980s and now there were a moment of growing mass popular participation in international politics with a radical branch that was and is more confrontational and more willing to set goals beyond reforms within political sectors as defined by the official political system or opposing the lack of freedom outside rich capitalistic countries. In the 1980s on the one hand the womenís peace movement and alternative movement emphasised global justice issues and non-violent direct action while more traditional communist parties emphasised the role of imperialism. Both groups were outmanoeuvred by the Social democrats and the Greens with the help of more main stream trade unions and peace organisations.
Today a similar process takes place when the Zapatistas and other radical movements that initiated the PGA process or other neoliberal mass protests are divided and some are excluded or chose to be excluded from WSF in solidarity with a more radical political strategy. In one way it seems like WSF have learned from the problems during the END process. Parties are not allowed to be organisers of WSF the same way as groups like the Zapatistas that are armed not are allowed. But there is a significant difference. It is not known whether there have been important efforts to invite the Zapatistas or other core groups among the initiators of the PGA process to make central contributions in the WSF program. The Zapatistas and PGA seemed somehow to be taken out of the history of the global movement against neoliberalism and economic globalisation. In the daily conference paper distributed at the Asia Social Forum the history of protest against economic globalisation started with the 50 000 protesters at the Seattle WTO meeting 1999, as if the 500 000 demonstrating farmers, at Bangalore in the capital in the neighbour state, protesting in 1993 against the coming WTO agreement never took to the streets. While more radical movements seems to be excluded from getting central positions in major programs at WSF selected parties are certainly given such a position. In spite of that they are not in the organising committee some party leaders but not others are invited to have central roles in the program. Thus PT leader and later president Lula in Brazil and Hugo Chavez from Venezuela have received much attention at WSF but others have been excluded. Karnataka farmer leader has proposed that Fidel Castro should be invited and if so he could reconsider his criticism against WSF but have not received any known answer.
Lula or Bolivian popular movements?
The important success when finally the Workers Party could gain the elections in Brazil after heavy opposition including many murders and manipulation by the media has rightly been seen as a sign on the importance of WSF. That it was followed by a change in both Brazilian and other third world countries potion in the WTO negotiations in Cancun contributes to the importance of this victory although the simultaneous neoliberal policies now imposed by Lula causes great considerations. But that WSF might contribute to some electoral changes of importance is not necessary a good result if at the same time the global justice movement against neoliberalism everywhere is split. A tendency to divide the global movement according to criteria on violence used or not is not constructive. The way PGA instead focused on non-violent direct action being the main method but not stating that other methods under certain conditions might be necessary is a more constructive way. One of the most important movement today is the International Solidarity Movement sending humans shields to Palestine monitoring the Israel occupation.
The problem of choosing strategies was clearly seen in Bolivia when the president wanted to privatise the gas in the country, sell it to the US and give Chile a good contract for harbour services as Bolivia lost their access to the sea in a war against Chile in the late 19th century. In Bolivia many sacked miners became farmers and it is a stronghold in organising mass protests and building alliances between Indians and workers having the biggest indigenous population of all Latin American countries. Here in Cochabamba violent uprisings stopped the privatisation of water and in the same city PGA held its meeting in 2001 greeted welcome by thousands of people glad for the international support. In 2003 people again took to the streets in the capital La Paz and towns and cities all over the country against the privatisation of gas in the interest of US corporations. Roads were blocked all over the country and the capital got problems with supplies of food and energy. Over 80 people got killed by the military and the police making the middle class angry and willing to take active part in the rebellion that demanded the withdrawal of the US backed president. At this occasion president Lula and other foreign state leaders intervened and demanded an end to the attempts to unconstitutionally force the Bolivian president to resign. Furthermore he and others demanded that roads should not be blocked, the main method the popular movements had chosen to avoid more fatal direct conflicts and instead put pressure behind their demands in a less violent manner. Soon later the Bolivian president fled to the US and a new president came to power.
Bringing farmers, environment and anti-globalisation back in.
Popular movements struggling against economic globalisation are at a cross road. To some extend peasants and rural people has been marginalised in the WSF process were more traditional trade unionism, urban middle class NGOs and parliamentarian left wing strategies dominate. But they are not marginalised in the common struggle against neoliberalism were they take their place without asking. When farmer Jose BovÈ 2003 was put in prison for his dismantling of McDonalds 127 00 appealed for his amnesty and 200 000 people gathered at the biggest anti neoliberal meeting ever in France in the Larzac province were the small farmers have their strong hold. Building alliances between classes on the global struggle against neoliberalism will maintain a key to success. Here small farmers and middle class dominated environmentalists have shown how it is possible to establish more long term alliances. Both groups interestingly have a strong presence of the third world in their leadership and at the same time members in the rich countries. Via Campesina have their headquarters in Honduras and Friends of the Earth International their chairman Ricardo Navarro in El Salvador.
