The symposium “The Crisis of Civilisation” organised by Espaces Marx on 28 and 29 January 2011, in partnership with transform! europe and the Fondation Gabriel Péri, was a successful gamble.
Between 120 and 200 people paid close attention to the various round tables on the themes of the crisis of the capitalist system, a new conception of human development, a new kind to local and world-wide democracy and new conditions in which the class struggle is taking place. In his opening speech, Patrice Cohen-Seat, the President of Espaces Marx, stressed the urgent necessity of understanding the world in order to transform it.
Research workers, social movement activists, well-known figures from the artistic world, showed how the crisis was deeply undermining all the bases of our civilisation. In this chaotic situation, stressed Immanuel Wallerstein, the worst outcome is possible, but the crisis also gives us a new and original opportunity for changing the world.
We cannot be satisfied with dealing with the financial aspects of the crisis. It is the issues of society itself that are at stake: transforming the very purpose of work to make it serve human development, radically reforming Europe, recreating links between human beings and nature, linking the social and ecological crises, the common wealth and the public well-being of which the peoples of the world are being robbed – all these are highly relevant factors for human development, for another form of democracy with which to confront the financial oligarchy …
Some questions that were raised: do we just need a simple redistribution of the wealth derived from work or should we think in terms of a good life, of shared property available to all? Instead of the debate about growth against negative growth, what are the things we want to see grow and what to see decrease? How can we get round the State/market duality? Instead of thinking of politics in terms of winning State power, should we not think of it as a central issue of democracy in which the most discriminated people can be involved? Finally, how can we build a united social block capable of transforming the world? Whereas there exists a widespread feeling that we are the victims of the dogma of profitability, how can we overcome the divisions between those who are dominated by it, the separation between conflicts of identity and social conflicts? Should we start from concrete facts, think of building a world shared in common – who are the project actors/social actors (political people/movement people) carrying this project forward?
It is not possible here to give an account of the wealth of ideas in this symposium. A more profound account will be published in the next issue of the transform! magazine and the contributions will be published in a supplement to the review’s French edition. This symposium is just the beginning of work we will be continuing in the coming months.