This year's World Social Forum is taking place in the year of all the dangers. As Rafael Correa, the President of Ecuador, put it so well on January 29, 2009 during the meeting of the social movements and progressive Latin American presidents organised by, among others, the Landless Movement and Via Campesina: “We are living not in a time of change but in a changed time.”
In fact, we face multiple crises – of finance, of the economy, of energy, of food, of the climate, of geopolitics – which when added together and combined produce a systemic crisis of an unprecedented kind. As a crisis of the “globalised” world, it forces us to enlarge our range of analysis when we think of changing the world. It is no longer merely a matter of opposing the neoliberal phase of capitalism (which is coming to an end), but of capitalism itself and its institutions.
It becomes urgent to examine the question of multipolarity because the current situation disqualifies international financial institutions (IFI), and especially the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, since it is their policies that are largely responsible for pushing the world to the brink. We should not forget the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which has imposed the dogma of free trade on the world. As we know, the development of unrestrained trade and international commerce is not sustainable from an environmental and social point of view.
Yet, these are the institutions that governments want to play a key role in dealing with the global crisis when the G20 next meets in April 2009 in London. We should be vigorously opposed to this operation which intends to ask those who have caused the crisis to take steps to fix it. This meeting of the illegitimate G20 will be an important opportunity for social movements to make themselves heard in favour of real multipolarity based on several demands:
(a) Profound reform of the UN and (b) the creation of a new system of democracy, based on, among other things, respect for human rights, satisfaction of social needs, decent jobs, popular sovereignty, control over food, respect for the environment and cultural diversity.
These perspectives are in direct opposition to the political model that emerged from the Washington Consensus: global governance.
Extolled at Davos – again this year – by governments, multinationals and the IFI, this model is based on the notion that economic players and governments should take charge of the world’s business, without the people, and under the influence of the hegemony of economies at the centre of capitalism, especially that of the United States.
This totalitarian model is significantly weakened by the global crisis, the failure of the policies of the hawks in Iraq and Afghanistan, the renaissance of Asia and Russia, the new trend toward economic regionalisation, the emergence of political centres of power (like the Bolivian Alternative for the People of our America – ALBA – in Latin America) that depart from neoliberal models. In fact, Western hegemony is shaken by the establishment of these new poles that create a new international hierarchy. In this context, the attitude and the behaviour of the Obama administration will be very important.
At the same time, new tensions, relatively independent of the crisis itself, can be expected: wars in the Middle East, marginalisation of Iran, tension in Southeast Asia, India-Pakistan, etc.
Thus, more than ever, there is an urgent need for multipolarity and jointly responsible internationalism. This is what the global justice movement must work for, sustained by the fact that the ideological hegemony of neoliberalism has been considerably weakened, in large part by the social justice movement itself.
However, at the same time, it must lead to the development of a common analysis of the current crisis and a rejection, once again, of the new capitalist paradigm that is being constructed: “green capitalism” and the global Green New Deal that is being promoted by the United States and the European Union. In its name, political and economic elites will try to rescue the legitimacy and credibility of the system and will develop new ideological alliances among, on the one hand, befuddled neoliberals who agree (temporarily?) to restrain certain of the most fundamental aspects of liberalism – market self-regulation – in order to save the core and, on the other, neo-Keynesians who rally around the preservation of productivism.
Finally, and this is its greatest challenge, the social justice movement should review its relationship to its practical political experience of challenges to the capitalist system, especially in Latin America, and contribute to the convergence of social and political players and, in ways still to be determined, to institutions as well as governments.
There are unprecedented sources of support for action: notably, those of ALBA, where great strides are being made in the very advanced statements of social movements and governments.1