||Progressive advocacy at Johannesburg's World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) culminated on August 31 in a formidable 10 km march of 20,000 local and international activists, from Alexandra township up to the ultra-bourgeois conference site of Sandton. What was at stake, for the global political balance of forces, and what was accomplished by the grouping calling itself `Social Movements United'--community militants, Jubilee debt activists, landless people, pro-Palestinians, some trade unionists and various others?
Commentators searched, in both this `anti-W$$D' march and in the year of post-9/11 mobilisations (mainly in mass protests in southern Europe), for nothing less than the heart and soul of the Movements for Global Justice, also known as anti-globalisation, anti-capitalist or new social movements. In contrast, a rally and march `against world poverty' and in favour of the WSSD had been called for the same day by the ruling African National
Congress, and endorsed by the Global Civil Society Forum NGOs and trade unions. The small turnout (~5,000) to hear South African president Thabo Mbeki in Alexandra stadium suggested that not only is the ANC facing
profound alienation, but that it makes little sense for the Global Justice Movements to ally with Third World nationalists--e.g., Mahathir, Mugabe, Obsanjo--who face enormous hostility from (and mete out repression to) progressive democrats at home.
Table 1 lists notable individuals associated with the various ideological currents I would identify as operative over the past few years. ashington Consensus free-market institutions remain hegemonic, augmented on the far right by the Bush Administration's military-industrial-energy complex revival of imperialism. In the centre are the Post-Washington Consensus reformers who have unsuccessfully peddled `adjustment with a human face' for years and who received a second wind with the appearance of Joseph Stiglitz.
A slight resurgence of Third World nationalism gives the Post-WashCon a chance to ground their arguments in nation-states, although many of these are unreliable and dictatorially-run.
On the civil society left, the luminaries listed are merely faces of these movements, for the main point is that as an `NGO-swarm'--to cite the Rand Corporation's frightened description--the networks of social-change activists don't have formal leaders who tell followers `the line' or `the strategy.' Any such personality list is merely indicative, given the lack of hierarchy in the best segments of the movements, but includes names of internationally-renowned activists, scholars, commentators and politicians
like Zackie Achmat (South Africa), Samir Amin (based in Senegal), Maude Barlow (Canada), Walden Bello (Thailand/Philippines), Alejandro Bendana (Nicaragua), Jose Bove (France), Dennis Brutus (France), Alex Callinicos
(Britain), Camille Chalmers (Haiti), Noam Chomsky (US), Kevin Danaher (US), Eduardo Galeano (Uruguay), Susan George (France), Boris Kagarlitsky (Russia), Martin Khor (Malaysia), Naomi Klein (Canada), Lula Ignacio da Silva (Brazil), Wangari Maathai (Kenya), Subcommandante Marcos (Mexico),
Anuradah Mittal (US), George Monbiot (Britain), Ralph Nader (US), Antonio Negri (Italy), Archbishop Ngongonkulu Ndungane (South Africa), Trevor Ngwane (South Africa), Njoki Njehu (Kenya), Medha Patkar (India), John Pilger (Britain), Arundhati Roy (India) and Vandana Shiva (India).
Set aside the individuals--though they are excellent representatives of humanity, who hold more than their own in periodic debates with global elites. In general, the diverse movements have this in common: they promote the globalisation of people and halt or at minimum radically modify the globalisation of capital. Their demands, campaigns and programmes reflect the work of organisations with decades of experience. Their activists were schooled in social, community, women's, labour, democracy, disarmament, human rights, consumer, public health and Aids-activist, political, progressive-religious, environmental, and youth traditions, spanning an enormous variety of issues, organisational forms, and styles. In the Third World, high-profile justice movements at the turn of the 21st century include Jubilee South in various locations, Mexico's Zapatistas, Brazil's Movement of the Landless, India's National Alliance of People's Movements, Thailand's Forum of the Poor and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.
The most dynamic forces within the movements have arrived at this formula not only because of high-profile battles between protesters and the police protecting elites in London and Seattle (1999); Washington, Melbourne, Prague and Nice (2000); Quebec City, Genoa and Brussels (2001); and New York, Barcelona, Johannesburg and Washington (2002). In addition, conditions remain that gave rise to `IMF Riots' and massive anti-neoliberal protests across virtually the entire Third World over the past two decades.