In many ways it seems that it is the working class organisations that are the most problematic factor in building a global class struggle against neoliberalism. Among trade unions there are no strong international organisations representing both important groups in the South and the North with a strong presence of the third world in the leadership. There are certainly some national trade unions, especially in the South willing to coordinate their efforts with other popular movements against privatisation and other neoliberal policies. But still in many parts of the world when it comes to the decisive point main trade unions chose to hope for loyalty to political parties trying to gain parliamentarian and governmental influence is the most important strategy or at least to narrowly focus on the interest of smaller sectors of workers that they represent. The Western development model that underpins capitalism, imperialism and neoliberal politics is seldom if ever brought to open debate.
This is highly problematic. The left dominance the last years in the debate on economic globalisation has drastically reduced the radical criticism towards economic globalisation to questions of redistribution and nation state or global governance rather than the underlying development model. To some we live in a world of economic globalisation and a new Empire were capital is ruling everywhere and the nation state has lost its influence. To others economic globalisation is not a new phenomena as the penetration of foreign capital in domestic economies were as big a hundred years ago as today. Both these left wing positions on economic globalisation has little to say on the issue of rural people and the environment not to say on economic globalisation in other terms than the formal economy.
It is correct that many aspects of the economy a hundred years ago shows that the formal economy was as much globalised then as today. But the formal economy is not delinked from material realities. A hundred years ago a very much smaller portion of earthsí ecosystems and natural resources were required for human use than today. Some calculations state that now 60% of the biosphere is integrated into the human economy. The major part of this is due to the exponential growth of the formal economy. Stating that economic globalisation is the same today as a hundred year ago is thus only true if we do not look upon the whole economy which is necessarily integrated in the wider economy including the ecosystems. There is certainly a limit to the burden humans can put on the ecosystems, if we use 60 % today we cannot double that in the future. Economic globalisation is thus a question a lot more radical than the left is aware of. By only looking at the social side of globalisation many on the left have taking part in a shift from the identity of being anti-globalisation which was carried forward by the mass movements in the South to become globalisation movement. The movement according to this left ideology is not opposing globalisation as such, it is only promoting a globalisation from below. The opposition seems not to be against economic globalisation as such, just the way the power is distributed over this economic globalisation. Thus the concept of globalisation is reduced from a materialistic understanding of reality to a question of social relations. But globalisation as it is defined in both a more narrow way as economic globalisation or as a wider concept of general globalisation in terms of continuous compression of time and space is not possible to delink from biology. Globalisation of biology is a disaster as such whether it is managed from below or above. Speeding up spreading of sicknesses and establishing a global genetic homoculture might be a dream for transnational corporations but not for the people and animals that have to live with it.
While PGA, indigenous people, small farmers and environmentalists to some degree address these issues it is hard to see it being done in central debates at WSF and among trade unions. But the conflicts emerging from the globalisation of economy, biology and culture is causing obvious conflicts. At the main global oil reserves and along their projected pipe lines war is more or less constant. Privatisation of water, energy, health, education and turning the food market into a global free trade business from the genes to the cosmetic surgery of bodies filled with the global foods will create further conflicts. The idea to let transnational corporations turn all locally or nationally maintained commons in the form of public sector or voluntary other forms of non-profit cooperation into objects of privatisation and global management will as well. These problems cannot only be addressed as questions of how to stop imperialist control of natural resources or stop privatisation. They have to also be addressed as issues of how to build sustainable societies.
Trade unions zig zagging into the future
The trade unions are in a position were they are under pressure of defending here and now the interest of their members and the part of the working class they organise. Experience and rational analysis state that working class participation is necessary if social changes to another society should take place. There is no way outside the alliance with workers, if the case is not that the only class that can change society is working class alone. Yet trade unions or other working class organisations with significant membership are today very ambiguous in their relation to other popular movements and economic globalisation. Contrary to their own image of themselves as trustworthy they shift positions drastically and have problems in finding a sustained way out of the defensive position they have been into the last decades.
Here social forums pose an interesting opportunity. In spite of its short comings it represents an important alternative to the main stream public space as this is today more and more in the hands of transnational media corporations. Such social forum public space is crucial to enable an understanding of society outside the constant manipulation of global media and professional media workers control. At the social forum trade unions and working class organisations can meet other popular movements and prove their capability of discussing and promoting coherent strategies fulfilling promises for a fair society domestically and globally. To many this will be seen as risky as in this open space also other movements not controlled by the trade unions or closely related political parties participate. The main strategy will continue to be to stay out of any contact with such movements and instead trusting traditional ways to negotiate within the system for better conditions for workers. But as this way to many workers and according to objective measures has resulted in many backlashes the interest in taking action and discussing with other popular movement creating building broader solidarity in society will continue to be a challenge. Social forums represents such a constant challenge, an alternative were it is possible to look for alternatives to hoping for yet another social contract supported by the government.
In Sweden a think tank of the main stream trade union LO has been crucial in organising local social forums in some parts of Sweden. They have been open to have any kind of organisation as organisers from anarchists and marxist-leninists to reformist NGOs. The participation has been a success with up to 2 000 participants at the Scania Social Forum in a region with 1 million inhabitants compared to the Danish Social Forum with 400 participants in a country with 5 million inhabitants. Now the LO has decided to close the think tank replacing it with a joint think tank together with the governing social democratic party. One of the speculation now is either that LO will end their engagement in the social forum process or force radical groups out of social forum. Probably neither of those solutions will be possible. Main stream trade unions will continue to swing to and fro between regressive beliefs in reestablishment of old social contract models from the 1930s or 1960s and sudden outbursts in support of unemployed and others protests against dismantling of social security and rights. To totally isolate oneself in the hands of an alliance with political parties striving to become or being in government will create too much tensions. Trying to exclude radical groups from the social forum process will be to much against the role of WSF as an open space and against having the political dynamic in he social forum process which the members of the trade unions need to be able to build the kind of alliances with other popular movements necessary in the future against threats of further wars, privatisation and worsening of working conditions, health and democratic rights.
Building alternatives and a global class struggle
Some radical anti capitalist groups active with PGA have understood the importance of participating on the social forum process talking in terms of contamination. An open space is necessarily contaminated from many sides if it still wants to be open. At the Danish Social Forum ideas discussed in the Nordic Anti Capitalist Network on the importance of commons and reproductive rights issues proved to be central in the programme as well as the anti capitalist organisation Global Roots. Interesting is that the Karnataka farmers and almost hundred more radical popular movements and organisations during the World Social Forum in India chose to stand outside and organise their own Mumbai Resistance 2004 against Imperialist Globalisation and War event and demonstration against the US occupation of Iraq but state in their invitation that they do not oppose WSF. This is a step forward in contrast to a total denounciation. It might be useful in building bridges and strengthen global class struggle with all its domestic differences instead of causing unnecessary polarisation.
The problem in the social forum process is not trade union participation but rather that the social forum becomes an institution in itself, a new NGO that creates dominant roles for NGO professionals rather than a democratic open space. Another problem is competition among both parliamentarian and smaller political parties.
This can be possible to handle if popular movements understand the need to formulate visions and alliances for political strategies that goes beyond the least common denominator of the social forum process. Workers, farmers and middle class people interested in an alliance with the majority need to formulate both a defensive program against the war, repression of democratic rights and privatisation of services for basic needs and food sovereignity as well as an alternative vision on how sustainable societies built on a fair share of the world resources could be built.
Another important task is to challenge the mass media and academic fragmention and marginalisation of people in common in politics and our role in changing society. Especially necessary it is to establish a more universalistic knowledge on the development of popular movements replacing much of backwardness of the eurocentric and urban biased academic and mass media world views. Such a knowledge will probably show that the third world and rural people are much more important than what the professionals in their metropolitan Westernised world claim.
Among small farmers and environmentalists an alternative vision and action has already been partly elaborated at international level. Womenís, indigenous people, solidarity, peace and other movements could also be invited to such a search for common action and alternatives. The most problematic and at the same time crucial movement is the trade unions. A joint invitation from international organisations like Via Campesina and Friends of the Earth International to such a process could maybe be a starting point to find international support for a joint class struggle against militarisation and corporate rule also among trade unions. The common enemy is there, it is time for the trade unions to recognise that they have to accept both cooperation with other international popular movements and that the movements in the third world have a key position in such a process.
EU and social working committee of Friends of the Earth Sweden