For many Southern social and labour movements, Seattle was a catalyst to transcend the IMF Riot as knee-jerk protest against neoliberalism. Subsequently, mass-democratic activist responses characterised the Third
World demonstrations, which have increasingly featured anti-neoliberal programmatic demands. In some instances, particularly in Latin America
(Bolivia and Ecuador), the activism reached a near-insurgent stage; in other sites (South Africa, Nigeria and India), many millions of workers became involved in mass strikes against neoliberalism; in yet other protests (South Korea, Argentina, Turkey), tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in waves of militancy
In contrast to these non-violent movements whose ambition is social justice, the most important reactionary Third World force that emerged at the same time was an ultra-fundamentalist, violent streak within Islam,
whose adherents included trained cadres associated with the Al-Qaeda network. Although there was absolutely nothing in common between the justice movements and Al-Qaeda's analysis, vision, objectives, strategies and tactics, there did emerge in the minds of some commentators a kind of `competition' to make an impact--of a very different kind--on the global
For example, James Harding, writing in the Financial Times (10 October 2001) under the provocative title `Clamour against capitalism stilled,' anticipated that in the wake of the September 11 terrorist incidents, global justice movements would be `derailed.' A spurious reason was `the absence of both leadership and a cogent philosophy to inspire fellowship.' One counterpoint was obvious: hierarchical leadership is not necessarily a positive attribute for the kind of broad-based opposition to neoliberalism that is required, and that is bubbling up from all corners of the world.
British author George Monbiot described the global justice movements as beneficiaries of a reality check caused by the terrorist attacks: `Look, it's like the Peasants' Revolt. The peasants revolt, they meet the king, the
king promises them the earth and they all go home. Whereupon their leaders are hanged and nothing happens. If we follow that model, we're doomed, so you could say that 11 September, by putting a roadblock in the way of that
model, did us a favour' (The Observer, 14 July 2002).
The favour was evident in Johannesburg, because the greatest risk was of co-option into the UN process before the movement had come together strategically. In the event, there was an insufficient power-bloc of international NGOs to endorse the weak compromises on offer from Post-Washington Consensus managers like Kofi Annan: e.g., working (fruitlessly) on agricultural subsidy and tariff barrier reductions, or forming `Type 2' public-private partnerships with multinational corporations. While some opportunistic NGOs (such as Oxfam and Greenpeace, respectively) do pursue reformist-reformism along these lines, the Social Movements United protest focused on non-reformist reforms, i.e., the elements of a radical socio-economic programme that is feasible within the confines of global capitalist finance, technology and administration--but which will not be granted because it upsets sexist/ patriarchal/ racial power relationships.
The core elements of that programme were on stark display in the WSSD host country, where charges of `genocide' are made regularly by serious commentators against Mbeki's Aids policy; where land reform has been
nonexistent; and where ten million out of 42 million South Africans have suffered water and electricity cutoffs due to inaffordability as basic
services are increasingly privatised. As a result, the new social movements organise for the decommodification of these basic services, and they are having moderate success with antiretroviral medicines, free lifeline supplies of water, the illegal reconnection of electricity, prevention of housing evictions, and occasional land invasions. A `Basic Income Grant' for all residents and an end to education user-fees are also on the social/labour movement agenda.
Mbeki must react to these pressures from below by `talking left' (while continuing to `act right'). Perhaps most tellingly, he mooted the idea that the world's problem is `global apartheid', and nearly got the phrase inserted into the final WSSD text before Northern governments rescinded it in fear of the causality thereby implied. Still, the central question now arising is whether Third World nationalists and Post-Washington Consensus reformers will merely `polish the chains' of global apartheid. The Global Justice Movements instead aim to break the chains, especially institutions like the WTO, World Bank, IMF and wicked multinational corporations.
A very heartening development just prior to the WSSD was the comment by Nobel economics laureate and former World Bank chief economist Stiglitz that he now feels the IMF cannot be reformed, and a new institution must be started from scratch (Financial Times, 21 August 2002). However, that remark was probably an exception that proves the point.
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